During the All-Star break last year, Mark Reynolds aka Mini Donkey, Adam Dunn aka Big Donkey, Ian Stewart aka Mini Mini Donkey and Pedro Alvarez aka El Burro got together to discuss the future of the Donkeys with Adam Dunn retiring. The conference took place at a Chicago-area Sheraton. Outside the Sheraton conference room, a sign read, “Dunn Done and Done?” Caterers vied hard to cater the event. Carpenters stood by in case Dunn sat down wrong on a chair. First to speak was Mini Donkey. He assured Dunn, the Donkeys could continue, saying, “All brays to you, but is this the end? Nay! There would still be all-or-nothing types for years to come.” Alvarez said something, but the translator was a no-show. Ian Stewart placed a cinnamon sugar donut on a pen and took practice swings, eliciting a stink-eye from Dunn. After a good hour of debate, Dunn wasn’t sure; his concern about their future worried him, so, naturally, he turned on the Futures Game. At that point, a Lithuanian maid walked into the conference room with a sign written in Batman-style font. The sign read: WHAMP! At six-foot, five inches, Joey Gallo devastates pitches. Last year, he hit 21 homers in only 68 games in Double-A. Before that, he hit 21 homers in only 58 games in High-A. Last year, 38 homers in 106 games. And he can’t hit above .240 in the minors. Adam Dunn stood up and exclaimed, “Four lady readers and gentlemen, we got ourselves a new Donkey — Big Donkey Jr.! And Ian Stewart please stop wasting donuts.” Anyway, what can we expect of Joey Gallo for 2015 fantasy baseball?

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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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Happy Fathers Day, Razzball Nation, especially to the dads we have here on staff: Rudy and Mike and Nick are proud fathers, and I’ve heard Tehol has offspring on every continent, although that rumor is unsubstantiated. I’m not a dad, but I have one, and I’ll be hanging with him today, doing our usual Fathers Day bonding (sipping fine booze while watching the US Open). I hope everyone can find something equally gratifying to do with their dads, or with their sons and daughters. And however it is that you choose to enjoy the day, here’s to all the good fathers out there. Cheers.

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Gerrit Cole, one of the better young pitchers in the game, landed on the DL Sunday with “right shoulder fatigue”.  What does this mean for the Pirates?  Well, they have been playing much, much better of late, and this is gonna put a wrench in their chances of making a run at first place in the division.  Yes, they are still eight games back, but with Gregory Polanco likely getting called up this week, if they had a push in them, now was the time they were going to have to make it.  Instead, 2013 All-Star Jeff Locke, who was so bad post-break that he finished the year in the minors, will fill the void left by Cole and his 6-3 record.

Fantasy baseball owners are also going to be affected by this.  The Pirates hope Cole will only miss one start, but this sounds like it could develop into a multi-week recovery.  Concern arose when Cole, who normally throws in the 95-98 MPH range, was showing decreased velocity in the mid- to-late innings of games.  Assuming the Bucs fall further out of contention, the team will be in no rush to bring back their 23-year-old stud.  For what it’s worth, the Reds’ Tony Cingrani landed on the DL in May for the same reason (left shoulder fatigue) and missed just the minimum time, but he hasn’t been good at all in the weeks since.  For now, fantasy owners will just have to stash Cole on their DL and hope for a speedy recovery.

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Good God, Joey Gallo is on fire right now. He’s been on fire pretty much all year, in fact, but right now, in particular, he’s a blazing inferno of glorious power. Gallo homered 3 times on Friday, and once more on Saturday, giving him 8 in his last 10 games, and 18 on the season. He’s batting .340/.453/.792, and he’s even tossed in 4 stolen bags. His K% is 12 points lower than last year’s, his BB% is 5 points higher, and he’s even grown two inches taller since last summer. OK, I’m lying about the growth thing, but the other parts are true. Gallo, age 20, appears ready for upper levels baseball. There’s little left for him to prove in A-ball, and I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before he’s promoted. I’m anxious to see how his improved approach adapts to the advanced arms he’ll see at Double-A. Until then, enjoy the show.

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The Mets aren’t thrilled with the Jenrry Mejia’s production lately, opponents having tallied 16 runs against him through his last 3 outings. Mejia has always been a pitcher who profiles best as a short-stint arm out of the bullpen, but you can’t blame the Mets for exploring the possibility of him as a SP — Mejia features filthy stuff, and if the arsenal were indeed sustainable over a starting pitcher’s workload, he’d be a great asset to any rotation. It appears, now, that the Mets have seen enough. Mejia will be moved to the bullpen and Rafael Montero will fill the void in the Mets rotation. Montrero, age 23, is one of the more polished arms in the minors, bringing immediate upside in both whiffs and ratios. About a month ago, I wrote my Rafael Montero fantasy. Check it out it for further intel.

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In his first plate appearance of spring training, a big league camp AB versus David Phelps, Gregory Polanco turned on a breaking pitch, sending it over the right field wall. Such things happen to 22-year-olds during spring training, and most of the time, they’re anomalies. In Polanco’s case, however, that moment, in retrospect, seems profound — a statement as to his readiness to produce at the highest level from the instant he stepped on a diamond this spring. Reassigned to Triple-A to begin the season, Polanco’s statements have only grown louder. Through 92 PA, he’s hitting .417/.467/.679 with 4 HR and 4 SB, making him the best mixed league stash in the minors. The Bucs have been fortunate thus far to squeeze some production out of their Travis Snyder/Jose Tabata platoon, but the upside with Polanco is unquestionably higher and it’s only a matter of time before Pittsburgh slots him into their lineup as the everyday RF. His incredible start at Indianapolis should allow him to segue into big league ball with a shizzload of confidence.

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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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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (3) | 2012 (2) | 2011 (15) | 2010 (2) | 2009 (1)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [91-72] AL West
AAA: [73-71] Pacific Coast League – Round Rock
AA: [70-70] Texas League – Frisco
A+: [77-62] Carolina League – Myrtle Beach
A: [76-63] South Atlantic League – Hickory
A(ss):  [38-38] Northwest League — Spokane

Graduated Prospects
Leonys Martin (OF); Jurickson Profar (INF); Martin Perez (LHP); Nick Tepesch (RHP); Tanner Scheppers (RHP)

The Run Down
The fact that the Rangers can graduate Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin, and Martin Perez all in the same summer, and return the next spring with a farm system that continues to rank among the best in baseball should speak volumes about the savvy of the organization’s procurement and development systems.  Texas is heavily involved of all aspects of baseball development, and the top ten I’ve listed here features prospects who were drafted, signed out of Latin America, or acquired via trade.  The mix of talent as a whole is oozing with high-impact potential, and while this group brings perhaps a smidge more risk than other orgs near the top of the league, it still needs to be considered among the top tier of fantasy farms.

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The Arizona Fall League has announced its preliminary rosters, and as usual, this year’s AFL is loaded with high impact talent. Offensive headliners include Byron Buxton, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Jorge Soler. On the pitching side of things, we’ve got Kyle Crick, Alex Meyer, Andrew Heaney, and Marcus Stroman. I’m leaving out plenty of other notable prospects, too. These rosters are always a welcome relief for us prospect enthusiasts who fear the onset of the withdrawal symptoms that inevitably come with the baseball off-season. The AFL should keep the nervous twitching and general malaise at bay, if only for a little while.

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