No more preamble.  Read the prior years if you wonder or have question about my ratings.  Enjoy, if you must.


First (tie):  L.A. Anaheim Angels (3.2 rating).  Why Carlos Perez does not get a longer look in Anaheim is a puzzle.  He crushed opposing pitching (for a catcher) and has a AAA toss rate of 41%.  First, second and left along with catching are the strongest of the 2-9 spots.  Left and right are a short step behind.

Relief pitching develops at a faster rate than starting pitching.  Eric Karch (AA) and Greg Mahle (MLB/AAA/AA, though his AAA numbers in no way indicated a 2017 arrival to the Show) are the best of the bullpen candidates while Jordan Kipper (AA) may well see the Big A before the end of the 2018 season (especially in light of the Angels’ substantial arm woes).

2018 Help:  The above mentioned Mr. Perez, Mr. Karch, Mr. Mahle (though a full year in AAA might be a better idea) and Mr. Kipper, Matt Thaiss (1b, AA/A+), Kaleb Cowart (3b.  His AAA offensive numbers are considerable.  2018 is his last chance to land a full-time gig in Anaheim), Cesar Puello (cf, MLB/AAA), Ramon Flores (rf, MLB/AAA) and Forrest Allday (rf, AA).

First (tie):  Oakland (3.2).  Depth at second, third, left and center.  The only average 2-9 spot is first (assuming Matt Olson makes the team at the end of March, 2018, precious little is behind him at the lower levels).

Starting pitching is a struggle.  Less Dustin Hurlbutt (A+), the A’s will do a lot of up-down shuttling with their top-five starting candidates (Zach Neal, Paul Blackburn, Frankie Montas, James Naile and Corey Walter) until one of the five hopefully sticks.  Relief development is a tad better, but without a standout.

2018 Help:  Mr. Hurlbutt (but beware the rush job), Sheldon Neuse (3b, AA/A+ and  potential plus), Tyler Ramirez (lf, AA/A+ and potential plus), Yairo Munoz (ss, AA) and B.J. Boyd (cf, AA).  Two guys who are two years away are Brett Siddall (lf, A+) and Seth Brown (rf, A+).

Second (tie):  Baltimore (3.1).  Only left field rated average.  All the 2-9 spots rated above average.  Catching is overflowing with choice (or trade bait to those organizations who struggle to develop catching depth).  Chance Cisco (c, MLB/AAA), Audrey Perez (c, MLB/ AAA) and Austin Wynns (c, AA) can all knock the cover off the ball.  Francisco Pena (MLB/AAA) has a 56% toss rate at AAA.

Bullpen development is arguably the best in the A.L.  Eight of their top ten are in AAA and AA.  Starting pitching, not so much.  Average at best and nowhere near MLB ready as the relievers.

2018 Help:  Any of the above mentioned catchers, Luis Sardinas (2b, MLB/AAA), D.J. Stewart (lf, AA), Austin Hays (cf, MLB/AA.  Yep, he skipped AAA.  Tremendous potential), Gabriel Rosa (rf, AA), Jimmy Yacabonis (relief, MLB/AAA) and Donnie Hart (relief, MLB/AAA).  Guys two years away are Jomar Reyes (2b, A+), Ryan Mountcastle (ss, A+), Alex Wells (starter, A) and Luis Gonzalez (reliever, A+).

Second (tie):  NYY (3.1).  Need a first baseman, shortstop or left fielder?  Call Brian Cashman.  He has plenty to choose from . . . though sometimes I wonder what Brian wonders.  Two spots that do need improvement are second (one candidate, Nick Solak) and right (two possibilities, the average duo of Jhalan Jackson and Isiah Gilliam).

Starting pitching is deep.  Five legitimate candidates to stay in the Bronx in 2018 and beyond, four of which had the “cup of coffee”  and AAA innings in 2017:  Caleb Smith, Luis Cessa, Domingo German and Dietrich Enns.  The fifth is my personal favorite, Chance Adams (AAA/AA).  The bullpen also does well.  All of the top ten are a mix of MLB/AAA, AAA and AA experience during 2017.

2018 Help:  The starters were already mentioned.  The best of the ‘pen is Ben Heller (MLB/AAA) and Tyler Webb (MLB/AAA).  Position players are Miguel Andujar (3b. MLB/AAA), Tyler Wade (ss, MLB/AAA), Gleyber Torres (ss, AAA/AA.  His AAA performance was outstanding), Thairo Estrada (ss, AA) and Jorge Mateo (ss, AA), Jack Cave (cf, AAA/AA and cool name) and Jeff Hendrix (cf, AA/A+).  Two to three years away, Carlos Vidal (lf, A).

Second (tie):  Tampa Bay (3.1).  First and right were exceptional.  Catching, second, third and left were above average.  The question for 2018 is can the five AA guys who rated best at their positions (Dalton Kelly, Riley Unroe, Grant Kay, Joe McCarthy and Braxton Lee) make the jump to the big club in 2018?

Relief pitching development is exceptional.  Five of the top ten relievers received my coveted asterisk (at least coveted by me).  All starting pitching top ten prospects are AA ball and up.  Rare air.

2018 Help:  Besides the five 2-9 players mentioned above, Justin Williams (rf, AA), Chih-Wei Hu (starter, MLB/AAA), Ryan Yarbrough (starter, AAA), Jose Mujica (starter, AA), Andrew Kittredge (relief, MLB/AAA), Ryan Stanck (relief, MLB/AAA), Diego Castillo (relief, AA).  Two years or so away, consider Brett Sullivan (c, A+), Daniel Rodriguez (c, A+), Brandon Lowe (2b, A+), Mike Brosseau (3b, A+/A), Spencer Jones (relief, A+) and Dalton Moats (relief, A+).

Second (tie):  Houston (3.1).  If their starting and relief pitching each rated better than average, the Astros would have rated first in A.L. development.  ’tis not the case.  All position players less shortstop have at least four guys who rated.  Spring training will be a gladiator fest to see who survives.  All outfield signs at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches during the month of March should have Darwin references to survival and change.  Yeah, the Astros are that deep.

Pitching is a slow step away from horrid.  Only one AAA starting candidate (Rogelio Armenteros).  The majority of the top ten pitched in A+ during 2017.  Thus, too soon to say.  Relievers closely modeled their starter counterparts.

2018 Help:  A.J. Reed (1b, MLB/AAA), Tony Kemp (2b, MLB/AAA), Tyler White (3b, MLB/AAA), Colin Moran (3b, MLB/AAA), Derek Fisher (cf, MLB/AAA) and Dean Deetz (starter, AA).  A couple of years away, Jake Rogers (c, A+/A), Rodrigo Ayaraza (2b, A), Yordan Alvarez (lf, A+/A), Yoanys Quiala (starter, A+), Franklin Perez (starter, A+), Alex Winkleman (starter, A+) and Kevin Hill (reliever, A+).

Third:  Minnesota (3.0).  An organization on the rise.  Yes, challenges exist in the development of second basemen and right fielders, but overall improvement is notable and soon to arrive in Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Especially deep is catching, first, third and both kinds of pitching.

The Twins’ pitching development rivals both the NYY and Tampa (high praise).  Seven of the top ten starting prospects are AA and up while all ten of relievers are AA and up.  Deep is good.

2018 Help:  Mitch Garver (c, MLB/AAA), Carlos Paulino (c, AA), Jonathan Rodriguez (1b, AA), Leonardo Reginatto (3b, AAA), Zach Granite (cf, MLB/AAA and another cool name), Edgar Corcino (rf, AA with no one behind him except cold wind), Nik Turley (starter, MLB/AAA), Jose Berrios (starter, MLB/AAA), Drew Rucinski (relief, MLB/AAA), Alex Wimmers (relief, MLB/AAA), Alan Busenitz (relief, MLB/AAA), Nick Anderson (relief, AA/A+) and Mason Melotakis (relief, AA).  2019 arrivals, Chris Paul (3b, A+) and Max Murphy (cf, A+).

Fourth (tie):  Cleveland (2.7).  Catching, third and center (best depth in the A.L.) saved the 2-9 rankings.  The remainder are vacant to sparse in candidates.

Pitching development is almost in league with the Twins.  Almost.  Starting depth shows six of the top ten in AA and up.  Relief is stronger with all top ten prospects AA and up.

2018 Help:  Francisco Mejia (c, MLB, AA.  Skipped AAA), Yandy Diaz (3b, MLB/AAA.  I  can already hear Cleveland fans yelling obscenities at me.  My question is, does Mr. Diaz replace Jose Ramirez?  I think not.  Plus, Mr. Diaz played two-thirds of his 2017 season at AAA.  Not so obvious), Ryan Merritt (starter, MLB/AAA), Thomas Pannone (starter, AA/A+), Julian Merryweather (starter, AA) and Tyler Olson (reliever, MLB/AAA).  Soon to arrive post-2018, Martin Cervenka (c, A+), Yonathan Mendoza (3b, A+), Mitch Longo (rf, A) and Aaron Civale (starter, A+).

Fourth (tie):  Detroit (2.7).  Most potential help is 2+ years away, less pitching which offers immediate help, thus the fourth place tie.

2018 Help:  Dominic Ficociello (1b, AA), Matt Boyd (starter, MLB/AAA), Artie Lewicki (starter, MLB/AAA/AA) and Jeff Ferrell (reliever, MLB/AAA).  Two plus years away, Blaise Salter (1b, A), Will Maddox (2b, A+), Dustin Frailey (lf, A+), Jake Robson (rf, A+/A), Beau Burrows (starter, A+), Joshua Tucker (starter, A+) and Austin Sodders (starter, A+).

Fourth (tie):  Kansas City (2.7).  Enough help waiting at AAA at the 2-9 spots to notice, yet not everyone has impact status.  Mighty thin at first, short and third, especially after the AAA level.

Starting pitching is average while relief is trending well (seven of the top ten relievers are AAA and AA).

2018 Help:  Cam Gallagher (c, MLB/AAA), Frank Schwindel (1b, AAA/AA), Raul Mondesi (ss, MLB/AAA), Logan Moon (lf, AAA), Jorge Bonifacio (rf, MLB/AAA), Elier Hernandez (rf, AA/A+), Jakob Junis (starter, MLB/AAA), Miguel Almonte (starter, MLB/AA.  No AAA in 2017.  Beware the rush job), Kevin Lenik (reliever, AAA) and Richard Lovelady (reliever, AA/A+).  A few years away, Chris DiVito (1b, A), John Brontsema (2b, A+/A), Vance Vizcaino (lf, A) and Gerson Garbito (starter, A).

Fifth (tie):  Toronto (2.6).  Pitching saved a worse rating.  Most of the 2-9 talent is A+ and A ball.

2018 Help:  Danny Jansen (c, AAA/AA/A+.  Yes, he hits and hits well, but has no toss ability.  A dh in waiting), Anthony Alford (cf, AAA/AA), Nick Tepesch (starter, MLB/AAA.  Nick is 28 years old.  Time to prove his ability), Chris Rowley (starter, MLB/AAA/AA), Ryan Borucki (starter, AA/A+), Andrew Case (reliever, AA/A+) and Carlos Ramirez (reliever, MLB/AAA/AA).  2019 or 2020 help, Vladimir Guerrero (3b, A+/A), Bo Bichette (ss, A+/A) and Bradley Jones (cf, A).

Fifth (tie):  White Sox (2.6).  2-9 spots feature talent or none.  Second, center and left hold the most hope.  First, short and left need a lot of help.

Speaking of needing help, may I present the White Sox woeful attempt to develop starting pitching.  Five of their top ten starters pitched in A+ ball during 2017.  Relief pitching did rate above average, thus saving the entire staff from carnage.

2018 Help:  Rob Brantley (c, MLB/AAA and his 47% toss rate), Jake Peter (2b, AAA/AA), Eloy Jimenez (rf, AA/A+.  He can play) and Ian Hamilton (reliever, A+).

Fifth (tie):  Seattle (2.6).  Six prospects ready in two positions (center and right).  Other than that, not much is immediately ready for 2017.

Starting pitching is two sizable steps above relief pitching.  All ten rated starters are AA and above.  Relief featured 3 A ball pitchers.  Not good.

2018 Help:  Taylor Motter (ss, MLB/AAA), Tyler Smith (ss, MLB/AAA), Braden Bishop (cf, AA/A+.  Talent galore), Ian Miller (cf, AA), Boog Powell (rf, MLB/AAA), Ben Gamel (rf, MLB/AAA), Kyle Waldrop (rf, MLB/AAA/AA), Ryan Weber (starter, MLB/AAA), Emilio Pagan (reliever, MLB/AAA) and Jonathan Aro (reliever, MLB/AAA).  2019-ish help, Chris Mariscal (2b, A+), Eric Filia (rf, A+), Seth Elledge (reliever, A).

Sixth:  Boston (2.5).  Too much rated talent at A+ and A levels in 2017.  A shake out at AA is needed during 2018.

2018 Help:  Danny Mars (lf, AA) and Bobby Poyner (reliever, AA/A+).  Help down the road, Conrad Gregor (1b, A+), Michael Chavis (3b, A+ and the best third base prospect since Wade “Chicken” Boggs), Trevor Kelley (reliever, A+).

Seventh:  Texas (1.7).  Below average ratings at short (one guy), third (one guy), center (one guy) and right (two guys both at A+ ball).  Average ratings at first, second and left.  Boo.  Starting and relief pitching barely rated average.

2018 Help:  Brett Nichols (c, MLB/AAA.  A man with a future), Nick Martinez (starter, MLB/AAA.  Time to stay in Arlington, Nick), Tyler Davis (starter, AA.  Do not rush him, and you may have a gem), James Dykstra (starter, AA) and Ricardo Rodriguez (reliever, MLB/AA/A+.  Skipped AAA).  Help on a distant horizon, Carlos Garay (1b, A+/A), Yanio Perez (1b, A), Brallan Perez (2b, A) and Eduardo Pinto (rf, A+).



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