A quick primer to begin: This is not a list of my top overall prospects — Shelby Miller would not lead that list. No, this list exists only to serve those of us in fantasyland. The names that follow are, at this moment, the prospects who have the best chance at offering positive contributions for fantasy owners in 2013. My method here was quite simple: each player was assigned a grade for both potential fantasy impact, and for current opportunity. Those variables were weighed equally, totals were then tallied, and finally, I sorted out the ties and adjusted here and there as I saw fit. Opportunity grades are always tough. At this point in the year, circumstances can shift overnight and a prospect’s ETA can change dramatically (see Miller). My plan is to revisit this list before opening day, and also to keep a running Top Ten Fantasy Prospects throughout the year in order to keep us posted at any given moment as to which fantasy-relevant prospects are next to arrive in the bigs. In any case, this list should suffice for those of us drafting early.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (14) | 2011 (16) | 2010 (14) | 2009 (27) | 2008 (18)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [61-101] NL Central
AAA: [53-87] Pacific Coast League – Iowa
AA: [72-68] Southern League – Tennessee
A+: [59-74] Florida State League – Daytona
A: [63-75] Midwest League – Peoria (Kane County beginning 2013)
A(ss): [37-39] Northwest League — Boise

Arizona Fall League PlayersMesa Solar Sox
Dae-Eun Rhee (RHP); Kevin Rhoderick (RHP); Nick Struck (RHP); Tony Zych (RHP); Logan Watkins (2B); Rubi Silva (OF); Matt Szczur (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Anthony Rizzo (1B); Steve Clevenger (C); Welington Castillo (C)

The Run Down
Since Theo and his gang arrived, it’s been evident that the Cubs are on a better track. They traded for Anthony Rizzo, they signed Jorge Soler, they drafted well (it seems that way, at least), and they’ve added much-needed depth to their farm system via deals with Atlanta and Texas. In just one year’s time, it’s quite impressive how improved this system is. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when 2011 draftees, Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach, break out with huge statistical years. Still, the bottom-up impact that the Epstein-Hoyer regime has had on this organization cannot be denied. If it’s lacking anywhere, it’s in the starting pitching department — there simply aren’t many high-impact arms coming up. But the Cubs have ample dough to work around that shortcoming with signings at the big league level. It might be a few more years until they’re contenders in the NL Central, but it’s clear that that they’re headed in that direction. Oh, and there’s quite a bit of fantasy impact in the names below.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (15) | 2011 (2) | 2010 (9) | 2009 (6) | 2008 (8)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [94-68] NL East
AAA: [62-82] International League – Gwinnett
AA: [62-77] Southern League – Mississippi
A+: [72-68] Carolina League – Lynchburg
A: [62-76] South Atlantic League – Rome

Arizona Fall League PlayersPhoenix Desert Dogs
Chris Jones (LHP); Cory Rasmus (RHP); Zeke Spruill (RHP); Cory Brownsten (C); Edward Salcedo (3B);

Graduated Prospects
Tyler Pastornicky (SS); Andrelton Simmons (SS); Jose Constanza (OF); Randall Delgado (RHP)

The Run Down
Pitching depth is a beautiful thing. Injuries and whatnot can destroy Major League rotations and bullpens, so to have a pool of talented, cost-controlled options waiting in the upper levels of the farm is a luxury every team strives for. The Braves are overflowing with pitching depth in their minor leagues — some of it elite, some of it average, but the depth is real, and it’s hugely important. The same cannot be said for Atlanta’s prospects at the plate, however. Not to suggest that this system is void of promising hitting prospects, but the state of the farm in this regard is lagging behind. There is a fair amount of upside — a guy like Evan Gattis could blossom into a catcher-eligible masher as soon as this year. He also could bust and never see the bigs. The other bats here are rather young, and as we know, youth is volatile. So what the Braves have here is a bit of a lopsided system, but it’s a good system, and it brings plenty of fantasy intrigue. And along with the fantasy impact, it should keep Atlanta competitive in the NL East for the foreseeable future.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (16) | 2011 (10) | 2010 (10) | 2009 (20) | 2008 (7)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [64-98] NL West
AAA: [75-69] Pacific Coast League – Colorado Springs
AA: [75-64] Texas League — Tulsa
A+: [73-67] California League – Modesto
A: [88-52] South Atlantic League – Asheville
A(ss): [32-44] Northwest League — Tri-City

Arizona Fall League PlayersSalt River Rafters
Isaiah Froneberger (LHP); Cory Riordan (RHP); Lars Davis (C); Jose Gonzalez (C); Corey Dickerson (OF); Kent Matthes (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Jordan Pacheco (1B); Wilin Rosario (C); Josh Rutledge (SS); D.J. LeMahieu (2B); Charlie Blackmon (OF); Drew Pomeranz (LHP); Christian Friedrich (LHP); Adam Ottavino (RHP); Rex Brothers (LHP)

The Run Down
It’s difficult not to swoon at the fantasy upside of various bats in this Rockies system. Every hitter on this list brings a ceiling that’s hard to measure based on MiLB figures, alone. That’s what makes the top three guys so exciting — their potential would be impressive in any system, but throw Coors Field into the equation, and the intrigue swells substantially. On the flip side, the arms of the Colorado system carry the stigma of being future Coors Field pitchers. Their intrigue, conversely, is shrunk by the stadium at which they’re bound to play. But ballpark factors aside, Colorado has put together a farm system with plenty of depth and plenty of hope. No one here is to be ignored, so do keep an eye on these names as the 2013 season gets underway.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (17) | 2011 (26) | 2010 (30) | 2009 (30) | 2008 (29)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [55-107] NL Central (AL West beginning 2013)
AAA: [78-65] Pacific Coast League – Oklahoma City
AA: [81-59] Texas League — Corpus Christi
A+: [74-66] California League – Lancaster
A: [69-69] South Atlantic League – Lexington (Quad Cities of MWL beginning 2013)
A(ss): [15-25] New York-Penn League — Tri-City

Arizona Fall League Players — Mesa Solar Sox
Jarred Cosart (RHP); Chia-Jen Lo (RHP); Alex Sogard (LHP); Nick Tropeano (RHP); Jiovanni Mier (3B); Jonathan Singleton (1B); George Springer (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Marwin Gonzalez (SS); Matt Dominguez (3B); Lucas Harrell (RHP); Dallas Keuchel (LHP); Rhiner Cruz (RHP); Fernando Abad (LHP)

The Run Down
Jeff Luhnow is so flippin’ awesome. I cannot stress this enough. In little more than a year at the helm of the Astros, he’s turned the organization into one of the most fascinating franchises in the sport. Obviously, they’re not among the better ball clubs — not at the MLB level, at least — but by surrounding himself with baseball bloggers and NASA engineers, Luhnow has created an environment that celebrates new ideas and is well ahead of the curve in terms of analytics. Houston had a few nice prospects in place when he arrived, but the system as a whole was shallow and weak. Luhnow spent his first year cutting big league payroll, adding depth to the farm via trade, and spending big in the draft. I imagine more of the same is in store for 2013, so expect another sub-60 win season as Houston joins the AL West. It might be a few years before they’re competitive again, the Astros are transforming much more quickly than I thought was possible. They’re building cost-controlled depth, and waves of promising prospects are set to arrive in Houston beginning this year. So even if Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio aren’t voted into the HOF this afternoon, Astros fans can sleep soundly. The future is bright, indeed, for Houston.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (18) | 2011 (15) | 2010 (26) | 2009 (25) | 2008 (11)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [89-73] AL West
AAA: [73-71] Pacific Coast League – Salt Lake
AA: [62-78] Texas League — Arkansas
A+: [66-74] California League – Inland Empire
A: [53-86] Midwest League – Cedar Rapids (Burlington beginning 2013)

Arizona Fall League Players — Scottsdale Scorpions
Buddy Boshers (LHP); Bobby Cassevah (RHP); Ryan Chaffee (RHP); Carlos Ramirez (C); Caleb Cowart (3B); Slade Heathcott (OF); Travis Witherspoon (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Mike Trout (OF); Jean Segura (SS); Garret Richards (RHP)

The Run Down
Of the Angels’ top four prospects a year ago, zero remain. Mike Trout and Garret Richards are now with the big club, and Jean Segura and Johnny Hellweg were traded to Milwaukee. This system is in poor shape heading into the 2013 season — Kaleb Cowart represents the only high-impact talent, and the farm is not deep with upside guys. Frankly, there’s very little here to get excited about in terms of fantasy baseball, but I suppose what LA produced last year from its system will quench our fantasy thirsts for another year or two. Barring ineptitude from the third base slot or injury to a regular, I don’t see much opportunity for prospect turnover in 2013.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (19) | 2011 (13) | 2010 (6) | 2009 (22) | 2008 (15)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [66-96] AL Central
AAA: [72-72] International League – Rochester
AA: [75-67] Eastern League — New Britain
A+: [60-75] Florida State League – Fort Myers
A: [77-63] Midwest League – Beloit (Cedar Rapids beginning 2013)

Arizona Fall League Players — Peoria Javelinas
Logan Darnell (LHP); Kyle Gibson (RHP); Caleb Thielbar (LHP); Michael Tonkin (RHP); Evan Bigley (OF); Nate Roberts (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Chris Parmelee (1B/OF); Brian Dozier (SS); Liam Hendriks (RHP); Cole De Vries (RHP); Sam Deduno (RHP); Pedro Florimon (SS); Darin Mastroianni (OF)

The Run Down
There are certainly other teams in the discussion, but when evaluating the most improved farm systems in baseball over the past year, Minnesota needs to be considered near the top. Owning the #2 pick in the draft is always a nice way to bolster a club’s young talent, but the Twins went beyond that in 2012, as impact talents lived up to hype, and forgotten prospects returned to form. And they continued improving into the offseason, adding big-ceiling starting pitchers in Alex Meyer from Washington and Trevor May from Philadelphia. The Twins shipped out MLB outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere in order to acquire those arms, but with capable outfield prospects pushing through from the minors this year, the added pitching depth seems like a smart move. Do take note of this system as there’s plenty to be excited about in terms of the fantasy game, and certain prospects should be making their impacts this year.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (20) | 2011 (21) | 2010 (8) | 2009 (9) | 2008 (14)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [93-69] AL East
AAA: [74-70] International League – Norfolk
AA: [78-64] Eastern League – Bowie
A+: [62-77] Carolina League – Frederick
A: [52-86] South Atlantic League – Delmarva
A(ss): [18-48] New York-Penn League — Aberdeen

Arizona Fall League Players — Mesa Solar Sox
Mike Belfiore (LHP); Chris Petrini (LHP); Clay Schrader (RHP); Mike Wright (RHP); Brian Ward (C); Jonathan Schoop (INF); L.J. Hoes (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Manny Machado (SS/3B); Ryan Flaherty (Util); Wei-Yin Chen (LHP)

The Run Down
The Orioles earned a spot in the postseason last year, establishing themselves as one of baseball’s most surprising teams. Given the recent upgrades to their competition in the AL East, however, as well as the perennial awesomeness of certain teams in that division, it seems unlikely that they will be playing ball in Baltimore next October. In fact, oddsmakers have the O’s at 10/1 odds to win the East — lowest in the division. Seems like an unfair outlook for a team that won 93 games a year ago, but I can’t argue against it — the Orioles outperformed every win/loss model there was, and few would disagree that their season was one blessed by luck. What’s left in Baltimore, though, is a team that’s now accustomed to winning. They have a solid lineup that includes a blossoming superstar in Manny Machado, and a staff ace on the way in Dylan Bundy. And while the rest of the system isn’t quite spectacular, there should be enough talent pushing through to keep the O’s competitive on the field and in the trade market. They might be long-shots, but certainly don’t count this club out in coming years.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (21) | 2011 (24) | 2010 (29) | 2009 (8) | 2008 (16)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [94-68] NL West
AAA: [74-70] Pacific Coast League – Fresno
AA: [70-71] Eastern League – Richmond
A+: [75-65] California State League – San Jose
A: [69-70] South Atlantic League – Augusta
A(ss): [32-44] Northwest League — Salem-Keiser

Arizona Fall League Players — Scottsdale Scorpions
Ryan Bradley (LHP); Jacob Dunnington (RHP); Chris Gloor (LHP); Heath Hembree (RHP); Dan Runzler (LHP); Ricky Oropesa (1B); Joe Panik (SS); Gary Brown (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Hector Sanchez (C); Brett Pill (Util)

The Run Down
I can’t help but think that this system would look a whole shizzload better if it still included Zack Wheeler. Sorry, Giants fans, but that Wheeler-for-Beltran swap was for naught, and more than a year removed from it, I’m sure you’re all wishing that Gary Brown had been the guy sent to the Mets. I feel your pain, San Francisco. But then y’all went and won the World Friggen Series, and all wounds have been healed. Still, though, this farm system isn’t tremendous. Brown has crashed back down to Earth, and there doesn’t seem to be much high-impact talent beneath him. Big years in 2013 from guys like Kyle Crick and Chris Stratton will fill that void, but until then, the Giants will have to rely on their big league roster… which happens to be quite good, actually.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (22) | 2011 (25) | 2010 (27) | 2009 (28) | 2008 (27)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [88-74] AL Central
AAA: [60-84] International League – Toledo
AA: [57-84] Eastern League – Erie
A+: [73-58] Florida State League – Lakeland
A: [72-68] Midwest League – West Michigan
A(ss):  [35-40] New York-Penn League — Connecticut

Arizona Fall League PlayersMesa Solar Sox
Tyler Clark (RHP); Matt Hoffman (LHP); Luke Putkonen (RHP); James McCann (C); Aaron Westlake (1B); Nick Castellanos (OF)

Graduated Prospects of Note
Jacob Turner (RHP); Drew Smyly (LHP)

The Run Down
With a stacked roster at the big league level, it’s not necessarily debilitating to have a shallow farm system beneath it.  Please, blog, may I have some more?

Please, blog, may I have some more?