The second half of January is a multi-week holiday for many die-hard baseball fans who follow prospect coverage closely and Thursday fit right in as ESPN's Keith Law released his list of the ten best prospects on each of the 15 American League teams (AL East, AL Central, AL West).
Now a good portion of the players listed won't come as a surprise to those who read Law's organization rankings on Monday and his Top 100 list on Tuesday, but a few things stand out as he digs into the details of Junior Circuit.
The AL East features a couple of strong systems, Boston and Baltimore, but the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays are lacking depth and top end talent. The Red Sox are led by Xander Bogaerts, whom Law considers to be the second best prospect in baseball, but even the eighth and ninth best prospects in the Red Sox's system figure to contribute at the big league level in 2014. On the other hand, not only does Law see a lack of elite talent in the Yankees system, he doesn't expect anyone from their farm system to play a major role with the big club this season.
In the Central, the story is a bit different. While the White Sox are a weak system overall, according to Law, their "system is in the best shape of its life -- or at least since I started compiling these rankings." Law's remarks about the Tigers aren't nearly as positive:
Nick Castellanos is going to be a very good big leaguer, but after him, there's at least an argument that they don't have a future-average prospect in the system -- a pessimistic argument, to be sure, but not a wildly unreasonable one.
The Indians system is also a little thin behind Francisco Lindor, but the Royals and Twins make up for their division mates' lack of depth with some impressive lists of their own. Not only did four Royals make his Top 100, led by Kyle Zimmer, but he has good things to say about players outside of their top ten as well. The Twins are even better, according to Law, who like everyone else, has Byron Buxton at as the best prospect in the league, but can also call on Miguel Sano and a host of power arms coming through the system to place the entire organization among the best in baseball at the minor league level.
Out in the AL West, there isn't a whole lot about which to get excited unless you're an Astros fan. Law slots the Rangers behind them in the division, but sees them as having a high variance system in which there are "a lot of guys who could be All-Stars but who also have substantial chances to flame out in Double-A."
While the Marines system on the whole doesn't blow Law away, he does make mention of Gabriel Guerrero, who is young outfielder with raw power and a good work ethic. He also happens to be Vlad Guerror's nephew, if that makes anyone feel old.
All told, there are a number of American League teams who feature high end talent and depth in the farm systems, but there are also quite a few teams whose top ten lists looking relatively empty, which makes sense considering the disproportionate number of American League teams whose ranked in the bottom third of the league overall.
Law's National League lists come out on Friday.