With the 2020 season rapidly approaching, MiLB.com is looking at the state of all 30 farm systems over the next month and ranking them in several different ways. The first installment, broken into three parts, focuses on position players and considers the quality and quantity of top talent in each system. The rankings, 20-11:
20. Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia boasts the game’s top third baseman prospect in Alec Bohm, whose 2019 campaign featured two promotions and ended with Double-A Reading. The 23-year-old compiled a .305/.378/.518 line across the three levels, clubbing 21 homers and driving in 80 runs. Shortstop Bryson Stott — the team’s first-round Draft pick last year — was promoted four games into his rookie season and spent 44 games with Class A Short Season Williamsport, compiling a .274 average and .816 OPS. Middle infielder Luis Garcia will look for a bounceback year at the plate, while outfielders Mickey Moniak and Simon Muzziotti each logged respectable seasons at their respective levels. The ceilings of Bohm and Stott pushed the Phils out of the bottom 10 here, but a lack of exciting depth puts them in the first spot of this section.
19. Chicago Cubs
Nico Hoerner leads the pack for the Cubs after a splendid year in the Southern League (and a few key injuries on the Major League roster) led to the 22-year-old skipping over the Triple-A level and making his Major League debut in September. In 20 games for the Cubs, the middle infielder hit .282/.305/.403, and he could be a prime candidate for the second-base job this spring. Injuries plagued much of Brennen Davis‘ season, but in 50 games with South Bend, the outfielder posted a .305 average and .907 OPS. He has five possibly above-average tools when he can stay on the field. Catcher Miguel Amaya continued to show prowess behind the plate, while second baseman Chase Strumpf logged two promotions, finishing the year with Class A South Bend. Third baseman Christopher Morel flashed promising signs in the Midwest League, hitting a career-best .284/.320/.467. The wealth is spread throughout the system, starting with Hoerner at the top and Davis in the lower levels. Yet having no prospect among MLB.com’s top 50 hurts the overall profile.
18. Washington Nationals
Carter Kieboom played 11 forgettable games at the Major League level for the 2019 World Series champs, but he made plenty of noise in the Pacific Coast League. The 22-year-old infielder was a staple for Fresno, logging a .303/.409/.493 line with 16 homers and 79 RBIs before earning a spot on the PCL end-of-season All-Star team. Luis Garcia had an up-and-down year with Double-A Harrisburg, but the 19-year-old shortstop amassed the second-most hits in the Eastern League with 135 and won’t turn 20 until May. Kieboom and Garcia are the only two Top-100 prospects for Washington at No. 21 and 97, respectively, and their ceilings define the group. Talents like Drew Mendoza and Gage Canning provide some depth as well. Yasel Antuna, Jeremy De La Rosa and Israel Pineda all had relatively sluggish years in the lower levels but have plenty of promise to recover in 2020.
17. New York Mets
At just 18 years old, Ronny Mauricio headlines a crop of young talent in a rising Mets system. The switch-hitting shortstop put together a solid campaign at Class A Columbia, hitting .268/.307/.357 in 116 games, and was named a midseason South Atlantic League All-Star. Given his age and room to grow (especially in the power department), the Mets will continue to push Mauricio harder in 2020. Last year’s first-round Draft selection, Brett Baty, impressed in the Appalachian League; despite a low average (.222) the 20-year-old whacked 12 doubles, two triples and six homers in 42 games for Kingsport before finishing the year in the New York-Penn League. Francisco Alvarez, 18, made his professional debut last year in the rookie leagues — belting a combined .312 average and .906 OPS across both levels while showing strong defensive skills behind the plate. Mark Vientos notched 111 games with Class A Columbia, but his 110 strikeouts versus just 22 walks is a concern. With most of the Mets’ young talent in the lower levels, the team has plenty of room for growth.
16. Texas Rangers
At different points in 2019, the South Atlantic League featured the Rangers’ top two prospects in Josh Jung and Sam Huff. Jung — Texas’ first-round Draft pick last year — blasted his way through rookie ball and landed in Hickory after just four games. The 21-year-old third baseman hit a combined .316/.389/.443, legging out 14 doubles and plating 28 runs in his pro debut. Huff opened the year with the Crawdads, posting a whopping 1.165 OPS in 30 games before being promoted to Class A Advanced Down East. He ripped 13 homers and drove in 43 runs while batting .262/.326/.425. The 22-year-old backstop was also named the 2019 MLB All-Star Futures Game MVP after showcasing his trademark plus power. Leody Taveras finished the season at Double-A Frisco and still shows potential with good speed and a plus glove in the outfield, though he’ll have to improve his hitting at the upper levels. Acquired from the White Sox this offseason, Steele Walker crushed a .365 average and 1.018 OPS in his first 20 games for Kannapolis before spending the majority of the year in the Carolina League. Nick Solak made his Major League debut in August, impressing on nearly all fronts. One of the top-rated second base prospects in the game, Solak ripped five homers and 17 RBIs in 33 games for the big league squad, posting a .293/.393/.491 line and committing only three errors in 52 chances at second and third base. The Rangers have spent multiple seasons building up their system, and this could be the year those results begin to pan out at higher levels, especially if Jung can move quickly.
15. Cleveland Indians
The Indians have exciting names throughout their system. Nolan Jones headlines the organization’s prospects — the 21-year-old made the jump to Double-A Akron midway through the season after a convincing performance in the Carolina League. Tyler Freeman excelled in both the Midwest and Carolina Leagues — recording a combined .306 average and .778 OPS. Bobby Bradley, the sixth-ranked first base prospect, got his first taste of the Majors last year. Meanwhile, players like Brayan Rocchio, George Valera and Bo Naylor have potential in the lower portions of the system. Right now, Jones is the clear star of the system, but strong starts from Rocchio and Valera, in particular, would give the Cleveland pipeline an even rosier hue.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates
Four of the Pirates’ top five prospects are position players. Leading the pack is Ke’Bryan Hayes, the second-best third base prospect in baseball. Hayes climbed to Triple-A last season and set a career high in extra-base hits; he could see significant Major League action this year. No. 64 overall prospect Oneil Cruz dazzled in 2019 when he wasn’t dealing with foot injuries and was promoted twice, finishing the year with Double-A Altoona. There are still plenty of questions about his future defensive role, but the left-handed slugger has enough pop in his bat to fit at most spots on the diamond. Outfielders Travis Swaggerty and Cal Mitchell had similar performances for Class A Advanced Bradenton. Ji-Hwan Bae, another middle infielder, cracked the Pirates’ top ten with a breakout season in the South Atlantic League. The No. 9 second base prospect led the circuit in batting (.323) and placed third in on-base percentage (.403). Lolo Sanchez is poised for a turnaround after struggling with a midseason promotion to Bradenton. The Pirates added an intriguing prospect in Liover Peguero from the D-backs in this offseason’s swap for Starling Marte, and the Bucs hope he could become an above-average hitter with decent power and good speed.
13. St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis has two of MLB.com’s top 50 prospects in Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman. The Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2016, Carlson broke out offensively last season, putting up career highs with 26 homers, 20 steals and a .914 OPS. After tearing through the Pacific Coast League at the end of the year, the 21-year-old outfielder should debut in the Majors early this season. Gorman picked up where he left off after a fantastic rookie campaign in 2018, showing plus power while advancing to the Florida State League. Andrew Knizner cracked the Major League roster in September and could find a permanent home there this season as Yadier Molina‘s backup. Elehuris Montero will hope to bounce back with a healthy year after missing two months last season recovering from a broken hamate bone that sapped his offense. Players like Ivan Herrera, Jhon Torres, Edmundo Sosa and Julio Rodriguez prove the Cardinals are packed with prospect talent across the board.
12. Baltimore Orioles
Adley Rutschman, the top catching prospect in baseball and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 Draft, headlines a bursting Baltimore system. The switch-hitting backstop features plus power, arm and fielding tools. He rose to the occasion after a receiving a record-setting bonus last summer, earning two promotions to finish the year with Class A Delmarva, and is expected to become the face of the franchise in short order. Ryan Mountcastle should make a case this spring for a Major League role after recording a stellar .312/.344/.527 line for Triple-A Norfolk on his way to winning International League MVP honors. The 22-year-old ranked in the top five on the International League leaderboard in batting, doubles (35) and RBIs (83), and led the circuit with 274 total bases. Yusniel Diaz returned to Double-A and battled through injuries. Austin Hays returned to the Majors in 2019 and hit .309 with a .947 OPS in 68 at-bats. Lower on the ladder, Adam Hall shined in his first full professional season with a .298 average and 33 steals for Delmarva. The Orioles have been in a heavy rebuild for a while, but the addition of Rutschman and the Major League proximities of Mountcastle, Hays and Diaz have Baltimore closer than ever to competing once again..
11. Arizona Diamondbacks
Few Minor League systems made as big of a jump in one year as the D-backs did. Alek Thomas made an impression as a 19-year-old outfielder with plus hit, run and fielding tools. After batting .312 in 91 games in the Midwest League, MLB.com’s No. 49 overall prospect was promoted to Class A Advanced Visalia, where he finished with a combined .300/.379/.450 line. No. 43 prospect Kristian Robinson broke out in the Northwest League, hitting .319 with a .966 OPS before being promoted to Class A Kane County. Last year’s 15th overall Draft pick, Corbin Carroll, enters his first full season as baseball’s No. 89 prospect after raking in both the Rookie and Class A Short Season circuits. No. 76 prospect Daulton Varsho tied for the second-highest average in the Southern League at .301 and still has not posted a season with an average lower than .285 in his career. The 23-year-old catcher is unusual for his position as an above-average runner, and his above-average bat should be an asset even if he has to move to a different position. Geraldo Perdomo (No. 82) jumped into the Top-100 ranks for the first time this offseason thanks to his plus speed and defensive ability at shortstop. Traded at the deadline as part of the Zack Greinke deal, Seth Beer saw his offensive numbers fall in the Arizona system but will get an extended look at Spring Training after a solid run in the Arizona Fall League. Blaze Alexander and Wilderd Patino also jump out as impact prospects in a completely revamped system.
Katie Woo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.