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Been an odd stretch for the red legs. Yasiel Puig. Trevor Bauer. Nick Castellanos. A couple sell-offs. Joey Votto the constant: a Jon Snow meme made incarnate on the baseball field. Brandon Drury and Raisel Iglesias and Jonathan India and Sonny Gray and Fidel Castro and Eric Davis and Pete Rose and Luis Castillo and why the fiery red hell is Hunter Strickland pitching with a lead in the ninth? 

It’s complicated, I guess. They’ve taken some big swings. And mostly missed. Fun that they tried for a while. Not sure what to make of their current direction. Solid pieces in place with Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Alexis Diaz and more. Some impact talents on the way. A few interesting in-betweeners at the big league level. You have to squint a little, but you can see a path back to relevance for the Reds, which is really all you can ask for on the downside of an unsuccessful cycle. 

 

1. SS Elly De La Cruz | 21 | AA | 2023

In his 2023 Fantasy Outlook for Jordan Walker, Grey refers to meta-human type athletes as Lab Babies. Next year, if he’s still eligible, that post is reserved for E to the DLC: Lab Baby. Prospect Thanos. Inevitable. Only thing between him and that kind of shine is a 2023 debut. The strikeouts and the Reds’ general level of competitiveness could conspire to delay his arrival, but if he does make the leap, we’ll want him on our redraft squads. The power and speed are elite, and I’m way less worried about the strikeouts (158 in 120 games) than what I’ve seen in some other prospect portals because I think the quality of contact is so extreme they barely matter until proven otherwise. De La Cruz is a switch-hitter at 6’5” 200 lbs who explodes his hips through the zone from both sides of the plate. Like Aaron Jude and Oneil Cruz before him, he doesn’t have to square up a pitch to send it seven rows deep. It’s unique. It’s uncanny. It helped him slash .304/.359/.586 with 28 home runs and 47 stolen bases in 120 games across two levels.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

When mapping out this year’s Top 100, I kept getting lost in the layout. I’ve tried a few different ways to skin this cat, and I think my favorite so far was my first: Top 25 Prospects for 2020 Fantasy Baseball.

It was simple, sleek, easy to see, easy to scroll, and it was built in tiers, which feels like a realistic lens through which to view these players. You can argue that Nolan Gorman is definitively a better prospect than George Valera if you want to, or vice versa, but if you get offered one for the other in a trade, you might freeze up like me pondering the layout of this article. The differences are real, certainly, but they’re more aesthetic and subjective than anything like objective truth. It’s a difference in type or style more than a difference of quality. 

I’ll try to stay concise in between the tiers here, but you can access a more in-depth consideration of each individual player by clicking on their names or skimming around in the 2022 Minor League Preview Index

Here’s a link to the Top 25

And here’s a link to the Top 50

Drumroll please and away we go!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

A few years ago, I joined a CBS dynasty league in motion one year after it had begun. The team owner quit mid-April after some sort of rules dispute. My entry fee was paid. I started trading. I cannot remember all the moves because I am an incrementalist on the market, for the most part. I do remember trading Yu Darvish and more for a High-A hitter named Juan Soto, which made someone else quit the league, so foolish was I to have done so. Soto got promoted to AA shortly after that, played eight games there, then jumped to the major leagues. 

This is not what I came here to discuss, but it’s hard for me to think about that league without rolling through its gruesome history. I joined in 2018, won the league in 2019, and it dissolved before 2020. I loved the team I’d built there by buying early on Soto and Tatis (two of my first three trades). 2021 would have been a blast. But I gained a ton from that league. I know to pump the brakes sometimes if my play style is tilting a league, for one thing. But most importantly, I learned the value of collecting impact outfielders. When I looked around to add speed or outfield help, I always came back to the same team because they had all the upside. Their minor league system was just outfielders with some shortstops sprinkled in. Every single guy had speed. And I learned something: Power/speed combo outfielders are a finite resource. 

No shit, right? Well, if we have a look around the prospect lists, we’ll find corner bats everywhere. Speed-free profiles are everywhere. Pitchers and catchers are everywhere. I’m not saying they have no place; I’m just saying it’s easy to wind up with a team peppered with all sorts of players. Might even be preferable. Not so easy to hold ten of the best power-speed outfield prospects at a given time. If you can pull that off, you’ll be on the rich-folks side of the supply/demand curve. Thus far, I’ve found the strategy a bit less profitable in practice than in theory because the people who aren’t focused on speed tend to want it cheap, and the people who collect speed already have enough to get by. That’s fine though. I’ve been running away with the stolen bases category in my four dynasty leagues for years now, and I’ve cashed in all four, so even if I’m not regularly charging rent on Boardwalk anytime someone wants stolen bases, I’m ringing the register in other ways. 

That intro got long in a hurry. Always dangerous when a writer veers anywhere near their own leagues, I think, but here’s hoping we came through it okay and that it made connective sense to the focus point today: Outfielders: What do they steal? Do they steal things? Let’s find out.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Dynasty drafts come in several shapes and sizes. Some leagues break the player groups into veterans and prospects. Some leagues let you draft 34-year-old relievers right alongside 16-year-old little brothers. I don’t really have a favorite way to cut it up. I just love the game. Though I will say the Razz 30 has something special going on with a prospects-only draft and a vets-only auction that becomes, at its core, a bums-only auction. It’s about two weeks of slow-bidding Steven Brault up to $21, and it’s a treat like few others in the fantasy realm. Jose Martinez once sold for $96. Michael Pineda went for $62. Zach Davies for $36. Two of those are purchases of mine! The fun never ends! Well, except when you ask MLB owners if they’d rather make money or take all the different balls and go home.

Anywho, I’ve broken this year’s First-Year-Player Draft rankings down into tiers and included some snippets about where my head would be during those spots on the draft board.

You can find most of these guys in the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Prospects, Minor League Preview Index

If not, feel free to drop a question in the comments so we can talk some baseball, pass the time.

Please, blog, may I have some more?