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Down on the Farm: Fernandez in the near term

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The season isn't even a week old yet, and already we've had our first elite prospect arrive about a year earlier than expected.

Jose Fernandez, come on down. You're the next contestant on Let's Sell Some Tickets, Miami Edition.

The move was so unexpected that Fantasy owners are still trying to figure out what to make of it. Fernandez has been the most viewed and most added player every day since the Marlins announced he had won a spot in the starting rotation. And he still hasn't appeared in a game yet.

The response suggests those genuinely excited about his arrival are only as plentiful as those trying their hardest to resist the hype. Even among my colleagues, it's a divisive subject.

Granted, none of them doubt Fernandez's long-term appeal. Among pitching prospects, he's second only to Dylan Bundy in terms of upside. True, assessing upside is a somewhat subjective task, but as LeVar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it.

While most every publication agreed on the same top four prospects entering this season, Baseball America chose Fernandez as its No. 5, saying his fastball had "unbelievable explosion" and touting his maturity as "uncommon for a player in his first full year as a pro."

You want uncommon? Check out his numbers. In 25 starts, he went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. And again, that was in his first full year as a pro.

Now, Debbie Downer will tell you that he did all of that between two levels of Class A, that he has only 55 career innings above lower Class A, that any 20-year-old making the jump to the majors is in for a bumpy ride and that the lack of Double- or Triple-A experience makes Fernandez's task all the more unlikely.

It's too much, too fast, which means it's doomed to end in demotion. So if you buy into Fernandez now, you'll be sorry.

But that's where Debbie loses me. Why will I be sorry? What do I have to give up to take a flier on Fernandez, and would I really miss it?

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I don't know how most leagues are. I don't know if most people play with friends who have only a passing interest in Fantasy Baseball -- ones who either didn't show up for the draft or who went on autopilot for all of their late-round picks, leaving the sleepers to the few who genuinely care.

But I know in my leagues, everybody cares. Everybody studies, and everybody tries. Everybody's sleepers are more or less the same sleepers, which means I only get one or two of mine. Naturally, the back ends of my rosters are players I don't really care about. Maybe I like them on some level, but only in relation to what else is out there.

Translation: They're replacement-level players.

By definition, a replacement-level player is one you could replace with ease, quite possibly with another waiver claim.

Dillon Gee? Replacement level. Paul Maholm? Replacement level. James McDonald? After the way he performed in the second half, you bet he's replacement level, at least in terms of standard mixed leagues. I have an inkling those three pitchers will perform better than most of the others at replacement level, but at the end of the day, I don't have especially high hopes for them.

You know who I do have high hopes for? Fernandez. I understand the downside and recognize it might even be the most-likely scenario. But back in 2006, plenty of people doubted Justin Verlander when the Tigers gave him and his 20 career minor-league starts a job out of spring training, and he went on to win AL Rookie of the Year. The comparison isn't so far-fetched. Fernandez touches 99 miles per hour with his fastball, commands the strike zone and already has four plus pitches. It's not that he wasn't prepared for Double-A last year. It's just that the Marlins didn't pull the trigger.

Clearly, they have now.

No doubt, you know your league better than I do, and if it's so deep that Gee, Maholm and McDonald -- as well as maybe Lucas Harrell and Jose Quintana -- are already owned, making a replacement-level pitcher something along the lines of a Jeff Locke or Nick Tepesch, then OK, maybe the risk of getting nothing from Fernandez is too high for you to drop the comparatively safe Rodriguez. But in those leagues, Fernandez is long gone anyway.

If, like the majority, you have fallback options, now is the time to gamble on talent.

Five on the Farm ... by Michael Hurcomb, CBSSports.com

Not every prospect garners the same attention. Though, a good spring can put any minor leaguer on the map quickly.

Here's a short list of prospects that had promising springs we feel Fantasy owners -- seasonal and long-term -- should keep on your radar.

You won't find players like Kevin Gausman, Nolan Arenado, Yasiel Puig, George Springer or Christian Yelich on this list. While all of them had great springs, these players already bask in the limelight. Our goal is to highlight five players with burgeoning major-league prospects.

Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals
Drafted: 2012 first-round pick (19th overall)
2013 MLB spring stats: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, .163 opponents' batting average, 1 save, 15 strikeouts, 7 hits allowed and 1 walk in 11 2/3 IP
Analysis: There weren't many prospects that had a better spring than Wacha, who didn't allow an earned run in 24 2/3 spring innings (including minor-league games). The list probably consists of Puig, Jackie Bradley and Aaron Hicks. It's not like Wacha came into the spring with little fanfare, but what he accomplished was unexpected, especially since he's not even considered the Cardinals' top pitching prospect. In fact, Baseball America has him behind Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal. Wacha, who posted a 0.86 ERA and 0.57 WHIP in 21 innings last season between three levels of the minors, performed so well this spring, the Cardinals chose to start him out at Triple-A instead of Double-A. Wacha throws a mid-90s fastball, but his changeup is his best pitch. The scouts have jumped on Wacha for a lack of a third pitch, but clearly it hasn't been a problem thus far.

Grant Green, UTL, Athletics
Drafted: 2009 first-round pick (13th overall)
2013 MLB spring stats: .409 AVG, .636 SLG, 1.045 OPS, 2 2B and 6 runs in 14 spring games
Analysis: It's not like Green is a player we have never heard about. Baseball America considered Green Oakland's top prospect in 2011 and he was on MLB.com's list of top 100 prospects in 2012 (No. 94). However, he has lost a little luster the last few years because of his poor defense. No one has ever questioned Green's offensive skills. His minor-league slash line (.302/.348/.461/.810) speaks to that. But Green, who began his pro career as a shortstop prospect, played four positions in 2012 before finally settling in at second base, which appears to be his new path to the majors. Green might never have more than average power, but now that he's returned to being a middle infielder, his bat profiles better for Fantasy purposes.

Joey Terdoslavich, 1B, Braves
Drafted: 2010 sixth-round pick (194th overall)
2013 MLB spring stats: .395 average, .558 slugging percentage, .958 OPS, one home run, four doubles and eight RBI in 26 spring games
Analysis: The Braves made a mistake by skipping Terdoslavich from Class A to Triple-A in 2012. Luckily, it didn't end up being a critical mistake since Terdoslavich regained his form after being demoted to Double-A and clearly hasn't lost any confidence after watching him thrive in spring training. Terdoslavich's home run power fizzled last season, but he still showed great gap power and the ability to hit to all fields. The Braves have tried to move Terdoslavich around defensively, but he hasn't taken to the outfield or third base, so it seems he's destined to play first base. Only problem is Freddie Freeman is blocking his path with the Braves, so Terdoslavich might have to try another position change or end up in a different organization.

Derek Dietrich, 2B/3B, Marlins
Drafted: 2010 second-round pick (79th overall)
2013 MLB spring stats: .375 average, .545 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage, 1.045 OPS, one double, one RBI, two walks and two runs in eight spring games
Analysis: Dietrich joined the Marlins' organization as part of the team's rebuilding strategy, arriving in the Yunel Escobar trade with Tampa Bay. What you notice about Dietrich is his power for a middle infielder. He has hit 39 homers in 304 minor-league games and is slugging .470 in his career. He also has great gap power and had at least 10 homers, 10 triples and 10 doubles between Class A and Double-A last season. Dietrich has primarily played shortstop in the minors, but he profiles more as a second or third baseman. With the Marlins working with a clean slate, Dietrich has the chance to move quickly through the minors.

Alex Wood, SP, Braves
Drafted: 2012 second-round pick (85th overall)
2013 MLB spring stats: 0-1, 1.29 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, .276 opponents' batting average, two saves, two runs (one earned), three walks, three strikeouts and eight hits allowed (seven innings)
Analysis: Wood received a spring invite less than a year after being drafted, but he showed he deserved it. Wood, who had a 2.22 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 13 starts at Class A Rome last season, has been glanced over in the Braves' organization because the team is stacked with pitcher prospects, including Julio Teheran, J.R. Graham, Sean Gilmartin, Lucas Sims and Mauricio Cabrera. Though, the scouts have some concerns about the left-hander. While Wood profiles a fastball and changeup, he needs a reliable breaking pitch. Wood also has a bit of an unorthodox delivery. He throws strikes, but the scouts are worried about his mechanics. If Wood doesn't work out as a starter, however, he could have enough to end up as a back-of-the-bullpen reliever.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Blue Jays' Troy Tulowitzki hits two-run home run in team debut
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:09 pm ET) Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki made quite an impression with his new team on Wednesday. Playing in his first game with the Blue Jays, Tulowitzki went 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles and a two-run home run and three RBI in the 8-2 win over the Phillies.

Tulowitzki was batting leadoff for the first time since his rookie year in 2006. It's the first time he ever started a game in the lead-off position. 

But regardless of where he was batting, Tulowitzki had a great night for his new club, as he blasted his 13th home run in the second inning. 


Marlins SP Tom Koehler victimized by HR in loss
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(10:08 pm ET) Tom Koehler was hurt once again by an old adversary, as the Marlins starter made another mistake to Washington's Bryce Harper, who delivered the big blow in a 7-2 Miami defeat.

Koehler had given up just two runs through four innings, but ran into trouble in the fifth when he allowed back-to-back singles to Yunel Escobar and Jayson Werth. Harper followed with a titanic three-run homer into the second deck -- it's the fourth time Koehler has allowed a homer to Harper this season. 

Koehler (8-7) has now lost three of his last four decisions despite his ERA dropping from 3.52 to 3.38.


Phillies' Jerome Williams struggles against Blue Jays on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:02 pm ET) Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams had a sub-par outing against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night. Williams, making his second start since returning from the disabled list, allowed four runs on 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings. He threw 49 of his 75 pitches for strikes in the 8-2 loss.

Williams (3-8, 6.36 ERA) allowed a two-run home run to new Blue Jay Troy Tulowitzki in the third inning. Two more runs would come across to score in the fifth before Williams was lifted from the game. 

The veteran hurler was better in his previous start, allowing three runs in six innings during a win against the Cubs. But overall, Williams has struggled for the better part of the season. He has allowed at least four earned runs in eight of his 16 starts in 2015. 


Nationals SP Doug Fister steady in victory
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(10:00 pm ET) Nationals starter Doug Fister put together a consistent start Wednesday, going six solid innings to pick up just his fourth victory of the season. 

Fister scattered just four hits, allowing two early runs before his teammates provided offensive help. Fister utilized his control, walking only one batter while striking out four. 

Fister had lost five of his previous six starts, allowing 26 runs over that stretch. 


Nationals OF Bryce Harper crushes two homers in victory
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(9:56 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper jumped back into the National League home run lead, blasting two upper-deck shots to give him 29 on the season and Washington a 7-2 win Wednesday. 

Harper continued his terrorization of Marlins starter Tom Koehler, hammering a three-run shot into the second deck of Marlins Park in the fifth inning, his fifth home run off Koehler. 

Harper added another solo shot in the eighth inning, this one again well over 400 feet. Harper now has 68 RBIs on the season and is hitting .335, third in the NL. 


Blue Jays SP R.A. Dickey wins back-to-back starts
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:56 pm ET) Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey was terrific in his outing against the Phillies on Wednesday. The veteran knuckleballer allowed a pair of unearned runs on seven hits over eight innings. Dickey walked one and struck out four in the 8-2 victory.

Dickey (5-10, 4.27 ERA) shutout the Phillies over the first six innings in this one. But a pair of errors led to single runs in the seventh and the eighth. 

This was Dickey's finest outing this season, as it was the first time he did not allow an earned run. The right-hander is 2-4 with a 3.00 ERA over his past seven starts.


Mets INF Wilmer Flores heading to Brewers in three-player deal
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:43 pm ET) Mets infielder Wilmer Flores has been traded to the Brewers. The Mets will receive center fielder Carlos Gomez in exchange for Flores and starter Zack Wheeler, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports.

Flores, who was signed by the Mets as a 16-year-old in 2007, is in the midst of his third season in the big leagues. He entered play on Wednesday with a .249 batting average, 10 home runs and 40 RBI in 92 games for the Mets. He has seen time at shortstop and second base, though he looked much more comfortable at second. 

Neither team has officially announced the trade at this point.


Red Sox 3B Pablo Sandoval leaves game with dehydration
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(9:39 pm ET) Pablo Sandoval left Wednesday's game against the White Sox in the sixth inning with what the Red Sox described as dehydration, per the Boston Herald

Sandoval was 0-for-1 with a walk when he left. He was replaced in the lineup by Josh Rutledge. Sandoval is hitting .262 with eight homers this season. 


Mets to send Zack Wheeler to Brewers in three-player deal
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:32 pm ET) Mets starter Zack Wheeler has been dealt to the Brewers as part of the deal that is sending center fielder Carlos Gomez to New York. The Mets will be sending Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores to Milwaukee, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman confirms.

Wheeler, 25, was originally drafted in the first round by the Giants in 2009. The Mets acquired in him in 2011 for Carlos Beltran. Wheeler made his big-league debut in 2013 and has gone 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA over his tenure with the Mets.

He is currently on the disabled list after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the spring. He is not expected to return until the middle of next season. 

The teams have not offically announced the deal at this point.


Mets to acquire CF Carlos Gomez from Brewers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:22 pm ET) The Mets and Brewers have agreed on a deal that would send center fielder Carlos Gomez to New York, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports.

In exchange, the Mets would send right-hander Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores to the Brewers, according to the New York Post

Gomez was originally signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent back in 2002. He played in 58 games with the Mets in 2007. He hit .232 that year.

In 2008, he was sent to Minnesota in the deal that sent Johan Santana to Queens. He was later traded to Milwaukee in a deal in 2009, and he has been there ever since. 

He was an All-Star in 2013 and 2014 and won a Gold Glove in '13. This year, he is batting .266 with eight home runs for the Brewers.

Neither team has officially announced the deal as of yet. 


 
 
 
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