The MiLB season may be winding down, but “the kids” continue to battle in an effort to catch everyone’s eye before off-season organizational meetings that will determine timetables and ETAs. The number of youngsters making noise as their seasons come to a close as players scramble for the chance to get a taste of “The Show” seems to grow each day.  Time once again for Razzball’s midweek look at what’s become the most important commodity in our favorite game – prospects. Our “Prospect Primer” reflects a handful of the prospects I’m keeping a close eye on late in Week 20 (for both shallow and deep fantasy leagues). Our bi-weekly prospect columns (Sundays and Wednesdays) will continue to focus on the more “well-known” prospects (our Top-50/Top-100) that are likely going to affect shallow to mid-level fantasy teams.

Disclaimer: The bi-weekly lists AREN’T a “re-ranking” of our Top-50/Top-100/Organization Lists. The players mentioned will typically be guys that owners in somewhat regular leagues NEED to be aware of (regardless of their current level) to keep from slipping behind as they want to stay competitive in “keeper leagues”. There may be a sleeper mentioned from time-to-time, but they may be more important to managers in deeper and more long-term leagues. The players listed aren’t in any particular order (you’ll notice they’re listed alphabetically), they’re simply guys you need to keep an eye on and someone you might be interested in targeting when you’re wheeling and dealing.

(Keep checking in daily for information regarding our end-of-season Top 100 and Organizational Top-10 Lists that will be rolling out as the minor league season ends – those of you following me on Twitter will be notified there as well.)

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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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Another week completed, another step closer to excitement for prospect-watchers waiting impatiently for the next round of call-ups, and the ultimate “Christmas In July” for prospect-hounds across the globe as we get to spend the day with the ultimate showcase – the Futures Game. In honor of this great event, this week’s Minor Accomplishments Sunday Twelve-Pack will include several players that will be participating in the game, as well as some that would’ve been at Target Field for it (yes, I’m looking at you Arismendy Alcantara, Jimmy Nelson, and Christian Bethancourt).

The All-Star Break is upon us, the playoff picture’s beginning to come into focus for several teams that were “on the fence” a week ago, and trades completed over the next three weeks will lead to many more openings for prospects to get a look at the MLB level, as well as advancement opportunities for players further down each organizational pecking order.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

No prospect in baseball brings a higher ceiling than Javier Baez. That much is noted. He gave us a glimpse of the limitless potential last summer when he reached Double-A, drilling 35 XBH (20 HR) in 240 plate appearances during the season’s final two months. Then he showed up at big league camp this spring and knocked 5 HR in 18 games, and baseball began to wonder how long the Cubs could keep a talent like this in the minors. I drank the Baez Kool-Aid — I drank lots of it. I fantasized about scenarios that would’ve had Javy in the bigs by now, and I advised you to stash him in redraft leagues, and not let go. But then the cant-miss 21-year-old proceeded to miss. He missed just about everything that was thrown to him, to be clear, racking up a K% at Triple-A Iowa north of 35% through the first month and a half of the season. Throughout it all, though, I told you to be patient. I told you he’d turn it around, and once he did, he wouldn’t be long for the minors. I admit, anxious feelings about Baez began to creep into the back of my mind in recent weeks, and to a degree, they’re still present. These past 10 days, however, have provided much needed relief, as Baez has posted a slash line at .414/.419/.897 with 3 homers and 5 doubles. It’ll take several more weeks like this one to repair his line on the year, which sits at .201/.268/.388, but I believe Javy will be up to the challenge. And if, by chance, too much damage has been done to salvage the Triple-A line, he’ll still have a clean slate to work with when he surfaces at Wrigley later this summer.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (19) | 2012 (23) | 2011 (12) | 2010 (21) | 2009 (23)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [92-70] NL West
AAA: [76-68] Pacific Coast League – Albuquerque
AA: [59-80] Southern League – Chattanooga
A+: [65-75] California League – Rancho Cucamonga
A: [67-72] Midwest League – Great Lakes

Graduated Prospects
Yasiel Puig (OF); Tim Federowicz (C); Scott Van Slyke (OF/1B); Hyun-jin Ryu (RHP); Stephen Fife (RHP); Paco Rodriguez (LHP)

The Run Down
After a holiday hiatus, we have returned to our MiLB preview series.  To get us back into prospect mode, let’s all scream Puig on three.  One, two, three, PUIG.  Good, we’re back.  We’re talking about the Dodgers today, a top-heavy farm, but a group that offers plenty of fantasy intrigue.  There’s a lot going on here from spots one to six, but things take a turn toward the boring when we reach the last four names of the top ten.  Still, Seager, Pederson, and Urias are all of the high-impact variety, while Lee, Guerrero, and Anderson should all develop into relevant fantasy pieces in their own right.  Combine those six with recent grads like Yasiel Puig and Hyun-jin Ryu, and this Dodgers org begins to take shape as one that develops well and spends wisely in the international markets.  That’s a particularly effective model for sustainable success.

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I told you last week about the implications of Xander Bogaerts’s Triple-A promotion. This week, we celebrate another Triple-A promotion, as the Mariners have bumped Taijuan Walker from Double-A Jackson to Tacoma. Walker has everything you look for in a pitching prospect — size, stuff, athleticism… the works. He’s as elite as they come. After an up-and-down 2012 at Jackson, the 20-year-old returned to Double-A in 2013, performing with much greater consistency this time through. Walker cranked it up a notch in June, though, posting a 33/3 K/BB in 25 IP this month. He’s only 20, and it’s probably a little premature to wonder about a 2013 arrival considering the M’s have arms like Erasmo Ramirez and Danny Hultzen waiting for an opportunity, but Walker’s ceiling is the best of the bunch. By far. Now that he’s just one stop from the bigs, he needs to be on your fantasy radar.

Please, blog, may I have some more?