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Down on the Farm: False hope on the bench

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Remember Dylan Bundy, that blond guy with the blazing fastball who didn't allow an earned run until his ninth start last year?

Just making sure. Considering he has yet to throw a pitch in an actual game this year, I can see how you might have forgotten.

That's not going to change anytime soon, by the way. And by "that," I mean both my tendency to underestimate your memory and Bundy's absence from meaningful competition.

Plagued by elbow soreness since spring training, the Orioles right-hander recently paid a visit to Dr. James Andrews, who discovered nothing more than "flexor mass tightness." Yay for that.

So Bundy gets a shot and sits for six weeks. No big deal, right?

In the grand scheme of things, no, but when have Fantasy owners ever cared about the grand scheme? OK, maybe in dynasty leagues that emulate real life with deep rosters, full keepers, salary considerations and all that, but otherwise, they play for now.

That six-week timetable is how long Bundy will go without throwing. To get back to pitching, he'll basically need another spring training, which means he might not get back to a starter's workload until after the All-Star break, if not later. The Orioles can't afford to take any chances with their most valuable asset.

Then, he'll still have to prove he can shut down Double-A batters on a regular basis. Then, he'll probably need a few starts at Triple-A before he convinces the Orioles he's ready for more than just a late-season cameo. I don't know about you, but I get the sense he'll run out of time.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 5/2)
Player Name Own %
1. Wil Myers, OF, Rays 79
2. Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Rangers 52
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 49
4. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers 41
5. Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets 40
6. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 38
7. Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles 34
8. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates 34
9. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 34
10. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners 29

Long story short, this elbow injury makes Bundy's chances of contributing as more than a September call-up pretty slim, which makes his ownership rate of 35 percent somewhat wasteful.

Especially when you consider that regular mixed-leaguers are contributing to that number. American League and dynasty league owners cover only the bottom 10-15 percent.

With the injury, Bundy is the most obvious of what I've deemed the "prospect fakeouts" -- minor-leaguers who seemed close enough to contributing at the major-league level to merit a roster spot coming out of spring training but who don't so much anymore.

Believe me: I'm all about finding and stashing the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, but circumstances change. Based on how they have for these five, you can probably do better with your bench space in a single-season mixed league.

Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers

That trade to free up a spot for Profar never came this offseason, so where's the opening? Ian Kinsler to first base seems unlikely to me, especially since Profar is hardly forcing the issue with a .231 batting average at Triple-A Round Rock. It'll take a long-term injury to the right player for him to make a significant impact in Fantasy this year, which is too speculative for me. Brian Roberts is probably a better bet at this point.

Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals

Taveras' miraculously low strikeout rate makes him a prime candidate to click as soon as he reaches the majors, but with the emergence of Matt Adams, who can bump Allen Craig to the outfield any time the Cardinals have a need there, his path to the majors is no longer so clear. Yes, I know Adams is currently on the DL with an oblique injury, but he might only be a week a way from returning. For Taveras to be more than a late-season call-up, I'm thinking two of Craig, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay would have to suffer long-term injuries.

Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers

Puig wouldn't even rank among this group if he didn't hit .517 with three home runs and a 1.328 OPS in 58 spring at-bats, forcing the Dodgers to keep him around until the last possible moment. But his demotion was inevitable. The position where the Dodgers are the deepest is the position he happens to play: the outfield. A long-term Carl Crawford injury or Andre Ethier trade could open the door for him, I guess, but neither is the likely scenario.

Billy Hamilton, SS/OF, Reds

In theory, Hamilton should already be up and contributing with both Ryan Ludwick and his replacement Chris Heisey on the DL, but unfortunately, an early season slump has him hitting only .205 at Triple-A Louisville. His opportunity hasn't passed him by just yet -- Ludwick is out until after the All-Star break -- but he's put himself in such a deep hole that he'll have to rebound and then some to win over the Reds, which will take time. Maybe if you drop him, you keep an eye on him, but Andrelton Simmons and Erick Aybar are more deserving of your time right now.

Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets

I get that d'Arnaud was just a John Buck slump away from a promotion coming into the season, but now he's out two months with a broken foot. By the time he rehabilitates the injury and convinces the Mets he's in midseason form, we could be into August. Meanwhile, you've already let Carlos Ruiz and Russell Martin pass you by.

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

The next time you look up the word "ridiculous" in the dictionary, you might find a picture of Miguel Sano. Why you ask? Have you seen what the Twins' third base prospect is doing for Class A Fort Myers?

Through Monday, he led the Florida State league with nine home runs in 24 games, which was four more than Cubs' uber-prospect Javier Baez.

It's not like Sano has been flying under the radar. He came into the year considered a top 15 prospect by Baseball America (No. 9) and MLB.com (No. 12), but what's most impressive is that Sano's power surge is coming in a very pitcher-friendly league.

He has been nothing short of outstanding since beginning his pro career as a teenager (17 years old) in 2010. The 19-year-old prospect is slugging .753 this season and has a career .566 slugging percentage. Like most sluggers he has a high strikeout rate, but Fantasy owners and the Twins would surely deal with it as long as Sano keeps slugging away.

The thinking here is that he's going to stick with the team for most of the first half and likely be promoted to Double-A New Britian somewhere around the FSL All-Star game, which is June 15. The Twins have never been an organization to rush prospects and have been treating Sano with kid gloves since he turned pro. Also, his bat is a glaring distraction from his horrid fielding skills. Sano has already committed five errors this season after committing 42 errors at third base last season. His career fielding percentage is .890. Ouch. Finally, former major leaguer Doug Mientkiewicz is the manager for Fort Myers. Mientkiewicz is probably one of the better coaches in the Twins' organization to teach Sano about preparing for life as a major leaguer.

It wouldn't shock me, though, if the Twins brought Sano up late in the year for a taste of the majors, but his value primarily lies in long-term keeper formats. It could be another year or two before Sano makes a substantial Fantasy impact.

Now, here are five other players making news in the minors ...

Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins
Affiliate: Double-A Jacksonville
2013 stats: .267/.313/.422/.735, one triple, five doubles, eight RBI, six runs, 16 strikeouts in 10 games
I think I was like many who thought Yelich, widely considered the team's top prospect, would have been promoted to the majors in the wake of Giancarlo Stanton's hamstring injury. Alas, the Marlins recalled Marcell Ozuna. Both players started the year on the disabled list because of injuries and neither player logged many games since returning, but Ozuna was tearing up Double-A pitching and Yelich's swing isn't quite up to speed. Although, I have a sneaky suspicion that wasn't the only reason Ozuna was chosen over Yelich. The failures of Jackie Bradley and Aaron Hicks, who had monster springs like Yelich, could have scared off Miami. It's one thing for Ozuna's confidence to be shaken, but it's another to have Yelich struggle and risk never bouncing back. Miami has said all along they will be cautious with Yelich's development and will bring him up when he's ready. I can still envision a 2013 debut, however, especially if Yelich catches fire at Jacksonville, so he's still worth stashing in deeper seasonal formats.

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers
Affiliate: Double-A Chattanooga
2013 stats: .304/.381/.620/1.001, two triples, six home runs, seven doubles, seven stolen bases, 12 walks, 16 strikeouts, 16 RBI, 22 runs in 24 games
Pederson's stat line looks like something you would find in a video game with the game play setting on easy, which is exactly what Pederson is making it look like in the minors. If you never heard of Pederson up until now, don't worry. I didn't even know about him until I was in a 24-team keeper league draft this spring and had to dig deep for a list of keepers. Pederson has gone from 2010 11th-round pick to being considered a top 100 prospect by MLB.com (No. 85). Pederson is a career .313 hitter with a .518 slugging percentage in 221 minor-league games. It's not like the Dodgers have a shortage of outfielders, but right now their Double-A outfield features Pederson and Yasiel Puig. How can Dodgers' fans not get excited about that?

Nick Franklin, INF, Mariners
Affiliate: Triple-A Tacoma
2013 stats: .379/.514/.603/1.117, three home runs, four stolen bases, four doubles, eight strikeouts, 14 RBI, 15 walks, 16 runs in 16 games
When the news broke last week that Mariners manager Eric Wedge planned to platoon to Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino at shortstop, I immediately got to thinking this was just a precursor to Franklin's eventual promotion to the majors. The top 100 prospect is off to a stellar start and seems worthy of a promotion, but I'm not overly surprised the Mariners haven't made the move yet. Much like Mike Zunino, I think the Mariners are guessing at when "Super 2" status might kick in so they can save an arbitration year on some of their better prospects. The Ryan/Andino platoon isn't a long-term solution, so Franklin's MLB debut could be just around the corner. Fantasy owners in deeper seasonal formats could consider stashing Franklin on your bench.

Archie Bradley, SP, Diamondbacks
Affiliate: Class A Visalia
2013 stats: 2-0, 1.26 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 43 strikeouts, 10 walks, one home run allowed in five starts (28 2/3 innings)
Bradley might become the most famous Archie since Carroll O'Connor. Through Monday, Bradley led all minor leaguers with 43 strikeouts and was making batters in the hitter-friendly California League look like chumps. It's not like the scouts didn't feel Bradley had frontline starter potential after he was taken seventh overall in the 2011 MLB draft. However, he's already making significant strides in his young MLB career and Fantasy owners can't wait until Bradley makes it to the majors. Let's hope he doesn't forget to bring his impressive strikeout rate (10.7 K/9 in 166 2/3 innings) with him. Alas, it might be a while until Bradley makes a Fantasy impact. It's not like Arizona can't dip into its Triple-A rotation (Tyler Skaggs, Randall Delgado) for help when the time calls and surely Arizona will continue to monitor Bradley's workload, especially after Orioles star prospect Dylan Bundy has been shut down with arm problems. The Diamondbacks will make sure not to push Bradley too fast, too soon.

Rafael Montero, SP, Mets
Affiliate: Double-A Binghamton
2013 stats: 3-1, 1.95 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 35 strikeouts, three walks, one home run allowed in five starts (27 2/3 innings)
With Zack Wheeler's struggles at Triple-A Las Vegas, Montero might be the best pitching prospect in the Mets' farm system right now. In the spring, vice president of player development Paul DePodesta labeled Montero as an under-the-radar prospect. Well, that's no longer the case. Montero didn't garner a ton of acclaim as a non-drafted free agent, but he's been outstanding since turning pro. He's 19-10 with a 2.24 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 220 2/3 innings. He is striking out 8.6 batters per nine innings, but most impressive is that he's walking just 1.4 batters per nine innings. Don't be surprised if Montero makes a huge leap up the prospect rankings list this year if he continues at this pace. Unfortunately, DePodesta told the New York Daily News recently that Montero "needs more experience" and the team isn't concerned about where he's on the organizational depth chart, so maybe 2014 is a more realistic timetable to expect Montero to potentially make a Fantasy impact.

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Player News
Astros GM seeking to bolster fifth spot in rotation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:19 pm ET) The surprising start of the Astros has general manager Jeff Luhnow considering moves he wouldn't have thought prudent otherwise.

"(The early success) makes it more likely that we're going to be making moves to have an immediate payback and potentially even moves that come at a cost long-term," he told the Houston Chronicle. "The more we feel like we've got a chance to be relevant all summer and potentially relevant in October, the more we can be focused on what we can do to bolster this team."

It certainly needs bolstering in the starting staff.

"Really, the only area that's obvious is in the rotation," Luhnow added. "We probably will explore rotation adds that make sense for our team, because we've had a lot of rotating doors so far in the fifth spot."

Among those that have tried to lock down that fifth spot are Brad Peacock (disabled list), Asher Wojciechowski (demoted) and Brett Oberholtzer (injured). Samuel Deduno is the current fifth starter. The veteran right-hander performed well in his lone start, though he was lifted after four innings.


Farrell: Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli 'taking some good swings'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:04 pm ET) Scuffling Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli has received encouragement from John Farrell, who claims those struggles are not a result of a poor approach at the plate.

"He's taking some good swings, just missing some pitches," Farrell told MLB Network Radio. "When he's in the mix our lineup takes a completely different look."

Napoli has just two hits in his last 22 at-bats. It appeared he might be coming out of his slump when he slugged a three-run homer Sunday, but he took the collar Monday.


McClendon on James Paxton: 'I feel good about where he is right now'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:57 pm ET) Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton heads into Tuesday's start against the Angels coming off a very promising start against the Astros.

Paxton had a few rough outings after a strong performance in his first start April 7 against the Angels, but manager Lloyd McClendon feels Paxton is on the right track after missing time during the spring due to a forearm injury.

"I feel like he's been building since the injury in spring training. I feel real good about where he is right now," McClendon said, per MLB Network Radio.

The lefty pitcher is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in five career starts against the Angels.


Marlins announce release of C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:36 pm ET) The Marlins have released veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. A trade that had been rumored never materialized.

Saltalamacchia, who turned 30 on Saturday, might not be out of a job long. Several teams are reportedly interested in him, including the Diamondbacks, Rays and Royals.

His slow start at the plate cost him his spot. Saltalamacchia, whose production dipped dramatically last year, owns a disturbing slash line of .069/.182/.207.


Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado no longer flying under the radar
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:26 pm ET) There's no question that Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has been developing into something truly special over his first two-plus seasons in the big leagues. He's already won two Gold Gloves and he's being mentioned in early MVP talks this season.

And, although he just turned 24 years old a couple of weeks ago, his name is also being mentioned along the likes of Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki in regards to Rockies' cornerstones. But to his credit, Arenado wants to make his own name for the Colorado franchise. 

"I'm a huge fan of Tulo. I would love to be like Tulo, or Todd (Helton)," Arenado said Monday, per the Denver Post. "I would love to play like them. But those are their roads. I want to build my own road."

Arenado's stellar defense is even getting the respect from the competition in his own divsion. 

"His defense is maybe the best in the league," Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "It stinks when you're hitting and you know if you hit anything even close to him, he's going to rob you of a hit. He's a stud. He's an unbelievable player. Has some power, good strike zone judgment. He's aggressive but can be patient too. He really does everything really well."

Arenado is seeing the ball well over his last 10 games, as he enters play Tuesday batting .317 with three home runs and seven RBI in that stretch.


Nationals' Zimmermann feels good despite reduced velocity
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:24 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann didn't see his average fastball velocity dip below 93.8 mph in any of his starts last season, but he's had to deal with a reduction in velocity this season, with his fastball averaging at least 93 mph just once in his six starts, per Brooks Baseball.

Despite the dip in velocity, Zimmermann doesn't seem concerned, the Washington Post reports.

"Don’t really care about velocity," Zimmermann said Monday. "As long as I make my pitch. You can throw 85 and make your pitch and get guys out up here, as long as you execute and mix it up. I’m sure it’ll come back later in the season. It’s just down a little bit right now."

The reduced velocity has led to more contact by hitters this season. However, Zimmermann feels that he's been improved in recent starts, and he expressed confidence in all three of his secondary pitches Monday night for the first time this season.

"I feel good," he said. "It was hit or miss early in the season, but I feel good now. Fastball command is there and breaking pitches are there, so I feel good."

Zimmermann saw his fastball velocity leap to its normal level against Atlanta on April 29, but it was back down Monday, when he worked seven innings of one-run ball. He's 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA and 22:6 K:BB ratio in 34 2/3 innings. He's striking out 5.7 batters per nine innings after posting an 8.2 K/9 rate in 2014.


Nationals' Fister on reduced velocity: I'm 'dialing in the mechanics'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Doug Fister has seen his average fastball velocity dip to 87.03 mph this season after his fastball sat at about 89 to 91 mph over the last four seasons, per Brooks Baseball. Fister indicated that he needs to become more consistent with his mechanics, the Washington Post reports.

"I’m really just dialing in the mechanics," Fister said. "There’s a flash or two of where I normally am during the game, but not consistently, and that’s what I’ve gotta get to. It’s a work in progress."

Fister, who has also had some issues with his sinker, was able to pitch 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his last start.

"I was staying back a little bit better, and that was a focus. Before, I was really getting out in front and my legs weren’t coming, I was just using all arm," Fister said. "That’s been a struggle all year long, and I’ve really tried to focus on, for a week or so, trying to take care of it."

Though Fister was able to avoid walking a batter for the first time this season, he didn't see an increase in velocity in the quality performance.

"(Velocity) is something I keep in the back of my head, just to gauge where I’m at, what I’m doing, but when I’m throwing my typical 86-88 sinker anyway, it’s all about location as opposed to velocity anyway," Fister said. "Yes, I’d love to make it better, but at this point I’ve got to deal with what I’ve got and it’s something I’m still trying to continue to get stronger for the year."

Fister is 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 14:9 K:BB ratio in 31 innings.


Report: Rays lefty Jake McGee set to rehab at Durham
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:12 pm ET) Southpaw reliever Jake McGee, who is coming off elbow surgery, will join Triple-A Durham Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Times has reported. He has made two appearances in Class A and is expected to make three or four more before rejoining the Rays.

McGee, who hasn't pitched at the big league level since September, was lights-out in 2014 and considered a possible closer coming into this year. He recorded a 1.89 ERA with 90 strikeouts and just 48 hits allowed in 71 1/3 innings.


Black: C Austin Hedges will 'get playing time' for Padres
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Bud Black confirmed Tuesday that newcomer Austin Hedges will receive a significant opporunity to play behind the plate for the Padres.

"I think he makes our roster better," Black told MLB Network Radio. "Derek Norris is our catcher but Austin is going to get playing time."

Norris has certainly not done anything at the plate to warrant a decrease in work. He owns a slash line of .323/.343/.500 with two home runs and 16 RBI. Hedges has been equally impressive in Triple-A with a .343 mark and two homers in 67 at-bats.

Black offered that Norris could be moved on occasion to first base when Hedges catches.


Angels 1B/DH C.J. Cron continues to struggle in loss on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:39 am ET) After having the previous two games off, Angels slugger C.J. Cron was back in the lineup on Monday against the Mariners. He went 0 for 3 in the 3-2 loss as the team's first baseman. Cron, who broke out in 2014 with 11 home runs, has left the yard just once this season. 

Cron's struggles, which includes an underwhelming .229 batting average, has caused him to lose playing time. He has appeared in just 19 of the team's 26 games thus far, and with several other DH options at manager Mike Scioscia's disposal, Cron could be in danger of seeing even less time if he doesn't improve at the plate.


 
 
 
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