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Keith Law ranks Tigers' farm system 26th

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Detroit's no longer last thanks to a few wise trades at the trade deadline and the decision to hold on to most top prospects during the offseason.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's Keith Law ranked the Detroit Tigers' organization 26th of 30 clubs, but he did have a little bit of good news for Detroit fans.

"It's still not a good system, but it's the first time in maybe a decade that it's trending upward, and I think the new emphasis on building from within will continue under GM Al Avila."

The improvement dates back to the tanking of the team last season. With depth, injury and bullpen issues giving little hope at a playoff run, the Tigers ownership and front office decided the best move the team could make was trading away several star players whose contracts were set to expire at the end of the year. In return, starting pitchers Daniel Norris, Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd came into the organization, as well as infielder JaCoby Jones.

Norris has made an immediate impact, the highlight being five perfect innings in September during a start after returning from an oblique injury suffered in August. But he doesn't really help the organizational rankings. So Fulmer, was named the team's top prospect by Baseball America and a top-100 prospect overall, leads the way. (Law will announce his own top 100 prospects Thursday.)

Drafting has undoubtedly helped too more recently, Beau Burrows (drafted in the first round, 22nd overall, in 2015) gives another strong right-hander to the farm. Outfielder Christin Stewart, taken 34th overall, was tabbed fourth-best by BA. And then you've got players bubbling up like 2014 draftee Michael Gerber, who performed outstanding in Low-A West Michigan last year to earn a third-billing from BA.

As Law mentions, a tweak in offseason strategy was readily apparent. Rather than view the farm system as another tool for acquiring players, first-year GM Al Avila made it clear he would take a longer view and hold on to his top prospects. The only key prospect traded was Luis Cessa (who had just arrived from the Mets at the trade deadline) along with Chad Green in exchange for young reliever Justin Wilson.

Still, the Tigers are ranked the lowest among the AL Central teams, so there's work to be done. The Twins ranked as high as third. Atlanta led Law's 2016 rankings, while the Angels brought up the rear, garnering this wonderful quote: "I've been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I've ever seen."