After serving a 50 game suspension because all he do is smoke mad izm, the Cardinals top prospect Alex Reyes returns this afternoon for AAA Memphis. If you’re not familiar with Reyes, then leave…seriously get the heck out of here. Okay, I’m kidding, but really you should be generally aware of the right handed flamethrower. If all goes well, I could easily see him in the big league rotation come late July, with a chance at being one of the most impactful rookies of the 2016 term. After all this is a player that averaged a 13.4 K/9 in 101 innings across three levels last year. He’s also starting his season just a step away from St. Louie in AAA Memphis. With “ironmen” like Jaime Garcia and Carlos Martinez in the Cardinals rotation, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where he’s in the bigs rather quickly. Going forward he needs to be considered amongst the top ten potential promotions, and a top 3-5 pitcher in the minors. In keepers or redrafts where you can stash minors, grab Reyes if he’s available.

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I didn’t want to open this post with just any old sentence. I needed to come up with an unbelievable opening. Something that screamed brilliance. Something that truly captured my feelings for Andrew Benintendi. I held off on really gushing about him in an opening, because the time needed to be right. You know popping his opening cherry, so to speak was special stuff….(WOW! those were some words you could quote me out of context on, and it would look real bad on my part.) The time is here! So off we go, let the trumpets blow, and hold on because the driver of this mission is a horse proctologist by the name of Jan Wilbury. Is that my real name? It shall remain a mystery!! Oh yeah, Andrew Benintendi was promoted to AA Portland on Monday. The long and the short of it, or the “those Grey readers who just read the openings to other posts and scoff” version of why you should care. He’s a future 5 category, 6 if you’re in OBP leagues, contributor, and he’s going to be in the Boston outfield in short order. I suppose he could be in someone else’s outfield too, if there’s a …..gulp….trade. I’d just like to suppress those thoughts for today.

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When your farm system graduates four top 100 prospects in one season, like the Cubs did, it’s only natural that your overall minors grade takes a hit the following year. After coming into 2015 with one of the most talented groups in recent memory the 2016 version is a bit of a letdown. Don’t misunderstand me, the Cubs system is still head and shoulders above the last two systems we previewed, but it’s a far cry from the level it’s been the previous two springs. There’s still a solid group of hitters left and some upside arms with ETA’s a year or two out. So there’s still a lot to discuss, but none of the current crop has the through the roof tools of Bryant, Russell, Soler, or Baez. In closing its not the prospect pants tent of yesteryear, but it hasn’t dipped to Angelic levels either.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (4) | 2013 (12) | 2012 (14) | 2011 (16) | 2010 (14)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [73-89] NL Central
AAA: [74-70] Pacific Coast League – Iowa
AA: [66-73] Southern League – Tennessee
A+: [67-69] Florida State League – Daytona (2015 Myrtle Beach)
A: [91-49] Midwest League – Kane County (2015 South Bend)
A(ss): [41-35] Northwest League – Boise (2015 Eugene)

Graduated Prospects
Javier Baez, 2B | Arismendy Alcantara, OF | Mike Olt, 3B

The Gist
This is about as stacked as a system can get. There’s upside all over the field including the graduated prospects listed above. Granted, they are still prospects and where everybody ends up playing is a good question. Heading into 2015 we’ll all wait for the arrival of Kris Bryant and later in the year we’ll be chomping at the bit for Addison Russell’s debut. Meanwhile, Javier Baez might be one of the most polarizing players on this team and there’s a chance he could start the year in the minors. But that would just give fellow sophomore Arismendy Alcantara some more time at the keystone and he’s no slouch either. Even the rotation looks good with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta one-two. Can the bespectacled one take this team to the promised land? *grabs popcorn*

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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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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (12) | 2012 (14) | 2011 (16) | 2010 (14) | 2009 (27)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [66-96] NL Central
AAA: [66-78] Pacific Coast League – Iowa
AA: [76-62] Southern League – Tennessee
A+: [75-51] Florida State League – Daytona
A: [55-80] Midwest League – Kane County
A(ss):  [41-35] Northwest League — Boise

Graduated Prospects
Junior Lake (OF); Chris Rusin (LHP); Hector Rondon (RHP); Blake Parker (RHP)

The Run Down
Twins and Astros fans might take umbrage with this statement, but from a fantasy perspective, the Cubs have the most exciting farm in the minors.  It starts with Javier Baez, of course, but the impact potential runs throughout this top ten, with every prospect bringing at least one high-end fantasy tool to the table.  And I could’ve gone deeper too, with upper-levels arms like Arodys Vizaino and Neil Ramirez set to surface this season, and top latin talent, Eloy Jimenez, lurking at the instructional level.  Plain and simple:  this system is stacked.  Some of you know that I was raised a Cardinals fan, and that the Redbirds are still my team.  As such, I should be taken seriously when I tell you that the future of the Cubs is really friggin’ bright, and it is near, and it scares the piss out of me.

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For the past few seasons, Jose Abreu has been regarded as Cuba’s best offensive talent. The 26-year-old slugger has spent the past decade playing pro ball in Cuba where he routinely was at the top of the league in AVG, OBP, SLG, RBI, and HR. Well, it now seems he’s played his last game in Cuba, as reports earlier this week explain that he has left his homeland and has begun the process of becoming a MLB free agent. At 6-3, 250, Abreu is a large man with next to zero defensive appeal. He’s a 1B/DH type, so he’d fit best with an AL club, but scouting reports suggest he has enough glove to get by at first, so don’t rule out the NL entirely. Wherever he signs, it’s gonna be for big money and an immediate big league opportunity. Abreu is an MLB-ready masher, and at age 26, there’ll be no reason to start him in the minors. If all goes as planned, he should be occupying a regular MLB role by Opening Day 2014. There’s upside here in the neighborhood of .300 AVG and 30+ HR. It’ll be interesting to see how early he’s off the board in mixed league drafts next spring.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (14) | 2011 (16) | 2010 (14) | 2009 (27) | 2008 (18)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [61-101] NL Central
AAA: [53-87] Pacific Coast League – Iowa
AA: [72-68] Southern League – Tennessee
A+: [59-74] Florida State League – Daytona
A: [63-75] Midwest League – Peoria (Kane County beginning 2013)
A(ss): [37-39] Northwest League — Boise

Arizona Fall League PlayersMesa Solar Sox
Dae-Eun Rhee (RHP); Kevin Rhoderick (RHP); Nick Struck (RHP); Tony Zych (RHP); Logan Watkins (2B); Rubi Silva (OF); Matt Szczur (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Anthony Rizzo (1B); Steve Clevenger (C); Welington Castillo (C)

The Run Down
Since Theo and his gang arrived, it’s been evident that the Cubs are on a better track. They traded for Anthony Rizzo, they signed Jorge Soler, they drafted well (it seems that way, at least), and they’ve added much-needed depth to their farm system via deals with Atlanta and Texas. In just one year’s time, it’s quite impressive how improved this system is. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when 2011 draftees, Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach, break out with huge statistical years. Still, the bottom-up impact that the Epstein-Hoyer regime has had on this organization cannot be denied. If it’s lacking anywhere, it’s in the starting pitching department — there simply aren’t many high-impact arms coming up. But the Cubs have ample dough to work around that shortcoming with signings at the big league level. It might be a few more years until they’re contenders in the NL Central, but it’s clear that that they’re headed in that direction. Oh, and there’s quite a bit of fantasy impact in the names below.

Please, blog, may I have some more?