Welcome to the All-Star break gang – the unofficial beginning of the second half signals the time to reorganize, revamp, and re-think approaches for us, as well as the folks making the calls for your favorite MLB teams. And, coincidentally, it also marks the time for me to revisit my Prospect Rankings. These are the current top-50 guys on my board that haven’t accumulated the standard minimum 130 AB/50 IP at the MLB level that most fantasy leagues recognize. When compiling my rankings, I try to consider as many variables as possible, but my main focus tilts toward future “difference-makers”… those guys that have the potential to make significant impacts when they reach “The Show”. Some players you’ll find on this list may be further away from making that impact than others, some may be struggling a bit right now (they may have been recently promoted to the next level to challenge them and are adjusting to stiffer competition), some may be on the shelf because of injury, etc., but this list represents the top-50 players I’d pick if you give me the first 50 picks in the MiLB phase of a draft in a newly forming fantasy league. These are the prospects GMs “dream on”, regardless of their current minor league level – the players they plan to build their rosters around at some point in the near future.

So here we go…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’m in three dynasty leagues that I impulsively attend to. I’m all about the win-now, so I’ll trade my top prospects for immediate impact. In all three of these leagues, I was looking to displace an empty prospect slot, and with my MLB catchers lacking value…

The following catchers were already owned in at least 2/3rd’s of those leagues: Austin Hedges, Jorge Alfaro, Gary Sanchez, Blake Swihart (be me, in one league), Christian Bethancourt and Reese McGuireTom Murphy (probably because of his eventual stomping ground, Colorado) and Stryker Trahan are also owned in at least one of the leagues.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (14) | 2012 (8) | 2011 (8) | 2010 (20) | 2009 (29)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [76-86] NL West
AAA: [77-67] Pacific Coast League – Tucson
AA: [78-61] Texas League – San Antonio
A+: [61-79] California League – Lake Elsinore
A: [72-67] Midwest League – Fort Wayne
A(ss):  [27-49] Northwest League — Eugene

Graduated Prospects
Jedd Gyorko (2B/3B); Robbie Erlin (LHP); Nick Vincent (RHP)

The Run Down
When gauging this Padres farm from a fantasy perspective, the ballpark factor cannot be ignored.  Virtually any arm in contention for regular starts at Petco is an arm that carries great fantasy potential — all of the pitchers here have a chance to outperform their tools thanks to the cavernous confines of their park.  Conversely, the upsides of the hitters in this org are limited for the same reason.  All that said, there are exciting pieces in this San Diego org on both sides of the fantasy game.  This Padres system has plenty of depth, as usual, and there’s some high-end talent sprinkled in too.  Quietly, San Diego has been one of the more impactful organizations with regard to the fantasy game.  That trend should continue into the foreseeable future.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in baseball. At least right now, as I’m typing this, they do. The Bucs are an exciting big league club composed with a seemingly perfect balance of youthful talent and veteran savvy, and they have a legitimate chance at a pennant this year. But if we’re looking ahead to 2014, 2015, and beyond, Pittsburgh has a chance to be frighteningly good. Their system has already graduated top-shelf prospects like Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole, and there’s plenty more on the way. Gregory Polanco — currently at Double-A — is one of the brightest outfield prospects in the game, ranked #10 on my Mid-Season Top 50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects list. One spot ahead of Polanco on that list is the 6-foot-6 RHP, Jameson Taillon. Taillon’s projectable frame and elite stuff have him profiling as a top-of-the-rotation arm, and there are plenty folks around baseball who like his upside just as much as Gerrit Cole’s. The 21-year-old has showed some inconsistency this season at Double-A Altoona (3.67 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), but the Pirates, holding to their development plan, have promoted him to Triple-A. He looks to be exactly one year behind Cole, so it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing Taillon with the big club next summer.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I really don’t want to spend much time on Endy Chavez. Which means basically two things. 1) I don’t think to much of the guy. 2) The Mariners outfield situation is bad. Really bad. Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if they still had a fourth outfielder that could play center and have some pop? Granted, they could have claimed Casper Wells, after the either previous DFA’s this past week, but pride goeth before a fall, or so they say. Well, now that I’m thinking about it, if I’m going to talk about Shelley Duncan and Don Kelly in previous iterations of this series, might as well make Chavez feel right at home. Hitting 269/308/367 for his career, that’s basically who he is. But he’s getting at-bats, so he’s filler if you need it. And if you need filler like that, bless your heart.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (8) | 2011 (8) | 2010 (20) | 2009 (29) | 2008 (13)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [76-86] NL West
AAA: [56-88] Pacific Coast League – Tucson
AA: [60-80] Texas League – San Antonio
A+: [69-71] California League – Lake Elsinore
A: [69-71] Midwest League – Fort Wayne
A(ss): [47-29] Northwest League — Eugene

Graduated Prospects
Yonder Alonso (1B); Yasmani Grandal (C); Anthony Bass (RHP); Brad Brach (RHP); Dale Thayer (RHP)

The Run Down
Pitching depth is the best asset of this San Deigo farm system. From the upper levels down to the complex leagues, the Padres’ farm is flush with quality arms. There are high-ceiling arms, and there are safe, high-floor guys, too. That sort of depth is hugely important — strength in numbers usually prevails in the volatile practice of developing pitchers. This top ten, however, is headlined by hitters. Rymer Liriano, Jedd Gyorko, and Austin Hedges all bring high-impact upside for the fantasy game, and Gyorko could be providing plenty of value this season. It might not be the best system in baseball, but it’s a damn good one. We can look forward to this San Diego organization churning out fantasy-relevant talent in bulk for the next few years.

Please, blog, may I have some more?