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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Guess who’s back? *presses button on tape deck for my intro music, jams the buttons a few times trying to get it to work, calls up unemployed tape deck repairman, asks unemployed tape deck repairman why my tape deck doesn’t work, unemployed tape deck repairman patches me through to customer service person in India that his job was outsourced to, tries to communicate with Indian replacement tape deck repairman customer service agent, instead finds out about vacation rentals in Bangalore, gives up on tape deck* Forget the intro music; I’m having problems with my tape deck. I’m back, snitches! You miss me? I missed you too. Please stop touching my leg. I’m married now or as my new e-book title will be called, “Twenty-Two Days Left For An Annulment.” Now, I’ve gone over my Archie Bradley fantasy and Taijuan Walker fantasy and others. In the past, I’ve gone over what I think of rookie pitchers. They’re a lottery ticket that rarely pays dividends. I don’t mind grabbing one off waivers, but that’s usually all they’re worth. For every Jose Fernandez, there’s about three dozen Erasmo Ramirezes (Ramii?). There’s also a crapton of Carlos Martinezes. (Carlos Martini? Hey, Yovani Gallardo would like them. “I’ll have three Carlos Martinis and make them dirty.” That’s Yovani right before he’s about to drive home.) Rookie pitchers are guys that could be decent, but their usage is all over the map. Wacha would fall into this group too. With that said (reversal time!), I’m not sure why Jameson Taillon hasn’t been promoted to the majors yet. He doesn’t look like he needs to prove anything else in the minors. He could’ve helped the Pirates this year, and will help them next year. Only thing that was stopping the Pirates from promoting him was starting his arbitration clock. Like a Catholic school girl, the Pirates were trying to keep their booty to themselves for a little while longer. Why are all Pirates prudes? Cause they consider their booty a treasure. Take it, Highlights, it’s yours. I’d imagine if the Pirates waited this long, they’re gonna go the same route in 2014 for the first two months. We won’t see Taillon in the majors until June. So, what can we expect of Jameson Taillon for 2014 fantasy baseball?

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in baseball. At least right now, as I’m typing this, they do. The Bucs are an exciting big league club composed with a seemingly perfect balance of youthful talent and veteran savvy, and they have a legitimate chance at a pennant this year. But if we’re looking ahead to 2014, 2015, and beyond, Pittsburgh has a chance to be frighteningly good. Their system has already graduated top-shelf prospects like Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole, and there’s plenty more on the way. Gregory Polanco — currently at Double-A — is one of the brightest outfield prospects in the game, ranked #10 on my Mid-Season Top 50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects list. One spot ahead of Polanco on that list is the 6-foot-6 RHP, Jameson Taillon. Taillon’s projectable frame and elite stuff have him profiling as a top-of-the-rotation arm, and there are plenty folks around baseball who like his upside just as much as Gerrit Cole’s. The 21-year-old has showed some inconsistency this season at Double-A Altoona (3.67 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), but the Pirates, holding to their development plan, have promoted him to Triple-A. He looks to be exactly one year behind Cole, so it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing Taillon with the big club next summer.

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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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