The hardest decision to make about this prospect list is not who occupies the top spot but how to alphabetize the team’s name. I’m not sure a dumber thing has ever existed in the world of phraseology than The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Just. Stop. 

Although, big empathy for playing in a division with the Astros. 

My take coming into this was that the Angels have been on a very strange stretch for a long time. Kind of aimless. I was going to knock the Will Wilson sale. Who drafts a guy 15th just to sell him so you can move a bad contract? It doesn’t get much worse than that, in my opinion, and good on the Giants for raising their hand, taking the dead money and cutting Zack Cozart, who it looks like they might resign. Why do that? He’s a trade-able asset now. Maybe the Angels should’ve done that.

My take right now–after the hellstorm that is our baseball world–is that maybe they’ve finally got a chance. They’ve never had a real chance in that division–at least not for a long time now–because on the one hand you have Billy Beane in the prime of his career, and on the other you have the land of infinite cheating. Texas too has been extremely sharp for periods of the past decade and seems particularly sharp to me right now.

So it’s a tough road whether or not a cyborg squad populates the division. They’ll need to get something out of their pitching development program to have a chance, but the Dylan Bundy gambit could turn out better than the twin cores of Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey. The Angels are not without interesting pieces in the system, but the vast majority of future impact is on the hitting side. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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Coming into 2020, there’s not a ton of major injuries that we need to worry about in terms of keeping guys out to start the season. The biggest names that will definitely be on the shelf (and off your draft boards) are guys like Jameson Taillon, Jordan Hicks, and David Robertson. Those aren’t exactly guys that will alter draft strategies significantly going into the season. What we do have is a lot of players that will be drafted high, or be prime breakout candidates, who have some questions over how their offseason recoveries could affect their situations this year.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

If you set the filter to 30 minor league innings pitched, 65 Houston Astros struck out more than a batter per inning in their minor league system in 2019. The Cubs: 44. The Yankees: 46. Dodgers: 62. I think I checked all the teams I thought had a shot to match, and I might’ve actually checked all the teams. There’s not a leaderboard for this so far as I know. Just me geeking out with my cat, Calvin. 

Every time I would think of a team to check–the Rays–yes, duh, of course, the Rays! 45. 

The Marlins? They seem to have a lot of heat last year, right? 36. 

The Padres? Yup, gotta be. 64. Huge, but second place. 

Anyway, they’re gonna be fine–the Astros–at least in the medium-term. Or maybe not. Maybe that one hyper-competitive dude was making all the magic and the next crew won’t take time for all his tricks (“Illusions, Dad! You don’t have time for my illusions!” – G.O.B.)  

But it wasn’t just tricks. Something true came out of all the spycraft. Four-seam fastballs up. Curveballs down. Timeless. 

More, too, but that’s at least partly how I’ll remember the Lunhow Astros. They redefined pitching. It wasn’t just them, of course, but they were a huge part of it. 

They also tainted my favorite game on the planet. Changed history. Changed lives. Yu Darvish. Dave Roberts. No need to cry for everyone here–it’s just a game and all–and a lot of the people most impacted by the cheating are probably doing pretty damn great on the quality of life scale, historically speaking, but it’s not a good look. It’s kind of amazing the game can just pick up and move on. Even more amazing how many people just shrug the everyone cheats. I get it. The world is built to make us do that.

Anyway, so: Astros prospects! Do they throw things? What do they throw? Let’s find out! 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Some of you may be saying, “Is this the guy from the football side who is obsessed with defensive pressure rates?” Yes, it is.

Some of you will then ask, “Is this man as funny as Grey?” Sadly, no.

Everyone will then most definitely ask, “What does this man know about baseball?” Enough to spew 1000+ words per week into WordPress.

Baseball is far and away my favorite fantasy sport. I’ve been a Razzball consumer since I was a pimple faced teenager. My background with Razzball is important. It explains many of my philosophies, primarily those in regards to pitching. Typically, I wait on starting pitching far later than the norm and complete pre-season prep with that notion in mind. Instead of spending hours sorting top ranked pitchers, I focus in on pitchers who have the highest probabilities of far exceeding expectations.

This concept is at the core of the series, in which the sole purpose is to find the likeliest 2020 breakout pitchers. To start, I will delve into a group of 12 pitchers who exceeded draft day value from the last 3 seasons. Using their backgrounds, I hope to find some cohesion to locate what changed and led to the breakout. Finally, I’ll take those commonalities and locate 2020 pitchers meeting the same criteria to find who is most likely to win us our leagues.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

First Year Player Drafts are an important part of building a strong foundation for your dynasty team, as it’s a great opportunity to build the foundation of your minor league system. Hitting in the FYPD could be the difference between having a guy like Julio Rodriguez or a guy who you’re just going to be dropping halfway through the season. The top of FYPDs are usually fairly straightforward, with a group of guys that’s pretty set in place, but as you get into later rounds, there’s plenty of opportunity to find hidden gems that can help skyrocket your team’s value. In order to help you get ahead of your fellow league members, I’m going to give you a few guys you should be targeting in later picks of your FYPDs. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Does anyone else feel like the Tigers have been tanking forever? I know it’s only been a few seasons, but they burned a couple years chasing the twilights of their veteran core. When you wait a long time to start the sell-off, the rebuild feels longer, I guess. 

Detroit failed to get much for JD Martinez, Justin Verlander or Nick Castellanos when they finally did sell. They have very little positional talent in the system, which feels odd because they haven’t graduated anyone of note, so they don’t have positional talent in the majors either. It’s jarring to look around an entire organization and find zero long-term regulars. We can count Riley Greene if you want. Niko Goodrum, too, if you like. 

Do you though?

CJ Cron was a good signing. Jonathan Schoop made sense. It’s smart for Detroit to be all over this corner of the market, but it’s even smarter to find the Travis Demerittes of the world. The 4A flier discount is a Dodger specialty that Farhan Zaidi has applied in San Francisco to decent effect already. I’d like to see Detroit exploit the AAA afterthoughts like all full rebuilds should be doing. It’s worth a lot more to unearth a player with years of cheap control than it is to give an average veteran a short-term gig hoping to flip him for low-level fliers at the deadline. 

In my early days considering this system, I figured the Tigers would hold all their relevant prospects back until 2021, but after rolling around in the roster for a while, I decided that everyone who can help is probably coming up this year. It would be yet another narrative-leaning move rather than what seems best for winning in the long term, but it makes business sense. They risk losing fans if they play the timeline game on all their arms, and if they’re letting even one come to the big leagues, why not just bring them all up and enjoy the energy surge of having exciting young arms to watch every other day. If they fail, send them back down. The fans will be on board with the slow-burn at that point. Makes sense to dodge AAA with Mize, Manning and Skubal if at all possible, too. If you’re going to experience the juicy-ball confidence-death that awaits pitchers these days, why not let it happen at the big leagues to soothe the mind. Better to give up an oppo cheapie to Ronald Acuna Jr. than Yasmani Tomas, confidence-wise. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Generally, when it comes to closers I’m not interested in blowing too much draft capital. There are two reasons why. First, closers lose their jobs so frequently—by virtue of injury, poor high-leverage performance in small samples, or trade deadline deals—that it’s not worth investing too much draft capital in them. Second, because so many lose their jobs, others will always be available on the waiver wire at various times throughout the season. Look no further than 2019’s top two closers who both lost their jobs: Edwin Diaz and Blake Treinen. They not only lost the closer role, but they also wasted top-75 picks for their fantasy owners.

Recently, I took part in a mock draft where I selected three closers: Brad HandTaylor Rogers, and Ian Kennedy. I got them at picks 113, 176, and 224, respectively. After the draft, I wrote about my picks, which required me to research them in greater detail. And diving deeper into Hand, Rogers, and Kennedy only strengthened my resolve not to draft closers early.

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Just days after the Toronto Blue Jays inked Hyun-Jin Ryu, we meet as scheduled many months ago to discuss their minor league system. The fates are aligned this Holiday season. 

And it’s pretty good–this system–considering what it graduated to the big leagues last year.

Is it Christmas-morning good? 

Like gathering around the prospect fire with your favorite baseball humans good? 

Maybe not, but it’s good enough in pitching that help should be coming soon enough to pair with the promising young hitters Toronto’s assembled. Don’t sleep on Tellez and Teoscar, by the way. They aren’t exactly what you’re hoping to find under the tree, sure, but they’re solid stocking stuffers within reach of 30 home runs in 2020. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I doubt there’s any good way to explore this, but this week I found myself wondering if this year’s rays prospect list might be the fastest top 10 in baseball history or at least in the last several years. Perhaps the turf-burning Cardinals and Royals of the 80’s could measure up in parts, but they wouldn’t have three 80 runners and a Wander, I think. 

Fantasy baseball players love the Tampa Bay Rays to some extent already, I think, but they should probably just lean in and pick up all the profit. Avisail Garcia was a great example of this last year. As were Emilio Pagan and Nick Anderson and Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows. And that’s all just last season. Oh, Brandon Lowe, too, though he was from within. 

This year it’s Brendan McKay and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo; Kevin Padlo and Joe Ryan; Josh Lowe, Colin Poche and Brent Honeywell Jr.

Also Hunter Renfroe.

Because crazier things have happened. 

Presumably.

Jesus Aguilar did not drink the lazarus water in 2019, so it’s not like Tampa Bay bats a thousand, but the Midas touch element here is real. Consider Nick Solak. Traded for Peter Fairbanks. When a prospect leaves Tampa, it’s because there’s no room at the inn, and they see an angle they want to play now. Our move is to realize their bar is incredibly high, so when they “sour” on a prospect enough to move him, it means a little less than it might in other smart organizations. Solak is still probably a value, depending on how you acquire him, and Fairbanks should be tracked in leagues where his profile (high K reliever) matters. 

I veered off the path there. Suffices to say you could do worse in dynasty leagues than focusing on the organizations that are best at this particular game of finding talented players and helping them maximize their abilities. Or even just using it as a tiebreak when looking at two players of similar appeal. Estanli Castillo and Alberto Figueroa won’t make many lists this off-season, but I will be checking in on throughout the season because they’re with Tampa. I will check their game logs every few weeks or so just in case Castillo begins a noisy home run binge or Figueroa starts swiping bases in bunches. I just don’t want to be late to a Tampa party because a Tampa party rarely stops.  

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Cue the Darth Vader music: here comes the evil empire. 

Only problem with that is the current Collective Bargaining Agreement makes the Yankees seem like a force for good in the game. Brian Cashman’s clever management of an enormous budget makes the never-Tankees a sustainable monster. 

Side note: it’s not just greed that keeps owners from spending. Talent-acquisition penalties and revenue sharing connected to the luxury tax keeps owners from spending. 

According to Bryan Hoch of mlb.com: “Since Cole received a qualifying offer, the Astros will receive a pick after Competitive Balance Round B, and the Yankees will lose their second-and fifth-highest selections, as well as $1 million from their international bonus pool for the upcoming signing period. Houston’s pick, at the moment, is No. 74 overall, though that will most likely change with subsequent signings/compensations.”

You won’t see this discussed or even reported very often in the conversation about Cole’s contract. The younger brother of Fernando Tatis Jr., Elijah, just signed with the White Sox for $400,000. Their dad thinks he has the best power in the family. So the Yankees forfeit two-point-five Tatis brothers here, just because they wanted to pay a great player a lot of money. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?