MLB Prospect Watch: Ranking baseball’s three best and three worst ongoing rebuilds

If the last week of headlines has proven anything, it’s that rebuilds don’t always succeed. Neither the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers have had a winning season since 2016. That doesn’t appear likely to change this year, and so both clubs chose to fire their top baseball operations executive: Al Avila of the Tigers and Jon Daniels of the Rangers . (You can read more about Detroit’s situation here, and Texas’ here.)

Today, then, is an appropriate time to rank the league’s top and bottom three ongoing rebuilds in order of perceived progress — or, in other words, how much talent they have in their organization, from the big-league team on down.

Just how did we define a “rebuild”? For our purposes, we’ve resorted to labeling any team that SportsLine forecasted as having a zero percent chance at the postseason as of Wednesday as a rebuilder. It may not be the most inclusive classification, but it did leave us with 10 possible options: the Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, and Detroit Tigers. (The Baltimore Orioles, a rebuilding team by most traditional definitions, do not qualify for our list because of this measure. If they did, they would rank highly on the merits of Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, and Gunnar Henderson.)

Now, onto the gasbaggery.

Top 3 rebuilds

1. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks land the top spot on the strength of their position player crop. Outfielder Corbin Carroll is considered to be among the top prospects in the minors. He’s already had success in Triple-A and it’s reasonable to expect him to make it to The Show before the end of the season. The Diamondbacks have done well to land shortstop Jordan Lawlar and outfielder Druw Jones in the last two drafts (oddly, both got hurt after signing). Each of the three — Carroll, Lawlar, Jones — has an All-Star ceiling. The Diamondbacks already have a few youngsters in the majors who have achieved varying levels of success, in Daulton Varsho, Alek Thomas, and Geraldo Perdomo, giving them the makings of a good homegrown lineup. The pitching side of things isn’t as rosy, but right-hander Brandon Pfaadt has improved his stock in a hurry and could debut this season and lefty Blake Walston has good potential.

2. Cincinnati Reds
You can make a case the Reds should be No. 1. They had a busy deadline, sending away Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and others. In return, they netted shortstop prospects Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, and Spencer Steer, among others. (No organization has more shortstop talent than the Reds do.) Factor in third baseman Cam Collier’s drafting in July (he was the steal of the first round at No. 18), and the Reds added a ton of talent to their farm system over the summer — and that’s without even mentioning big-league arms Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene, or prospects who were already in the system, like shortstops (what else?) Elly De La Cruz and Matt McClain.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates used the portfolio approach to good effect during the 2021 draft, landing catcher Henry Davis with the No. 1 pick as well as righty Bubba Chandler, lefty Anthony Solometo, and outfielder Lonnie White, among others. The Pirates then grabbed Termarr Johnson, one of our favorite prospects, in this year’s draft. Those choices, in addition to the players who were already under Pirate employ (notably righty Quinn Priester and shortstop Oneil Cruz), give Pittsburgh a promising talent base to build from — even if we have them second among NL Central rebuilders.

Bottom 3 rebuilds

3. Kansas City Royals
We’re fans of Bobby Witt Jr. here, and both MJ Melendez and Vinnie Pasquantino have shown promise since being promoted to the majors. (Nick Pratto could give the Royals another solid young bat in due time, too.) That said, where’s the pitching? Recent top-10 picks like Asa Lacy and Frank Mozzicato have underwhelmed as professionals, continuing a troubling organizational trend that has seen them waste a lot of premium draft-pick capital on arms who they haven’t been able to develop.

2. Oakland Athletics
The Athletics have traded away most of their core over the last eight months, but they haven’t received many sure things in return. Catcher Shea Langeliers has good pop and catch-and-throw skills, which should make him an acceptable successor to Sean Murphy. Lefty Ken Waldichuk should debut either late this season or early next, while righty Gunnar Hoglund is back on the mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer. Former first-round pick Tyler Soderstrom should be fine over the long haul, but he’s scuffled in his introduction to Double-A.

1. Detroit Tigers
This may not come as a surprise to anyone who read our Tigers breakdown earlier this week. Outfielder Riley Greene still seems like a potential star to us. Otherwise? First baseman Spencer Torkelson’s continued woes in the minors give us some pause; starters Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal are injured; and the farm system doesn’t have a ton to offer. Jackson Jobe, the No. 3 pick in the 2021 class, has struggled in his first full pro season, and neither Jace Jung nor Peyton Graham are enough to lift the Tigers out of the cellar. Whoever takes over in Detroit will have a lot of work in front of them.

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