RANKINGS
2034 Minor League System Rankings: #5 - Cloud City
Cave Dameron's minor league system rankings for 2034 continue with a look at the #5 system: the Cloud City Sky Pirates.
by CAVE DAMERON
System Rankings: #24 - #16
System Rankings: #15 - #11
System Rankings: #10 - #6
System Rankings: #4 - Cleveland
System Rankings: #3 - Brooklyn
System Rankings: #2 - Pittsburgh
System Rankings: #1 - Seattle

Welcome to the top five of the 2034 minor league system rankings! The thing that separates all these teams from the rest of the pack is their top-end talent. All five teams have at least one player with a 75 FV or higher, and the top team has two. This is the point where it starts getting hard to compare each team. You may not agree with my rankings -- it really just comes down to which types of players you like. Cloud City, for example, has two of the top hitting prospects in baseball. They don’t have the depth that the other top four teams have -- they only have four players who project as average -- but they’ve got a potential future Hall of Famer in the OF and an elite 3B almost ready to be called up. If you want two top-end batters that are almost guaranteed to be among the best in the game, look no further than the Cloud City Sky Pirates.


#5 - Cloud City Sky Pirates

4th in OSA’s rankings, 3 OSA Top 100 (#2 CF Hernandez, #10 3B Neilson, #55 P Morales)

CF Rafael Hernandez, 21, #2 OSA, 76 POT, 80 FV - OSA’s scouting report says Hernandez could “make multiple trips to the All-Star Game”, which is laughable because 1. there is no All-Star Game, and 2. it seems like the understatement of the century. Hernandez could be making multiple trips to the Hall of Fame, once to be inducted and once for the building to be named after him. This is what Alberto Ybarra was supposed to be -- a guy who can bat .300 and hit 50 HRs while playing a good CF. Interestingly enough, Ybarra and Hernandez went 1-2 in the same draft and have gone in completely opposite directions since. Rumors that Hernandez is an alien who stole Ybarra’s powers seem to be unfounded, although they can’t be ruled out completely. Hernandez is on a 35 HR pace in AA. He’s also batting .300 with a BABIP lower than his career average, and walking 10% of the time. All of that’s good for an OPS of .980, and he’s only 21 years old. He projects as a good CF, if not Londono-esque. He could also win multiple Gold Gloves in either corner OF spot. Hernandez is going to be one of the best players in baseball for a long time, as I don’t think Michael Jordan has it in him to will the Toons to victory like he did 20 years ago.

3B Mick Neilson, 22, #10 OSA, 67 POT, 65 FV - Life isn’t fair sometimes. Sometimes you do everything you can, only to fail because of something out of your control. That’s Life. Funny story: Life actually thought about joining the TNBL once, but took one look at Cloud City’s team and farm system and said “F*** that noise, I’m out.” I guess it was too much even for him. With Hernandez and now Neilson, Cloud City ends up with two of the top hitting prospects in my rankings. Neilson is already an elite defender at 3rd base, and I could easily see him moving into the GOAT category there. He’s also got the potential to play a good SS, and if he ever learned it, he’d probably jump up into the 75 FV range. He projects as above-average everywhere with the bat. He’ll likely hit .280 with 30+ HRs and draw a few walks while he’s at it. He does strike out way too much, but he’s improved on that a bit this year. Coming into this year, the major knock on Neilson was that he’d never put up an above-average year with the bat, but he’s silenced his critics somewhat with a .333/.443/.528 slashline, albeit with a BABIP of .414. If I see a full season of those numbers, I’d be more than willing to move him up to 70 FV. As it stands, he’s got an incredibly high floor because of the defense, and the potential to be one of the best in the game.

SP Willie Morales, 24, #55 OSA, 58 POT, 55 FV - Came over in the same trade that netted Hernandez. Morales walks way too many batters for me to be comfortable calling him an ace. OSA projects his control as above average, but he hasn’t shown any of that so far. His BB/9 has increased every year, and sits at 4.3 this year in AAA. He’s 24 years old so it’s not impossible that he reaches his potential, but I think it’s more likely his command ends up average. That said, he’s got four plus-or-better pitches, and three of them project as near-elite. His fastball touches 97 with good movement, and he’s got plenty of stamina to go deep into games. Other than his walks, he’s played very well in his three year career. His FIP has remained the same or improved every single year even though he’s gone up a level in each one. If Morales can reach his potential with his command, he’ll be a solid #2 if not an ace. At this point, I think a middle-to-bottom-of-the-rotation starter is more likely.

RP Enrique Martinez, 21, NR OSA, 78 POT, 50 FV - Taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft as a starter before being converted to a reliever. His potential as a reliever is among the highest in the game, with two potential plus-plus pitches, both of which are already plus. The movement is already developed and could go even higher. The control could be plus one day, but right now it’s pretty underdeveloped, especially for someone who’s about to turn 22. He’s got the velocity and stamina to be one of the top closers in the game. It’s hard to buy too much into his 28 innings of professional baseball in his career, but he has performed very well. I think he’ll be a very good bullpen piece in the future, with the chance to be one of the best.

RP Juan Coll, 24, NR OSA, 66 POT, 45 FV - Another part of that huge trade with the Pirates. Where would Cloud City’s system be if it weren’t for that one trade? Coll is already close to 25, so it’s likely he’s not going to get too much better. His control is underdeveloped, although it hasn’t shown up in his BB/9. He’s got the required elite pitches to be a stud reliever, with good movement and velocity too. I’m not sure that he has the stamina to be a full-time closer, but his future is probably setting up for Martinez anyway. He’s performed very well in his two professional seasons, including putting up a ridiculous 2.4 WAR in 29 innings last year in S A.