It only took a little over 24 hours for the Luis Robert sweepstakes to come to a close. As news broke yesterday afternoon that the Chicago White Sox had struck a deal in the $25 million to $30 million dollar range with the 19 year old Cuban phenom. This is a significant development on a few fronts; for real life baseball, this will be the last deal signed under the old rules, where teams weren’t capped on international free agents under the age of 23. It’s also significant because, the White Sox, might just have in their possession, 2 to 3 of the top ceiling prospects in the minors at the moment. Those of course being Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and now Luis Robert. The other element to this story is Moncada and Robert will forever be linked to each other, not just by nationally, or organization, but also by dollars and the expectations attached to those presidential flashcards. As for Luis Robert the player, much like Moncada, he’s as high end in terms of talent as they come. Many have graded Robert’s hit tool a touch below Moncada’s at a 55, with some concern about his swing and miss. Where Robert edges out Moncada is in his 70 grade speed mark, and 60 grade fielding. Some scouts see Robert’s power ceiling being higher, but even those scouts mark it as a splitting hairs difference. So we’re talking about a true 5 tool talent, with some additional polish to his fielding. Though it tends to be overlooked in fantasy it’s actually a major positive for his owners, as it might accelerate his ETA two years from now. There’s little doubt in my mind he’s the clearcut top overall choice in 2017-18 First Year Player Drafts, and it’s really not close at the moment. Here’s who else is making noise in the MiLB…

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Every few years a farm system develops to the point that it’s busting at the seams with talent. An organization builds  and before you know it they’ve cultivated more talent than they can possibly use, and therefore have reached what I call the “embarrassment of riches” phase. This time is now for the Atlanta Braves farm system, long thought to be propped up by the organizations pitching depth, that is no longer the case. So far early in the 2017 campaign the Braves have produced two of the breakout stars of the young season in Ronald Acuna, and newly (re)converted catcher Alex Jackson. To call Acuna a breakout star is probably a bit disingenuous, as he was well within my Top 100 in the pre-season, ranking 42nd overall. This is how I described him then, “Could be this season’s Victor Robles. Five tool player, that tore up Australia this winter, poised for a big jump in the mid-season list. Trade for him now.” I hope you listened to my advice and traded for him then, because after his entrance to AA on Tuesday he might be tough to wrangle from his owners. What exactly has the 19 year old outfielder done since his promotion on Tuesday? How about going 6/8 with 2 homers, 2 steals, 4 runs, and 4 RBIs. It’s funny how Acuna has exploded the last few weeks after initially struggling to start the season. After slashing .209/.261/.349 in the season’s first 11 games, Acuna is hitting .355/.398/.605 with 4 homers and 10 steals in the 18 matches since. As I said calling him a breakout is disingenuous, but he looks to be rising into another tier of prospects. As for his former and future teammate Alex Jackson the story is quite different. As the former 6th overall pick in the 2014 draft struggled for 2 1/2 years in the Mariners organization, before being traded to the Braves this offseason for a pair of fringe major league starters. Jackson at one point in time was one of the more decorated high school players in recent memory. Having been named a three time Baseball America All-American, a two time Under Armor All-American, and even winning Baseball Prospectus Prospect of the Year before even being drafted. A catcher in high school, the Mariners decided to move him to the outfield, where Jackson struggled. Slowly his body and skill set deteriorated, and many minor league experts, myself included had written him off. Bad move on our part. Since joining the Braves organization and being moved back to catcher, all Jackson has done is take siege of the notoriously pitching friendly Florida State League, hitting .296/.348/.592 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 31 contests. He seems to have abandoned some patience in lieu of power, but when the results are good I’d take it every time. It’s getting to the point with Jackson, that if this continues into the summer he could easily rank within the top 5 fantasy catchers in the minors. Here’s the other happenings in the MiLB over the last few days.

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A week after writing up one of the worst farm system in baseball in the Diamondbacks, I’ve been blessed with the task of covering arguably the best farm system in the Atlanta Braves. Over the last few seasons the Braves have done an excellent job of acquiring top prospects in trades, and via the draft. This approach that has left them with an embarrassment of riches. It’s not often you can trade an obvious over-performing pitcher for the top pick in a deep draft, and a handful of other good, young, and controllable assets. Fortunately for Braves fans, GM John Coppolella has very incriminating photos of Dave Stewart. Otherwise such outlandish trades like the Swanson and Toussiant deals wouldn’t have been possible. Since then, the Braves have added one of the top International signings in recent memory in Kevin Maitan, and took in quite a haul in last June’s draft. In other words, there is much to discuss in the Braves system. Instead of rambling for another 100 words about Disney magic, and how dumb Dave Stewart is, let’s just dig into one of the more exciting farms.

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Seattle’s farm produced two interesting players for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. I like Ketel Marte as a late-round flyer at a shallow middle infield position. He can hit and steal, and should be a good source of runs if he bats in front of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz as he’s currently projected. Then there’s Carson Smith, who I imagine a lot of fantasy owners will be drafting as the closer in waiting if he hasn’t already taken the reins by opening day. The first thing I noticed when putting together this preview is the plethora of outfield prospects in the Mariners’ system, as well as the lack of impact talent from the 2015 draft (they didn’t pick in the first round). It’s a bit dicey gambling on hitters that may call Seattle their home one day, so this has never been my go-to system for fantasy prospects. Of course the flip side of that is that their pitching prospects have a little more room to breathe.

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This is hard to believe, but players have actually been signed or traded since I started churning out the organizational top tens in early November. It’s like they don’t even care that I have spent countless minutes prepping these reports and now a bunch of players have asterisks next to their names. Black is white, down is up, and Andrew Heaney is an Angel. Some prospects who get signed or moved in trades are impact players that are in fact worth talking about. By the timing of the previews, they may end up in a sort of top ten list “limbo”. Consider these posts a division by division catch-all for such players. It’s also an opportunity to discuss a few of the names that were borderline top ten players but didn’t quite make the cut for their organization’s list. In other words, some of the notable “#11s”. Here are the prospects that fell through the cracks in the AL West…

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (2) | 2012 (9) | 2011 (18) | 2010 (12) | 2009 (24)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [71-91] AL West
AAA: [76-68] Pacific Coast League – Tacoma
AA: [62-73] Southern League – Jackson
A+: [64-76] California League – High Desert
A: [67-72] Midwest League – Clinton
A(ss):  [44-32] Northwest League — Everett

Graduated Prospects
Nick Franklin (2B); Brad Miller (SS/2B); Mike Zunino (C); Danny Farquhar (RHP)

The Run Down
When considering the Mariners farm for fantasy purposes, it’s impossible to ignore the Safeco effect.  Every pitcher on this list should carry inflated fantasy value thanks to the ballpark at which they’ll be spending most of their time.  On the flip side of that statement, however, the M’s offensive prospects aren’t necessarily as exciting as they could be.  We apply the same principle when evaluating the Padres or Giants farm systems — never shy away from a pitching prospect pushing through the Seattle org.

Please, blog, may I have some more?