2013 was supposed to be a breakout year for Trevor Story, who was coming off of an exciting 2012 campaign at Low-A Asheville where hit .277/.367/.505 with 18 HR and 15 SB. That line, combined with the fact he was stepping up to the hitter-friendly environment of the Cali League, made for some serious hype last spring – hype which his on-field performance couldn’t match. Story ended 2013 with a forgettable .233/.305/.394, 12 HR, 23 SB line. He’s out to repair his image in 2014, though. In a repeat assignment at High-A Modesto, the 21-year-old SS/3B is hitting .306/.394/.516 with 9 XBH (1 HR), and 11 SB in 71 PA.

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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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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 Nationals Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Patrick Reddington from Federal Baseball.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (13) | 2012 (1) | 2011 (14) | 2010 (24) | 2009 (21)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [86-76] NL East
AAA: [66-78] International League – Syracuse
AA: [77-65] Eastern League – Harrisburg
A+: [84-55] Carolina League – Potomac
A: [80-57] South Atlantic League – Hagerstown
A(ss): [26-49] New York-Penn League — Auburn

Graduated Prospects
Anthony Rendon (2B/3B); Tanner Roark (RHP); Taylor Jordan (RHP)

The Run Down
Once again, the Nationals are sporting an exciting group of prospects, with fantasy intrigue at every level of the org.  Even after graduating Anthony Rendon and Taylor Jordan, and then trading away Robbie Ray, this Washington farm is still primed to churn out big league productivity for the next handful of years.  If there’s a weakness to this top ten, it’s that a handful of the prospects listed are on the wrong side of the age curve, developmentally.  That sort of trend needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  You can’t write a prospect off simply because he’s 25 — there are other variables to consider.  And having had the chance to weigh the risk, I’m not overly concerned with that aspect of the Nationals farm.

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Back in May, I wrote a Courtney Hawkins fantasy. You can read it here. At that point in time, Hawkins was at High-A Winston Salem knocking homers at a good rate, but he was struggling to make contact, striking out more than 50% of the time he stepped to the plate. Near the end of the writeup, I said this: “The Sox must be thrilled with the huge power Hawkins is showing, but if the K’s continue at this rate, they’ll need to consider bumping him down the ladder to a level where he can more easily focus on approach and pitch recognition. There’s plenty of time for him to improve in that regard, and for fantasy baseball purposes, I truly hope he doesn’t go the way of the Donkey. Either way, though, he’s a fascinating dude to follow.” So here’s our Courtney Hawkins update, almost four months later: .182/.252/.407, 19 HR, 9 SB, 38% K-rate in 95 games at High-A. In other words, the whiffs continued, and the White Sox never demoted him. Hawkins is an extraordinary athlete with enormous upside, and I rarely am one to question a team’s development strategy, but it bothers me that the Sox have allowed their 19-year-old prized prospect to struggle so severely all season long. He won’t be ready for Double-A next spring, and I’m beginning to worry that this 1st rounder might never realize his potential.

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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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Note: As I explained yesterday, I’m in Mexico. Turns out, the internet blows here. Being so, I haven’t included the usual Baseball-Reference links. Apologies. (*They have been added – Ed.)

July 2nd marked the opening of the international signing period, which is a facet of player procurement that probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves. We spend a lot of time mouthing off on the June draft, but when you look at the names near the top of prospect lists – Oscar Taveras, Miguel Sano, Jurickson Profar – it’s difficult to discount the significance of the 2nd of July. It’s important to note that this signing window is not limited to just one day – contracts for various Dominican ballplayers, Venezuelan ballplayers, etc., will keep trickling in over the next weeks. But, for the most part, the action is concentrated to the 2nd. This year featured a nice crop of young international prospects, but the prized piece, Eloy Jimenez, signed with the Cubs. Jimenez, from the Dominican, profiles as a corner outfielder with the potential to become a monster in the fantasy game. At 16 years old, though, clearly there’s a long way to go.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (1) | 2011 (14) | 2010 (24) | 2009 (21) | 2008 (10)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [98-64] NL East
AAA: [70-74] International League – Syracuse
AA: [64-78] Eastern League – Harrisburg
A+: [64-75] Carolina League – Potomac
A: [82-55] South Atlantic League – Hagerstown
A(ss): [46-30] New York-Penn League — Auburn

Graduated Prospects
Bryce Harper (OF); Steve Lombardozzi (Util); Tyler Moore (OF)

The Run Down
A little more than a year ago, this Washington Nationals system was regarded as the best in the game. Then a trade with Oakland sent a handful of prospects out west, their top draft pick went down with a broken ankle, and Bryce Harper graduated to the bigs. What’s left, now, is a system that’s filled to the brim with risky, oft-injured prospects. There is almost nothing here that I would consider safe. Top overall prospect Anthony Rendon is an exciting, high-impact guy, but he’s yet to play a full season as a pro. Top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito tossed only two professional innings before being shut down for Tommy John surgery. He won’t pitch again ’til 2014. The rest of the top ten seem to be rehabbing from their third labrum operation, or their twelfth precautionary arthroscopic elbow surgery. This is not among baseball’s top 20 farm systems at the moment, but thankfully for Washington fans, the Nationals have a young and talented collection of talent at the big league level already.

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Trayce Thompson | OF, White Sox | Born:  3/15/1991

As usual, roster activity around the minors has increased greatly as the MiLB regular season approaches its final weeks.  A slew of notable prospects are on the move to new clubs at new levels, and I’ve been doing my best to keep y’all informed in my weekly Minor Accomplishments posts. 

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