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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: Red Sox, Phillies haven't made progress on Hamels' deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) The Red Sox and Phillies have not made progress on a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, according to the Boston Herald. 

The Red Sox have been mentioned as a contender for Hamels in the past, but the club is hesitant to give up their top prospects for the pitcher. Though Phillies' special assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld was spotted at Red Sox facilities on Monday, two sources told the Herald that no progress has been made on a deal. 

The Phillies are said to covet either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, but Boston has refused to include either player in a deal.

Hamels, 31, posted a 2.46 ERA over 204 2/3 innings last year.


Cardinals' Carpenter seeks to balance aggressiveness, patience
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter hopes to combine the aggressiveness he displayed in 2013 with the patience he showed in 2014, MLB.com reports.

"I've had both extremes of it," Carpenter said. "I've had it where I've led the leagues in walks [2014], and I've had where I've led the league in hits [2013]. I'm trying to search for that perfect balance where you're aggressive, but you're still patient.

"In the postseason, I felt that I was more aggressive than I had been at any point in my career, but at the same time, I wasn't flailing at balls. I didn't lose anything. Now, it's finding the perfect balance to where I'm swinging the bat, I'm being aggressive, I'm trying to do damage, but at the same time, I'm a guy who can walk a lot, get on base and set the tone as a leadoff hitter. I think that's part of growing up as a baseball player. You learn and you adapt and you continue to try to figure out who you are as a hitter."

Carpenter homered four times during last year's postseason after hitting just eight home runs during the regular season, with his first two postseason blasts coming on the first pitch of his at-bats. He's looking to capture that approach more often this season.

"I think he's a smart enough guy to do it because he knows what he does really well," hitting coach John Mabry said. "That's what you take pride in -- those guys who put in all the work to get to where they are and then say, 'I'm not happy.' They want to put in the extra work to get to that next step, the next level."

Carpenter is looking to build off a 2014 season in which he hit .272/.375/.375 with eight home runs and 59 RBI in 595 at-bats.


Mariners' Dustin Ackley to get a lot of playing time this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley will get a ton of playing time this spring, according to MLB.com.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said he wants Ackley to get off to a strong start, and will give the outfielder a lot of at-bats in March. Ackley seemed happy with the arrangement. "I think that's good," Ackley said. "The more at-bats you get, the better your timing gets and the more comfortable you feel. I think everybody wants to get at-bats and get ready."

Ackley had a tough first half of the season in 2014, but seemed to come on strong late. He stressed that being strong mentally should help in 2015. "I just need to stay consistent and don't start pressing if I don't get a hit for a couple games or don't do this or that," he said. "It's not being result-oriented and just going out there and playing and trusting in my swing and my mental standpoint."

The 27-year-old hit .245/.293/.398 over 502 at-bats last year. He's expected to open the season in a platoon role with Rickie Weeks. 


Nationals' Williams on Zimmerman: 'His athleticism is key for us'
(6:54 pm ET) After playing most of his career at third base, Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman is set to serve as the team's regular first baseman in 2015, and the team has continued to be impressed with how quickly he's learning the position, Comcast SportsNet reports.

"His athleticism is key for us," manager Matt Williams said. "He catches everything. He doesn’t miss a ball."

Zimmerman's Monday workouts had a new twist, as the team timed him to see how long he takes to get to first base after the point of contact with the ball. He also continued his work on throwing to second base, specifically gauging the positioning of shortstop Ian Desmond.

"It’s just comfort level for him," Williams said. "I’m always impressed by his athleticism and what he can do with his glove. The challenge is going to be him being comfortable over there, and the throws to second base, because it’s just backwards."

Zimmerman hit .280/.342/.449 with five home runs and 38 RBI in 214 at-bats last season.


Brewers' Taylor Jungmann taking new approach into this season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:44 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Taylor Jungmann is taking a new approach into this season, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Jungmann got off to a slow start last season, but a change in approach prompted him to reverse his fortunes. Triple-A pitching coach Fred Danby suggested Jungmann shift from the left side of the pitching rubber to the right side. Jungmann said he had always been told his stuff played better from the left side, but felt a change instantly after switching spots.

"I can’t explain it but I started throwing more strikes," he said. "My mechanics were a little more fluid. I didn’t change a whole lot; I just moved to the other side of the rubber. It felt natural. It made it a little easier to be consistent with my (pitching) motion. The biggest thing was getting my breaking ball back."

Jungmann comes into camp fighting for a spot in the team's rotation. He's already been listed as sixth on the starting pitching depth chart.


Angels' Scioscia: Kole Calhoun's 'intensity' a key strength
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) Angels manager Mike Scioscia praised the intensity and enthusiasm of outfielder Kole Calhoun Monday as part of what makes him such a valuable part of the team's lineup, MLB.com reports.

"I think part of what makes Kole a good player is his intensity," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You need that focus, that intensity to know this is real and it's how you compete. With Kole, it's in him and it bubbles out. He pumps his teammates up and he does a great job setting the tone for us."

"It's how I was raised," Calhoun said. "I'm a pretty passionate person in most everything that I do. I think at this level, you've got to be. You've got to compete on every pitch because that's your livelihood. Everyone's fighting for the same thing and you want to come out on top."

Calhoun excelled as the team's leadoff batter in 2014, hitting .281/.336/.471 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI in 448 at-bats while slotted first.


Rangers' Lewis, Gallardo to throw on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:36 pm ET) The Rangers will throw both Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo on Wednesday, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The Rangers will take on the Royals during the contest. It's unclear how long either player will throw during the outing. Both players are expected to open the year in the team's rotation. 


Padres' Black on Morrow: 'We like what we've seen'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:26 pm ET) Padres manager Bud Black has been impressed by how pitcher Brandon Morrow has handled his various ailments as well as his overall approach to the mound, MLB.com reports.

"I like his delivery, I like his arm action, I like his stuff," Black said. "First of all, I think he's got a good head. We're still getting to know him. We've only known him less than two weeks. But we like what we've seen."

Morrow has made just 16 starts across the last two season while dealing with forearm and hand injuries. As a result, he says he's begun doing a "pre-hab" program, which is "basically doing what you're doing in rehab, but doing it before you get hurt."

Morrow is competing for a rotation spot, but he doesn't look at the early portion of camp as a competion.

"The last three starts are when it will be more competition mode, I guess," Morrow said. "Right now, I'm still trying to get my arm and body in shape and easing into that. I'm not going to try and go out and blow it out in live batting practice ... Rather than just trying to strike everybody out, I'm going out there and doing some pitching. It's still the same repertoire and still mostly the same approach. But it's taking some speed off here, adding it here."

Morrow posted ERAs of 5.63 and 5.67 in his last two seasons in Toronto while battling through injuries.


Cardinals' Carlos Martinez to pitch on Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:22 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez will get the start on Thursday against the Marlins, according to MLB.com.

Martinez is expected to throw around 40 pitches during the start. The club is hoping Martinez goes two innings. Martinez prepared for the start by throwing two simulated innings against the Cardinals on Monday. Martinez, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, said he just needs to go out and perform. 

"I need to go out and perform," he said. "I'm going to keep focused and have the same mentality to do my best even though it's the first [start]. Every time I take the mound, I'm going to feel like it's the last one."

Martinez, 23, posted a 4.03 ERA over 89 1/3 innings last year. 


White Sox prospect Courtney Hawkins taking it slow this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) White Sox prospect Courtney Hawkins is hoping to make an impact for the club at some point, but he knows it won't happen overnight, according MLB.com.

"My only job is to go out every day and play to the best of my ability. That's what they got me here to do."

Hawkins feels like he has the patience to wait until his number gets called to the big leagues.

"When I first got drafted, I definitely thought that I had to get there fast. I had to do something more," Hawkins said. "I feel like right now, as long as I do what I'm supposed to do and play the game I know I'm able to play and they know I'm able to play, I feel like it's going to come on its own, and that's what they wanted out of me.


 
 
 
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