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Down on the Farm: Spring into action

Senior Fantasy Writer
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This year's most impressive minor-leaguer is the 30th-most owned in Fantasy.

It's a subjective term: most impressive. No doubt, several players have wowed us with their dismantling of the lower levels to this point.

But every year, one in particular emerges with numbers so impressive and a path so projectable that he becomes the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams.

You remember who that player was last year, don't you? Wil Myers, with his 37 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, became the one hitter every Fantasy owner yearned to see in the big leagues, just as Dylan Bundy, with his 30 shutout innings to begin his minor-league career, became the one pitcher. Nobody articulated it, but everybody knew.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 6/27)
Player % owned
1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 58
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 43
3. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 41
4. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 39
5. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 37
6. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 32
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 29
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 28
9. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 28
10. Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles 26

And what should everybody know this year?

That George Springer, with his 19 home runs a little more than halfway through the season, is the bomb diggity.

Granted, he's not the only minor-leaguer putting up big power numbers so far, but unlike Joey Terdoslavich and Xavier Scruggs, he comes with a top prospect pedigree, making his performance a little more believable.

It's also multi-dimensional. Not only is Springer homering every time you turn around, but his 23 steals also rank among the minor-league leaders. And his 42 walks in 273 at-bats give him a near-.400 on-base percentage.

Yup, those Matt Kemp comparisons are right on the money so far.

And it's not like he's achieving such heights against a bunch of teenagers who still haven't learned to throw a breaking pitch. Given the number of journeymen littering Triple-A, you could argue Double-A actually features the minor leagues' best talent. And Springer showed his performance was no fluke against the best of the best, capping off his time at Double-A with two homers in the Texas League All-Star game Tuesday night.

That's right: capping it off. The Astros have already announced he'll kick off the second half at Triple-A Oklahoma City, putting him just one step away from the big leagues.

The question, then, is why? Why do Fantasy owners, ever infatuated with the next big thing, care so little about a prospect with so much going for him?

Maybe they've finally taken my fixation with strikeout rate to heart, pointing to Springer's 96 strikeouts in 273 at-bats this year as the reason he's not ready.

Maybe, but I doubt it. Myers' 140 strikeouts in 522 at-bats last year didn't scare anyone away.

Maybe they're burned out on prospects after waiting so long for Myers' arrival and enduring the disappointing debuts of Kevin Gausman, Zack Wheeler and Mike Zunino.

Maybe, but I doubt it. Zoilo Almonte is currently the most added player in Fantasy as the latest thing to arrive from the minors, and he's not even really a prospect.

OK, so maybe they're all just smarter than I realize.

Oh?

Yeah, maybe. Didn't we suffer through this same ordeal last year with Myers, waiting around for a rebuilding club to give the minor leagues' most impressive prospect a call? And it never happened, right? With winning no longer a priority for them at that stage of the season, the Royals recognized he had more value as (potentially) an overachieving minor-leaguer than (potentially) an underwhelming call-up.

That scenario seems even more likely in this case. In my 20 years following baseball, I've never seen an organization more committed to the rebuilding process than these Astros, who seem to weigh every move with the future in mind and without getting sidetracked by cheap thrills or meaningless winning streaks. It's the reason I don't see them calling up No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel this year either.

Jonathan Singleton is a different story because they've pretty much said they'll promote him at some point, but promoting Springer before they're completely sure he's ready can only hurt them by stunting his development or sticking him with service time too soon. If he ends up being more than ready, so what? They're losing now anyway. He can marinate. From their perspective even more than yours, that strikeout rate is legitimate reason for doubt.

So yeah, maybe that's it. Maybe the masses don't need some schlub like me telling them which players to stash.

Maybe, but I doubt it. Just look at Oscar Taveras. Between the recurring ankle injury and the underwhelming production at Triple-A, he's not coming up anytime soon, yet he's the second-most owned minor-leaguer at 44 percent. Outside of keeper leagues, he's not so worth stashing anymore.

Mostly, it's the disparity between him and Springer that bothers me. No, I don't really expect Springer to make a Fantasy impact this year, but the same goes for most of the 29 minor-leaguers owned in more leagues than him. At least for Springer, a promotion is possible. For Miguel Sano and Jameson Taillon, not so much.

So if you're plodding along with a lost-cause minor-leaguer on your bench just to give yourself a chance at a big splash, consider swapping him out for Springer. He's the bomb diggity, after all.

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

The Astros succeeded where the Pittsburgh Pirates could not -- by signing highly touted prospect Mark Appel.

A year after turning down a $3.8 million signing bonus from the Pirates and returning to Stanford, Appel improved his draft status -- ending up as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft -- and his bank account, landing a $6.35 million bonus from the Astros, according to Baseball America.

Due to his quick signing, Appel is on track to make his pro debut in early July and leave the door open for his MLB debut later this summer. But Fantasy owners shouldn't begin having delusions of Appel making a significant Fantasy impact in 2013.

It's not unheard of these days for a draft pick to make his MLB debut months after his selection. One of the more notable players to have done it is White Sox hurler Chris Sale, who made his MLB debut Aug. 6, 2010 nearly two months to the date after being drafted 13th overall. However, all of Sale's 11 appearances in the minors in 2010 were in relief, which is exactly the role he filled once promoted to the majors.

Appel is slated to be used as a starter at short-season Class A Tri-City once he's done with his throwing program in Florida. The Astros could give Appel a taste of the majors late in the year, but a lot depends on how he performs in the minors and how many innings he tosses.

Appel threw 106 innings for Stanford this season. Sale threw 103 innings for Florida Gulf Coast in 2010, which was part of the reason Chicago limited him to a relief role once his pro career began. The White Sox didn't want to put too much stress on Sale's arm after logging heavy innings in college, and you better believe after the investment the Astros made in Appel that they will proceed with caution as well, especially since a playoff berth isn't in reach. The 2010 White Sox had a chance at the playoffs, which was why Sale was fast tracked to the majors as a reliever.

"Drafting and signing Mark Appel was a top priority for our organization this year," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We are an organization focused on winning championships in the future and we expect Mark to be a big part of that effort."

Lunhow gave a pretty strong indication Appel's impact is "in the future," and he likely doesn't mean immediate.

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

Taylor Jordan, SP, Nationals
Affiliate: Double-A Harrisburg
2013 stats (Class A, Double-A): 9-1, 1.00 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 72 strikeouts, 15 walks, 68 hits and one home run allowed in 15 outings (90 1/3 innings)
Jordan is Brad Peacock 2.0 in that their careers are following a similar path. Much like Peacock, who was a former Washington farmhand, Jordan's career was going nowhere fast until a breakout run in the minors. Peacock's happened in 2011 after he made some changes to his delivery. Jordan's is happening the further he gets away from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in 2011. Jordan had an "excellent offseason," according to Nationals director of player development Doug Harris (per MASNsports.com), and his success in 2013 has been fueled by his sinker. He's now expected to be the latest rising prospect to make his MLB debut as he takes over in the Nationals' rotation for the injured Dan Haren (shoulder). Though, Fantasy owners should merely view Jordan as a potential stopgap option. Even if he succeeds for Washington, he's already up to 90 1/3 innings and has never pitched more than 94 1/3 innings as a pro. And don't forget this is also his first full season back after having Tommy John surgery, and we've seen how careful the Nationals were with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann coming off the same procedure. Jordan is going to be shut down at some point, so it's probably not wise to make a major investment in the right-hander.

Bubba Starling, OF, Royals
Affiliate: Class A Lexington
2013 stats: .222/.302/.372/.673, one triple, seven home runs, 12 doubles, 33 RBI, 31 runs, 23 walks, 77 strikeouts and nine stolen bases in 65 games
It was just a few weeks ago Royals general manager Dayton Moore told MLB.com, "Bubba's doing great." You take a quick look at Starling's stat line and you start to wonder what player Moore is evaluating. Apparently, Starling -- the fifth overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft -- is on track with his development despite the rough season at Lexington. Although, Starling was having vision problems earlier this season, which led to Lasik eye surgery in May. He's batting .254 with one home run and 10 RBI in 18 June games, so it's not like he has seen a dramatic improvement since having the eye procedure. But Moore and the Royals are preaching patience with the gifted athlete. Moore said once Starling gets to "1,500 at-bats in the minor leagues, we will start evaluating where he is and where his timetable is." Starling is only at 434 at-bats through 118 pro games, so it appears the top 100 prospect is still a few years away from a Fantasy impact.

Mike Olt, 1B/3B, Rangers
Affiliate: Triple-A Round Rock
2013 stats: .199/.300/.410/.710, eight home runs, nine doubles, 22 RBI, 31 runs, 23 walks and 56 strikeouts in 42 games
Starling wasn't the only top prospect having vision problems this season. Olt missed several weeks dealing with an undisclosed vision problem, but he's back to his power-hitting ways since the issue cleared up. After batting .333 with one home run, two doubles and two RBI in three games for Double-A Frisco, Olt rejoined the Round Rock lineup in early June and is batting .250 with five doubles, seven home runs and 16 RBI in 22 games since his return. The Rangers don't have an opening for everyday at-bats for Olt, who has only played third base and DH this season. Though, the team probably wants Olt -- who is considered a top 25 prospect by MLB.com (No. 22) and Baseball America (No. 22) -- to get more at-bats in the minors to make sure he's past his eye issue in case the Rangers need a power bat as the AL West playoff race heats up later this summer.

Rosell Herrera, SS/3B, Rockies
Affiliate: Class A Asheville
2013 stats: .353/.428/.567/.995, 13 home runs, 20 doubles, 51 RBI, 54 runs, 58 strikeouts, 36 walks and 17 stolen bases in 71 games
Herrera drew some excitement as an international free agent in the summer of 2009, but the hype quickly disappeared after he struggled to transition to pro ball. Well, the enthusiasm is back as Herrera is in the midst of a breakout season at Asheville. Herrera came into 2013 with just eight home runs and 20 doubles in 173 games since coming stateside in 2011, but his emergence could be legit. He was expected to hit for power once he filled out his 6-foot-3 frame, and it seems to be coming to fruition for the 20-year-old infield prospect. Luckily for Herrera his offensive game is starting to blossom because his defensive game remains a work in progress. He's committed 20 errors at shortstop this season and has a .918 fielding percentage in 54 games, which is right in line with his career .925 fielding percentage. The Rockies have no need to rush Herrera with Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado manning the left side of the infield. Therefore, he will get plenty of time to improve defensively.

Gabriel Ynoa, SP, Mets
Affiliate: Class A Savannah
2013 stats: 8-2, 2.77 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 63 strikeouts, nine walks, 62 hits and seven home runs allowed in 12 starts (74 2/3 innings)
The Mets' current outlook might not be so pleasant, but the future looks bright, especially when it comes to pitchers. The New York rotation could one day feature Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. And the talent doesn't stop there. Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Luis Mateo, Michael Fulmer and Domingo Tapia are just a few more names that could one day have a chance to make the Mets' pitching staff. Well, the talent pool is getting a little deeper thanks to Ynoa, who probably won't be an overlooked arm anymore. The 20-year-old hurler is having another outstanding season in the minors, improving his career stats to 20-10 with a 2.51 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 279 2/3 innings. Ynoa isn't a great strikeout pitcher (6.1 K/9), but he has great control (1.0 BB/9) and doesn't get hit around (7.8 H/9). Baseball America called Ynoa the Mets' "top sleeper pitching prospect" and the Dominican right-hander seems to be living up to the hype.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Yankees veteran Mark Teixeira seeking strength in offseason
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Yankees aging first baseman Mark Teixeira has lamented what he called a "bad season" and plans on improving his upper-body strength before next year.

Teixeira batted a career-low .216 (aside from 2013, when he had just 53 at-bats), though he did rack up 23 home runs and 62 RBI in 440 at-bats. He told ESPN that he was negatively affected coming off a right wrist injury. But he added that he needs to get stronger if he wants to rebound.

"I didn't realize how weak I was upper-body," he said. "I'm trying to be working a lot harder. That will be my adjustment this year."

Teixeira will turn 35 years old on April 15.


Report: Inquiries pouring in for Blue Jays 1B/DH Adam Lind
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:22 am ET) Fresh off a season in which he batted .321, Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind is receiving plenty of attention in the trade market, according to the Toronto Sun.

Lind totaled six home runs and 40 RBI in 2014. "I hear the Blue Jays are getting a lot of interest on Lind and not just from American League teams," an executive told the Sun.

He started 47 games at first base and 36 at designated hitter this season. His limited skills as a position player makes interest from NL teams a bit of a surprise. What is not a surprise is that teams are intrigued by his contract situation. The Jays will likely pick up his 7.5 million option for 2015 and, if he performs well, his $8 million option for the following year.

The Jays also have an option on Lind for 2016 at $8 million.


Royals C Salvador Perez homers in Game 1 World Series loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Royals catcher Salvador Perez went 1 for 3 with a solo home run in his team's 7-1 loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Perez struck the only blow the Royals could manage on offense, finally getting a run off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner after he allowed only two hits through six scoreless innings. By the time of Perez's bomb, the Royals were dug in a hole from which they couldn't escape. It's a rare sign of life from the catcher's bat, as he's hit just .135/.158/.216 in 37 postseason at-bats despite the Royals racking up win after win in the first three rounds.


Giants' Pablo Sandoval drives in two in Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval went 2 for 5 with a double and two RBI in his team's 7-1 win over the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Sandoval opened and closed the scoring for the Giants in the win, delivering an RBI double in the top of the first inning (and later scoring on a Hunter Pence home run) then adding an RBI single in the seventh to push the lead to 7-0. While he has yet to deliver a home run this October, Sandoval has been hard to conquer at the plate, hitting .333/.396/.438 in 48 postseason at-bats.


Giants OF Hunter Pence homers in Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence went 2 for 3 with two walks and a two-run home run in his team's 7-1 win over the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Pence delivered a monster blast to center field in the first inning to put his team up 3-0, and the Royals would have little answer for another excellent performance by Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. It was the first home run of October for Pence, who has hit .286/.388/.452 in 42 postseason at-bats.


Madison Bumgarner allows one run in Giants' Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner earned a win in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, allowing just one earned run on three hits and one walk in seven innings while striking out five in his team's 7-1 victory over the Royals.

Bumgarner (3-1) continued to look excellent fresh off winning the NLCS MVP award. He fired six scoreless innings and was up 7-0 before surrendering a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Bumgarner has delivered a 1.40 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 33:6 K:BB ratio in 38 2/3 postseason innings spanning five starts. He'll get the ball in Game 5 Sunday if the Royals can avoid a sweep. Game 2 is set for Wednesday in Kansas City.


James Shields comes up short in Royals' Game 1 World Series loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Royals pitcher James Shields was roughed up in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, taking a loss after surrendering five earned runs on seven hits and one walk in three-plus innings while striking out one in his team's 7-1 defeat against the Giants.

Shields (1-1) hadn't been having a great postseason despite the Royals' impressive run of wins, giving up 10 earned runs in 16 innings heading into his Game 1 start. His night turned south immediately Tuesday, as the Giants followed up a one-out, RBI double with a two-run home run to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Shields retired seven straight heading into the fourth, where he opened the inning with a double, walk and RBI single to get the hook. The loss, which was the first of the postseason for the Royals, puts the AL pennant winner in a 1-0 hole going into Game 2 Wednesday in Kansas City.


Yankees SP CC Sabathia nearly '100 percent'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia said Tuesday that he feels "pretty much back to 100 percent" and expects a full 200-inning workload in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"It's definitely a huge relief," Sabathia said. "I feel good enough to do all my workouts, to play catch and kind of have a normal offseason."

Sabathia, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in July, starting throwing off flat ground in late September and plans to report to spring training early.


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman likely to play first base in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Nationals third baseman/outfielder Ryan Zimmerman will likely shift over to first base in 2015, MLB.com reports. He's currently resting his right hamstring after suffering a Grade 3 strain in July.

"I'm sure I'll talk to them soon or they will talk [to the media]," Zimmerman said. "I think Anthony [Rendon] is the future third baseman. Obviously, he played great there. He played some second and some third. If he goes into Spring Training knowing that he is playing third base, he has a chance to be a very good third baseman.

"Obviously, I love playing third base. But some of the injuries over the last two or three years made it tougher for me to be an above average third baseman. It's hard to accept that, but I think that's the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurts sometimes. But Anthony has a great chance to be very good over there. I could be an above average first baseman if I work at it during Spring Training and the rest of this offseason. But that's not just my decision. Obviously, I'll talk with [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] and Matt and see what their plans are. I'm sure we'll find out in the next week or two."

The Nationals have first base open due to the impending free agency of 2014 starter Adam LaRoche.


Diamondbacks add Enrique Burgos to 40-man roster
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) The Diamondbacks have added pitcher Enrique Burgos to their 40-man roster, the Arizona Republic reports. He's now protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

 
 
 
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