-- I've 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 with each club whose prospect stock has taken a serious hit in the past year, and attempted 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/atl/atlanta-braves">Atlanta Braves</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 22
Farm system overview
Atlanta's system remains a real weakness, mostly because the club has used so much of what was on the farm a few years ago to bolster the major league roster (which, as a result, is very young as well as talented), and in part because recent drafts have been less productive.
Lucas Sims, Atlanta's 2012 first-rounder, isn't in that category, as his stuff ticked up across the board in a huge debut season that jumped him into the overall top 50. The Braves' 2013 draft was less promising, as they took likely reliever Jason Hursh in the first round, but second-rounder Victor Caratini could make a big jump if the team's effort to convert him to catching pays off. Two of the Braves' top 10 picks were signed as undrafted (passed over) free agents, Wes Parsons and Ian Thomas, and their Latin program is responsible for three of their top four guys.
Christian Bethancourt's glove and arm are more than ready for the majors; it's about his approach at the plate now, and just tightening up the finer points of his defense. Tommy La Stella could see a lot of time at second base; he's a fringe regular but may be a better option than Dan Uggla at this point.
J.R. Graham, a top-100 prospect a year ago, blew out his shoulder and made just eight starts on the year. He was already a risk to have to go to the pen due to his lack of size -- he's listed at 5-foot-10 -- and that just became much more likely, assuming his stuff comes most of the way back after the decision to rehab his injury rather than undergo major surgery.
Parsons is a projectable right-hander, 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, with good sink on an average fastball, an above-average slider and plus control, with three walks in his past 44 innings this year in low-A.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/mia/miami-marlins">Miami Marlins</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 19
Farm system overview
It was something of a flat year within the Marlins' system, as no one but Andrew Heaney took a big step forward, but several guys made modest progress, while the team added three pretty strong talents in the draft in Colin Moran, Trevor Williams and reliever Colby Suggs, who could move very quickly through the system now that the groin strain that wrecked his spring at Arkansas is fully behind him.
The system isn't deep at all, although some of that is the result of the Marlins' aggressiveness in bringing young players with ability to the majors as soon as they might be ready, which led to five of Miami's top 10 prospects from last year losing their eligibility, including Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez.
Jake Marisnick will lose eligibility early this season, and Brian Flynn would be my pick right now for the Marlins' fifth starter spot over guys like Tom Koehler and Brad Hand. I wouldn't be shocked to see Anthony Desclafani surface in the second half; he has the velocity and control to start, but isn't very physical and may not have the stamina for 190-200 innings a year. He'd be very effective out of the pen if that's his future role.
Austin Brice was one of two sleepers I named last year, along with Jose Urena, but Brice's velocity went backward this year and he walked nearly a man an inning; he's been passed by several better arms in the meantime. Kolby Copeland, Miami's third-round pick a year ago, refused to take a drug test and is now effectively out of baseball, although he's still under the Marlins' control if he wants to return.
Jarlin Garcia is a strike-throwing left-hander, 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, with a three-pitch mix already and some room to add velocity. He's No. 11 in the system, just ahead of Domingo German, another right-hander who doesn't have the third pitch but has an above-average curveball and good angle on his fastball.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/nym/new-york-mets">New York Mets</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 6
Farm system overview
This system has come a very long way in a short amount of time, thanks to solid drafts under scouting director Tommy Tanous and his predecessor Chad MacDonald, and to several very productive trades that brought in three of the Mets' top seven prospects.
Top prospect Noah Syndergaard saw his breaking ball improve from below-average last year to solid-average or better by summer's end; Travis d'Arnaud took time off from the disabled list to make his major league debut; Cesar Puello finally put some production behind his tools before serving a suspension for his involvement in Biogenesis.
The Mets' next few prospects after this top 10 -- Gavin Cecchini (No. 11), Gabriel Ynoa (No. 12), Jacob deGrom (No. 13), Michael Fulmer (No. 14) and Domingo Tapia (No. 15), to give you an idea -- are all pretty tightly bunched together, with a lot of back-end starters and potential fringe-to-average regulars in the group.
Both Rafael Montero and Syndergaard will likely see significant time in the majors, with Montero getting the call first because he's further along, and managing his service time is less important than managing Syndergaard's. Wilmer Flores could stick as a backup at third, second and even left field or first base, if the Mets don't mind him getting somewhat irregular at-bats. Puello is a dark horse to surface later in the year, especially if Curtis Granderson or Chris Young gets hurt (again).
Nobody really crashed and burned this year in the Mets' system; the worst drop might be Cecchini, their first-rounder in 2012 and No. 5 prospect last year, now No. 11 and projected by many scouts as a fringe regular or utility guy because his bat looked light in Brooklyn last year.
I could pick any of a number of those control-fiend arms, but shortstop Amed Rosario is the most exciting prospect of the Mets' second tier. He is a tool shed at shortstop, with a 70-grade arm and 60 raw power that's going to become more in time, and he's already showing a good feel for the zone at his age, improving his recognition of breaking stuff last summer and also showing good power out to right-center.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Rosario signed for $1.75 million in 2012 and skipped the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League entirely, instead playing as the Appalachian League's youngest position player. He's a ways off, maybe more of a top-50 candidate for 2016, but is the system's most exciting prospect to dream on.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/phi/philadelphia-phillies">Philadelphia Phillies</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 14
Farm system overview
The Phillies always go for ceiling in the draft and in international scouting, and there's a lot of potential impact here, especially at the lower levels, led by their first-round pick J.P. Crawford, a true shortstop with All-Star upside due to his potential with the bat.
Severino Gonzalez is their best right-handed arm, not a guy who'll ever challenge for the top 50 or 75 spots on the Top 100, but a command guy with two solid-average pitches now in a fastball and cutter and a chance for four average offerings with more development time. Kelly Dugan has a chance to be a solid-average regular if he can tighten up his plate discipline, which fell apart after a midseason promotion to Double-A.
Not listed in the top 10: Aaron Altherr (No. 11), a 6-foot-5 outfielder who's always been power-before-hit but showed a better approach this year and more willingness to go the other way; and Jake Sweaney (No. 12), a two-sport guy in high school who's raw but has the athleticism and arm strength to be an impact bat at catcher.
It's been a bit of a rough offseason for the Phillies' farm, though, as Andrew Knapp needed Tommy John surgery and could miss part of 2014, while Roman Quinn will likely be out until June or July after rupturing his Achilles tendon while working out.
Jesse Biddle probably makes his major league debut this summer, boosting the back of the rotation. Ethan Martin is a reliever all the way for me, and should spend most of 2014 on the big league roster. Kenny Giles, who can sit 98-99 in short stints, could surface this year if he can stay healthy.
Adam Morgan was the Phillies' No. 1 prospect last year, No. 92 overall, but his shoulder blew up and he's had surgery to try to repair the damage. Shane Watson, who missed their top 10 last year but was one of their highest draft picks in 2012, also recently had shoulder surgery; both pitchers will miss most or all of 2014. Catcher Tommy Joseph was No. 5 in their system last year, but a severe concussion (as if there were such a thing as a "mild" brain trauma) has his future as a catcher in doubt.
Deivi Grullon has an 80-grade arm behind the plate and has a chance to be an elite defender all around, developing very quickly on the side of the ball, but has a ways to go with the bat, right now showing more power than feel to hit. His floor looks very high due to his arm and glove and his aptitude for learning the more cerebral parts of catching.
<a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/wsh/washington-nationals">Washington Nationals</a> <br> <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb">Org rank:</a> 18
Farm system overview
Similar to last year's top 10, the Nationals' current list boasts a strong front five with a bit of a drop-off to the rest of the system.
Lucas Giolito has ace upside once he builds up the durability to handle a full workload; he's just a few months back from Tommy John surgery and rehab and is all potential right now. A.J. Cole re-established himself as a starting pitching candidate, bouncing back from a poor year in exile with the A's. Both Nate Karns and Sammy Solis could be someone's starters, although there's no room at the inn in Washington right now.
Jefry Rodriguez is very intriguing as a converted shortstop who's up to 98 with a power curveball, but as you might expect has even further to go than your typical rookie-ball pitcher because he's new to the craft. The Nationals' first pick in 2013, Jake Johansen, was a little underwhelming as their top selection (they didn't have a first-round pick), a power arm who almost certainly projects as a reliever down the line.
Beyond the top 10, they did get solid pro debuts from right-hander Austin Voth (No. 11), who was 90-94 with a solid-average slider, and third baseman Drew Ward (No. 12), a very physical kid who may end up at first base but has the potential for impact power.
Karns had a cup of coffee last year and could help the Nats again this year as a spot starter or in a long relief role, which might be ideal for him as he needs work on turning a lineup over more than anything else. Outfielder Eury Perez would be a good bench candidate for someone, even if it's not here.
I think the Matt Purke ship has probably sailed at this point; the overhyped, overpaid lefty threw just 90 innings this year, all in Class A, and looked like a future reliever between his low slot and average-ish velocity. He's now about 14 months removed from shoulder surgery, much of the blame for which lies not with him, but with the TCU coaching staff that worked him hard his freshman year and continued to roll him out there his sophomore year when he was obviously ailing.
Pedro Severino was an All-Star in the Sally League this year, primarily because of his defense -- he's a superb pitch-framer with a 70 or 80 arm, with the rare combination of strength and flexibility that's ideal for the position. At the plate, he's very balanced with a clean, efficient swing; there's probably not a lot of future power there, but he should make plenty of contact and hit for average. The defense is the calling card here, enough to get him to the big leagues at a young age while the bat develops.