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Down on the Farm: Gausman could be here to stay

Senior Fantasy Writer
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First thing's first: You have to pick up Kevin Gausman. No need to make excuses. No reason to run through hypotheticals. Just do it.

I'll wait.

Got him? All right, now let's talk about why you had to. Sure, we can all envision ways it doesn't work out for him, but he was the first pitcher selected in last year's draft. His talent is on a different level from most every other pitcher who gets a midseason look. Among those who've gotten the call this year, he stands out as the most promising, even above Tony Cingrani and Dan Straily.

So what are the drawbacks? Well, he doesn't have much professional experience, having made only 13 starts in the minors so far. But that hasn't stopped Jose Fernandez, a rookie with a similarly deep arsenal, from making a worthwhile Fantasy contribution this year. And unlike Fernandez, Gausman has at least competed at the college level.

And unlike some other big-name pitching prospects, he doesn't suffer from a lack of command. In eight starts at Double-A, he issued 1.0 walk per nine innings without compromising his power arsenal. His fastball reaches the high 90s, and he counters it with a changeup that most scouts rated the best among all amateur pitchers last year. Take that, Trevor Bauer.

Ever been tempted by Bauer? If you're a Fantasy owner reading a prospects column, you obviously have. Gausman hasn't gotten quite the same hype, but that's mostly because he's in the same system as Dylan Bundy. Even before Bundy's elbow started acting up, Gausman was considered the closer of the two to earning a rotation spot. And now that he has one, just imagine if he keeps it.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (5/23)
Player % owned
1. Josh Rutledge, 2B, Rockies 81
2. Wil Myers, OF, Rays 73
3. Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds 57
4. Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets 49
5. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 47
6. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers 40
7. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 35
8. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates 33
9. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 32
10. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 32

This isn't me rehashing my Jurickson Profar-inspired anyone-with-that-kind-of-upside-is-worth-a-gamble argument from a few days ago. Gausman has a legitimate opening here. The Orioles have struggled to find a replacement for the injured Wei-Yin Chen, opting for Jair Jurrjens the first time through the rotation. Even if the Orioles send Gausman back to Double-A after Thursday's start (to stay well-stocked in the bullpen or whatever else), that turn will eventually come up again.

And even when Chen returns, Freddy Garcia isn't exactly a lock to keep his spot. Once the seal is broken on Gausman, he's perpetually next in line, provided he meets his end of the bargain.

"Well, a lot of good this does me now, Scott. Maybe if you had told me last week, I could have beaten my step-cousin-in-law to Gausman on the waiver wire."

Good news, my sarcastic friend with amazingly high familial bandwidth. The Orioles aren't the only organization moving to promote its top pitching prospect. Or I should say its top healthy pitching prospect. Stupid Bundy tripping up what should have been a smooth transition.

The Twins just sent down Vance Worley after his latest meltdown Wednesday at Atlanta. They haven't said Kyle Gibson will take his place, but considering he was recently in the running to step in for Pedro Hernandez before the Twins ultimately opted for Samuel Deduno, it's a legitimate possibility.

Recently recovered from Tommy John surgery, Gibson is more than ready for a major-league tryout at age 25, having proven readiness by throwing two complete-game shutouts -- a rarity in the minor leagues, particularly for top prospects -- in his last three starts. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in one.

And then there's Zack Wheeler, the most owned minor-league pitcher in Fantasy aside from the recently demoted Tony Cingrani. Just a few short weeks ago, his ascension seemed to have hit a roadblock with his slow adjustment to the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League. Turns out he just needed a mechanical tweak. Over his last three starts, he has a 1.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 19 strikeouts in 20 innings, prompting general manager Sandy Alderson to say he hopes to see him in the majors after two or three more starts.

Understand the significance of that report. It's not just Dodgers manager Don Mattingly saying the team has talked about Yasiel Puig maybe contributing at some point -- a throwaway comment that for some reason captured the imagination of Fantasy owners. It's the general manager of the Mets, the one guy who actually decides when Wheeler comes up, providing a timetable for bringing him up. That's big time.

In fact, if they were arriving at the same time, I'd actually prefer Wheeler to Gausman, with Gibson a somewhat distant third. But because Gausman gets a two- or three-week head start on Wheeler and because his value could skyrocket depending on what he does Thursday, he obviously takes priority.

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

When Diamondbacks pitcher Patrick Corbin walked off the mound following Monday's complete-game win at Colorado, it was the ninth straight start he had gone at least six innings without having allowed more than two runs.

As CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Danny Knobler highlighted Tuesday, Corbin became just the second pitcher since 1916 to begin a season having not allowed more than two runs while working at least six innings in nine straight starts, joining Ubaldo Jimenez (2010). Knobler also mentioned Justin Verlander accomplished the feat, while not at the beginning of the season, during a stretch of starts during his MVP campaign in 2011. Randy Johnson never went more than nine in a row. Roy Halladay has never reached that milestone. And the best Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has done is made it five straight starts.

It's quite the accomplishment, but it's even more fascinating because Corbin had to earn his stripes this spring. It probably seems like a distant memory, but you might recall Corbin had to vie for the final spot in the rotation this spring with Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado, who ended up in the rotation at Triple-A Reno.

The Diamondbacks not only made the right decision given Corbin's success, but Skaggs and Delgado have delivered poor results for the Aces, amplifying the Diamondbacks' choice to keep Corbin. Skaggs, who entered the season considered the Diamondbacks' top prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com, is 4-5 with a 5.23 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in nine starts, while Delgado, who was considered a top 50 prospect heading into 2012, is 1-3 with a 7.62 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in nine starts.

Luckily for the Diamondbacks, they haven't had a need to call for starting pitcher help. All five of the team's starters -- Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, Ian Kennedy and Wade Miley -- have made every turn through the rotation and Kennedy, who began the season as the team's ace, has the highest ERA at 4.70. Arizona is tied for third in quality starts (28) and tied for second in ERA for starters (3.29).

With the way Archie Bradley is tearing through the minors, he's likely to supplant Skaggs as the team's top prospect. Only problem is Bradley was just promoted to Double-A Mobile and unlikely to be on the radar if the Diamondbacks need a starter, making it imperative Skaggs and Delgado right the ship and don't take all season to make it happen. Though, Skaggs seems to be taking steps in the right direction, going 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in his last three starts.

Now, it's time for five more players making headlines in the minors ...

Drew Pomeranz, SP, Rockies
Affiliate: Triple-A Colorado Springs
2013 stats: 6-0, 3.22 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 51 strikeouts, 15 walks, three home runs allowed in eight starts (44 2/3 innings)
Pomeranz was on the fast track to the majors after being selected fifth overall in the 2010 MLB draft. Unfortunately, his career took a bit of a detour following his arrival in Colorado in August 2011 as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade with the Indians. Pomeranz went 4-10 with a 5.01 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in his first 26 MLB starts, which earned him a ticket to the minors to kick off 2013. The good news is that Pomeranz hasn't allowed the poor start to his MLB career affect his long-term projection. Colorado Springs pitching coach Dave Schuler told The Denver Post Pomeranz has "done a great job developing his changeup," and the Rockies admitted the left-hander's struggles arose because he was "rushed to the majors leagues." Luckily, Pomeranz is only 24 years old and has plenty of time to regroup. It's likely Pomeranz will be back in the majors later this summer. Jon Garland, Jeff Francis and Juan Nicasio haven't been getting the job done, so unless they make dramatic improvements, there could be openings in the rotation down the road.

Danny Salazar, SP, Indians
Affiliate: Triple-A Columbus
2013 stats (Double-A, Triple-A): 2-3, 2.33 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 56 strikeouts, 13 walks, 29 hits and one home run allowed in eight starts (38 2/3 innings)
Salazar wasn't anywhere on the radar prior to having Tommy John surgery in August 2010, but his outlook has improved since coming off surgery. He had a breakout year in 2012 (2.36 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 22 starts) and hasn't slowed down to begin 2013. In fact, he already earned a promotion to Triple-A Columbus. His numbers at Double-A (6-3, 2.26 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.8 K/9 in 13 starts) over two seasons are impressive, and he threw five scoreless innings in his Triple-A debut. Since returning from elbow surgery, Salazar's velocity has increased to the mid-90s with his fastball and can touch 100 mph. He still needs work on his secondary pitches and durability issues remain a concern. The 23-year-old hurler hasn't tossed more than 107 1/3 innings in any season since turning pro in 2007 and is averaging about five innings per start this season. It seems Salazar is putting his name in the mix to be a summer callup, but he's going to reach a point where the Indians will consider shutting him down given his history.

Erik Johnson, SP, White Sox
Affiliate: Double-A Birmingham
2013 stats: 3-2, 2.44 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 51 strikeouts, 15 walks, 35 hits and four home runs allowed in nine starts (51 2/3 innings)
Johnson entered the season widely considered the White Sox's top pitching prospect, and he has done little to disappoint. His ERA, WHIP and hits per nine innings (6.1) are all career bests. Credit the White Sox staff for Johnson's emergence. They reworked the 2011 second-round pick's mechanics to the point where he has the potential to go from a projected mid-rotation arm to a frontline starter. The revamped mechanics have provided sink to Johnson's mid-90s fastball and helped an already established slider. Johnson also throws a curveball, but the White Sox tasked him with improving his changeup in the offseason and the development of the pitch has allowed the right-hander to take another step forward in his career. Johnson will set a new career-high in innings this season after throwing 92 1/3 last year. He's likely to move to Triple-A Charlotte soon and depending on how he handles the promotion, Johnson could be in line to compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Robbie Ray, SP, Nationals
Affiliate: Class A Potomac
2013 stats:3-2, 2.42 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 64 strikeouts, 23 walks, 28 hits and two home runs allowed in nine starts (48 1/3 innings)
Striking out 11.9 batters and allowing 5.2 hits per nine innings is going to garner attention. Ray was just a blip on the radar entering the season after the left-hander went 4-12 with a 6.56 ERA last season for Potomac, but the spotlight has quickly turned his way thanks to a fast start. When rehabbing with Potomac, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman told The Washington Post Ray throws "a lot fastballs," has "a good, easy motion" and has "a chance to be really good." That's quite the endorsement coming from an established major-league All-Star. Ray said he was "put in (his) place" last year because he didn't take the opposition serious. Ray would leave his pitches up in the strike zone and aggressive hitters took advantage. The Nationals changed Ray's mechanics. He went from a low-three quarters delivery to a high three-quarters arm angle, and he added more twist to the motion. The alterations have given Ray more consistent location with his pitches and a more deceptive motion. The Nationals are loaded with pitching prospects -- A.J. Cole, Lucas Giolito, Nathan Karns, Matt Purke, Sammy Solis -- but if Ray continues down this path, he might surge toward the top of the list.

Matthew Bowman, SP, Mets
Affiliate: Class A St. Lucie
2013 stats (low Class A, high Class A): 6-0, 2.49 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 53 strikeouts, seven walks, 41 hits and one home run allowed in eight starts (50 2/3 innings)
The Mets' scouting department deserves a ton of credit for finding Bowman, who is turning into a steal after being selected in the 13th round of the 2012 draft. New York has had success finding talent in the 13th round, developing Josh Thole (2005) and Daniel Murphy (2006) into major leaguers. Bowman appears to have the makeup to be the next 13th-round gem. He draws a lot of comparisons to Tim Lincecum, given his mechanics, and the results are looking Lincecum-eque if you're looking at the Giants hurler's early career numbers. Bowman has a career 2.48 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, while striking out 9.3 batters per nine innings. His fastball mostly sits in the low 90s, and he also features a slider, changeup and curveball. The Mets love the fact Bowman throws strikes, and he doesn't have as much wear and tear on his arm because he wasn't a full-time pitcher in college, which likely contributed to the Princeton standout falling to the 13th round. Bowman, who has already progressed from low Class A Savannah to high Class A St. Lucie this season, wasn't on any of the Mets' prospects lists entering 2013, but at this rate that's likely to change heading into 2014.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyBB . You can also follow Scott at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Report: Phillies, Wandy Rodriguez agree to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Phillies and pitcher Wandy Rodriguez have agreed to a minor-league deal, pending a physical, CSNPhilly.com reports.

Rodriguez missed much of 2014 with a knee injury, finishing 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA and 20:8 K:BB ratio in 26 2/3 innings over six starts. Prior to 2014, he posted ERAs under 3.80 in each of his previous six seasons.


Orioles P Steve Johnson cleared to play catch
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(12/27/2014) Orioles pitcher Steve Johnson posted on his social media page that he's been cleared to start playing catch.

Johnson underwent surgery shortly after the end of the 2014 season to remove a large bone spur behind his right shoulder. He registered a 6.23 ERA in 47 2/3 innings at three different levels in the minors, with most of his action coming with Triple-A Norfolk. He's expected to be ready for spring training.


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The 37-year-old Furcal struggled with injuries last year, playing in just nine games. He hit .171 over 35 at-bats with Miami. Furcal went on the disabled list two separate times with hamstring issues last season.


Report: Wandy Rodriguez close to signing with the Phillies
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(12/26/2014) Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez is traveling to Philadelphia in order to take a physical, according to Phillies Spanish play-by-play man, Angel Castillo. 

If that physical goes well, Rodriguez is expected to sign with the club. The 35-year-old had knee surgery in June, but decided to pitch in winter ball in order to show major-league teams he had something left in the tank. Rodriguez posted a 6.75 ERA over 26 2/3 innings with the Pirates before he was shut down for the season. 


Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to return to Japan
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda will return to pitch in Japan next season, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. A Hiroshima newspaper was the first to have the report.

The 39-year-old Kuroda spent seven seasons in the United States. He posted a career 3.45 ERA over 1319 innings. After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Dodgers, Kuroda joined the Yankees. He remained with the organization for three seasons, but made sure his contract went year-to-year so that he could return to Japan when ready. Kuroda plans to continue his baseball career in Japan, and will pitch for the Hiroshima Carp next year. 


Report: Giants may look at versatile Rays veteran Zobrist
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Giants may look into acquiring Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist, according to Gammons Daily. 

Gammons notes that several general managers believe the club will deal prospects to acquire the 33-year-old Zobrist. San Francisco is currently slated to start Joe Panik at second, but Zobrist can play multiple positions. It's unclear where the Giants would elect to use Zobrist the most. He hit .272/.354/.395 in 570 at-bats last season. Zobrist is entering the final year of his contract, and is due $7.5 million next season.


Report: Yankees have yet to be informed of Hiroki Kuroda's plans
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Yankees have yet to be informed of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda's plans for next year, according to the New York Times.

A Hiroshima newspaper reported Kuroda will return to Japan next season, ending a seven-year run in the United States. The 39-year-old posted a 3.71 ERA over 199 innings with New York last season. Kuroda had signed one-year deals the past couple of offseasons so that he could return to Japan when ready.


1B Clint Robinson hooks up with Nationals
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(12/26/2014) The Nationals have signed first baseman Clint Robinson to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

Robinson had been in the Dodgers organization. He compiled a strong .312/.401/.535 slash line at the Triple-A level a year ago.


Report: RHP Hiroki Kuroda heading back to Japan
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is heading back to Japan, thereby ending his career with the Yankees, per various reports.

Kuroda, who will be 40 years old in February, pitched seven seasons in the major leagues, including the last three in the Big Apple. He finished 2014 with an 11-9 record and 3.71 ERA.


Astros LHP Downs, IF Petit heading to Fresno
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Astros have outrighted left-hander Darin Downs to Triple-A Fresno after having cleared waivers. 

The team has also announced that infielder Gregorio Petit has accepted an assignment to Fresno. He and Downs are set to join the squad in spring training.


 
 
 
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