Last week’s draft poured a whole shizzload of new prospects into the realm of pro baseball, and damn near all of them carry zero fantasy relevance at the moment. Don’t let Harold Reynolds fool you. Mark Appel will not be pitching for the Astros this season. Also, Harold Reynolds is dumb. Appel, however, is one of a handful of draft prospects who could offer value to fantasy teams as soon as this time next year. And in a recent Scouting the Unknown series, I took a look at nine draft prospects who appeared destined to move quickly toward the bigs — the Michael Wacha/Kevin Gausman/Mike Zunino types of the 2013 draft. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 by clicking those links.

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With the constant influx of new talent, new names, new statistics, it can be easy to lose sight of a prospect who’s fallen from grace. A little more than a year ago, in their 2012 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America ranked Joe Benson as the #2 overall prospect in the Twins organization. Benson was coming off a 2011 in which he hit .285/.388/.495 with 16 homers at Double-A New Britain, finishing the year with a call-up to the big club and a spot on the 40-man. He was on the fantasy radar before injuries delayed his 2012 debut, but he hasn’t been relevant since then. Across four levels in 2012, the former 2nd round draft pick managed a line at .202/.288/.336. And after watching him hit .192/.256/.285 through 43 games at Triple-A Rochester this season, the Twins had seen enough and released Benson to make room for P.J. Walters. The Rangers claimed him have assigned him to Double-A. At 25 years old, there’s still a glimmer of hope for the toolsy outfielder, but that will fade quickly if the horrendous hitting continues.

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Twins fans might be in for a frustrating year at the big league level, but trust me, the future is bright in Minnesota. No other organization can boast such a high-profile pair of hitting prospects as the Twins can with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. Sano, who boasts raw power unmatched by any other minor leaguer, is simply on fire. The 19-year-old is hitting .370/.429/.765 with 9 homers in 91 trips to the plate with High-A Fort Myers. Meanwhile, Buxton, the 2nd overall pick last June, is having no trouble with his first taste of full-season baseball, batting .400/.524/.662 with 3 homers and 8 stolen bases through 82 PA. I went over my Byron Buxton fantasy the other week, in case you missed it. Judging by tools alone, these two are among the most exciting talents in baseball. The fact that they’re backing up their tools with such serious production on the field only vaults their stock to new heights — I’m talkin’ top ten overall for both. 2016 can’t arrive soon enough for Twins fans.

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Jorge Soler was off to a great start at High-A Daytona, batting .435/.519/.739 with 2 homers through his first six games. The was promising news for the Cubs, who inked him to a nine-year, $30 million contract last summer. The 21-year-old Cuban is not a cost-controlled prospect — there’s an opt-out clause that would make him eligible for arbitration after three years service time, but both sides would be thrilled if it came to that. In any case, there’s incentive for the Cubs to develop him quickly in order to make sure the bulk of those nine years are spent at the highest level. Chicago was smart to make such a long-term investment in Soler — it gives them a little developmental cushion — but they’re still trying to avoid unnecessary setbacks. Things were going well in that department up until Wednesday, when Soler decided to brandish a baseball bat as he sprinted toward the opponent’s dugout following a benches-clearing incident. The league suspended him five games, which isn’t a huge setback, but the Cubs are reportedly investigating the matter further and could tack on more time. I doubt it’ll come to that, but the ordeal still raises some major character concerns. Let’s hope this was an isolated incident and that the new regime in Chicago doesn’t enable such behavior as the old group did with headcases like Carlos Zambrano.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (19) | 2011 (13) | 2010 (6) | 2009 (22) | 2008 (15)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [66-96] AL Central
AAA: [72-72] International League – Rochester
AA: [75-67] Eastern League — New Britain
A+: [60-75] Florida State League – Fort Myers
A: [77-63] Midwest League – Beloit (Cedar Rapids beginning 2013)

Arizona Fall League Players — Peoria Javelinas
Logan Darnell (LHP); Kyle Gibson (RHP); Caleb Thielbar (LHP); Michael Tonkin (RHP); Evan Bigley (OF); Nate Roberts (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Chris Parmelee (1B/OF); Brian Dozier (SS); Liam Hendriks (RHP); Cole De Vries (RHP); Sam Deduno (RHP); Pedro Florimon (SS); Darin Mastroianni (OF)

The Run Down
There are certainly other teams in the discussion, but when evaluating the most improved farm systems in baseball over the past year, Minnesota needs to be considered near the top. Owning the #2 pick in the draft is always a nice way to bolster a club’s young talent, but the Twins went beyond that in 2012, as impact talents lived up to hype, and forgotten prospects returned to form. And they continued improving into the offseason, adding big-ceiling starting pitchers in Alex Meyer from Washington and Trevor May from Philadelphia. The Twins shipped out MLB outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere in order to acquire those arms, but with capable outfield prospects pushing through from the minors this year, the added pitching depth seems like a smart move. Do take note of this system as there’s plenty to be excited about in terms of the fantasy game, and certain prospects should be making their impacts this year.

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Carlos Martinez | RHP, Cardinals | Born:  9/21/1991

The Cardinals entered 2012 with a couple of aces-in-the-making within their minor league ranks.  Both Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez were viewed as five-star-type pitching prospects, very near to the can’t-miss variety.  Well, we know now that Triple-A has been quite the learning experience for Miller — his struggles have been so severe of recent that the Cards are skipping his turn in the Memphis rotation so he can work on mechanical issues. 

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