Robert Downey Jr. and Phil Hughes have more in common than you might think. Both dealt with notoriously weak starts to their careers in The Big Apple. Hughes in pinstripes had four straight years of a 4+ ERA, and Downey on SNL. Both had to deal with brace-faced divas, Joe Girardi and Anthony Michael Hall. One was scouted by Gene Michael, the other Lorne Michaels. One wanted to impress Pettitte, one wanted to avoid petting Randy Quaid’s pet squirrel. One had to wait for A-Rod to finish frosting his hair before he could use the bathroom, one made frosting out of cocaine. But once they were out of New York, the world opened up to each. Yesterday, Hughes won his 16th game, going 8 IP, 1 ER, 5 baserunners, 5 Ks, and lowering his ERA to 3.52. His K-rate is 8 and his walk rate is 0.7, as he set the all-time strikeout-to-walk ratio at 11.63. Think about that walk rate for a second. Okay, the second is up. He walked 16 guys in 209 2/3 IP. That’s as terrific as 186 Ks, which is what he had. His ERA doesn’t look amazing in today’s day and age where everyone has a sub-3 ERA, but Hughes was actually unlucky and had a 3.15 xFIP. Everything together has me excited about Hughes for 2015 fantasy baseball. I could see him being relegated to 2nd fiddle status with some other 3rd or 4th fantasy starters, but outperforming his draft spot. Circling back to AMH, any time a guy like Hughes strikes out as much as Anthony Michael Hall and walks less than Uncle Buck, color me excited. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’m all about the win-now. This means I will rarely own a top prospect, because I’ll trade them for short term MLB value and/or I just won’t spend the dough on those guys, because I can look a bit deeper for translatable prospects that don’t have as much associated hype. Therefore, I’m not going to whine about not owning and emphasizing the obvious: Oscar Tavares, George Springer, Gregory Polanco or even Jackie Bradley Jr. Instead I’ll draft sure-thing offense so long as they’re healthy (Michael Morse and Yasmani Grandal), and then go with upside starters/or solid veterans like Marco Estrada, Alex Wood, Corey Kluber, Tyson Ross, Kyle Lohse and Tim Hudson (all were available around the same time as these prospects in deep leagues). I literally own all of these guys, and the following ESPN’ers <10% owned as of 4/14:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I don’t practice Santeria. I ain’t got no crystal ball. Well, if I had $6, I’d spend it all…

…I’d spend it on these Corner Infielders (owned <10% on ESPN as of 4/3)! They are placed in the order of my zeal, because my zeal smells nice and fresh. What does that even mean? Post now includes bonus CI Prospect list as well! (And maybe thermal packaging. What can I say? It’s a demand-driven commodity.) Follow me after the jump to find out what this all means… maybe.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Make sure you check out Scott Evans’ Prospect ETA’s for a sense of potential high impact call-ups. I’m going to focus on prospects and MLB sleepers beyond the obvious list of prospects. If I list a prospect, that said prospect should have the opportunity to make an impact this year, and in my opinion, have the minor league numbers/skill to translate well enough.

My ‘translate’ for fantasy purposes is simple: do they make enough contact (how often they put the ball in play); what is their approach to putting the ball in play (balls in play mix i.e. linedrives, flyballs, groundballs, HR/FB, infield flyballs, etc.); and what power/speed potential do they have from a fantasy counting stats perspective. Speed won’t have much of a weight in this post though.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (6) | 2012 (10) | 2011 (17) | 2010 (5) | 2009 (13)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [97-65] AL East
AAA: [80-63] International League – Pawtucket
AA: [68-73] Eastern League – Portland
A+: [76-64] Carolina League – Salem
A: [51-87] South Atlantic League – Greenville
A(ss):  [40-33] New York-Penn League — Lowell

Graduated Prospects
None

The Run Down
This Boston farm is exceptionally strong from a fantasy perspective, but it’s a different brand of strength from the top-of-the-league systems that we’ve recently discussed.  Orgs like the Cubs, Twins, Astros, and Pirates all feature a grouping of extreme high-impact prospects at the top of their ranks, whereas Boston’s main attraction is in its fantasy-relevant depth.  Excluding Xander Bogaerts from the conversation, there aren’t any sure-fire top 50 prospects in this group (although Garin Cecchini is certainly in the T50 conversation), but even so, it’d be difficult to find another farm as strong as Boston is from prospects #5 through #10.  Everyone here can be owned comfortably in dynasty formats, and that’s a rarity among these preseason top 10’s.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (10) | 2011 (17) | 2010 (5) | 2009 (13) | 2008 (2)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [69-93] AL East
AAA: [79-65] International League – Pawtucket
AA: [68-73] Eastern League – Portland
A+: [68-69] Carolina League – Salem
A: [66-73] South Atlantic League – Greenville
A(ss): [36-40] New York-Penn League — Lowell

Arizona Fall League PlayersSurprise Saguaros
Chris Martin (RHP); Pete Ruiz (RHP); Michael Almanzar (3B); Bryce Brentz (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Will Middlebrooks (3B); Ryan Lavarnway (C); Pedro Ciriaco (INF); Felix Doubront (LHP); Junichi Tazawa (RHP)

The Run Down
With impact talent at nearly every level of the farm, this is a deep system, and a good one. Xander Bogaerts, a top-10 overall prospect, headlines the group and will arrive within the next year-and-a-half as a big time fantasy asset. Behind him, Boston features a great mix of high-ceiling guys and high-floor guys, making this system not only high-impact, but rather safe as well. The Red Sox might be another year or so away from contending again in the crazy-competitive AL East, but the club has done a quality job of trimming some fat, and setting itself up for long-term success in the process.

Please, blog, may I have some more?