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Michael Wacha | RHP, Cardinals | Born: 7/1/1991

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time I’ve covered Wacha in the Scouting the Unknown series. I actually wrote a brief report on him a little less than a year ago while highlighting some notable draft prospects. You can read that post here. Now, it may seem like I’m double-dipping, and I suppose, technically, I am. But since last June, there are very few prospects whose stocks have soared quite like Wacha’s has. Suffice to say, there’s plenty of reason to revisit his outlook, applying what we’ve learned over the past year or so in watching the 21-year-old compete at the professional level.

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Twins fans might be in for a frustrating year at the big league level, but trust me, the future is bright in Minnesota. No other organization can boast such a high-profile pair of hitting prospects as the Twins can with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. Sano, who boasts raw power unmatched by any other minor leaguer, is simply on fire. The 19-year-old is hitting .370/.429/.765 with 9 homers in 91 trips to the plate with High-A Fort Myers. Meanwhile, Buxton, the 2nd overall pick last June, is having no trouble with his first taste of full-season baseball, batting .400/.524/.662 with 3 homers and 8 stolen bases through 82 PA. I went over my Byron Buxton fantasy the other week, in case you missed it. Judging by tools alone, these two are among the most exciting talents in baseball. The fact that they’re backing up their tools with such serious production on the field only vaults their stock to new heights — I’m talkin’ top ten overall for both. 2016 can’t arrive soon enough for Twins fans.

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We’re back for our first revision of the prospect power rankings. For those who are new, or just kinda slow, this is where we’ll take a biweekly look at the best fantasy stashes in Minor League Baseball. To see the inaugural list, click that link. While there’s no change in the top two spots, there was quite a bit of shuffling around the rest of the way through. One notable guy dropping off the list is Travis D’Anaud, who suffered a broken foot. The injury will set him back a couple months — terrible news for the 24-year-old who missed most of last season to a knee injury.

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Ryan Zimmerman is hitting the DL with a hamstring strain, and to replace him, the Nats are calling up their top prospect, Anthony Rendon. Rendon showed he was big league ready during spring training, and many wondered if he might begin the season at the highest level. But in an effort to maximize the 22-year-old’s plate appearances, Washington opted to reassign him to Double-A Harrisburg where through 65 PA he’s hit .292/.462/.500 with 2 homers. With Zimmerman shelved, Rendon becomes the starting third baseman, and you should certainly grab him if he’s still available. Featuring a plus-plus hit tool and an advanced approach at the dish, he’ll help immediately in AVG and OBP categories, and he might even toss in a few homers. For more detail on Rendon, here’s my Nationals’ top ten, where he ranked #1. Also, check out this Scouting the Unknown post from last August.

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Archie Bradley | RHP, Diamondbacks | Born: 8/10/1992

It’s rare that a club just gives away a first round investment for pennies on the dollar, but that’s exactly what D’Backs did this past December with Trevor Bauer. Less than two years after drafting him 3rd overall, Arizona decided they didn’t like his attitude, they didn’t appreciate his stubbornness, and so they shipped him to Cleveland for Didi Gregorius and a couple toss-ins. Again, teams just don’t do this sort of trade — they don’t give a front-of-the-rotation prospect a $3.4 million signing bonus, and then cut him loose 18 months later for a defense-first shortstop simply because the kid wouldn’t listen. The Diamondbacks did, though. And they did so because they felt they had the organizational pitching depth to offset the loss. A major factor in that decision was the guy they drafted four picks after Bauer in the 2011 draft, a guy named Archie Bradley.

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Jorge Soler was off to a great start at High-A Daytona, batting .435/.519/.739 with 2 homers through his first six games. The was promising news for the Cubs, who inked him to a nine-year, $30 million contract last summer. The 21-year-old Cuban is not a cost-controlled prospect — there’s an opt-out clause that would make him eligible for arbitration after three years service time, but both sides would be thrilled if it came to that. In any case, there’s incentive for the Cubs to develop him quickly in order to make sure the bulk of those nine years are spent at the highest level. Chicago was smart to make such a long-term investment in Soler — it gives them a little developmental cushion — but they’re still trying to avoid unnecessary setbacks. Things were going well in that department up until Wednesday, when Soler decided to brandish a baseball bat as he sprinted toward the opponent’s dugout following a benches-clearing incident. The league suspended him five games, which isn’t a huge setback, but the Cubs are reportedly investigating the matter further and could tack on more time. I doubt it’ll come to that, but the ordeal still raises some major character concerns. Let’s hope this was an isolated incident and that the new regime in Chicago doesn’t enable such behavior as the old group did with headcases like Carlos Zambrano.

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Ranking prospects for fantasy purposes is a tricky exercise. Back in February, I rolled out my Top 50 Fantasy Prospects for 2013 (part 1, part 2), and those are already garbage. The variables involved are constantly in flux — talent emerges, talent regresses… opportunity comes, opportunity goes… clubs get cold feet because of service time, clubs don’t give a shizz about service time. So, given the fluid nature of this prospect business, I thought it might be helpful to keep a running ranking throughout the season. This post will run every other Wednesday, providing a biweekly glimpse of the soon-to-arrive impact talent. Let’s get started.

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A year ago, Nolan Arenado was entering the 2012 season with loads of hype. Minor League production expectations were enormous, and most folks around baseball were already penciling the young 3B into the Rockies’ mid-season lineup. But a slow start at Double-A and a concerning lack of over-the-wall power quickly put an end to those 2012 Arenado arrival fantasies. The 21-year-old watched his prospect stock slip this off-season, dropping out of the top 50 on prospect lists from almost every publication. Fast forward to 2013: Arenado put together a terrific spring in big league camp, blasting four homers and posting a .852 OPS in 52 PA. And after reassignment to Triple-A Colorado Springs, he hasn’t slowed down whatsoever, going 7/14 through his first two games, including two long balls. Chris Nelson is not a long-term option for the Rockies at third, and Arenado finally appears to be ready to step into Coors field and entrench himself at the hot corner. He’ll be fantasy-relevant once he’s up, and I imagine that’ll be no later than mid-June.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (1) | 2011 (14) | 2010 (24) | 2009 (21) | 2008 (10)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [98-64] NL East
AAA: [70-74] International League – Syracuse
AA: [64-78] Eastern League – Harrisburg
A+: [64-75] Carolina League – Potomac
A: [82-55] South Atlantic League – Hagerstown
A(ss): [46-30] New York-Penn League — Auburn

Graduated Prospects
Bryce Harper (OF); Steve Lombardozzi (Util); Tyler Moore (OF)

The Run Down
A little more than a year ago, this Washington Nationals system was regarded as the best in the game. Then a trade with Oakland sent a handful of prospects out west, their top draft pick went down with a broken ankle, and Bryce Harper graduated to the bigs. What’s left, now, is a system that’s filled to the brim with risky, oft-injured prospects. There is almost nothing here that I would consider safe. Top overall prospect Anthony Rendon is an exciting, high-impact guy, but he’s yet to play a full season as a pro. Top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito tossed only two professional innings before being shut down for Tommy John surgery. He won’t pitch again ’til 2014. The rest of the top ten seem to be rehabbing from their third labrum operation, or their twelfth precautionary arthroscopic elbow surgery. This is not among baseball’s top 20 farm systems at the moment, but thankfully for Washington fans, the Nationals have a young and talented collection of talent at the big league level already.

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