The first-place Astros will promote right-hander Lance McCullers to pitch against the Athletics tomorrow. The 21-year-old will make the jump straight from Double-A to the majors. McCullers was drafted 41st overall out of high school back in 2012 and features two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. That combination should lead to a decent amount of strikeouts if he can command both pitches. McCullers probably tops out as a #3 starter in the majors, but he’s shown improved control this year with a 3.5 BB/9 (down from 5.2 and 4.5 in the two previous seasons). His strikeout rate has also ticked up – posting a 13.3 K/9 in 29 innings at Double-A Corpus Christi. McCullers is a viable fantasy play in most formats right out of the gate. Even in shallower leagues he’s worth a spin as a streamer. Here’s what else is happening around the minor leagues right now…

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (20) | 2013 (4) | 2012 (11) | 2011 (3) | 2010 (1)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [77-85] AL East
AAA: [75-69] International League – Durham
AA: [66-74] Southern League – Montgomery
A+: [63-70] Florida State League – Charlotte
A: [61-77] Midwest League – Bowling Green
A(ss): [46-30] New York-Penn League – Hudson Valley

Graduated Prospects
Jake Odorizzi, RHP | Brad Boxberger, RHP | Kevin Kiermaier, OF

The Gist
The Rays have had a very busy six months. They moved their ace David Price in a three-team deal that landed Willy Adames and major leaguers Nick Franklin and Drew Smyly. In July, they signed arguably the best international prospect available for just under $3M, which put them over their bonus pool limit. More recently they traded Jeremy Hellickson to Arizona for two quality prospects and sent Wil Myers in a surprising three-team deal that brought back another package of young talent headlined by Steven Souza of the Nationals. 2014 saw young arms like Jake Odorizzi, Brad Boxberger, and Chris Archer take steps forward in their development. It also surprised us with Kevin Kiermaier, who filled in for Wil Myers during his DL stint and proved to be a nice little power/speed combo in deep fantasy leagues. The Rays’ small budget won’t be any different in 2015, but the front office will – Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers after ten years with Tampa Bay.

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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2013 (4) | 2012 (11) | 2011 (3) | 2010 (1) | 2009 (4)

2013 Affiliate Records
MLB: [92-71] AL East
AAA: [87-57] International League – Durham
AA: [71-69] Southern League – Montgomery
A+: [67-65] Florida State League – Charlotte
A: [82-56] Midwest League – Bowling Green
A(ss):  [38-37] New York-Penn League — Hudson Valley

Graduated Prospects
Wil Myers (OF); Chris Archer (RHP); Alex Torres (LHP); Josh Lueke (RHP)

The Run Down
The Tampa farm took a big hit in the high-impact department with the graduation of Wil Myers and Chris Archer, and furthermore when Taylor Guerrieri went down to Tommy John surgery in July.  What’s left is an organization that’s seemingly void of top shelf fantasy prospects.  Even so, it’s probably unwise to sleep on this group — the Rays have a superb player development system that take its time with prospects, often churning out fantasy relevance from the places we’d least expect.  There is plenty of potential in this organization, and even though it’s not the most exciting brand of potential, you can sure as shizz count on Tampa to get the most out of it.

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The Phillies paid a shizzload of dough to sign the big league-ready Cuban RHP, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. The deal is worth up to $60 million, $40+ million of which is guaranteed. So, if we’re taking for granted that Ruben Amaro knows what he’s doing, then it’s a safe assumption that Gonzalez is going to quickly blossom into a front-end starter and a coveted fantasy asset, a la Yu Darvish, who signed for similar money. But I’m not so sure about all that. Gonzalez is 26 years old and he’s been pitching in international ball long enough for talent evaluators to have come to a consensus on his projection, so it’s surprising to find such mixed opinions on the guy. The Phillies are paying him starter’s money, but there are plenty of folks around baseball who don’t even see Gonzalez working out long-term in a starter’s role. Clearly I’m skeptical about the Phillies’ financial commitment, but even so, I’m not completely writing off the possibility of M.A.G. earning every dime of that contract on the mound. With a deep arsenal of fastballs and various off-speed offerings, all of which he throws with deception and good command, Gonzalez appears to be a guy who’ll keep hitters guessing and tally up the whiffs — there’s certainly enough upside to be stashing him in deep leagues. Still, my inclination is that there’s not $60 million dollars worth of talent here.

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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, 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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We haven’t spent much time discussing Henry Urrutia in these parts, and that’s a factor of two items: (1) I really don’t know that much about the guy. The Cuban-born prospect signed with Baltimore way back in 2009, but defection issues followed by visa troubles delayed his stateside debut until this season. (2) What I do know about Urrutia — or at least what I’ve seen reported most consistently about the 26-year-old — is that he’s a defensive liability, a well below-average outfielder with game instincts that probably mirror yours and mine. Those reports, I thought, didn’t bode well for a hasty arrival in the bigs. Don’t get me wrong, I knew the O’s had planned to use him in a DH/PH capacity this season, but I was thinking that’d be more of a September thing. In any case, Nolan Reimold’s injury has sped up the timetable, and beginning yesterday, Henry Urrutia is Baltimore’s DH. The fantasy implications of this arrival are tough to gauge. Urrutia hit .365/.427/.531 with 28 XBH (7 HR) through 288 PA between Double- and Triple-A, which is a nice line, reflective of an advanced approach and modest power. That skill set should help him adapt quickly to big league pitching, but there’s little upside here outside of OBP and AVG. Still, Urrutia is a guy to keep an eye on, and he’s maybe even worth a speculative grab now if you have room. He’s certainly not another Puig, but his stick is probably advanced enough to provide some help to those in need.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (11) | 2011 (3) | 2010 (1) | 2009 (4) | 2008 (1)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [90-72] AL East
AAA: [66-78] International League – Durham
AA: [74-63] Southern League – Montgomery
A+: [55-79] Florida State League – Charlotte
A: [80-60] Midwest League – Bowling Green
A(ss): [52-24] New York-Penn League — Hudson Valley

Arizona Fall League PlayersPhoenix Desert Dogs
Lenny Linsky (RHP); Tim Beckham (2B); Hak-Ju Lee (SS); Richie Shaffer (3B); Kevin Kiermaier (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Matt Moore (RHP); Jake McGee (LHP)

The Run Down
The Rays’ player development systems have always been top-notch, and for the past several years, they’ve maintained one of the better farm systems in the game. As a matter of timing more than anything else — some bad luck, too (see Beckham) — the system was a little lighter than usual in the high-impact department near the end of last season. They were growing older, and more expensive at the big league level. It appeared that they were deviating from Andrew Friedman’s operational model — a patient, bottom-up approach that had discovered and nurtured talent better than just about any other organization — that had made them a year-to-year contender in baseball’s toughest division. And then the James Shields deal happened and the natural order was restored to the baseball universe. All of a sudden, Wil Myers became a Ray, and the once-lacking high-impact department was replenished with one of the more high-impacty dudes in the minors. Beyond Myers, Tampa added MLB-ready pitching depth in Jake Odorizzi. They also nabbed Mike Montgomery on the cheap — sure, he pitched like a pile of hot garbage in 2012, but one year does not ruin a prospect. When considering this top ten back in October, I was kinda worried about having to cover a slew high-upside 18-year-olds who hadn’t yet played outside of instructional league. Thank you, Andrew Friedman, for making this post more interesting.

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The draft was being hyped as the deepest in years, and was littered with lots of starting pitching prospects. It also makes anyone who has been around fantasy baseball awhile feel old.  With the offspring of Dante Bichette, Dwight Smith and Bobby Bonilla being some of the names eligible to be drafted. Please, blog, may I have some more?

Please, blog, may I have some more?