As they say in a Jewelery District of any major city, Johnny Cueto pitched a gem. Well, any major city except Detroit. There they call a gem, “Slowly remove it from your finger, and no funny business!” Against the Pirates yesterday — 9 IP, 0 ER, 3 baserunners, 12 Ks. Pretty much across the board for Cueto’s career, I haven’t been a fan. His xFIP has always been much worse than his ERA, and his K-rate has never been close to an elite starter. Well, a weird thing happened on the way to his fifth start of the year, he looks like an ace. His xFIP is down to 2.55, his K-rate is 10.50 and his walk rate is 2.40. Those are fantasy ace numbers. Last year through April, he had a 2.80 xFIP, 9.35 K-rate and 3.12 walk rate. Those numbers aren’t that different. Hey, random italicized letters are my shtick. Not right now, Random Italicized Voice. Whoa, snippy! There is one fairly significant difference between Cueto this year and last. About a mile per hour on his fastball. In some instances, his fastball is averaging two extra miles per hour from last April, and he’s cut out his, uh, cutter, and his ground balls have remained. He’s pitching slightly different, slightly better, and, for the first time I can remember, I’m really liking what Cueto is showing. Ain’t that a kick in Jason LaRue’s head? His ERA won’t stay at 1.50, but I also wouldn’t be looking to sell him high. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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As always, probable pitchers are subject to change.  For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

Matt Moore is a bust,” fantasy expert Cocker Cockleysworth says. “He got lit up in Spring Training and his walks are way up. Great arm, bad command.”

“Now wait a second,” fantasy analyst Roger Dingleberry says. “This is the same Matt Moore who was an All-Star in 2013 and was so close to Cy Young he got himself a peep show. He went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA and 143 Ks in 150 innings.”

And so the debate raged on all the way up through the 2014 fantasy draft, where owners got the gas face if they drafted Moore too high, while others were quite pleased to have him fall in their laps later than expected. The war of words kicked up a notch. It got heated. Someone got killed with a trident.

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Lots of people tried to explain to me why you don’t slide into first base. I still don’t get it, so apparently I’m dense. Is 1st base lifted higher than other bases? Are there Lilliputians standing by first base with mini hammers? Is there a mini MC Hammer there singing U Can’t Touch This which is just so bizarre it screws you up and you hurt yourself? I get that it slows you down, so there’s no point to doing it. I understand that sprinters don’t slide into the finish line. I’ve heard that from countless announcers. I do kinda wish in the next Summer Olympics a sprinter would slide into the finish line just so announcers would stop saying it. I still don’t understand why people invariably get hurt doing it. Josh Hamilton for one. He’s out for 6-8 weeks with thumb surgery. He should’ve just had Ryan Braun look at it, he can cure thumbs just by brining them in vinegar. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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There really is no place like home if you play for the Rockies. Charlie Blackmon aka Chuck Nazty knows this better than anyone, and helped Colorado drop 12 runs on Arizona last night at Coors. Now slashing .563/.588/.938 on the early season, Blackmon admits his nickname hasn’t caught on quite like he hoped yet, but that’s because it’s a terrible nickname. I ain’t mad at cha, and if you keep having games this this we’ll call you whatever you want! Chuck Nazty was perfect yesterday, going 6-for-6, with 3 doubles, a 2-run home run, 4 runs and 5 RBI as the Rox managed 13 hits in their home opener. Now you know Carlos Gonzalez wasn’t about to get overshadowed on opening day, he’s the real Chuck Nazty, if anyone is. CarGo added 4 RBI and 2 hits, including a 2-run jack and free tacos for the entire state of Colorado! Every-body-gets-a-taco! Something tells me after Colorado’s new legislation, they’re going to be needing all the tacos they can get. Chuck Nazty, legalization, and free tacos? Get in the car, honey, we’re moving! By the way, I call my laptop “Honey.” Anyway, it’s probably not a stretch to say that Rockies fans are pretty high on Blackmon after today. Ha, that’s the title! Well, don’t light up your celebratory doobies just yet, Centennial Staters. Despite the huge day, Blackmon remains in a platoon in a crowded outfield featuring Corey Dickerson, who is a also a fairly exciting prospect, but perhaps Blackmon’s stellar play will force Walt Weiss to play him consistently. For now, C. Nazty could provide decent streaming value, especially when he’s a mile high. He managed a .309 average in 82 games in 2013 and after a strong spring he is a hot little potato right now and could be worth the speculative add while he’s hitting.

Here’s what else I saw in fantasy baseball Friday night:

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So, I took part in one of those 15-team NFBC drafts that Rudy and all the cool kids were talking about-slash-doing. What a snoozefest! I mean, it was fun, but I fell asleep literally 19 times during it. Granted, it lasted for 19 days, so if I didn’t fall asleep 19 times, I would’ve needed trucker speed, but still. Speaking of which, I have much respect for truckers. They’re driving all day and they have to wear the stupidest hats. Any the hoo! This draft was one part fresh, two parts ‘to def’ and some random Razzballers took part, so maybe we can chat in the comments — I have no friends! We can’t talk about trades, because there are none. There’s also no waivers. This was a 15-team league that went 50 rounds deep. What you draft is what you have. No backsies, no foolsies. Anyway, here’s my 15-team NFBC team and some thoughts:

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I love the Aussie people; they have goofy words for a barbecue and even goofier animals — koalas and kangaroos? Is Australia animated? Those things are goofy! Why not just get a duck-billed platypus and anteater and call it a day, you wacky-animal-having country! How about baseball there? Did all the fans in attendance win a Bowie knife if a player hit a home run into the big marsupial pouch? Did Crocodile Dundee throw out the first pitch? Did the batters hit with a fraternity hazing paddle? I don’t know, because it was at four in the morning! Selig really needs to stop doing this to Opening Day. The players will be exhausted from traveling and won’t be able to get their usual reps in during the spring. The first pitch of the season should be at a time when 7-year-old North American boys and girls can watch it. Not at 4 AM EST. What if the first game went extra innings or someone got hurt? Can they just call up someone from the minors for the next game? No, so then you’ll have a team playing short. Do these stunts in December as a goodwill trip. Don’t make major league baseball teams into the Harlem Globetrotters for a regular season game. Eh, whatevs, baseball is back, who cares if it comes with a big helping of Vegemite. Anyway, here’s what else I saw for fantasy baseball:

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (4) | 2012 (11) | 2011 (3) | 2010 (1) | 2009 (4)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [92-71] AL East
AAA: [87-57] International League – Durham
AA: [71-69] Southern League – Montgomery
A+: [67-65] Florida State League – Charlotte
A: [82-56] Midwest League – Bowling Green
A(ss):  [38-37] New York-Penn League — Hudson Valley

Graduated Prospects
Wil Myers (OF); Chris Archer (RHP); Alex Torres (LHP); Josh Lueke (RHP)

The Run Down
The Tampa farm took a big hit in the high-impact department with the graduation of Wil Myers and Chris Archer, and furthermore when Taylor Guerrieri went down to Tommy John surgery in July.  What’s left is an organization that’s seemingly void of top shelf fantasy prospects.  Even so, it’s probably unwise to sleep on this group — the Rays have a superb player development system that take its time with prospects, often churning out fantasy relevance from the places we’d least expect.  There is plenty of potential in this organization, and even though it’s not the most exciting brand of potential, you can sure as shizz count on Tampa to get the most out of it.

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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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Last week we rolled out our Top 25 Fantasy Baseball Prospects for 2014, and today we’re moving on to numbers 26-50.  Remember, this is a 2014-specific list — we’re doing our best here to identify prospects who have the best chance at contributing in the fantasy game this season.  A year ago, the second half of this same list included names like Christian Yelich, Matt Adams, Nolan Arenado, Tony Cingrani, Chris Archer, Michael Wacha, and Avisail Garcia.  I suspect that there will be a handful of impact players found in this group, as well.  Do take note.

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You’re gonna find this utterly incredible, but, with these top 100 starters for 2014 fantasy baseball, I’ve put out all of my 2014 fantasy baseball rankings. Tomorrow will be the top 100 overall, then the top 400 overall, but that’s just putting everyone in perspective. I’m going to now soak my finger bunions in pickle juice and read a good book. Anyone read the Charles Nelson Reilly autobiography? I hear it’s a real eye grabber. Oh, guess I should finish this post first. As always, my projections are included and where tiers start and stop. Anyway, here’s the top 100 starters for 2014 fantasy baseball:

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