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2020 turned out okay for the Astros, all things considered. 

This week’s ball-doctoring story that mentioned Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander might have otherwise grabbed some eyeballs but wound up buried beneath the seesawing fate of America’s democracy. 

All in all, the trash-bang scandal of 2019 got lost in much bigger conversations, so the traveling circus that would’ve been Houston’s 2020 playing on the road in front of fans that hated them never got out of the garage. Despite season-ending injuries to Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez and mostly silent bats from Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel (curious), the Astros remained a force to be reckoned with when it mattered most, striking fear in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere when they pushed the Rays to game 7 of the ALCS. 

2021 will be even more challenging. Though Yordan Alvarez is running again after surgeries on both knees, Houston will likely be without free agent outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley. The system offers some possible help on the mound, but the bulk of their position prospects are too young to contribute anytime soon. 

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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! 

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The Astros are the defending world champions and just punched their ticket to the 2018 ALCS with a roster full of homegrown studs. So we can excuse them if the current system doesn’t stack up to previous years. And yet, this top ten still boasts three specs that should appear on just about every top 100 list this preseason. The Colin Moran trade and David Paulino’s graduation are the only notable changes to the group from last year. They’re a bit pitching heavy and the current MLB roster doesn’t leave much room for new talent to step into everyday roles, but that’s picking nits. On the plus side, any prospects that do manage to graduate in 2019 – I’m looking at you Kyle Tucker – are stepping into a winning environment and a stacked lineup. This year’s previews will use a simple A, B, C grading system to tier/group the prospects and as always I’m attacking these lists as a fantasy player.

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As your dynasty league seasons come to a close in the coming weeks, much of the real work of the off-season begins. One of the biggest components of success in fantasy is based on the research you put in, particularly in the off-season. This is only magnified in the dynasty when much of the player movement likely takes place. Whether it be via trades, first year player drafts, or some form of free agency, now is when you build the foundation of your squad for the year to come. One of the best exercises in this preparation process for me historically has been digging in on short season and rookie ball performers. It’s good to know the landscape, and identify, through research of first hand scouting reports and video, which strong stat-lines are skills based versus statistical mirages. The next wave of buzz-worthy Top 100 types usually comes from these ranks with some mentioned below already there (See Franco, Wander; Rays). This is typically a great source of talent to focus on when building out your minor leagues, as many of these investments could return serious dividends on next year’s trade market come deadline time. Below we’ll touch on some of the names you should be targeting. Obviously depending upon your league rules and depth some suggestions might be more helpful than others. None of the players discussed will be 2018 draftees, they will be covered in a followup post.

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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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We’re moving slower than expected, so instead of the next 100 prospects, I’m cutting it into two posts of 50 prospects. Disappointing? Possibly, but you still got 6500 words to read, ponder, debate. It’s all there for the taking. What am I talking about? Honestly I’m not sure, I’m writing this at 3 AM, delirious from the research, coffee, and myrcene rich leaves. It’s the next bunch of blokes with big dreams and lots of upside for your fantasy roster. I’ve tried to get a little more “groupie”. Wait, what? I tried to group similar types together here. There’s an insane amount of upside guys in this post. So if that’s your jammy jam, you’re going to be pleased. Or maybe not, possibly you’re always grumpy, but that’s not my problem. Editing these posts is my problem! AHHHHHHH PROSPECTS. For the Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects. Here’s the Top 150 Prospects for 2018 Fantasy Baseball:

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The champ is here! The champ is here! Step aside, step aside y’all, we’re dancing into the winner’s circle to profile the top prospects of the World Series Champion Houston Astros. To say the Astros have built a winner through their astute drafting and international prowess is an understatement. Players like Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Lance McCullers all were developed in house, and plenty of additional homegrown talent was shipped out to reinforce the MLB club for the stretch run. So this is definitely a different system than the one profiled by yours truly over the last couple of offseasons. With a slew of graduations and trades, there’s a collection of high end talents from 1-4, followed by some above average high minors types, a handful of talented international lottery tickets, and a plethora of hard-throwing pen types. Houston seems to tread between a bunch of labels when it comes to pinpointing the best way to describe the system, but the most apt description is a good player development organization that needs to restock in the 2018 draft and international signing period. Without further ado it’s the Houston Astros Top Prospects.

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Two Saturdays ago, I released the top 15 picks in my First Year Player Draft Rankings. I then followed this up with the latest edition of the Prospect Podcast this past Saturday, where Halp and I mocked out the first 32 picks of a First Year Player draft with Matt Thompson of Friends With Fantasy Benefits, and Smokey. Today we complete the dynasty nerd trilogy with the resolution of my rankings. Because I’m incapable of making difficult decisions and setting boundaries I went a little past 30. Don’t complain, I’m giving you extra. How ungrateful can you be? In today’s post I get a little deeper into the J2’s, as I included 10 of them. This year we had a solid J2 class and a weak draft class, so there’s more of an International flavor in the 2017 rankings than there might have been in past years. (Hopefully the international flavor is Jerk seasoning, but I will settle for Chimichurri, or a solid curry.) It’s also a pitching heavy class, with it being an extremely soft year for college bats. I can’t remember having so many pitchers, particularly prep, in my rankings. Enough with the “Hi, hows ya fathers”, let’s get into it!

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There’s truly no other time where watching videos of 16 year old kids is more appropriate. In fact to call J-2 signing enthusiasts the pedophiles of the prospect world wouldn’t be totally inaccurate. Each year around this time we discuss dozens of Latin players between the ages of 16-20, from a variety of countries. The rules are a bit confusing to the average baseball fan. So I’ll break them down a bit and explain the differences between signing a player like Kevin Maitan, and signing Yulieski Gourriel. I’ll also list some of the names to be aware of, and give you a brief description of what I know about each. Most of these guys are 5+ years away from making an impact, and some might even be a year away from stepping foot on a pro ball field. This is best exemplified by players from last season’s J-2 period, like Eddy Julio Martinez and Yadier Alvarez. So these are names to be aware of, but I’d; A. Temper expectations, particularly in the short term and B. Discount their value accordingly in Dynasty first year player drafts, when ranking them against more polished college and prep players. In other words, always check ID.

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