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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
Astros RP Luke Gregerson earns save Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:53 am ET) Astros pitcher Luke Gregerson picked up his third save of the season during Monday's 7-5 win over the Mariners.

Gregerson entered in the ninth inning with a two-run lead and only allowed one base runner before recording the save. In addition to walking one batter, Gregerson also struck out a batter.

Gregerson has yet to surrender a run in seven innings of work this season and is a perfect 3 for 3 in save opportunities.


Astros 3B Luis Valbuena hits two home runs Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:48 am ET) Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena connected on two home runs to help lead the Astros to a 7-5 win over the Mariners on Monday.

Valbuena hit his fourth home run of the season when he connected on a solo home run off Hisashi Iwakuma during the first inning. During the eighth inning, Valbuena hit another solo shot off Danny Farquhar for his fifth homer of the season. He is now batting .244 on the season.


Mariners OF Nelson Cruz collects two hits Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Mariners outfielder Nelson Cruz continued his hot start when he drove in two runs during Monday's 7-5 loss to the Astros.

Cruz was 2 of 5 during the game, including a double in the fifth inning, which drove in Robinson Cano. He also struck out once. Cruz is not batting .358 on the season.


Astros SP Asher Wojciechowski fails to go five innings Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Astros pitcher Asher Wojciechowski was only able to pitch four innings during Monday's win over the Mariners.

Wojciechowski surrendered four runs on eight hits over four innings of work Monday. He also struck out six batters, while walking two in his second start of the season. Wojciechowski also failed to go past the fourth inning in his first start of the season. His ERA now stands at 6.00.

His next start is expected to be Saturday at Oakland.


Mariners SP Hisashi Iwakuma gives up four runs Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:44 am ET) Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma failed to get past the fifth inning of Monday's loss to the Astros and received a no-decision as a result.

Iwakuma surrendered four runs on five hits over 5 1/2 innings. He struck out three and walked three on 71 pitches. He has given up four runs in each of his three starts this season.

Iwakuma's troubles began in the first inning when he gave up a solo home run to Luis Valbuena. He also surrendered a solo shot to Colby Rasmus in the fifth inning and his ERA is now 6.61. Felix Hernandez remains the only Mariners starter with a win this season.

Iwakuma's next expected start will be Sunday against the Twins.


Athletics P Tyler Clippard earns first save of season Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) After going the first 13 games without a save opportunity, Athletics pitcher Tyler Clippard converted his first save chance of the season during the A's 6-3 win over the Angels on Monday.

Clippard entered the game with a three-run lead in the ninth inning, but walked two batters before recording the final out. He also struck out one batter. 


Athletics C Stephen Vogt hits three-run home run Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt connected on a three-run home run to help lead the Athletics to a 6-3 win over the Angels on Monday.

Vogt hit the home run off starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker in the third inning of the game. The home run was his only hit for the game. He finished the game 1 for 3 with one walk.


Athletics SP Kendall Graveman only throws 3 innings Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman started Monday's game against the Angels, but only pitched the first three innings.

Graveman started the fourth inning, but was pulled after walking the first two batters of the inning. Over three innings of work, Graveman surrendered four hits and two earned runs, while walking three batters and striking out two.

Despite only throwing three innings, Graveman was able to lower his ERA from 7.27 to 6.94, but he received a no-decision for his effort.

His next start is expected to be Saturday against the Astros.


Angels SP Matt Shoemaker struggles during Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker started to struggle during the first inning of Monday's loss to the Athletics and he never improved.

After giving up a run in the first, Shoemaker pitched a scoreless second, but ran into trouble in the third and fourth innings. Shoemaker gave up a three-run home run to Stephen Vogt in the third and failed to get out of the fourth inning after being replaced following a solo home run to Marcus Semien.

Shoemaker (2-1) surrendered five runs on seven hits over three innings. He struck out two and walked three, while taking the loss. It was the first time in his three starts this season that he failed to pitch at least six innings. His ERA rose from 4.38 to 6.46.

His next expected to start will be Saturday against the Rangers. 


Rockies' Nolan Arenado doesn't think wrist injury is serious
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado thinks he'll be able to return to the diamond for Tuesday night's game against the Padres. 

According to The Denver Post, Arenado said he started feeling soreness in his wrist just before his final at-bat against the Dodgers on Sunday. That carried over to Monday, which is why he was a late scratch in the lineup. 

“This is nothing chronic, just some soreness,” he said. “I’ve never had this before. I think I’ll be fine.”

Arenado is hitting .311 with three home runs and 10 BRI. 


 
 
 
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