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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
White Sox send reliever Daniel Webb back to Triple-A
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) White Sox reliever Daniel Webb , who was called up Sunday as the 26th man for the team's doubleheader against the Royals, was sent back down to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. 

Webb pitched in 57 games last season for the White Sox but was one of the team's final cuts in spring training. 


Diamondbacks struggling to fill in void at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale knew his team wasn't going to go the entire season without an injury. But the skipper was hoping to avoid the issue he currently has at third base, according to AZCentral.com.

With Jake Lamb on the disabled list with a foot injury, Aaron Hill and Yasmany Tomas have struggled to put it together, combining for a .559 OPS in the last five games.

"Yeah, that's huge," Hale said. "You're going to have injuries all year. There's going to be a multitude of them for every team. If you can't make the adjustment — if guys can't come in and fill the void — then you're going to be in trouble as a club."

Tomas is hitting .286 in 14 at-bats this season while Hill is scuffling along at .156 in 45 at-bats.


Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allows seven runs in rehab start
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed seven runs in five innings of work in his third rehab start in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, according to Philly.com.

Billingsley, who is currently on the 15-day DL with an elbow injury, added three strikeouts and two walks in the appearance. He has yet to appear in a major league game since 2013 while dealing with multiple elbow injuries.


Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez still working out of funk
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has yet to put things together at the plate so far this season. Gonzalez is hitting just .197 with two home runs in 66 at-bats and it's wearing on him a bit, according to the Denver Post.

"I'm not in a good place. I'm still hitting (.197)," he said. "But I'm happy that I'm healthy, and that I'm playing, and that we are winning. I think we are having a good month so far as a team."

Manager Walt Weiss thinks he's really close to seeing Gonzalez get all the pieces together and go on a run.

"I saw real good signs from CarGo, hitting the ball hard the opposite way," Weiss said. "It wasn't just the couple of hits he got. It was the way he got them. Those are things that he had been working on. Then, to get results like that, is always encouraging."

Report: Josh Hamilton trade expected to be completed Monday
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) The trade of outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Angels to the Rangers is expected to be completed Monday, with Hamilton then reporting to Texas' spring training site in Arizona to continue his rehab from offseason surgery, per MLB.com. 

The trade was rumored to have been completed Sunday, but complications arose in finalizing the deal. The Rangers are expected to hold a press conference announcing the trade on Monday. Hamilton is expected to play several games in Triple-A before being called up to the Rangers. 


Dodgers' Jimmy Rollins not concerned with early slump at the plate
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins isn't worrying just yet about his struggles at the plate, according to the Orange County Register.

"Well, some people like to panic. That has never been my MO," he said. "I have, what, 50, 60 at-bats, I'm not sure. So if these are my worst 50 at-bats this year – I'm glad they're happening now. (If they are his worst at-bats) it’s going to be a very good year."

Rollins is hitting just .186 in 70 at-bats so far this season. He believes he's still been taking good swings at the plate, just not finding the gaps in the defense.

"It's hard to compute if you just look at numbers," he said. "I'm getting myself in good counts, just not finishing it off. I know it's coming. I'm hitting some off the end, some are getting in just a little bit. But the swing path is right. It's just a click here, a click there.

"The process is good. You have to continue to trust in the process and believe in the process. You get oriented in just results – especially at times like this – then you're trying to make all these technical changes and that's when you go from one to two to 100. So the process is right. Executing it is about fine-tuning."


Angels OF Matt Joyce hopes hit signals end of slump
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce saw his eight-game hitless streak come to an end Sunday with an eighth-inning single that ended an 0-for-26 skid. The right fielder, who figures to be a fixture in Los Angeles' lineup with the expected departure of Josh Hamilton, said he hopes the small start will lead to bigger things, according to the Los Angeles Times

"Sometimes it's a tough game," Joyce said. "It seems like you try everything, and you put in so much time and effort and work, it gets to be frustrating. It gets to be hard to swallow and accept it, and hard to keep showing up and grinding it out."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he will continue to stick with Joyce, who is hitting just .140 on the season. 


Mets starter Jonathon Niese struggles vs. Yankees
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Mets starter Jonathon Niese was not sharp Sunday in the finale of the Subway Series against the Yankees, lasting just five innings while allowing six runs and eight hits. Niese was betrayed somewhat by his defense, which committed four errors behind him, leading to two unearned runs. 

Niese was spotted a 2-0 first-inning lead, but he quickly gave it back, allowing a first-inning homer to Alex Rodriguez and then giving up four second-inning runs as the Yankees broke the game open. 

Niese, who threw 86 pitches, saw his ERA rise to 2.74 in absorbing his first loss of the season. 


Nationals considering keeping Yunel Escobar at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Nationals manager Matt Williams will have a decision to make when his regular third baseman Anthony Rendon comes back from injury. With Rendon on the shelf, Yunel Escobar has shifted to third and Williams is considering leaving him there even after Rendon returns, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The team is unsure yet what will happen when Rendon returns, but one theory has Escobar staying at third and Rendon shifting to second base, according to Heyman.

Escobar is hitting .292 with five RBI in 65 at-bats while slotted at third base.


Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez connects for home run 659 Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez went 2 for 4 at the plate in New York's 6-4 win over the Mets Sunday. 

Rodriguez did his damage early on, connecting for a solo home run in the first inning off Jonathon Niese, his 659th in his career. Rodriguez is now just one home run shy of Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list. He is hitting .242 with 13 RBI in 60 at-bats this season.


 
 
 
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