These elite systems possess several of the very best prospects in baseball, and feature both players who are ready to contribute to the majors immediately, as well as those who should keep their organizations successful in the years to come.
As always, players must meet MLB rookie eligibility requirements (under 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched at the major league level) to qualify as part of an organization's farm system.
10. New York Yankees
Top Prospect: Jesus Montero, designated hitter/catcher
The Yankees system lacks depth, but it certainly doesn't lack in star power. Montero isn't a great catcher, but he is one of the two or three best hitters in the minors and is an excellent candidate for 2012 AL Rookie of the Year.
Southpaw Manny Banuelos is a half-season away from slotting as a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter, and the giant Dellin Betances could be scary if he improves his command and conditioning. Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams are a great set of high-upside bats in the low minors, and Austin Romine and Adam Warren could play bit parts on the 2012 MLB squad.
9. Seattle Mariners
Top Prospect: Danny Hultzen, starting pitcher
The Mariners have tremendous pitching depth in their system, but most of their young arms are still one season away. Hultzen was a surprise as the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, but is a high probability No. 2 starter. Taijuan Walker is an explosive young arm, and James Paxton should pitch near the top of an MLB rotation as well.
Jose Campos and Chance Ruffin are two more pitchers who deserve mention, as does power-hitting shortstop prospect Nick Franklin, who regularly evokes J.J. Hardy comparisons. Add in toolsy hitters Guillermo Pimentel and Francisco Martinez, and the M's should be able to stop rebuilding soon.
8. Atlanta Braves
Top Prospect: Julio Teheran, starting pitcher
With the possible exception of the Diamondbacks, no system can compete with the Braves' stash of MLB-ready arms. Teheran can be an ace on a playoff contender, Randall Delgado is a solid mid-rotation innings eater, and Arodys Vizcaino can be a high-upside starter or dynamic reliever.
Considering the Braves just graduated Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor –- and also have 2011 first-rounder Sean Gilmartin in the wings –- it's an impressive collection. It's not the strongest offensive system, but Tyler Pastornicky is the favorite to be the Braves' everyday shortstop next season, and Christian Bethancourt could be the team's successor to Brian McCann.
7. Oakland Athletics
Top Prospect: Jarrod Parker, starting pitcher
The A's began the offseason with a middling farm system, but have rebuilt quickly thanks to the trades of Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Parker and Brad Peacock are two newly acquired prospects likely to begin 2012 in the major league rotation. Outfielders Grant Green, Collin Cowgill and Michael Taylor –- plus first baseman Chris Carter — should all vie for at-bats by midseason.
A.J. Cole and Sonny Gray are future top-of-the-rotation starters, Michael Choice is one of the best power hitters in the minors, and Derek Norris and Max Stassi are a solid pair of catching prospects.
Overall, this is a deep system.
6. Kansas City Royals
Top Prospect: Wil Myers, outfielder
The Royals were billed as having perhaps the best farm system ever headed into 2011, and despite the graduations of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella, Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow to the big leagues, the Royals system is still sitting pretty. Myers is one of the best pure hitters in the minors, and could see a September call-up.
Bubba Starling, a 2011 first-round center fielder was the best high-school hitter in the 2011 draft, and Cheslor Cuthbert is an exciting hot corner prospect. Add in high-upside pitchers Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and John Lamb, and the Royals could have a very competitive MLB team by 2013.
5. Texas Rangers
Top Prospect: Jurickson Profar, shortstop
The Rangers have a nice mix of talent in the low-to-mid minors. Profar is arguably the best shortstop prospect in the game, and has five-tool talent. Martin Perez's prospect star has faded in recent months, but he's still just 20 and reached Triple-A last season. He could join righty Neil Ramirez and lefty Robbie Ross in the Rangers rotation in short order, with Cody Buckel further away (and Yu Darvish is also a possibility).
Outfielder Leonys Martin will be an excellent defender with some pop in center, and Mike Olt is a promising corner infield bat in the low minors. Infielders Rougned Odor and Christian Villanueva are exciting too.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
Top Prospect: Matt Moore, starting pitcher
It doesn't matter how many prospects the Rays graduate to the majors each year, they just keep replenishing an incredibly deep system. Flame-throwing lefty Moore is one of the three or four best prospects in baseball, and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and pitcher Chris Archer will make plenty of top 50 lists as well.
A haul of Taylor Guerrieri, Mikie Mahtook and Grayson Garvin, among others, made for a great 2011 draft, and Brandon Guyer, Alex Torres, Alex Colome and Tim Beckham could play roles on the 2012 MLB club.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
Top Prospect: Trevor Bauer, starting pitcher
Even after trading Jarrod Parker for Trevor Cahill, the D-Backs boast one of the most impressive collections of pitchers in the minors. Bauer and Tyler Skaggs should be MLB-ready this season, and Archie Bradley, Pat Corbin and David Holmberg aren't too far behind.
Matt Davidson and Bobby Borchering may boast 30-homer power, and Anthony Meo and Andrew Chafin could be phenomenal relievers. Add in up-the-middle prospects Chris Owings and A.J. Pollock, and Arizona has set itself up for success for years to come.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
Top Prospect: Travis d'Arnaud, catcher
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has done a tremendous job building this farm system through trades, drafting and the international market. And as a result, the Jays now have the top system in the American League. Jake Marisnick and Anthony Gose form one of the most dynamic outfield prospect pairings in baseball, and d'Arnaud is an elite catching prospect.
With Drew Hutchison, Justin Nicolino, Noah Snydergaard, Daniel Norris, Deck McGuire and Aaron Sanchez, the Jays have a bevy of No. 2/3 starter types throughout the system, as well. It's a very impressive group, especially given the trade of Nestor Molina and the recent graduations of Henderson Alvarez and Brett Lawrie.
1. San Diego Padres
Top Prospect: Rymer Liriano, outfielder
The Padres boast the best combination of upside and probability of any farm system in baseball, and have talent throughout all levels of their minor leagues. Robbie Erlin, Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland should all be permanent members of the big league rotation by mid-2013.
Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Liriano, Corey Spangenberg and Jedd Gyorko give them a solid crop of offensive prospects, as well. Trading Mat Latos to the Reds will hurt them in 2012, but it put them in a much better position going forward.
Jesus Montero photo (left) via Flickr/njnetfan
Matt Moore photo (right) via AP
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