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How the Top 30 Prospects lists were built

Top two farms systems -- Dodgers and Braves -- constructed in entirely different ways
March 18, 2016

There's more than one way to build a farm system. The Dodgers, No. 1 in MLBPipeline's rankings of Minor League talent, acquired 17 members of their Top 30 Prospects list via the Draft, signed eight internationally and traded for five. Coincidentally, those three numbers align almost perfectly with the industry

There's more than one way to build a farm system. The Dodgers, No. 1 in MLBPipeline's rankings of Minor League talent, acquired 17 members of their Top 30 Prospects list via the Draft, signed eight internationally and traded for five. Coincidentally, those three numbers align almost perfectly with the industry average.
The No. 2 Braves, by contrast, are the only organization that originally signed fewer than half of their Top 30 Prospects, acquiring 16 in trades and another via the Rule 5 Draft. The No. 3 Rangers have mined the international market as well as anyone, tying for the lead with 12 foreign signees among their Top 30 Prospects.
With that in mind, we thought it would be instructive to take a look at which systems stand out the most in a variety of categories, based on the composition of their Top 30 Prospects lists (all of which can be found at MLBPipeline's Prospect Watch).

Most drafted players: Giants, 26 (industry average: 18)
San Francisco's farm system rarely gets rave reviews, yet it keeps cranking out big leaguers who fuel World Series championships. The first three players on the Giants' Top 30 are the club's top picks in the past three Drafts: shortstop Christian Arroyo and right-handers Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford. San Francisco often finds steals in the later rounds -- see Matt Duffy (18th round) and Sergio Romo (28th round) -- and could have more on the way in righty Jordan Johnson (23rd round) and outfielder/second baseman Hunter Cole (26th round) from the 2014 Draft.
Most international signees: Nationals and Rangers, 12 (industry average: 7)
Texas is known for its aggressive international spending, which has yielded premium talents such as outfielders Nomar Mazara ($4.95 million), Jairo Beras ($4.5 million) and Leodys Taveras ($2.1 million), left-hander Yohander Mendez ($1.5 million) and middle infielders Yeyson Yrizzari ($1.35 million) and Andy Ibanez ($1.6 million). The Rangers' best international pitching prospect is right-hander Ariel Jurado, a relative bargain at $50,000.
Washington built its international crop in the opposite fashion. The Nats' top foreign prospects all received modest bonuses: outfielder Victor Robles signed for $225,000, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez for $17,000, middle infielder Wilmer Difo for $20,000 and catcher Pedro Severino for $55,000. The lone seven-figure international bonus on their Top 30 went to outfielder Juan Soto, who signed for $1.5 million last summer.
Most trade acquisitions: Braves, 16 (industry average: 5)
President of baseball operations John Hart and general manager John Coppolella are rebuilding Atlanta by dealing for youngsters. Since Hart joined the franchise in September 2014, the Braves have traded for eight of their current best 11 prospects: shortstop Dansby Swanson; left-handers Sean Newcomb, Manny Banuelos and Max Fried; righties Aaron Blair, Touki Toussaint and Tyrell Jenkins; and outfielder Mallex Smith.
Most 2016-17 ETAs: Astros and Giants, 21 (industry average: 16)
After graduating Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers to the big leagues a year ago, Houston has a lot more talent on the way. A.J. Reed and Tyler White are competing for playing time at first base and designated hitter right now, and shortstop Alex Bregman, right-hander Francis Martes and third baseman Colin Moran could be playing significant roles by 2017. Most of San Francisco's better prospects are set to arrive next year -- Arroyo, Beede and Sam Coonrod -- but outfielder Mac Williamson, lefties Josh Osich and Adalberto Mejia and righty Clayton Blackburn could play supporting roles this year.
Most 2018-20 ETAs: Blue Jays, 21 (industry average: 14)
Toronto thinned out its system by dealing 11 pitching prospects last July to acquire Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Mark Lowe and Ben Revere. The Jays' two best prospects (outfielder Anthony Alford and Conner Greene) might be ready in 2017, but the vast majority of their most promising phenoms are farther down the road.
Most catching prospects: Nationals, 4 (industry average: 2)
While Washington leads all teams with four Top 30 backstops, Severino, Jakson Reetz, Spencer Kieboom and Raudy Read all project more as backups than regulars unless they improve at the plate. The Pirates have only two catchers on their Top 30, but both Reese McGuire and Elias Diaz rank among the six best catching prospects in the game.
Most infield prospects: Mets, 13 (industry average: 8)
Though first baseman Dominic Smith is New York's best infield prospect, it's shortstop depth that distinguishes its system. The Mets have eight shortstops on their Top 30, led by Top 100 Prospects Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini.
Most outfield prospects: Angels, Brewers and Phillies, 9 (industry average: 6)
The Halos may have baseball's consensus worst farm system, but at least they have some depth in outfielders, the most notable of whom is Jahmai Jones. Philadelphia has three Top 100 outfielders (Nick Williams, Cornelius Randolph and Roman Quinn), and Milwaukee has two (Brett Phillips and Trent Clark).
Most position prospects: Mets, Nationals and Rays, 19 (industry average: 15)
Interestingly, the best prospect in each organization is a pitcher: Steven Matz for New York, Lucas Giolito for Washington and Blake Snell (followed by another arm, Brett Honeywell) for Tampa Bay. But these teams have plenty of star position talent, too. The Mets put the three aforementioned infielders on the Top 100, the Nats possess two dynamic up-the-middle guys in shortstop Trea Turner and Victor Robles, and the Rays have a number of intriguing bats led by shortstop Willy Adames, outfielder Garrett Whitley and first baseman Jake Bauers.
Most pitching prospects: Giants, 20 (industry average: 16)
Known for its ability to develop arms, San Francisco has a slew of pitching in its system, starting with two-time first-rounders Beede and Bickford. They're two of the Giants' baseball-leading 16 Top 30 right-handers, and the Indians and Twins have the most lefties with seven each. Minnesota's Tyler Jay made the Top 100, and Cleveland's Brady Aiken and Justus Sheffield just missed.

Jim Callis is a reporter for Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.