Ranking the Minors: The Lowly 10

Over the last couple of months, we’ve looked at some of the more interesting prospects in each of the 30 MLB team’s minor league systems. With the Minor League Baseball season beginning at the end of this week, let’s now take a look – over the next three days – at who has the best and the worst minor league systems in the game.

(BA = Baseball America, BP = Baseball Prospectus, FAN = FanGraphs)

The Bottom 10:

NO.  BA    BP    FAN  
21.  WAS   LAD   CWS 
22.  MIN   PIT   SEA
23.  LAD   LAA   LAD
24.  SEA   CWS   WAS
25.  LAA   SD    ARZ
26.  ARZ   CHC   SD
27.  CHC   DET   LAA
28.  DET   ARZ   CHC
29.  SD    WAS   DET
30.  HOU   HOU   HOU

Obviously, minor league rankings are subjective. Each opinion is neither correct nor incorrect. For the most part, though, there is agreement upon the worst minor league systems in Major League Baseball. The biggest disagreements appear to be with these three organizations: Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Chicago (AL). So why is that? With Pittsburgh, you have the big three hitters: Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata. After that, well, you go on gut feel because the system is thin.

Seattle has a lot of raw, toolsy guys that can be hard to read. Yes, Greg Halman put up a near 30-30 season, but his walk/strikeout rates are poor and his career batting average is just .262 – and mostly in the low minors. Phillippe Aumont has the chance to be a monster pitcher with a heavy, hard fastball – but he’s already showing signs of being injury prone (something that seems to plague Canadian starting pitchers… Erik Bedard, Shawn Hill, Rich Harden, Jeff Francis, Adam Loewen, etc).

In Chicago, there is not a whole lot to get excited about. Personally, I am not as big of a Gordon Beckham fan as most people are – especially in Chicago. He’s good, but I don’t think he’s superstar good. My favorite prospect in the system is Tyler Flowers, and he was just obtained this past off-season from the Atlanta Braves. Then you have Aaron Poreda, who is a left-handed pitcher with an above-average fastball and poor secondary pitches. You can dream on him and see a dominating starter… if everything clicks. If not, then maybe he can be a closer. Beyond those prospects… there isn’t much that excites me at this point.

The one thing that all three publications agree on in their evaluations is that Houston has the worst minor league system in all of baseball: A firm No. 30 out of 30. The club is really hurting from an ownership that penny-pinched on the amateur draft process… apparently not realizing that developing your own in-house talent and paying them a MLB salary for the first six years is A LOT cheaper than throwing a four- or five-year contract at a 32-year-old free agent. The undisputed No. 1 prospect in the system in 2008 first-round draft pick – and catcher – Jason Castro. My favorite player in the system is 2008 prep draftee Ross Seaton.

Based on the FanGraphs’ Bottom 10 Organizations:

  • Biggest Surprise to be in the Bottom 10: Los Angeles (NL)
  • Best Chance to Improve Significantly in 2009: Seattle
  • Best Chance to Remain Mediocre Long Term: Houston and Detroit
  • Most Likely to Produce a Rookie of the Year in 1-3 Years: Washington
  • Club With the Best Pitching Depth: Los Angeles (NL)

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    Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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