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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
Carter Capps' return from DL could come soon
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) Marlins reliever Carter Capps could return to the team shortly after rosters expand Sept. 1, MLB.com reports Friday.

Capps, who has been out since late May with an elbow injury, began his minor-league rehab assignment at the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate earlier this week. He had a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings prior to injuring his elbow. 


Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez likely to get first taste of the majors
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:11 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has thrived since making the switch to the bullpen at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports Friday is "almost a lock" to join the team when rosters expand next week.

Gonzalez has appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen at Triple-A, posting a 1.72 ERA with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 15 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old struggled mightily at Class A Clearwater earlier in the season, before the switch to the bullpen was made, after a disappointing run in spring training.

"He wasn't sharp, he wasn't strong in spring training," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "So to see what he's doing now, see what that looks like, anxious to see that if he's one of the guys. He should be one of the guys."


Jorge De La Rosa blocked on waivers
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:43 am ET) Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa was claimed on waivers and will not be traded prior to Monday's deadline, reports CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman Friday.

It is not clear which team claimed De La Rosa, but it was apparently done solely to block a trade to a possible contender. The Rockies looked to trade De La Rosa before the non-waiver deadline in July, but he will not head into free agency, where the Rockies intend to make him a qualifying offer before trying to re-sign him.  

He has a 4.19 ERA and 13-9 record in 154 2/3 innings on the season. 


Nelson Cruz, Orioles open to long-term deal
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz has been a bargain this season while working on a one-year, $8 million deal, and CBSSports.com Baseball insider Jon Heyman reports Friday the arrangement could become a long-term one this offseason.

The Orioles and Cruz have not begun early negotiations on an extension, both sides have expressed a willingness to continue to relationship beyond this season. Cruz leads the league with 34 home runs, and is hitting .256/.324/.510 with 88 RBI in 130 games overall.  


Mets discussing Travis d'Arnaud position change
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:30 am ET) The Mets have had preliminary conversations with catcher Travis d'Arnaud about possibly changing positions to keep him healthy, the New York Daily News reports Friday.

"We've talked about it,” manager Terry Collins said. "We’ve brought it up. Obviously, with what he's started to do offensively, we've got to see if these concussions are leading to anything. Is he changing his position (defensively), where he is positioning himself behind the hitter, to get less foul tips?"

d'Arnaud has had four reported concussions in his career, an issue that is only exacerbated by playing behind the plate. Despite that, Collins does not think it is likely to happen at this point.

d'Arnaud has made himself an indispensable part of the club's long-term plans with his play this season. Since returning from his latest concussion in June, he is hitting .265/.308/.486 over his last 50 games. 


Joe Thatcher's mound session 'didn't go well'
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:20 am ET) Angels reliever Joe Thatcher tried to throw off a mound recently, but his sprained ankle continues to bother him, and he told the Orange Country Register Thursday the session went poorly.

Thatcher is still aiming to return in mid-September, but it is not clear if he has a timetable to throw off a mound again at this point. Once his ankle is healed, however, Thatcher expects to return quickly.

"My arm is in shape," he said. "So as soon as my ankle is ready, I'll be ready to go. There's no build-up process."


Searching for answers, Justin Masterson to pitch out of stretch
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:16 am ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Justin Masterson is looking for a solution to his ongoing woes, and he told the St. Louis Dispatch his next start will feature a drastic change.

After trying it out during a bullpen session Wednesday, Masterson told reporters he will pitch exclusively out of the stretch in his start against the Cubs. The decision comes after Masterson has allowed 19 runs in his first 23 innings since the Cardinals acquired him, and the hope is that simplifying his deliver will lead to better results.

"For the most part, I was pitching out of the windup, and things would get better out of the stretch at times," Masterson said. "So we simplified it. I went only out of the stretch (in the bullpen). Less moving parts. You don't have to worry about step back, turn around, ready to throw."

Masterson feels like he can pitch out of the stretch without sacrificing velocity or overall effectiveness. He has struggled mightily with out of the stretch this season, however, allowing a .312/.414/.455 line with runners on base. 


Fernando Salas picks up win No. 5 in extras
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:53 am ET) Angels reliever Fernando Salas kept his record perfect on the season as he picked up the win in a 4-3 victory over the A's Thursday.

Salas pitched a perfect top of the 10th inning, striking out one batter and retiring the side in order on 14 pitches. He picked up the win when the Angels scored in the bottom half of the inning, moving his record to 5-0 while lowering his season ERA to 2.23 in 48 1/3 innings of work. 


Slumping Ryan Cook loses it in extras
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:40 am ET) Athletics reliever Ryan Cook struggled yet again Thursday, and this time the offense would not bail him out in a 4-43 loss to the Angels.

One night after blowing a save by allowing two runs, Cook had trouble setting the Angels down in the bottom of the 10th. He allowed a leadoff walk followed by a single, and then lost the game on Howie Kendrick's game-winning sacrifice fly.

Cook allowed one run in two-thirds of an inning, raising his season ERA to 3.45 in 44 1/3 innings. He has allowed 17 runs overall on the season, seven of which have come in his last six outings. 


Josh Donaldson homers, reaches four times in loss
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson had gone more than two weeks since his last home run before going deep in a 4-3 loss to the Angels Friday.

Donaldson tied the game with his sixth inning solo home run, a shot that eventually sent the game into extras. He went 2 for 3 overall in the game, while added a pair of walks in the loss.  

Donaldson has found his swing again in the month of August, though he has just three home runs in 85 games. He is still hitting .294/.419/.482 with 12 RBI and nine runs scored in the month.


 
 
 
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