The NL East features the best minor league system in the game in the Atlanta Braves. And it also has one of the worst with the New York Mets. The remainder of the teams in the division fall somewhere in between — although the Nationals could surprise some people with the depth that’s beginning to develop.
Things drop off really quickly for me after the first two prospects on this list.
Oh, where to start? Peter Alonso has a solid chance to be better than Dominic Smith, although the former has work to do defensively. He also needs to be more patient as he rises through the minors and wait for better balls. David Peterson looks to be a fairly polished product and has great size. If he can keep the ball down consistently, he could move quickly. However, his ceiling is more modest and likely that of a No. 3 guy rather than a true top-of-the-rotation arm. Justin Dunn is athletic and has promising stuff but he doesn’t produce as well as hoped due to the lack of consistent command/control. He takes a hit on my list because I see a potential reliever (albeit a high-leverage one). I see potential in Mark Vientos but I worry about his size pushing him to first base and the swing-and-miss in his game. Corey Oswalt could help the big league club — and soon — as a back-end starter capable of chewing up innings and keeping the ball in the park.
The Marlins organization has built up a little bit of depth in the upper levels of the minors — although a number of those players should be key contributors in The Show in 2018 due to the lack of respectable, established options. The majority of the top players have come from other systems and the Marlins system has yet to show that it can consistently develop its own talent.
1. Lewis Brinson | CF | 2018 Level: AAA
2. Sandy Alcantara | SP | 2018 Level: AAA
3. Magneuris Sierra | OF | 2018 Level: AAA
8. Brian Anderson | 3B | 2018 Level: AAA
10. Zac Gallen | SP | 2018 Level: AAA
5. Monte Harrison | OF | 2018 Level: AA
The Marlins organization has some potential building blocks in Lewis Brinson and Sandy Alcantara. Of the Marlins-drafted prospects, Brian Anderson and Brian Miller are by far the most intriguing. I’ve been a supporter of Anderson since his draft year. He’s probably not going to be flashy but has a solid chance to be at least an average big leaguer. He just needs to be a little more consistent with his swing/approach — although the increase in pop definitely helps alleviate some concern there. Alcantara, if he can improve his command/control, could be a top-of-the-rotation arm. Like Anderson, Magneuris Sierra may not be a star in the making but he has the tools necessary to develop into a solid player for The Fish. He could be fun to watch on the base paths and in the outfield. I’m encouraged by Brian Miller’s solid pro debut and with his speed he could be a solid No. 4 outfielder — or better. You have to love the arm of Jorge Guzman but he’s still incredibly raw and a long way away from The Show. He can reportedly hit 103 mph. I’m probably the biggest Zac Gallen fan you’ll find outside his family but I think he might be best suited to the ‘pen as a two- or three-inning arm while relying heavily on his cutter. The Cardinals really know how to identify pro talent and he could be the next former college player to defy the projections.
The Phillies organization tends to focus on raw, toolsy players (with the odd exception) so they have a lot of ‘Boom or Bust’ to the system.
5. JoJo Romero | SP | 2018 Level: AA
2020 and Beyond:
2. Sixto Sanchez | SP | 2018 Level: A+
6. Adonis Medina | SP | 2018 Level: A+
7. Adam Haseley | OF | 2018 Level: A+
8. Jhailyn Ortiz | RF | 2018 Level: A
9. Mickey Moniak | CF | 2018 Level: A+
10. Arquimedes Gamboa | SS | 2018 Level: A+
There are questions around Jorge Alfaro’s hit tool due to his (immense) over-aggressiveness but he has plus power and should be well above average on defence. Sixto Sanchez has a great arm and a high ceiling… but he’s still in A-ball so a lot can happen on the way to The Show. I’m worried about the struggles J.P. Crawford has experienced over the past two seasons. He’s going to be a star on defence in the majors but he might be too passive for his own good at the plate. He might be the odd player that needs to swing a little more. JoJo Romero isn’t the flashiest pitcher nor does he have enviable size but he sinks the ball and throws strikes from the left side. I see No. 3/4 starter potential — and maybe as soon as 2019. I didn’t love the Phillies’ 2017 first round pick at the time that it happened and not much has changed my mind. Adam Haseley looks like a fairly vanilla college outfield pick. He has a chance to hit but he doesn’t produce much power and he doesn’t steal bases. He also may not be a long-term center-fielder. Yet he was given $5 million as the eighth overall pick. Jhailyn Ortiz, on the other hand, was given $4 million as an international signee and he’s loaded with tools — including plus power and a strong arm. He just needs to tighten up his approach at the plate. If I’m looking for a player that could break out in Phillies system in 2018 I’m looking at young shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa.
As mentioned above, this system is getting good… and fairly quickly. However, most of the (potential) impact depth is in the lower minors rather than at the higher levels, aside from a couple of players.
8. Daniel Johnson | OF | 2018 Level: AA
2020 and Beyond:
2. Juan Soto | RF | 2018 Level: A+
3. Carter Kieboom | SS | 2018 Level: A+
4. Yasel Antuna | MIF | 2018 Level: A-
6. Wil Crowe | SP | 2018 Level: A+
7. Luis Garcia | SS | 2018 Level: R
9. Jefry Rodriguez | SP | 2018 Level: A+
The Nationals scout the international market better than almost anyone. Victor Robles is a step down from the Braves’ Ronald Acuna but he still has a chance to be one of the best young center-fielders in the game over the next 10 years. And fellow outfield prospect Juan Soto is looking to make up for lost time after getting hurt in 2017. He could be a Top 25 prospect in all of baseball by the end of this year. He doesn’t have the overall exciting game that Robles does but he has raw power to spare — and a promising hit tool. Staying in the outfield, I wrote a small piece back in 2017 on Daniel Johnson and now he shows up in the Top 10! I’m sucker for the power-speed combo and the young outfielder can really play defence, too. The Nationals are well-represented in the middle infield with Carter Kieboom leading the way. He’s exceptionally well rounded and reminds me of a young Troy Tulowitzki (without the Colorado power boost). Yasel Antuna is also well rounded and could be an excellent hitter. Luis Garcia has more room to grow with the stick but he can really pick it. Pitchers Erick Fedde and Wil Crowe are more solid than spectacular but both have the potential to be No. 4 arms in a big league rotation.
Oh, this is definitely the system and team to watch over the next five years — especially with new GM Alex Anthopoulos at the helm. The on-field product might get a little ugly in 2018 but the future is very, very bright. I can remember when we laughed and laughed at the kid on our baseball team that showed up in the Atlanta Braves cap back in 1989. And then as Tom Glavine/John Smoltz/Greg Maddux all hit their primes, he clearly got the last laugh. Those days are coming again, Atlanta friends.
1. Ronald Acuna | CF | 2018 Level: AAA
2. Mike Soroka | SP | 2018 Level: AAA
5. Max Fried | SP | 2018 Level: AAA
6. Austin Riley | 3B | 2018 Level: AA
7. Luiz Gohara | SP | 2018 Level: AAA
10. Kolby Allard | SP | 2018 Level: AAA
The strength of the system, in terms of depth, is definitely pitching. But let’s start with the best prospect in baseball in Ronald Acuna. It’s hard to envision him not becoming a star. He does a little (a lot?) of everything. His one weakness is the swing-and-miss to his game but he’s also just 20 years old and playing against players much older and more experienced than him. He could hit more than 20 homers with 40+ steals… while also threatening to hit .300. I’ve been a supporter of Austin Riley since his draft year and he’s moved swiftly through the minors despite being just 20 years old. Outfielder Cristian Pache is starting to get some love from prospect evaluators. He’s shown skill on the base paths, in the field and with the bat but he’s working hard on adding more pop to his game. Pitchers Mike Soroka and Kyle Wright lead the way with the former likely to impact the big league staff in 2018. Both have a chance to become No. 2 starter. Fellow starters Max Fried and Luiz Gohara (currently hurt) should also help this year. Fried is flashy but he could be a solid No. 4 starter. Gohara has outstanding stuff for a lefty but his lack of command and nascent changeup — not to mention lack of athleticism — could limit his ceiling a bit and cap him at No. 3 starter or (overpowering) high-leverage reliever. The club is stacked with southpaws after Gohara and Fried with Joey Wentz, Kolby Allard and Kyle Muller (who didn’t make the Top 10). I like Wentz more than most and see an innings-eating No. 3 starter if he realizes his full potential.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.