It is hard to build and sustain a winning major league team without a solid farm system. While some fans scoff at prospect rankings, it has been shown time and again that teams that rank near the top of the prospect rankings often follow with trips to the playoffs. Kansas City, Atlanta, San Diego, Tampa Bay and the Yankees are all teams that in recent history had the best farm system in the game shortly before reaching the playoffs, and in the case of the Royals winning it all. Baseball America recently released their mid-season organizational talent rankings, making it clear that the Yankees will have plenty of talented young players to deal with in the near future — every other team in the American League East ranked inside the top 10 systems in baseball.
The Baltimore Orioles have been bad for a while now. After fading late in the 2017 season, they have been among the worst teams in baseball every season since. Part of being bad is that they were able to secure top draft picks that have landed them a bevy of talented players. The team had the top overall pick for the 2019 MLB draft and used it wisely on Adley Rutschman, who has continued to develop into the best prospect in all of baseball. The catcher projects to be an offensive and defensive force for Baltimore, reaching the Triple-A level and could be in the majors early next season. He is joined by the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, Grayson Rodriguez, who recently reached the Double-A level and continues to impress every scout who has seen him in action this year.
Adley Rutschman crushes his first Triple-A blast for @NorfolkTides! pic.twitter.com/nPAxgQVEnz— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 18, 2021
The series of high draft picks over the last few years has coincided with a new organizational philosophy on signing international talent that has helped the Orioles to the second ranked farm system in the sport. Even though top prospects Rutschman and Rodriguez should graduate to the major leagues, the team will likely be in line for another top five draft pick that could be number one overall again if the current standings hold to form.
The Tampa Bay Rays are already coming off a World Series appearance and lead the American League East for now, but they’ve built a reputation for the quality and depth of their farm system. Never afraid to make a splash on the international or trade market, the Rays system was considered by some to be the best farm system in the history of the sport heading into this season. It says something about the depth and talent that they could graduate their top four prospects, Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena, Luis Patiño and Shane McClanahan to the major leagues this season and still have the seventh best farm system in baseball.
Holding four top-100 prospects, that include top 25 prospects in pitcher Shane Baz and second baseman Vidal Brujan who are on the cusp of the major leagues, the Rays have the type of help on the way that will allow them to continue refilling their depth with talented young (inexpensive) players.
Rays No. 4 prospect Shane Baz is back from the Olympics and only allowed one hit in his three innings!— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) August 15, 2021
The Boston Red Sox already boast one of the best left sides of the infield in baseball, but they also boast an improved farm system that is starting to show from top-to-bottom. Jarren Duran rocketed up the prospect rankings this season and has already reached the majors with former first-round pick Triston Casas likely not that far behind him. The team also used a down 2020 season to land the fourth overall pick where they selected Marcelo Mayer, who was considered the top draft prospect available by many scouts coming into the draft.
GOODBYE BASEBALL.— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) July 31, 2021
Triston Casas puts @USABaseball on top with a monster shot. #TokyoOlympics pic.twitter.com/okWUUz3oIS
The Blue Jays have continued to have one of the best farm systems in the sport, coming in at number 10 in the mid-season rankings. For a team that has graduated Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Alex Manoah and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in recent years, they are still stocked with a lot of talent. They have also proven that they are willing to deal from their strengths as they traded prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson at the trade deadline for Jose Berrios.
The Blue Jays were right on the Yankees’ heels for a majority of this season, and made moves approaching the trade deadline to win both this season and next. Sometimes the benefit of a strong farm system is not the prospects that come up, but those they trade for impact.
The Yankees farm system was ranked 19th by Baseball America at the midway point in the season. That ranking came after the Yankees traded 10 prospects leading up to the trade deadline, including numerous top-30 organizationally ranked prospects. Inside the Yankees’ system, prospects such as Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza have led a group of talented young players putting together their best seasons and showing significant improvement.
The Baseball America mid-season organizational talent update shows that the AL East is going to remain highly competitive over the next few seasons. We’ve seen how stressful a division with four contending teams can be this year, and the potential for all of them to continue improving while the Orioles attempt to pull themselves out of the bottom could lead to the AL East becoming the strongest division in baseball. The Yankees must continue to make smart moves and capitalize on the talent in their system to get and stay ahead of the pack.