MLB Pipeline released their Top Farm Systems of 2018 and it just so happens that the two teams I follow the most are the top two on the list: the Atlanta Braves at #2 and the San Diego Padres at #1.
While I, of course, take this news with some happiness – often synonymous with “great farm system” is often “horrible at the Major League Level”. Fortunately, for both teams, many of these great prospects are already trickling through to that major league level and ready to make impacts in 2018.
Prospects indeed are just that until they reach the big leagues and produce. Ken Griffey Jr became the first ever #1 pick to make the Hall of Fame (Chipper Jones will be the second), which sounds surprising when you do consider the First-Year Player Draft has been around since 1963. With the advance of scouting and metrics that track record may be improving with recent number 1’s who seem to be living up to the billing with Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole, and Carlos Correa on the #1 list as well.
So back to the Padres and Braves. You could make the argument that both teams got to this list through some shady circumstances. The Braves were rocked this year with a General Manager scandal that got John Coppolella kicked out of baseball that overshadowed the Padres’ own scandal last year which involved two versions of medical records on players…
The Atlanta Braves have one of the most buzzed about prospects not named Shohei Ohtani in all of Major League Baseball in Ronald Acuna. He is just 20 years old and while he might not start the season in the majors so the Braves can keep his MLB service time down, he will certainly be making an impact at some point this season. The Braves have pitching up and down their system, with a talent like Matt Wisler on the fringe as guys like Aaron Blair, Sean Newcombe and Max Fried all likely to get major league time this season. Hall of Fame inductee Chipper Jones has also been in camp this spring helping Austin Riley as he seeks to be the Braves third baseman of the future.
The Padres meanwhile – who come in at #1 – also have a depth of talent throughout their system. The big league club had a key moment this off season as they signed Eric Hosmer and rumors circulate that they might be heading after Jake Arrieta. Their positional players seem stronger all the way around than I can recall in recent memory, and while pitching is the glaring weakness, getting Arrieta could go a long way to accelerate that process. 2019 will likely be when we start seeing Padres prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr, Cal Quantrill and others, while guys like Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje and Hunter Renfroe are in their second year on the big league club and 2018 will be key to their development.
Prospects are only prospects – but every World Series winner of the last few years has been led by a mix of veterans and rookies – who at one time were just called prospects. The Braves and Padres may not do much in 2018, but if just a few of these prospects pan out they might be making waves sooner than later.