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Down on the Farm: Prospects I like more than you

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Among baseball enthusiasts, most of the prospects discussed in Down on the Farm are already well-known. Wil Myers is pretty much a household name. Jurickson Profar didn't catch anyone by surprise. And when aren't the Mets talking about Zack Wheeler?

Typically, I use this space to tell you how those players are performing, what obstacles stand in their way, when they might arrive and what you can expect from them when they do. But if you play in a league of any real size, I'm not introducing them to you.

And if I am, it's a problem.

I can't do what the scouts do. What I can do is interpret their findings for Fantasy owners, which is pretty much what I just described.

In the interest of full disclosure, though, I must admit I'm sometimes forced to play scout. In my dynasty leagues, as I'm sure is true in some of yours, the number of rostered minor-leaguers extends beyond the first or second tier of prospects that appear on all the preseason rank lists and into the third tier, where not even the scouts can agree on which players stand out. And I'd be lying if I said I hadn't developed a few favorites among that group, often going the extra mile to acquire them in those leagues.

With that in mind, I give you the first edition of the prospects I like more than you do. It's not the most academic list, but it's fun, honest and hopefully somewhat credible. Case in point: If I had made it last year, Tony Cingrani would have been at the top.

Really. He would have. I swear.

Of course, you'll never believe me without documented evidence. Let's see if I can do it again.

Rafael Montero, SP, Mets

Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler have gotten all the headlines, but Montero was the Mets' pick for minor league pitcher of the year last year, and so far this year, he's been even better. He doesn't boast the high-90s fastball of so many of the game's top pitching prospects, but he's no soft-tosser and has an impressive enough secondary arsenal to average more than a strikeout per inning. And best of all, he commands it, issuing a Cliff Lee-like 1.5 walks per nine innings over three minor-league seasons. You may not be able to afford Wheeler, but Montero could surprise if the Mets clear rotation space for him in the second half.

Brad Miller, SS, Mariners

Miller has played second fiddle to Nick Franklin throughout his time in the Mariners organization, but of the two middle infielders, he was the one who stuck around longer in spring training. So why did the Mariners pass him over for Franklin? Well, their opening was at second base, not shortstop, and they see Franklin as a better fit for that position long-term. But with Brendan Ryan hitting only .215 in the majors, you could argue they'll have a need at shortstop soon enough. Miller doesn't have big power or speed potential, but he's a gritty player (did I really just say that?) who does a little of everything. I'm hoping for Matt Carpenter-type production whenever he arrives.
Most Owned Minor Leaguers (6/12)
Player % owned
1. Wil Myers, OF, Rays 81
2. Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets 73
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 44
4. Josh Rutledge, 2B, Rockies 37
5. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks 36
6. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 35
7. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 34
8. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 30
9. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 29
10. Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles 29

Rafael De Paula, SP, Yankees

So far in his first season of legitimate minor-league ball, De Paula has been nothing short of untouchable. He's surrendering 5.5 hits while recording 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings -- ratios you might expect from a top closer prospect, but not a starter. Granted, with the start of his career having been delayed by identity issues, he's a 22-year-old beating up on significantly younger competition, but even if his performance is somewhat misleading, he's at least proven he has great stuff, which is something you can't teach. The Yankees will take their time with him, but if you want to get in on the ground floor on a high-upside player, De Paula is the perfect find.

Alex Wood, RP, Braves

I'm cheating a little on this one. Wood is already in the majors, but not in a role that would cause Fantasy owners to take notice. The Braves needed him in middle relief with fellow lefties Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty recovering from Tommy John surgery. CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Danny Knobler has described Wood as being on the Chris Sale plan, meaning he's expected to start next year with Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson likely out of the picture. The knock on Wood (get it?) entering the year was his lack of a breaking ball, but with the help of Venters and Craig Kimbrel, he developed a curveball this spring that allowed him to post a 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and a strikeout per inning in 10 starts at Double-A before his promotion.

Arismendy Alcantara, SS, Cubs

With Starlin Castro locked in at the major-league level and Javier Baez working his way up the minor-league ladder, the Cubs are seemingly overloaded at shortstop. But with neither player considered a defensive standout, the Cubs could still make room in their future lineup for Alcantara, who has begun to put up impressive numbers after an underwhelming start to his minor-league career. His power and patience have improved as he's worked his way up the ladder, to the point he's on a near 20-homer pace at Double-A, with an on-base percentage about 80 points higher than his batting average and an .842 OPS. And speed just so happens to be his best tool.

James Nelson, SP, Brewers

Not wanting to mess around with their 40-man roster too much, the Brewers have resorted to one uninspiring option after another in their starting rotation. But at age 24, if Nelson continues to do what he's been doing, he'll eventually force the issue. At least now he's at Triple-A after overpowering Double-A with a 2.74 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. A hard-thrower with a good sinking fastball, Nelson has significantly improved his control this year, which is important since he gives up a fair number of hits for a high-strikeout guy. He won't be an ace for the Brewers, but at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, he'll be a horse.

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
Report: Orioles in 'continuous dialogue' with pitcher Chris Tillman
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) The Orioles and pitcher Chris Tillman are reportedly engaged in "continuous dialogue" for a long-term extension and have been for the past several weeks, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Tillman signed a one-year, $4.315 million deal in January to avoid arbitration and the discussions for a new deal are still considered preliminary, according to the report.

Tillman posted a 13-6 record in 2014 with a 3.34 ERA in 34 starts.


Tigers bullpen decision coming down to Ian Krol, Kyle Ryan
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is running out of time to finish off his bullpen for Opening Day. The final bullpen role will likely be a left-handed pitcher and is expected to come down to Kyle Ryan and Ian Krol, according to MLB.com.

"If I'm there, hopefully it's a good situation, whether it's long or short," Ryan said. "For them to have enough confidence in me to go into Spring Training as a reliever, and actually for them to believe that I might be able to make the team as a reliever, that makes me proud."

Ryan has given up seven runs on seven hits in 11 innings of work this spring. 

"When he throws it right, it's good," Ausmus said of Krol. "He has a tendency to occasionally slow his arm down on his cutter and curveball. He did it a couple times today. But when he doesn't slow his arm down, it's very good."


Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson continues to make his case
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson still doesn't know what his role will be when Opening Day rolls around, but he's showing he belongs on the roster, reports MLB.com.

"There's always stuff I need to work on, and I need to continue to impress," Pederson said after launching his fifth home run of the spring Saturday, boosting his batting average to .373.

Manager Don Mattingly remains quiet on what he will do when the decision has to be made, but Pederson is doing what he can to impress.

"[Opening Day] is out of my control," Pederson said. "It's something you dream about as a kid, playing in the big leagues, and you do anything you can to make that dream come true."


Angels P Matt Shoemaker gives up three runs in loss to Dodgers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) After pitching six scoreless innings in his last start, Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker struggled a bit in the team's 5-4 to the Dodgers, reports MLB.com.

Shoemaker gave up three runs on four hits in six innings, striking out two. One of the hits he surrended was to Joc Pederson on a two-run homer.

The 28-year-old completed last season with a 3.04 ERA, 124 strikeouts and only 24 walks.


Reds third baseman Todd Frazier feels ready for Opening Day
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Reds third baseman Todd Frazier feels his swing has come back and is ready to tackle the long haul ahead of the regular season, reports MLB.com.

"It comes quick, like usual," Frazier said on Saturday morning. "I get goose bumps thinking about it right now -- another year, it's crazy."

Frazier struggled early in spring training, but has rebounded to go 8 for 23 in his last seven games.

"I hit in the Minor Leagues for about 10 at-bats [on Friday], just to try and feel it back-to-back. I do, and I feel really well," said Frazier, who is batting .262 in 14 games this spring. "I feel like if I had to play tomorrow [in the regular season], I'd be ready to go. It's all about preparation, and offseason stuff. I feel like it's so far, so good."


Angels OF Mike Trout homers in loss to Dodgers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Angels outfielder Mike Trout homered in Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Dodgers, reports MLB.com.

Trout, 23, robbed the Dodgers' Alex Guerrero of an extra-base hit in the first inning, making it a successful day for him, despite the loss. 

This spring he has a batting average of .477 with four home runs and 14 RBI. 


White Sox hope to have Robertson, Petricka back by Opening Day
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Two key members of the White Sox bullpen are working their way back from forearm injuries, but manager Robin Ventura is confident he'll have both back by opening day. 

Closer David Robertson is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. 

"We're trying to make sure we’re extra careful with him," Ventura said, per Comcast's Dan Hayes. "He doesn’t seem to be concerned about it as much as we do."

Setup man Jake Petricka isn't as far along as Robertson. He played catch on Saturday for the first time in five days.

The Sox are taking it slow, so that the team will have both pitchers for Opening Day as well as the rest of the season. 

"You’re just making sure you’re cautious enough that you feel good about when (they go) out there that there won’t be any setbacks,” Ventura said. 


Indians pitcher Zach McAllister fans nine in outing Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Indians pitcher Zach McAllister went five innings Saturday against the Brewers, allowing two runs on six hits with nine strikeouts. McAllister, who is expected to make one more start before Opening Day, touched 97 mph with his fastball in the appearance, according to Cleveland.com.

"He's been impressive and he's been doing it all spring," said Francona. "He's not just throwing strikes, he's down in the zone when he wants to and then he can elevate with some velocity. I think his hard work is really paying off."

McAllister has felt he always had the added velocity.

"Throughout my career I've always felt I've had a little more (velocity) in there if I could maintain it," said McAllister. "For whatever reason, whether it's being more consistent with my delivery or my arm action, I'm just trusting that when I let it go it's going to go where I want it to go. I'm not trying to place anything."


Pirates Pedro Alvarez looking to stick at first base
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez is hoping to stick at his new position after converting from third base, reports triblive.com.

On opening day, Alvarez will be the team's 54th first baseman in its 129-year history.

“It's a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view,” Alvarez said. “I need to get the reps in so the responsibilities that come with playing that position become second nature to me.”

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington talked about the team's past efforts of platooning the position.

“You can't develop something you don't have. You can't buy something you can't afford,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “That's why we've tried to platoon. Over the last couple of years, we've realized that's a challenge for a National League manager. Platoons are much harder here than they are in the American League, especially with a one-dimensional player who can only play one position.”

The hope around the organization is that they can get quality production from Alvarez.

“Our hope that is between Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart, we'll get quality major league production,” Huntington said.

The 28-year-old is batting .306 with two home runs, nine RBI and eight strikeouts this spring.


Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton can't find a rhythm Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton tossed six innings Saturday against the Blue Jays, allowing six hits, including two home runs and no strikeouts. Morton, who is fighting for a spot in the starting rotation, is still recovering from labrum surgery six months ago.

"Physically, Charlie is in a good place," manager Clint Hurdle said to MLB.com. "He is trying to make some mechanical adjustments in his delivery, but we don't have any health concerns about him."

Morton isn't worried about fixing mechanical issues just yet.

"Now is a tough time to put a lot of emphasis on mechanics," said Morton. "I gotta go pitch, adjustments or no adjustments."


 
 
 
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