When A.J. Preller took over as the Padres' general manager in August 2014, he hoped to return the club to contention instantly. In his first four months on the job, he traded a slew of prospects -- including Jake Bauers, Zach Eflin, Max Fried, Joe Ross, Mallex Smith and Trea Turner -- and young big leaguers for veterans who could provide immediate help.
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That plan didn't work as hoped, so Preller did a 180 after San Diego went 74-88 in his first full season at the helm. On consecutive days in November 2015, he dealt Joaquin Benoit to the Mariners for two prospects (most notably, Enyel de los Santos) and Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox for four more (including Manuel Margot and Logan Allen). Ever since, the Padres have been stockpiling Minor League talent via the Draft, the international market and more trades.
San Diego hasn't had a payoff at the big league level yet, but it should in the next couple of years. It topped MLB Pipeline's farm system rankings in March and continues to do so five months later.
The Padres' system is only getting stronger. They had another strong Draft, headlined by left-hander Ryan Weathers and shortstop Xavier Edwards, and acquired the best prospect who changed addresses in July, trading Brad Hand and Adam Cimber for catcher/outfielder Francisco Mejia. They've also had several farmhands take huge steps forward, including right-handers Chris Paddack and Luis Patino and outfielder Buddy Reed.
:: Top 10 Farm Systems ::
Here is MLB Pipeline's updated ranking of the top 10 farm systems
Prospect Points are determined by awarding a team 100 points for the No. 1 prospect on the Top 100 list, 99 points for No. 2 and so on, down to one point for No. 100. Points are then tallied by team.
Preseason rank: 1
Top 100 Prospects (8): SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 2), LHP Mackenzie Gore (No. 11), C/OF Francisco Mejia (No. 21), 2B/SS Luis Urias (No. 22), RHP Chris Paddack (No. 49), LHP Adrian Morejon (No. 50), RHP Michel Baez (No. 62), LHP Logan Allen (No. 88)
Padres Top 30 list
Prospect points (MLB rank): 503 (1st)
The Padres have it all. They have three elite hitting prospects in Tatis, Mejia and Urias and plenty of mound depth beginning with Gore, the best left-handed pitching prospect in the game. San Diego's eight Top 100 Prospects, a total that ranks second only to Atlanta's nine, testify to its fine work on the trade (Tatis, Mejia, Paddack, Allen) and international (Urias, Morejon, Baez) fronts. The Padres not only have the best system but also the deepest, and they'd still fit among the top 10 systems even without their Top 100 guys.
Video: Top Prospects: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres
Preseason rank: 2
Top 100 Prospects (9): RHP Mike Soroka (No. 15), RHP Kyle Wright (No. 24), RHP Ian Anderson (No. 39), 3B Austin Riley (No. 43), OF Cristian Pache (No. 57), LHP Luiz Gohara (No. 61), RHP Touki Toussaint (No. 76), LHP Kolby Allard (No. 91), OF Drew Waters (No. 99)
Braves Top 30 list
Prospect points: 404 (3rd)
Despite graduating superstars-in-the-making Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies to Atlanta in the past year, the Braves still lead all teams with nine Top 100 Prospects. The strength of their system is pitching, much of it acquired via first-round picks (Soroka, Wright, Anderson, Allard) and extending well past their Top 100 arms to left-handers Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller plus right-hander Bryse Wilson, among others.
3. White Sox
Preseason rank: 3
Top 100 Prospects (7): OF Eloy Jimenez (No. 3), RHP Michael Kopech (No. 13), OF Luis Robert (No. 25), 2B/SS Nick Madrigal (No. 32), RHP Dylan Cease (No. 44), RHP Dane Dunning (No. 64), OF Blake Rutherford (No. 89)
White Sox Top 30 list
Prospect points: 437 (2nd)
Of the White Sox's seven Top 100 Prospects, five were acquired via trade: Jimenez, Kopech, Cease, Dunning, Rutherford. General Manager Rick Hahn has navigated the early stages of rebuilding well, though he surely wishes he hadn't parted with Fernando Tatis Jr. to acquire James Shields from the Padres. Chicago may have added the two best college hitters from the 2018 Draft in Madrigal and outfielder Steele Walker, and is investing heavily internationally in talents such as Robert and outfielder Micker Adolfo.
Video: Eloy Jimenez on fitting in with Triple-A Charlotte
Preseason rank: 4
Top 100 Prospects (5): RHP Brent Honeywell (No. 23), LHP/1B Brendan McKay (No. 29), OF Jesus Sanchez (No. 31), SS, Wander Franco (No. 40), LHP Matthew Liberatore (No. 66)
Rays Top 30 list
Prospect points (MLB rank): 316 (4th)
The only team on this list to graduate three Top 100 Prospects (Willy Adames, Jake Bauers, Christian Arroyo) to the Majors this year, the Rays are still going strong. Honeywell is in the process of recovering from Tommy John surgery, but two-way star McKay has been impressive on the mound and international signees Sanchez and Franco continue to rise in stature. Tampa Bay restocked with three 2018 first-round pick in Liberatore, left-hander Shane McClanahan and outfielder Nick Schnell, and it's rumored to be getting a Top 100-caliber prospect from the Pirates as the player to be named in the Chris Archer trade.
5. Blue Jays
Preseason rank: 9
Top 100 Prospects (5): 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (No. 1), SS/2B Bo Bichette (No. 9), C Danny Jansen (No. 73), RHP Nate Pearson (No. 90), OF Anthony Alford (No. 92)
Blue Jays Top 30 list
Prospect points: 240 (7th)
Guerrero is the best prospect in baseball and Bichette isn't far off. While those sons of former big league stars hog most of the spotlight in the Jays system, there's also plenty of promising pitchers such as Pearson and right-handers Eric Pardinho, Sean Reid-Foley and recent trade acquisition Hector Perez. Third baseman/shortstop Jordan Groshans and righty Adam Kloffenstein, teammates at Magnolia (Texas) High, highlight a strong 2018 Draft.
Video: Top Prospects: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays
Preseason rank: unranked
Top 100 Prospects (4): SS Royce Lewis (No. 10), OF Alex Kirilloff (No. 30), SS/2B Nick Gordon (No. 74), RHP Brusdar Graterol (No. 79)
Twins Top 30 list
Prospect points: 211 (9th)
The only organization on this list that didn't crack our 2017 midseason or '18 preseason Top 10s, the Twins are firing all cylinders. Recent early Draft picks Lewis, Kirilloff, Gordon, Outfielder Trevor Larnach and first baseman/outfielder Brent Rooker all are playing well. International signees like Graterol and left-hander Lewis Thorpe are thriving, and Minnesota made some sneaky good moves at the Trade Deadline to land prospects such as right-handers Jorge Alcala and Jhoan Duran and outfielder Gilberto Celestino.
Video: Callis ranks the Twins' farm system
Preseason rank: 8
Top 100 Prospects (4): 3B/2B Nick Senzel (No. 4), RHP Hunter Greene (No. 18), OF Taylor Trammell (No. 19), 3B Jonathan India (No. 55)
Reds Top 30 list
Prospect points: 308 (5th)
With sweet-swinging Senzel, flamethrowing Greene and super-toolsy Trammell, the Reds are the only system that features three of the game's 20 best prospects. It's a top-heavy system that stands out more for its potential superstars than its depth, though India was the No. 5 overall choice in June and right-hander Tony Santillan, catcher Tyler Stephenson and second baseman/shortstop Jeter Downs are making a push for the Top 100.
Preseason rank: 10
Top 100 Prospects (4): OF Alex Verdugo (No. 28), C Keibert Ruiz (No. 37), C/3B Will Smith (No. 72), RHP Dustin May (No. 81)
Dodgers Top 30 list
Prospect points: 186 (11th)
Even after making Yusniel Diaz the centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade with the Orioles, the Dodgers have a deep stock of position players. That group begins with one of the best pure hitting prospects around (Verdugo) and baseball's best pair of catching phenoms (Ruiz, Smith), then continues with shortstop/second baseman Gavin Lux and catcher Diego Cartaya, the top-rated international talent on the 2018-19 market. May is having a breakout year on the mound, and right-handers Dennis Santana, Mitchell White and Yadiel Alvarez all have made past Top 100s.
Preseason rank: unranked
Top 100 Prospects (3): RHP Forrest Whitley (No. 7), OF Kyle Tucker (No. 8), OF Yordan Alvarez (No. 41)
Astros Top 30 list
Prospect points: 247 (6th)
Whitley is the game's best pitching prospect and he and Tucker rival Tatis/Gore (Padres) and Jimenez/Kopech (White Sox) as the best hitter/pitcher prospect duo. Alvarez is another potent corner-outfield bat and could be the Astros' long-term solution at first base. Houston is showing a knack for getting the most out of its young pitchers, with left-hander Cionel Perez and right-handers Corbin Martin and Josh James among those who have taken their game to a new level this year.
Video: Top Prospects: Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros
Preseason rank: 6
Top 100 Prospects (4): LHP Justus Sheffield (No. 27), OF Estevan Florial (No. 46), RHP Jonathan Loaisiga (No. 75), RHP Albert Abreu (No. 77)
Yankees Top 30 list
Prospect points: 179 (12th)
The Yankees continue to bring young players to New York (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are their most recent additions) and to trade prospects for veterans (Zach Britton, J.A. Happ, Lance Lynn and Luke Voit all arrived in July). Yet they still have one of baseball's deeper systems and seem to have a never-ending supply of pitching prospects: Sheffield, Loaisiga, Abreu, right-handers Domingo Acevedo, Clark Schmidt, Trevor Stephan, Luis Medina and on and on and on.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.