Every other week Razzball ranks the prospects closest to contributing to your fantasy roster. The list is limited to players who still have rookie eligibility (less than 130 at bats or 50 innings pitched) and who are currently in the minor leagues. It’s not a list based on talent alone, but rather it’s a mixture of talent and opportunity. It will change frequently over the course of the season as prospects graduate to the majors, injuries occur, or service time roadblocks are passed. Here are the top 15 prospects on the cusp of the major leagues for 2015 fantasy baseball…

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (1) | 2013 (7) | 2012 (13) | 2011 (19) | 2010 (15)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [88-74] NL Central
AAA: [73-71] International League – Indianapolis
AA: [61-81] Eastern League – Altoona
A+: [78-61] Florida State League – Bradenton
A: [54-81] South Atlantic League – West Virginia
A(ss): [35-40] New York-Penn League – Jamestown

Graduated Prospects
Gregory Polanco, OF | Tony Sanchez, C

The Gist
30 teams…300 prospects…and we’ve reached the mountaintop. The Pirates continue to have a very strong farm system this year with a nice balance of hitting and pitching. Adding IFA Jung-Ho Kang makes it even stronger. While they’re thin on southpaws, they’re stacked with solid right-handed pitching. Gerrit Cole has already come up and established his value, but Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, and Nick Kingham should be ready to join him in the rotation at some point this year or next. The Pirates have had success developing Latin American talent like Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte, and they’ll look to continue that trend with prospects like Alen Hanson, Harold Ramirez, and Tito Polo. On a side note, this last minor league preview is a little bittersweet for me, as it will also be my last post with the site. I’ve accepted an offer to scout for the Phillies. The offer was just too good to pass up and hopefully I can help them find the next Domonic Brown. I wish you all the best and really appreciated my time here at Razzball.

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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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Holy shiitake mushroom Batman… is it safe to come out yet? Bobby Parnell, Jarrod Parker, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Patrick Corbin, Bruce Rondon, Jameson Taillon, Matt Moore, and now Ivan Nova have all fallen slain to some guy named Tommy John. Arrest this guy someone! Isn’t this world tragic enough without some mad man weaponizing UCL’s? Personally, I think this is all a plot by Dr. James Andrews to do what Peyton Manning did in Denver, and that’s put himself into position to control the food supply and then ultimately force us to eat all of our cats. Hunh? In fact, Dr. Andrews recently explained why there is such an uptick in UCL surgeries, but I’m pretty sure this is what was going on in his head as he was talking. Regardless, my expert advice is to just go ahead and hide all of your pitchers on the bench and stock up on canned goods. Spam is my choice. Deal.

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You’re about to get busted. Do you go harder, become more brazen, with the illegal activity or attempt to clean up your act quickly so you don’t get punished more severely? I don’t know. This is where fantasy baseball meets a PBS Frontline special. I think different people react in different ways. Not to get all philosophical on you like your college philosophy prof who would invite you over for lavash and hummus and marijuana, then try to feel up your girlfriend, but last year’s Ryan Braun — 9 homers in 61 games — could be exactly what he is off of PEDs. There’s no way of knowing when he was or wasn’t using. If he knew he was about to get suspended last year, he might’ve laid off of everything and been totally clean for that decent but not spectacular partial season, even while he battled a thumb issue. The same thumb issue that has resurfaced this year. I should’ve been more aggressive in the preseason about pointing that Braun wasn’t healthy last year. The kind of unhealthy that has lingered into this year. He admitted the other day that he was unable to take a normal swing due to battling a nerve issue. Or if you’re reading in your best Curly voice, a noive issue. That’s hella bad with hella having a hashtag that says 2004. I wouldn’t sell him for fifty cents on the dollar, but I’d be interested to see if someone would give me 85 or 90 cents on the dollar. Or if someone would give me the Euro exchange rate. Why are they still making pennies?! Tell me Yahoo! Answers! Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:

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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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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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Something that may help you is my pitchers pairing post. Something else that may help you is our Fantasy Baseball War Room. Something else that may also help you is mocking Billy Butler. Nice moobs! So, these starters are all being drafted after 200 overall. Now, this is a (legal-in-all-countries-except-Trinidad-and-Tobago) supplement to the top 100 starters for 2014 fantasy baseball. Click on the player’s name where applicable to read more and see their 2014 projections. Also, I’ve gone over all positions for sleepers; to see them all 2014 fantasy baseball sleepers. Anyway, here’s some starters to target for 2014 fantasy baseball:

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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.

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To begin, I should make it clear that this is not a list of my top overall prospects.  No, this is a 2014-specific list, and it exists only to serve those of us in fantasyland.  The names that follow are, at this moment, the prospects who have the best chance at offering positive fantasy contributions during the 2014 season.  Those of you who follow my Prospect Power Rankings series during the season, understand that time-specific prospect rankings are fluid — it’s a tricky game, weighing potential impact against current opportunity, and outlooks can change drastically overnight.  There are too many variables at work to peg these ETA’s accurately, and that is precisely why we revisit these rankings often throughout the year with the aforementioned power rankings.  Consider this a starting point.  Numbers 26-50 will run next week, but for now, let’s dig into the top-25.

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