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Down on the Farm: New Cubs in the den

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It's no secret why the Rangers wanted Matt Garza. Their rotation decimated by injuries, with no fewer than three pitchers recovering from one surgery or another, they felt like they needed another big arm to get them over the hump.

But for keeper-league owners, the Cubs' side of the deal is the more intriguing one, primarily because of Mike Olt.

Granted, he's not the prize he would have been if this deal had gone down a year ago. An ongoing vision problem has decimated his numbers at Triple-A, dropping his stock significantly. Still, of the Cubs' haul -- which includes Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards and the ubiquitous "player to be named later" -- he's the closest to claiming a major-league job.

True, his numbers are bad, but at age 24, he really doesn't have anything left to learn in the minors. His promotion is just a matter of overcoming the eye issue, which he seems be on his way to doing with a .247 (40 for 162) batting average and 11 homers in 46 games since he began using special drops. However he turns out once it's completely behind him is more or less what he'll be.

And with Anthony Rizzo entrenched at first base, the only available position for him is third base.

Not that it's a problem. He's a plus defender and doesn't have anyone blocking him at the major-league level, unless you count the perpetually inconsequential Luis Valbuena. No, the issue in Fantasy isn't what happens to Olt with this move, but what happens to everyone else with him now part of the equation.

In short, third base was already earmarked for prospect overflow, with some of the Cubs' very best seemingly destined to wind up there.

The list begins with Kris Bryant, a big-time power hitter who the Cubs selected second overall in the most recent amateur draft. He played third base in college and has continued to man the position to start his professional career. Granted, most talent evaluators assumed he'd move to the outfield eventually, but the acquisition of Olt makes it a near certainty.

The more interesting case is Javier Baez, who has played shortstop to this point in the minors and reportedly has the range to stick there. But given his enormous power potential (which has earned him comparisons to Gary Sheffield, the gold standard for bat speed) and the fact the Cubs already had a long-term shortstop in Starlin Castro, third base seemed the more likely destination.

Apparently, not anymore.

Which, of course, raises the question of where Castro will wind up. As good as he is, he's no Baez, and he doesn't bring much to the table defensively. He's already eligible at shortstop for 2014 and likely will be for 2015 as well, but after that, who knows? Second base, maybe?

Of course, a move there would cut out Arismendy Alcantara, a personal favorite of mine who's been putting up Jimmy Rollins-like numbers at Double-A Tennessee. Though a shortstop by trade, he has begun learning second base -- again, presumably because of Baez.

Notice I didn't even mention Junior Lake, who's playing outfield now but who came up as a shortstop. He's off to a great start, obviously, but in terms of upside, he doesn't compare to the rest of the group. Whenever the Cubs open the floodgates and allow the big boys to pour through, I imagine he'll get pushed to the bench.

So basically, I have three major takeaways from the Cubs' side of the Garza deal:

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 7/25)
Player % owned
1. Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees 57
2. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 43
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 40
4. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 33
5. Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners 32
6. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 29
7. Josh Rutledge, 2B, Rockies 28
8. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 28
9. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox 23
10. Danny Salazar, SP, Indians 22

1. Mike Olt will be up soon, and though he may not offer much in the way of batting average, his patient approach will give him the at-bats he needs to make good on his power potential. If you need home runs and have no hope of finding any on the waiver wire, he's a reasonable choice to stash.

2. Javier Baez is staying at shortstop, which is a best-case scenario for his keeper-league owners. The top power hitter in the minors manning the lightest-hitting position in the majors has the makings of Fantasy gold.

3. Starlin Castro isn't the Cubs' long-term answer at shortstop. He may be someone else's, but if he sticks with the Cubs, a position change is likely in his future. Considering his shortcomings as a hitter, a loss of shortstop eligibility would drastically alter his long-term outlook.

Granted, all of this is nothing more than speculation, but isn't that what prospecting is all about? The bottom line is the Cubs' acquisition of Olt narrows down the potential avenues for some of their other long-term assets, giving you a better idea how to evaluate them going forward.

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

It's getting exhausting following the Phillies' trade rumors. It seems every day Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. flip-flops between the Phillies being buyers or sellers by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. He's as bad as a politician.

As of now, Amaro is in buying mode as the Phillies chase down the Braves for the NL East crown. But who knows, by the time this column is published, Amaro could be in selling mode again. If that happens, then look to veteran third baseman Michael Young to be one of the players Amaro moves seeing how he's a highly coveted, veteran right-handed bat.

If Young is moved by July 31, don't feel sorrow for Amaro or the Phillies. Why? Because the Phillies' farm system is spoiled with burgeoning third-base prospects.

You probably have heard about Triple-A infielder Cody Asche. I know you have heard about Double-A third baseman Maikel Franco because he's been featured a few times in this column and is a favorite long-term keeper of mine. But 2012 third-round pick Zach Green is breaking out at Class A Williamsport, giving the Phillies another option at an already deep position.

As much as I would like to see Franco be the guy promoted to the majors if Young is dealt, Asche would probably get the call. He's not having a bad year with a .288 average and .957 fielding percentage. In fact, he was the higher-rated prospect of the duo coming into the year, but not by much. Baseball America had Asche No. 7 and Franco No. 8 on the team's top 10 prospects list. But thanks to a monster year from Franco (.322/.577/.939 slash line between Class A and Double-A), he's leapfrogged Asche in the eyes of many pundits and will probably emerge as a top 100 prospect heading into 2014.

As for Green, he was committed to Oregon State before the Phillies drafted him last year. The scouting report on Green was he had the potential to develop power with added strength. It seems Green is starting to live up to expectations. He is slugging .529 as a 19-year-old in the New York-Penn League, which has caught the attention of the team's front office.

"He's a big strong kid and he has some thunder in his bat," director of player development Joe Jordan told The Philadelphia Inquirer in June. "He can leave the ballpark to a lot of different fields. His offense is ahead of his defense right now."

While Asche is probably the strongest defender of the trio, the scouts worry if he will develop enough power to profile as a regular third baseman. Fantasy owners should have the same concern seeing how he has a career .423 slugging percentage in 295 minor-league games.

If Asche gets the call to the majors in 2013, there's no need for Fantasy owners to dash to waivers to add him. Franco is still the best long-term keeper of the trio, but Green is a rising prospect who might garner more attention in the future.

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

C.J. Edwards, SP, Cubs
Affiliate: Class A Daytona
2013 stats (Class A Hickory): 8-2, 1.83 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .186 opponents' batting average, 61 hits allowed, 34 walks and 122 strikeouts in 18 starts (93 1/3 innings)
If you hadn't heard of Edwards prior to being part of the Matt Garza deal, don't worry, guys drafted in the 48th round (2011) usually don't receive a lot of publicity. But he went so late because he didn't play in many "high-profile showcases," according to Baseball America. However, in two pro seasons, Edwards has outpitched his draft stock and he's no longer an unknown prospect. Not after going 13-5 with a 1.68 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 160 1/3 innings. Edwards is also allowing just 5.3 hits and is striking out 11.6 batters per nine innings. Edwards has already made great strides in his young career. He increased the velocity on his fastball from the mid-80s to the mid-90s, and his curveball and changeup have become quality offspeed pitches. What makes Edwards particularly intriguing as he is just 155 pounds and the scouts can't wait to see what type of pitcher he develops into when he adds bulk to his frame. While Edwards' climb from obscurity made him a key piece in the Garza deal, it still could be a few seasons before we see him in the majors. He's truly a long-term keeper.

Tyler Glasnow, SP, Pirates
Affiliate: Class A West Virginia
2013 stats: 7-2, 2.27 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .154 opponents' batting average, 46 hits allowed, 48 strikeouts and 11 walks in 19 starts (87 1/3 innings)
After drafting Glasnow in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, one Pirates official said the right-hander would be the team's top prospect by the end of 2013, according to Baseball America. Well, that team official deserves a raise because Glasnow could very well challenge Jameson Taillon as the Pirates' top pitching prospect heading into 2014. It's not like Glasnow didn't have a successful first pro season in 2012 (1.88 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.3 K/9), but he only threw 38 1/3 innings, so it was tough to gauge if those numbers would project as the 6-7 hurler progressed in his career. Fortunately for the Pirates, they have. Glasnow has not only kept pace with what he did last season, he's improved his hits (4.7) and strikeouts (12.6) per-nine-inning rates this season. Gerrit Cole moved quickly though the Pittsburgh farm system because of his college pedigree. But seeing how slowly the Pirates have moved Taillon through the minors since he was a high-school product, expect a similar path for the 19-year-old Glasnow.

Tony Sanchez, C, Pirates
Affiliate: Triple-A Indianapolis
2013 stats: .291/.368/.512/.880, 10 home runs, 26 doubles, 35 runs, 42 RBI, 58 strikeouts and 26 walks in 74 games
Sanchez climbed as high as No. 46 on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list in 2011 before his career spiraled out of control. He broke his jaw on two occasions and fell way down the prospect rankings after hitting a disappointing .241 in 2011 and .251 in 2012. Scouts began to doubt whether or not he would have enough offensive abilities to be a starting catcher in the majors. Therefore, Sanchez got to work in the offseason improving his approach at the plate and the result has been a notable resurgence for the former 2009 first-round pick (fourth overall). It's kind of funny, too. Sanchez was mostly lauded for his defense while many questioned his offensive potential as his pro career began. Now, he's being lauded for his offense and his defense is keeping him from a spot in the majors. General manager Neal Huntington said Sanchez has to work through his "throwing challenges" before he's up in the majors for good.

D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
Affiliate: Class A Clinton
2013 stats (Class A Everett): .312/.382/.532/.914, six doubles, six home runs, 20 runs, 27 RBI, 18 strikeouts and 13 walks in 29 games
Peterson is among a pool of players from the 2013 MLB draft class already making a significant impact in the minors less than two months after being drafted. Though, Peterson is arguably one of the most impressive since he has already earned a promotion from short-season Everett to low Class A Clinton. Peterson was the 12th overall pick in June's draft, and if you can believe it he wasn't the first third-base prospect drafted. He was third behind Kris Bryant (second overall) and Colin Moran (sixth). But that's hardly a knock against Peterson. It's just the crop of third baseman this season was as strong as the 2005 draft class that featured Alex Gordon (second), Ryan Zimmerman (fourth) and Ryan Braun (fifth). Peterson had an outstanding career at New Mexico, batting .381 with a .691 slugging percentage and 1.154 OPS in 177 games. The scouts feel Peterson can hit for power and a high average, and he's already proving that. Peterson has the ability to move quickly like Seattle's 2012 first-round pick, Mike Zunino, who is the team's everyday catcher a little more than a year after being drafted. However, if Peterson has to change positions, which some scouts believe is inevitable, then it could delay Peterson's arrival.

Max Stassi, C, Astros
Affiliate: Double-A Corpus Christi
2013 stats: .258/.327/.489/.817, 10 home runs, 14 doubles, 27 runs, 37 RBI, 47 strikeouts and 15 walks in 52 games
It would be interesting to see where Stassi might be had his career not been beset by injuries. Stassi has played more than 100 games just once since being drafted in the fourth round in 2009. His propensity for injury finally forced the A's to give up on the 22-year-old catcher and ship him to Houston in the offseason, where the start of his Astros career was delayed by a strained oblique in spring training. However, healthy once again, Stassi is making headlines in the minors. He homered in five straight games from July 15-21 and is slugging .489 in 52 games. Unfortunately, Stassi continues to hit for a poor average and strikes out a lot. Stassi is basically profiling as a catcher with pop, but will hit for a poor average. I'd say he's closer to John Buck than J.P. Arencibia, who has more power potential than Stassi, who might max out at 15-20 homers per season. Also, his path to the majors is now blocked by another injury-prone catcher -- Jason Castro -- so if Stassi stays with Houston, a backup role in the majors might be in his future.

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
Giants sign Ronny Cedeno to minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:18 pm ET) The Giants have signed infielder Ronny Cedeno to a minor-league deal, according to the PCL transactions page.

Cedeno, 32, spent most of the year in the minors. He hit .313/.368/.431 over 281 at-bats in Triple-A. Cedeno received nine at-bats with the Phillies, but failed to record a hit. 


Brewers' Scooter Gennett glad to have full-time role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:03 pm ET) Brewers infielder Scooter Gennett is glad to have a full-time role heading into 2015, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Gennett spent last season in a platoon with Rickie Weeks, but with Weeks gone, he'll assume the full-time role. Gennett said he feels far less stressed about his position on the team this spring. "Seeing as I'm pretty much the everyday guy, that eliminated the stress, or whatever you want to call it, off my back," he said. 

"Just not having to worry about stuff out of my control. I've put myself in this position where I've earned the job, I've shown them what I can do, and now it's about consistently doing it," he added. 

Manager Ron Roenicke has already said he'll give Gennett plenty of opportunities to prove himself against left-handers. 

Gennett, 24, hit .289/.320/.434 over 440 at-bats last season. 


Cubs' Arismendy Alcantara will play all over the place
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:54 pm ET) Cubs utility man Arismendy Alcantara is going to play a lot of positions this season, according to ESPN.

Alcantara saw time in center last season, but the team's trade for Dexter Fowler will alter his role. Alcantara says he's ready for the challenge. "Mentally you have to be ready for that," Alcantara said. "They want me to play second base and the outfield." He's also expected to see some time at third base. 

Manager Joe Maddon is glad to have such a versatile player on the team. "When you get a guy like that and you want to give someone a rest, you don't feel like you're losing anything," Joe Maddon said. "And the big attraction there is also in-game. It's like having an extra guy on the bench."

The 23-year-old Alcantara hit .205/.254/.367 over 278 at-bats last year. 


Rockies ask Corey Dickerson to be more patient
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:31 pm ET) The Rockies want Corey Dickerson to be a little more patient at the plate, according to MLB.com.

Dickerson had a breakout season in 2014, hitting .312/.364/.567 over 436 at-bats. He walked in 7.7 percent of his plate appearances, which was actually just above the league average. Still, the team wants Dickerson to be slightly less of a free-swinging this year.

"I talked to Corey about adding this much discipline to his game," manager Walt Weiss said. "We don't want that much, because then he wouldn't be Corey Dickerson." Weiss explained that it's difficult to deliver this type of message, as Dickerson's aggressiveness makes him effective. 

Dickerson said he would work harder to study pitchers and work on his approach during games. 

The 25-year-old is expected to open the year as the team's starter in left.


Marlins unlikely to add reliever now
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:16 pm ET) The Marlins are unlikely to add a reliever now that Francisco Rodriguez is off the market, according to MLB.com.

The Marlins were involved in negotiations for K-Rod through at least Wednesday, and were reportedly willing to offer $10 million over two years. The club has been looking for a veteran reliever for some time, but may pass now that Rodriguez has signed with the Brewers.

Both Rafael Soriano and Phil Coke have been connected to Miami, but the team would likely only sign those players to minor-league contracts.


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson a favorite for the rotation
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:42 pm ET) The Diamondbacks consider Chase Anderson a favorite to break camp in the rotation, according to azcentral.com.

The club wants to create a lot of competition for the rotation, and it was initially believed Anderson would be competing for a spot. General manager Dave Stewart sort of quashed those rumors, saying he perceives Anderson as a strong favorite right now. "Chase Anderson won nine games for us last year; you have to strongly consider him as part of our rotation," Stewart said. 

Anderson is expected to pair with Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson for now. The club will determine the final two spots in the rotation during camp.

Anderson, 27, posted a 4.01 ERA over 114 1/3 innings last year.


Indians' Francona: Swisher 'swinging the bat really well'
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:14 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona has been satisfied with Nick Swisher's performance during batting practice, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

"He's swinging the bat really well," Francona said. "He's under control and he probably has to be (because of his knees). But he's using the whole field. He really looks good." 

Swisher has been working with the team's hitting coaches on trying to go up the middle more often. Francona said that strategy has already translated to his batting practice sessions. 

Running still remains an issue for Swisher, however. He was able to do some drills on Thursday, but reportedly looked uncomfortable during the session. The club expects he'll be ready for games in mid-March.

Swisher, 34, hit .208/.278/.331 over 360 at-bats last year. 


Rockies' Jordan Lyles hoping new changeup leads to success
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:55 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Jordan Lyles is hoping a new changeup will lead to success this season, according to the Denver Post

Lyles started experimenting with a split-change last year, and spent all offseason honing the pitch. I've been working on that all offseason," Lyles said. "I wasn't paying too much attention to my curveball and cutter. I really wanted to give a bigger gap between mph."

Manager Walt Weiss came away impressed with the offering. "His confidence in that pitch has skyrocketed," he said. Weiss added that he views Lyles as "a staple for [the Rockies."

Lyles is expected to open the year in the team's rotation. He posted a 4.33 ERA over 126 2/3 innings last season.


Royals looking at Joe Blanton as a reliever
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:48 pm ET) The Royals will use Joe Blanton as a reliever, according to MLB.com.

Blanton has not pitched in the majors since 2013. While he started 20 games that season, the Royals view him strictly as a reliever. "The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen," manager Ned Yost said. "We're not going to stretch him out [to be a starter]."

Blanton posted a 6.04 ERA over 132 2/3 innings in 2013. He'll compete for a job in the Royals bullpen this spring. 


Giants' Santiago Casilla avoids injury during BP session
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:41 pm ET) Giants reliever Santiago Casilla avoided a major injury on Thursday after he was hit by a comebacker during a batting practice session, according to MLB.com.

Casilla took a line drive off the shin during the session. He laid on the ground for about a minute, but was able to walk off the field under his own power. X-rays came back negative, so Casilla is not dealing with a fracture. He may miss a day or two due to the injury, but that's it. Casilla said he wanted to simulate a real game, which is why he decided not to pitch behind a screen.

The 34-year-old posted a 1.70 ERA over 58 1/3 innings last year. He's expected to open the season as the team's closer. 


 
 
 
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