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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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It didn’t end the way they would’ve liked, but the Red Sox had a wonderful season, channeling some Tampa Bay ways with the help of Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom and employing smart management on the field with the help of Alex Cora. When the club signed Enrique Hernandez, few would have predicted a 4 (3.9) WAR season punctuated by a monster playoff run (.408/.423/.837 with 5 HR), but I feel pretty confident this won’t be the last time the current Boston braintrust generates All-Star outcomes from mid tier free agents. The scary part is they don’t have to. With a big payroll and stocked system, the Sox appear poised for a long contention cycle. 

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These birds are in no rush, man.

They’re just getting going on the international front, so even though we might pounce on players who sign for big deals, I’m skeptical of the infrastructure in place to ease those teenagers’ transitions to professional baseball in the states. I’m skeptical of the whole plan, to be honest, given the slow-roasting, historical-losing outcomes we’ve seen so far. If Baltimore can follow the path the Astros and Cubs laid out by being truly abysmal for a half-decade just before the dawn of a successful stretch, the fans will appreciate the end point, assuming any remain. The AL East piece suggests their hands were tied to some extent–that the only path was full-tank with no on-field investments in the pitching or hitting side. I dunno. It’s just tough for me to get super hyped about the big future all these guys might have when we’ve seen what it took to acquire them. 

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My primary strategy for escaping the moneyball mindfuck that is being a baseball fan in the Manfred era is that I root mostly for individuals. I love to see it when players make it big. Get that money, if you can, while you can. I love to see it when front offices that have good processes experience enough success to fund more of that good process. Farhan Zaidi and company have good processes in place in San Francisco. One example is the Brandon Crawford contract. Guy earned it, was willing to stay, and the team accepted the risk of inking an aging player before any kind of deadline spurred action. The real examples, though–the best examples–are all the players succeeding up and down this system. If a free agent signs with the Giants, bump him up on your draft sheets. A similar rule applies to their prospects now as the organization seeks to join the top tier of baseball-development firms.

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Feels like I should say something about MacKenzie Gore here, but I don’t know what to say that might be actionable for fantasy purposes. You probably can’t trade for him, nor should you want to, probably. If you have him already, you may have tried to trade him away. I hope you hit the timing just right on that if so. He’s not a spent asset by any means, but he’s been managing multiple deliveries for so long now it’ll be inconveniently tough for him to repeat any of them like an MLB starter. He’s still young though, and this system is about more than Gore. Even as it’s been strip-mined so AJ Preller could chase the playoffs (and the headlines), this Padres minor league group offers potential impact in both the short and long term. 

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The Dodgers are the type of team you need to track all the way down the chain in dynasty leagues. An early foot in the door on the next pop-up infielder leads to a quick value return that leads to an earlier foot the next time around. I’ve long thought you might do best in dynasty leagues to basically ignore half the teams and zero in on the best ones. You cannot have too many Dodgers or Rays in your minors. 

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Like some early critics who didn’t realize Dune was Dune Part One until they’d been sitting there for a while, Arizona’s front office did not realize they were in a rebuild until they’d been molting for much of 2021. The pandemic hit this team hard. Talented international teeny boppers spent prime development days stuck in the bubble, which didn’t mean they couldn’t cause any trouble. Kristian Robinson struggled–and who didn’t my heart goes out to him–and found himself living life on the highway and wanting to ride it all night long. Baseball futures in search of desert power suffered another spice drought early in 2021 when wunderkind Corbin Carroll got his shoulder sliced in half by a Saudaukar, or separated on a swing. I can’t remember which. Spice is strong in these parts. Let’s breathe it in a little and imagine the possibilities. This is actually a very good system. Don’t mind the monster worm barreling down on us. Let’s just breathe and dream with the sand and wind for a minute. 

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The birds just hired Carlos Marmol to manage, which would be wild if true. Instead, they went with Oliver Marmol, who is not related to the former Cubs hurler who never met a man he couldn’t walk. 

It’s interesting that they moved on from Mike Schildt following an epic winning streak to end the season, but them’s the breaks. Life comes at you fast. Halloween. The World Series. Facebook soiling a word nobody at the company understands. The Cardinals firing and hiring managers in the blink of an eye. It’s all happening, and we don’t miss a beat here at Razzball, so let’s stroll through this system and see what we can see. 

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I’ve been covering so many Pirates prospects throughout the year that I feel like I’ve already written this article. Because I sort of did, particularly a month ago during Prospect News: Pirates Follow Secret Treasure Map to Roansy Contreras

Definitely some of my shiniest work in that one, mateys. If you’ve been around here this season, you know I like this swashbuckling system, so let’s hit the high seas. 

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