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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
Shane Victorino: 'I should be the starting right fielder' for Red Sox
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino believes he should be the team's starting right fielder in 2015 amidst a crowded group of contenders, WEEI.com reports.

"If you think there’s somebody better in right, be my guest," Victorino said. "Obviously health will dictate that. But if I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it. I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder. There are things to come into play and situations to be discussed.

"I plan on being healthy and out there and ready to go. Like I said, it’s my job. I don’t think there’s anybody can tell me differently. If they feel there is from an organization’s standpoint it is what it is. As I’ve said, whatever uniform it may be I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent and be the best I can be. Obviously I want it to be a Red Sox uniform and be a right fielder, but I can’t control decisions that are made from up top."

Victorino will swing a bat Monday for the first time since undergoing back surgery. "Everything feels great," he said. "There hasn't been any setbacks."


Report: Tigers, White Sox show interest in Justin Masterson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/27/2014) The Tigers and White Sox have joined the Royals, Twins and Cubs as teams to show interest in free-agent pitcher Justin Masterson, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Masterson's agent is scheduled to meet with teams over Thanksgiving weekend. The pitcher struggled in 2014, going 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA in 25 starts.


Reds sign Brennan Boesch to minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Reds have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Boesch, 29, is a career .256/.309/.412 hitter over five seasons for the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.

He was in the minors for most of last season, hitting .332 with 25 homers for the Angels Triple-A affiliate. 


Royals acquire infielder Ryan Jackson from Dodgers
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Royals have acquired infielder Ryan Jackson from the Dodgers for cash considerations. Jackson was out for most of last season with a wrist injury. 

Jackson hit .278 with 34 RBI at Triple-A Memphis, playing 122 games at shortstop and third base in 2013.


Report: Talks break down between Yanks, Phils about Rollins deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Yankees and Phillies reportedly discussed a deal for 35-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins before talks broke down, according to ESPN reporter Jayson Stark.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Rollins is "one of the best shortstops in baseball still" but wouldn't confirm Yankees interest in the veteran. Amaro also said Rollins is "somebody we want on our club and would be very hard to replace."

Rollins is due $11 million this season and his contract is up at the end of 2015. Rollins hit .243 with 55 RBI and stole 28 bases in 2014. 


Padres' Blaine Boyer clears waivers, heads for free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Padres right-handed pitcher Blaine Boyer cleared waivers Wednesday and will enter free agency, according to U-T San Diego. Boyer was designated for assignment last week.

Boyer appeared in 32 games last season for the Padres and posted a 3.57 ERA. 


Rays designate Sean Rodriguez for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have designated 29-year-old Sean Rodriguez for assignment. 

Rodriguez hit .211 with 12 home runs last season. 


Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa clear waivers, released by Rays
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Catcher Jose Molina and infielder Cole Figueroa cleared waivers and were released by the Rays Wednesday. 

Both Molina and Figueroa were designated for assignment Thursday. Molina, 39, hit .178 over 225 at-bats last year, while Figueroa hit .233 in 43 at-bats. 


Rays sign right-hander Ernesto Frieri to major-league contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have announced signing of right-hand pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract. Frieri will make a base salary of $800,000, going up to $3.15 million with incentives, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Frieri, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2013, had 11 last season with a 7.34 ERA.


Yankees' Sabathia confident he can return to being 200-inning pitcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia continues to deliver positive updates coming off July knee surgery.

"The knee, I have no complaints," Sabathia told YES Network. "I’m able to do all of my workouts. … I’m changing a few things. Not as much pounding and running. I’m in the pool a lot, on different machines to get cardio, (on the) bike. Just adding a few different things to get some cardio in."

Despite coming off surgery and being limited to eight starts (46 innings) in 2014, Sabathia feels he can get back to being a 30-start, 200-inning pitcher in 2015.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like I can. If you asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know,’ but the way I’m feeling now and being able to work out, definitely."


 
 
 
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