Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (25) | 2013 (2) | 2012 (9) | 2011 (18) | 2010 (12)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [87-75] AL West
AAA: [74-70] Pacific Coast League – Tacoma
AA: [63-76] Southern League – Jackson
A+: [66-74] California League – High Desert (2015: Bakersfield)
A: [61-77] Midwest League – Clinton
A(ss): [28-48] Northwest League – Everett

Graduated Prospects
Taijuan Walker, RHP | James Paxton, LHP | Roenis Elias, RHP | Stefen Romero, OF | James Jones, OF | Dominic Leone, RHP

The Gist
The Mariners just missed the playoffs in 2014 and graduated several quality prospects along the way. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma will be joined by Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Roenis Elias. Elias had a solid rookie season and will look to keep that going, while Walker aims to show why he was the organization’s top pitching prospect. The Mariners took one of the most exciting players in this year’s draft when they selected Alex Jackson sixth overall. The farm is stocked with enough pieces to make moves at the trade deadline if they go into buy mode either in the offseason or in July. On a side note, Seattle moved out of the launching pad of High Desert and now calls Bakersfield their High-A home after this year’s affiliation shuffle.

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The Braves had the 5th best ERA last year in the major leagues. That’s with a down year by Mike Minor, and injuries to Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen. Their runs scored were second to last in the majors. Only the Padres’ offense was worse. So, naturally, they trade away Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins, who had a sub-5 K/9 in High-A last year. Oh…*pounds out a chicken cutlet, fills it with spinach and ricotta cheese, rolls it up, ties it with twine, bakes it on 450 for 18-22 minutes, pulls it out and breathes in the aroma* …kay. That’s the Chicken Florentine pause. Practiced by many, only able to be pulled off by a few. I rarely pull out the Chicken Florentine pause, but trading a top hitting prospect that is only 25 years old, when your team is hurting for offense, is straight up baffling with a pickleback. Are the Braves trying to bring the entire organization down to Fredi’s level of intelligence? Did Fredi tell management that they had too many top of the order hitters (they have none) and they needed another arm (they don’t)? Are the Braves trying to get featured in the third sequel to Major League? I got questions, y’all! From a fantasy perspective, Heyward’s value goes up simply because the Cardinals are a better offensive team. Like someone doing yoga, Heyward will now be surrounded by Matts, Carpenter and Holliday. What will Heyward produce? Go ask the Sphinx. One year he looks like a 30-homer hitter, another year he looks like a middle infielder with 20 steal speed. He could be anywhere from a 15-homer guy to a 30-homer guy. The 20 steals, now in two of five seasons, looks possible, until you see he has a year of only 2 steals. His .271 average last year is around his career average (.262), so that seems repeatable, until you see his .227 average in 2011. At some point, he could have a 30-homer, 20-steal top 20 fantasy season, but to say it’s definitely coming is you lying to yourself. You already lie to yourself in other areas of your life, let’s not start with Heyward too. For 2015, I’ll give him the projections of 91/20/75/.274/15. Anyway, here’s some more offseason moves for 2015 fantasy baseball:

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Another year, another Archie Bradley outlook post. He now has two said posts, which might be it for him, if he can’t start to make good on his promise. Here’s what Prospect Mike said this year on him, “Many fantasy owners thought Bradley might have already made his debut by now, but elbow problems and a D-Backs squad that went nowhere again in 2014 stalled his progress. Kinda like how Grey’s maturity level stalled in the 4th grade.” Hey, I’m way more of a middle schooler! Here’s what I said last year, “Archie reminds me of Taijuan Walker, only rawer. BTW, try to say rawer out loud and not sound like a lion. Yeah, you can’t. Is it me or does it seem the nastier a guy’s stuff is the less control they have over it? It’s like if a hitter doesn’t know where a pitch is going, then the pitcher probably doesn’t either. Another guy Bradley reminds me of is Max Scherzer. It took Scherzer six years to figure out where his pitches were going. Member all of those years I loved Scherzer and he was frustrating to own? Because I love stuff and you just never know when the control is going to come. Bradley’s control could come this year. More than likely, it’ll come in another year or two. He’s only 21 years old. If he doesn’t figure out control until age 24, he’ll still have plenty of time to rack up Cy Young awards, but will be useless for fantasy for another three years. So, I love him like his momma, but there’s no way I’m drafting him in mixed leagues.” And that’s me quoting me! Unfortch, I was way more prescient than I wanted to be with Bradley. So, what can we expect of Archie Bradley for 2015 fantasy baseball?

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The Arizona Fall League is over, but prospect season is in full swing. Razzball is posting fantasy-driven top ten prospect lists every Wednesday this offseason so be sure to check them out. While the AFL isn’t a long season, it features some of the better prospects in baseball and it’s worth looking back at a few of the top performers in the league this year. Moving forward, we’ll focus on the winter leagues. Big leaguers and prospects from many MLB organizations are still playing baseball! There are several leagues like this, but I tend to gravitate toward the Dominican Winter League the most. Players like Maikel Franco, Joc Pederson, and Rymer Liriano are just a few of the names you’ll find on the DWL rosters. Last year’s MVP, Gregory Polanco, created quite the buzz in 2014. The league runs until the end of December and I’ll check in on some of the performances there periodically in this Minor Accomplishments series. To follow along, you can live stream games here, here, and here. Just brush up on some Spanish first! Back to the AFL…here were this year’s top performers with some commentary:

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During the All-Star break last year, Mark Reynolds aka Mini Donkey, Adam Dunn aka Big Donkey, Ian Stewart aka Mini Mini Donkey and Pedro Alvarez aka El Burro got together to discuss the future of the Donkeys with Adam Dunn retiring. The conference took place at a Chicago-area Sheraton. Outside the Sheraton conference room, a sign read, “Dunn Done and Done?” Caterers vied hard to cater the event. Carpenters stood by in case Dunn sat down wrong on a chair. First to speak was Mini Donkey. He assured Dunn, the Donkeys could continue, saying, “All brays to you, but is this the end? Nay! There would still be all-or-nothing types for years to come.” Alvarez said something, but the translator was a no-show. Ian Stewart placed a cinnamon sugar donut on a pen and took practice swings, eliciting a stink-eye from Dunn. After a good hour of debate, Dunn wasn’t sure; his concern about their future worried him, so, naturally, he turned on the Futures Game. At that point, a Lithuanian maid walked into the conference room with a sign written in Batman-style font. The sign read: WHAMP! At six-foot, five inches, Joey Gallo devastates pitches. Last year, he hit 21 homers in only 68 games in Double-A. Before that, he hit 21 homers in only 58 games in High-A. Last year, 38 homers in 106 games. And he can’t hit above .240 in the minors. Adam Dunn stood up and exclaimed, “Four lady readers and gentlemen, we got ourselves a new Donkey — Big Donkey Jr.! And Ian Stewart please stop wasting donuts.” Anyway, what can we expect of Joey Gallo for 2015 fantasy baseball?

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Noah Syndergaard seemed poised to help the Mets this year, after breezing through Double-A with a 11+ K/9 and a 3.00 ER in 54 IP in 2013. “Matt Harvey on line one, wants Noah to take the call. Sure, he can hold, he only has the Ghost of Ralph Kiner on the other line. No, he can’t hold!” Of course, the Mets can’t have anything nice. It’s what happens when a club makes a deal with the devil in 1986 for a championship and a Cadillac filled with cocaine. “I said to take the compact Pontiac Sunbird filled with coke and 15 years of bad karma, instead of the Cadillac and 30 years of bad karma.” That’s Keith Hernandez explaining his side of things. In June, Syndergaard was sidelined with a sprained shoulder. Egads! But it was his non-throwing shoulder. Egadless! The Mets are in the same pickle as every other organization that has a Triple-A affiliate in the PCL. If they send them to Triple-A, they’re gonna get knocked around. No, I have no idea why they would have a league that shatters pitchers’ confidence. But, there they are. And there was Syndergaard’s confidence being splattered on the wall like a scene from Game of Thrones. Don’t throw a strike, it’s the white walkers! In Triple-A, he threw 133 IP, and had a 9.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 4.60 ERA. Lowercase yay. It’s Midnight in the Syndergaarden of Good and Evil and Kevin Spacey is unconvincingly playing a heterosexual. Snoozegaard, you suck, moving on! Or does he? Damn, you reversal question! Anyway, what can we expect of Noah Syndergaard for 2015 fantasy baseball?

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (26) | 2013 (26) | 2012 (15) | 2011 (2) | 2010 (9)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [79-83] NL East
AAA: [65-77] International League – Gwinnett
AA: [83-56] Southern League – Mississippi
A+: [68-71] Carolina League – Lynchburg (2015: Carolina)
A: [56-84] South Atlantic League – Rome

Graduated Prospects
Tommy La Stella, 2B | David Hale, RHP

The Gist
The Braves have a few interesting fantasy prospects in the pipeline, with Jose Peraza looking like the most relevant for 2015. The farm is on the thin side in general, but that could change if Atlanta decides to part ways with any of their major league stars. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton are both free agents in 2016. Evan Gattis is another trade candidate. Starting pitching is up in the air with both Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang possibly leaving in free agency, while Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen are still recovering from injuries. This could give the younger arms in the system a chance to crack the rotation in 2015. The Braves were part of the affiliation shuffle as High-A Carolina is now affiliated with Atlanta. Change also came in the front office this fall. Interim GM John Hart named Brian Bridges the organization’s new scouting director.

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I’m back from my trip to Colombia, without dysentery to boot! Though, I’m not sure if ‘to boot’ is the right verb, if I have dysentery. Though, Part II, The Return Of Thoughs, I also haven’t seen a solid stool in about a week. “Hmm, that looks like bat signal.” That’s you looking in my toilet, taking a Rorschach test. Let’s start with what I said about Castillo when he was first called up, “Here’s what Prospect Mike said about Rusney Castillo previously, “The one tool that is not in question is (Rusney’s) speed. A 30+ steal season from Castillo is a possibility as soon as 2015. The power is still up in the air. Some have tagged him more as an 8-12 homer type guy while others have said 15 or maybe even 20 homers could be in the cards. With any player, we get lots of comps thrown around. Two of the comps I’ve heard the most are Shane Victorino and Rajai Davis. Honestly, the Davis comp makes the most sense to me. The one that makes the least sense is Grey, he’s just a buffoon.” Hey, what’s that all about? To me, the Rajai comparison feels heavy on the speed; Victorino seems a better equivalent, but, honestly, there’s a ton of unknown here. He could be anywhere from a 7 HR/20 SB fourth outfielder to a 20 HR/40 SB superstar. Victorino feels about right — 12 homers, 30 steals. The more I read that he only had 66 steals in 1097 plate appearances in Cuba, I wonder if the hype machine hasn’t taken Rusney and thrown him into the spin cycle, making him more than he is. Shizzton of risk either way you slice the cake, and, brucely, I love cake, so I hope you’re sharing.” And that’s me quoting me and quoting Mike! In his brief cup of coffee (shot of espresso?), Castillo had two homers and three steals while batting .333 in 36 ABs. Call Cooperstown, Castillo’s coming in to sit for his bust sculpting. Or wrap him in plaster of Paris and put him outside of Fenway. We’ve got ourselves an immortal! Okay, but let’s just say for argument’s sake, he’s not an immortal, what can we expect from Rusney Castillo for 2015 fantasy baseball?

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Well, it’s about that time folks. I’ve taken a small break from running Razzball Football to go over how my 2014 Bold Predictions turned out. If you remember, 2013 was a fantastic year for me, as I got zero predictions correct. So by “fantastic”, I mean a total sh*t-fest. Which is also Nickelback’s favorite venue. Of course I had to up my game, so showing no proof whatsoever that I knew what the heck I was doing, I decided to take on Eno Sarris of FanGraphs, mano a mano, or, in this case, mother’s basement a mother’s basement, and have a prediction competition of the ages! All of them…

Here were the terms: Eno Sarris of FanGraphs has agreed to take on your very own lovable and quite handsome Jason Longfellow (yes, that’s my name, don’t wear it out) in a duel for the ages. His bold predictions will battle my bold predictions for COMPLETE AND UTTER SUPREMACY. Sort of like Highlander. We certainly need more Sean Connery, that’s for sure. And what’s at stake in this epic battle? Heads? Lightning swords? Shinobi’s? Naw. It’s beer. That’s right, beer. Whomever get’s the most predictions right, well, the loser has to buy him a six-pack of the beer of his choice. In this case, Eno has chosen DC Brau. Great selection, but it might come with side effects such as too much hipster and listening to Mumford. My choice? Koko Brown, because Hawai’i is the greatest thing ever known to man besides ice cream and blow jobs.

Here’s what happened…

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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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