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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
Derek Norris dealing with shoulder issue
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(12:23 pm ET) CSNBayArea.com reports that Athletics catcher Derek Norris received a cortisone shot in his shoulder on Sunday. He had been experiencing discomfort stemming from contact at a play at the plate during Saturday's game against the Phillies.

Norris recovered well enough to serve as the A's designated hitter on Monday against the Angels, though he was removed for a pinch hitter in the fourth inning.


Orioles' ALDS rotation taking shape
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(12:11 pm ET) Orioles manager Buck Showalter told the Baltimore Sun he will use four starting pitchers for the American League Divisional Series. Chris Tillman is on course to be the team's starter for Game 1 on Oct. 2, and Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen are the likely starters for Games 2 and 3, though their order has yet to be determined.

Should the series advance to a Game 4, Bud Norris would be the leading candidate to make that start.


Blue Jays planning for bullpen day on Thursday
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(11:33 am ET) With Marcus Stroman serving a five-game suspension and unable to take his usual turn in the Blue Jays' rotation, manager John Gibbons told the Toronto Sun he plans to use a committee of relievers to replace the 23-year-old rookie.

Gibbons has not yet determined who will start Thursday's game against the Mariners, but Todd Redmond, Daniel Norris and Sean Nolin are all candidates to appear in some role. 


Michael Wacha not working with his best changeup
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(11:25 am ET) Michael Wacha recovered well enough from Saturday's start against the Reds to get another turn in the rotation, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that he will face the Diamondbacks this weekend.

However, in the three starts Wacha has made since returning from time missed due to a stress fracture in his right shoulder, he has not had his usual success in employing his changeup. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny acknowledged that Wacha is having to rely on his other offerings, telling the Post-Dispatch, "For him to be able to try to pitch without what is normally his No. 1 weapon and hold a team down like he did takes some adjustment. He’s getting better."

According to BrooksBaseball.net, Wacha got swings-and-misses on 16.9 percent of his changeups in 15 starts prior to his disabled list stint. In the three starts since, he has induced only one whiff out of 21 changeups (4.8 percent).


Santiago Casilla gets the win in two-inning outing
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(10:40 am ET) Giants manager Bruce Bochy called upon Santiago Casilla in Monday's extra-inning affair against the Dodgers, and he held the opponent scoreless for the 11th and 12th innings. That kept the Giants alive, making their three-run 13th inning and 5-2 victory possible.

Casilla was credited with the win, as he faced the minimum six batters. Yasiel Puig reached base on a Brandon Crawford throwing error, and Darwin Barney got on after Casilla hit him, but double play balls erased both batters.

Now 3-3 on the season, Casilla lowered his ERA to 1.76.


Jake Peavy settles for no-decision
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy wasn't a factor into the decision Monday night in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. He allowed two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out four over seven innings of work.

Over his last six starts covering 41 innings, Peavy has allowed only five earned runs. He owns a 3.78 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP over 31 starts (197 2/3 innings). His final start of the regular season will come at home Saturday against San Diego.


Dan Haren fans seven in no-deicison
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Dan Haren struck out seven but wasn't a factor into the decision Monday night at home against the Giants. He allowed two runs -- one earned -- on one hit and no walks over seven innings of work. Of his 100 pitches, 65 were strikes.

Over his last five starts covering 31 innings, Haren has allowed seven earned runs. He owns a 4.03 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP over 31 starts (181 innings). His final start of the regular season will come Saturday at home against Colorado.


C.J. Wilson gets the quick hook vs. Oakland
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson was yanked in the opening frame after a brief but abysmal outing Monday night against the A's, dropping to 13-10 on the year. He was shelled for six runs -- four earned -- on two hits and four walks over two-thirds of an inning.

Wilson owns a 4.61 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP over 30 starts (169 2/3 innings). He will try to end the regular season on a positive note on Sunday in Seattle.


Jeff Samardzija twirls a gem in win over Angels
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija turned in a gem Monday night at home against the Angels, improving to 7-12 on the year. He allowed one unearned run on five hits and no walks while striking out three over seven innings of an 8-4 victory.

Samardzija has not permitted a run over his last two starts (15 innings). He owns a 2.88 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 32 starts (212 2/3 innings). His final start of the regular season will come Saturday at Texas.


Tyler Matzek pegged with tough-luck loss
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:07 am ET) Rockies pitcher Tyler Matzek was pegged with a tough-luck loss Monday night in San Diego, dropping to 6-11 on the year. He allowed one run on four hits and three walks while striking out eight over six innings of work.

Over his last five starts covering 33 2/3 innings, Matzek has allowed five earned runs. His season comes to an end with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP over 117 2/3 innings of work. He struck out 91 and walked 44 over that span.


 
 
 
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