The Top 10 contains teams that one would expect to see there because of their haul of top picks thanks to their lousy finishes of the last several years, like the Twins (1st), Cubs (2nd), Pirates (3rd), and Astros (7th, and about to make a quantum leap when they choose Carlos Rodon in the June draft), as well as perennial shrewd developers of domestic and international talent like the Red Sox (4th), Cards (7th), and Rangers (9th).
In assessing the state of the Blue Jays system, Parks astutely observes:
Despite a recent penchant for using prospects as currency to acquire major-league talent, the Jays system remains thick with high-ceiling players on both sides of the ball.
It's hard to argue with that logic, of course.
GM Alex Anthopolous emptied the system of much of its upper-level talent over the last half on 2012 in deals with the Astros, Marlins, and Mets. This fit with AA's "roll the dice" strategy of drafting high-risk, high-reward prospects. Dealing top prospects was likely a calculated gamble that the wellspring of talent drafted that year and in 2011 would quickly bubble up to the surface to eventually replace them.
Parks stated that the Jays have "some of the best young prospect depth in baseball," and that as this talent base progresses to full season ball this year and next, the system should easily find its way into the top 10.
So, why not rank the Jays' system higher, given this plethora of prospects at the lower levels ?
As Keith Law observed, lower level talent is great, but it's just that, and isn't valued as much as higher level talent is. Players in rookie ball are that much further away from the majors, and it's tough to get a read on most short season players and their relatively small sample sizes against sometimes uneven competition. Full season ball is where players get exposed, or face adversity and learn how to deal with it (Law has the Jays system ranked 24th for this reason - he too likes the young talent, but can't place a high value on it).
Just the same, Parks is enthused, as is the Star's Richard Griffin. Griffin, in reporting on the camp the Jays are holding right now for their elite prospects, noted that 22 of the top 30 Baseball America Blue Jays prospects are 22 or younger, the highest total in the majors. AA started on a total reboot of the system, starting with that deadline deal with the Astros in 2012, and we're just starting to see the fruits of that rebuild beginning to make their way up the rungs of the minor league ladder.
Parks is very high on the potential Lansing Lugnuts roster this season, and terms them the Jays' "must-see" affiliate. We more than concur, and have studied the Lugnuts schedule at length in planning a lengthy road trip to take in a few games this summer. Lansing could feature top talent like Alberto Tirado, DJ Davis, Chase DeJong, Jairo Labourt, Mitch Nay, Matt Dean, and possibly even Rowdy Tellez. Parks labels Nay and righthander Miguel Cairo as breakout candidates for 2014.
Nice to think about a summer trip to Michigan during yet another lengthy Southern Ontario cold snap in the seemingly endless winter of 2014.
Parks' article can be found here, while Griffin's can be accessed here. Check out the Lugnuts schedule here
Lansing is about a 4 1/2 hour drive from the GTA. No doubt there will be more than a few Ontario license plates there this summer.