The Yankees have a strong system, and by holding on to their prospects last summer they’re going to enter the 2016 season with a lot of potential energy. Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge are poised to help the big club this year. So is Greg Bird, although he technically lost his eligibility. Because the Yankees are active in the international market, there’s a solid crop of teenagers coming up in the low minors. It’s not going to be anytime soon, but you can sort of see how this might converge into an even stronger group in the next year or two, especially when you factor in their crop of new draftees stateside. Of course not all of them will make it, but the more lottery tickets you own the better your chances, right?

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Winter leagues are starting up with notable prospects playing in most of them. One player who’s just happy to be back on the field is Roman Quinn. The Phillies’ switch-hitting outfielder was off to a great start in 2015, and was even named an Eastern League All-Star, but a hip flexor tear essentially ended his season. Quinn’s not a blue chip prospect, and he likely won’t be relevant until 2017 at this point, but he’s a prospect I’ve always personally liked and have wanted to see succeed. His best tool is his elite speed, but in the first half of 2015 he seemed to have figured something out with his bat as well – hitting .306 with four homers. He could eventually be a top-of-the-lineup runs and steals producer for fantasy teams, with a little bit of pop sprinkled in (~8 homers) but that will hinge squarely on how his hit tool progresses. He’ll play for Licey this offseason, and I’m hoping that the improvements he made in 2015 have carried over. Things went well for him in his debut – going 3-for-5 with a triple and a steal. Here are some notes on other prospects playing in the offseason leagues…

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All year we’ve been ranking the top prospects closest to the majors. With September call-ups quickly approaching, this post is a little different. Instead of limiting the list to players with their rookie eligibility intact, this will include any players currently in the minor leagues regardless of their at bats or innings pitched totals. There’s a catch, though. It’s only going to list players who are currently healthy and on their team’s 40-man roster. If you see a big name omitted, it’s probably because they aren’t currently on the 40-man. That can still be manipulated of course, but if a player is already on the roster, it increases the chances they’ll get a look next month. I also decided to weed through it for players that I thought could actually have some relevance in fantasy. With guys like Domingo Santana, Trea Turner, and even Aaron Altherr already up, this isn’t exactly the sexiest group. But there are some nice players in here, and if they can find playing time, they could also help your fantasy team down the stretch. When looking at who to pick up, I’d recommend focusing on teams that are out of the playoff hunt and who may be more inclined to give their younger players a look. Zeroing in on injuries (or potential ones) is also a good move. I bolded a few of the names that I think are interesting gambles…

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With just over a month and a half left to play, it’s still a tight two-horse race between Razzball’s J-FOH and Hannibal Montana for the first Razznasty championship. The big story right now though is MattTruss (The Hippos). Truss has gained nearly 20 points in the standings since our last league update in early July and now sits comfortably in third place. How has he done it? Basically he’s dominated the rest of us since July 1st – leading the league in RBIs, wins, and strikeouts over that span. But that’s not all. The Hippos have also been top five in four other categories, including hitting the second most homers and posting the second best ERA since the beginning of last month. In other words, it’s been a balanced attack on the standings, and I am now officially scared of hippos. There is still a lot of ground between Truss and our two leaders, but anything can happen when you’re a 2-ton animal on the move.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (13) | 2013 (11) | 2012 (6) | 2011 (5) | 2010 (22)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [84-78] AL East
AAA: [68-76] International League – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
AA: [67-75] Eastern League – Trenton
A+: [71-68] Florida State League – Tampa
A: [71-69] South Atlantic League – Charleston
A(ss): [37-38] New York-Penn League – Staten Island

Graduated Prospects
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP | Dellin Betances, RHP

The Gist
The Yankees had major contributions from two rookie arms in 2014. When healthy, Masahiro Tanaka was dominant – posting a 2.77 ERA with 141 strikeouts in 136.1 innings pitched. An elbow injury ended his season prematurely, and while he never succumbed to Tommy John surgery, the health of that elbow is a big question mark heading into 2015. Meanwhile, Dellin Betances was a force in the bullpen where he racked up 135 strikeouts in 90 innings. The Yankees were major players on the international market this past July with ten of Baseball America’s top 30 J2 signees going to New York. They are also in the running for Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada, who is expected to sign with a team later this month.

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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.

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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.

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The hardest division in the league, which includes last year’s world champs, looks to be just as intense again.  For that matter, it probably will be that way for the foreseeable future.  My favorite team is also being covered here.  I’ll do my best not to be biased about the Yankees, and I think I’m pretty good at keeping my emotions away from the reality of the team.  That being said, I think the Yankees are going to win 120 games this season. (You can check out the NL West Spring Training Preview here, the AL West Spring Training Preview here, the AL Central Spring Training Preview here and the NL East Spring Training Preview here.)

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (11) | 2012 (6) | 2011 (5) | 2010 (22) | 2009 (15)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [85-77] AL East
AAA: [68-76] International League – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
AA: [74-67] Eastern League – Trenton
A+: [58-78] Florida State League – Tampa
A: [75-63] South Atlantic League – Charleston
A(ss):  [34-41] New York-Penn League — Staten Island

Graduated Prospects
David Adams (INF); Austsin Romine (C); Adam Warren (RHP); Preston Claiborne (RHP)

The Run Down
With a big league roster that’s seemingly always loaded with big money assets at every position, the Yankees don’t have a lot of room for homegrown prospects to arrive and make impacts, and it’s important to keep that in mind when scouring this farm system for future fantasy pieces.  Not to suggest that there isn’t value to be had here — prospects like Gary Sanchez and Eric Jagielo are must-owns in dynasty leagues — but historically, the Yankees are more inclined to address needs through spending on the free agent market, rather than exploring the cost-controlled options from their farm.  It’s a baseball ops model that’s worked out well for New York over the past 15 years — there’s no arguing that.  In 2014, though, the Yankees look frighteningly old and in desperate need of some youth in their lineup.

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Quite a bit has changed since the 2013 MiLB season began in April, and folks have been clamoring for a mid-season prospect list. Well, here it is, 50-deep. But before we get into it, a quick primer on the criteria for this top 50: There was no specific timetable considered, so the rankings below can be considered a dynasty league list. You’ll notice that the ETA’s here range from this season all the way to 2016. To prevent any overlap with lists that Grey and JayWrong put together last week, I’ve included only prospects who are currently in the minor leagues. That means I had to remove Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick from the board after news of their call-ups — Yelich was #7, Marisnick #40. It also means I couldn’t list Carlos Martinez, who’s currently working in relief for the Cardinals — he would’ve been ranked right around #20.

Anyway, I’ll be writing notes on all of these fellas during the off-season, once the dust has settled on the 2013 season and I’ve had a chance to take a more thorough look at depth charts, injuries, etc. For now, I’ve included only a few pertinent details: age, current level, fantasy impact categories, and ETA. Each player is linked to his player card on Baseball-Reference.com, or his Razzball player card where possible. My hope is that this list will help dynasty leaguers sort out their rosters as keeper deadlines approach. Enjoy.

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