Every single time I spend weeks sweating over my rankings a player emerges as under-ranked by yours truly almost immediately. The current thorn in my recently released rankings side is one Wander Franco. Ranked 82nd on my most recent Top 500, an uber-talented middle infielder with a highly touted bat. I figured being 20 spots or so into the Top 100 on a 17 year old was a pretty big statement. I was wrong. Since the final look over of my list, Franco has gone bonkers, 15-for-33, with 3 homers, 2 doubles, a triple, and 14 runs driven in. Oh, and by the way, over that period he’s struck out once. “Yeah, yeah Ralph that’s great, but it’s rookie ball!” Sure, but it’s advanced rookie ball and he’s the second youngest player in the league, and one of two 17 year olds (the Yankees Everson Pereira is the other). After last night’s game he’s sitting on a 24 game hit streak, and has nearly as many homers (6) as he does strikeouts (8), all this while he hits .384/.418/.652.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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I’m really looking forward to sleeping tonight, because I haven’t done much of that the past 2-3 weeks. Instead I’ve been working on my deepest ranking ever. Agonizing over each rank, guessing which players you’ll yell at me for over-ranking, and which I under-ranked. At the end of the day, anything after like 250-270 is a crap-shoot, and it all comes down to preference. I prefer not to draft pitching prospects until late, and the rankings reflect that. I would look at pitchers more in relation to each other, than in relation to hitters. I know after my Top 100 dropped there were many questions regarding my avoidance of pitching. That’s not to say I stayed away entirely, but based on my experience, were we to draft a new dynasty team today, the pitching prospects would go off the board way later than the mainstream lists are ranking them. Even in my points league where pitching is paramount, managers have smartened up, targeted high end hitting prospects, and started to add pitchers when they’re a little closer to the majors, when much of the risk has evaporated. My roto leagues have long operated this way, and its proven to be a winning strategy. My hope is to start some dialogue, aid you in your dynasty leagues, and maybe get a few players into your radar, Hell, perhaps I overlook a few players and you get them onto my radar. I refrained from ranking any of the 2018 July 2nd class. We’re still a year away from many of their stateside debuts and not everyone has signed. You can use last week’s FYPD rankings to figure how they would slot on this list. Thanks to Rudy’s efforts, the rankings are searchable by name, position, level, and ETA. Enough with the long-winded intro, you got ranks to read! It’s the Top 500 Prospects for Keeper leagues and Dynasty.

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This is for all the people that have come up to me over the last few weeks and asked “Yo, Ralph when’s that Top 100 droppin’ son?” And I said, “When it’s finished”. This is for y’all, one love! Oh but wait, there’s more to come too. This is simply a sweet, sweet 20% of the overall ranks. The full 500 will drop on Sunday. I want to thank all of my readers over the years for supporting me in all that I do here. These rankings posts are a lot of questioning your evaluations, and even more sleepless nights. So, I hope you enjoy.  As for the Top 100, I’ve gone a little heavier in discounting pitching than in previous years, instead favoring upside bats. Why? Because pitching prospects are like reflections in side view mirrors, all much closer than they appear. Think about Shane Bieber vs. Tyler Glasnow, one guy was hyped to the max, the other was a boring strike-thrower that likely would never crack a top 250 for fantasy. Who would you rather own now? Speaking of upside, you’ll see the second half of this list is a little more upside heavy with some breakouts mixed in for good measure. What can I say? I like the young upside hitters. This exercise was a process,I began by listing nearly 700 players, then went player by player ranking each on a “would I trade this guy for this guy” trip, then I stared at the list changing ranks over and over again while I smoked like a German. That’s not a joke, this actually happened. All to whittle it down to the list below, the Top 100.

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It’s a busy time in the world of prospecting, as I and many others that cover the Minor Leagues crunch on mid-season lists, we’re also inundated with new prospects to research, project, and rank. The hardest part is trying to balance the handful of categories, or types, these players fall into. First we have the college hitters; usually the highest floor options in terms of fantasy, we’ve seen quite a few of these types return nearly immediate value over the last 5-7 seasons in dynasty leagues. Next we have the high upside prep hitters; another category that has done well of late, notables like Royce Lewis, Jo Adell, and Brendan Rodgers fall into this bucket. Prep bats offer some of the highest upside, but the floor can be pretty low. The next variety is July 2nd hitters; a group with a long and exciting track record, but due to the age of these prospects, there’s a high rate of failure, and a good chance many of them fall off expectations quickly. While there are major red flags, you still think to yourself “that upside tho”. The next three flavors are all pitchers, and each of them offers their own set of unique benefits and challenges. College pitchers, are the closest to the finished product, but you get a lot of “strike-throwing-so-so-stuff” types, and those types of players are available on every wavier wire from here to Beijing. Then we have Prep Arms, the most deceptive of investments. If you read enough prospect ranks, scouting reports, and particularly draft coverage you’ll find yourself enamored with some of these arms. Think MacKenzie Gore, Riley Pint, Jason Groome, or Forrest Whitley, that’s a very up and down record of success. The final bucket is one that I don’t bother paying too much mind to in most dynasty formats, July 2nd pitchers. Really, there have been some great arms to emerge from this bucket, but it often takes two years until we even know which arms really have any MLB projection. All this to say, my ranks are heavily influenced by this simple mantra. Draft hitters, add pitchers from the wavier wire. That’s the process, and it’s not to say it’s perfect, but more often than not I find myself filled with regret after drafting a pitching prospect. I am not saying that Casey Mize isn’t awesome, he is, and if this were a “real-life” list I would have ranked him first or second, but if I’m entering a draft today, there’s for sure 3  hitters I take in front of him. It’s fine if you disagree, but process is process. Below is the early version of my first year player draft ranks. I reserve the right to change my mind over the coming months, and plan to update these in early to mid-October.

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It’s a running joke among prospect nerds that “the Yankees have a tree down in Tampa, that they shake, and some guy who throws 95 falls out.” Well, in the 18th round of the 2017 draft they shook that (palm?) tree, and a tall righthander out of UAB named Garrett Whitlock tumbled into the Yanks hands. A draft eligible Sophomore due to an early birthday, Whitlock is an interesting story, and a lesson that often in the MLB draft later round guys can be more than their draft pick number. In other words, don’t let the 18th round tag fool you, he had some pedigree. In the summer of 2016, a strong performance for Chatham in the Cape Cod League, planted Whitlock onto the draft radar. Many believed he was a day two pick when rounds three through ten are conducted. Unfortunately for Whitlock, and fortunate for the Yankees, a back injury hampered his season, and his stock dropped. The Yankees stepped up, paid him above slot, and all he’s done since is make everybody look smart. According to the numbers and the scouting reports from people like Jason Woodell, he might just be the Yankees best kept secret. Here’s a look from Jason, and after we’ll discuss why I’m buying all over.

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Tough starts can really tank a prospects perceived value. There might be nothing worse for dynasty managers, than watching one of your blue chips struggle very publicly for the better part of the first half. It’s only magnified when a player is on the cusp of the majors, and touted as a potential impact player from the jump. Think about how far Willie Calhoun has fallen. Earlier this year, I could have moved Calhoun for legit MLB talent in one of my more competitive dynasty leagues. Coming into the season Calhoun was a hot commodity, as I turned down deals for James Paxton and David Price amongst others. Just a few days ago in the same league, my Willie Calhoun for Max Muncy trade was scoffed at. All this to say a few things; 1. Things change quickly in the world of dynasty baseball. 2. Is a much more important lesson, and one tough for struggling Calhoun owners. Don’t write off players you believe in. At the moment there might be no better example of this lesson than the Indians Francisco Mejia. The young backstop moved through Cleveland’s minor league ranks like a rocket the past few seasons, before being assigned to Glendale of the Arizona Fall League. There, the Indians tried Mejia at the hot corner to less than stellar results. Everything started to go south. Mejia’s hitting wasn’t what it was billed to be, and the struggles carried through the beginning of 2018. Hitting just .189 entering June, the diminutive catcher has gone on a tear slashing .419/.438/.640, with four more hits on the month than his prior two months combined. In fact he has 15 multi-hit games in his last 21! That’s raking, but the point should hit you like a ton of bricks. We knew Mejia was a talented switch-hitter with plus-plus hit, even through his struggles we shouldn’t have lost sight of just how good this player is. Will he win you a fantasy league one day? Not likely, but he can be one of the better offensive talents behind the plate. Which leads me to my next question, what’s his future at catcher? While he might never be an everyday catcher, he’s still played a majority of his games behind the pate this season. Which could work out to be a best case scenario in fantasy. If he has the ability to play enough games every year to keep catcher eligibility, but not to breakdown over the course of the year it could amount to a perfect storm. A plus hitter at the catcher position that avoids the daily wear and tear that can negatively impact offensive output.

 

   

There’s times where you just need to trust your gut. About 14 months ago I added a UCLA righthander with impressive stats in one “open universe” league I’m in. His name was Griffin Canning, and while there were some mechanical knocks, injury history, and a lack of premium stuff. I saw something in early March of 2017.  He mowed down the Michigan lineup going 8 strong, allowing 6 baserunners on 3 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 12. He showed a curveball with depth, a fastball in the low 90’s that he commanded well, a slider, and an off-speed pitch. Despite a very good 2017 season in the PAC-12, Canning dropped down boards due to his size, injury history, and the aforementioned mechanical issues. He dropped all the way to the Angels in the second round, and in what is becoming an increasingly reality based narrative, Billy Eppler stole another one. Coming off consecutive seasons at UCLA where he exceeded 100 innings, the Angels were prudent to delay his professional debut until 2018. The righty was assigned to High-A Upland out of camp, and such begins Canning’s second act. His first two professional starts produced 8.1 scoreless frames, with 14 punchouts, and 7 baserunners. He saw promotion immediately to AA Mobile and while his next few starts were struggles, Canning clicked in his next six allowing a single earned run over 32.1 frames. A few starts later Canning was promoted to AAA Salt Lake where he made his debut this Thursday, going four, allowing five baserunners on 2 hits, and 3 walks. Over his time in the Southern League he made 10 starts, going 1-0 with a 1.97 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, and 3.7 Bb/9.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

Coming into every season there’s nothing prospect writers love more than calling a breakout. The problem is we’re often wrong. For every Ronald Acuna we call, there’s a Yadier Alvarez or an Austin Hays. But sometimes the broken clocks of the baseball world are right, though twice a day seems like a bit much for the best of us. In this vein, let’s look at a breakout I alluded to earlier this year when I aggressively ranked the Twins Alex Kirilloff 73rd on my pre-season Top 100. Today we’ll take examine the 20 year old phenom, his strengths as a hitter, and why you should be adding him in any format where he is unowned. Because we’re all lucky enough to have Lance Brozdowski as our over the internet friend, this task has been made a little easier. As Lance just so happened to catch Kirilloff’s last stand in the Midwest League at the All-Star Game in Lansing this Tuesday. Here’s a clip from Kirilloff’s all-star game exploits below.

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One of the things I’m tasked to do around these parts, is to identify the ETAs of some of the best and brightest prospects. Often the most difficult part of my job is weighing need vs service time vs development for each of their respective clubs. Sometimes numbers, even in the high minors, can be deceiving. Not to mention, each team has a unique approach to its handling of home grown talent. One player I’ve been asked about, almost as much as any in 2018, is the Astros Kyle Tucker. While Tony Kemp, Jake Marisnick, Josh Reddick, and Marwin Gonzalez split time in the Houston outfield, Tucker waits. The waiting game however, has not halted Tucker. Instead, he’s been in full fledged assault-mode the past few weeks, slashing a silly .400/.444/.650 with 9 runs, 8 RBI, a homer, and a perfect 4-for-4 on the basepaths. The lefthanded hitting Tucker has the ability to contribute in a full 5 categories in roto leagues, bringing an advanced approach, and a swing conducive for power growth. He’s worth stashing and streaming in RCLs, on the off chance he gets the call, and is 100% a priority stash in deeper mixed leagues, though he’s likely owned. Tucker is a top five fantasy prospect at the moment and needs your attention. Here’s what else I’ve seen over the past few days.

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If you google Ryan Mckenna without specifying Orioles, baseball, or something to that effect, you get some kid that took a selfie with Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl. The kid was from Massachusetts so OF COURSE it’s a way bigger deal than it should be. Then again, here I am writing more about the selfie kid than the actual prospect at hand. That of course would be the baseball playing Ryan McKenna. The former fourth round pick from the New Hampshire prep ranks Ryan McKenna. The very same Ryan McKenna that was largely ignored by the industry, my self included, coming into the season. So much so, that he was left off the Baseball America system Top 30 entirely. That’s the Orioles list too, which coming into the season looked as barren as too be expected, outside the top 5 particularly. McKenna’s made a huge leap at the plate this year, in large part to improving pitch recognition skills. It’s not completely out of nowhere either, if you were paying attention to Delmarva late last season. He finished the season on a hot steak over his final 9 games hitting .324, before getting pegged in the back in the penultimate game of the season.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   
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