Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward is getting some love for his defense this awards season, winning his second Gold Glove award in three years. But his 2014 campaign was a tad disappointing for the more offensively-minded fantasy baseballer. Keeper league owners hoped Heyward would bounce back to his 2012 breakout form (27 homers and 21 steals) after an injury-riddled 2013 season. Instead they were dealt a bad hand in the power department. While Heyward’s 21 steals provided similar value, 11 homers was a far cry from the power numbers he put up as a 22-year-old. The Braves’ right fielder ended up as the 37th ranked outfielder according to the 2014 Razzball player rater (150th overall). One of the glaring weaknesses this season was his inability to hit lefties. Heyward hit just .169 with two homers against southpaws. That was good for a measly 39 wRC+. Compare that to his 2012 season in which he hit .224 with seven dingers against lefties. Nothing incredible, but it was a more palatable 73 wRC+. All this may lead some impatient fantasy owners to give up on Heyward too early – tempting them to throw him back into the draft in some shallower keeper formats. I think that would be a mistake.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (27) | 2013 (5) | 2012 (28) | 2011 (29) | 2010 (8)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [77-85] NL East
AAA: [70-74] Pacific Coast League – New Orleans
AA: [81-59] Southern League – Jacksonville
A+: [50-87] Florida State League – Jupiter
A: [87-53] South Atlantic League – Greensboro
A(ss): [34-42] New York-Penn League – Batavia

Graduated Prospects
None

The Gist
2014 was another step forward for the Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton put up MVP caliber numbers while fellow outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna both performed well in their sophomore seasons. All three are still under the age of 25. Right-hander Jarred Cosart was acquired from Houston in exchange for prospects Jake Marisnick and Colin Moran – both top ten prospects in the Marlins’ system a year ago. There is more to look forward to in 2015. Left-hander Andrew Heaney should get a crack at the rotation while pitching phenom Jose Fernandez is expected to return at some point this season as well. The farm system is pitching heavy and features multiple arms that could become options for the rotation soon. In this year’s draft the Marlins signed more high school players (11) than any other organization including first-round pick Tyler Kolek, who was selected second overall.

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When researching prospects for our fantasy teams, we’re likely going to come across some talk about a player’s league or even home park skewing his stats. But exactly how much better are one league’s offensive statistics than the next? Without making it overly complicated, this post aims to give you a general idea of which leagues favor hitters and which favor pitchers. Each league’s average age is listed along with its rank in runs per game, home runs per game, and OPS. Just like in the majors, there are also minor league ballparks that are notoriously skewed towards hitters or pitchers. I find this kind of information helpful when looking at prospects. Player X may be a good pitcher in a homer-happy ballpark. That stud hitting prospect I picked up might be hitting less homers all of a sudden because he’s playing in a canyon now. Home parks and the leagues in which prospects play are important factors just like age, injury, and a host of other variables. Here are the 2014 stats for each league along with this year’s MiLB affiliation shuffle…

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (28) | 2013 (27) | 2012 (22) | 2011 (25) | 2010 (27)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [90-72] AL Central
AAA: [69-74] International League – Toledo
AA: [71-71] Eastern League – Erie
A+: [62-75] Florida State League – Lakeland
A: [82-58] Midwest League – West Michigan
A(ss): [42-34] New York-Penn League – Connecticut

Graduated Prospects
Nick Castellanos, 3B | Eugenio Suarez, SS

The Gist
The Tigers have a winning team at the major league level, but their farm continues to rank in the bottom third. Nick Castellanos arrived as a big league regular this season. Jake Thompson – considered a top prospect in Detroit’s system – was traded to Texas in the Joakim Soria deal. While there isn’t much impact talent in this top ten, there are a few mid-rotation starters and multiple options at middle infield. Derek Hill was the big name added in the 2014 draft and immediately becomes a top prospect for Detroit.

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The Arizona Fall League is a couple of weeks old now, so we’ll peek at a few of the highlights and lowlights. In a league with only six teams, there is a limited pool of players and we’ll have to take the small sample sizes with a grain of salt. There have been a few standout performances, and this league is a good way to get eyes on prospects returning from injuries or facing some tougher competition for the first time. One name from the AFL that has surfaced quite a bit this year is Reds’ outfielder Jesse Winker. Reports on Winker like his approach and power, with left field a likely destination when he reaches the bigs. Despite a concussion early in the season and a wrist injury that ended his season prematurely, the 21-year-old hit .327/.426/.580 with 13 homers in the hitter-friendly California League before a brief stint in Double-A. In 38 AFL at bats, Winker has two homers, two doubles, and a league-leading 13 runs batted in. He’s top 5 in average (.368), on-base percentage (.479), and slugging percentage (.632). I’m not totally on board the Winker train yet since he hasn’t seen much of Double-A, but I am at the station in line to buy a ticket. Here are some other noteworthy AFL prospect performances so far…

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (29) | 2013 (23) | 2012 (25) | 2011 (30) | 2010 (14)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [82-80] NL Central
AAA: [77-67] Pacific Coast League – Nashville (2015: Colorado Springs)
AA: [77-63] Southern League – Huntsville
A+: [73-62] Florida State League – Brevard County
A: [72-67] Midwest League – Wisconsin

Graduated Prospects
Jimmy Nelson, RHP

The Gist
Heading into 2014, the Brewers checked in as the 29th ranked farm system according to Baseball America. This season was a step in the right direction though. The major league club looked like a playoff team for much of the first half before things fell apart in the second. Jimmy Nelson logged over 69 innings in the bigs and looks like a quality major league starter. Prospect Mitch Haniger was moved in the Gerardo Parra deal, but for the most part the farm stayed intact. With three picks in the top 50 of the June draft, the organization added a solid left-handed pitcher and two promising bats. This year saw a shake-up among minor league affiliates across all levels, and the Brewers were a part of that. Their AAA club is now Colorado Springs, formerly affiliated with the Rockies.

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The Royals are in the World Series, and it’s going to be mentioned at some point that the organization moved a big prospect in Wil Myers to acquire two of the pieces that brought them so much success this year. Last season, it looked like the Rays were going to be the ones that ran away with the trade. Myers won Rookie of the Year. He hit .293/.354/.478 with 13 homers and drove in 53 runs in just over half a season. At 23, he came into 2014 with high expectations and a high preseason rank on most fantasy sites. Then they actually played the 2014 season. Myers ended up playing only 87 games thanks to a wrist fracture, and when he was on the field he looked lost at the plate. So what can we expect from the young Rays’ outfielder going forward in keeper leagues?

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (30) | 2013 (30) | 2012 (18) | 2011 (15) | 2010 (26)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [98-64] AL West
AAA: [60-84] Pacific Coast League – Salt Lake
AA: [75-65] Texas League – Arkansas
A+: [62-78] California League – Inland Empire
A: [68-71] Midwest League – Burlington

Graduated Prospects
C.J. Cron, 1B | Cory Rasmus, RHP | Mike Morin, RHP | Matt Shoemaker, RHP

The Gist
The Angels checked in at #30 in Baseball America’s organizational rankings for the second year in a row. A win now approach has left the farm in poor shape, and it got worse this past season when the organization sent Taylor Lindsey, R.J. Alvarez, and Jose Rondon to San Diego in exchange for Huston Street. What’s left is a pitching heavy top ten and very few impact prospects for fantasy purposes.

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If you were offered a 23-year-old ballplayer with both shortstop and outfield eligibility, who hit .319/.353/.472 with seven homers and 20 steals in 430 plate appearances…would you keep him? If you were a hot dog…would you eat yourself? These are important questions. The player is Danny Santana, whose rookie season with the Twins was useful to fantasy owners despite his May arrival and lost time with a leg injury. Santana is going to be an on-the-fence decision in a lot of shallow keeper leagues, which makes him worth discussing for the purposes of this keeper post.

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A Scottsdale Surprise might sound like something you’d find listed in the Urban Dictionary, but it’s really just the last two teams in our Arizona Fall League preview series. Some of the best prospects in baseball will be getting their extra reps in this fall. Each team in the majors is represented across the six Arizona Fall League teams and we’ve already covered a few of the fantasy relevant prospects on Mesa, Glendale, Salt River, and Peoria. You can follow the links at the end of this post to view those. Stats included are the cumulative stats for 2014 across all minor league levels. Strong farm systems like the Pirates and Red Sox are represented on the Scottsdale and Surprise rosters, so let’s take a look at some fantasy prospects from each to put a bow on this thing.

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