Welcome to Razzball’s 2018 team previews. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be previewing all of the teams and talking to writers who represent those teams around the web. We want to provide the best and most in-depth fantasy projections to go along with the asking the most useful questions to those who know their teams best. We want to talk about the players in the first half of your draft and also the deep sleepers that make you log into google and start watching Midwest Single-A ball for hours. Just kidding, don’t do that, hopefully we don’t go that far…

MB here. You may know me from the football page of this elite website known as Razzball dot com. I have snaked my way over to the baseball page this season. Don’t you feel so lucky? We start off with the Atlanta Braves and this could really be a team on the rise. Hell, we could be talking about a playoff contender within the next year or two. The Cubs and Astros were ahead of schedule so why can’t the Braves be? There are a lot of question marks because this is such a young team, but there is so much potential in this line up and rotation. Today, we pick the brain of Alan Carpenter. You can check out his work over at Tomahawk Take.

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It was bound to happen one of these days, but we here at the prospect podcast have finally created our War and Peace. It’s only fitting that the Atlanta Braves minor league system would be the subject of such a saga. To cover all of these prospects I reached out to a friend of the show in Jason Woodell (ProspectStorm.com, Prospects1500.com, and @Jasonatthegame), a man who’s seen more of these Braves prospects than just about anybody. So you’ll get some first hand accounts from a really knowledgeable baseball mind. We also dig into the Shohei Ohatni injury, have a detailed discussion of Platelet-Rich Plasma injections, and the success rate. You might need to listen across a few sessions (we go an hour and forty minutes). It’s all the Braves Prospects from Ronald Acuna to Austin Riley to Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Kolby Allard, Luiz Gohara, and the rest. See what I mean? There’s so much to talk about. Finally, please make sure to support our sponsor by heading over to RotoWear.com and entering promo code “SAGNOF” for 20% off the highest quality t-shirts in the fantasy sports game. It’s the latest edition of the Razzball Fantasy Baseball Prospect Podcast:

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How angry would Braves fans be if I spent the entire opening to their personal prospect spank bank eulogizing Roy Halladay? I won’t do that, though I did think about just writing 1,000+ words about how much I loved Doc. Then again, perhaps a Doc Halladay eulogy, might be easier to swallow for Atlanta fans, than more talk of John Coppolella. That being said, I have no idea if they will lose Kevin Maitan, my guess is no. More on Maitan and disappearing value in a few. The best way to sum up the Braves farm is to say. “This system is deep AF!” That was the most millennial description of the Braves system possible. It’s true, I went 15 deep into the Diamondbacks system, I’m going 25 deep today! I hope the phallic undertones aren’t lost on you. Because make no mistake, the Braves are the biggest swinging johnson in the room. Their 10-20 is better than most team’s top tens. So whatever black magic, underhanded dirty shizz Coppolella was doing. It was working. This team has outsigned, outdrafted, and outtraded all comers. That includes you Yankees and White Sox! I’m talking the last two years of course. Any later than that is a different era. For you Prospect hounds this system has it all, future MLB arms of all types, a through the roof prospect superstar in Ronald Acuna, power bats, speedsters, glove first catchers, bat first catchers, relief arms, and Methodists!

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I know, you thought it was going to be 100 prospects right? Well, it’s a good news/bad news thing. The good news is I will be ranking the Top 100 Prospects and beyond, however I will be doing them in increments of 50. So the bad news is you only get 4,000+ words and 50 prospects to read. Lets be honest, we are amongst friends here right? Even 4,000 words is at least two, if not three bathroom sessions. I know that’s when you read these, and I’m cool with it. Now that we’ve made assumptions about your bathroom reading habits, lets move along. As always, I’ve tried to balance the right now value of “close to the majors” prospects vs the high end talent. While also trying to be somewhat objective, and conscientious of the general consensus, which is important to trade value. That’s not to say I don’t go rouge and aggressively rank some players I like. Ahhh, who am I kidding it’s all personal bias. So here you go, dig in. The next 50 will drop on Wednesday at the stroke of midnight.

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Doesn’t it seem like every summer the national press needs a narrative to link onto and dubs it the “year of the something or other”? Think about it for a second, in recent seasons we’ve had “The year of the rookie”, “The other year of the rookie”, “The year of the homer”, “The year of the juiced ball”, so on and so forth. You get the point, sports writers are boring and unoriginal the whole lot. Well, I for one would like to follow in the grand tradition of sport writers, and apply this lazy, tired, haphazard, and cliche approach to my minor league baseball coverage. Therefore, I am dubbing 2017 MiLB “The Year of the 19 year old”.  Why? Because between Ronald Acuna, Bo Bichette, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, and now the Astros Forrest Whitley, the biggest news-makers have been 19 years of age.

Speaking of Whitley, recently promoted to AA Corpus Christi, the righty went 6 scoreless Thursday, allowing two hits, and striking out a career high 11 batters. Not too shabby for a kid facing high school competition 15 months ago. I ranked Whitley 75th overall in my top 100 back on July 2nd. Which was right about the point that his season took off. It was a high rank on a fantasy focused list for a teenage starter in A ball. I can recall really not being able to explain why I liked Whitley 25 spots higher than Ian Anderson when asked by Halp on the Prospect Podcast. I just fell in love with the idea of a 6’7 240 lbs monster with a arsenal of offerings. Since that date Whitley has rewarded my faith, dominating the Carolina League in a way no teenager should. Going 3-1 over his next 6 starts, while racking up 50 k’s to 9 walks in 31.1 innings.

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July 9th at 4pm marks the exact time I’m certain Prospector Ralph’s mind will explode with excitement. That feeling of pure elation can only be achieved in one scenario. Watching the game’s budding talents in the 2017 Futures Game – streaming on MLB.com – after spending countless hours researching and following prospects of this caliber (From the Razzball family and its incredible base of readers, we sincerely thank you for your work Ralph!). Well, maybe there are a few other scenarios. According to BuzzFeed there are 42 others where this pure form of joy and satisfaction arises. They include unraveling knittingcrunching leaves, and breaking the yolk. Aside from the fact that I’m certain breaking the yolk is a sexual innuendo for something completely different, we live in a truly sad world if these things make people as happy as Ralph on Futures Game Sunday.

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There’s really no need for any introduction on this one, it’s the post upon which all prospectors are judged. It’s the Mid-Season Update to my Top 100 Prospects for 2017 Fantasy Baseball. Full disclosure, I was loosey-goosey with the eligibility rules this time around. So, while some players in the majors and under their limits might appear on this list (Clint Frazier, Franklin Barreto, Etc.), others don’t (Raimel Tapia). No rhyme or reason to it, what-so-ever. This list feels more upside heavy to me, but there was no slant or algorithm for my ranks. Just good old fashioned personal bias, of which I have plenty. Seriously, I’m an opinionated lad! But that’s why I do this in the first place. Please keep in mind, this list is 100% fantasy focused. Meaning it might differ quite a bit from other Top 100’s you may come across. Anyway, thanks for reading and enjoy! The next 100 (101-200) will be out on Thursday.

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This isn’t a new take, but it’s one that bears repeating; baseball is the only sport where the best starting lineup isn’t on the field all season. The service time game does nobody any favors, actually that’s incorrect, it does huge favors for the owners of the biggest market clubs. It hurts the fans, it hurts the players, it hurts the small market teams, and most of all, it hurts the product on the field. The most glaring example at present is the peculiar case of Amed Rosario. The Mets’ farmhand has been smoking hot all season long, slashing .363/.400/.536 for AAA Las Vegas, while chipping in with 4 homers and 9 steals.

Just to compare and contrast, as of May 25th the Mets have gotten a .225/.307/.345 slashline from the shortstop position. I might be going out on a limb here, but that’s not good. The production from the hot corner for the Mess hasn’t been much better, as they’ve gotten a .240/.302/.374 line from the 3rd base position. It’s pop quiz time, hot shots! What do you think, could Amed Rosario possibly help the Mets? There’s only one answer, and it rhymes with mess. To add salt to the wounds of Mets fans (sorry 1 F), and Rosario owners alike, the shortstop prospect extended his hit streak to 11 games last night. The most remarkable part of that streak isn’t the 11 games, but the fact that 8 of those games have been multi-hit efforts. So not only is Rosario hitting in every game the last two weeks, he’s pretty much collecting multiple hits in each contest.

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest Rosario fan in the fantasy community, but that’s also not to say I don’t like Rosario, because I do. He has an excellent hit tool, never strikes out, and his glove will keep him in the lineup. My questions about Rosario lie in just how much pop is in his bat, and just how many steals are in those legs. There’s certainly pop, and there’s certainly speed, but just how much he possesses will determine his ultimate value. Don’t get me wrong Crabs, haters, and countrymen, I’m not saying a high batting average and lots of counting stats won’t be helpful, they will.  What I am saying, if Rosario can get to 15 homers and 20 steals in a single season, we could be talking about a superstar. Now, will he reach those numbers this year? Hell to the no, but 8 homers and 12 steals the rest of the way wouldn’t be absurd. If you’re wondering just how soon Rosario will be called up, my best guess is any day now. It could honestly be any time between today and mid-June. The Mets have had him take some reps at 3rd as of late too, so they’re looking at different ways of getting him into the lineup. Well, at least I think they want him in the lineup. After all, it’s The Mess. Here’s who else is making noise in the MiLB.

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Every few years a farm system develops to the point that it’s busting at the seams with talent. An organization builds  and before you know it they’ve cultivated more talent than they can possibly use, and therefore have reached what I call the “embarrassment of riches” phase. This time is now for the Atlanta Braves farm system, long thought to be propped up by the organizations pitching depth, that is no longer the case. So far early in the 2017 campaign the Braves have produced two of the breakout stars of the young season in Ronald Acuna, and newly (re)converted catcher Alex Jackson. To call Acuna a breakout star is probably a bit disingenuous, as he was well within my Top 100 in the pre-season, ranking 42nd overall. This is how I described him then, “Could be this season’s Victor Robles. Five tool player, that tore up Australia this winter, poised for a big jump in the mid-season list. Trade for him now.” I hope you listened to my advice and traded for him then, because after his entrance to AA on Tuesday he might be tough to wrangle from his owners. What exactly has the 19 year old outfielder done since his promotion on Tuesday? How about going 6/8 with 2 homers, 2 steals, 4 runs, and 4 RBIs. It’s funny how Acuna has exploded the last few weeks after initially struggling to start the season. After slashing .209/.261/.349 in the season’s first 11 games, Acuna is hitting .355/.398/.605 with 4 homers and 10 steals in the 18 matches since. As I said calling him a breakout is disingenuous, but he looks to be rising into another tier of prospects. As for his former and future teammate Alex Jackson the story is quite different. As the former 6th overall pick in the 2014 draft struggled for 2 1/2 years in the Mariners organization, before being traded to the Braves this offseason for a pair of fringe major league starters. Jackson at one point in time was one of the more decorated high school players in recent memory. Having been named a three time Baseball America All-American, a two time Under Armor All-American, and even winning Baseball Prospectus Prospect of the Year before even being drafted. A catcher in high school, the Mariners decided to move him to the outfield, where Jackson struggled. Slowly his body and skill set deteriorated, and many minor league experts, myself included had written him off. Bad move on our part. Since joining the Braves organization and being moved back to catcher, all Jackson has done is take siege of the notoriously pitching friendly Florida State League, hitting .296/.348/.592 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 31 contests. He seems to have abandoned some patience in lieu of power, but when the results are good I’d take it every time. It’s getting to the point with Jackson, that if this continues into the summer he could easily rank within the top 5 fantasy catchers in the minors. Here’s the other happenings in the MiLB over the last few days.

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Every year, after finishing my Top 100 post, I have a player or two I immediately regret not ranking higher. This year those prospects were Zack Collins, and Kyle Tucker. The funny thing is, Tucker wasn’t ranked that low at 32. Granted my prospecting brother from another mother Halp ranked him 21st, and based on last night it looks like Halp’s right. What happened last night? Welp, Tucker: Man and My Dreams, went 4 for 5 with a homer, 2 doubles, and 7 RBIs. He’s now hitting .343 in the Carolina League, can you imagine what he would have done with a full season in Lancaster? BTW Lancaster is one of the most homer and hitter friendly environments in minors, and was the class A advanced affiliate of the Astros up until this season. As for Tucker, he’s a 5×5 player’s dream, with hit tool, speed, developing power, and massive upside. Seems only appropriate that I would open this week’s Minor League Update with a native son of Tampa, while I’m on vacation here. How meta.

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