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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As of 4/10, these middle infielders are all owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues, and contingent on the context, I would conditionally own them all. And that’s how you alliterate league format dependency.

While they’re ranked by %ownership, I’ll furnish my zeal for each:

#1 – Kolten Wong (6.5%) – He’s only 23, so give him a little time. He’s already got a top-20 contact rate this year and has impressively walked more than he struck out. He’s batting .276 with a .382 OBP and 2 stolen bases. I’m not sure why he’s owned < 10%. Mark Ellis (DL/knee) and Daniel Descalso won’t consume that much time away from him. Very soon, he’ll be owned in over 10% of leagues, so make that happen sooner than later. 70+ runs near the top of that lineup with a 7HR-45RBI-20SB-.270BA is playable at MI.

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I don’t practice Santeria. I ain’t got no crystal ball. Well, if I had $6, I’d spend it all…

…I’d spend it on these Corner Infielders (owned <10% on ESPN as of 4/3)! They are placed in the order of my zeal, because my zeal smells nice and fresh. What does that even mean? Post now includes bonus CI Prospect list as well! (And maybe thermal packaging. What can I say? It’s a demand-driven commodity.) Follow me after the jump to find out what this all means… maybe.

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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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Japhet Amador is a giant man, standing at 6-foot-4, weighing in at 315 pounds. In the Mexican League, where he’s played for the last four years, they called him El Gran Burrito. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto once remarked that Amador is welcome at the Presidential Palace anytime, as long as Amador brings his own snacks. When Jose Altuve heard the Astros signed Amador, Altuve was thrilled. No more walking around for Altuve; Amador will just carry him around in a baby bjorn. I watched video of Amador and I’ve never seen such a slow bat through the zone. He looks like a Mexican Meat Loaf in a celebrity softball game. I swear, Amador stopped to eat one of those spicy dried mango candies halfway through his swing. His power is huge, but I’m not sure he’d gonna be able to catch up to anything. Last year in the Mexican League, he hit 36 homers and he’s 27 years old. The Mexican League is supposedly comparable to Triple-A, only instead of buses for transportation, the teams pile into a Toyota Tercel. Right now, he looks pegged for Triple-A, but since the Astros have Robbie Grossman, Marc Krauss, Jesus Guzman and J.D. Martinez vying for everyday ABs, anything could happen. I’d take a flyer on Amador in AL-Only leagues, and wait and see in mixed leagues. Best case scenario, he gets the DH job and hits 25+ homers and .220. The worst case scenario, you draft Altuve and Amador accidentally sits on him. Anyway, here’s what else I saw recently in spring training for 2014 fantasy baseball:

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (12) | 2012 (14) | 2011 (16) | 2010 (14) | 2009 (27)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [66-96] NL Central
AAA: [66-78] Pacific Coast League – Iowa
AA: [76-62] Southern League – Tennessee
A+: [75-51] Florida State League – Daytona
A: [55-80] Midwest League – Kane County
A(ss):  [41-35] Northwest League — Boise

Graduated Prospects
Junior Lake (OF); Chris Rusin (LHP); Hector Rondon (RHP); Blake Parker (RHP)

The Run Down
Twins and Astros fans might take umbrage with this statement, but from a fantasy perspective, the Cubs have the most exciting farm in the minors.  It starts with Javier Baez, of course, but the impact potential runs throughout this top ten, with every prospect bringing at least one high-end fantasy tool to the table.  And I could’ve gone deeper too, with upper-levels arms like Arodys Vizaino and Neil Ramirez set to surface this season, and top latin talent, Eloy Jimenez, lurking at the instructional level.  Plain and simple:  this system is stacked.  Some of you know that I was raised a Cardinals fan, and that the Redbirds are still my team.  As such, I should be taken seriously when I tell you that the future of the Cubs is really friggin’ bright, and it is near, and it scares the piss out of me.

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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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