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Down on the Farm: Reds awaiting Tony rewards

Senior Fantasy Writer
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You guys wanted Aroldis Chapman as a starting pitcher? Well, here he is!

That (slightly edited) observation is brought to you by CBSSports.com user "kgmoney5" -- as fine a commenter as there ever was, judging by that small sample.

It was in reference to arguably the best pitcher in the minor leagues last year. I'm not talking about Dylan Bundy or Jose Fernandez. I'm not even talking about Dan Straily, who was fairly under-the-radar himself before leading the minors with 190 strikeouts last year.

I'm talking about a prospect who has for too long taken a back seat to others within his own organization, who has too long been overlooked because of his draft status, who has too long gone without a half-column singing his praises.

I'm talking about the Reds' Tony Cingrani.

If you're unfamiliar with his exploits, I'll start with the most recent. Making his second start for Triple-A Louisville Tuesday, he allowed no runs on three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

It was disappointing to some.

That's because in his season debut April 4, he struck out 14 in six no-hit innings. If you're keeping score at home, that's three hits, two walks and 21 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings at the second-highest level of professional baseball.

Maybe comparing him to Chapman is selling him short.

If a relative unknown did something comparable at the major-league level, we'd be warning you that it's just two starts and saving the half-columns for after he delivered two or three more. But in Cingrani's case, it's not just two starts. It's all he's done since the Reds drafted him in -- gasp! -- the third round of the 2011 draft.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 4/11)
Player Name Own %
1. Wil Myers, OF, Rays 80
2. Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Rangers 55
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 51
4. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers 47
5. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 43
6. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 42
7. Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles 42
8. Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets 41
9. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 36
10. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 24

In parts of three seasons, Cingrani has a 1.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. That covers 209 2/3 innings or basically a full major-league season. Rest assured, sample size isn't the concern here.

Is level of competition? Maybe to an extent. After all, only the last 101 2/3 of those innings were at Double-A or higher. But another 56 2/3 were at Class A Bakersfield of the California League, where he posted a 1.11 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings last year.

If you're unfamiliar with the California League, it's the one most known for providing hitters with Bugs Bunny numbers, leading to prospect fakeouts such as Aaron Bates, Vinnie Catricala and, yes, even Brandon Wood. It's become so well-known among prospect hounds that pretty much any conversation about a player's home run total at that level ends with "oh, but it's the California League."

That it may be, but it made Cingrani look like Sandy Koufax.

Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Scooter-pants, now you've taken the hype too far. Maybe, but only to compensate for the startling lack of hype he's received to this point.

So why the lack of hype? Like I said, Cingrani lasted until the third round in 2011, which means he was available well after the best of the best had already gone off the board, but that's mostly because he was a reliever his senior year in college, having moved out of the starting rotation after bombing there as a junior. Whatever adjustments he made to his delivery with that transition the Reds thought he could take with him back to the rotation, and to this point, he's proven them right.

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At age 24, he's not quite a finished product, but he's close. Mostly, he just needs to refine his breaking ball, but if his minor-league numbers are any indication, his fastball-changeup combination is good enough that his slider, if that's what they're calling it, only needs to be serviceable. The Reds obviously have some confidence in it reaching that point. They refused to promote Cingrani as a replacement for injured reliever Sean Marshall Wednesday just because they didn't want it to impede with his progress as a starter.

And in doing so, manager Dusty Baker more or less declared him next in line should something happen to one of their starters.

In single-season leagues, I wouldn't add Cingrani over, say, Ervin Santana, but if your options are more like Jake Westbrook and Brad Peacock, why not take a flier and hope for a Mike Leake meltdown or Johnny Cueto injury? It's not any less promising than stashing Drew Smyly.

In fact, it's probably more so. A hard-throwing lefty misidentified as a reliever early in his career only to shock and amaze when moved to the starter role is basically Chris Sale all over again.

And with that comparison, the hype is just about right.

Five on the Farm ... by Michael Hurcomb (@CBSHurc), CBSSports.com

What do Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Anderson, Jordan Zimmermann, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Jason Kipnis all have in common?

If you guessed they were former second-round picks in the MLB amateur draft, then you would be correct. If you are looking for a prize for guessing right, then I've got nothing for you except to say give yourself a pat on the back.

Keeping with that theme, this week I highlight five players taken in the second round of the 2012 draft that have the potential to be on Fantasy radars down the road.

Sam Selman, SP, Royals
Drafted: Sixth pick in second round (66th overall)
Analysis: After a turbulent start to his college career, Selman shot up draft boards after a stellar 2012 season at Vanderbilt. Selman has a fastball that can reach the high-90s and his slider is filthy. However, his changeup is a work in progress and there are still some concerns he's not completely rid of command issues that have plagued the left-hander in the past. Selman had an impressive debut in rookie ball last season, posting a 2.09 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 13 outings (12 starts). He also struck out 13.3 batters per nine innings. If he develops a third pitch, Selman might develop into a mid-rotation arm and avoid being pegged as a left-handed reliever.

Jeremy Baltz, OF, Padres
Drafted: Eighth pick in second round (68th overall)
Analysis: Baseball America projected Baltz as a fourth-to-sixth-round pick, so it was a bit of a surprise to see San Diego reach for him in the second round. Baltz clubbed 24 homers and slugged .771 as a freshman at St. Johns in 2010. Unfortunately, he didn't reach double-digit home runs the following two years after the NCAA introduced new aluminum bats. Still, he slugged .483 in 2011 and .531 in 2012, so he has power. Baltz's defense is a huge weakness, so if he makes it to the majors, it will be because of his bat. After hitting .281 in 70 games in short-season Class A last year, Baltz is batting .333 with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI through four games in low Class A this year.

Martin Agosta, SP, Giants
Drafted: 24th pick in second round (84th overall)
Analysis: Scouts rag on Agosta because of his frame (6-1, 180), but the Giants thought enough of the right-handed hurler to nab him in the second round. After posting a 5.40 ERA in his freshman season at St. Mary's (Calif.), Agosta bounced back to post a 2.81 ERA in 2011 and 2.18 ERA in 2012. He has a mid-90s fastball and good deception, but his changeup and breaking ball need work. While Agosta had decent strikeout totals in college, he's really stepped it up in his young pro career, striking out 16.1 batters per nine innings through six starts. Agosta could project better as a reliever down the road, but right now he's getting his chance to prove his future is as a starter.

Jake Thompson, SP, Tigers
Drafted: 31st pick in second round (91st overall)
Analysis: Thompson was the Tigers' first draft pick in 2012 since they didn't have a first-round pick after signing Prince Fielder, but Thompson could end up proving to have first-round talent. The Texas high schooler had a stellar pro debut. He posted a 1.91 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in seven starts in the Gulf Coast League (rookie). He also struck out 31 batters in 28 1/3 innings. Thompson was a standout pitcher and hitter in high school before Detroit lured him away from a commitment to TCU. His low-90s fastball has good movement and could be a plus-pitch. His slider has the potential to be even better and he has a good feel for his changeup. The 6-4, 235-pound hurler isn't even close to being major-league ready, but it's not difficult to see this kid has potential.

Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
Drafted: 33rd pick in second round (93rd overall)
Analysis: The 2013 season is going to be a key year for the 6-3, 195-pound Williams. Early on in his high school career, he was targeted as a first-round talent. Unfortunately, he struggled as a senior, which allowed him to slip into the second round. However, Williams adjusted to pro ball well last season. He hit .313 in 48 games and even flashed some speed on the base paths. While the Rangers like Williams' quick hands, amateur scouts knocked Williams for being too spread out at the plate and for alleged trouble recognizing breaking pitches, according to Baseball America. Well, Williams is doing his best to silence the critics. Through five games at low Class A Hickory (N.C.), Williams has three homers and is slugging .900. At this pace, it might not be too much longer before Williams starts filling out rosters in long-term keeper formats.

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
Brewers' Adam Lind dealing with back injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:23 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Adam Lind is dealing with a back injury, according to MLB.com.

Lind's back flared up while taking grounders on Thursday. He was scratched from Friday's game, and is considered day-to-day. Lind was acquired by the club during the offseason, and is expected to see significant time at first base.

The 31-year-old Lind hit .321/.381/.479 over 290 at-bats last season. 


Report: Mets' Daniel Murphy dealing with bruised hand
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:18 pm ET) Mets infielder Daniel Murphy is dealing with a bruised right hand, according to ESPN.

X-rays reportedly came back "OK," and Murphy shouldn't miss much time. Murphy was hit in the hand during Friday's game against the Tigers. He stayed in the game to run the bases, but was replaced at the start of the next inning. 

The 29-year-old Murphy hit .289/.332/.403 over 596 at-bats last season. 


Diamondbacks' Chris Owings takes batting practice on Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:10 pm ET) Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings was able to take batting practice on Friday, according to MLB.com.

Owings is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and has been limited early in camp. Manager Chip Hale said he was happy with Owings progress, and noted it was a big day for the infielder.

"Everything he's done has been right on time," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "We've slowed him down, because it's important that that swing is right. This was a huge day for him."

Owings will likely go through another round of BP before he's ready for game action. The team may also opt to give him at-bats in minor-league games before using him during actual spring training games.

The 23-year-old Owings hit .261/.300/.406 over 310 at-bats last season. He's expected to open the year as the team's starting shortstop. 


Angels' Matt Lindstrom feeling 100 percent this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) Angels reliever Matt Lindstrom is feeling pretty good after having ankle surgery last season, according to the Los Angeles Times

Lindstrom struggled with oblique and ankle injuries last season, but has drawn some rave reviews during camp. "Right now, his stuff is very similar to when he was throwing the ball well early last year," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's exciting. This guy has closer's stuff. It's just a matter of how consistent he is and if he can keep it going."

Lindstrom admitted he came back from ankle surgery too soon last year, and it impacted his numbers. He was able to rehab the injury during the offseason, though, and feels much better now. "I can tell the ball is coming out of my hand better, the way it's supposed to," Lindstrom said. "It wasn't right last year, but now, I don't have any reservations. I can concentrate on getting people out."

The 35-year-old posted a 5.03 ERA over 34 innings last season. He's competing for a role in the Angels bullpen this spring. 


Orioles sign Elih Villanueva to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:54 pm ET) The Orioles have signed pitcher Elih Villanueva to a minor-league deal, according to MLB.com.

Villanueva has played in just one game in the majors. He gave up eight runs over three innings in a start for the Marlins back in 2011. Villanueva had a strong showing in the Dominican League, leading the circuit with a 2.63 ERA.


Reds' Stephenson hoping to make an impact this season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:49 pm ET) Reds pitcher Robert Stephenson is hoping to make an impact in the majors this season, according to MLB.com.

Stephenson may not open the year in the majors, but is hoping he arrives sooner rather than later. "My goal by the end of the year is to be in Cincinnati," Stephenson said. "It's your dream growing up as a kid. It would be awesome to be there but at the same time, I want to get to a point where I deserve to be there and belong there."

Stephenson is considered the team's top prospect. He dealt with shoulder issues earlier in camp, but is cleared for action now. 

Manager Bryan Price said Stephenson has a few things to work on, but seemed optimistic about his long-term outlook. With Robert, it's command -- not necessarily throwing strikes, but the quality of the strikes," Price said.

The 22-year-old should start the year in the minors, but could earn a promotion based on how well he pitches.


Mariners' Chris Taylor homers, triples on Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:42 pm ET) Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor hit a home run and tripled on Friday against the Dodgers.

Taylor came into camp competing for the team's shortstop position with Brad Miller. While Miller likely has the upper hand, he's coming off a down season. Taylor, on the other hand, played well in the minors in 2014, and hit .287 in a brief major-league debut. It's believed whoever loses out on the starting role will be sent to the minors. 


Reds' Tony Cingrani goes two scoreless innings in debut
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:36 pm ET) Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani tossed two scoreless innings in his spring debut on Friday.

Cingrani allowed two hits in two innings of work. He walked one and struck out two during the outing. After an injury-riddled 2014, Cingrani has received a clean bill of health, and is competing for a spot in the team's rotation. 

The 25-year-old posted a 4.55 ERA over 63 1/3 innings last season. 


Athletics' Graveman tosses two scoreless innings in debut
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:20 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman tossed two scoreless innings in his spring debut on Friday.

Graveman was acquired by the club during the offseason, and is one of the few pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the team's rotation. He gave up two hits over two scoreless innings in his debut. Graveman struck out one and did not issue any walks.

Graveman came away satisfied with the outing. I thought it went well," he said. "Stuff felt good, and thought I located well today. All in all I thought it was a good first outing."

Graveman appeared in five games last season, putting up a 3.86 ERA. 


Rangers' Nick Tepesch gets crushed in first spring start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:15 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch got destroyed in his first spring start on Friday.

Tepesch allowed seven runs on seven hits over just 1 1/3 innings. He walked one and did not strike out any batters during the outing. Tepesch is competing for a spot in the team's rotation, but didn't make the best impression. It's still early in camp, and Tepesch admitted he was trying to be aggressive during the outing.

"I was just trying to attack hitters and get ahead of hitters," Tepesch said. "They took advantage of my mistakes. I didn't really have good command. They put some good swings on some balls."

The 26-year-old posted a 4.36 ERA over 126 innings last year. 


 
 
 
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