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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
Rafael Montero demoted to Las Vegas
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:33 pm ET) The Mets have disaptched rookie right hander Rafael Montero to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room on the roster for Jacob deGrom.

Montero struggled to find consistency in the rotation. He managed three quality starts, but was pounded for 13 runs in 13 innings in his other three starts combined.


Yankees consider six-man rotation when Masahiro Tanaka returns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:29 pm ET) The Yankees could utilize a six-man rotation upon the return of right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, per ESPN. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild indicated that arrangement could continue through 2015 as the team looks to protect Tanaka and his ailing elbow.

"We are going to look at every avenue possible," Rothschild said. "It doesn't mean we are going to do it."

Rothschild added that the Yankees could use a six-man rotation not just to protect Tanaka, but his other starters in the wake of the epidemic of arm problems in the major leagues.


Tigers promote two southpaws from Toledo
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) The Tigers have promoted left-handers Kyle Lobstein and Patrick McCoy from Triple-A Toledo in time for the Saturday doubleheader opener in Minnesota.

The latter gave up four runs on eight hits in seven innings during an earlier stint with the big league club this year. Lobstein has yet to make his major league debut.


Ian Krol demoted to Triple-A
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:16 pm ET) The Tigers beleaguered bullpen took another twist with the demotion of Ian Krol to Triple-A Toledo.

Krol has yielded four runs on seven hits in his last five innings and owns a 4.97 ERA on the season.


Robbie Ray sent back to Toledo
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Tigers starter Robbie Ray was demoted to Triple-A Toledo after he took a pounding Friday night in Minnesota.

Ray has surrendered 20 earned runs in his last 14 1/3 innings pitched covering four outings.


Jacob Turner in, Edwin Jackson out of Cubs rotation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:06 pm ET) What was suspected is now official: Jacob Turner is set to start Wednesday for the Cubs. He is replacing struggling Edwin Jackson in the rotation.

Turner has pitched two games out of the bullpen since the trade that brought him from Miami. He has been battered this season to the tune of a 4-7 record and 5.77 ERA. Jackson has been a mess for months. He is 6-14 with a 6.09 ERA.


Justin Ruggiano sidelined with ankle ailment
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:56 pm ET) Cubs outfielder Justin Ruggiano has been scratched from the Saturday lineup against the Orioles with left ankle soreness.

Ruggiano has hit safely in the last six games in which he has started.


Odrisamer Despaigne: Hitters have adjusted against me
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) Padres rookie starter Odrisamer Despaigne has admitted that hitters have made an adjustment against him, resulting in some tough outings.

Among them was Friday night, when he surrendered three runs on five hits in five innings in Arizona for his second straight loss. Despaigne has yielded 20 earned runs on 39 hits in his last 31 innings pitched covering six starts to raise his ERA from a sparkling 1.31 to 3.44.

"The first five starts, hitters had no idea about me," Despaigne told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I was the new guy. The last six of them, it's been different. Guys are making more adjustments, seeing me the second time, getting a better idea of how I like to work."

Despaigne found success in his early starts releasing the ball from several different arm angles.


Travis Snider raking while Gregory Polanco learning
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:42 pm ET) Travis Snider has continued to take away at-bats from far-more-ballyhooed Pirates rookie Gregory Polanco.

Despite an 0-for-5 night on Friday, Snider has earned the playing time. He owned an 11-game hitting streak previously in which he had six multi-hit games, scored seven runs and rose his batting average from .242 to .277. Polanco, on the other hand, has just one hit in his last 27 at-bats.

"Snider's been torrid," Clift Hurdle told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday. "Thirty-five games left, another day, another opportunity for Polanco to get some work done. The good side of it is when we've  had some time to settle him down a little bit, when he has been back plugged in he's been very fresh and usually shows a lot of improvement."

Hurdle added that he wants Polanco to revert to the swing that proved successful upon his promotion from the minors. He began the season on an 11-game hitting streak that vaulted his average to .365 and allowed him to score 11 runs.

"I think we're trying to show him the fact once his front foot hits, that his hands are set in a position," Hurdle said. "There's been, I think, a little more movement than necessary with his hands. ... Sometimes you don't know whether it's fatigue, whether it's anxiety, whether it's the ptiches, but they're pitching him up a lot more. That's no secret. He's doing a lot more up-chasing than he had done when he first got here."


Michael Taylor dispatched to Syracuse
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:25 pm ET) Right fielder Michael Taylor has been demoted by the Nationals to Triple-A Syracuse to create a roster space for Nate Schierholtz.

Taylor managed three hits in 18 at-bats during his brief stint with Washington and is expected to return sometime soon.


 
 
 
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