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Down on the Farm: The need for speed

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It's that time of year again.

With teams tiring of their journeyman stopgaps and no longer slaves to the arbitration clock, the gates to the majors are open wide.

Wil Myers and Zack Wheeler became the latest big-name prospects to step through them Tuesday, joining Yasiel Puig, Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole and Mike Zunino just since the start of June.

And oh, the pandemonium. The roster spots burned. The FAAB dollars spent. The fates forever altered by the actions of a fortunate few.

But that's behind us now. With so few resources still available and so few potential game-changers yet to arrive, I did the other day what any forethinking Fantasy owner would do with a free bench spot and a depleted waiver wire in a 12-team Rotisserie league.

I picked up Billy Hamilton.

He's sort of the last man standing, isn't he? Among the prospects many of us pegged as impact call-ups way back in spring training -- a group that included Myers, Wheeler, Puig, Cole, Zunino and Jurickson Profar -- Hamilton is the only one who hasn't gotten his shot yet.

Well, unless you count Oscar Taveras, Travis d'Arnaud and Dylan Bundy, but injuries have slowed their ascensions enough that you can't expect to see them much earlier than August or even September, if at all this year.

And of course, prospects such as Christian Yelich and Jonathan Singleton have since entered the discussion. Most talent evaluators don't perceive them as being as close to maximizing their potential as Hamilton, though, and their skill sets make them less assured of making an immediate impact when they arrive.

By now, we all know what Hamilton can do. He stole a billion bases last year. Or 155, whatever. He's not on pace for quite that many this season, but with 43 in 67 games, he hasn't exactly slowed down either. His .243 batting average at Triple-A Louisville may raise some concerns about his major-league readiness, but it's not as bad as it seems. Since May 9, he's batting .280 with enough walks to quiet concerns of the you-can't-steal-first-base adage.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 6/20)
Player Name % owned
1. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 50
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 45
3. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 35
4. Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles 32
5. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Blue Jays 30
6. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 30
7. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 29
8. Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles 29
9. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 28
10. Tyler Skaggs, SP, D-Backs 26

What makes his promotion seemingly all too easy is that the Reds have an opening for him. They have for months now, and they will for months more given Ryan Ludwick seemingly never-ending recovery from shoulder surgery. Xavier Paul and Derrick Robinson have done an adequate job in his absence, but neither has any business as a fourth outfielder at the major-league level, much less a starter, and both are running out of steam, with Paul batting .237 (9 for 38) and Robinson batting .212 (7 for 33) in June.

So why isn't Hamilton up already? A number of reasons. At the time of Ludwick's injury, the 22-year-old speedster was in the earliest stages of learning the outfield after playing shortstop last season and was off to a miserable start at the plate. Plus, the Reds probably felt like they could survive without him given the initial timetable for Ludwick's recovery. Now that Hamilton is up to speed and their only real hope of satisfactory production in left field for the foreseeable future -- and now that the dreaded Super Two distinction is no longer such a deterrent -- you have to think the Reds are more interested than ever in giving their top prospect his first go at it.

It's not a foregone conclusion, of course. Maybe at age 22, nothing short of a .300 batting average from Hamilton would motivate the Reds to clear a spot for him. But I have a feeling the playoff push will force the issue. The Reds have pitching coming out of their ears but can't keep up with the Cardinals offensively. Hamilton's near-mythical, once-in-a-generation-type speed will rattle opposing pitchers in a way numbers can't express. The Reds' management team of Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker will recognize it more than most. They're as old-school as old school gets.

And even if they don't, what do you stand to lose? So he eats up a roster spot for a few weeks. Considering he qualifies at one of the weakest positions in Fantasy (shortstop, remember), is virtually free for the taking on the waiver wire and could single-handedly vault you to the top of the steals category between now and season's end, stashing Hamilton is well worth the risk, provided he meets a need.

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

In a matter of weeks, Astros first base prospect Jonathan Singleton accomplished something it takes many baseball players years to do -- if they do it at all. Since late May, Singleton has been promoted from Class A to Double-A to Triple-A. He's ascended multiple levels in the minors and it took him only 17 games to get to Triple-A.

Now, if you didn't know Singleton's story, then you wouldn't know my opening is misleading and it's actually taken the 2009 eighth-round draft pick a few years to make it to Triple-A.

But, it is true he's joined the roster at Oklahoma City after missing the start of the season serving a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's drug policy, and Triple-A likely isn't his last stop in 2013.

"Why not?" Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in early June when asked if Singleton was MLBbound this season. "Maybe this will all end up with him in Houston this summer."

If Singleton didn't have to serve a suspension to start the year, then it's likely he would have joined the wave of elite prospects promoted to the majors and could already be making a Fantasy impact.

Nonetheless, Singleton is working into game shape and getting his timing down at the plate. By the look of his stat line, which is highlighted by five home runs and .642 slugging percentage in 19 games, it doesn't appear Singleton's ascent will stop until Astros manager Bo Porter pencils his name into Houston's starting lineup.

"I made this perfectly clear to Jonathan when this whole situation came about," Porter said in early June, per MLB.com. "I told him, 'Your baseball skill set is one thing, but you getting this here situation under control and behind you and making better decisions moving forward is more about Jonathan 'The Man' than it is about Jonathan 'The Baseball Player.'

"Because if we get Jonathan 'The Man' right, then we're going to get the 'Baseball Player,' but if we don't get Jonathan 'The Man' right, we will never get the 'Baseball Player.' To his credit, he has gotten Jonathan 'The Man' right, and I think the baseball part of it will pretty much take care of itself."

With Singleton taking care of business on and off the field, the Astros no longer have to guess about his future, and he's turning "Why not?" into "Why wait?"

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

Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners
Affiliate: Double-A Jackson
2013 stats: 3-7, 2.56 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .190 opponents' batting average, 84 strikeouts, 30 walks, 52 hits and six home runs allowed in 13 starts (77 1/3 innings)
We have seen the likes of Michael Wacha, Kevin Gausman and Alex Wood -- all 2012 draft picks -- speed through the minors and make their MLB debuts in 2013. Yet, Walker -- a 2010 supplemental first-round pick -- continues to toil in Double-A despite some impressive numbers. What gives? Well, Wacha, Gausman and Wood were drafted out of college, so they began their pro careers with the promise of moving fast. Walker was a high-school draftee, and while he has potential Cy Young ability, he's far from polished, which is evident by his career walk rate (3.6 BB/9). Though, Walker finally appears ready for the next step in his career -- Triple-A. He hasn't walked more than two batters in eight straight starts and has walked just one batter in his last 13 1/3 innings. It wouldn't surprise me if Walker and Danny Hultzen are both in the Mariners' rotation by season's end, but it's questionable if Walker will make a significant Fantasy impact this season. If I had the choice of stashing either pitcher in a seasonal format, then I'd make it Hultzen, despite the fact he's still working his way back from a shoulder injury.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies
Affiliate: Class A Clearwater
2013 stats: .296/.349/.565/.914, one triple, 15 home runs, 23 doubles, 41 runs, 49 RBI, 20 walks and 39 strikeouts in 64 games
Franco was the best third baseman in the first half in the Florida State League not named Miguel Sano. If Sano started the year in another league or at another level, then Franco might have been the star of the first half in the FSL. Nonetheless, what Franco accomplished was nothing short of spectacular and his star is on the rise after entering the year as the team's second-best third-base prospect behind Cody Asche. You really have to take notice because Franco's power numbers in the pitcher-friendly FSL are impressive. Franco never slugged better than .439 coming into 2013, but it appears he's finally filling out his 6-1 frame as he gets older. Keep in mind he's only 20 years old, so we could be witnessing his emergence. Franco is expected to move onto Double-A shortly and could emerge next spring as a candidate to make the major-league roster, along with Asche, if Philadelphia chooses not to bring back Michael Young, who is in town on a one-year contract.

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox
Affiliate: Triple-A Pawtucket
2013 stats (Double-A, Triple-A): .305/.399/.498/.897, six triples, seven home runs, 12 doubles, 37 RBI, 42 runs, 57 strikeouts, 36 walks and six stolen bases in 60 games
Bogarets is closer to the majors than you might think. No, it's not time to run out and add him in all formats, but it appears the 20-year-old shortstop prospect is an injury away from his MLB debut. Like many folks, it was a bit puzzling to see Bogarets promoted to Triple-A last week since Jose Iglesias has emerged as a legitimate replacement for Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew. Boston manager John Farrell clarified, while Bogarets' long-term projection remains at shortstop, he's going to work at second and third base at Pawtucket as well. Farrell said if "unforeseen things take place" and Bogarets is the "best bat available," then the team wants to make sure he's been "exposed" to the other positions. Farrell calls Bogarets a "pretty special player" and "he's well ahead of the age curve." Drew is a free agent in the offseason, so next spring we could see a pretty special shortstop battle between Bogarets and Iglesias.

Cesar Puello, OF, Mets
Affiliate: Double-A Binghamton
2013 stats: .330/.403/.604/1.007, two triples, 11 doubles, 13 home runs, 40 runs, 46 RBI, 46 strikeouts, 14 walks and 17 stolen bases in 53 games
Puello, like Franco, is enjoying a breakout campaign. It's also a bit of a career revival after Puello -- who was ranked by Baseball America as a top 100 prospect (No. 77) in 2011 -- fell off the map following an injury-plagued 2012. Unfortunately, Puello hasn't been able to enjoy his spoils lately as he has been linked in an ESPN report to the Biogenesis scandal. The 22-year-old outfielder is an intriguing prospect because he grades out at 70 for raw power on the 20-80 scale used by scouts, according to Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez (MLB.com). He said Puello's biggest shortcoming is learning the strike zone and controlling the barrel of the bat. But if Puello's breakout season doesn't turn out to be a fluke, then he could be a player making a Fantasy impact down the road. Given the horrendous state of the Mets' outfield, you wonder why Puello hasn't been promoted to the majors given his potential. Well, it seems while he might be devouring Double-A offerings, there is still a hole in his swing that would get exposed by major-league pitchers.

Albert Almora, OF, Cubs
Affiliate: Class A Kane County
2013 stats: .402/.434/.543/.978, one triple, one home run, eight doubles, 11 RBI, 16 runs, 13 strikeouts, five walks and three stolen bases in 22 games
Everyone knew Almora was good when the Cubs drafted him with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, but batting .402 in 22 games is nothing short of jaw dropping. Almora missed the start of the season with a broken bone in his left hand, but it doesn't seem the down time affected him. In fact, it seems like he feels like he needs to make up for lost time. Surely there will be debate as to who is the better Cubs' outfield prospect -- Almora or Jorge Soler -- but everyone can agree that the Cubs' long-term outfield situation looks promising, and it could get even better if Brett Jackson solves whatever has been ailing him at Triple-A. Scouts rave that Almora has more polish and better makeup than most high schoolers in recent years, and the 19-year-old outfielder isn't disappointing. Cubs president Theo Epstein is usually adamant about a prospect logging heavy at-bats at Triple-A before his pro debut, so it will be interesting to see if Almora is the player that breaks the mold.

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
Mets, Rockies still in talks for Troy Tulowitzki
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:28 am ET) The Mets and Rockies have been discussing a potential deal that would sent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to New York this offseason, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports. However, it remains to be seen how likely of a chance New York will have of acquiring Tulowitzki via trade. A source told Heyman the likelihood of a trade to the Mets appear to be "slim" at the moment.

Tulowitzki was hitting a league-best .340 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI before suffering a hip injury in the middle of the year. He has $118 million remaining over the next six seasons.


Braves in 'serious talks' with mystery team regarding Justin Upton
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:15 am ET) The Braves have engaged in "serious talks" with an unknown team regarding a Justin Upton trade, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports Friday. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports first reported that Atlanta is closing in on a deal.

According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com the Braves have had recent talks with the Athletics, Rangers and Mariners this offseason. However, the Padres appear to be the club most likely to land Upton at this point, per Bowman.

Upton is coming off a season in which he hit .270/.342/.491 over 566 at-bats. He slashed 267/.348/.478 through his first two seasons with the Braves. The 27-year-old entering the final year of his contract and is expected to make $14.5 million in 2015 before becoming a free agent.


Giants, right-hander Jake Peavy strike 2-year, $24M deal
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7:25 am ET) Right-hander Jake Peavy, who went 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA for the Giants after an in-season trade from Boston, agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal by the world champs, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman confirmed early Friday.

Peavy did not duplicate his regular-season success during the postseason, going 1-2, including 0-2 with a 12.79 ERA in the World Series. Before the trade, Peavy was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA for the Red Sox.

For his career, Peavy is 139-111 with a 3.53 ERA and 2,027 strikeouts over 13 seasons.


Report: Padres continue to talk to Braves about Justin Upton
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:15 am ET) The Padres continue to talk to the Braves about outfielder Justin Upton, according to Bleacher Report's Scott Miller.

Despite the fact that the Padres acquired both Matt Kemp and Wil Myers on Thursday, the team may not be done yet. It's unclear where Upton would fit into the team's plans, but he would be a clear upgrade over whoever the club is planning to start in center field. If the team were to acquire Upton, one of that trio would be pushed into action in center. While Kemp has experience at the position, he's not considered a strong defender. 

The 27-year-old Upton is coming off a season in which he hit .270/.342/.491 over 566 at-bats.


Report: Rangers showing interest in Brandon Beachy
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Rangers have shown interest in pitcher Brandon Beachy, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Beachy is coming off Tommy John surgery, but multiple teams are said to have interest in signing him. The 28-year-old has a 3.23 career ERA over 267 2/3 innings, but underwent his second Tommy John surgery in March. Beachy's representative, Robert Martin said Beachy has multiple offers, but doesn't believe a decision is imminent. 


Report: Athletics sending Derek Norris to Padres
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Athletics have agreed to trade catcher Derek Norris to the Padres, according to the New York Daily News.

After dealing Yasmani Grandal to Los Angeles in the Matt Kemp deal, the Padres were in need of a new backstop. It didn't take long for them to replace Grandal, as the team acquired Norris shortly after the Kemp deal went through.

Pitcher Seth Streich will also head to the Padres in the deal, according to FoxSports.com The 23-year-old posted a 3.16 ERA over 114 innings in High A last season.

The 25-year-old Norris is coming off a season in which he hit .270/.361/.403 over 385 at-bats. Norris is under team control through the 2018 season.

The Athletics are expected to receive pitchers Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez in the deal, according to Yahoo! The 24-year-old Alvarez posted a 1.25 ERA over 43 1/3 innings at Double-A last year.

Hahn, 25, posted a 3.07 ERA over 73 1/3 innings in the majors last year. He was excellent in Double-A, posting a 1.91 ERA in 42 1/3 innings before being called up.


Padres, Rays and Nationals complete Wil Myers trade
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Padres, Rays and Nationals have completed a trade that will send Wil Myers to San Diego, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The deal had been in the works for a few days, but was finally agreed to late Thursday night. Myers, 24, will head to the Padres in the deal. He hit .222/.294/.320 over 325 at-bats with the Rays last season. Myers also missed time due to a wrist injury. 

The Padres will also receive catcher Ryan Hanigan and pitchers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo in the deal. 

Tampa Bay will receive outfielder Steven Souza and pitcher Travis Ott from the Nationals. Souza, 25, hit .345/.427/.577 in 357 at-bats spread over three levels last year. 

The Rays will also receive catcher Rene Rivera, first baseman Jake Bauers and pitcher Burch Smith from San Diego.

Washington is set to acquire pitcher Joe Ross from San Diego. The team will also receive infielder Trea Turner in the deal. Turner was a 2014 draft pick, and cannot be traded until midseason, so he's currently considered a player to be named later.


Phillies to send Jimmy Rollins to Dodgers
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Phillies have completed a trade that will send shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. News that the deal was finally going through was initially reported by Yahoo!

The deal has been in place for some time, but was dependent on a separate Dodgers deal going through. The Dodgers will send pitcher Zach Eflin to Philadelphia as part of the Rollins trade, but first needed to acquire Eflin from the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal. The Dodgers and Padres finally reached an agreement late Thursday night, meaning Eflin could finally be sent to Philadelphia. The 20-year-old Eflin posted a 3.80 ERA in 128 innings at High A last year.

Rollins, 36, hit .243/.323/.394 over 538 at-bats last season. He's in the final year of his contract, and is set to make $11 million next year.


Dodgers complete Matt Kemp deal with Padres
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Dodgers and Padres have agreed to a deal that will send outfielder Matt Kemp to San Diego, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. News that the deal had finally come together was first reported by Yahoo!

The trade has been in the works for some time, but was dependent on Kemp passing a physical. It was reported early Thursday that Kemp's physical revealed arthritic hips. The Padres had to to figure out insurance on the contract, which is why it took so long for the deal to go through.

Catcher Tim Federowicz will also head to San Diego in the deal. The Dodgers will send $32 million over as well. 

In return, Los Angeles is set to receive catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitcher Joe Weiland and Zach Eflin. Eflin is expected to be flipped to Philadelphia for shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

The 30-year-old Kemp hit .287/.346/.506 over 541 at-bats last year. Kemp is set to earn a little over $21 million in each of the next five seasons. 


Rockies seeking veteran right-handers to fill out rotation
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Rockies are looking at a number of veteran right-handers to fill out the rotation, according to MLB.com.

Kevin Correia, Aaron Harang, Josh Johnson and Kyle Kendrick have all been considered by the club. With Johnson reportedly signing a deal with the Padres, that leaves the other three as options for the club. Though the team is said to be interested in all three players, it has not engaged in serious conversations with any of them. 


 
 
 
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