A couple items before we get started: (1) Carlos Martinez is currently on the big league roster, so I can’t really rank him here and break the rules I established to begin the season. Now, I suppose I could always rewrite the rules, but I’m an honorable dude, and that wouldn’t be right. Anyway, Martinez is still an extremely stashable arm as the Cardinals decide on his future role. There’s a good chance he’ll end up in a starter’s role before long, and he’ll be a must-own if that should be the case. (2) George Springer is currently torching Triple-A pitching, and there’s little doubt that he’s ready for Major League Baseball. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he’s not gonna surface this season. The Astros are giving Springer the Wil Myers treatment, and it’s very unlikely that we’ll see him in the bigs before next June. Now for the top ten:

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There are several questionable farm systems in baseball, but the Chicago White Sox are certainly one that stands out. For years now, the Sox have maintained a firm MLB-first approach to player personnel. They’re a principled franchise that would rather allocate its baseball operations budget toward free agent signings and MLB extensions than toward draft spending. And when they do stumble upon a real-deal prospect, they usually like to trade him for a veteran dude, someone to help that playoff push. It’s a model that occasionally works — they won a World Series by it in 2005 — but it’s not one that’s built to sustain success. And now, in 2013, the White Sox are awful. They’re in total rebuild mode — everything is for sale. This is finally their opportunity to change direction, to try to build a system that cultivates and utilizes impact talent. They’ve already dealt Matt Thornton to Boston for Brandon Jacobs, an upside outfielder with a skill set that might be very useful in the fantasy game. Don’t stop there, Chicago. Tear it all down.

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Perhaps you were expecting the usual Saturday morning two-start pitchers post, but it’s All Star week and there are no two-starters. The timing works out well, though – I’ve been vacationing south of the border and had to skip one of our precious Scouting the Unknown posts. We’ll fit that one in now.

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Note: As I explained yesterday, I’m in Mexico. Turns out, the internet blows here. Being so, I haven’t included the usual Baseball-Reference links. Apologies. (*They have been added – Ed.)

July 2nd marked the opening of the international signing period, which is a facet of player procurement that probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves. We spend a lot of time mouthing off on the June draft, but when you look at the names near the top of prospect lists – Oscar Taveras, Miguel Sano, Jurickson Profar – it’s difficult to discount the significance of the 2nd of July. It’s important to note that this signing window is not limited to just one day – contracts for various Dominican ballplayers, Venezuelan ballplayers, etc., will keep trickling in over the next weeks. But, for the most part, the action is concentrated to the 2nd. This year featured a nice crop of young international prospects, but the prized piece, Eloy Jimenez, signed with the Cubs. Jimenez, from the Dominican, profiles as a corner outfielder with the potential to become a monster in the fantasy game. At 16 years old, though, clearly there’s a long way to go.

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Two-start hoarders, welcome back. First things first: I’m vacationing in Mexico with what, by now, is a potentially-fatal sunburn. Not to worry, though, because the cervezas at this joint are unlimited, and I’m feelin’ no pain. Zero. I just arrived here yesterday, and I’ll be here through next Friday. That means my esteemed Razzball colleagues will be filling in for me in the comments for my next few posts. In any case, we’ve got a deep list of two-start options, and plenty of good streamers this week. The usual tiered rankings are below.

NOTE: I looked ahead at the two-start landscape a few days earlier than usual this week, so this group of probable pitchers is especially subject to change. Apologies in advanced for anything I may have missed. For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

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There hasn’t been much turnover from our last revision until now, so the names here are pretty much the same ones we’ve been talking about for a few weeks. There are a few exceptions, though: Grant Green was on the list much earlier this season, but disappeared from these ranks for the last several weeks. His recent hot streak in conjunction with Oakland’s need of a reliable second baseman has propelled him all the way up to #3. Xander Bogaerts also makes his top 10 debut this week. Other than that, there’s a little bit of shuffling around, but the core group (Erasmo, Yelich, C-Mart, Taveras, Castellanos, Hamilton) is still intact.

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The Futures Game will take place on July 14th at Citi Field as part of the MLB All-Star Game festivities. Rosters were announced earlier this week. Of the various all-star contests throughout Minor League Baseball, the Futures Game is King. Instead of league-specific all-stars, the Futures draws its talent from leagues at all levels, class-A to Triple-A. What we’re left with, then, are rosters that are crammed with real-deal prospects. The format is USA versus the World, and there’s still time to vote on the final roster spot for each squad, although that poll closes today. I went with Nick Castellanos and Javier Baez on my ballot. Who you got?

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We’ve run into another one of those weeks when it’s probably best to avoid two-start streaming. It’s not as despicable as we’ve gotten this season, but there are really only four or five realistically streamable options in week 14. Meanwhile, there are roughly 1,000 two-start turds for the week ahead. If you’re lucky enough to get your greedy hands on one of the few gems, good for you. But if you’re late to the party, don’t bother. Steer clear of this mess and roll with your core arms.

As always, probable pitchers are subject to change. For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

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When you’re perusing the latest prospect lists for the next fantasy star, the next Mike Trout or Manny Machado, it’s important to keep in mind the variables that go into such rankings. Defensive ability plays a major role in player evaluation — it’s not all about the hit tool and the power potential. And when it comes to guys who play premium positions on the diamond (catcher, center field, shortstop), a plus defensive projection can vault a prospect far, far up the board. This sort of inflation based on defense oftentimes skews perspective when considering prospects from a fantasy perspective. When we constantly see a certain light-hitting shortstop pop up in the top 20 overall prospects at Baseball America or MLB.com, it can be easy to look past the scouting report and simply click “add player” once he surfaces in the bigs. To help avoid such unnecessary blunders, I’ve detailed a couple of the more highly-touted defense-first prospects below. I’ll go over a couple more next time through.

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I told you last week about the implications of Xander Bogaerts’s Triple-A promotion. This week, we celebrate another Triple-A promotion, as the Mariners have bumped Taijuan Walker from Double-A Jackson to Tacoma. Walker has everything you look for in a pitching prospect — size, stuff, athleticism… the works. He’s as elite as they come. After an up-and-down 2012 at Jackson, the 20-year-old returned to Double-A in 2013, performing with much greater consistency this time through. Walker cranked it up a notch in June, though, posting a 33/3 K/BB in 25 IP this month. He’s only 20, and it’s probably a little premature to wonder about a 2013 arrival considering the M’s have arms like Erasmo Ramirez and Danny Hultzen waiting for an opportunity, but Walker’s ceiling is the best of the bunch. By far. Now that he’s just one stop from the bigs, he needs to be on your fantasy radar.

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