Ranking All 5 NL Central Farm Systems

Ranking All 5 NL Central Farm Systems
Oscar Taveras, #3 Prospect in all of Baseball

With the Cubs major league roster floundering and in last place, I thought it may be interesting to see what the future has in store for each team in the division.  Expect last year's powerhouses, the Cardinals and Pirates, to be competitive for years to come.  Here's a quick update on each NL Central club's farm system and their outlook.

1.  Chicago Cubs

Top 5 prospects:

1. Javier Baez  SS

2. Kris Bryant  3B

3. Albert Almora  OF

4. Jorge Soler  OF

5. C.J. Edwards  SP

Sleeper:  Paul Blackburn SP

Outlook:  Since the new front office took place, the Cubs have done a fabulous job of accumulating prospects during their tenure.  With a number of top prospects reaching the upper-echelons of the minors, their major league team is bound to improve in the following years.  As soon as this season we could see top hitting prospects such as Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and possibly Kris Bryant at the Friendly Confines.  A few years ago, pitching was the main criticism of the organization.  However, the draft has been a goldmine for the Cubs.  With many of these young, athletic pitchers, including Paul Blackburn, starting to make some noise in the lower level of the minors.  Along with the #4 pick in this year’s draft, which is very pitcher heavy, the top signings from the IFA class of last year should be making their way stateside within the next few years.  The future’s looking great for the Cubs, and I expect them to retain the top farm system in the NL Central for years to come.

2.  Pittsburgh Pirates

Top 5 prospects:

1.  Gregory Polanco  OF

2.  Jameson Taillon  SP

3.  Tyler Glasnow  SP

4.  Austin Meadows  OF

5.  Alen Hanson  SS

Sleeper:  Nick Kingham  SP

Outlook:  Originally I had the Pirates as #1, however, their top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon is out for the season with Tommy John surgery.  The Pirates are loaded with pitching prospects, and their top three, Taillon, Glasnow, and Kingham, all project as top of the rotation starters.  Gregory Polanco has been scorching the ball in AAA this season and he should be up after the Super 2 deadline passes in June.  He has the chance to be a perennially All-Star thanks to his plus power, speed, and glove.  Austin Meadows is an athletic center-fielder with good bat speed and power.  Currently injured, Meadows is expected to start for the West Virginia Power in A ball as just a 19-year old.  The Pirates have a deep system and I expect them to continue to produce impact arms and bats for years to come.

3.  St. Louis Cardinals

Top 5 prospects:

1.  Oscar Taveras  OF

2.  Kolten Wong  2B

3.  Stephen Piscotty  OF

4.  Rob Kaminsky  SP

5.  Marco Gonzales  SP

Sleeper:  Alexander Reyes  SP

Outlook:  Even with the promotions of Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Allen Craig, and Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals still boast a very deep system.  This season, expect Kolten Wong to fill into the role as the everyday second baseman as well as Oscar Taveras to make his major league debut in right field.  The Cardinals have struck gold many times in recent draft classes and continually rank among the top 10 in baseball.  Alex Reyes is a popular candidate to breakout this year thanks to his mid-90s fastball and plus breaking ball.  His command isn’t there yet, but at just 19-years of age he clearly has time to work on it.  The Cardinals minor league teams are littered with potential everyday/platoon type players who could all make an impact at the major league level.  Expect their system to once again rise up the rankings at the end of the year

4.  Cincinnati Reds

Top 5 prospects:

1.  Robert Stephenson  SP

2.  Billy Hamilton  OF

3.  Phil Ervin  OF

4.  Jesse Winker  OF

5.  Michael Lorenzen SP

Sleeper:  Ben Lively  SP

Outlook:  There’s a big drop off in talent between the Cardinals and Reds on this list.  Robert Stephenson could turn into a top of the rotation arm thanks to his great command, premium fastball, and breaking ball.  We’ve all seen Hamilton at the major league level, as he’s probably the fastest player in all of the majors.  However, to utilize that speed he’ll have to get on base which will be a continual problem due to his poor hit tool.  Even if he rarely gets on base, he still is a plus defender in center-field and always a threat while on the base paths.  After those two, Ervin and Winker project into average regulars in the outfield and the rest of their top 10 include many bullpen pitchers.  Ben Lively has gotten off to a hot start in High-A.  He has a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a plus curve and improving slider.  It’s hard to see anyone outside their top 10 making a huge leap this year, so expect their system to hover around the 15-20 range.

5.  Milwaukee Brewers

Top 5 prospects:

1.  Tyrone Taylor  OF

2.  Devin Williams  SP

3.  Jimmy Nelson  SP

4.  Orlando Arcia  SS

5.  Nick Delmonico  3B

Sleeper:  Andy Hillis  SP

Outlook:  The Brewers farm system ranked dead last with no prospects in the top 100 entering the year.  Their top 5 have the chance to be decent regulars, but the Brewers are very thin all around on talent.  Devin Williams is the one exception, as he has a great mid-90s fastball but lacks control and secondary pitches.  John Hellweg and Jimmy Nelson should fill into the bullpen this year, outside of those two their major league team won’t get any help from their farm teams.  Andy Hillis may end up looking like a steal in the 11th round of the 2013 draft.  A big kid (6'6"), Hillis already has a lively fastball and his success will depend on the development of his secondary pitches.  Ranking in dead last, their system is bound to improve through the draft.  Still, other than the major league team things are not looking good for the Brewers.

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