-- I have once again expanded my ranking of the top 10 prospects in each organization.
The criteria for organizing these lists are the same as ever, but I've included a little more explanation of the state of the system, and discuss any prospects (top 10 and beyond) who might help the major league team this year.
In addition to at least one "sleeper" prospect for each organization, I've also identified one player for each club whose prospect stock has taken a serious hit in the past year, and attempt to explain why.
As with the top 100, I use the 20-80 scouting scale to describe players' tools.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/bal/baltimore-orioles">Baltimore Orioles</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 10
Farm system overview
This is the strongest that the Orioles' system has been in years, with five legitimate starting pitching prospects, two likely to contribute this season, and some growth in position-player depth.
Hunter Harvey, their first pick in the 2013 draft, took a big step forward after signing thanks to some delivery fine-tuning, and catcher Chance Sisco, their second pick, is a better receiver than expected despite the fact that he only began catching full-time last spring. The system also includes Henry Urrutia, an older Cuban outfielder who might be a platoon DH option; Michael Ohlman, a below-average defensive catcher who might have a bench role because he can hit and has at least gap power; and 22nd-rounder Jon Keller, signed from NCAA Division II Tampa, who threw 98 mph in rookie ball, but with a rough, reliever-only delivery.
You'll see Kevin Gausman in the big leagues quite a bit this year in the rotation or the pen; I wouldn't mind seeing him break back in as a reliever, but only if that means longer outings where he can continue to develop his slider. Mike Wright should also get a trial in the back of the Orioles' rotation at some point; he's up to 96 mph with an average change and fringy curveball. Jonathan Schoop should see some major league time this year at second base if he's fully healthy.
Branden Kline was their No. 7 prospect in 2013, but broke his right fibula in a conditioning drill in May and didn't return until the Arizona Fall League; now 22 years old, he has yet to pitch above low Class A. The Orioles also traded three of their top 10 prospects from last year, sending Nick Delmonico to Milwaukee and both L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader to Houston.
Olelky Peralta was a free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic for $325,000, and blew scouts away in instructional league, hitting 95 mph with his fastball, showing good rotation on a curveball and demonstrating the ability to throw his fastball for strikes. Some teams thought Peralta was ineligible to sign until July, which may be why his bonus was a little lower -- but credit the Orioles for jumping on the opportunity to land a projectable 6-foot-5 right-hander with an electric arm.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/bos/boston-red-sox">Boston Red Sox</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 4
Farm system overview
Because what the world wanted to hear was that the defending World Series champs have one of the game's best and deepest systems, right? The Red Sox have drafted exceedingly well the past few years, loading the system with up-the-middle position-player talent, along with a handful of starters boasting mid-rotation upside.
Xander Bogaerts showed flashes in October of why he's a potential monster, with a mature approach at the plate and strong, quick wrists. Henry Owens' fastball and breaking ball were both much better in 2013 than in 2012, without giving up any of the deception that made him hard to hit before last season.
The No. 11 prospect in the system, had I continued, is premium defensive catcher Christian Vazquez, who isn't a great offensive prospect but makes so much contact that he'll likely end up an average to above-average regular overall. Lefty Brian Johnson still could be a No. 4 or 5 starter, and showed a little extra velocity in instructional league.
Boston took a few project guys in the 2013 draft after first-rounder Trey Ball, including fallen idol Jon Denney, a catcher who came into the spring as a surefire first-rounder but struggled badly down the stretch as he lost strength and energy; and Teddy Stankiewicz, an excellent athlete who can hit 94-95 mph with good command, thanks to a repeatable delivery. And they signed 16-year-old Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers, a left-handed hitter with big-time power and a very good swing, for $1.5 million in August.
Bogaerts should be their every-day shortstop; I'm not convinced there's a $6 million gap between what he'll provide and what Stephen Drew would provide, let alone a $12 million one. Jackie Bradley Jr. appears on track to be the Opening Day center fielder. Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo should get starts whenever Boston needs to fill in for someone in the major league rotation. Webster needs to show he can command his fastball, especially in the lower half, while Ranaudo was all over the place both times I saw him last year, and has to iron out some timing issues around his landing.
Their 2012 first-rounder, Deven Marrero, slugged .317 on the year across two levels, and there's not a lot you can do to paper over that. He can still play excellent defense at short, and was 27-for-29 on stolen base attempts despite a hamstring pull early in the season, but right now he looks like a No. 8 or 9 hitter in the big leagues whom pitchers might blow away with better velocity.
Last year's sleeper, Manuel Margot, would be No. 12 in the system now, and could make the leap next year with a full season in low Class A. He's an above-average defender in center who can run and throw and takes good at-bats for someone who won't turn 20 until September.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/nyy/new-york-yankees">New York Yankees</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 20
Farm system overview
What a miserable year for the Yankees on the farm. Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Ian Clarkin and Gabe Encinas all got hurt, with Judge missing the entire summer after the Yankees nabbed him with one of their three first-round picks. For most of those guys, the injuries just meant lost years, but in Heathcott's case, there's a legitimate question about whether he can ever stay healthy enough to be an every-day player.
Gary Sanchez was healthy, but just didn't hit anywhere close to expectations. J.R. Murphy's year was the brightest spot, as he's going to be an every-day catcher for somebody. Greg Bird's patience/power game could make him a second-division regular down the road. Luis Severino's three-pitch mix might be three pluses out of the pen, and it's a grade-65 or 70 fastball even in the rotation. However, he's less than 6-foot, and he has to prove he can maintain his stuff over a full season when going six innings every time out.
Their 2013 second-round pick, California prep second baseman Gosuke Katoh, had the best year of all of their high selections, tearing up the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with great plate discipline while playing strong defense.
Other than some relief help from someone like right-hander Mark Montgomery or hard-throwing and often-hurt Jose Ramirez (No. 11 in their system), the Yankees aren't likely to give any significant playing time to rookies this year.
Heathcott can't stay healthy and had to have more work done on one of his knees after he tried to play through it all year. He couldn't run, his reads in center were poor, and his makeup has never been his strong suit. (One scout: "He's legitimately a crazy person." That scout is not a real doctor, however.) Heathcott fell off the top 100 entirely, and I don't see him returning there until he has a full, productive season.
Aside from Severino, whom I mentioned above and who could be a No. 3 starter or more if his size doesn't preclude a future in the rotation, the Yankees have to be excited about Venezuelan catcher Luis Torrens, whom they signed for $1.3 million in July 2012. A new convert to catching, Torrens took to it extremely well, with plus hands and plus defense overall, with a good swing and feel at the plate, only lacking power but likely hitting for average with good OBP when he develops.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/tb/tampa-bay-rays">Tampa Bay Rays</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 23
Farm system overview
The Rays use their system aggressively to fill out their major league roster and depend on it to provide a steady flow of prospects who can handle all kinds of roles. The pipeline is starting to dry up, as their drafts have been less productive since 2007, when they selected David Price and Matt Moore.
Taylor Guerrieri, still their best prospect, blew out his elbow in July and earned a 50-game suspension after a second positive drug test. Hak-Ju Lee had his knee destroyed on a double-play ball, and it remains to be seen how much of his speed and defense is still there post-surgery. They capitalized on two late first-round picks with premium receiver Nick Ciuffo and right-hander Ryne Stanek, who would have been a top-10 pick if not for injury concern. As usual, the Rays have a slew of power arms from Latin America in their system, mostly future relievers but a few with chances to start.
Alex Colome and Enny Romero are both likely to get big league time this year, at least in the pen. Jake Odorizzi is probably the first starter up if any of the Rays' five starters needs to miss a start or two, and Lee could be up by midyear if he hasn't lost too much quickness.
Jake Hager, my sleeper for the Rays last year, just did not hit at all in 2013, putting up a .258/.318/.305 line at age 20 in the high Class A Florida State League. The former first-rounder was young for his level and plays adequate defense at short, but you're not going to get to the big leagues with an ISO of less than 50 points unless you're a Gold Glove defender or can run like Billy Hamilton.
Right-hander Jose Mujica shows an above-average fastball now with heavy sink and a plus 82-85 mph changeup with plus control and the size (6-2, 200 pounds) to be a mid-rotation starter if he can develop a breaking ball. I've got him just over lefty Jose Castillo (No. 11), who has better present stuff, including an average or better curveball, but less feel or command.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/tor/toronto-blue-jays">Toronto Blue Jays</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 24
Farm system overview
The Jays gambled the farm last winter, and the result is that there's not a whole lot left on their full-season rosters -- just the three starters Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, and Daniel Norris, with all of the other top prospects in their system spending 2013 in short-season ball.
The failure to sign their first-round picks in 2011 or 2013 didn't help matters, regardless of whether their decisions not to sign those guys were correct -- the void is here either way. They did get a nice surprise from Canadian-born pitcher Tom Robson (No. 11 in the system), who was pitching 91 to 95 mph by season's end and generates a ton of ground balls, but needs work on his curve and changeup. Chase DeJong (No. 12) shows feel for three pitches and throws strikes, projecting as a possible fourth starter.
Four other top 100 prospects came from the Jays' system, but were traded away last winter: Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, and Justin Nicolino. The bright spot here is the team's effort in Latin America, where former international scouting director Marco Paddy loaded up the system with shortstops and power arms before he left to take a similar position with the White Sox.
This should be Stroman's year to break into the majors, likely as a starter -- the Jays could use him -- but with the pen always an option to help keep his innings load down. Kevin Pillar (No. 13 in the system) should spend the year in Toronto as an extra outfielder, while Ryan Goins may stick as a utility infielder.
Roberto Osuna, a top-100 prospect a year ago, had a rough 10 starts in low Class A Lansing before undergoing Tommy John surgery at the beginning of August and likely won't pitch again until instructional league this fall.
If Franklin Barreto stays at shortstop, which most scouts seem to think he will, he has a chance to be an impact guy with the bat. He's an average to slightly above-average defender but has a plus arm. At the plate, he shows a feel to hit and power to the opposite field, with a strong, compact body that doesn't prevent him from being a plus runner and an agile defender on the dirt.