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February 29, 2008

Future Shock

Organizational Rankings, Part 1

by Kevin Goldstein

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16. Chicago Cubs
Last Year's Ranking: 21
Why They're Up: The struggles of Donald Veal and the graduation of Felix Pie are both offset by Geovany Soto's breakout seasons and what is looking like a very strong 2007 draft.
Strengths: Solid offensive prospects at nearly every level, with Josh Vitters providing big-time potential. Despite disappointing 2007 performances, there are several power arms in the system.
Weaknesses: Very little pitching that is close to being ready to help; Soto's move to the majors leaves little else in the way of power.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Down a tad. Soto is now in the majors; Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson could both be moving on or out as well.

17. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Year's Ranking: 25
Why They're Up: Neil Walker's transition to third base has been a rousing success; Steven Pearce proved to be a good hitting prospect; things could be even better if they did the right thing in the draft.
Strengths: Andrew McCutchen, Pearce and Walker give them three players who should be everyday players by 2009--few other teams can match that.
Weaknesses: They're light on pitching, especially in power arms who can start; position prospects after the big three offer little upside.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Up. The number two overall pick in June (and a new administration to make the decision) should add a future star to the organization.

18. Minnesota Twins
Last Year's Ranking: 12
Why They're Down: Kevin Slowey (innings) and Matt Garza (innings, then traded to Tampa Bay) lost their eligibility; their 2006 draft picks disappoint in full-season debuts; would have been much worse without the Johan Santana deal.
Strengths: The system still has more pitching depth than most; young center fielders Ben Revere and Joe Benson provide toolsy upside.
Weaknesses: Only power prospects are still in the raw category; pitching favors control types over power arms.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Some upward movement. The Twins have three or four breakout candidates, and it only takes one...

19. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Year's Ranking: 6
Why They're Down: Justin Upton, Chris Young, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds, and Micah Owings arrived in the big leagues; much of what's left was sent to Oakland in the Dan Haren deal.
Strengths: The '07 draft adds arms of both the power and finesse types; some very athletic position players.
Weaknesses: There's very little power left in the system; there will be a gap while they wait for the young arms to develop.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Up slightly. Six of their Top 11 Prospects begin this year in A-ball, so it's more of a glass half-full thing.

20. Cleveland Indians
Last Year's Ranking: 13
Why They're Down: Top four prospects going into the year (Adam Miller, Chuck Lofgren, Trevor Crowe, John Drennen) all took big steps backwards, while Tony Sipp missed the entire year due to injury. Wes Hodges had a strong full-season debut, but it's not nearly enough to make up for the problems at the top.
Strengths: There is some depth here, and the emergence of Nick Weglarz and first-round pick Beau Mills give them some potential impact bats.
Weaknesses: Most of the best hitters are first base/designated hitter types; they have very little at catcher or shortstop.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Neither good nor bad. The Indians have a number of players capable of rebound seasons, but those don't happen as often as one might think or wish.

21. Florida Marlins
Last Year's Ranking: 19
Why They're Down: It could have been a whole lot worse, as the acquisition of Cameron Maybin offsets the fact that no young arm took any big step forward, and their top prospect--lefty Sean West--missed the season following shoulder surgery.
Strengths: There's still a ton of arms here, maybe not loaded with star potential, but many of them will have major league careers; Maybin is a source of strength all on his own.
Weaknesses: After Maybin, the system is ridiculously thin when in comes to position players, especially at the skill positions.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Not good. Maybin will lose eligibility this year, and there's no prospect in the system capable of making a step forward into the Top 10 overall real estate that Maybin occupies. The sixth overall pick in June helps, but the Marlins have been very money-conscious in the draft of late, as in all other things.

22. Kansas City Royals
Last Year's Ranking: 9
Why They're Down: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon moved up to the big leagues; Luke Hochevar failed to live up to expectations.
Strengths: For a team desperate for pitching, there is some depth here; first-round pick Mike Moustakas gives them a big upside bat to replace Butler.
Weaknesses: Beyond Moustakas, there's not a single hitter in the system who can generate any excitement; the pitching situation is more quantity over quality than anything else.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Up a bit. While the rankings will likely lose Hochevar, the No. 3 overall pick in June should add another impact player to the system.

23. Seattle Mariners
Last Year's Ranking: 16
Why They're Down: Steps forward by Carlos Triunfel and others is offset by the gradation of Adam Jones and Brandon Morrow, as well as the trade for Erik Bedard.
Strengths: Young talented arms with high ceilings; proven power prospects at the upper levels.
Weaknesses: Very low on infielders, particularly with shortstops and second basemen.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Down slightly. Jeff Clement will lose his eligibility, as could Wladimir Balentien, while young arms could require patience in their development.

24. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Year's Ranking: 20
Why They're Down: Adam Lind disappointed expectations; nobody in the system stepped forward other than supreme hitting prospect Travis Snider.
Strengths: A change in draft philosophy adds an intriguing set of young, high upside talent; system has at least a decent prospect at nearly every position.
Weaknesses: Very few starting pitching prospects, and nearly no right-handers.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Up. The 2007 draft already provides some upside, and early reviews out of camp on the youngsters is encouraging.

25. San Francisco Giants
Last Year's Ranking: 17
Why They're Down: Because Tim Lincecum is in the big leagues.
Strengths: The '07 draft provided them with an impressive set of high-upside young arms and solid position players.
Weaknesses: Almost nothing at the upper levels, no good power prospects after Angel Villalona.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Up. Almost assuredly, one or more of the players from the deep 2007 draft will take a major step forward. Best bets: Tim Alderson and Wendell Fairley.

26. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Year's Ranking: 26
Why They're The Same: Kyle Drabek's Tommy John surgery is offset by a possible first-round steal with the selection of Joe Savery; otherwise, as many players went forwards as backwards.
Strengths: Solid pitching depth, more good catching prospects than most.
Weaknesses: Very little in the way of power prospects; top arms like Carlos Carrasco and Josh Outman need to rebound from initial struggles at Double-A.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Slighty up, as their '07 draftees could take a step forward, and no prospects at the top should lose eligibility.

27. Detroit Tigers
Last Year's Ranking: 15
Why They're Down: They traded away most of a mid-level talent for Edgar Renteria, Dontrelle Willis, and Miguel Cabrera, leaving righty stud Rick Porcello as the face of the organization despite the fact that he's yet to pitch as a pro.
Strengths: The '07 draft added a number of over-slot picks beyond Porcello; good number of middle infielders who can hit.
Weaknesses: Porcello is the only true power arm; the loss of Cameron Maybin leaves the system very low on athletes.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Could be up a bit, as what little talent is left will be around for next year's rankings.

28. New York Mets
Last Year's Ranking: 8
Why They're Down: Top prospect Fernando Martinez continued to struggle to stay healthy and/or produce consistently; top pitchers like Mike Pelfrey went backwards; the heart of system beyond Martinez was sent to Minnesota in the Johan Santana deal.
Strengths: The '07 draft added some high-upside arms; their Latin American pipeline seems to be flowing nicely.
Weaknesses: Very little talent at upper levels; almost nothing up the middle.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Much improved. Unlike many teams at the bottom, the Mets do have a significant number of young players capable of making a leap forward; a plethora of early picks in June should also bolster things.

29. Houston Astros
Last Year's Ranking: 28
Why They're Down: Hunter Pence reached the majors; they followed up back-to-back poor drafts in 2005-06 with their most embarrassing performance ever; they traded much of what little they had to Baltimore for Miguel Tejada.
Strengths: They had some guys who can throw hard, and a few outfielders with tools who are generally well behind the development curve.
Weaknesses: Power bats, anything resembling an infielder.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Not very good. Their last three drafts offer precious little hope for any quick fix, and their top prospect--catcher J.R. Towles--will no longer be eligible. The 10th overall pick in June will help, but don't expect the team to take advantage if a superior talent with signability issues falls.

30. Chicago White Sox
Last Year's Ranking: 24
Why They're Down: John Danks and Josh Fields graduated, few prospects stepped forward in 2007, and then what little was left got dealt to Arizona and Oakland for outfielders Carlos Quentin and Nick Swisher.
Strengths: If you squint, tilt your head funny, and drink some Kool-Aid, I guess they have some polished pitchers who should at least get to the big leagues; they have a handful of low-level hitters with upside; their Latin American program shows promise.
Weaknesses: No power arms after Aaron Poreda, nothing resembling a prospect up the middle.
Outlook for 2009 Ranking: Nowhere to go but up, right? Again, the contingent from Latin America that showed up in the White Sox instructional league garnered some good reviews, and chances are excellent that whomever the club takes with the eight overall pick in June becomes their instant No. 1 prospect when he signs.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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