To kick off my look at the best prospects in the minor leagues this week, I've ranked all 30 MLB farm systems from top to bottom, considering only the players who are currently in their systems and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. (I use the same criterion for the individual player rankings that will be posted over the next three days.)
Similar to last year, there are only a handful of systems that combine both a few high-impact or high-ceiling prospects and also have depth down to and past the end of their top 10 list. (My top 10 rankings by team will be released on Thursday and Friday.)
Many systems ranked in the teens boast a couple of very good prospects -- say, one or two guys who project as above-average regulars, and another two or three who might be everyday guys -- and then it's bench parts and relievers. Those players are good to have, as you'd much rather fill those spots with minimum-salaried players than have to reach out to free agency, but their asset value is much lower than the values of prospects who project as average or better.
One last point: Of my top 10 farm systems, only three are "large market" teams (although the proper term would be "high revenue"). Scouting and player development are still the best way to build a competitive major league team, and while some extra money in scouting helps, success in either area is far more a function of the people you employ than the money you throw at the players. Good organizations hire and retain good people, enact strong processes and then execute them -- even when fans or writers don't see the big picture.
On the one hand, when you pick first overall every year, you should probably end up with a pretty good farm system, and the Astros' top five prospects are all first-round picks. On the other hand, the Astros have done everything they needed to do to restock what was a few years ago the worst system in the majors, like exceeding MLB's recommended signing bonuses for Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz in 2012, or landing prospects like Jonathan Singleton, Domingo Santana and Asher Wojciechowski in trades.