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Down on the Farm: Who's got next?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Do you remember the good ol' days of baseball? Like when the word "pitch count" didn't exist, closers would often go multiple innings to record saves and prospects were given time to develop in the minor leagues.

There's nothing wrong with change, and often change is a good thing. But now that teams are rapidly moving prospects through their farm system, it's getting tougher to guesstimate MLB debuts.

There was a time when a player would get drafted and it would be a few years before we would see him in the majors. Now, guys get drafted and months later they're donning big league uniforms.

This season, we have seen a pair of 2012 first-round picks -- Kevin Gausman and Michael Wacha -- and one second-round pick -- Alex Wood -- make their MLB debuts. Let's not forget that 2012 second-round pick Paco Rodriguez made his debut for the Dodgers last season.

The list goes on and on with players spending little time in the minors, hardly seeing time at the upper levels or even making the jump from the low minors. Some of the more notable names meeting the criteria have been Yasiel Puig, Anthony Rendon, Jose Fernandez and Carlos Martinez.

We truly live in a world where calling a prospect a long-term Fantasy keeper is taboo. And that means bench spots in seasonal formats are being occupied more by minor leaguers than true reserves. Everyone rather not miss out on the next great prospect and bypass a player that could pay immediate, but likely short-lived dividends.

Which leads us into the topic of who is among the next wave of prospects speeding through the minors that could be worth a bench spot in your league?

The Mariners have already begun the transition of bringing up their stars of tomorrow. Mike Zunino is calling games behind the plate, while Brad Miller and Nick Franklin are manning the middle infield. But the call-ups aren't likely to stop with those three.

We're anticipating starting pitchers Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker joining the Seattle rotation by season's end. The duo has a combined 19 Triple-A starts, but Hultzen would have likely already been in the majors had a shoulder injury not sidelined him for several weeks. Walker has tossed 11 shutout innings since his promotion from Double-A Jackson. I've been pushing Fantasy owners all season to stash Hultzen as an impact arm, but now I'm changing my tune about Walker, given his surge this season and the recent trend of unlikely promotions.

The Orioles' rotation certainly could use a boost, but look to outfielder Henry Urrutia to provide a lift to the team's offense in the second half. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after the organization got a little more comfortable with his defensive and baserunning skills. However, Urrutia can rake. He hit .365 with a .550 slugging percentage and .983 OPS in 52 games at Double-A Bowie, and the Orioles can always stick him at DH if they feel he's too much of a liability in the outfield.

The Red Sox are trying to solidify the back-end of their rotation. Allen Webster hasn't panned out yet and while Felix Doubront has been much better as of late, if the Red Sox don't trust Rubby De La Rosa or Franklin Morales to help the rotation, then Boston could turn to Brandon Workman. After going 10-8 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 25 starts last season, the right-hander is 8-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP between Double-A and Triple-A this season, while striking out a career-high 9.8 batters per nine innings. He has gone 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts since his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Royals and White Sox are both under .500, but with plenty of games left they are still in the playoff hunt. Even if they fall out of the playoff chase, personnel moves could lead them to promote some of their top pitching prospects, particularly Kansas City's Yordano Ventura and Erik Johnson of the White Sox.

Ventura has struggled a bit since his promotion to Triple-A Omaha, posting a 4.94 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, but if the Royals trade soon-to-be-free-agent Ervin Santana, then Ventura could get the call. Remember, he was in the final pool of players vying for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 7/3)
Player % owned
1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 50
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 43
3. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 38
4. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds 36
5. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 32
6. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 31
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 30
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 28
9. Tyler Skaggs, SP, D-Backs 26
10. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 25

As for Johnson, the 2011 second-round pick is 9-2 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. The White Sox are unlikely to make the playoffs, so it might be worth giving Johnson a taste of the majors in 2013 so he's ready to compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Lastly, Phillies third baseman Michael Young's name has been mentioned heavily in trade rumors. If the Phillies choose to be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, then Young is a strong candidate to be moved. If he's dealt, who replaces Young at the hot corner?

Cody Asche is a strong candidate since he's done well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but I'm not convinced Maikel Franco wouldn't leapfrog Asche. After rivaling Miguel Sano as the top power hitter in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (high Class A), Franco has been on a ridiculous tear since his promotion to Double-A Reading. He hit .431 with a .765 slugging percentage, four home runs and 11 RBI in his first 12 games. If Franco has star potential, then much like Johnson, the Phillies might not wait until next spring to give him a major-league audition.

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Player News
Angels SS Erick Aybar (hamstring) out of Friday lineup
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:22 pm ET) A left hamstring issue has Angels shortstop Erick Aybar set to sit Friday night against Detroit. He sustained the injury on Thursday.

Aybar did run his hitting streak to seven games before going down.


Padres CF Will Venable sits against lefty on Friday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:18 pm ET) Padres outfielder Will Venable is out of the lineup for Friday's matchup with the Pirates. Venable had started each of the last eight games for the Padres, going 11 for 32 with a double and three RBI in that stretch.

But, with the Pirates throwing a left-hander on Friday, Venable will take a seat. He is just 2 for 9 against southpaws this season.

Switch-hitter Abraham Almonte will get the start in center field and bat seventh on Friday against starter Francisco Liriano. 


Brewers calling up prospect to start in place of Matt Garza on Sunday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:09 pm ET) Brewers starting pitcher Matt Garza will not start Sunday, as prospect Tyler Wagner will be promoted from the minors to make his MLB debut against the Diamondbacks.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell said earlier this week he was thinking about pushing back Garza's next start since he was struggling. 

Garza has lost his last four decisions and has seven losses in 10 starts. He has an 11.66 ERA over his last three starts.


Brewers officially tab Tyler Wagner to start Sunday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:05 pm ET) Brewers starting pitcher prospect Tyler Wagner will make his MLB debut Sunday against the Diamondbacks, the team announced Friday. Matt Garza was originally scheduled to start Sunday, but manager Craig Counsell had thought about pushing him back in the rotation since he has been struggling.

The 2012 fourth-round pick is 5-1 with a 2.01 ERA in nine starts for Double-A Biloxi this season. The right-hander has 38 strikeouts and 15 walks in 53 2/3 innings.


White Sox OF Avisail Garcia could be back Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:01 pm ET) The absence of White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia from the lineup with a knee injury will continue Friday night against host Houston. He has been sidelined since Monday.

Garcia did tell CSN Chicago that he ran Friday and will also take fly balls and batting practice. The team is reporting that he could plays Saturday.

He will return in a 3-for-17 slump that has weakened his slash line to a still-wonderful .327/.365/.456.


Athletics SP Sonny Gray (ankle) read to go Friday night
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:50 pm ET) Athletics ace Sonny Gray is set to start Friday night against the Yankees despite a right ankle issue.

Gray has been a victim of non-support lately from a meager Oakland offense. He has allowed five runs in 23 innings over his last four starts, but has just one win to show for it. He is, however, 5-2 with a 1.77 ERA on the year.


Orioles C Matt Wieters to make 2015 debut next Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:38 pm ET) Buck Showalter has announced that Orioles veteran catcher Matt Wieters will return next Friday in Cleveland and start that night against the Indians, the Baltimore Sun has reported.

Wieters, who has been sidelined for nearly 13 months following Tommy John surgery, is currently rehabbing at Double-A Bowie. He has not played for Baltimore since May 10, 2014.


Cardinals OF Jon Jay activated off DL on Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:37 pm ET) Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay was activated off the 15-day disabled list Friday. However, he was not in the starting lineup against the Dodgers. 

Jay has been on the disabled list since mid-May due to left wrist tendinitis.


Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon sitting against tough lefty Hamels
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:31 pm ET) A matchup against Phillies premier left-hander Cole Hamels has Rockies leadoff hitter and center fielder Charlie Blackmon grabbing some pine Friday night.

Brandon Barnes is set to take over both those spots.

Blackmon is just 8-for-51 against southpaws this season and hitless in four at-bats lifetime against Hamels.

This will mark only his fourth absence from the lineup this season.


Mets' Collins: Bobby Parnell took 'huge step forward' in minors
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:31 pm ET) Mets manager Terry Collins was happy with the report he received Thursday night about reliever Bobby Parnell. Collins said Parnell's velocity is in the 94-95 mph range.

"It was a huge step forward," Collins said.

Parnell has not allowed a run in two innings since moving his rehab assignment to Double-A. He has allowed one hit and one walk, while recording two strikeouts with Binghamton.


 
 
 
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