-- 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.
Farm system overview
Of the D-backs' top 10 prospects two years ago, three are now on the major league roster, led by Pat Corbin, while three others have been dispatched in trades over the past year-plus. A couple of solid drafts the past two years have helped restock the system, but at this point, the scouting staff can't add talent as quickly as Kevin Towers is dealing it away.
Fortunately, they've got a future ace at the top of the system in Archie Bradley, and I love Braden Shipley's chances to become a solid No. 2 behind him thanks to his athleticism and relative inexperience on the mound. Stryker Trahan has come a long way defensively since signing, especially in throwing out runners, and had a solid second pro season despite losing his mother in April after a long battle with cancer.
Brandon Drury was the big surprise in the system this year; widely seen (including by me) as a throw-in to the Justin Upton trade, he led the low Class A Midwest League in doubles with 11 more than anyone else, finished seventh in slugging, and showed a cerebral approach at the plate that improved as the year went on. He may be playable at third base, but is still a work in progress there. Jake Lamb had the bigger rate stats and is more likely to stay at third, but missed two months last year with a sprained right wrist. Sergio Alcantara was just 16 in rookie ball last summer, showing great plate discipline and good instincts at short with a plus arm, a possible everyday shortstop if he can get a good bit stronger over the next couple of years.
Just missing their top 10: shortstop Jose Munoz (No. 11 in the system), likely to move to third base with a good feel to hit and potential average power; lefty Daniel Gibson (No. 12), 90-94 mph on his fastball with two fringy-to-average breaking balls, starting now after he relieved at the University of Florida; outfielder Justin Williams (No. 13), who has huge raw power but is pretty crude at the plate and in the field; and right-hander Jimmy Sherfy (No. 14), a former college closer with plus stuff and a bad delivery, someone the Snakes should move quickly to capitalize on his arm while they can.
Chris Owings could unseat Didi Gregorius as the everyday shortstop in Phoenix, while Bradley should make his debut at some point this summer. Right-hander Matt Stites came over in the Ian Kennedy trade. He has been 96-98 and could challenge for a bullpen role this spring, as could right-hander Jake Barrett, whose fastball/slider combo is filthy when he's healthy, which isn't all that often.
No one. If you show the slightest sign of weakness, Towers will not hesitate to put you on the trade market.
Everyone who sees right-hander Jose Martinez raves about him. He has a somewhat slight build for a starter, similar to St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martinez, but his fastball is 94-96 mph with a curveball that runs from average to plus. His stuff is ahead of his control, though, as he walked 25 in 38 innings last summer for short-season Yakima.
Farm system overview
The Rockies' system looks a whole lot better than it has ever looked with these two potential aces at the top of the list: Jonathan Gray, the third overall pick in last year's draft, and Eddie Butler, who took a big step forward after he was their supplemental first-round pick in 2012. Both guys made a lot of progress with their changeups last summer, and neither is that far away from contributing in Coors Field.
David Dahl missed almost all of last year due to injury, but looked fine in instructs and should be ready to go in March. I still like the tools and feel for hitting, given his age, and think he'll develop into an above-average regular. Rosell Herrera repeated the low-A Sally League in a great hitter's park, so it would help to see him carry it over to high-A this year. He's athletic and can play a little out of control, but the tools are exciting. Tom Murphy has improved his receiving to solid-average now, along with a 60 arm, and has above-average raw power. But he was way too old for the Sally League last year and I hope he'll start 2014 in Double-A now that he'll be 23 years old. Tyler Matzek has never lived up to expectations that made him the 11th overall pick in 2009, but at least he has the fastball/breaking-ball combination to be an effective left-handed reliever.
The Rockies have a lot of depth in arms beyond their top 10 names, led by Antonio Senzatela, a Venezuelan right-hander who just turned 19 last week. The 11th-best prospect in the system, he has been up to 95 and will flash a plus curveball and a plus changeup, needing consistency with the secondary stuff and to work on command and on how to use his stuff more effectively.
Lefty Tyler Anderson (No. 12) should still be a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, but his past two years have been wrecked by back and elbow problems. I still like right-hander Ryan Warner (No. 13) as a long-term prospect, still projectable at 6-foot-7 with present command and plane, needing now to grow into his frame. They also have a slew of relief candidates, such as Scott Oberg, up to 95 with a swing-and-miss curveball; Raul Fernandez, who reaches the upper 90s and punched out 36 percent of the guys he faced in Asheville last year, but needs to stay healthy; and lefty Sam Moll, their third-round pick last year, a starter now but I think a dominant left-handed reliever who'll show a 60-grade fastball and plus slider with an average changeup in short relief.
The Rockies may not wish to rush Gray or Butler, but I don't think either guy is that far off, with Butler closer in experience and also in stuff. Rule 5 draft selection Tommy Kahnle might stick as a 12th man in their pen.
Tim Wheeler's 33-homer season in Double-A Tulsa in 2011 seemed like an anomaly at the time, and since reaching Triple-A Colorado Springs he has been both hurt and unproductive, with seven homers in more than 850 plate appearances there across two seasons. Matzek hasn't been able to command his fastball enough to start, and he actually walked more right-handers (63) than he struck out (60) last year, which is kind of a problem.
Outfielder Raimel Tapia is a gifted young hitter, boasting phenomenal hand-eye coordination, confidence at the plate for someone so young, and an ability to adjust to changing speeds. At 6-2, he's wiry and a little projectable still, playing center now but potentially ending up a corner where his bat would still play.
The Rockies don't have a complex-league team -- hello, Mr. Monfort, it's a great investment for a tiny amount of money -- so Tapia had to jump from the Dominican Summer League to the advanced rookie-level Pioneer League, and all he did was finish second in the circuit in total bases and eighth in OPS. He could put up some big numbers in Asheville, which is a great hitters' park, if the Rockies push him there this spring.
Farm system overview
This is the best front five the Dodgers have had since the Matt Kemp/ Andre Ethier/ Russell Martin era, led by a pair of teenagers, Julio Urias and Corey Seager. The Dodgers' drafts, other than the cash-strapped 2011 year, have been successful at getting talent into the system, with Corey Seager, Zach Lee, and Chris Anderson all first-rounders, Jesmuel Valentin in the sandwich round, and Tom Windle in the second, while Joc Pederson was a big bonus signing in the 11th round.
Valentin is a premium defender whose bat is still an open question. Windle looked better after signing than he had in the spring at Minnesota, picking up strength as the weather warmed up, eventually hitting 95 mph in instructional league with a plus slider at 84 mph -- way above what I saw from him back in March.
Alexander Guerrero may hit, but he's got a stiff body and reports on his defense from winter ball were poor. Kyle Farmer, a shortstop at the University of Georgia, converted to catching after signing and picked it up quickly, with good energy and plenty of arm.
Also of note: Lefty Chris Reed (No. 11), a clear reliever but ready to pitch in the majors whenever he's needed; Scott Barlow (No. 12) and Zach Bird (No. 13), discussed below as sleepers; and converted infielder Pedro Baez (No. 15), now throwing hard on the mound but still working on the art of pitching as a reliever in Double-A. Right fielder Joey Curletta (No. 14) hit well in rookie-level Ogden at age 19; he's got a thick, strong build and is pretty short to the ball, with plus power in BP but a more contact-oriented approach during games.
There's hardly any room at the inn in Los Angeles for rookies. Guerrero might be the second baseman if the Dodgers can live with his below-average glove, and some of their relief prospects, especially Chris Withrow and Reed, will log major league innings this year.
For all the hype James Baldwin Jr. had due to his plus speed and his bloodlines, he hasn't performed: Repeating low-A at age 21, he hit .238/.323/.388 and struck out in 36 percent of his at-bats.
Last year's sleeper, Bird, struggled with command and control in low-A, but was a little better after a demotion to the Pioneer League. He still has a great arm and a chance for three average or better pitches, but his youth (he turned 19 in July) and inexperience (he's from a high school in rural Mississippi) showed. Also, keep an eye on Barlow, back this year after missing 2012 due to Tommy John surgery, still waiting for the last of his velocity to return -- if it does at all.
Farm system overview
The Padres' system remains deep and ready to supply the major league club with cheap starting pitching and the occasional bat, led by Austin Hedges, one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He's more power-before-hit at this point, but with a good idea at the plate and high contact rates that give hope he'll keep his OBP respectable while saving a zillion runs with his glove and arm.
Casey Kelly and Rymer Liriano both missed the year due to Tommy John surgery. It was worse for Liriano, who desperately needed those at-bats to continue to work on recognizing off-speed stuff. Right-handers Joe Ross, Zach Eflin and Walker Weickel (No. 13) all flash plus stuff but need to work on command and turning lineups over three times. Eflin is the most advanced on the mound, sinking the fastball and going to a plus changeup for swings and misses, throwing a slider now that projects as average.
Shortstop Jace Peterson (No. 11) has the speed and actions to play there or at second, and he has performed well over the past two years. But he has been old for his leagues both times, staying in high-A all of 2013 even though there was no one blocking him in Double-A.
Right-hander Jesse Hahn (No. 12) just came over in a trade with Tampa Bay that also netted Alex Torres. he shows top-of-the-rotation stuff but has no history at all of staying healthy in that role, and it's more likely he's a premium reliever if his arm holds up. Josh Van Meter (No. 14) projects as an average defender at short. He can hit a little but will have to show more pop as he moves up the ladder.
Matt Wisler is close to being ready for the majors, and by midyear will likely be one of the three or four best starters in the organization. The Padres' current rotation leads off with three injury-prone guys in Andrew Cashner, Josh Johnson and Tyson Ross, so there will be opportunities for Wisler and for Kelly when he returns to action.
Both Kelly and Liriano fell off the top 100 due to elbow surgery, and neither had performed up to expectations (or the level of their physical tools) prior to their injuries.
Andy Lockett missed all of 2013 (outside of three short relief outings in the complex league) with a blister issue that just wouldn't clear up; when that's not an issue, he'll run his fastball up to 94 with sink and shows a plus change. His arm works well and his slider was better than ever in instructs last year, although that won't really count until he can throw it against live hitters.
Farm system overview
The Giants have plundered their own system for trades and for a few big league jobs during their run of contention over the past five years, so the system remains thin, with starting pitching the one area of strength but none of it close to the majors.
Kyle Crick has power stuff, two plus pitches, but poor command and a need for a third weapon. Andrew Susac gets far too little attention within the industry, in my opinion. He's a solid-average regular, a catcher who receives fine, throws well and has above-average power. Edwin Escobar has the upside of the three arms I have in the No. 3, 4 and 5 spots on the list, with the above-average fastball/changeup combo, whereas Clayton Blackburn has the command and control, looking like a good back-end starter but without much ceiling.
Christian Arroyo won't stay at shortstop, but I see an offensive-minded second baseman with good feel to hit. He'll have to find more power to profile as a quality regular there, or become a more patient hitter so he can rack up high OBP. Mac Williamson can run, throw and hit for power, but the knock is his bat speed, which may not handle better velocity so well when he reaches Double- or Triple-A. Ty Blach had a tremendous pro debut in 2013, showing back-of-the-rotation stuff and superlative control, but his history of shoulder trouble makes him more likely to end up in a relief role.
Their rookie-level Arizona League team had a few arms worth keeping in the back of your mind in lefty Luis Ysla and righty Keury Mella; Mella's younger and the ball seems to explode out of his hand, so he just overmatched hitters in the complex league. Joe Panik remains in the system as a potential utility infielder.
Reliever Heath Hembree has been on the cusp of the majors for two years but has had trouble staying healthy, finally debuting in September and throwing well enough that he'll probably stick with the team this April.
Gary Brown does it all wrong for a guy with plus speed and range in center. He doesn't play hard, he doesn't take well to instruction, and he doesn't make adjustments at the plate. At this point, he's probably a fourth or fifth outfielder, unless he's willing to alter his swing so he can make better contact.
Joan Gregorio is a 6-7 right-hander whose fastball is up to 96 mph with a hard mid-80s slider and is just now starting to fill out physically. His arm works well, and his main issue going forward is getting more on top of his fastball so he can use his height to generate plane and keep the ball out of the air.