The date is June 9, a fairly insignificant moment in the western, Gregorian sense but a potentially monumental one in the 2021 baseball sense. The ever-floating cheap prospects super two service time cutoff line is now, or tomorrow, or next week, depending on how much baseball everyone ends up playing over the next two years. It’s a ratio stat where the denominator is everyone in baseball’s service time, so to call it a “moving target” sells the math problem a little bit short. It’s guesswork. Educated, certainly, but guesswork nonetheless, and the best guesses we have point to the middle of June, maybe even June 10 in particular. 

Get your popcorn ready. 

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I remember being really excited for my first crack at a public top 100 back in September of 2019. I actually started building it in early August because I had some time to simmer before my big debut at Razzball, and I wanted to come in hot with a ranking that reflected the way I see the game. 

Click here to see that Top 100 Prospects for 2020 Fantasy Baseball

and/or click here to stretch to the Top 150 Prospects for 2020 Fantasy Baseball

As the deadline approached, the true scale of the task came into view. 

In order to rank the top 100 minor league players for fantasy baseball purposes, you have to rank every single minor league player for fantasy baseball purposes. I suppose this is intuitive, but I didn’t realize as much on the front end, back in 2019. I also didn’t realize that’s a lie I was telling myself. It’s not that I have to rank every player, but I have to know generally where I would rank every player. 

Even that’s not true. Something I learned doing the team’s organizational rankings (FIND LINK TO TOP TENS) top ten lists the last two off-seasons was that I needed more processes for eliminating players than for finding them. It’s not altogether different from dynasty roster management in some senses, where your squad is like a bonsai tree: if you’re not pruning the dead and dying branches on the regular, your tree will not grow. Early on in that org ranking process, I figured I’d just make each list as long as the org was deep. Seems fine on the front end, I suppose, but I realized I wasn’t really making any difficult decisions. I could always just rank a guy 11th, or 18th, or whatever, so who really cares about the 10th ranked prospect? Just write the blurbs and cover the system. I didn’t have to grind out the work and make real choices like I do with just ten. The same played out with the 100. Now that I’ve set that limit, it helps me shed light on the Korry Howells and Alec Burlesons of the world, and it helps me push guys like Nick Pratto up to where they belong because I just have fewer branches on the tree. 

This year, for this list, I realized what I really needed was buckets into which I could put every player so I could really digest the task’s enormity. I tend to get lost in these spreadsheets. Make a tweak. Check some player pages. Find some video. Watch, think, drag and drop, rinse, repeat. I have no idea how many hours are in this spreadsheet, but it feels like most of them. Some days I know I can’t open it because I’ve got stuff to do, and time does not exist in that realm. Anyway, here’s how I broke it down. 

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Fresh off the recent rankings update, Top 100 Prospects for 2021 Fantasy Baseball Volume 2, I figured today was the perfect time for a Wednesday whip-around before we dive back into deconstructing the list this weekend. 

Below the fold, you’ll find a smattering of things I noticed on the field Tuesday night combined with season-long stats and thoughts on what it all means going forward. 

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I tend to dislike a lot of prospects. Not on a personal level of course. But I’ve played and coached and watched a lot of baseball, so it’s pretty common for me to dismiss a player at a glance. As I discussed in Wednesday’s article, Prospect News: Alek Manoah Debuts with Grown-Man GasI maintain a video-heavy research process to try and curb these first-blush reactions. My guiding principle as a teacher and coach is that anyone can make a leap in skill at any moment. We see it in baseball all the time. If you ignored JD Martinez, Justin Turner, and Max Muncy because of who they were in a previous life as a ballplayer, you missed out. These types of transformations are happening all the time, all the way down each system, on every side of the game. From throwing across the diamond to blocking breaking balls in the dirt to opening up early to pull an inside pitch out in front of the plate, players are bodies in motion, constantly evolving just to keep up. Take a glance at the statlines for Mookie Betts and Juan Soto this season. Hitting is incredibly hard. Baseball can be a nightmare when you’re caught in between, facing an adjustment phase or, like Francisco Lindor said today about studying himself from 2017, trying to imitate your past self and coming up just short. 

These rankings will look a little different, I suspect, from most you’ve seen. The biggest change will likely be the names you won’t find here. If a guy is hurt or slumping, I can probably find a better prospect for the top hundred in all of baseball. We can probably all find a better guy for my dynasty teams, too. For example, I cut Houston SS Jeremy Pena in a 15-teamer the instant I learned he was out for the season. I could have tried to shop him, I guess, but he’s still a free agent in that league today. Herein we see the most crucial aspect of succeeding in dynasty leagues: maximizing every roster spot, even in the short term, even if you’re rebuilding. I’m not recommending anyone go drop JJ Bleday or Cristian Pache or George Valera, but I am suggesting you make an effort to trade some prospects with established name value if their flaws are manifesting in their stat lines in ways that most leagues and ranking services are a little slow to spot. 

Well that was a much longer intro than I’d planned at the outset. Let’s get to the list.

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Some people are just good at farting.

In the comedic sense. 

If we can be objective about it. 

Which of course we can’t. 

Our own farts are the best farts. 

Not necessarily in the comedic sense.

But also definitely in the comedic sense. 

If we can be objective about it.

Nobody has ever farted as funnily as I have, from my perspective, is all I’m saying. 

I keep trying to avoid the subject of confirmation bias as an intro for this piece, but here we are, talking about my farts, and your farts, and I’m sorry it got so intimate so quickly. You didn’t come here for this. Probably. 

And I don’t even mean to besmirch the thing itself. Confirmation bias can be a blast. Few phenomena match the thrill of that you’re-goddamn-right-I’m-right feeling of riding astride a fantasy baseball win. 

Which is precisely what makes it self-insulating and self-isolating, which is precisely what makes it toxic. The second we stop looking for reasons we might be wrong, we invite bad mental processes. 

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A wave of excitement ran through the baseball community like Bo Jackson bursting for the corner and up the sideline. Our collective breaths were held hostage once again by the state of Florida (why is it always Florida?) as we waited for our Wanderwall to save our batting averages. 

Turns out we got Taylor Walls, much to the surprise of nobody who’s followed Tampa for two seconds but certainly to the chagrin of baseball fans everywhere. 

But maybe Walls’ll be the one that saves us. Cause after all . . . 

He’s good at baseball.

He’s no Vidal Wandersoon, but he’s fine for anyone looking to save some coin, and let’s face it, our fantasy teams are in Tampa’s boat on that front. Everyone loves a price break in fantasy. We probably wouldn’t tap and sap our very souls to get it, but that’s life in the so-it-goes era of Major League fuckery. 

Sorry for the detour. I’m putting work into the Top 100 Update and wanted to open the floor to discussion. In this space, I’ll air out some thoughts kicking around as I build the list and invite your thoughts on the season so far. The more minds the better, is my general approach to all things thought and perspective.

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Welcome to the prospect spotlight, a cousin of Prospect News, wherein I will set eyes on a handful of guys I’m claiming in my dynasty leagues.

Ethan Elliott — 15 IP, 1 ER, 1 HR, 7 baserunners, 28 Ks 

I’m watching Elliott’s season opening start from May 4 because Cleveland’s High A squad in Lake County doesn’t offer video feeds, so we can’t clap eyes on Elliott’s 13 strikeout performance from Saturday night. No matter. I’ve already added him in a 30-team league and will try to get him in a 20 and 15 in the upcoming faab runs. 

He’s not throwing all that hard, sitting 89-90, but his arm slot creates issues for opponents, kind of a Bumgarner-esque delivery with a shorter arm swing. It’s a unique look and helps his changeup dominate–not that he’s needed it much. The fastball has good ride and stays up in the zone, where Elliott clearly likes to live. So far so good. He’s a skinny dude, so he might find a tick or two of velocity along the way. I don’t think he’ll really need it if his command holds throughout the upper levels. Like any young arm who attacks the zone, Elliott will get punished at some point by upper level bats, but I think we’ll see a lot of dominant lines, and I suspect his velocity is already up a touch from the season opener. Can’t wait to see for certain. 

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I can’t really think straight right now because I’m watching Shohei Ohtani play right field after pitching the best game of his MLB career against the vaunted (dastardly?) Astros. 

In all seriousness, the baseball world is on fire (in my mind) right now. Jarred Kelenic is reportedly debuting Thursday. File that under Believe it When I See It. Alan Greenspan said he was right about everything RE economics except greed, to which I say he was wrong about everything. 

Wow, got off track in a hurry there, but it kept me from writing my actual nut graf, which goes something like “Here’s a list of who’s getting money-fucked now that Jarred Kelenic isn’t.” Whoops. There it went anyway. Please forgive my slip of the thumb dear reader; hectic times. 

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I got my 2nd Pfizer shot today (Saturday), so the goal here is to finish this piece before I pass out. Might not be able to fold in all the Saturday games. Have heard vax part deux can hit pretty quick, and I can confirm that my internal temperature is all over the place. Sorry if the drugs fail to enhance my performance. If I miss anything here that you’d like to discuss in this space, let me know and I’ll double back on Wednesday.

Early on this season, I’ll roll with a league-by-league, whip-around format.

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The time has come. This is my moment. 

Perhaps you’re here because you feel a similar way about minor league opening day. 

As a prospect person who started the gig in September of 2019, I have been waiting on the world to change for as long as I can remember, partly because I can only remember eleven seconds at a time. It’s been a slow universe for the baseball-development fan with a fast-twitch mind, so let’s not waste any more moments here in the intro, you know?

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In February, MLB told us the minor league baseball season would begin on April 6th

Good spot for an Arrested Development narrator meme here. April 6th came and went without minor league baseball. Whispers of another delay have been circulating for a while, but as things stand now, the MiLB season is slated to begin this week on May 4th. Cue the Imperial March. 

Jarred Kelenic and Wander Franco will start the season in AAA, while Julio Rodriguez heads to A+ and Bobby Witt Jr. jumps in at AA. Julio’s assignment in particular signals a pretty clear intention to keep him in the minors all season. 

Dynasty leagues are about to get wild. 

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The Tampa Bay Rays will promote LHP Shane McClanahan to start Thursday’s game against Oakland. If you watch spring training baseball, you might’ve glimpsed McClanahan hitting 101 on the radar gun while striking out seven batters and allowing one baserunner over three innings. 

If you missed those brief Grapefruit League innings, perhaps you watch the playoffs, where you could’ve seen McClanahan hitting 100 on the radar gun in his big league debut last fall. He got knocked around a bit by the Yankees and Astros but did throw an empty frame against the Dodgers in the World Series. Wild ride for a guy who’d only pitched 18.1 innings above A ball before that postseason stress test. 

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