I've already looked at some of the most impressive pitching rotations in the minor leagues, so I thought it would be fair to look at some of the more impressive lineups as well. Of course, these are always subject to changes as we saw with some of the rotations I mentioned last week, as players get moved to different places in the minor league ladder.
Either way, I think it's a fun exercise to see which minor league teams have the most impressive collections of talent. I'll list the team, their MLB team that they're affiliated with, their level, and then a few of their key talents. I'll make things easy and follow the pattern of last time, going from the highest level of the farm system down. If you're like me and you get all giddy about young kids on the farm, then this is a particularly fun thing to go over. Additionally, let's remember that this is really about long-term potential and value, not about which players are actually the best in the present. Now, if I was John Sickels or something, this list would probably hold more credibility, but even so I think this can be helpful.
Sacramento, Oakland Triple-A: 1B Chris Carter (the good one), RF Michael Taylor, DH Jack Cust, 3B Adrian Cardenas, 2B Eric Sogard, OF Corey Brown
Damn... right now, this lineup is just stacked. There's not much need to talk about the first three guys on this list. Carter is one of the best hitters in the minors, he's hit 24+ homers in each of the past three seasons. That really says something when you consider that most scouts are impressed more so by his pure hitting ability than his power. Cust is likely to take over at DH in Oakland at some point this season, he's easily one of the best hitters in the organization given his power and patience.
Taylor should be in the team's everyday outfield by next season barring some unforseen event, they expect him to be a cornerstone of their offense. Cardenas, Sogard and Brown are all among the team's better young players as well. Cardenas is the best of the bunch, a potential long-term solution at some middle infield position, while Sogard and Brown have shown flashes of impressive skill. This is a lineup that's also seen Matt Carson, Josh Donaldson and Dallas McPherson pass through, too. With the Kings kind of sucking (although Tyreke Evans is rather horrifying and beats ass in 2K10) and little else to do in terms of sporting events in Sac-Town, the River Cats should offer some pretty good baseball.
Indianapolis, Pittsburgh Triple-A: 3B Pedro Alvarez, CF Jose Tabata, LF Neil Walker, 1B Steve Pearce, RF Brandon Moss, SS Argenis Diaz
We all know about Alvarez by now, he leads the team in home runs and few doubt that he'll be one of the best hitters in the NL eventually. Tabata is still a highly-regarded prospect, and he's off to a nice start this season although questions still remain about his power potential and work ethic. Walker, Pearce and Moss all were once considered quality prospects at some point, but each is entering their primes and has yet to emerge as a legitimate everyday option at the ML level. Diaz came over from Boston in the Adam LaRoche deal last season and continues to flash a plus glove at short, but it's not likely that he'll ever be able to cut it offensively in the majors.
Charlotte, Chicago (AL) Triple-A: C Tyler Flowers, 1B Dayan Viciedo, CF Jordan Danks, 2B C.J. Retherford, SS Brent Lillibridge, LF Armando De Aza
The big name here is Flowers, who came over in the Javier Vazquez deal and could potentially take over for A.J. Pierzynski at catcher either at some point this season or beginning next season. He's an offense-first catcher, but he's improved his defense a good deal and should be able to stick there for at least the first portion of his career. Viciedo and Danks have gotten a lot of attention, but both have struggled to live up to high expectations. They're both still good prospects though, as each is young and has a lot of room for improvement. Retherford is one of the less-heralded prospects in the organization, but he's thrived professionally after signing with the club as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He has the look of a quailty utility infielder and possibly more, the type of role that they hoped that Lillibridge could fill. De Aza gives the team another outfield option in the minors with some ability, he's thrived in the upper minors but hasn't stuck with an MLB team.
Louisville, Cincinnati Triple-A: LF Todd Frazier, DH Juan Francisco, 2B Chris Valaika, 3B Drew Sutton, RF Wladimir Balentien, SS Zack Cozart
Frazier is arguably the team's best position player prospect, a talented all-around hitter that should find a spot in Cincinnati's lineup soon even though he's struggled to find a position in the pros. Francisco has some of the biggest power in the minors, but also some massive holes in his game that could prevent him from taking advantage of his bat speed. I've already talked about how much I like Balentien before, so that's not really worth getting into. Cozart has a good glove at short but serious questions about how his bat will play, while Sutton and Valaika were both once viewed as good prospects but now project more as bench players. Still, this is a lineup with a lot of depth, and it could get even more impressive soon if Yonder Alonso is called up from Double-A.
Norfolk, Baltimore Triple-A: 3B Josh Bell, 1B Brandon Snyder, LF Michael Aubrey, SS Robert Andino, 2B Scott Moore
The lineup has struggled so far but has a ton of potential. Bell and Snyder are two of the team's best hitting prospects, with Bell regarded as one of the best prospects in the game. Aubrey has flashed some offensive upside in the upper minors, and the team has a nice laundry list of veterans and non-prospects, which include Andino, Moore, Corey Patterson, Joey Gathright, Jeff Salazar and Justin Turner.
West Tennessee, Seattle Double-A: 2B Dustin Ackley, SS Carlos Triunfel, 3B Alex Liddi, RF Carlos Peguero, DH Mike Wilson
Ackley has been called the best college hitter of the past 20 years by some scouts, and while he's had some trouble adjusting to Double-A pitching, few people doubt that he'll compete for some batting titles in the majors. Triunfel has been one of the team's top prospects for years, yet he's only 20, and while he's not likely to stick at short he's still got enough bat to play elsewhere. Liddi is pretty raw but has some huge upside, as does Peguero, who's out to prove that his monster 2009 (31 HR in A ball) wasn't a fluke with 10 home runs in his first 23 games. Wilson isn't much of a prospect but his thrived thus far.
Daytona, Chicago (NL) High Single-A: 3B Josh Vitters, CF Brett Jackson, RF Kyler Burke, 2B D.J. LeMaheiu, SS Junior Lake, 1B/DH Matt Spencer
I might be a little biased as a Chicagoan, but there's a lot to get excited about with this lineup. Vitters and Jackson are big-time upside prospects that are routinely regarded as among the best in the game. Burke emerged the past couple years as a pretty good prospect after coming over from the Padres in the Michael Barrett deal. Lake and LeMaheiu are just two guys in the team's impressive stable of middle infield prospects, which includes Starlin Castro, Hak-Ju Lee, Ryan Flaherty, Darwin Barney and Logan Watkins. Spencer came over in the Jake Fox/Jeff Gray deal, and has some nice power potential, too. A lot of the guys on this team are struggling right now, but there's still some serious upside in this group.
Lakewood, Philadelphia Low Single-A: RF Domingo Santana, C Sebastian Valle, CF Jiwan James, LF Anthony Hewitt, DH Leandro Castro
None of these guys are elite prospects yet, but few teams can boast a Single-A lineup with more upside than this one. Santana, James, Castro and Hewitt make up a freakishly athletic outfield. All three are raw and need to work on their hitting, especially the former first round pick Hewitt, but any of them could emerge as top prospects soon. Valle is one of the team's best prospects as well, ranking in the team's top 7 for BA, BPro and John Sickels, with huge power potential and the ability to stick behind the plate. Some of the bigger names are struggling right now, but these guys are mostly about projection at this point, anyways.
Some other impressive lineups...
- Columbus, Cleveland Triple-A: C Carlos Santana, LF Michael Brantley, 2B Jason Donald, DH Shelley Duncan, 1B Wes Hodges, RF Jordan Brown, OF Trevor Crowe, SS Brian Bixler
- Salt Lake, Los Angeles (AL) Triple-A: C Hank Conger, CF Peter Bourjos, 1B Mark Trumbo, SS Kevin Frandsen, RF Terry Evans, 2B Freddy Sandoval
- Omaha, Kansas City Triple-A: LF Alex Gordon (weird, I know..), 1B Kila Ka'aihue, RF Jordan Parraz, OF David Lough, CF Jai Miller
- Durham, Tampa Bay Triple-A: RF Desmond Jennings, CF Fernando Perez, 3B Hank Blalock, LF Justin Ruggiano, DH Ryan Shealy, 1B Dan Johnson
- Las Vegas, Toronto Triple-A: 1B Brett Wallace, C J.P. Arencibia, DH Brian Dopirak, OF Jeremy Reed, 2B Jarrett Hoffpauir, LF Chris Lubanski
- Akron, Cleveland Double-A: 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, LF Nick Weglarz, SS Carlos Rivero, 1B Beau Mills, C Wyatt Toregas
- Huntsville, Milwaukee Double-A: 2B Brett Lawrie, CF Lorenzo Cain, RF Caleb Gindl, 3B Taylor Green
- Richmond, San Francisco Double-A: LF Thomas Neal, RF Roger Kieschnick, SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Conor Gillespie, CF Darren Ford, 2B Nick Noonan
- Portland, Boston Double-A: SS Jose Iglesias, LF Ryan Kalish, 3B Yamaico Navarro, CF Che-Hsuan Lin, C Luis Exposito, RF Jason Place
- South Bend, Arizona Low Single-A: 3B Bobby Borchering, SS Chris Owings, DH Matt Davidson, CF Keon Broxton, 2B David Nick
- Clinton, Seattle Low Single-A: 2B Gabriel Noriega, SS Nick Franklin, 1B Dennis Raben, 3B Mario Martinez, C Steven Baron
- We covered a lot of lineups here, but I'm far from a prospect expert so I'm sure that there are some nice collections of talent that I glazed over and missed. If you want to toss them into the comments, go right ahead.