Feels like we get big prospect headlines every weekend. Makes sense on the baseball calendar. Adley Rutschman, Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore all got that call this week, and I got an invitation to reshuffle the stash list.

Graduated from Volume 2: Royce Lewis Rolls Into TownGeorge Kirby, Adley Rutschman, Alek Thomas, Vidal Brujan, Nolan Gorman, Ryan Pepiot 

If you cared to look back that far, you’d see two graduates in this list from the class of Volume 1, Oneil Cruz Control featured again here in Volume 3, but that’s just the nature of the nomenclature these days. Confusing times when the top guy on the stash list just got demoted after dominating for a couple weeks, but here we are, and away we go. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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This week began with big news adjacent to the prospect realm: Kansas City fired its major league hitting coach, Terry Bradshaw, and replaced him with Senior director for player development and hitting performance, Alec Zumwalt, whose role will be bigger than that of a typical major league hitting coach. The Royals have seen big gains in the minor league hitters that haven’t carried over to the big league side, so this move makes a lot of sense from the outside looking in. 

Reading between the lines, the goal here includes creating synthesis throughout the system from the bottom up. One way the Giants and Dodgers have gotten ahead the past few seasons is having multiple voices saying similar things all the way up the development chain, so that when a young Dodger makes the majors, he’s not suddenly learning a new way to talk about the game at the same time as he’s adapting to the extreme leap in skill from AAA to MLB pitching. 

In short, this feels like good news for all Kansas City prospects but especially those with solid plate skills. In his press conference, team President Dayton Moore said, “We need to see nine players in our lineup that are committed to get on base any way possible. That means we cannot chase pitches out of the strike zone. When we do have pitches to hit in the strike zone, we can’t miss them.” Pretty good summation of baseball 101 there, but manager Mike Matheny seems due for a refresher every now and then, as he continues to run Ryan O’Hearn out there in the cleanup role for reasons that no human on the planet except Matheny can comprehend.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Prospect News: Rankings Redux: Eury and the Henderson

In a recent post, I found myself saying Milwaukee OF Jackson Chourio was on track to be a top 50 prospect by mid-season, which got me thinking, as I should be this time of year, about updating the top 100 list. 

I made a trade offer for Baltimore SS Gunnar Henderson this week in the 20-team Highlander Dynasty League. Was just Arizona DH Seth Beer straight up, but that league is weird, with a double utility spot. Deepest hitting set-up I’ve ever played, unless I ran that math wrong way back when I half-sprinted through it just to create some context. It’s a half-step or so deeper than the Razz30, and the full-week freeze of lineups adds another wrinkle I haven’t played with a whole lot in a superdeep dynasty format.  

Also went a little overboard in trying to secure Colorado SS Ezequiel Tovar this week. 

Anyway the natural first question for most readers at this point is who’s rising the fastest, like Chourio and Tovar. Or maybe that’s just the most enjoyable question because its opposite might be equally immediate to most fantasy players: who’s feeling that baseball gravity? 

I tend to avoid the second question, if I’m honest. Players lose mind-share of course but it happens kind of quietly in the back of my mind as I build a list. Herbert Perez, is a recent player I can recall who I never really soured on in any real way. The evidence at present just didn’t support some trust-based ranking. But I’ll try to be proactive on that front and chronicle it here as I work through the list. If it’s a little dry or boring in the end, I’m hoping you just fast-forward a bit because that’s way easier with reading than it is on, say, HBOMAX. 

So who’s rising as I start building a rankings reshuffle? 

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? For the 497th day in a row, my magic mirror replies, “Not you, stupid.” It’s really a wonder I still have that mirror. I’ve really learned to control my rage. On days I’m especially composed, I even have theluxury of hearing the rest of what my magic mirror has to say: “Hold, a lovely Marlin is what I see. Rags cannot hide his dominant ways. Alas, Max Meyer is far more fair than thee.” That pale Minnesota skin has undoubtedly tanned since arriving in Pensacola and now Jacksonville, but the increase in sun exposure has done nothing to thwart Meyer’s prowess on the hill. The fireballing right-hander continues to impress with a fully-developed arsenal of three plus pitches, and it is only a matter of weeks (days?) before he gets the call to the bigs. Here’s my case for Meyer as the top prospect in the game to stash. Buckle up!

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Cubs RHP Cam Sanders listens to Parliament between innings to maintain his mothership connection. He shakes out a little aqua boogie before and after every pitch, and it’s working for him. If you want your funk funked up, grab a flashlight and take a look. Sanders is doin’ it in 3D. He’ll put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip. Might even tear the roof off the sucker when he makes the show. His stuff has always been good, but like a lot of young Cubbies, he’s added velocity over the past few seasons and harnessed that stuff at AA this season better than he has before, posting a 25% K-BB rate and a 1.00 WHIP in six starts. He’s yet to debut at AAA, but I’m hoping he pitches Friday when I get down to Des Moines to watch the I-Cubs. Feet don’t fail me now! 

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As the fantasy community mourned the destruction of Minnesota SS Carlos Correa’s middle finger this week, we also wondered if such an injury would be the spark that lights a major league candle for Royce Lewis. The Twins wasted no time in promoting him, making the announcement before we learned that Correa’s finger was not broken as first reported. Even so, it’s the middle finger of his throwing hand, and it was damaged badly enough that initial examinations suggested it was broken. I don’t know when you last made the throw from shortstop over to first base, but you used your middle finger to do it. I suspect Correa will DH for a while before he goes back to short, giving Lewis some runway to establish himself as a viable big league option. If he does, the team might try to find room for him in the outfield. Don’t drop him yet.

Graduated from Volume 1, Oneil Cruz ControlSS Royce Lewis, 3B/1B Jose Miranda, 3B Elehuris Montero, C MJ Melendez, 1B/3B Juan Yepez, 2B/OF Vinny Capra. 

Now like Jock Jams we move on to Volume 2.

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In my house, we watch a lot of Sesame Street, even the animated shorts like Elmo Gets a Puppy and The Monster at the End. I’m not sure you’ve lived until you’ve heard Cookie Monster sing the following:

“Me talk to me self. 

Me talk to me seeelllfff. 

Me talk to me self and then me knew that me could have courage.” 

All Sesame Street songs are earworms but perhaps none more so than the Number of the Day, which features the Martians popping up from their Martian-holes and saying “Yep” for each digit each day: One. Yep. Two. Yep. Three. Yep. And so on. 

St. Louis 1B OF Juan Yepez celebrates his home runs the same way, blasting the song and then shouting out “Yep” in the clubhouse for each home run he’s hit on the season. He was up to nine in just 22 games when the club decided they needed that song in the major league clubhouse and called him up Tuesday night. He’s in the lineup today, playing right field, which suggests he’ll probably bounce around between the outfield and infield, providing some days off here and there for lineup regulars. Might be the DH against right-handed pitchers if he’s not on the field somewhere. He got hot early last season and never stopped mashing. A lot of rookies are struggling to make the leap from AAA to MLB pitching, but few have been in their groove for as long as Juan has, so I’m optimistic he’ll find his rhythm if given the chance to do so. 

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In researching for this week’s article, I kept seeing flies in the ointment, so to speak. I’ve lost track of the ground. MLB’s new pre-tacked balls fresh from a humidor seem to have created more fade on change-ups, more run on 2-seamers, more cut on wake-shifters, more dive on sliders and less distance off the bat. The general hysteria has finally trickled into my thinking about how to evaluate minor league baseball players. My local Cedar Rapids Kernals are not using a humidor. I couldn’t verify the same for every team, but I’m willing to guess that less than one percent of minor league parks are using a humidor. Which baseball they’re using . . . you’d probably have to be a veteran big league pitcher to tell the difference on a given night. 

So how does this affect my eyes when watching MiLB.tv? I’ve been protected from it a little because the video feeds are rarely so crystal clear I can see the ball off the bat with my outfielder eyes and predict with some degree of accuracy where it will land in an instant. 

This invitational, predictive aspect of a long fly ball is a big part of what makes watching baseball fun.  “Is that a home run!?” asks the excited fan’s mind. “Oh farts, it landed on the track,” the game responds, over and over and over again to the extent that you start to get a little frustrated. Years of built in baseball-watching from this camera angle have trained us all to play along in this regard, so we’re all experts in our minds to the extent that our self-confidence allows.

My eyes haven’t been deceived on the warning track much in the minors this year. I don’t know how to react to the idea that a prospect might need significantly more power and better plate skills than he shows in the minors to thrive in the majors. For now, I’m planning to slow-play it rather than overreact. 

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We’ve come a long way from the 2020 college pitching class that featured Max Meyer, Asa Lacy, Emerson Hancock, Reid Detmers, Garrett Crochet, Bryce Jarvis, Cade Cavalli, Jared Shuster, Bobby Miller… the list is as long as Mandred’s balls are deformed and unpredictable. Think of the 2020 class as Max Scherzer and the 2022 pitching crop as Patrick Corbin. Collegiate hurlers continue to go down with the injury bug, as yet another first-round talent has hit the shelf since the last Collegiate Corner update. In MLB Pipeline’s latest mock, only one college pitcher is projected in the first 26 picks — the recently-recovered Blade Tidwell out of Tennessee. For comparison, eight college arms went in the top 26 selections in both the 2020 and 2021 MLB Drafts. Safe to say, dynasty managers should be looking at this year’s crop and strategizing far differently for first-year player drafts compared to the last two seasons. Personally, I recommend placing a pair of old boxer shorts over your head and pecking at the keyboard with your elbows to make each selection. Truthfully, there’s a lot to like about the bats at the top of the class and a plethora of value options on the hill later on. We’ll discuss a handful of those hitters today in addition to touching base on the health of the pitching class.

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I wake up every day ready to be surprised by the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

I go to sleep every night surprised enough to be disappointed.

They find new ways to steal my sleep and shiver me timbers every seventeen hours or so.

No offense to Tucupita Marcano or Jack Suwinski or Jack Sparrow, who’s down bad but seems to be bouncing back if you’re tracking the Youtube trial. Anyway, talented players, all, but even from a team-control perspective, I can’t understand why anyone would promote these guys and bench Diego Castillo. 

Before we even consider the Oneil Cruz angle, taken from the most extreme tank-forever lens, how does it make sense? Maybe Castillo is hurt but not injured and just needs a day and this is just me spinning my wheels, which is really what being a baseball fan is all about, sometimes. It’s all an intricate but elaborate board game, and we like to play along with the teams, and it’s just impossible to play along with Pittsburgh. No functional POV perspective for this game. Can’t even select the Pirates in Franchise Mode of your favorite video games, probably–so alien is their approach to applying eye liner and operating a baseball team.

But let’s not dwell here where three rivers meet. There’s a whole ocean of baseball islands to explore.

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Over the past few seasons, I’ve grown confident in my ability to play the timeline game along with major league front offices. This year feels different. We’re beyond what’s typically the first Super Two threshold, and I’m ready to spin the wheel, but I’m uncertain about the rules. 

Will teams slam the brakes if they didn’t promote a guy on opening day, knowing they’ll be “punished” if that player earns rookie of the year votes? 

Survey says . . . probably, if past behavior is the best predictor of future choices. 

By the way, before we go further, I should say I hope and pray some of the baseball writers know the rules enough to push good rookies up their ballots. I don’t really care about who finishes in the top five in these awards, and I think the same goes for most fans, but I want to see the players get a W at the negotiating table for the long-term health of the game, particularly where young players are concerned.

So who’s potentially stuck in this no-win position created by the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement? Let’s check the list.

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How’s your season going so far?

Settling into the habits and rhythms you’ll need to succeed?

I sure hope you’re doing a little better than me scrambling to manage 15 leagues. Definitely shaving that number wherever I can between now and next spring. I am enjoying the feeling of constant motion that makes dynasty baseball my favorite format, but that’s exactly what I’m doing so far this year: flipping from roster to roster to keep up with my daily lineups, filing claim lists as early as I can begin knowing I’ll have to rework anything later, just throwing constant work at the problem, is what I’m saying. I’ve always been a proponent of working smart. Gonna have to work pretty hard to thrive no matter what you do, but you can at least try to enhance your efficiency as you go along. That’s what I hope to offer here each week: a quick read that feels much more like working smarter than working hard. Let’s dive in. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?