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Under-the-radar breakout prospects and improved farm systems

AP Photo, Icon SMI

The major league regular season might have a week and a half left in it, but its minor league counterpart has been over for a couple weeks, with instructional and fall leagues just getting underway (or about to). As such, consider this the unofficial beginning of prospect ranking season.

I'm going to take a little different tack with my minor league analysis; instead of listing my top overall positional and pitcher prospect rankings, I'm going to focus on a handful of players whom my system ranks a bit more highly than the consensus. As I've alluded to before in this space, I prepare an ordered list of rankings each season based upon a combination of performance (OBP and SLG for hitters, K/9 and K/BB for pitchers) and age relative to league and level. It basically serves as my master follow list, with traditional scouting methods than used to tweak the order.

For instance, two very young current major league hitters who ranked much higher on my prospect lists compared to many others are Brewers rookie outfielder Domingo Santana and Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor. Santana qualified for my list five straight seasons, ranking among the top 100 position players in all five, in the top 30 four times and in the top 20 twice. By contrast, he cracked Baseball America's top-100-prospects list just once, a No. 71 rank prior to this season. Similarly, Odor made only one Baseball America list -- No. 42 prior to 2014 -- while making my list three times, peaking at No. 5 before '14. At least so far, both players now appear to be fine, young major league players.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying the players below are the next Santana or Odor, but they fit the same profile as very youthful and very productive while not necessarily reaping the highest accolades from the prospect-rating community as a whole. Sure, they're considered prospects, but these guys just might be better than the industry thinks:

Under-the-radar prospects

Jake Bauers, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: The Padres selected a 17-year-old Bauers in the seventh round of the 2013 draft, then watched him excel in the low-A Midwest League in his first full professional season; his performance earned him a No. 27 position-player ranking on last year's list. They used that momentum to send him to Tampa in the Wil Myers deal, and Bauers has continued to impress, working his way up to Double-A this summer while still a teenager. He held his own, batting .276-.329-.405 in the typically pitcher-friendly Southern League, and moved up to 10th on this year's list.

Bauers' future power projection is questioned by some, though he did hit 32 doubles this season. He's a hit-before-power guy who makes contact -- his career high of K's in a season is 80 in 2014 -- who has a three-year head start on those in his high school class who didn't sign.

Harold Ramirez, RF, Pittsburgh Pirates: The average qualifying high-A Florida State League regular was 22.4 years old and batted .254-.318-.348 in 2015. That's a pitchers league, for sure. Ramirez, meanwhile, played the entire season there at age 20 and batted a gaudy .337-.399-.458; he ranks No. 6 on my position-player list. This fine offensive output wasn't exactly a new phenomenon for him, as he possesses a career .304 batting average with only 155 K's in 1,026 pro plate appearances, and he debuted on my list at No. 97 last season.