Sports

MLB Futures: Ranking MLB Teams by their Young Talent

By Ryan Finklestein - December 07, 2018

No sport is more focused on the development and cultivation of young talent then baseball.

MLB teams have expansive farm systems filled with prospects that fans and executives alike look towards as the future of their ball club.

This list is not a ranking of the best farm systems in baseball though, but rather a ranking of the young talent that is currently on big league rosters with an eye on towards the top prospects who can make an immediate impact in the near future.

30. Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles were the worst team in baseball last season and are completely starting from scratch with a new manager and front office as the Buck Showalter era of Oriole baseball is over. On the current roster there is not much young talent, with outfielder Trey Mancini really being the only player worth mentioning. Mancini hit 24 home runs last year and is still relatively young at 26 years old. Although Mancini is probably more of a trade piece at this point.  

29. Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals two “young” franchise players right now are catcher Salvador Perez, 28, and second baseman Whit Merrifield who is 29 years old. Adalberto Mondesi has long been rumored to be a franchise player of the the Royals, as he was their top prospect that made his MLB debut in the 2015 World Series. In 2018, Mondesi hit above the Mendoza-line for the first time with a .276 batting average. Mondesi stole 32 and hit 14 home runs in just 75 games played last year and can still transform into a star as he is just 23 years old. Brad Keller is another player to watch for, as he had a 3.08 ERA across 140 innings in his rookie year.  

28. Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers have some talented position players to build around but their pitching staff needs an influx of young talent if they want to be competitive. The only pitcher on the entire staff that looks to have a legitimate future with the team is Jose Leclerc, as he saved 12 games in 2018 and pitched to a sparking 1.56 ERA. The Rangers lineup features multiple starters under 25 years old like Roughned Odor, Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara that have all performed well at the big league level.  

27. Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins best young asset me be heading out the door any day now, as stud catcher J.T. Realmuto’s name has been in trade rumors for over a year now. Miami was counting on a big first year from Lewis Brinson this season, after he headlined their trade of Christian Yelich to the Brewers last year, but Brinson was inconsistent and only able to flash his five-tool potential.

The Marlins did find one building block that should be around for the long haul in Brian Anderson. Anderson can play outfield or third base and hit .273 with 65 RBI, 87 runs and 45 extra-base hits in his first full season. The Marlins did make big waves this offseason when they added highly-regarded Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa as a international free agent, who could make the roster as soon as next year.

26. Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have some decisions to make on Nick Castellanos, 26, who has been a star player for years now and is in his last year before he becomes a free agent. The Tigers can resign Castellanos to be their franchise player moving forward, or move him this offseason to add talent to their farm system. Michael Fulmer, 25, can still be a great ace for the Tigers if he can regain the same form that had him win the Rookie of the Year Award a few years ago.

25. San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants took one last shot at contending last year with a core that won three World Series, but now it finally seems like that window to contend is up. The best part of their 2018 season was finding a young starter to build their rotation around in Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez’s son Dereck. Dereck Rodriguez made 19 starts in his rookie year and pitched to a 2.81 ERA.  

24. Cincinnati Reds

One of the Reds best young pieces, and trade assets, is closer Raisel Iglesias who had a big season in 2018. The Reds just gave up on one of their young players as they non-tendered speedster Billy Hamilton but there are still a few offensive pieces to like in Cincinnati.

Eugenio Suarez is a player to build around and they made that point by signing him to an extension that keeps him under control through 2025. Suarez hit 34 home runs in 2018 and has hit 81 home runs over the last three years. Along with Suarez, shortstop Jose Peraza and outfielder Jesse Winkler can both be starters for a long time.  

23. Minnesota Twins

In 2017, the Minnesota Twins looked like one of the promising young teams in baseball as they went to the postseason and almost beat the New York Yankees in the Wild Card game. Last year, the Twins could not build upon that success and finished eight games under .500.

Minnesota is counting on a bounce-back year from slugger Miguel Sano who is just 25 years old, as they need a big bat in the middle of their lineup. Byron Buxton is an elite defensive center fielder that the Twins have on their roster and they also feature other young position players like Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Jake Cave.  

22. Toronto Blue Jays

While there is other names that we can mention, there is really only one player that matters for the future of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Guerrero started the 2018 season in rookie ball and quickly earned three promotions and finished his season in Triple-A. Because of how well he played, some people even felt that Guerrero should have made the major league team last year. Across all four levels that he played, Guerrero hit .381 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI in just 95 games. Guerrero is still a teenager as won’t turn 20 years old until March and has a chance to be the best player in baseball.

21. Arizona Diamondbacks

It is crazy to say that the Arizona Diamondbacks window to contend is already over, since it seemed like it just opened not that long ago, but there is not much young talent on this roster. Paul Goldschmidt is now 30 years old and may be on his way out the door once his contract expires after this season and ace Patrick Corbin will likely not return to Arizona as he is the top free agent starter. There are still some pieces in place for this season that could lead to another playoff berth, but Arizona may be heading toward another rebuild.  

20. Chicago White Sox

The future of the White Sox franchise hinges on the returns of the Chris Sale that they made a few years ago. Yoan Moncada was the headliner in that trade and he was supposed to become the next great infielder in baseball. Moncada has show all of the tools that made him a top prospect but he still stuck out 217 times last year and hit just .235. Moncada is just 23 years old and can become the all-star that White Sox expect him to become.

The other player from the Sale trade that they are counting on his Michael Kopech, who consistently throws over 100 miles per hour, but had to undergo Tommy John surgery last year.  

19. New York Mets

The Mets are clearly not incentivising youth moving forward as they just made a trade for a 36-year-old second baseman in Robinson Cano. New York does have two corner young corner outfielders who have shown a lot of promise in Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto and they still have their elite starting rotation.

Waiting in the wings for the Mets is the best power hitter in the minor leagues last year, Peter Alonso. Alonso likely takes over first base at some point this year and will join talented young shortstop Amed Rosario in the infield everyday.  

18. Seattle Mariners

It is really hard to judge any Jerry Dipoto roster because the Mariners GM is currently in the middle of a fire sale. Once the dust settles the Mariners should have a pretty deep farm system and some young players on the big league roster to build around. So far his trades have netted him former top prospects Mallex Smith and J.P. Crawford.

Smith hit .296 last year and looks like he can be a quality starting center fielder moving forward. Crawford on the other hand is a reclamation project as he was supposed to become the next great shortstop for the Phillies but never lived up to his expectations.  

17. Los Angeles Angels

The Angels still have the best player in baseball and despite what feels like a decade of elite play, Mike Trout is just 26 years old. Along with Trout, the Angels have the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year to build around. Shohei Ohtani is a legitimate two-way player, although the pitching side of his game will not be seen for a while as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. While Ohtani recovers, he can still hit and he did plenty of that in 2018, with 22 home runs and 61 RBI.  

16. Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics were baseball’s biggest surprise this year, as they managed to win 97 games. Some of the young players that were responsible for that success were starting pitcher Sean Manaea and reliever Luis Trivino. Oakland also featured position players Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Stephen Piscotti. That trio all eclipsed at least 20 home runs and 65 RBIs each and is a core that they can build around.  

15. Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays had an amazing 2018 season in which they won 89 games, primarily behind the creativity of the organization in how they managed their pitching staff and a youthful roster. The one pitcher that they really relied on was Blake Snell, who ended up winning the AL Cy Young award. Snell went 21-5 this year and pitched to a 1.89 ERA. At 25 years old, Snell is now the Rays franchise player.  

14. San Diego Padres

The Padres have a few nice young players that are currently on their big league roster like Framil Reyes, Manuel Margot and Austin Hedges but the real promise for the Padres exists in their farm system.

Fernando Tatis Jr. is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and will turn just 20 years old at the beginning of the new year. This year, Tatis hit .286 with 16 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 88 games played at Double-A. Tatis could be on the big league club as soon as next year.  

13. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates were much more competitive then anyone expected in 2018 and went from rebuilding in the offseason to buying at the trade deadline. The main piece they added at the deadline was starting pitcher Chris Archer, who is a ace that they are now building around. Archer joins Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, who both had breakout years, to form a great young rotation.

Offensively, corner infielders Colin Moran and Josh Bell both look like they are going to turn into really solid players.  

12. St. Louis Cardinals

It seems like every year the Cardinals have two or three rookies on their team that come out of nowhere to hit 20 home runs and drive in 60 runs in their first year. This season, those rookies were Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neil and they join other young players like shortstop Paul DeJong that promise a bright future in St. Louis.  

11. Washington Nationals

The Nationals may lose Bryce Harper in free agency in the coming weeks, which would have seemed like a massive loss a year ago. Losing Harper is now much easier pill to swallow with the emergence of 19-year-old Juan Soto. Soto hit .292 with 22 home runs and 70 RBI as a teenage rookie. Washington also has top prospect Victor Robles MLB-ready if Harper does sign elsewhere.

One other player to mention is shortstop Trea Turner, who has proven to a be real five-tool player that can rise to the biggest moments.  

10. Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies just added some young talent in a blockbuster trade in which they acquired all-star shortstop Jean Segura. Segura joins an infield with slugger Rhys Hoskins, who has hit 52 home runs in his first 203 games.

Aaron Nola had an amazing breakout season in 2018, which would have won him a Cy Young in almost any other year. Nola pitched to a sparking 2.37 ERA with 224 strikeouts. At just 25 years old, Nola is the ace of the future for the Phillies.  

9. Colorado Rockies

Nolan Arenado is a perennial MVP-candidate, although he has never won, and continues to be the Colorado Rockies best player moving forward. The interesting shift for the Rockies is that they are not built around their young pitching rather then their lineup.

Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray and German Marquez make up a really promising young rotation that should keep the Rookies relevant for years to come.  

8. Cleveland Indians

While the Indians were once led by their elite pitching staff, that group is beginning to get older and the team’s focus needs to transition to their best two players.

Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez form as good of duo that any team features in all of baseball as bot young infielder have the potential to one day win an MVP. Lindor and Ramirez combined for 77 home runs and 197 RBIs this year and are 24 and 25 years old respectively.  

7. Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers won the NL Central this year and were one game away from the World Series in 2018. Christian Yelich, 26, won the NL MVP in his first year playing for the Brewers and is their franchise player moving forward.

Another great young player that Milwaukee has is super-reliever Josh Hader. Hader struck out 143 batters in 81 1/3 innings pitched and had a 2.43 ERA.  

6. Chicago Cubs

Javier Baez had a breakout season in 2018, hitting 34 home runs and 111 RBIs and will be the franchise player moving forward in Chicago. The Cubs also have other great young position players with Kris Bryant, Wilson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Ian Happ.

The Cubs do not have much youth on their pitching staff but have showed the willingness to spend many to address those needs in the past.  

5. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have the highest paid front office in baseball, who is constantly adding young talent to their ball club while still contending every year. L.A. has been in the World Series the last two years in large part due to the play of their players.

This year, rookie pitcher Walker Buehler became the ace of the Dodgers rotation and was given the ball to pitch in the one-game Wild Card, which he won. Although he was injured last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Corey Seager is an amazing shortstop of the future for the Dodgers. Slugger Cody Bellinger is another young player that the Dodgers are building around as he has hit 64 home runs in his first two seasons.  

4. Atlanta Braves

Ronald Acuna Jr. is the best young player in the National League and maybe in all of baseball, as he was named the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year. Acuna was joined by fellow rookie Ozzie Albies as two dynamic five-tool weapons in the Braves everyday lineup.

Dansby Swanson and Johan Camargo are both just 24 years old and are also starting-caliber players for Atlanta. With plenty of young talent on the roster and one of the best farm systems in baseball, the Braves may control the NL East for a long time.

3. Houston Astros

Five years ago the Astros had the best farm system in baseball after years of tanking and trading away all of their top assets. That farm system panned out and delivered the first World Series title in franchise history in 2017. The Astros are built around a talented young infield that features three superstars.

Jose Altuve was the MVP in 2017 and has won three batting titles in his career. Shortstop Carlos Correa is a five-tool performer and third baseman Alex Bregman was a MVP candidate this past season.  

2. Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox have the best young outfield and baseball, with MVP Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. That trio is all excellent on both sides of the ball, with each providing Gold Glove-caliber defense.

Rafael Devers is another young player that is already helping the Red Sox, as he was a unbelievable run producer in October. Devers is just 21 years old and is only scratching the surface of his full potential.  

1. New York Yankees

The New York Yankees edge out the World Champion Boston Red Sox in young talent because of what they still have on the horizon in their farm system. Last year the Yankees graduated Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres both of whom were serious Rookie of the Year candidates. In the farm system the Yankees have one of the most highly regarded outfield prospects in Estevan Florial that has yet to make his MLB debut, while also having young players like Clint Frazier who have yet to get their chance at the big league level despite being ready to contribute.

Let’s not forget to mention ace Luis Severino, as well as sluggers Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, all of whom are young all-stars just coming into their prime.