Mid-Season Farm System Reports: NL Central

Mid-Season Farm System Reports: NL Central

The following are mid-season farm system reports for the NL Central. Instead of going team-by-team, I decided to publish by division. The players eligible are the players currently in the minor leagues. I also assume that the 2011 draftees will sign. The following provides a brief report of each team’s system, and a quickly-created list of the team’s Top 10 prospects. Hopefully, it will provide some good feedback about players we should consider ranking and/or players we have listed too high or too low.

Chicago Cubs
System Rank: 15 to 20
System Trend: ↘

The Cubs made an aggressive decision this off-season acquiring Matt Garza for several prospects. Despite an average performance from Garza, the decision proved to be a mistake because the Cubs have not been competitive in the NL Central. The farm system is not terrible, but at this point, the talent level seems slightly below average. The top prospect remains OF Brett Jackson, who is having an up and down year in AA. It has been a disappointing year for Trey McNutt, but it appears fixable injuries (blisters, etc) caused a great of the declining production. One of the bright spots has been outfielder Matt Szczur, a former football star at Villanova whose value has increased as the season has progressed. The system also has a few interesting pitchers in Austin Kirk and Aaron Kurcz, who both pitched well in the first half. This is a down year for the Cubs’ system, but I think it will improve because the team has done a reasonably good job in recent years finding and developing productive players.

Top 10 Prospects
1. Brett Jackson
2. Javier Baez
3. Trey McNutt
4. Matt Szczur
5. Josh Vitters
6. Austin Kirk
7. Jae-Hoon Ha
8. Aaron Kurcz
9. Ryan Flaherty
10. Micah Gibbs

Cincinnati Reds

System Rank: Top 10
System Trend: →

Since taking over in 2008, GM Walt Jocketty has done an excellent job helping turn a mediocre Reds franchise into one of the best teams in the NL Central. While the system ranks a notch below Tampa Bay, Texas, and Toronto, the Reds have a nice balance of proximity and upside. The system is heavy on hitting, lead by two potentially elite catchers in Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal. 1B/OF Yonder Alonso, Grandal’s teammate at Miami, is also a top prospect who would already start on most teams. In the low levels of their system, high-upside infielder Billy Hamilton continues to pile up stolen bases, but it will take time for his bat to develop. OF Yorman Rodriguez possesses tremendous upside, and while the first half could have gone better, there have been some recent signs he might begin turning this upside into production. The Reds have several encouraging young pitchers in the majors, but to me, the system’s weakness is a lack of potentially elite starting pitchers in the minor leagues. Nevertheless, on the whole, the Reds have done a terrific job assembling talent for the future.

Top 10 Prospects
1. Devin Mesoraco
2. Yonder Alonso
3. Yasmani Grandal
4. Billy Hamilton
5. Juan Francisco
6. Brad Boxberger
7. Yorman Rodriguez
8. Dave Sappeldt
9. Todd Frazier
10. Ronald Torreyes/Henry Rodriguez

Houston Astros
System Rank: Bottom 10
System Trend: ↗

See previous post.

Top 10 Prospects
1. George Springer
2. Jose Altuve
3. Delino Deshields, Jr.
4. Ariel Ovando
5. Jonathan Villar
6. Giovanni Mier
7. JD Martinez
8. Mike Foltywicz
9. Austin Wates
10. Adrian Houser

Milwaukee Brewers

System Rank: Bottom 3
System Trend: ↓

The Brewers are going “all in” for this season. During the off-season, they gutted their farm system in two aggressive trades to acquire Sean Marcum and Zach Greinke. The trades, along with the failure to sign their top pick in the draft, made determining which team had the 30th best farm system baseball heading into 2010 a pretty easy decision. In the 2011 draft, the team began its effort to start rebuilding its farm system by investing in two top-notch college pitchers, Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. The team also must be encouraged with the development of Tyler Thornburg, who is establishing himself as a very good prospect. Mark Rogers had a disappointing season, as yet another injury (carpal tunnel syndrome) prevented him from reaching his potential. In terms of hitting, the Brewers’ system is very thin. There are a few sleeper prospects like Erik Komatsu (I’m a fan), but realistically, there are no hitters in this system unanimously projected to be a top-notch major league hitter.

Top 10 Prospects
1. Taylor Jungmann
2. Jed Bradley
3. Tyler Thornburg
4. Wily Peralta
5. Erik Komatsu
6. Khris Davis
7. Hunter Morris
8. Scooter Gennett
9. Cody Scarpetta
10. Kentrail Davis

Pittsburgh Pirates

System Rank: Top 10 (maybe Top 15)
System Trend: ↗

Since arriving from Cleveland, Neal Huntington has done a terrific job rejuvenating the Pirates. Huntington recognized there was no short-term solution and applied the right strategy by taking an aggressive approach in acquiring young talent and waiting patiently for the players to develop. Even though the Astros are the only NL Central team I root for, it has been fun seeing the Pirates go into the all-star break with a young team within striking distance of first. The farm system is excellent. The system is lead by two elite pitching prospects, Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. But beyond Cole and Taillon, there is solid depth with Stetson Allie, Luis Heredia, Colton Cain, Jeff Locke, etc. Offensively, the system is average. Starling Marte has the potential to be a productive multi-tool outfielder. Tony Sanchez is having a not-so-great season, but hopefully, the bat will improve enough to become a productive catcher. The system’s hitting will be bolstered if the team can sign Josh Bell, a high upside player from Dallas who will be presumably be expensive to sign away from his commitment to Texas.

Top 10 Prospects
1. Gerrit Cole
2. Jameson Taillon
3. Tony Sanchez
4. Starling Marte
5. Joshua Bell
6. Stetson Allie
7. Luis Heredia
8. Colton Cain
9. Alex Dickerson
10. Jeff Locke/Jarek Cunningham/Matt Curry

St. Louis Cardinals

System Rank: 10-15
System Trend: ↗

Coming into 2010, I thought the Cardinals were headed in the wrong direction. The team had lost Jocketty and did not appear to be putting substantial efforts into bolstering its system. In retrospect, I was probably wrong because the Cardinals started taking a more aggressive approach to building their system and had more talent than I thought. Their best prospect is Shelby Miller. But Carlos Martinez has emerged as a second elite pitching prospect who could team with Miller and the Cardinals current pitchers to form an excellent rotation. Moreover, the Cardinals’ system has pitching depth, lead by Tyrell Jenkins, Trevor Rosenthal, John Gast, Jordan Swagerty, etc. Offensively, the team made an aggressive move in the 2010 draft signing Zack Cox. Cox is a divisive prospect, and it is too early to predict whether the move will pay dividends. Cox has played well in certain stretches, but at other times, he showed why some people did not see him as a top player. The second half will be telling b/c I believe there is a good chance Cox’s numbers will improve as he adjusts to AA.  The Cardinals are a good system, and assuming they can resign Pujols, I believe there is enough talent to remain competitive in the foreseeable future. 

Top 10 Prospects
1. Shelby Miller
2. Carlos Martinez
3. Zack Cox
4. Tyrell Jenkins
5. Oscar Tavares
6. Matt Adams
7. Kolten Wong
8. Trevor Rosenthal
9. Seth Blair
10. Joe Kelly