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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
Rays' Matt Moore to pitch in extended spring training Saturday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Rays pitcher Matt Moore is scheduled to throw 35 to 40 pitches in two innings of work during an extended spring training game on Saturday, the Tampa Tribune reports.

Moore had no issues after Wednesday's bullpen session, putting him line to take the next step on Saturday. He was limited to just two starts last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery.


Braves' Cameron Maybin provides spark in No. 2 spot Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin batted second for the first time this season on Thursday, going 1 for 4 with a walk, two RBI, three runs scored and a stolen base in his team's 10-1 win over the Brewers.

"It was cool, man," Maybin said of hitting second after the game, per MLB.com. "I didn't really change my approach, tried to keep the same approach -- be a tough out, get a good pitch to hit and just make sure I'm on base, somehow, someway. Whenever I can do that good things happen, and good things happened tonight."

Maybin has excelled since taking over the full-time starting role in center field on May 2, going 17 for 54 with nine runs and 21 RBI.

"My confidence is high," Maybin said. "I've been able to put in some really good work with [hitting coach Kevin Seitzer] in the cage. And every day is a competition. Every day I feel like you have to fight to keep the job, win the job. So my mentality is to come out and go hard everyday and things will work out."

Maybin has hit .255/.352/.426 with four home runs, 17 RBI and five stolen bases in 94 at-bats.


Red Sox's Clay Buchholz takes fifth loss Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz was stuck with a loss on Thursday, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks in 7 1/3 innings while striking out four in his team's 3-1 defeat against the Rangers.

Buchholz (2-5) delivered his third straight quality start but continues to be plagued by little run support, as the Red Sox have scored just one run in five of his nine outings. He gave up two runs in the first inning, with one coming on an error, and then surrendered a solo home run in the fourth.

"I've been trying to mix my pitches each time out and each time through the order," Buchholz said after the game, per MLB.com. "It's a little bit easier whenever you have your pitches working. It's the times you go through when you've got one or two pitches working and you have to filter out the other pitches."

Buchholz owns a 4.58 ERA and 58:15 K:BB ratio in 53 innings. He's slated to face the Twins in Minnesota on Tuesday.


Rangers OF Josh Hamilton goes 1 for 4 in Triple-A rehab game
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton went 1 for 4 in a rehab assignment game with Triple-A Round Rock on Thursday. 

Hamilton's lone hit of the game was a double. 

It's possible that Hamilton could return to the majors next week. He hasn't been able to play in the majors yet since he's been recovering from shoulder surgery. 

When Hamilton was with Double-A Frisco, he slashed a .387/.424/.516 with four doubles and three RBI. 


Royals' Erik Kratz drives in two runs in rehab debut Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Royals catcher Erik Kratz began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Thursday, going 1 for 4 with two RBI in his team's 9-6 win.

Kratz played all nine innings at catcher in the game in addition to driving in two runs. He's working his way back from a foot injury.


Rangers 1B Mitch Moreland hits 3rd HR of year
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland hit a solo home run in the fourth inning of Thursday night's 3-1 win over the Red Sox. 

For Moreland, this is the third home run he's hit this season. He finished the game 3 for 4 and also hit an RBI single. He now has drove in 14 runs this year. Moreland has now recorded a hit in five consecutive games and has hit a home run in two of his past four. 

Moreland holds a slash line of .312/.382/.506. 


Rangers P Shawn Tolleson gets save in win over Red Sox
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Rangers reliever Shawn Tolleson picked up his second save of the season in Thursday night's 3-1 win over the Red Sox. 

Tolleson struck out two batters and gave up just one hit. His ERA is now 3.26 for the season. 

This was Tolleson's second career save opportunity and he came through once again. It's only the fourth time this year Tolleson has entered a game in the ninth inning.  


Cubs' Addison Russell knocks third home run on Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Cubs second baseman Addison Russell went 2 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-0 win over the Padres on Thursday.

For the first time in their major-league careers, rookies Russell and Kris Bryant smacked home runs in the same game, while pitcher Kyle Hendricks did his part by delivering a complete-game shutout to give the Cubs a win. Russell has hit .253/.302/.434 with three home runs, 11 RBI and one stolen base in 99 at-bats.


Blue Jays 2B Devon Travis heads to 15-day DL
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Blue Jays placed second baseman Devon Travis on the 15-day disabled list due to his shoulder injury, according to Sportsnet. 

The injury has kept Travis out of the lineup since last Saturday. It has been nagging Travis, who saw his average dip from .368 on April 27 to .271. 

With Travis going on the DL, the Blue Jays are filling his roster spot by selecting the contract of second baseman Munenori Kawasaki.


Cubs' Kris Bryant slugs fifth home run Thursday vs. Padres
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant went 1 for 4 with a two-run home run in his team's 3-0 win over the Padres on Thursday.

Bryant's homer came in the top of the first inning after leadoff man Dexter Fowler took a walk to reach first base. That extended his hit streak to 10 games, and he's managed to rack up four home runs during that stretch. Bryant has hit .289/.411/.482 with five home runs, 27 RBI and four stolen bases in 114 at-bats.


 
 
 
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