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Reality Check: Don't fear the prospects

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Have you gotten burned by Zack Wheeler? What about Kevin Gausman? Tyler Skaggs? Michael Wacha, maybe?

If you answered "no" to all of the above, you're not an active participant in Fantasy Baseball. You may "play" it, but in that disinterested sort of way that keeps Matt Harrison and Mike Fiers on your roster a good three months after they've lost all relevance.

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Wipe that smirk off your face, Gerrit Cole owners. Your little darling may be 4-0, but if his 9.6 hits and 4.1 strikeouts per nine innings are any indication, he's far from being a finished product. The Pirates have basically said as much.

Yep, when it comes to pitching prospects, about the only midseason call-up to live up to the hype so far is Tony Cingrani. He's what keeps you going back to the waiver wire, hopeful that one of these other call-ups will do something comparable.

But Wheeler was the last straw. You've tried four times to land another Cingrani, and so far, nothing. You're tired. Fed up, even. Angry. Looking for something or someone to blame. "How dare he make a fool of me? I'm the great whoever-I-am! Everything I touch must turn to gold!"

Please.

Not only is that line of thinking pathetically self-absorbed, but it's the wrong way to approach Fantasy Baseball. Measuring what you got right against what you got wrong? It's not a true-false test, for crying out loud. I'm wrong all the time, and you don't see me getting worked up about it.

You know why? Because it's an expected part of the game. There's just no predicting this stuff. All of Vegas depends on it.

Granted, a successful prediction can give you a head start. I've enjoyed having Domonic Brown and Matt Carpenter -- two players I targeted late in drafts -- on several of my teams. But I've benefited just as much from Josh Donaldson, and it's not like I saw him coming. Fortunately, I came to recognize his potential when I still had a chance to grab him and decided to give him a shot.

The key to success in Fantasy Baseball is adaptation. It's timing. It's surviving the unpredictable by maximizing all available resources.

Your bench is a resource for protecting what needs protecting. What needs protecting isn't a player just like all the others on the waiver wire. It's the blank slate with the potential to become something more. It won't be a blank slate forever, so it may not need protecting forever. But given its potential relative to what else is out there, it's worth protecting until it proves it isn't.

More often than not, a top prospect -- especially a pitcher -- won't hit the ground running in the big leagues. He's facing far and away the best competition he's ever seen, and the adjustment can take years.

The chance of one succeeding right out of the gate -- not necessarily meeting the full extent of his potential, but just performing well -- is, what, 40 percent? Maybe 33 percent? I'm factoring in Shelby Miller and Jose Fernandez as well. Just because they claimed their jobs in the spring doesn't mean they were any more assured of success.

So realistically, whenever you make a play for a recent call-up, you shouldn't expect it to work out. But the one in three times it does, you won't regret the two times it didn't.

Most Owned Minor League SPs (as of 7/2)
Player % owned
1. Michael Wacha, Cardinals 38
2. Dan Straily, Athletics 31
3. Tyler Skaggs, Diamondbacks 26
4. Trevor Bauer, Indians 25
5. Taijuan Walker, Mariners 23
6. Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners 18
7. Danny Hultzen, Mariners 18
8. Carlos Martinez, Cardinals 17
9. Jameson Taillon, Pirates 16
10. Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks 14

Whether or not it's worth the gamble comes down to what's at stake. If the player you're dropping is a consistent starter for you or hugely valuable on the trade market, then clearly your team is awesome, and you don't need to subject it to unnecessary risk by bringing in some hot-shot prospect.

But if, like 95 percent of Fantasy owners, your team has an expendable part or two and could use a little help, what do you have to lose? That part is expendable, right? So what if taking a flier on Wacha caused you to miss out on Bronson Arroyo? You can pick up Eric Stults now and be all the better for it.

Now obviously, if you could reduce all the potential pitching call-ups to the few with the best chance of making an immediate impact in Fantasy, you would. But no matter your eye for talent, it's more or less a crapshoot.

Don't believe me? Consider the varying circumstances.

Cingrani and Fernandez are two of this season's biggest success stories, right? Both had insane minor-league numbers, with Cingrani compiling a 1.65 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 45 appearances and Fernandez compiling a 2.02 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 10.7 strikeouts per nine in 27 appearances. So then, what they're doing now makes all the sense in the world.

But then how do you explain Miller's success after he posted a 4.74 ERA at Triple-A last season? How do you explain why Wheeler hasn't looked anything like Matt Harvey even though his numbers at Triple-A this year are nearly identical to Harvey's last year? How do you explain why Dan Straily's 1.87 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League hasn't translated to the big leagues?

And how do you know when any underachiever will turn the corner? Julio Teheran was a disaster in his first two stints in the big leagues, but look at him now. Rick Porcello endured four seasons of mediocrity before showing even the first glimpse of his potential this year. Cliff Lee needed six seasons before he finally turned the corner.

You see any patterns there? Not me.

Athletics general manager Billy Beane is known to believe that only one in three pitching prospects lives up to his potential. If he knew which one ahead of time, he wouldn't have to stockpile so many.

How can you expect to do what he can't?

"But ... I'm the great whoever-I-am, master of the marketplace, interpreter of inefficiencies, prophesier of prospects. Billy's brain is but a bean next to mine!"

OK, now you've gone from self-absorbed to delusional.

So when do we reach the point when the blank slate is no longer worth protecting? Have we reached it with Wheeler? Depends. If you cut him, do you think, even with his diminished value, he would still stand out as the most valuable pitcher available, making him an easy claim for someone else who could then reap the rewards after you put in the legwork? You don't want that.

Don't trust yourself to recognize it? Well, that's exactly why we introduced the rest-of-season player rankings this year. I've moved Wheeler down with his rocky first three starts, and I'll continue to move him down until he reverses the trend. Then, whenever he puts together a start that demonstrates his sky-high potential, I'll move him up.

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What, you thought you could just drop him and be done with it? Doesn't work that way. Particularly for a prospect of Wheeler's caliber at this early stage of his career, every start has a huge impact on his value. If you're unwilling to reassess with every high and low point -- not necessarily to act, but to review your options -- you're playing Fantasy Baseball wrong.

Of course, there's such a thing as overreacting, and generally speaking, it's a greater danger to Fantasy owners than inattentiveness. But it's a little more common in April and May than halfway through the season. By now, you should have a pretty good idea which players are fixtures and which are expendable.

For what it's worth, this year's crop of hitting prospects hasn't made you jump through those same hoops. Yeah, Jurickson Profar, Mike Zunino, Aaron Hicks and Jackie Bradley haven't offered much, but with everything Nick Franklin, Anthony Rendon, Wil Myers, Nolan Arenado, Jedd Gyorko, Evan Gattis and, of course, Yasiel Puig have done for Fantasy owners, who cares?

Any takeaways from that? Hard to say. Certainly, plenty of hitting prospects in recent years have bombed in their first opportunities. Anthony Rizzo and, believe it or not, Mike Trout immediately come to mind. Still, hitter prospects have an advantage over pitcher prospects in that they play more regularly. Thus, they can adjust more gracefully, their growing pains lost in a sea of at-bats. So maybe to some degree, the big-name hitting prospect should take precedence over the big-name pitching prospect in Fantasy.

But in the end, I want both. I want anyone with the potential to be more than just depth for my Fantasy team, and I'll be just as excited to see what Taijuan Walker and Carlos Martinez can do as I was Gausman, Wacha and Wheeler.

Don't let a couple disappointments scare you away from a potential game-changer. You won't find many of those types off the waiver wire this time of year, so when you have a shot at one, you take it. You expect the worst, hope for the best, and trust yourself to adjust regardless of the outcome.

And that's how you play Fantasy. It's not about guessing right. It's about assembling a team. And to do it right, you should expect a few misses along the way.

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
Dodgers' Friedman on Juan Jaime: 'He can really miss bats'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman spoke Wednesday about pitcher Juan Jaime, who was acquired from the Braves along with three others players in a six-man deal earlier in the day and assigned to extended spring training, MLB.com reports.

"He can really miss bats," Friedman said. "The limiting factor with him is the control. So we'll send him to Camelback and really attack the problem. If he can harness that even a little bit, we feel like we've added a really good player."

Jaime has posted a 5.93 ERA and 19:13 K:BB ratio in 13 2/3 innings with the Braves over two seasons. He has also walked nine batters in 5 1/3 innings in the minors this season after dishing out 36 walks in 41 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2014.


Angels' Collin Cowgill likely headed to disabled list Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:39 am ET) Angels outfielder Collin Cowgill is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Cowgill is dealing with a joint sprain in his hand after sustaining an injury during batting practice on Sunday and a subsequent MRI. He has hit .180/.231/.295 with one home run, two RBI and one stolen base in 61 at-bats. The Angels added a replacement bench outfielder in a trade Wednesday, acquiring Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the Mets.


Angels option Marc Krauss to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:37 am ET) The Angels optioned first baseman Marc Krauss to Triple-A Salt Lake after Wednesday's loss to the Padres, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Krauss loses his 25-man roster spot to outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was added in a trade earlier in the day. The first baseman was just 5 for 35 with one home run and five RBI with the Angels. He returns to a .281/.405/.458 line with two home runs and 17 RBI in 96 at-bats with Salt Lake.


Diamondbacks' Brad Ziegler blows save, takes loss Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:33 am ET) Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler was saddled with his second blown save and first loss of the season on Wednesday, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning in his team's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.

Ziegler entered the ninth inning looking to protect a one-run lead but opened the frame by serving up a game-tying home run. He gave up a single before recording the first out of the inning, then walked two batters (one intentionally) to bring up Jhonny Peralta. The shortstop grounded into a fielder's choice, with the lead runner getting thrown out at home, but a throwing error by the catcher trying to record a double play brought the winning run home.

Ziegler owns a 1.25 ERA and 14:8 K:BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings.


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero knocks ninth home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Dodgers left fielder Alex Guerrero went 1 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-2 loss to the Braves on Wedensday.

Guerrero was hitless on the day before connecting on a ninth-inning homer off closer Jason Grilli, but his shot only reduced the lead to one run before the Dodgers eventually fell. It's the third home run in four games for Guerrero, who has hit .310/.344/.701 with nine homers and 21 RBI in 87 at-bats.


Braves' Cameron Maybin slugs fifth home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:18 am ET) Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin went 2 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-2 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Maybin put his team up 1-0 with his homer to center field in the third inning, his first home run since May 2. He has hit .261/.361/.435 with five home runs, 19 RBI and six stolen bases in 115 at-bats.


Braves' Jason Grilli surrenders homer, earns 14th save
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:16 am ET) Braves closer Jason Grilli served up a homer on Wednesday but was able to record his 14th save in his team's 3-2 win over the Dodgers.

Grilli needed 24 pitches to escape the outing, getting a quick out before surrendering a solo home run to cut his team's lead to one run. He then gave up a single and recorded another out to bring pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo, making his Dodger debut after opening the season with the Braves, to the plate. The closer got Callaspo to fly out to end the game.

Grilli owns a 4.41 ERA and 23:7 K:BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings.


Angels' Matt Joyce slugs second homer Wednesday vs. Padres
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:12 am ET) Angels left fielder Matt Joyce went 1 for 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 5-4 loss to the Padres on Wednesday.

Joyce was able to tie the game with his sixth-inning homer, though the Angels would immediately fall back in a hole by giving up two runs in the top of the seventh. The outfielder has hit .176/.253/.282 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 131 at-bats.


Cardinals' Matt Holliday reaches base in 43rd consecutive game
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:10 am ET) Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday reached base in his 43rd game played in a row during Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks. 

Holliday hit a single in the fifth inning, which vaulted him ahead of Albert Pujols for the club's record of consecutive games reaching base to start a season.

It also set a National League record in the same category, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"Yeah, that’s cool," Holliday said. "A lot of players have played in the National League. That’s pretty good, I guess."

Only five players have started a season reaching base in more consecutive games — Derek Jeter (Yankees, 53, 1999), Frank Thomas (White Sox, 52, 1996), Mark McGwire (Athletics, 48, 1996), Alvin Davis (Mariners, 47, 1984), Harry Heilmann (Tigers, 44, 1923). 


Dodgers' Zack Greinke strikes out nine in no-decision vs. Braves
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke wasn't a factor in the decision on Wednesday, allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks in six innings while striking out nine in his team's 3-2 loss to the Braves.

Greinke, whose only run allowed came on a third-inning homer by Cameron Maybin, also went 1 for 2 at the plate and stole a base for the first time this season and the fourth time in 244 career at-bats. He has yet to be caught on the basepaths.

Greinke owns a 1.48 ERA and 58:14 K:BB ratio in 67 innings. Although he's allowed just one run in each of his last four outings, he hasn't recorded a win since May 5. Greinke's next start is slated for Tuesday against the Rockies in Colorado.


 
 
 
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