2013 was supposed to be a breakout year for Trevor Story, who was coming off of an exciting 2012 campaign at Low-A Asheville where hit .277/.367/.505 with 18 HR and 15 SB. That line, combined with the fact he was stepping up to the hitter-friendly environment of the Cali League, made for some serious hype last spring – hype which his on-field performance couldn’t match. Story ended 2013 with a forgettable .233/.305/.394, 12 HR, 23 SB line. He’s out to repair his image in 2014, though. In a repeat assignment at High-A Modesto, the 21-year-old SS/3B is hitting .306/.394/.516 with 9 XBH (1 HR), and 11 SB in 71 PA.

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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:

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Ranking prospects for fantasy purposes is a tricky exercise. The variables involved are constantly in flux — talent emerges, talent regresses… opportunity comes, opportunity goes… clubs get cold feet because of service time, clubs don’t give a shizz about service time. So, given the fluid nature of this prospect business, we’re going to keep a running ranking throughout the season. This post will run every other Wednesday, providing a weekly glimpse of the soon-to-arrive impact talent.

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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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For those of you who don’t remember, here’s the gist (and we’ll keep this blurb here all season so as not to confuse any newcomers):  Ranking prospects for fantasy purposes is a tricky exercise.  Back in February, I rolled out my Top 50 Fantasy Prospects for 2014 (part 1, part 2), and those are already garbage.  The variables involved are constantly in flux — talent emerges, talent regresses… opportunity comes, opportunity goes… clubs get cold feet because of service time, clubs don’t give a shizz about service time.  So, given the fluid nature of this prospect business, we’re going to keep a running ranking throughout the season.  This post will run every Wednesday, providing a weekly glimpse of the soon-to-arrive impact talent. 

It’s our first PPR list of the year (don’t get confused, football meatheads), and I’m too excited to chat, so let’s get right to it:

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The prospect ETA game is a tough one to gauge.  With injuries, uncertain Super Two dates, and varying front office opinions with regard to “readiness”, there are simply too many variables involved that are impossible to predict for.  When commenters task me with an ETA question, my answer is a guess, and I’m almost always way off.  Yet, people keep asking.  So, in an effort to put your impatient minds at ease, today we’ll be running though some notable ETA’s, and I’m going to get specific with my guesses.  If my usual vague “mid-season-ish” response is crap anyway, then why not pin these down to the day and spice things up?  Here we go:

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Our offseason prospect series is through — all 30 minor league previews with fantasy-specific top 10′s are in the books.  For years we’ve written this same series, finished it, and then just sort of rolled into the regular season stuff without any fanfare.  This year, though, we’re wrapping up the minor league previews, and adding a nice little bow on top.  This post will serve as the bow.  The purpose is twofold: (1) For the first time we have links to each of our MiLB previews all in one place, and (2) we’ve ranked each farm system from a fantasy perspective, giving you a simple guideline as to which orgs are stacked with fantasy impact, and which orgs are virtually void of it.  Let’s cut to it:

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It’s official because we don’t deal in unofficial. Whatever that means. Which is nothing, if you’re wondering. But it does make the post feel more important. Delusions of grandeur? That’s my life story bro. And that also might describe the life story of many here who reside at Razzball HQ. Which is basically our basement. With bountiful supplies of Hot Pockets and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Oh, wait, nevermind. Sky called, he want’s his everything back. Jokes on you buddy. I’m keeping the Hot Pockets. So, where were we? Oh, that’s right, delusions of grandeur… and Hot Pockets, it happens to the best of us. And that’s why we make these picks. Because we think we’re right all the time. Except for me. I’m just very wrong. But don’t let that stop you from looking at our well-thought out (maybe) picks for this upcoming 2014 season. (Now with more Grey and Rudy!) We all can’t write a 1500 word exposé on these players, so you get this nifty assortment where you’ll gain a general sense of which players we like and which we don’t. All in a simple box for you to stare and giggle at. Kind of like what you normally would do if you were looking at Tehol.

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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 Pirates Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Pat Lackey from Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (7) | 2012 (13) | 2011 (19) | 2010 (15) | 2009 (18)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [94-68] NL Central
AAA: [80-64] International League – Indianapolis
AA: [63-79] Eastern League – Altoona
A+: [57-77] Florida State League – Bradenton
A: [82-58] South Atlantic League – West Virginia
A(ss):  [43-52] New York-Penn League — Jamestown

Graduated Prospects
Gerrit Cole (RHP); Justin Wilson (LHP); Bryan Morris (RHP)

The Run Down
This Pittsburgh farm is a definite top tier system for fantasy, loaded with impact potential on both sides of the game.  After watching homegrown talents like Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole graduate into the big leagues over the past two seasons, we’re already accustomed to looking toward the Pirates for youthful fantasy help, and that trend should continue in 2014 as Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon appear ready for big league arrival.  Looking deeper, though, there’s impact talent at every level of this org, and even after Polanco and Taillon push through to the majors, prospects like Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows figure to fill those voids nicely.

Please, blog, may I have some more?