“Let’s hope there’s beer.”

This quote can be attributed to multiple sources:

  • Humans traveling toward a gathering of humans
  • Especially me on the way to Thanksgiving 
  • Farm-focused Brewers fans reading organizational rankings this winter

I’m sorry to say there’s not. 

Beer here, I mean. 

Well, there is, but it’s at my desk with me, and maybe there at your location with you, but it’s not in this next sentence. 

Maybe someday we’ll have that? There could be an advertisement on this page, and you’d click it, and a six pack would be teleported to your desk.

Where’s Bill Gates on this one?

Frightfully counting his billions, I guess. 

Back in beer country, Milwaukee’s system has been fermenting fruits for years. From Keston Hiura to Brandon Woodruff to the straw Rumplestiltskin spun into Christian Yelich two years ago, nobody’s complaining over their Miller at Miller Park, even if the barley farm currently looks a semi-successful house party at 3 a.m.? 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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Whatever we each believe about politics, whatever  we’re rooting for in Impeachment Fest 2019, we can probably agree things aren’t ideal right now in America. 

Reds fans know the feeling. They might have differing ideas of what’s wrong with the recipe and how to make it better, but they can probably all agree the chili hasn’t been good. The front office chefs are still trying though, wheeling and dealing and hiring Driveline pitching guru Kyle Boddy to sprinkle his secret sauce into the pot. Combine him with pitching coach and off-speed whisperer Derek Johnson, and you’ve got a must-stop hotspot for pop-up pitching prospects. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Cubs affiliates spent 2019 enjoying the most minor league talent they’ve seen in a while—a welcome sign for a fan base whose dynasty dreams have died a little each year. 

The developmental wing of the organization has been realigned this off-season, so we don’t know much about how the new team will help (or hurt) the players. I’m betting they help, especially the enhanced focus on nutrition and strength training. I think an argument could be made that four hours in a weight room combined with healthy food intake would help teenage players almost as much as four hours at the ballpark. Might be safe to say a whole-human approach would be best in most endeavors where you’re betting on said humans to improve over time. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

One problem with evaluating Phillies prospects is reading. Sorry, Reading, the AA level, is one of the issues. Double A is typically the preferred level for anyone trying to get a read/handle on what a player could become. Josh Stephen is a decent example. As a 21-year-old outfielder in AA, he posted a 140 wRC+. Normally this puts up a “follow-me” flag. And Stephen does deserve some eyeballs as he heads into AAA at 22. But so what if he hits there? He didn’t hit in High-A Clearwater. By which I mean he skipped the level after not hitting in class A Lakewood (82 wRC+). Didn’t hit in Low A either (91 wRC+). 

So what do we know about Stephen after four years in the system? That maybe he doesn’t have enough bat to carry the profile? I don’t think we can really say that about a guy who was always young for his level. To make matters better, he’s rule 5 draft eligible next December, so they’re running out of time before they could lose him. And now he’s headed for the juicy AAA balls, assuming they’re still juicy. 

It’s not all bad news though. Pitchers go through this same crucible, and though it’s not the easiest path to value (see Adonis Medina’s 2019 stock movement), it might produce extremely resilient prospects, and I’m not sure there’s a more important aspect of making a living on the mound. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’ve been estimating the time of arrival for every prospect in these team previews, but I’m not sure that adds much value in this case. There could be help on the way to Metropolis, but it ain’t Superman, and it won’t arrive for a long, long time. 

That said, the Mets are seeking accelerants. Ronny Mauricio followed the Amed Rosario path of aggressive assignments but fared poorly in the Midwest League at 18. I’ve seen the parks in that league. They’re cavernous and cold. That early-season, frozen-air fun of Spring in the Midwest bested Malcom Nunez and Jhon Torres in 2019, so Cardinals pulled them back. Worked with them. Sent them to warmer, softer climes. The Mets went the other way, leaving Mauricio to fight it out for 116 games.

The plan has its downsides, but I like the idea of trying to accelerate a player’s timeline if he meets the challenge. If a player gets red hot for a month in low A, he might as well be promoted to high A. If he gets demolished at high A for the rest of the season, he repeats the level the following year. If he instead has another hot month, bump him again to AA. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the logistics make this impossible. But imagine an organization where everyone knows one hot month is all it takes to climb the ladder. I don’t know. Maybe it’s too soft a factor to make a blip. Anyway, I think these Mets are being very aggressive in playing the age-to-level lottery. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

My wife thinks I worry too much. It’s a fair criticism manifesting itself more plainly each day with our daughter. She’s a bit older than one, and I can’t help but freak out about every little way she’s about to hurt herself. I was raised by an insurance adjuster who taught me life was a booby-trap parade. I used to tell him he saw the world only in landmines. It’s inevitable you’ll walk the wrong way and blow some up, but by God you’d better try your best to avoid em. He never disagreed with this assessment. 

I mention this because every one of Atlanta’s prospects worries me. I see the reason for optimism in a lot of them, but if I took over a dynasty loaded up with Braves, I’d be shopping a lot of them before they fall on their ass and look at me crying like it’s my fault. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Thanks to years of top-left acculturation, I planned to write about the NL East first, so it’s pure chance that we’re looking at the Washington Nationals the week they’re playing the World Series.

In other news, we’ll be covering the Houston Astros next.

Or the Yankees. 

Then back to the NL East, where I’m getting the Nats’ potential sadness out of the way before the Series just in case the balls bounce against them.

And it’s not so sad: one off-season with a weak minor league system–a totally acceptable outcome the year your team makes the final game, especially if you’re already seeing Juan Soto and Victor Robles under the big lights. Still, this system is not fun. This will not be the kind of article one reads to console oneself after a bad beat in game seven. 

Someone will be ranked fifth, and sixth, and whatnot, but that’s about the best we can say, so let’s go ahead and do the rankings even if it is something of a soul-siphoning endeavor. 

But keep in mind: this front office has a strong track record for finding and developing elite talent. Even if you don’t love anyone on this list, someone in the Washington brain trust probably does, and they’ve been doing pretty well for themselves. Might even be the most honorable organization in D.C., what with the promoting of prospects when they’re ready or needed–not when they’re maximally price-suppressed. I think that’s an underrated motivator for everyone involved–from scouts to coaches to players to mascots. 

Well, everyone but the mascots. I weep for the mascots. But not for the Nationals: a fun success story in the first year A.H. (After Harper)

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Miami Marlins are a baseball team. I mean the sport they play is recognizably baseball. 

Other than that, there isn’t a lot of certainty in Miami. Even 2019 Whit-alike contest winner Jon Berti seems as likely to fall back as spring forward in 2020. 

Is it really darkest before the dawn?

Anyway, hope floats just off the coast. Er, inland, where Marlins affiliates are loaded with the fruits of an organizational tear-down that would’ve been vetoed in my home league. 

“Fruits” feels kind of extreme. Maybe we should call it the “eggplants” of an organizational tear-down. 

The eggplants for all-world Christian Yelich were players who do everything but hit, which seems to be something of a type for the Front Office helmed by Derek Jeter and Gary Denbo. They whiffed on Lewis Brinson who whiffs at everything, and they face a similar fate for everything in those Yelich and Stanton deals from two winters past unless someone (looking at you, Monte Harrison) changes their trajectory. 

Either way, even with those brutal trades, the Marlins are trending up thanks to a deep farm with rich soil for arms. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

If you’re a fan of a baseball team, chances are good at least one of your team’s coaches got fired this week. Maybe even the manager. Eleven Major League clubs don’t have one today.

And if you’re a fan of HBO’s Succession, you’ve been promised a “blood sacrifice” tonight.

This landscape littered with scapegoats is, ironically enough, a land of opportunity. Management wants to get young players on the field for extra cap-feathers on evaluation day. Look no further than San Diego, where Fernando Tatis and Chris Paddack may have saved A.J. Preller from a moment on the chopping block even though everyone else got canned.

All that is to say, even with service-time suppression suffocating our game, kids like these in the Top 150 can still come quick.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Everyone in the baseball world is keeping at least one eye on the postseason, and everyone has the same question: is A.J. Pierzynski likable now? He looks like a nice dude, no?

Maybe that’s just me.

Humans are definitely wondering about bat flips and unwritten rules, though. Especially Grey, who wanted me to delete all Braves from the list because that organization is the worst thing that’s happened to baseball since Grey touted Rudy’s Tout Wars success on Twitter.

Take heart, though, baseball fans. No matter how many bats get flipped this Fall, I’ll be here talking about all the good players our future selves can enjoy (unless they flip bats).

Please, blog, may I have some more?