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A prospects-only team? These 4 would fare best

January 29, 2019

MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list is intended to project which players will have the most long-term success in the big leagues. But fans also want to know when these up-and-comers will get there and make an impact. One such question came via Twitter back in November: If all 30

MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list is intended to project which players will have the most long-term success in the big leagues. But fans also want to know when these up-and-comers will get there and make an impact. One such question came via Twitter back in November: If all 30 organizations had to field their Major League clubs with only their prospects, who would be the best teams in 2019?

Trying to figure out who would have the best prospect lineups for the upcoming season warranted more than just a response in our weekly Pipeline Inbox. There might be some different teams on this list if it was a question of long-term lineups or projecting, say, a 2022 lineup.
:: Complete 2019 Top 100 Prospects coverage ::
Building lineups to compete in the big leagues in 2019 using only prospects isn't easy, as not every team has a big league-ready prospect at every position, not to mention a five-man rotation that's ready to contribute this season. When there was a hole, the best prospect closest to the big leagues was chosen to fill it. And there were some instances where a prospect a bit farther away was chosen due to the belief that he'd be more productive than a player knocking on the door. 
An average of OFP (Overall Future Potential) grades has been used to rank the teams. Not surprisingly, the top four are also among the teams that are best represented on the Top 100 and are the top four in terms of Prospect Points.
Here's how the top four lineups stack up, using 2019 grades for those on the 2019 Top 100 and/or Top 10 by position lists and '18 grades for the rest (Top 30 team lists are coming in February).
1. Padres - Average OFP: 52.31
POS Name, ETA (OFP)
C: Austin Allen, 2019 (45)
1B: Josh Naylor, 2019 (50)
2B: Luis Urías, 2019 (55)
3B: Hudson Potts, 2020 (45)
SS: Fernando Tatis Jr., 2019 (70)
C/OF: Francisco Mejía, 2019 (55)
OF: Buddy Reed, 2019 (50)
OF: Edward Olivares , 2020 (45)
P: Adrian Morejon, 2020 (55)
P: Chris Paddack, 2019 (55)
P: Logan Allen, 2019 (55)
P: Cal Quantrill, 2019 (50)
P: Jacob Nix , 2019 (50)

With 10 players on the Top 100, it's not shocking in the least to see the Padres able to put together the best prospect lineup. This lineup doesn't even include Top 100 prospects who are far away (looking at you, Luis Patino), but the system is so deep and is starting to create a backlog at the upper levels of the system, a sure sign San Diego looks poised to be that next team to make the jump from rebuilder to contender.
2. White Sox - Average OFP: 51.92
POS Name, ETA (OFP)
C: Zack Collins, 2019 (50)
1B: Gavin Sheets, 2020 (50)
2B: Nick Madrigal, 2020 (55)
3B: Ti'Quan Forbes, 2020 (45)
SS: Laz Rivera, 2021 (45)
OF: Eloy Jiménez, 2019 (70)
OF: Luis Robert, 2020 (55)
OF: Luis Alexander Basabe, 2020 (50)
P: Dylan Cease, 2019 (60)
P: Dane Dunning, 2019 (55)
P: Alec Hansen, 2019 (50)
P: Kodi Medeiros, 2019 (45)
P: Jordan Stephens, 2019 (45)

The White Sox are actually third in Prospect Points and have fewer Top 100 guys than the Braves, but their ability to put a solid prospect at every position helps give them an edge. So does having a pair of players in the top 25 in Jimenez and Cease, who is the lowest-ranked player on the Top 100 with an overall 60 grade.
3. Braves - Average OFP: 51.15
POS Name, ETA (OFP)
C: William Contreras, 2021 (50)
1B: Drew Lugbauer, 2021 (45)
2B: Derian Cruz, 2021 (45)
3B: Austin Riley, 2019 (55)
SS: Ray-Patrick Didder, 2019 (45)
OF: Cristian Pache, 2020 (55)
OF: Drew Waters, 2021 (55)
OF: Greyson Jenista, 2021 (45)
P: Mike Soroka, 2019 (55)
P: Kyle Wright, 2019 (55)
P: Ian Anderson, 2020 (55)
P: Touki Toussaint, 2019 (55)
P: Bryse Wilson, 2019 (55)

If this were merely a matter of putting together a pitching staff, the Braves would top this list. All five members of this rotation are in the Top 100, and there's depth behind this quintet with arms like Luiz Gohara and Kolby Allard, who would be on any other team's all-prospect staff. Atlanta's pool of position players isn't quite as deep, a reason why we've "rushed" Waters to the big leagues a bit.
4. Rays - Average OFP: 50.00
POS Name, ETA (OFP)
C: Nick Ciuffo, 2019 (45)
1B: Nathaniel Lowe, 2019 (50)
2B: Vidal Brujan, 2020 (50)
3B: Brandon Lowe, 2019 (50)
SS: Lucius Fox, 2019 (50)
OF: Jesus Sanchez, 2019 (55)
OF: Nick Solak, 2019 (50)
OF: Joe McCarthy, 2019 (50)
P: Brent Honeywell , 2019 (55)
P: Brendan McKay, 2019 (55)
P: Shane McClanahan, 2021 (50)
P: José De León, 2019 (45)
P: Benton Moss, 2019 (45)

The Rays, like the White Sox, have a half-dozen players on the Top 100, but many of them are on this roster. Wander Franco, Ronaldo Hernandez and Matthew Liberatore are too far away to consider for this year. Honeywell is coming back from Tommy John surgery, as is De Leon, but they could both make an impact in the second half. Looking at how young and deep the system is, however, it wouldn't be too surprising to see the Rays in the top spot of this list in the years to come.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.