There’s admittedly a special place in my heart for left-handed pitchers already, but I’m falling hard for Blake Snell. The 22-year-old southpaw ranked 9th in my Rays Top 10 prospects this offseason. Here’s what I said there: “His arsenal features a low-to-mid-90s fastball, plus slider, and plus changeup. His ceiling is more of a mid-rotation starter, but in deep leagues he’s a prospect worth checking in on just in case he figures out his control and takes another step forward. He will face a bigger challenge in 2015 when he gets his feet wet in Double-A.” His feet are officially wet. After just four games in High-A, Snell was promoted to Double-A Montgomery and made his first start Friday night. He responded with six scoreless innings, striking out eight while allowing just one hit and one walk. On the season, Snell has now pitched 27 innings and has yet to allow a run. He has struck out 35 batters and opponents are hitting just .124 off him. If you’re in a deeper dynasty format with some minor league slots to fill, I’d be getting on the Snell train. Here’s what else is happening around the minor leagues…

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It’s not all bad news for Phillies fans. The major league squad looks pretty lousy, and when Aaron Harang is your best arm the fans probably won’t be dancing down Broad Street. But there’s hope on the farm, and this week’s Minor Accomplishments leads off with some Phillies prospects who are off to hot starts. Maikel Franco had a cold April in 2014, but this year he’s hitting .371/.436/.686 with a homer and six doubles at AAA Lehigh Valley. With only Ryan Howard and Cody Asche standing in his way, expect Franco to be a fixture in this year’s Prospect Power Rankings. Drop down a level to find Roman Quinn, who has stolen seven bases through seven games and leads the Eastern League in that category. He’s not all wheels, as he’s also hitting a cool .471 with a home run. At Single-A Lakewood, Carlos Tocci is also off to a good start. The 19-year-old is hitting .361/.439/.528 with a homer, three doubles, and four steals through his first nine games. Here are some of the other notable performances from the start of the minor league season…

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (20) | 2013 (4) | 2012 (11) | 2011 (3) | 2010 (1)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [77-85] AL East
AAA: [75-69] International League – Durham
AA: [66-74] Southern League – Montgomery
A+: [63-70] Florida State League – Charlotte
A: [61-77] Midwest League – Bowling Green
A(ss): [46-30] New York-Penn League – Hudson Valley

Graduated Prospects
Jake Odorizzi, RHP | Brad Boxberger, RHP | Kevin Kiermaier, OF

The Gist
The Rays have had a very busy six months. They moved their ace David Price in a three-team deal that landed Willy Adames and major leaguers Nick Franklin and Drew Smyly. In July, they signed arguably the best international prospect available for just under $3M, which put them over their bonus pool limit. More recently they traded Jeremy Hellickson to Arizona for two quality prospects and sent Wil Myers in a surprising three-team deal that brought back another package of young talent headlined by Steven Souza of the Nationals. 2014 saw young arms like Jake Odorizzi, Brad Boxberger, and Chris Archer take steps forward in their development. It also surprised us with Kevin Kiermaier, who filled in for Wil Myers during his DL stint and proved to be a nice little power/speed combo in deep fantasy leagues. The Rays’ small budget won’t be any different in 2015, but the front office will – Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers after ten years with Tampa Bay.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (11) | 2011 (3) | 2010 (1) | 2009 (4) | 2008 (1)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [90-72] AL East
AAA: [66-78] International League – Durham
AA: [74-63] Southern League – Montgomery
A+: [55-79] Florida State League – Charlotte
A: [80-60] Midwest League – Bowling Green
A(ss): [52-24] New York-Penn League — Hudson Valley

Arizona Fall League PlayersPhoenix Desert Dogs
Lenny Linsky (RHP); Tim Beckham (2B); Hak-Ju Lee (SS); Richie Shaffer (3B); Kevin Kiermaier (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Matt Moore (RHP); Jake McGee (LHP)

The Run Down
The Rays’ player development systems have always been top-notch, and for the past several years, they’ve maintained one of the better farm systems in the game. As a matter of timing more than anything else — some bad luck, too (see Beckham) — the system was a little lighter than usual in the high-impact department near the end of last season. They were growing older, and more expensive at the big league level. It appeared that they were deviating from Andrew Friedman’s operational model — a patient, bottom-up approach that had discovered and nurtured talent better than just about any other organization — that had made them a year-to-year contender in baseball’s toughest division. And then the James Shields deal happened and the natural order was restored to the baseball universe. All of a sudden, Wil Myers became a Ray, and the once-lacking high-impact department was replenished with one of the more high-impacty dudes in the minors. Beyond Myers, Tampa added MLB-ready pitching depth in Jake Odorizzi. They also nabbed Mike Montgomery on the cheap — sure, he pitched like a pile of hot garbage in 2012, but one year does not ruin a prospect. When considering this top ten back in October, I was kinda worried about having to cover a slew high-upside 18-year-olds who hadn’t yet played outside of instructional league. Thank you, Andrew Friedman, for making this post more interesting.

Please, blog, may I have some more?