Graduates: Mike Soroka (SP), Colin Poche (RP)
Risers: Gavin Lux (2B), Kristian Robinson (OF), Oneil Cruz (SS)
Top Prospects: 1. Gavin Lux (2B), 2. Michael Kopech (SP), 3. Kristian Robinson (OF), 4. Oneil Cruz (SS), 5. Deivi Garcia (SP), 6. Josiah Gray (SP), 7. Ryan Mountcastle (IF), 8. Simeon Woods Richardson (SP), 9. Keibert Ruiz (C), 10. Brent Honeywell (SP), 11. Jordan Balazovic (SP), 12. D’Shawn Knowles (OF), 13. Michael Baumann (SP), 14. Tyler Ivey (SP)
Remaining a top system for third straight year, Ankeny once again possesses enviable depth and impact talent. Leading that talent is middle infielder Gavin Lux, who has shot up prospect lists the past two seasons. Always owning a sweet swing and impressive bat speed, Lux took off once he added strength to his frame, adjusted his mechanics to incorporate his lower half more, and added some loft to his swing. With a high baseball IQ, excellent pitch recognition, and above-average speed there is no discernable weakness to his offensive game. Defensively he has ironed out his issues at shortstop and has received work at second base as well, and profiles as an above-average defender at either position. Another fast riser in the system is outfielder Kristian Robinson. Signed due to his raw tools, athleticism, and tremendous ceiling, Robinson has shown more polish than expected early on. With little experience coming out of the Bahamas, patience was preached concerning his development but with a plus hit tool and good plate discipline Robinson has moved quicker than expected. With more physical development still to come, Robinson could develop top shelf power to all fields and become a true lineup anchor. Currently able to handle centerfield well, he will likely outgrow the position but a strong arm and good instincts will play very well in right field. Oneil Cruz is another who has exceeded expectations earlier than thought. A late bloomer of sorts, Oneil has continued to grow since being signed, up from 6’3” when drafted to a current 6’6”, with more possible to come. Even though he has not begun to fill out his long lean frame, he still produces huge raw power, a sign that could portend even more power to come. There is swing and miss to his game, but he is not an uncontrolled hacker and should hit for decent average. Defensively he has defied the odds and not only stayed at shortstop but excelled there. Owning one of the strongest arms in the minors, a move to right field would not dampen any of the expectations Cruz now has. Shortstop Ryan Mountcastle and catcher Keibert Ruiz may be suffering more from prospect fatigue than anything else as they have slipped somewhat in the rankings, but both still possess the star potential they have cultivated the past few seasons. Matching the high end positional talent, the pitching talent is in equal measure in Ankeny. Led by graduate and Cy Young finalist Mike Soroka, the ACL farm is chock full of high end arms. Soroka burst onto the scene in his rookie year with an outstanding sinker, impeccable control, and an innate ability to keep the ball in the yard. He isn’t flashy and doesn’t have big strikeout numbers, but he gets the job done with ground balls and weak contact. Michael Kopech does possess the power arm, routinely hitting triple digits and averaging 96-99 mph, but he is battling his way back from TJ surgery and when he does take the mound it will be over two years since he had pitched. Add that he has yet to master an off speed offering to differentiate between his FB and his hard slider, there is still at least a little doubt about his ability to remain a starter. But with the kind of arm he has, frontline starter is the ceiling. Deivi Garcia, Josiah Gray and Simeon Woods Richardson all have power repertoire’s and add quality depth to the ACL farm, any one of the three capable of breaking into the upper echelon of pitching prospects. Brent Honeywell is a bit of a wildcard at this point, having lost more time to injuries than he has spent on the mound. The quality is undeniably there, but if he can not stay healthy his may be a career of what could have been. He will be 26 when next he sees a mound, and recovering from TJ surgery, so it will definitely be make or break from the moment he returns.
Graduates: Pete Alonso (1B), Brandon Lowe (2B), Alex Verdugo (OF), Josh James (RP)
Risers: Triston Casas (3B), Trevor Larnach (OF)
Top Prospects: 1. Jesus Luzardo (SP), 2. Royce Lewis (SS), 3. Bobby Witt Jr. (SS), 4. Ian Anderson (SP), 5. Nick Madrigal (2B), 6. Brandon Marsh (OF), 7. Trevor Larnach (OF), 8. Heliot Ramos (OF), 9. Triston Casas (3B), 10. Luis Garcia (SS), 11. Jorge Mateo (SS), 12. Shea Langeliers (C), 13. Misael Urbina (OF), 14. Luis Rodriguez (OF), 15. Ronaldo Hernandez (C)
Deep and talented, the Bako farm system holds a top ranking once again this season. Graduates Pete Alonso, Brandon Lowe and Alex Verdugo figure to play big parts in the coming season, with Alonso poised to be a major power threat and run producer in the middle of the Bako lineup. Heavier by far on the position side, the Bums do hold a top arm in Jesus Luzardo. Armed with two plus-plus pitches, plus control, and a calm, bulldog demeanor on the mound, Luzardo has all the pieces to be a frontline #1. His fastball sits 95-98 mph with heavy sinking action which produces plenty of both swing and miss and weak ground balls, and his change up is one of the best in baseball with a ton of fade and sink. There are mixed opinions on his breaking stuff, but weather there is ultimately a distinct curve/slider differential or it morphs into more of a slurvy hybrid pitch, there is plenty of break to rate the pitch as a third plus offering. Sitting alongside MacKenzie Gore as the best pitching prospects in baseball, Luzardo could take over as the ace of the Bums staff as early as next season. Ian Anderson is a second top rated arm and could be the right-handed compliment to Luzardo within the year. Anderson sits mid-90s with his sinking fastball and compliments that with a plus curve and a developing change. With just a touch more refinement to the change and his control, Anderson projects as a clear #2/#3 rotation piece. Shortstop is the depth of this system with Royce Lewis and 2019 1st rounder Bobby Witt Jr. leading the way. Lewis has all the physical talent, work ethic, and high baseball IQ to be a cornerstone piece. Any perceived regression in 2019 was due to Lewis making mechanical adjustments to unlock his considerable power potential and the results of that earned him the AFL MVP award. Lewis has 30/30 potential with his 70 grade speed and developing power. While he has all the tools defensively to be a standout at shortstop, in 2019 the team moved him around (2B, 3B, CF – with much the same results) to broaden his versatility. Witt has a very similar profile to Lewis. The son of 16 year veteran Bobby Witt Sr., Jr. has the professional approach, poise and makeup one would expect, and combined with his top shelf tools give him the potential to be a cornerstone piece. He boasts 60 grade potential across the board with no real deficiencies offensively or defensively. Luis Garcia and Jorge Mateo add additional depth at short, and pairing any of the above with second baseman Nick Madrigal could give the Bums an All-Star duo in the middle infield. Madrigal is a Gold Glove level defender and may possess the best pure hitting ability of any player in the minors. He has extraordinary hand-eye coordination and feel for the barrel and has a 2.9% K-rate in two MiL seasons. He sprays line drives from line to line and once on the bases has used his 70 grade speed to wreak havoc. The only deficiency in Madrigal’s game is well below average power, but the hit tool, speed, and defense will make him a regular regardless. Strength in the outfield comes from the ultra-athletic Brandon Marsh, and Trevor Larnach and Heliot Ramos. Marsh needs just seasoning and experience after being a two sport star in high school to refine his well-rounded game; Larnach has developed power to go with his plus hit tool; and Ramos has begun to refine his game and profiles as another plus hitter in the Bums lineup. Triston Casas has as much raw power as anyone in the system and with an advanced approach at the plate has begun to tap that power in game. An eventual move to first base may be a blessing in disguise as he has soft hands and his 6’4” frame gives a big target. Shea Langeliers and Ronaldo Hernandez give Bako a possible future pair behind the plate. Athletic and toolsy teenage outfielders Misael Urbina and Luis Rodriguez give the Bums a possible next wave as they develop and ascend the ladder.
Grants Pass Brewers
Graduates: Sandy Alcantara (SP), Kevin Newman (SS), Touki Toussaint (P), Bubba Starling (OF)
Risers: Jarred Kelenic (OF), Logan Gilbert (SP), Jordan Groshans (SS), Jeter Downs (SS)
Top Prospects: 1. Jarred Kelenic (OF), 2. Andrew Vaughn (1B), 3. Logan Gilbert (SP), 4. Jordan Groshans (SS), 5. Jeter Downs (SS), 6. George Valera (OF), 7. Noelvi Marte (SS), 8. Erick Pena (OF), 9. Joshua Lowe (3B), 10. Bryson Stott (SS), 11. Gabriel Rodriguez (SS), 12. JJ Goss (SP), 13. Lane Thomas (OF), 14. Gunnar Henderson (3B), 15. Bo Naylor (C)
Grants Pass is the fastest rising system in the league, having risen from 19th to 12th to this years top 5 ranking in the three years since they joined the league. And the fastest rising system has the most Fast Risers in the league as well. Leading the risers is consensus top 10 Jarred Kelenic. Considered the best pure bat in his draft class, the high school draftee has had no trouble transitioning to the pro game rising to AA in the year and a half since signing. A five-tool talent, Kelenic is a physical specimen capable of 20-20 seasons, .300 batting averages, and outstanding centerfield defense. Power was the only question that concerned scouts, but Kelenic has developed that final aspect of his game earlier than anyone believed he would, producing a .540 SLG% and clearing the fences 23 times during his first full season. Plus makeup and a gym rat mentality portend further development and Kelenic could see the major leagues within the year. First baseman Andrew Vaughn also arrived in Grants Pass with the label of best hitter in his class. Vaughn shows no discernable weakness weakness at the plate, with barrel control and an all fields approach that should produce .300 batting averages, the strength and bat speed to produce 30 homers, and a very disciplined approach that will lead to high walk rates and OBP. He will not be a speed threat, although he is a heady baserunner, and he will be limited to 1B defensively, but the offensive production will be enough to make him a perennial All-Star caliber player nonetheless. A pair of shortstops, Jordan Groshans and Jeter Downs, give the Brewers possible impact players on the infield. Groshans is a projectable bat who already has a plus hit tool and advanced approach. Power could develop as Groshans grows into his frame, but that maturity could also push him off short defensively. He has the hands and arm strength for the position, but his present average quickness and speed will likely decline as he fills out. No matter, his offensive profile will play at either third or second base. Downs entered pro ball with athleticism and a patient approach at the plate. After struggling through his first full season, Downs put things together last season, breaking out offensively as he matured physically. He projects as a plus hitter with decent power and the speed to steal bases. Defensively he may be stretched somewhat at shortstop, but with the offensive improvement he has already shown, it would surprise no one if he worked himself into an above average shortstop as well. Outfielder George Valera is all projection right now and that potential could make him a lineup anchor and prototypical right fielder once he matures. Valera possesses the prettiest swing in the system, a loose stroke with excellent rhythm and balance from the left side. He recognizes pitches, works counts well, and shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Once he settles in, adds strength and puts the ball in the air more often, he could become a .300 hitting, 25-30 homer threat. Righty starter Logan Gilbert leads the system on the mound. Armed with a mid-90’s fastball with excellent life, three average or better secondary pitches, and easy plus control, Gilbert projects as a #2 workhorse. Developing physically since turning pro, all four of his pitches have ticked up since he was drafted. His above-average slider is the better of his two breaking pitches, with his average curve a distinctly separate pitch he uses to change hitters eye levels. Rounding out his arsenal is an above-average and still improving change up. Gilbert is capable of throwing any of his pitches to any quadrant and has routinely stayed ahead of hitters throughout his career. Supporting the top end of the system, GP has plenty of athletic talent in the low minors on the verge of breaking out. Teenagers Noelvi Marte, Erick Pena, and Gabriel Rodriguez excite with their athleticism and potential, while infield depth is added with third basemen Joshua Lowe and Gunnar Henderson, and Shortstop Bryson Stott.
(EDIT: Andrew Vaughn was inexplicably missed in the initial Brewers write up. His write up has been added with the apologies of the writer to the Grants Pass franchise.)
Mother Lode Argonauts
Graduates: Victor Robles (OF), Isan Diaz (2B)
Risers: Julio Rodriguez (OF), Jazz Chisholm (SS)
Top Prospects: 1. Julio Rodrigruz (OF), 2. Casey Mize (SP), 3. Carter Kieboom (SS), 4. Luis Patino (SP), 5. Sean Murphy (C), 6. Jazz Chisholm (SS), 7. Brusdar Graterol (P), 8. Jackson Kowar (SP), 9. Brailyn Marquez (SP), 10. Andres Jimenez (SS), 11. Joe Ryan (SP), 12. Tyler Stephenson (C), 13. Anthony Kay (SP), 14. Estevan Florial (OF), 15. Eric Pardinho (SP), 16. Tony Santillan (SP)
Recent trades have helped Mother Lode make one of the biggest jump in this years rankings. Graduating outfielder Victor Robles brings youth and unparalleled athleticism to Argo’s outfield and there isn’t much on a baseball field the 22 year old Robles can’t do. He is a plus hitter with excellent bat speed, a 70 grade runner, and a 70 grade defender in centerfield with a 70 grade cannon of an arm. Multiple Gold Gloves are in his future, and multiple 20/20 seasons could be as well. The teams top prospect, outfielder Julio Rodriguez, may be joining Robles in the Argo outfield sooner than later. Most Dominican teenagers take considerable time to develop both their bodies and their games, but Rodriguez is proving to be the exception to that rule. Just 19 years old, he is already a muscular 6’4” with top shelf bat speed that produces prodigious power. A plus hit tool and an already advanced approach in the box has allowed Rodriguez to tap that power to produce 70 extra base hits and a .540 SLG% over what would amount to a full season. Rodriguez has more offensive upside than just about any hitter in the minors. Defensively, Rodriguez is a prototypical rightfielder with range instincts and a strong arm. Newly acquired starter Casey Mize has all the ingredients to front a rotation with poise, intelligence, superior command, and three different strikeout pitches. His fastball sits 93-97 mph and he commands it easily to all four quadrants despite its running life. His best pitch is his splitter which grade out as plus-plus, and he can bury it in the dirt for strikeouts or place it at the bottom of the zone for weak groundouts. A mid-80’s slider, which he can manipulate into a harder cutter, is his third plus pitch. Health permitting, Mize could move very quickly. Carter Kieboom joins the system as an offensive minded middle infielder possessing plus bat speed, a short, direct barrel path, and average power that could improve with maturity and strength. While his natural position is shortstop and he has shown the ability to handle the position well, many believe second base will be his long term spot. Luis Patino has fast risen up the rankings over the last two seasons as he has added strength and power to his wiry frame and electric arm. Once sitting in the low to mid 90’s when he signed, he now reaches 99 mph and sits comfortably at 95-96 after adding nearly 40 pounds of lean muscle weight since arriving stateside. His fastball has natural cutting action and the pitch easily grades as a plus-plus offering. Patino’s curveball, once his best secondary offering, has taken a back seat to a high 80’s power slider that is a true swing and miss pitch and an above-average changeup that could also grade out as a plus pitch with further experience. With four above-average offerings, top shelf athleticism, and control belying his youth, Patino very well may not be done rising. Always highly rated for his glovework and arm, catcher Sean Murphy has developed as a hitter and now looks to be an impact player both behind and at the plate. Murphy has always had good contact skills, but as his strength has developed and he has learned to fully incorporate his body into his quick compact swing, his considerable power has also begun to show. Even without the offense, Murphy would be a long time major leaguer due to his defense. Athletic, quick, and smart, pitchers love to throw to him because of his advanced receiving skills and game calling ability. Add to that one of the strongest throwing arms of any position player in the game and you have a cornerstone type field leader. Shortstop Jazz Chisholm had a rough 2019 due to his ultra-aggressive approach, but still showed a power/speed combination offensively and the actions, range, hands, and arm to be a standout defensively. Defensive minded shortstop Andres Gimenez, catcher Tyler Stephenson and outfielder Estevan Florial add positional depth. Gimenez and Stephenson must prove enough hitting ability to rise above reserve roles and Florial needs to stay off the injured list to reach his lofty ceiling. There is also quality depth on the pitching side in Brusdar Graterol, Jackson Kowar, Brailyn Marquez, Joe Ryan, and Anthony Kay.
River City Cutthroats
Graduates: Eloy Jimenez (OF), Nick Senzel (OF), Luis Arraez (IF), Cole Tucker (SS)
Risers: Luis Arraez (UT), Marco Luciano (OF), Ronny Mauricio (SS)
Top Prospects: 1. Wander Franco (SS), 2. Marco Luciano (SS), 3. Jasson Dominguez (OF), 4. Ronny Mauricio (SS), 5. Edward Cabrera (SP), 6. Jonathan India (3B), 7. Seth Beer (OF), 8. Jordyn Adams (1B), 9. Brayan Rocchio (SS), 10. Miguel Amaya (C), 11. Liover Peguero (SS), 12. Keoni Cavaco (3B), 13. Kyle Lewis (OF), 14. Cole Winn (SP)
River City graduated top 10 prospects Eloy Jimenez and Nick Senzel and still managed not only to hold a top ranking, but arguably field a stronger system. Led again by consensus #1 prospect Wander Franco, the Cutthroats farm boasts both a strong top end and quality depth. If you were to build a great hitter from scratch he would be a switch-hitter with tremendous discipline, ridiculously strong wrists, exceptionally fast bat speed, and preternatural bat-to-ball skills. He would be Wander Franco. Franco posts many of the highest exit velocities in the minor leagues, and he does it while routinely being 2-3 years younger than the competition. Over the fence power is the one tool yet to emerge fully, but once he learns to elevate the ball more there is little doubt he will be a middle of the order threat. While he has all the skills to remain at shortstop, he could easily slide left or right on the infield and develop into an above-average or better defender. Jimenez and Senzel slid seamlessly into major league roles this season. Starting from Day 1, Jimenez took a little time to adjust but once he did he took off, posting an .870 OPS over the second half and finishing the season with 31 home runs and 79 RBI. Senzel started strong but was slowed by a nagging shoulder injury that eventually ended his season and required surgery. He is expected back at full strength and should be manning centerfield and a top of the lineup slot for years to come. Remember that great hitter discussion previously? Shortstop Marco Luciano may fit that profile as well. Possessing near the same bat speed, bat-to-ball-skills and discipline as Franco, Luciano also displays natural loft in his swing and shows what some believe is the best raw power of any infielder in the minors. .300 averages and 40 homers are the ceiling. Shortstop may not be his eventual landing spot defensively, but his 60 grade arm would play well at third or in right field. Another fast riser in the system, Ronny Mauricio has played each season at least 3 years younger than the average age of the league he was in. This aggressive approach has led to obvious gains even if the results have not been overly impressive. Mauricio will need to curtail his ultra-aggressive approach at higher levels and if he does, he will join the top end of this system as an All-Star level performer. Outfielder Jasson Dominguez is one of the highest rated international prospects of the last decade. Scouts have been raving about his all-around game, electric athleticism, and instincts for years and it is possible that the Cutthroats have a true 5-tool, 30-30 type stud on their hands. Defensive positioning is yet to be decided, with Dominguez possessing the quickness, plus arm and instincts to allow him to play just about anywhere on the diamond. Quality depth all around the infield presents in Jonathan India, Jordyn Adams, Brayan Rocchio, Miguel Amaya, Liover Peguero and Keoni Cavaco and any one of that group has the talent to be the next River City breakout player. The Cutthroats pitching depth is noticeably weaker, with Edward Cabrera’s breakout campaign being the sole positive. At 6’4” and possessing a heavy mid-90’s fastball, Cabrera is a groundball machine. If the improvements in his slider and the separation between his fastball and change continue, Cabrera has the talent to be a mid-rotation or better arm.