A year ago, the Atlanta Braves finished the season with 90 losses, 25 games out of first place in the National League East. Over in the American League West, the A's finished in last place, 26 games out, with 87 losses. Now both are headed to the postseason, Atlanta for
A year ago, the Atlanta Braves finished the season with 90 losses, 25 games out of first place in the National League East. Over in the American League West, the A's finished in last place, 26 games out, with 87 losses. Now both are headed to the postseason, Atlanta for the first time since 2013, Oakland for the first time since '14.
Something else those two teams have in common is that their farm systems were recently ranked among the best in baseball. The A's were No. 6 on our 2017 midseason Top 10 and No. 7 on the '18 preseason list. Since preseason '16, there have been six Top 10s published, and the Braves have ranked first or second on all but one of those.
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And this trend isn't limited to those two teams. Every team that has ranked in the top two on the five lists from preseason 2015 through preseason '17 -- the Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Brewers, Braves and Yankees -- will play in the '18 postseason if the standings don't change.
And a look back at the past decade alone reveals several other examples, with the Rays, Giants, Royals and Astros all using their highly touted farms to reach the World Series and, in the case of the latter three, bring home a World Series championship.
So which team could be the next year's rags-to-riches story? Here's a look at five clubs that look poised to turn things around in a hurry, Braves or A's style.
(Hat tip to @Stubbs_14 for submitting this question for the weekly MLB Pipeline Inbox. We liked it so much that we thought it deserved its own story.)
1. San Diego Padres
The Padres will finish in last place in the NL West and have posted back-to-back 90-plus-loss seasons. But there's good reason to be optimistic. Not only has their farm system been the top-rated one on both our preseason and midseason lists this season (not to mention fourth and third in 2017 preseason and midseason lists, respectively), but it's already sending talent to San Diego.
Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi are two left-handers establishing themselves as big leaguers this year, both as original Padres draftees. Franmil Reyes, an international signing, and Christian Villanueva, signed as a Minor League free agent, have made big offensive contributions as rookies as well. Top prospects Francisco Mejia and Luis Urias will undoubtedly play large roles in 2019. And there's a lot more to come. No. 1 prospectFernando Tatis Jr. could very well be the next phenom to break through to the big leagues, Josh Naylor's bat could be ready soon and toolsy outfielder Buddy Reed might not be that far behind. On the mound, seeing Chris Paddack, Michael Baez, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill (listed in order of ranking) being ready to help out next season is completely reasonable.
"Our scouting staff continues to acquire as much talent as possible," Padres farm director Sam Geaney said. "They've kept us plenty busy so we keep our heads down and don't look too far ahead. But seeing some of our own guys make it to the big leagues and make adjustments has buoyed us and given us confidence. It helps us crystallize where we want to go in the next couple of years.
"It can happen very quickly. We have very young players, but we can move them quickly. They can see with their own eyes, and they hear it from us, that if we're going to get better, it's going to come from here."
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2. Chicago White Sox
Like the Padres, the White Sox have given a number of very young players significant playing time in the big leagues, albeit with fewer rookies. If some of them -- especially the former elite-level prospects like Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada-- can find a better level of consistency, that will go a long way toward helping Chicago move in the right direction. Unfortunately, the White Sox will be without Michael Kopech for all of 2019 following his Tommy John surgery, but top prospectEloy Jimenez is more than ready and Dylan Cease could be prepared to pick up the slack from Kopech on the mound from a farm system that has ranked in the top three in all four rankings of '17 and '18.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays finished with 86 losses in 2017, 17 games out of first; they were at 87 losses with four games remaining this year. Fans in Toronto have been getting to see all sorts of young players at the highest level, from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to, more recently, Danny Jansen and Rowdy Tellez. Baseball's No. 1 overall prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., should be an American League Rookie of the Year Award candidate next year, with Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio not far behind him. The Blue Jays' system, ranked No. 5 in our midseason top 10 this year, doesn't have the high-end pitching to make a huge turnaround seem as feasible, though Sean Reid-Foley should continue to pitch in the rotation and former first-round pick T.J. Zeuch could be ready at some point in '19.
4. Minnesota Twins
The Twins are a tough bunch to figure out. They became the first Major League team to go from 100 or more losses one season to the postseason the following year with their run to the AL Wild Card Game in 2017, but they'll finish under .500 again this season. There's still exciting young talent in Minnesota, and there's plenty more to come from the No. 6 farm system in our midseason rankings. Guys like Nick Gordon and Stephen Gonsalves could get looked at from the get-go in '19, with Brent Rooker not far behind. And while it might be '20 before the top two guys, Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, truly get a chance, they're talented enough to force the organization's hand and provide a lift in the second half next year.
5. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have been in our top 10 in three of our past four rankings, but never higher than seventh. It has fed players up to the big leagues and this year yielded rookies like Jesse Winker and Tyler Mahle. A heathy Nick Senzel (No. 1 on the Reds Top 30) will be ready to help out in 2019 and right-hander Tony Santillan might be ready to take the next step, but with more help a bit further away, '19 might be a nice step forward with '20 being a more realistic time for a true turnaround.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.