With the 2016 MLB Draft looming, there are a couple main things I like to watch for. First, whether teams are actually good at drafting, whether they're good at developing, or whether they just seem to get lucky. Teams like the Houston Astros have turned a number of draft picks into bonafide major leaguers. But does that reflect their draft record, their player development, or just plain luck? It's hard to say definitively.
Second, it's which farm systems need and do not need help the most. Again though, there are a few variables that go into this. Are the prospects in a certain system being overrated, or are they truly destined for the major leagues? Did they draft well, or are they a product of some beneficial minors coaching?
So, while a few teams may have farm systems that are already stacked, the implications can be innumerable. Are the farm systems good because where the teams have drafted the past few years? Or do they just scout and develop better? Will that success continue, or are they due for some misses now? And, once these players make it to the majors, were scouts right about their tools?
These are difficult questions to answer. However, it seems like these five farm systems could sustain some failures and still be okay:
5. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are most certainly the rising star of this group. In fact, Keith Law just put four of their prospects in his top 25.
With a system led by international signees Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers, perhaps a case could be made that the Red Sox haven't made their best contributions via the draft. With both currently at High-A, their major league arrivals don't seem especially imminent. However, they rank fifth and 14th on MLB.com's top 100 prospect list. Add another international signing in Anderson Espinoza (ranked 34th) and the Red Sox system looks dangerously deep.
While international signings may be the crown jewels of the Red Sox's system, a rising star in Andrew Benintendi could be the difference maker. Taken with the seventh-overall pick in the 2015 draft, Benintendi is now the top ranked prospect from that draft according to Law. Ahead of both Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman. With all three at Double-A, the race to the major leagues is on.
4. Texas Rangers
Arguably the best system in baseball prior to the season, the Rangers have lost a few farmhands in the best way possible -- via call-up. Despite being without Nomar Mazara and now Joey Gallo, the Rangers' system is by no means barren.
Lewis Brinson is still considered one of the top outfield prospects in all of baseball. Although he has had a slow start at Double-A this year, the 22-year old has some major league-ready tools. He could progress quickly but the Rangers would still need to find a spot in their outfield for him.
Two first round picks round out their top remaining farmhands. Dillon Tate, who went fourth overall in last year's draft, and Luis Ortiz, who went 30th overall in 2014. Both right-handed pitchers feature great fastballs but don't project to make impacts on the major leagues at all this season. That being said, Ortiz has impressed with a very high strikeout rate, coupled with a very low walk rate.
3. Colorado Rockies
The dark horse of the list, the Rockies have a sneakily good system. Their top five prospects all rank in MLB.com's top 100.
Brendan Rodgers is the lone Rockies prospect to make Law's top 25 list and was taken third overall in the 2015 draft. However, what the Rockies may lack in stardom they make up for in depth and positional diversity. They've got an outfielder, David Dahl, a third baseman, Ryan McMahon, a pitcher, Jeff Hoffman, and a second baseman, Forrest Wall, all in the top 100.
Perhaps the most exciting prospect in their system though, isn't anyone mentioned previously: 22-year old outfield prospect Raimel Tapia. He's hit four home runs at Double-A so far this season with an ISO of .140.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The consensus best system in all of baseball prior to the season, the Dodgers now have Corey Seager on the big club. Despite having only one player in Law's top 25, the Dodgers still have six prospects in MLB.com's top 100.
One of the best prospects in all of baseball, the left-handed pitcher Julio Urias seems very close to major league ready. Behind him, Jose de Leon, Grant Holmes, and Frankie Montas round out an elite corp of pitching prospects. Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo narrowly finish in MLB.com's top 100 and are the prized batters of the system.
Their seventh-best prospect, Walker Buehler, is the player they took in last year's draft at 24th overall. While he doesn't rank in the top 100 on MLB.com, the righty from Vanderbilt has an all-around skillset and features good control. He is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.
1. Atlanta Braves
In full rebuild, the Braves have made their system the envy of baseball. Acquiring the first overall pick from last year's draft in Dansby Swanson certainly helped, but drafting Kolby Allard at 14th overall themselves. Add Sean Newcomb, Ozzie Albies, and Aaron Blair to the system and the Braves have a good base on which to rebuild.
What's most interesting about the Braves system is that only one of their top six prospects were drafted by the team, and that's Allard. What this means going forward is anything but certain, but it can be analyzed one of two ways. Pessimistically, the Braves are not good at using their own draft picks to build their farm system. Or, optimistically, the Braves have turned a corner on evaluating prospects and will continue to do so at this upcoming draft, where they feature the third, 40th, 44th, 76th, and 80th selections just to name a few.
It would be remiss not to at least mention the Pittsburgh Pirates' and Washington Nationals' systems, though for very different reasons.
The Nationals miss the top five due mostly to depth. While Lucas Giolito and Trea Turner appear to be top-rated prospects that are major league ready, Victor Robles and Erick Fedde round out their contributions to MLB.com's top 100. Giolito and Turner are undoubtedly stars of the entire minor league system and their call-ups seem like inevitabilities.
The Pirates system, on the other hand, isn't star-studded, but instead features a couple rising stars. That being said, Tyler Glasnow could be considered a star, Law has him ranked fourth overall. Like Giolito, his call-up seems inevitable as well. However, the rise of Jameson Taillon and Kevin Newman has been impressive. A small-market team that counts on drafting for success, the Pirates most-assuredly have a remarkable farm system.
Heading into the draft, these seven teams will definitely be fun to watch. Whoever they target won't be destined for stardom by any means. Although, joining an organization with a good track record can't hurt.