Baseball fans love to argue over who the best prospects in baseball are, which teams have the most young talent and how each organization’s farm system stacks up against the others. But what do baseball's decision-makers think?
That's what we set out to answer in our 2020 Pipeline Poll. We sent a survey to general managers, scouting directors and executives across all 30 teams asking them to weigh in anonymously on a series of questions about prospects, top tools and farm systems.
This should give prospect fans plenty to chew on until MLB Pipeline starts unveiling its 2020 top prospects ranking later this month.
Which team has the best farm system?
1. Rays (48%)
2. Padres (36%)
Also received votes: Braves, D-backs, Dodgers, Mets
We haven’t lined up our top farm systems for 2020 yet, but there will no doubt be a spirited debate about the Rays and Padres systems. The Padres have been No. 1 for the past two seasons, but the Rays would have been No. 1 last August if Tampa Bay hadn’t dealt Jesus Sanchez away and San Diego hadn’t added Taylor Trammell. It should be noted that this survey was done before the Rays dealt left-hander Matthew Liberatore, baseball's No. 41 overall prospect, to the Cardinals last week.
Which team uses the Draft best?
1. Dodgers (28%)
2. Rays (20%)
3. Cardinals (12%)
T4. Padres (8%)
T4. Rockies (8%)
Also received votes: Astros, D-backs, Mets, Rangers, Red Sox, White Sox
A total of 11 teams received votes, but it’s easy to see why the Dodgers got the most votes, albeit narrowly, when you look at the core of talent in Los Angeles that all came via the Draft (Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, to name a few.). And draftees like Gavin Lux and Dustin May are ready to make major contributions in 2020. After a bit of a dip, the Rays have really drafted well the past few years, a big reason why many consider their farm system the best in baseball.
Which team plays the international market better than any other?
1. Yankees (29%)
2. Nationals (25%)
T3. Indians (8%)
T3. Dodgers (8%)
T3. Rangers (8%)
Also received votes: White Sox, Astros, Twins, Padres, Blue Jays
It used to be the team that could spend the most money would be the choice for a question like this more often than not. But with the new bonus pool system in place, teams have to be creative in finding players at value and in potentially adding in bonus pool money via trades. The Yankees have a ton of international talent on their current 40-man roster, and adding Jasson Dominguez this past July certainly doesn’t hurt. The Nats’ World Series roster included international finds like Juan Soto and Victor Robles, a big reason they got so many votes.
Which team has the most overrated farm system?
1. Padres (20%)
2. Astros (16%)
T3. Marlins (12%)
T3. Yankees (12%)
5. White Sox (8%)
Also received votes: D-backs, Braves, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Phillies, Mariners, Rays
Haters gonna hate? A total of 13 teams got votes for this one, with the Padres, considered by many to have the top system in baseball the past couple of years, leading the way. San Diego could stay in the overrated category unless its vaunted system starts resulting in more wins at the Major League level.
Which team has the most underrated farm system?
T1. D-backs (13%)
T1. Royals (13%)
T1. Rangers (13%)
T4. Red Sox (8%)
T4. Indians (8%)
T4. Dodgers (8%)
T4. Twins (8%)
Also received votes: Braves, White Sox, Tigers, A's, Giants, Mariners, Cardinals
Of the 14 systems that received votes, five of them -- the D-backs, Indians, Braves, White Sox and Mariners – also got overrated votes, which just goes to show you how subjective all of this is.
Which team hordes prospects the most?
1. Padres (30%)
2. Indians (17%)
T3. Braves (13%)
T3. Dodgers (13%)
5. Rays (9%)
Also received votes: Rockies, Astros, Twins, Yankees
The Padres did trade Xavier Edwards away, so they may have more of a willingness to part with prospects as they climb out of full-on rebuilding mode. The Braves have used their top prospects to build a playoff team.
Which team best develops pitchers?
1. Indians (33%)
2. Rays (22%)
3. Braves (15%)
4. Cardinals (11%)
T5. Dodgers (7%)
T5. Yankees (7%)
Also received votes: Astros
The Indians have done an excellent job of getting non-elite prospects (like Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger) in trades and helping them develop into big league starters. And they got guys like Shane Bieber, Adam Plutko and Aaron Civale as far-from-marquee Draft picks.
Which team best develops hitters?
1. Dodgers (54%)
2. Rockies (14%)
3. Cubs (7%)
Also received votes: Braves, Red Sox, Astros, Brewers, Twins, Mets, A’s
The Dodgers were the overwhelming pick here and it’s not hard to see why. The big league lineup has a ton of homegrown talent in it, with Gavin Lux the latest Rookie of the Year candidate ready to play full-time in 2020. And there’s more on the way, as the player development staff helps catcher Keibert Ruiz and Jeter Downs, who was acquired as an A-ball prospect, reach their potential.
Which prospect has the best hit tool?
1. Wander Franco, SS, Rays (44%)
2. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox (19%)
T3. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins (11%)
T3. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox (11%)
Also received votes: Tyler Freeman, SS, Indians; Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners; Gavin Lux, SS, Dodgers; Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
The best offensive prospect is thought to have the best hit tool? What a shock. Franco more than doubled the next vote-getter in Andrew Vaughn. The future of the White Sox offense looks bright, with three hitters getting votes for this question.
Which prospect has the most usable power?
1. Jo Adell, OF, Angels (40%)
2. Joey Bart, C, Giants (16%)
3. Nolan Gorman, 3B, Cardinals (12%)
4. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (8%)
Also received votes: Hunter Bishop, OF, Giants; Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Red Sox; Sam Huff, C, Rangers; Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners; Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins; Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
Remember, this is usable power, not just raw power, meaning these are the players evaluators thought were getting to their power right now. Jo Adell has been known for his pop ever since high school and it’s shown up as a pro, with a lot more to come. Nolan Gorman and Luis Robert have hit homers consistently in the Minors, though both come with a good amount of swing and miss.
Which prospect has the most speed?
1. CJ Abrams, SS, Padres (30%)
2. Royce Lewis, SS, Twins (20%)
3. Xavier Edwards, SS, Rays (15%)
4. Cristian Pache, OF, Braves (10%)
Also received votes: Jo Adell, OF, Angels; Vidal Brujan, 2B, Rays; Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox; Brandon Marsh, OF, Angels; Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
There wasn’t exactly a consensus here, though CJ Abrams, the Padres’ first-round pick last June, did garner the most votes. It’s interesting that the top three vote-getters all primarily play middle infield. Without a clear winner, there’s only one thing to do: 60-yard dash at the 2020 Futures Game?
Which prospect has the best fastball?
1. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays (50%)
2. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox (13%)
3. Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers (8%)
Also received votes: Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners; MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres; Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Twins; Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds; Daniel Lynch, LHP, Royals; Luis Patino, RHP, Padres; Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
Not only does Nate Pearson hit triple-digits, but he also only walked 2.4 per nine in 2019 (2.3 in his career). That combination of velocity and command of it makes him the clear winner. Six of the pitchers chosen here also popped up on the “best future closer" question.
Which prospect has the best secondary pitch?
1. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (33%)
2. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, A’s (24%)
Also received votes: Deivi Garcia, RHP, Yankees; Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Twins; DL Hall, LHP, Orioles; James Karinchak, RHP, Indians; Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers; Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays; Patrick Sandoval, LHP, Angels; Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins; Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros
There’s no clear winner, but Casey Mize and Jesus Luzardo got the majority of the votes. Mize’s splitter is completely unhittable and has been since his college days, with his ability to command it making stand out even more. For Luzardo, it’s his changeup, a sinking offspeed pitch the lefty commands to both sides of the plate to miss bats and get weak contact on the ground.
Which prospect has the best pitchability?
1. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres (41%)
2. Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays (23%)
3. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (9%)
Also received votes: Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners; Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays; Daulton Jefferies, RHP, A’s; Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Rays; Jesus Luzardo, LHP, A’s; Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves
MacKenzie Gore isn’t considered the top pitching prospect in the game only because of his raw stuff, which is considerable. He also commands all his offerings well and really knows how to set up hitters. Evaluators really like Brendan McKay’s pitchability … imagine if he wasn’t worrying about hitting, too.
Who is baseball's best hitting prospect?
1. Wander Franco, SS, Rays (61%)
2. Gavin Lux, SS, Dodgers (14%)
3. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (7%)
Also received votes: Jared Kelenic, OF, Mariners; Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins; Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles; Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox; Drew Waters, OF, Braves
No surprise that Wander Franco, the 18-year-old phenom who is the consensus No. 1 overall prospect on rankings everywhere, runs away with this voting. Gavin Lux and Luis Robert could both end up vying for Rookie of the Year honors in their respective leagues in 2020, while Adley Rutschman and Andrew Vaughn represent the 2019 MLB Draft class well. The eight players who received votes are all among the 15 highest ranked hitters on our 2019 Top 100 Prospects list.
Who is baseball's best pitching prospect?
1. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres (64%)
2. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (11%)
T3. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, A's (7%)
T3. Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers (7%)
Also received votes: Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays; Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays; Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins
MacKenzie Gore narrowly received a higher percentage of votes for baseball’s top pitching prospect than Franco did for the game’s top hitting prospect. It’s a good sign for the Tigers’ future that the organization has two pitchers who received votes. All seven of the pitchers who received votes could very well see considerable time in big league rotations this season. Among the 10 highest ranked pitching prospects on our 2019 Top 100 list, the only three who did not receive a vote were Houston’s Forrest Whitley, White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech and Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller.
Who is the best defensive prospect?
1. Cristian Pache, OF, Braves (48%)
2. Ke'Bryan Hayes 3B, Pirates (12%)
T3. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox (8%)
T3. Evan White, 1B, Mariners (8%)
Also received votes: Jo Adell, OF, Angels; Wander Franco, SS, Rays; Ronny Mauricio, SS, Mets; Sean Murphy, C, A’s; Jeremy Pena, SS, Astros; Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
While defensive metrics have come a long way, there’s still so much subjectivity involved, so it’s not surprising that 10 different players received votes. Cristian Pache, who was MLB Pipeline’s top defender entering the 2019 season, is once again in the top spot. Evan White’s glove at first base is so good that he often comes up in conversations about the best defensive prospects.
Which prospect has the best baseball IQ?
1. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox (31%)
2. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles (12%)
T3. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners (8%)
T3. Royce Lewis, SS Twins (8%)
T3. Gavin Lux, SS, Dodgers (8%)
T3. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals (8%)
Also received votes: Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals; Wander Franco, SS, Rays; MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres; Nico Hoerner, SS, Cubs; Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays; Brice Turang, SS, Brewers; Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox
It’s difficult to quantify baseball smarts, but the industry clearly thinks Nick Madrigal has plenty of it as the leading vote-getter. Adley Rutschman’s acumen behind the plate is part of the reason he went No. 1 overall in last June’s Draft and it’s easy to imagine him garnering more support after teams see him on the pro side for a full season. It’s interesting to note that a pair of pitchers, MacKenzie Gore and Brendan McKay (both lefties) got votes.
Which pitching prospect is the best future closer?
1. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox (17%)
2. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays (13%)
T3. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers (9%)
T3. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros (9%)
T3. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins (9%)
Also received votes: Shane Baz, RHP, Rays; Hans Crouse, RHP, Rangers; Justin Dunn, RHP, Mariners; Luis Gil, RHP, Yankees; Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Twins; Josiah Gray, RHP, Dodgers; Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds; James Karinchak, RHP, Indians; Daniel Lynch, LHP, Royals; Luis Patino, RHP, Padres
What probably stands out the most from this vote is the fact that of the 15 pitchers who received votes, only one (James Karinchak) is currently a full-time reliever, though Brusdar Graterol did contribute in Minnesota in that role in 2019. Michael Kopech, the flame-thrower who has had command issues at times in the past and is coming back from Tommy John surgery, seems to be the perfect fit atop this board.
Who is the most underrated prospect?
1. Drew Waters, OF, Braves (15%)
T2. Brandon Marsh, OF, Angels (11%)
T2. Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs (11%)
4. Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Red Sox (7%)
Also received votes: Francisco Alvarez, C, Mets; CJ Abrams, SS, Padres; Luis Campusano, C, Padres; Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals; Jasson Dominguez, OF, Yankees; Jose Garcia, SS/2B Reds; Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Rays; Marco Luciano, SS, Giants; Brailyn Marquez, LHP, Cubs; Isaac Paredes, 3B, Tigers; Kristian Robinson, OF, D-backs; Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers; Alek Thomas, OF, D-backs; Ryan Weathers, LHP, Padres; Justin Williams, OF, Cardinals
A total of 19 prospects got votes on this one, led narrowly by Braves outfielder Drew Waters, who has been overshadowed in the system a bit, first by Ronald Acuna Jr. and now by Cristian Pache. Likewise, Brandon Marsh of the Angels has had Jo Adell in front of him. Only four of the 19 vote-getters are pitchers and, perhaps coincidentally, all are left-handed.
Who is the most overrated prospect:
T1. Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (13%)
T1. Taylor Trammell, OF, Padres (13%)
T1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals (13%)
T4. Jo Adell, OF, Angels (8%)
T4. Adonis Medina, RHP, Phillies (8%)
T4. Jesus Sanchez, OF, Marlins (8%)
Also received votes: Joey Bart, C, Giants; Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers; Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox; Cristian Pache, OF, Braves; Luis Robert, OF, White Sox; Brendan Rodgers, 2B, Rockies; Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers; Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins; Drew Waters, OF, Braves
Perhaps the most critical question in the survey, it resulted in 15 unique answers led by two former No. 2 overall picks in Hunter Greene (2018 Draft) and Bobby Witt Jr. (2019), with Taylor Trammell finishing in a tie with that duo. The most unusual name? That has to be Drew Waters, who got an overrated vote while also leading the underrated tally.
Who is the best amateur prospect you’ve ever seen?
1. Bryce Harper, OF, Phillies (23%)
2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (15%)
3. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles (8%)
Also received votes: Brady Aiken, LHP, Indians; Jasson Dominguez, OF, Yankees; Josh Donaldson, 3B, TBD; Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds; Ken Griffey Jr., OF, retired; Josh Hamilton, OF, retired; Trot Nixon, OF, retired; Shohei Otani, RHP/DH, Angels; Joe Mauer, C, retired; Manny Ramirez, OF, retired; Spencer Torkelson, INF, Arizona State; Justin Upton, OF, Angels; Justin Verlander, RHP, Astros
Based on this polling, most would have to say the Nationals got it right with their back-to-back No. 1 overall picks, right? Officials answered this question differently, likely based on their work backgrounds. Most picked former draftees (13 players), but there were also international amateur free agents (two players, including Jasson Dominguez who has yet to play a game) and a future draftee (Spencer Torkelson) from the 2020 Draft class.
What prospect will contribute the most in 2020?
1. Gavin Lux, 2B, Dodgers (35%)
2. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, A's (19%)
3. Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays (15%)
T4. Jo Adell, OF, Angels (8%)
T4. Sean Murphy, C, A's (8%)
T4. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (8%)
Also received votes: Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Red Sox; MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres
The top three, and four of the top five -- Gavin Lux, Jesus Luzardo, Brendan McKay and Sean Murphy -- all got to show what they could do during their big league debuts late in 2019 and should have ample opportunity to establish themselves as mainstays in 2020. Jo Adell and Luis Robert should be up soon enough.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.