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Highlighting top 2B prospects for 2012

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As far as the first base position seems to be from producing fruit in Fantasy, second base is a relative desert -- and for largely the same reason.

Dustin Ackley, Danny Espinosa, Jemile Weeks, Jason Kipnis, Jose Altuve and Johnny Giavotella each solidified starting jobs in the majors as rookies last year, contributing to nearly a 25 percent turnover at the position. When such a transition takes place, the minor leagues simply need time to replenish.

But the bigger reason why second base is short on big-name prospects -- and the reason why that's usually the case -- is that it's one of those oddball positions that feeds off of other positions, relying on conversions in the upper levels of the minors. Few prospects begin and end their professional careers at second base. They just ... end up there, either because their bats would hold up better there than in the outfield or because they don't quite have the range to stay at shortstop.

Case in point: Of those six second basemen who broke into the majors last year, Ackley was originally a first baseman, Espinosa a shortstop and Kipnis an outfielder.

Worse yet, Billy Hamilton and Jean Segura -- two prospects who had already gotten acclimated to second base -- actually moved to shortstop in 2011, further depleting the talent pool. They could still ultimately end up playing second base, but for now, they are what they are.

So even though this list appears scant, with only eight names appearing instead of the usual 10, understand that it doesn't necessarily mean you won't find a second baseman of the future in a dynasty league. You'll just have to get creative about it.

Note: This list has been adjusted for Fantasy purposes. Long-term potential is one of several factors that influence the order and is arguably less important than the player's expected role in 2012. These prospects don't all profile as superstars, but they're the names most worth knowing in Fantasy right now.

1. Taylor Green, 25, Brewers
Where played in 2011: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .336 BA, 22 HRs, 91 RBI, .993 OPS
Major-league stats: .270 BA (37 at-bats), 3 2Bs, 0 BBs, 6 Ks

Green's 2011 numbers would have you believe he's a top prospect, but the game hasn't always come so easily for him. He hurt his wrist in 2008, interrupting a promising start to his professional career. The injury sapped him of much of his power in the two years that followed, limiting him to a combined 19 homers in 719 at-bats. But as we've seen from several major-leaguers who have suffered wrist injuries in recent years, the return to the lineup often comes well before the return to form, and Green's return to form finally came in 2011, when he regained the power, contact rate and on-base ability that he demonstrated in the lower levels of minors. The performance was enough to earn him a taste of the big leagues in September. Though he played mostly second base then, he was primarily a third baseman in the minors and could end up splitting time there with Casey McGehee in 2012. Green's skill set is similar to Ben Zobrist's, but you obviously can't expect him to make that kind of impact. Still, he has sleeper appeal in deeper leagues.

2. Stephen Lombardozzi, 23, Nationals
Where played in 2011: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .309 BA, 8 HRs, 30 SBs, .790 OPS
Major-league stats: .194 BA (31 at-bats), 0 SBs, 1 BB, 4 Ks

Lombardozzi is one of those professional overachievers -- like David Eckstein or Fernando Vina -- who earn the admiration of fans and coaches alike simply by playing so gosh darn hard. And apparently, manager Davey Johnson isn't immune, assuring Lombardozzi during his September callup last year that the organization doesn't see him as just a utility player. That's sweet and all, but if Lombardozzi can't produce, it doesn't make a difference for Fantasy owners. Fortunately, he has proven to be at least competent with the bat, hitting .298 over four minor-league seasons. He also has a decent batting eye and, like most scrappy players, tends to run more often (and more successfully) than his foot speed would dictate. If he draws enough walks and steals enough bases to bat at the top of the lineup, he might just be a surprise contributor in Fantasy. Will he get that chance next year? Well, if the Nationals clear a spot for him by trading Ian Desmond or, less likely, Danny Espinosa, the possibility would be reasonable enough for Lombardozzi to deserve a flier in NL-only leagues.

3. Kolten Wong, 21, Cardinals
Where played in 2011: Class A
Minor-league stats: .335 BA (194 at-bats), 5 HRs, 9 SBs, .911 OPS

Have you noticed how Nick Punto has been starting at second base for the Cardinals during much of their playoff run? Doesn't inspire much confidence, does it? Apparently, the Cardinals don't think so either, which is why they invested their 2011 first-round pick in a second baseman whose bat is nearly major-league ready. Wong, a native of Hawaii, skipped the lower levels of the minors after getting drafted 22nd overall and went straight to Class A, where he produced a batting average that would have led the Midwest League if he had the at-bats to qualify. Clearly, the 21-year-old can hit, demonstrating a good batting eye and gap power, and at his age, he shouldn't need long to advance to the big leagues. If he can provide even Neil Walker-level power, he'll be a significant asset in Fantasy. Don't be surprised if he gets a taste of the majors at some point in 2012, but he likely won't compete for a starting job until 2013.

4. Jonathan Schoop, 20, Orioles
Where played in 2011: Class A
Minor-league stats: .290 BA, 13 HRs, 12 SBs, 71 RBI, .781 OPS

Schoop was a relatively unknown commodity when he signed with the Orioles out of Curacao in 2009, but he has made major strides each of the last two seasons, adding pop to his arsenal in 2011. His performance at Class A Delmarva, where he hit .316 with an .890 OPS in the first half of the season, was enough to elevate him to legitimate prospect status, and the organization even named him its position player of the year despite his struggles after his promotion to Class A Frederick. As far as prospects go, Schoop is still in boom-or-bust territory right now and could potentially fizzle out in the upper levels of the minors, but if he continues to progress at the rate he has been, the Orioles have found their long-term replacement for Brian Roberts. Schoop is a different player, of course, offering more power than speed, but he has that kind of upside. Don't be surprised if you see him go off the board in some dynasty league drafts this spring.

5. Cory Spangenberg, 21, Padres
Where played in 2011: Class A
Minor-league stats: .316 BA (275 at-bats), 3 HRs, 25 SBs, .419 OBP, .837 OPS

Spangenberg was the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, which immediately puts him in the discussion of top prospects, and though we could argue about whether or not he deserved to go that high, you have to like the results so far. He's clearly a capable line-drive hitter, and if he continues to walk at a high rate and steal plenty of bases, he'll be a candidate to lead off in the future. He doesn't project for much power at this stage of his career, though, which means he'll pretty much have to walk and run to be an impact player in Fantasy. He'll also be a left-handed hitter at spacious PETCO Park, which is usually a dangerous combination, but since he's more of a gap hitter anyway, it could actually work to his advantage. If you're intent on finding a second baseman in a long-term keeper league, Spangenberg is clearly one of the better ones out there, but his future is still uncertain enough that he's not quite a must-have option.

6. Reese Havens, 25, Mets
Where played in 2011: Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .289 BA (222 at-bats), 6 HRs, .373 OBP, .828 OPS

The Mets selected Havens only four picks after taking Ike Davis in the 2008 draft, yet Havens has yet to even sniff Triple-A, much less the majors. The problem has been injuries -- tons of them, to just about every part of his body. He missed the beginning of 2011 recovering from offseason rib surgery to alleviate an oblique issue and has also missed time with elbow, groin, hand and back issues in his brief minor-league. Granted, he has performed pretty well when healthy, drawing a high number of walks and exhibiting above-average power for a middle infielder, but he can't develop if he's not on the field. He's averaging only 235.7 at-bats in three full minor-league seasons. He was originally drafted as a shortstop, so he could potentially get a look there this spring if Jose Reyes departs via free agency. But given Havens' lack of experience so far, he'll most likely need another year in the minors. At age 25, he'll need to pick up the pace to live up to his potential in long-term keeper leagues.

7. Delino Deshields, 19, Astros
Where played in 2011: Class A
Minor-league stats: .220 BA, 9 HRs, 30 SBs, .627 OPS, 52 BBs, 118 Ks

The Astros knew what they were getting into when they selected Deshields with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft. He has plenty of talent and baseball bloodlines, but he's in desperate need of seasoning after diverting much of his attention to football in high school. In other words, you have to cut him some slack for his numbers in his first full season of minor-league ball. He'll need time to develop into the hitter he projects to be, and at age 19, time is a luxury he can afford. At least you already know he has the speed to become an impact player in Fantasy, and he should eventually offer above-average power for a middle infielder. If you have the time to invest in Deshields, he's worth a flier in long-term keeper leagues, but keep in mind he's several years from making a real contribution in Fantasy.

8. Ryan Adams, 24, Orioles
Where played in 2011: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .284 BA (377 at-bats), 10 HRs, .794 OPS, 30 BBs, 103 Ks
Major-league stats: .281 BA (89 at-bats), .659 OPS, 6 BBs, 25 Ks

Adams got his chance to fill in for a concussed Brian Roberts late in 2011 and didn't embarrass himself, hitting a respectable .281. Unfortunately, he didn't exactly take the bull by the horns either, exhibiting the same lack of plate discipline that has consistently held him back in the prospect rankings since the Orioles selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft. Adams has shown decent pop in the minors while compiling a .286 batting average, but if he continues to strike out three times as often as he walks -- or potentially more -- big-league pitchers will pick him apart, making him an afterthought in the Orioles' infield. At age 24, Adams is poised to win a utility spot with the Orioles this spring and could end up starting more than expected at second base if Roberts experiences more concussion-like symptoms. Despite his so-so upside and the concerns about his approach, Adams is worth a look in deeper AL-only leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Scott White @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Report: Padres 'in touch' with Phillies regarding Cole Hamels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Padres are "in touch" with the Phillies in an attempt to land pitcher Cole Hamels, FOX Sports reports.

The Padres have made plenty of upgrades across the roster since general manager A.J. Heller took over, and it's possible they don't have the ammunition to land the Philadelphia ace in a deal. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he didn't expect Hamels to be traded before the start of the season. Hamels went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.


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(1/31/2015) The Orioles have signed Mark Hendrickson to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, CSNBaltimore.com reports.

Hendrickson, who last pitched in the majors in 2011, spent 2014 with York of the independent Atlantic League, posting a 1.54 ERA and 34:11 K:BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings over 55 appearances.


Rangers' Matt Harrison expects to open season on 60-day DL
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said Saturday that he expects to open the season on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to recover from spinal fusion surgery, the Dallas Morning News reports.

"My job is to just get as healthy as I can and get myself right so I don’t have something happen like it did last year when I tried to come back," Harrison said. "I’m just going to focus on that and get ready to contribute whenever it may be."

Harrison is dealing with some stiffness in his right side, which will cause him to throw from a distance of 90 feet for a second consecutive week rather than progress to 105 feet. He hopes that he'll get his hips to rotate more and loosen up with more stretching and more throws from the 90-foot distance.


Report: Rays sign Ronald Belisario to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Rays have signed pitcher Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal with an invitiation to spring training, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Belisaro made 62 appearances with the White Sox in 2014, posting a 4-8 record, 5.56 ERA and 47:18 K:BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings. He'll compete for a bullpen spot during the spring.


Dodgers SP Zack Greinke hasn't decided whether to opt out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said Saturday that he's yet to decide whether to opt out of his contract at the end of next season but added, "There's not really better options anywhere besides here," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Greinke is set to make $23 million in 2015, and he's due another $71 million over the following three seasons if he remains under his current contract. The Dodgers said earlier this offseason that they wouldn't discuss a contract extension with the pitcher during the winter.

Greinke went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207:43 K:BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings in 2014.


Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez hoping to bounce back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez can't wait to get on the field and get past the 2014 season.

"I can’t wait," Jimenez said at Saturday’s FanFest event. "Whatever happened in 2014 is in the past. There's nothing I can do about it now. I can just look forward and now I’m going to do everything in spring training to get myself ready the best I can for the season and help the team."

Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Baltimore in 2014, went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 125 1/3 innings pitched. 

"It was pretty hard, coming in with a new team and signing a contract like that and not to do what everyone is expecting you to do, it’s hard," Jimenez said. "It’s hard not to be there for the team, but regardless what happened, I fought a lot. I think I was trying to find a way to survive to be there for the team and do whatever I can do the best. We got really far. I didn’t help a lot, but I tried to do whatever I could with whatever I had."


Royals' Alex Gordon plans to take it slow in recovery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is still recovering from his wrist surgery this offseason and plans to take it slow in his rehab.

"We really don’t have a timetable," Gordon said. "We’re just going to see how it feels. Obviously, it’s spring training. So we don’t want to rush anything. If it feels good, we’ll be aggressive with it. But if it’s not feeling good, we’ll take it slow."

Manager Ned Yost wants to continue to take things slow with Gordon.
"We’ll just take it slow," Yost said. "We’ll see how he feels. We’ll play him one day. Then we’ll give him a day off. Play him another day, five or six innings, then give him a day off. We’ll just see how he’s doing."
Gordon hit .266 in 2014 with 19 home runs and 74 RBI.

Angels, Garrett Richards settle on $3.2 million for 2015
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(1/31/2015) The Angels and pitcher Garrett Richards have agreed to a contract for 2015 for $3.2 million, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

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Orioles' Manny Machado expects to be ready for spring training
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(1/31/2015) Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is progressing through his rehab and says he's "ready to roll" for the upcoming season.

"I have a lot of time to get ready. That is the key: having a regular offseason," Machado said Saturday. "Was doing my rehab in Sarasota and then went to Miami to do my regular weightlifting and get ready for the season. Been exciting. Looking forward to spring training."

Machado has taken part in baseball activities for the past few weeks since having surgery on Aug. 27 after tearing a ligament in his knee.

"It will be awesome," he said of the prospect of having a normal spring. "I'm dying to get back on the field. Spring training is key for a lot of players to get your at-bats and your reps. I think some take it for granted but it's a very big key for success for the year."

Machado hit .278 in 2014 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI for Baltimore.


Bud Norris remains without update for contract extension
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(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Bud Norris said Saturday nothing has changed between he and the organization for a new contract.

"I haven't heard anything of that," Norris said. "I don't see a reason why I'd want to leave, but that's out of my control."

Norris and the Orioles are preparing for arbitration, when Norris filed for $10.25 million and Baltimore offered $7.5 million. He went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA and 139:52 K:BB ratio in 165 1/3 innings over 28 starts in 2014.


 
 
 
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