Building a Farm: National League Central

Prospect lists are one of the best parts of the off-season. Marc Hulet published his top 100 yesterday as the culmination of several months of work, and Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, John Sickels and a plethora of websites have published others. Each group puts myriad hours into analyzing, calling, writing, editing, re-analyzing and finally publishing their work. But even after all that, they usually come to several different conclusions. I decided — instead of focusing on a specific list — to generate a list that combined each of these lists into one.

The idea of community or consensus lists isn’t new. Sites have done it before, but I’ve added some wrinkles:

  • I included team lists from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels, Keith Law, Jonathan Mayo, Bullpen Banter and our own Marc Hulet. There are more lists out there, but I needed to cut it off at some point. These were the lists that an unscientific Twitter crowd-source noted, and they are also sites I visit often. If you use another site, please leave it in the comments, and I might use it in future research.
  • I also included team-centric blogs for each team to add a local flavor to the mix. They may be higher/lower on certain prospects, but they add a voice from those who follow the team closely. Suggestions for teams in the remaining divisions are welcome.
  • Overall grades and risks are added, as well. Prospect lists for each team only allow comparison within each system, but adding overall 20-80 grades and risks give us the ability to cross-examine lists more objectively. Unfortunately, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus are currently the only ones that include a specific final grade of these characteristics, with Sickels adding a letter grade that combines the two. The grades and risk, however, help us examine prospects across systems and over various years.

The last five columns for each team are averaged scores.

  • AVG – This is the average ranking for each prospect. I didn’t use a points system because the lists do not cover a standard number of players. Averaging the numbers by only including the lists each was ranked will help someone who has only been named in one or two lists, but it will also highlight where some controversial prospects might be.
  • RANK – This is the numbered order based on the average scores. I hope this score will highlight where gaps can be when looking at the differences between prospects.
  • GRADE – This is the average grades for players listed in Baseball America and in Baseball Prospectus.
  • RISK – This is the averaged “Risk Rating” for each prospect based on the determinations by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. The point system is unscientific and is subject to change in the future with more research. It is currently:
    • Safe – 0 points
    • Low – 1 point
    • Medium/Moderate – 2 points
    • High – 3 points
    • Extreme – 4 points
  • RISK – the qualitative risk based off the “Risk Rating”. Currently:
    • Safe – less than 1
    • Low – greater than or equal to 1 or less than 2
    • Medium – greater than or equal to 2 or less than 3
    • High – greater than or equal to 3 or less than 4
    • Extreme – equal to 4

Below the prospect lists, I calculated the average grade and risk for the entire system: the prospects with grades of 50-or-better and the prospects with grades of 60-or-better. When we get through all of the lists, I’ll put up the overall scores along with the major outlets’ farm rankings.

(The Google Doc with the individual lists and the team-specific blogs for this division can be found here)

Chicago Cubs

Player Pos AVG RANK GRADE RISK RISK
Javier Baez SS 1.25 1 67.5 3.5 High
Albert Almora OF 1.88 2 60.0 2.0 Medium
Jorge Soler OF 2.88 3 62.5 3.0 High
Arodys Vizcaino RHP 4.75 4 65.0 3.5 High
Brett Jackson OF 5.43 5 52.5 2.5 Medium
Dan Vogelbach 1B 6.29 6 55.0 3.0 High
Pierce Johnson RHP 7.57 7 52.5 3.0 High
Christian Villanueva 3B 9.00 8 50.0 2.5 Medium
Kyuji Fukijawa RHP 9.00 9 45.0 1.0 Low
Dillon Maples RHP 10.17 10 57.5 3.5 High
JC Paniagua RHP 10.25 11 55.0 4.0 Extreme
Jeimer Candelario 3B 10.57 12 50.0 3.0 High
Arismendy Alcantara SS 11.60 13 50.0 3.0 High
Duane Underwood RHP 11.88 14 57.5 3.5 High
Jae-Hoon Ha OF 12.00 15
Junior Lake SS 12.67 16 50.0 3.0 High
Matt Szczur OF 12.83 17 50.0 3.0 High
Paul Blackburn RHP 14.33 18 50.0 3.0 High
Gioskar Amaya SS/2B 15.20 19 50.0 3.0 High
Josh Vitters 3B 15.50 20 45.0 2.0 Medium
Alberto Cabrera RHP 16.67 21 45.0 2.0 Medium
Marco Hernandez SS 17.00 22 50.0 3.0 High
Logan Watkins 2B 18.00 23 45.0 2.0 Medium
Robert Whitenack RHP 21.50 24 50.0 3.0 High
Tony Zych RHP 22.00 25 45.0 2.0 Medium
Trey Martin OF 22.25 26 50.0 3.0 High
Barret Loux RHP 23.00 27 45.0 2.0 Medium
Trey McNutt RHP 23.50 28 50.0 3.0 High
Ronald Torreyes 2B 25.00 29
Matt Loosen RHP 27.00 30 45.0 2.0 Medium
Lendy Castillo RHP 28.00 31 45.0 2.0 Medium
Marcus Hatley RHP 29.00 32 45.0 2.0 Medium
System Grade System Risk 50+ 50+ Grade 50+ Risk 60+ 60+ Grade 60+ Risk
51.333 2.700 21 54.048 3.048 4 63.750 3.000

The Cubs’ farm system has really rebounded over the past few years, and they have one of the higher 50+ and 60+ ratings to date. While Javier Baez hasn’t shown a lot of “refinement”, he’s shown the tools to project a high ceiling and eclipse the more skills-oriented Albert Almora. Dillon Maples, another high-risk/high-reward prospect, had the widest range of rankings in the system after an iffy first professional season.

Cincinnati Reds

Player Pos AVG RANK GRADE RISK RISK
Billy Hamilton OF 1.13 1 67.5 2.0 Medium
Robert Stephenson RHP 1.88 2 62.5 3.0 High
Tony Cingrani LHP 3.50 3 52.5 2.0 Medium
Daniel Corcino RHP 3.88 4 55.0 2.0 Medium
Nick Travieso RHP 5.63 5 55.0 3.0 High
Jesse Winker OF 6.38 6 52.5 3.0 High
JJ Hoover RHP 6.60 7 45.0 0.0 Safe
Sean Buckley 3B 8.00 8
Kyle Lotzkar RHP 8.67 9 50.0 3.0 High
Dan Langfield RHP 10.38 10 52.5 2.5 Medium
Ismael Guillon LHP 10.63 11 52.5 3.0 High
Jonathan Reynoso OF 11.00 12 60.0 4.0 Extreme
Drew Cisco RHP 12.00 13
Carlos Contreras RHP 12.00 14 50.0 3.0 High
Jeff Gelalich OF 13.20 15 50.0 3.0 High
Yorman Rodriguez OF 13.25 16 55.0 4.0 Extreme
Henry Rodriguez 2B 13.33 17 45.0 2.0 Medium
Tanner Rahier 3B 13.40 18 50.0 3.0 High
Ryan Wright 2B 13.50 19
Jon Moscot RHP 14.00 20
Pedro Diaz RHP 15.00 21 50.0 3.0 High
Ryan LaMarre OF 16.33 22 50.0 3.0 High
Donald Lutz 1B 16.33 23 50.0 3.0 High
David Vidal 3B 17.00 24
Kyle Waldrop OF 17.50 25 50.0 3.0 High
Tucker Barnhart C 17.67 26 40.0 1.0 Low
Amir Garrett LHP 18.67 27 55.0 4.0 Extreme
Sal Romano RHP 19.00 28 50.0 4.0 Extreme
Seth Mejias-Brean 3B 19.33 29 50.0 3.0 High
Neftali Soto 1B 21.33 30 45.0 2.0 Medium
Gabriel Rosa 3B 21.50 31 50.0 4.0 Extreme
Chad Rogers RHP 24.00 32 45.0 2.0 Medium
Theo Bowe OF 24.00 33
Devin Lohman 2B 24.00 34 45.0 2.0 Medium
Curtis Partch RHP 26.00 35 45.0 2.0 Medium
System Grade System Risk 50+ 50+ Grade 50+ Risk 60+ 60+ Grade 60+ Risk
51.034 2.707 22 53.182 3.068 3 63.333 3.000

The defending NL Central champions continue to have a decent farm system. Billy Hamilton, the man of stolen-base records, leads the pack with Robert Stephenson not far behind. Gabriel Rosa, the 19-year old third-baseman, has his believers and his doubters, but he’ll need to do better than he has in Rookie ball.

Milwaukee Brewers

Player Pos AVG RANK GRADE RISK RISK
Wily Peralta RHP 1.25 1 60.0 2.0 Medium
Tyler Thornburg RHP 2.63 2 52.5 1.5 Low
Taylor Jungmann RHP 3.57 3 50.0 1.5 Low
Jim Henderson RHP 4.00 4
Johnny Hellweg RHP 4.13 5 57.5 2.5 Medium
Clint Coulter C 6.13 6 57.5 3.5 High
Victor Roache OF 7.43 7 57.5 3.5 High
Jimmy Nelson RHP 8.00 8 55.0 3.0 High
Hunter Morris 1B 8.14 9 50.0 2.0 Medium
Scooter Gennett 2B 9.29 10 50.0 1.5 Low
Mitch Haniger OF 9.38 11 50.0 2.5 Medium
Jed Bradley LHP 9.75 12 50.0 3.0 High
Mark Rogers RHP 10.75 13 50.0 3.0 High
Tyrone Taylor OF 11.75 14 52.5 3.5 High
Logan Schafer OF 13.67 15 45.0 2.0 Medium
Jorge Lopez RHP 13.80 16 55.0 3.0 High
Orlando Arcia SS 14.00 17 55.0 4.0 Extreme
Hiram Burgos RHP 14.50 18 45.0 2.0 Medium
Ariel Pena RHP 15.17 19 50.0 3.0 High
Khris Davis RHP 16.50 20 50.0 3.0 High
Drew Gagnon RHP 17.50 21 45.0 2.0 Medium
Damien Magnifico RHP 19.33 22
Nick Bucci RHP 19.50 23 50.0 3.0 High
Cameron Garfield C 20.00 24
Caleb Gindl OF 20.75 25 40.0 1.0 Low
David Goforth RHP 21.00 26 50.0 3.0 High
Jesus Sanchez RHP 21.00 27 45.0 2.0 Medium
Cody Scarpetta RHP 24.00 28 45.0 3.0 High
Jose Pena OF 24.00 29
Michael Olmsted RHP 25.00 30
Santo Manzanillo RHP 26.00 31 50.0 4.0 Extreme
Yadiel Rivera SS 26.50 32 50.0 4.0 Extreme
Chris McFarland 2B 27.00 33
Kentrail Davis OF 28.00 34 45.0 3.0 High
Michael Reed OF 29.00 35
Kyle Heckathorn RHP 29.50 36 45.0 3.0 High
Josh Prince OF 30.00 37 45.0 3.0 High
System Grade System Risk 50+ 50+ Grade 50+ Risk 60+ 60+ Grade 60+ Risk
50.083 2.700 21 52.500 2.857 1 60.000 2.000

The Brewers continue to have a weak farm system, but it has slowly improved recently. A solid group of arms led by Wily Peralta gives the Brewers some possible future rotation depth. Jimmy Nelson is the one that seems to give evaluators the most fits.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Player Pos AVG RANK GRADE RISK RISK
Gerrit Cole RHP 1.00 1 72.5 2.0 Medium
Jameson Taillon RHP 2.00 2 67.5 2.0 Medium
Alen Hanson SS 3.63 3 60.0 3.0 High
Gregory Polanco OF 3.75 4 60.0 3.0 High
Luis Heredia RHP 4.63 5 62.5 3.5 High
Josh Bell OF 6.38 6 60.0 3.5 High
Barrett Barnes OF 7.88 7 50.0 3.0 High
Kyle McPherson RHP 9.33 8 50.0 2.0 Medium
Wyatt Mathisen C 10.25 9 52.5 3.5 High
Nick Kingham RHP 11.00 10 50.0 2.5 Medium
Clay Holmes RHP 11.57 11 50.0 3.0 High
Tyler Glasnow RHP 12.00 12 50.0 3.0 High
Justin Wilson LHP 12.20 13 50.0 2.0 Medium
Tony Sanchez C 13.67 14 45.0 2.0 Medium
Dilson Herrera 2B 14.17 15 50.0 3.0 High
Bryan Morris RHP 14.25 16 45.0 2.0 Medium
Alex Dickerson 1B 14.67 17 50.0 3.0 High
Andrew Oliver LHP 16.00 18 45.0 2.0 Medium
Victor Black RHP 16.50 19 50.0 3.0 High
Phil Irwin RHP 17.00 20
Adrian Sampson RHP 18.00 21 50.0 3.0 High
Stolmy Pimentel RHP 18.00 22 50.0 3.0 High
Willy Garcia OF 18.50 23 50.0 3.0 High
Jin-De Jhang C 21.00 24 50.0 4.0 Extreme
Jose Osuna 1B 21.50 25 50.0 3.0 High
Gift Ngoepe SS 22.50 26 45.0 3.0 High
Matt Curry 1B 24.00 27 45.0 2.0 Medium
Brandon Cumpton RHP 26.00 28 45.0 2.0 Medium
Duke Welker RHP 27.00 29 45.0 2.0 Medium
Harold Ramirez OF 29.00 30 50.0 4.0 Extreme
Clint Robinson 1B 30.00 31 40.0 1.0 Low
System Grade System Risk 50+ 50+ Grade 50+ Risk 60+ 60+ Grade 60+ Risk
51.129 2.677 22 53.864 2.955 6 63.750 2.833

The Pirates have a top-heavy system. The top 6 all have very high ceilings, and they are a nice balance of pitchers and position players. Wyatt Mathisen, who comes in just after that top 6, has a wide range of rankings as evaluators weigh his ability behind the plate and lack of experience.

St. Louis Cardinals

Player Pos AVG RANK GRADE RISK RISK
Oscar Taveras OF 1.00 1 70.0 1.0 Low
Shelby Miller RHP 2.13 2 67.5 1.5 Low
Carlos Martinez RHP 3.13 3 67.5 2.5 Medium
Trevor Rosenthal RHP 4.25 4 60.0 1.0 Low
Michael Wacha RHP 5.25 5 57.5 2.0 Medium
Kolten Wong 2B 5.38 6 52.5 1.5 Low
Matt Adams 1B 7.75 7 50.0 1.0 Low
Tyrell Jenkins RHP 8.00 8 57.5 3.5 High
Carson Kelly 3B 8.88 9 52.5 3.0 High
Anthony Garcia OF 9.67 10
Michael Blazek RHP 11.00 11
Stephen Piscotty 3B 11.17 12 50.0 3.0 High
Patrick Wisdom 3B 12.86 13 50.0 3.0 High
Greg Garcia 2B/SS 13.00 14
Pete Kozma SS 13.00 15 45.0 2.0 Medium
James Ramsey OF 13.60 16 50.0 3.0 High
Kevin Siegrist LHP 14.00 17 50.0 3.0 High
Jordan Swagerty RHP 15.00 18 50.0 3.0 High
Steve Bean C 15.33 19 50.0 3.0 High
Ryan Jackson SS 15.40 20 45.0 2.0 Medium
Victor De Leon RHP 16.00 21 50.0 3.0 High
John Gast LHP 16.25 22 45.0 2.0 Medium
Charlie Tilson OF 16.67 23 50.0 3.0 High
CJ McElroy OF 17.00 24 50.0 3.0 High
Starlin Rodriguez 2B 17.50 25
Eric Fornataro RHP 17.50 26 45.0 2.0 Medium
Seth Maness RHP 17.75 27 45.0 2.0 Medium
Breyvic Valera INF 18.00 28
Maikel Cleto RHP 19.00 29 45.0 2.0 Medium
Tyler Lyons LHP 19.00 30
Tim Cooney LHP 19.50 31 50.0 3.0 High
Lee Stoppelman LHP 20.00 32
Seth Blair RHP 21.50 33 50.0 4.0 Extreme
Sam Freeman LHP 22.00 34 45.0 2.0 Medium
Jorge Rondon RHP 24.00 35 45.0 2.0 Medium
Mike O’Neill OF 28.00 36 40.0 1.0 Low
Keith Butler RHP 29.00 37 45.0 2.0 Medium
System Grade System Risk 50+ 50+ Grade 50+ Risk 60+ 60+ Grade 60+ Risk
51.000 2.333 20 54.250 2.550 4 66.250 1.500

The Cardinals don’t have a high overall grade, but their risk is absurdly low. Moving over to the 50 and 60+ grades, they have a couple of the highest scores, but their risk is much, much lower than anyone else’s. That combination of high-ceiling talent with a lack of risk is why this system has the publicity it does.



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