Hello again fans and foes, and welcome to the second installment of Panning For Gold – Finding The Prospect Hidden Gems. Here’s where we try to shine the spotlight on some of those young up-and-comers who may not have generated quite the buzz the players mentioned in Baseball America or MLB’s Top 100 lists YET, but someone I’m keeping an eye on as someone that may be about to turn into one of those guys often mentioned as “having helium”. Think of these guys as players you may not necessarily have at the top of your lists in shallow keeper leagues, but names you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on as you begin to participate in deeper leagues – the types of player you can wind up scooping your mates with in your quest to become another fantasy baseball “guru”…respected and adored whenever draft time rolls around (not to mention mumbled about under your opponents’ breath) for years to come.

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With Dylan Bundy having returned to live baseball, the focus around the 21-year-old phenom shifts from “when will he throw again?”, to “when will he throw in the bigs again?”. At the time of this writing, Bundy is preparing to take mound in Aberdeen for a start in the short-season New York Penn League. It’ll be his second outing since Tommy John surgery — the first one was quite good: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K. Now, while it’s terrific see Bundy pitching so well upon returning to game action, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s still a long rehab process ahead of him, and the O’s won’t jeopardize his progress by pushing him too quickly. Baltimore has scripted Bundy’s recovery, and barring any setbacks, I believe their plan includes some big league action this season, but I wouldn’t expect more than 1 or 2 starts in August/September.

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Just a quick introduction – I’m the “new guy on the block” here at Razzball, Chris VanDyke. Many thanks to Grey and Jay(Wrong) for asking me to join in all the fun. I’ve competed with Jay in several deeeeeep and complex fantasy leagues involving more prospects than most care to follow for several years. [Jay’s Note: Sorry for trading you Heyward.] When involved in leagues as deep as these, most owners are forced to pan for gold to find hidden gems when drafting.

I plan to utilize this space at least once a week to shine the light on an “under the radar” prospect that most folks haven’t necessarily heard much about from noted “prospect gurus” such as Jonathon Mayo, Keith Law, and our revered friends at Baseball America, who typically have to focus on the higher ranked and more talked about future stars, since their readers tend to dig for information about them.

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Happy Fathers Day, Razzball Nation, especially to the dads we have here on staff: Rudy and Mike and Nick are proud fathers, and I’ve heard Tehol has offspring on every continent, although that rumor is unsubstantiated. I’m not a dad, but I have one, and I’ll be hanging with him today, doing our usual Fathers Day bonding (sipping fine booze while watching the US Open). I hope everyone can find something equally gratifying to do with their dads, or with their sons and daughters. And however it is that you choose to enjoy the day, here’s to all the good fathers out there. Cheers.

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Ranking prospects for fantasy purposes is a tricky exercise. 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, we’re going 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.

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For those who missed it, we took a brief look at a handful of draft prospects earlier in the week, highlighting players who, by my estimation, have the quickest paths to fantasy baseball relevance. Without knowing who would end up where, it would have been a stretch to try to peg specific timetables on anyone listed. Even now, before signing bonuses have been agreed to, that sort of exercise seems silly. There is one ETA, though, that I can’t help but speculate over. The White Sox drafted Carlos Rodon third overall, and have begun the process of negotiating signing terms with Rodon’s agent, Scott Boras. Given Boras’s reputation, there are many who wonder if the Sox will even be able to sign the 21-year-old, but I’m not overly concerned on that end. Chicago established a precedent in 2010 when they pushed Chris Sale through to the big club only two months after drafting him in the first round, revealing a distinct willingness not to pinch pennies over service time. A similar fast-track for Rodon puts him (and Boras) one year closer to payday. I believe the “screw super two” attitude displayed by Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams will be a valuable bargaining piece for Chicago, and could lead to a bonus in the neighborhood of MLB’s slot suggestion. Granted, such a scenario would involve the lefty pitching in a relief role, it still wouldn’t derail any plans to have him join the starting rotation next spring. This is all to say that Carlos Rodon pitching at the highest level this season is not out of the question. Keep that possibility in mind during your upcoming dynasty drafts.

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A friend of mine has this morbid fascination with the demise of Major League Baseball through TV ratings, and what’s most bizarre about his complex is the fact that he happens to work for a big league org. Every so often I’ll get a gchat from him that goes like, “dude, male viewership between ages 31 and 33 has dropped a quarter point off last year’s pace. Terrible news for baseball.” Such messages usually go ignored, but a couple weeks ago one of these IM’s caught me off guard: “You realize the WNBA draft drew a better rating than the MLB Draft last year?” I didn’t bother fact-checking this one, so perhaps my friend got his numbers mixed up, but in any case, if this news is even close to being accurate, I find it deeply disturbing. The MLB first-year player draft begins tomorrow at 6pm central time on MLB Network, and if you care enough about baseball to be reading a blog post about fantasy prospects, then you should probably tune in. Offering further intrigue, I’ve identified some early-impact draft prospects below. We’re sticking to college products for this exercise, as they carry a quicker path to the bigs and far less risk than their prep counterparts.

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Ranking prospects for fantasy purposes is a tricky exercise. 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, we’re going 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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

No prospect in baseball brings a higher ceiling than Javier Baez. That much is noted. He gave us a glimpse of the limitless potential last summer when he reached Double-A, drilling 35 XBH (20 HR) in 240 plate appearances during the season’s final two months. Then he showed up at big league camp this spring and knocked 5 HR in 18 games, and baseball began to wonder how long the Cubs could keep a talent like this in the minors. I drank the Baez Kool-Aid — I drank lots of it. I fantasized about scenarios that would’ve had Javy in the bigs by now, and I advised you to stash him in redraft leagues, and not let go. But then the cant-miss 21-year-old proceeded to miss. He missed just about everything that was thrown to him, to be clear, racking up a K% at Triple-A Iowa north of 35% through the first month and a half of the season. Throughout it all, though, I told you to be patient. I told you he’d turn it around, and once he did, he wouldn’t be long for the minors. I admit, anxious feelings about Baez began to creep into the back of my mind in recent weeks, and to a degree, they’re still present. These past 10 days, however, have provided much needed relief, as Baez has posted a slash line at .414/.419/.897 with 3 homers and 5 doubles. It’ll take several more weeks like this one to repair his line on the year, which sits at .201/.268/.388, but I believe Javy will be up to the challenge. And if, by chance, too much damage has been done to salvage the Triple-A line, he’ll still have a clean slate to work with when he surfaces at Wrigley later this summer.

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Good God, Joey Gallo is on fire right now. He’s been on fire pretty much all year, in fact, but right now, in particular, he’s a blazing inferno of glorious power. Gallo homered 3 times on Friday, and once more on Saturday, giving him 8 in his last 10 games, and 18 on the season. He’s batting .340/.453/.792, and he’s even tossed in 4 stolen bags. His K% is 12 points lower than last year’s, his BB% is 5 points higher, and he’s even grown two inches taller since last summer. OK, I’m lying about the growth thing, but the other parts are true. Gallo, age 20, appears ready for upper levels baseball. There’s little left for him to prove in A-ball, and I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before he’s promoted. I’m anxious to see how his improved approach adapts to the advanced arms he’ll see at Double-A. Until then, enjoy the show.

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