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…

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The Futures Game was yesterday, and while I’m writing this post prior to the game actually being played, here’s about what I’d expect the broadcast booth banter to sound like – “Player X has a lot of loud tools. He has a bright future in the bigs. This kid is going to be a perennial All-Star. Comps, hyperbole, etc.” Sounds cynical, but unfortunately there are no crystal balls. It’s fun to dream on these guys, though, and really that’s what the Futures Game is all about to me – showcasing the best young talent in the game at the moment. Be sure to check out the Futures Game edition of the Minor Accomplishments series from Chris yesterday. On this short week let’s see if there are any players in the minors we should have our eye on from a steals perspective. Players like George Springer, Gregory Polanco, Mookie Betts, and most recently Arismendy Alcantara have already come up this year. They all have the ability to make an impact in the stolen base department. So let’s see who’s next. Whether they are close to the bigs or a ways away, these players should make an impact when their time comes.

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…And by “IBS”, I don’t mean irritable bowel syndrome. In this context, I mean BABIP verified by ISO and Spd scores. Two things induce my real life IBS: nutrition, and my high impact dynasty leagues. Consider this series your dynasty IBS treatment.

BABIP has little face, so I use ISO (isolated slugging) and Spd (FG’s speed score) to verify the BABIP.

Check out Part 1 of this series where I delved into Trois-A assets. While Joc Pederson and Gregory Polanco naturally lead the rankings in conjunction with Quad-A guys like Andrew Brown and Chris Dickerson, I pointed to some translatable future impact in Chris Taylor and Domingo Santana, among others.

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The Mets aren’t thrilled with the Jenrry Mejia’s production lately, opponents having tallied 16 runs against him through his last 3 outings. Mejia has always been a pitcher who profiles best as a short-stint arm out of the bullpen, but you can’t blame the Mets for exploring the possibility of him as a SP — Mejia features filthy stuff, and if the arsenal were indeed sustainable over a starting pitcher’s workload, he’d be a great asset to any rotation. It appears, now, that the Mets have seen enough. Mejia will be moved to the bullpen and Rafael Montero will fill the void in the Mets rotation. Montrero, age 23, is one of the more polished arms in the minors, bringing immediate upside in both whiffs and ratios. About a month ago, I wrote my Rafael Montero fantasy. Check it out it for further intel.

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The early stages of the MiLB season have brought loads of speculation with regard to Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty, and which prospect the Cardinals will summon to St. Louis first. I’d love to be able to provide some clarity to that question, but frankly, such call-ups depend on so many different proprietary factors, and it’d be pretty stupid of me say something like, “Piscotty is gonna be the guy ’cause he’s hitting a bunch of singles at Triple-A.”  Piscotty, by the way, has collected 15 hits (12 singles) through his first 37 AB at Memphis.  He’s a fine prospect, and he’s zoned in right now, but the gaudy average (.405) is probably drawing a bit more attention than it should.  Meanwhile, Taveras is slugging north of .500.  He’s still the higher-impact fantasy talent, and he’s still the better prospect.  This is not to suggest that Oscar will definitely be up before Piscotty — only that it’d be silly to lose perspective on the situation.  Taveras is the true prize.

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As of 4/10, these middle infielders are all owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues, and contingent on the context, I would conditionally own them all. And that’s how you alliterate league format dependency.

While they’re ranked by %ownership, I’ll furnish my zeal for each:

#1 – Kolten Wong (6.5%) – He’s only 23, so give him a little time. He’s already got a top-20 contact rate this year and has impressively walked more than he struck out. He’s batting .276 with a .382 OBP and 2 stolen bases. I’m not sure why he’s owned < 10%. Mark Ellis (DL/knee) and Daniel Descalso won’t consume that much time away from him. Very soon, he’ll be owned in over 10% of leagues, so make that happen sooner than later. 70+ runs near the top of that lineup with a 7HR-45RBI-20SB-.270BA is playable at MI.

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We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2014 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2014 Indians Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Ed Carroll from Wahoos on First and co-host of the Wahoo’s on the Mic podcast.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (20) | 2012 (29) | 2011 (7) | 2010 (3) | 2009 (7)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB:  [92-70] AL Central
AAA:  [71-73] International League — Columbus
AA:  [68-73] Eastern League — Akron
A+:  [57-83] Carolina League — Carolina
A:  [54-83] Midwest League — Lake County
A(ss):  [30-44] New York-Penn League — Mahoning Valley

Graduated Prospects
Yan Gomes (C); Cody Allen (RHP); Danny Salazar (RHP); Nick Hagadone (LHP)

The Run Down
The Tribe are coming off a surprisingly successful campaign in 2013, winning 92 games and earning a spot in the postseason.  Big league acquisitions had a lot to do with that success, but a fair amount of it needs to be attributed to homegrown talent, too.  At age 26, Jason Kipnis isn’t quite a youngster anymore, but he was drafted and developed by this org, and his breakout year can’t be ignored.  The same can be said for graduating prospects, Yan Gomes and Danny Salazar, both of whom offered value in the fantasy game (Gomes was actually acquired via Toronto, but you get the idea).  What remains on the Cleveland farm is a nice collection of talent, including two top-50 prospects, and perhaps a couple more in the 50-100 range.  Pitching is the glaring weakness here, and only one pitcher makes this top 10.  Of course, when considering that shortage on the pitching side of things, it’s probably important to also consider that the Tribe graduated Salazar, Corey Kluber, and Zach McAllister in the last two seasons.  Not too shabby.

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There are several questionable farm systems in baseball, but the Chicago White Sox are certainly one that stands out. For years now, the Sox have maintained a firm MLB-first approach to player personnel. They’re a principled franchise that would rather allocate its baseball operations budget toward free agent signings and MLB extensions than toward draft spending. And when they do stumble upon a real-deal prospect, they usually like to trade him for a veteran dude, someone to help that playoff push. It’s a model that occasionally works — they won a World Series by it in 2005 — but it’s not one that’s built to sustain success. And now, in 2013, the White Sox are awful. They’re in total rebuild mode — everything is for sale. This is finally their opportunity to change direction, to try to build a system that cultivates and utilizes impact talent. They’ve already dealt Matt Thornton to Boston for Brandon Jacobs, an upside outfielder with a skill set that might be very useful in the fantasy game. Don’t stop there, Chicago. Tear it all down.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (29) | 2011 (7) | 2010 (3) | 2009 (7) | 2008 (19)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB:  [68-94] AL Central
AAA:  [75-69] International League — Columbus
AA:  [82-59] Eastern League — Akron
A+:  [63-77] Carolina League — Carolina
A:  [71-68] Midwest League — Lake County
A(ss):  [30-45] New York-Penn League — Mahoning Valley

Arizona Fall League PlayersScottsdale Scorpions
Shawn Armstrong (RHP); Trey Haley (RHP); T.J.

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