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These prospects are worth watching

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For Mike Trout, the future seemed mapped out already.

After a year of tearing up the lower levels of the minors, he was putting in his time at Double-A and putting up the numbers you'd expect for a prospect of his caliber. If he wasn't already so far advanced for his age, you'd expect him to move up to Triple-A any day now, but the Angels hadn't hinted of such a promotion. They might not have even considered it. Trout was 19, and they weren't going to rush him. Fantasy owners knew that and were perfectly content stashing him for whenever his time came, be it next year or the year after.

They just didn't expect it to be Friday afternoon.

But so it was when they checked their smart phones during their lunch breaks and discovered their long-term answer was now a short-term fill-in, leaving them to wonder how, in these days of endless Internet analysis, something as crucial as the arrival of a top prospect could catch them so off guard -- how something as simple as a Peter Bourjos hamstring pull could rock the foundation of the Fantasy universe and cause a player's ownership percentage to rise from 24 to 55 overnight.

Granted, Trout's stay in the majors is by no means permanent, but the fact of the matter is he's here now, as are Eric Hosmer, Jordan Lyles, Dustin Ackley, Lonnie Chisenhall and countless other prospects who seemed so close, yet so far away just a few months ago. Which begs the question: Who's next?

Hard to say, as the Trout example showed us. But disregarding injury, a select few stand out as more likely than the rest. They aren't necessarily the best prospects in the minors, but based on their expected arrivals and expected contributions when they arrive, they're the ones most worth monitoring in Fantasy.

Now watch Bryce Harper get called up tomorrow.

1. Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays
Triple-A stats: .275 BA, 12 HRs, 17 SBs, .370 OBP, .827 OPS

As far as prospects go, Jennings was arguably the biggest tease of the first half. Having already made his major-league debut last year, a return within the first few months seemed like a given, especially with the Rays in contention and without a suitable major-leaguer in left field. So what are they waiting for? Clearly, Jennings' performance isn't the problem. The 24-year-old is having a career season power-wise, bouncing back from his wrist issues of a year ago, so perhaps the Rays just want to make extra, extra sure his arbitration clock doesn't begin a year early. Clearly, they could use his on-base percentage at the top of their lineup, so he has to arrive sooner than later. And since he won't be arriving wide-eyed after last year's experience, he's a good bet to make an immediate contribution even in mixed leagues. If you have a free roster spot, why not stash him?

2. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
Triple-A stats: .297 BA, 11 HRs, 11 SBs, .380 OBP, .886 OPS

The Indians gave Cord Phelps a first crack at their starting second base job, but probably because they knew he wouldn't stand a chance once Kipnis arrived. With Phelps' poor showing and subsequent return to the minors, it's only a matter of time before Kipnis makes his debut for an overachieving team needing a boost to remain in playoff contention. Kipnis, a converted outfielder, has been the definition of steady during his time in the minors, hitting about .300 with about a .380 on-base percentage at all four stops. He's a good, steady offensive player with a skill set not all that different from Dustin Ackley's, and with no real stumbles up the minor-league ladder, he has a good chance of making an immediate impact in Fantasy. If he lands somewhere between Jemile Weeks and Ackley among second basemen, as his pedigree suggests he could, you'd like his chances of helping your Fantasy team, right?

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
Double-A stats: .315 BA, 25 HRs, 78 RBI, 1.064 OPS, 63 BBs, 72 Ks

Most Added Minor Leaguers
* as of July 9
Player Change
1. Vance Worley, RP, Phillies 13
2. Guillermo Moscoso, RP, Athletics 3
3. Trevor Plouffe, SS, Twins 2
4. Matt Moore, SP, Rays 1
5. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds 1
6. Kyle Blanks, OF, Padres 1
7. Nick Franklin, SS, Mariners 1
8. Trayvon Robinson, OF, Dodgers 1
9. Deck McGuire, SP, Blue Jays 1
10. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks 1

At the start of the season, Goldschmidt was considered more of an anomaly than a prospect after hitting .314 with 35 homers and a .990 OPS in the hitter-friendly California League. But instead of regressing as expected when he took the next step up the minor-league ladder, he actually improved, not only maintaining the same big power numbers, but also upping his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 3-to-1 a year ago to nearly 1-to-1 now. He's progressing faster than the Diamondbacks can promote him, which is why general manager Kevin Towers is entertaining the idea of having him skip Triple-A entirely and starting for the big-league club in the second half. Goldschmidt may not have the certainties of Desmond Jennings and Jason Kipnis as an overnight sensation who has yet to play a game above Double-A, but he could potentially make the biggest Fantasy impact of anyone on this list.

4. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds
Triple-A stats: .303 BA, 9 HRs, 49 RBI, .378 OBP, .889 OPS

A best-case scenario for Mesoraco in the second half would be if the Reds fell out of contention and shopped one or both of Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan at the trade deadline. Then again, the 23-year-old is so close to being a finished product that the Reds might decide to go that route no matter where their record stands. Mesoraco, a first-round pick in the 2007 draft, surged up the minor-league ladder last year and has validated that performance by hitting for both average and power with a respectable batting eye at Triple-A Louisville. A catcher who can hit is an immediate prize in Fantasy, regardless of whether or not he's playing every day, and of all the catchers with legitimate offensive potential in the minors, Mesoraco's all-around game is the closest to being major-league ready. His arrival is simply a matter of how much risk the Reds are willing to tolerate.

5. Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers
Double-A stats: .348 BA (112 at-bats), 4 HRs, 10 SBs, 1.007 OPS, 15 BBs, 8 Ks

Martin may not seem like an obvious choice to arrive this year. In fact, the hype on him died down so quickly after his signing in early May -- in part because of a back injury in June -- that he might not even be on your radar in Fantasy. But he's no ordinary prospect. His experience in Cuba gives him an advantage over most minor-leaguers, and it shows in his numbers. The Rangers have had a gaping hole in center field all season, and though the current plan calls for them to move Josh Hamilton there and promote Chris Davis to play left, chances are that's a last-ditch effort before turning the reigns over to Martin, who's clearly on the fast track with his promotion from Double-A to Triple-A over the weekend. Once he arrives, he'll be a fixture at the top of the Rangers lineup, making him valuable in any Fantasy format.

Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero, C, Yankees
Triple-A stats: .289 BA, 7 HRs, .763 OPS, 21 BBs, 62 Ks

Montero's numbers don't seem particularly impressive considering he was the No. 3 prospect according to Baseball America entering this season. In fact, they're worse than they were at the same minor-league level last season. But that's not the main reason the 21-year-old is no more than an honorable mention on this list. His defensive shortcomings eliminated him as an option behind the plate for the Yankees before the season even started, meaning his best chance of making a Fantasy contribution in 2011 was with another organization. That seemed plausible back when Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were considered last resorts in a makeshift starting rotation. Perhaps the Yankees will decide they still have a big enough need there to part with their top prospect, and perhaps Montero's new organization will still conclude his bat is major-league ready. But as things stand now, he's further from reaching the big leagues than he was in spring training.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Scott on Twitter ( @cbsscottwhite ) and can e-mail us your questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Prospects in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Pirates' Jordy Mercer looks to build from last season's strong finish
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:54 am ET) Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer worked on improving his defensive struggles last year with Clint Barmes and his offensive struggles with first-base coach Nick Leyva, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"What's the best thing that Barmes could do for our ballclub? That's to tutor this young kid, and that’s exactly what he did," Leyva said. "It was phenomenal to watch that."

Mercer hit .199 through the first 49 games last season. He bounced back with a .278 batting average, a .333 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and 19 doubles since June 2. Now that Mercer is the incumbent starter at shortstop, he is hoping to use his experience as an advantage to beat out Korean shortstop Jung Ho Kang for playing time throughout the season.

"You can't substitute for innings played, you can't substitute for at-bats, you can't substitute for innings pitched at this level," Leyva said. "You talk all you want about it, but when you get 450 at-bats, you've had a major league season. When you've played 140 games, you've played a major league season. The only way you're going to get those is by competing and getting the job done."


Indians 2B Jason Kipnis (hand) to make spring debut Saturday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:50 am ET) Indians manager Terry Francona said second baseman Jason Kipnis will make his spring debut Saturday against the Dodgers, per MLB.com. Kipnis had surgery in December to repair a damaged tendon in the ring finger on his left hand.

Tigers' Ausmus: Miguel Cabrera really close to running on flat ground
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:45 am ET) Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (ankle) has run at 72 percent body weight on the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday. Once Cabrera can run at 80 percent body weight, he will be cleared to run on flat ground and have grounders hit directly at him.

"He should be really close," Ausmus said, per the Detroit Free Press.

Cabrera participated in batting practice on the field Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

"He was hitting balls 425 feet out to left-center," Ausmus said.


Yankees might not have room on roster for Pirela as bench option
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he is curious about keeping Jose Pirela on the roster as a bench player, according to The Journal News. However, there is no clear path right now for Pirela, and it might take an injury for him to get on the roster.

“We’re going to move him around because that flexibility is nice to have,” Girardi said. “In the limited time that he was up last year, he did a really good time for us. And you could put him in the outfield as well. I don’t know how much we’ll put him in the outfield in spring, but I’m comfortable putting him out there anywhere. You never know how things are going to shake out in camp.”


Reds 1B Joey Votto getting closer to playing in spring games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:30 am ET) Reds manager Bryan Price said Thursday first baseman Joey Votto is getting closer to making his spring debut, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. Votto missed 100 games last season with a left knee injury. 

"You won't have to hold your breath, I promise you, you won't have to hold your breath for this," Price said. "Just to reiterate, we just went too far into the rehab and made a commitment to do an extensive rehab to do anything before we feel he's ready. I think he's very close and he's champing at the bit to get in there."


A's 1B Nate Freiman to miss at least two weeks with back injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:26 am ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin said first baseman Nate Freiman will miss at least two weeks due to a muscle strain in his back, per MLB.com. Freiman is competing for a spot on the A's bench.

Cardinals' Matheny wants Heyward, Adams to gain confidence vs. LHPs
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:24 am ET) Cardinals slugger Matt Adams is tired of hearing folks say he can't hit left-handed pitchers. But the numbers don't lie. He is batting just .197 off lefties in his major-league career, as opposed to .306 against righties.

“People think I can’t hit lefties,” he said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Coming up through the minors, I hit them. But that’s totally different. Hitting lefties in the minors and hitting lefties in the big leagues is different. The confidence for me is there, in the back of my mind. I know what I can do. That hasn’t changed. This is where I definitely have to focus and put the hammer to it.”

Adams isn't the only starter for St. Louis that struggles against lefties. Outfielder Jason Heyward hit just .169 against lefties in 2014. However, manager Mike Matheny isn't a fan of platooning either player.

“There are certain guys that you don’t want to platoon,” Matheny said. “There are guys you don’t want to have off the field, and I think that’s what they want. They want to be the guy who doesn’t come off the field. They want to be out there all the time. Both of them have shown it in the past that they can have success against left-handed pitching. It’s just a matter of getting them comfortable. With our lineup they’re going to throw a lot of (lefties) at us. Maybe that will help generate that confidence.”


Pirates' Josh Harrison not too concerned about ankle injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Pirates outfielder Josh Harrison doesn't seem too concerned after rolling his left ankle during Wednesday's spring game against the Blue Jays.

"I wouldn't even say I completely turned it. I kinda caught myself when I felt something," Harrison said Thursday, per MLB.com. "The trainers spotted me pulling up and right away said, 'Let's just be cautious,' so I came out."

Harrison had issues with his left ankle in 2014 after twisting it June 11. He had recurrences later in June and in early September, but he did not miss significant time.

"And this wasn't anything like last [year's ankle injury]," Harrison said. "I know how it felt then, and this time it was a lot less [painful]."


Report: Suk-Min Yoon parts ways with O's, returns to South Korea
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) It appears pitcher Suk-Min Yoon is parting ways with the Orioles, per MASNsports.com. According to a report out of Korea, Yoon has returned to South Korea and isn't expected to report to minor-league camp on Saturday.

The Orioles signed Yoon to a three-year, $5.575 million contract last February. However, he spent the year in Triple-A, as he struggled through injuries and ineffectiveness.

The 28-year-old right-hander went 4-8 with a 5.74 ERA in 23 appearances (18 starts) at Triple-A.

Yoon was taken off the 40-man roster in August and did not receive an invite to major-league camp this spring.


Astros' Brad Peacock (hip) expected to face batters next week
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:42 am ET) Astros pitcher Brad Peacock (hip) is slated to throw to batters around March 10-12, according to the Houston Chronicle. Still, Peacock might not have enough time to get ready by the season opener.

“I don’t know,” manager A.J. Hinch said when asked if Peacock will be ready by opening day. “I’m so happy with where he’s at and he’s happy with where he’s at. The No. 1 goal is to get him healthy. … I’m still not sure until we see how he responds to all this.”


 
 
 
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