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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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