Don’t tell anyone I said this: I like this system for our game. It features pieces of all shapes and sizes, most of them cheap for us. The ones who should be rostered in dynasty leagues mostly aren’t, while several players who probably shouldn’t be rostered are. It’s an odd assortment of talent, and I had a lot of trouble trimming this list down to ten, balancing the old-for-level, close-to-the-majors types with the distant-upside teeny boppers. In line with my typical play style, I erred toward the near term partly because opportunity should abound in Oakland over the next couple seasons. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

All due respect to Tony Danza and Danny Glover, those Angels should’ve been in the front office. Aside from the happy accident of winning the Shohei sweepstakes and landing a generational player in Mike Trout, L.A. of A’s developmental system hasn’t generated much proof of life. Or happiness. Where’s young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and forever-old Christopher Lloyd when you need them? 

By the way, quick trivia question: Which of these three actors is in the film Angels in the Outfield

A) Matthew McConaughey 

B) Adrian Brody

C) Dermot Mulroney 

Cue the Jeopardy jam. (RIP Alex)

(Pause for effect.)

I hope you like trick questions because all three of these guys were in the movie! What a film! Can we get going on a sequel already?

Might as well take a look at the Angels in the farm system while we wait.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Nobody beats the book like Houston. Their prospect lists require close-reading and separate buckets of research because you don’t want to miss Jose Urquidy or Luis Garcia if you don’t have to. Jake Meyers and Chas McCormick both popped from relative obscurity onto fantasy baseball rosters in 2021, and that looks like the way it’s going to go with Astros’ prospects. I don’t know what it is that keeps their guys underrated in general. I guess losing the picks to the cheating scandal didn’t help, nor did the cheating scandal (though it would be pretty hard to argue that it didn’t HELP help in a macro sense). Doesn’t matter for our purposes. The Astros have proven they can teach hitting with buzzers or without. Although they’re not highly ranked around the chamber, and spots are at a premium on the big league roster right now, this list has some of my favorite sleepers for near-term fantasy value, especially at the top. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Help, Miranda! Help Help, Miranda! 

Elite hitting prospects tend to carry the weight of their franchise’s future on their shoulders, sometimes deep into their careers. Byron Buxton held the Twins’ ultimate fate in his hands for almost a decade. Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Jose Miranda hope to lighten the load. Not to mention Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler are under contract through 2023 with club options beyond then. They might have done better to give that money to Jose Berrios, but time will tell. The baseball sphere was happy with the return, and I was surprised they pulled Joe Ryan from Tampa for Nelson Cruz. Ryan may never become Berrios, but he papers over at least a portion of that loss, and with another wave of help in the on-deck circle, things are looking up in Minnesota despite a down year in 2021. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Bobby the Witt leads a crew of young bangers simmering in Kansas City. Ace Lacey, Nicky Pratto, Vinnie P, Frank the Maserati and MJ Melendez give us a glimpse at the ghost of Christmas future in KC.

Full disclosure here. I slipped up and wrote Bibbt Wutt Jr. at one point. Bibbt–wutt? Then my phone wrote Bobby Whipit. Like when a problem comes along, Bobby Whip it! In this case, the problem is several losing seasons in a row. Typos, amiright? I’m getting light-headed over here, but that’s probably just the Royals’ sunflare future vibing in my blood. Let’s check the system. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I think public perception sees this system as strong–a club on the rise–and it is, especially at the top, but if you squint at this snapshot, gaze into its depths like a magic-eye poster, it morphs into a donut. It’s tasty, so you don’t think much about the big hole in the middle. By which I mean there appears to be a half-decade gap between it’s top group and the next little wave of potential impact. No need to linger on that today though. This team has the best one-two punch of top prospects in baseball, so it’s all rainbows, Rileys, and Tork-talk in Tiger-land, and it should be. We’re a bit starved for positrons on the planet today, and there’s plenty of talent here to discuss, so let’s get started.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Youth is power among the low-payroll clubs, and no team exemplifies that more than Cleveland, who has been mostly successful in terms of wins and losses despite constantly feeling the creep of (air quotes) market forces. After an eventful 40-man roster deadline day that saw the club turn over 20+ percent of its personnel, Cleveland is on the verge of something new in more ways than one (cue the Starlord memes). This system is loaded, is what I’m saying, and though they’ve faced a recent downturn in on-field talent, that should be short-lived, especially on the pitching side.    

Please, blog, may I have some more?

This is not a strong system, but you could probably guess as much given their recent run of rated rookies and deadline deals. Something about the weak systems invites me to dig, and I probably spent too much time doing that here, where I think I found ten players who legitimately matter for our game. As is often the case, the more I dug, the less I found, so I kept going and wound up liking a few of these players more than consensus. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

It’s tough to see how things get better than they were in 2021. Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien were grand slam one-year signings. Vladimir Guerrero chased a triple crown. Alek Manoah dominated as a rookie. Jose Berrios pitched well down the stretch after the club swapped two top prospects to get him. And therein lies the upside. The club was able to sign Berrios to a long-term deal, and I have a hard time imagining Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson outproducing him over the next few seasons. Another plus: this organization knows what it’s doing. This system remains solid despite the recent graduations and trades with another couple potential-star-level prospects in the pipeline and several interesting upside and depth pieces behind them. All the team’s best players are young, and the ownership group is rich enough to push anytime it wants. Perhaps Kevin Gausman will adequately replicate Robbie Ray. Perhaps Teoscar Hernandez and Vladimir Guerrero will hold serve at the levels they established in 2021. And perhaps the top guy on this list will inject enough life into the lineup that they’ll rarely miss Marcus Semien. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Witchcraft. That’s the plainest explanation. We need to get some ducks and a big old scale and sort this out once and for all. 

It’s no exaggeration to say the Rays have changed baseball. Has there ever been a more successful stretch by a team who didn’t win a single World Series? Perhaps, but probably not if you’re giving them bonus points for thrift, which I think we should probably stop doing at some point. We’re just really into discounts, is all, so when we see a team win as something of a walking clearance rack, we like that. It’s hard-wired. The success here is built from the ground up–a long-term developmental outlook that perennially puts Tampa in the top tier of minor league systems. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

We’re on the Tampa Bay Rays in the Top Ten Prospects series (here’s a link to the index), which feels like a nice time to hit a quick pause after 18 straight prospect listicles, partly because the work on a team like that is a little more extensive than, say, the Phillies or Nationals, and partly because the baseball world is going bonkers right now on the free agent market. We’ll get back to the Rays’ riches on Sunday. For now, let’s take a quick look into the future of the Texas Rangers, this winter’s big spender so far after adding Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jon Gray, and Kole Calhoun. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Bit of a trivia question off the top: who were the last two big-time Yankees prospects who weren’t overrated. Aaron Judge is quick to mind. Who else? Our best bet is to check the trades for guys who actualized for other organizations. Let’s see. Stanton was traded for Starlin Castro, Jose Devers and Jorge Guzman, so . . . no hits there. Still a pretty good trade for the fish considering Stanton’s inability to stay on the field. But that doesn’t matter to our purpose here: harvesting fantasy value on the Yankees’ farm, where this organization is loaded. It’s possible nobody markets their prospects better than New York. Whenever you hear flowery language about a Deivi Garcia or Jasson Dominguez type, keep that in mind. This front office schools its people well on speaking only in glowing terms when it comes to their minor league system. If a prospect writer’s primary process is checking in with team sources, they’ll probably wind up overrating young Yankees. Part of this effect is born from having a huge, hungry fan base. Part of it comes down to marketing. Part of it is simply the Yankees having a lot of money to invest in player development and acquisition and doing exactly that. All the historical caveats about their prospects apply, but even after some system-trimming deadline maneuvers, they’ve got an objectively impressive group at the moment. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?