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Down on the Farm: Calling all prospects

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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September is often a forgotten month in Fantasy Baseball. Why you ask? Well, most owners are no longer in the hunt for a championship and interest starts to wane. Also, September brings the start of the football season, so many Fantasy players are more worried about starting Eli Manning than Matt Garza.

Though, paying attention in September does have its benefits, especially when it comes to September call-ups. When rosters expand Sept. 1, it provides teams with a chance to fill up on burgeoning prospects. That allows active Fantasy players to bolster their rosters with a promising bat or arm for the stretch run, and allows everyone to catch of glimpse of future stars.

Many players first burst onto the scene as September call-ups. Some of the more notable September debuts include:

Josh Beckett, SP, Marlins (2001): 2-2, 1.50 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 24 strikeouts (24 innings)
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (2005): .397/.569/.988, 6 RBI, 10 2B (20 games)
Ian Kennedy, SP, Yankees (2007): 1-0, 1.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 15 strikeouts (19 innings)
• J.D. Drew, OF, Cardinals (1998): .417/.972/1.436, 1 3B, 3 2B, 5 HR, 13 RBI (14 games)

While all four of these players went on to be Fantasy relevant options, there are plenty cautionary tales as well. Two of the more notable names being Jeremy Reed and J.R. Towles.

Reed was ranked as high as No. 25 on Baseball America's top 100 list and had a stellar debut for the Mariners in September 2004. He hit .397 with a .466 slugging percentage and .935 OPS in 18 games. Sadly, Reed never was able to live up to his billing as a top prospect. He finished his eight-year career with a .252 average and .354 slugging percentage.

Towles has a similar story. Also a former Baseball America top 100 prospect, he hit .375 with a .575 slugging percentage and 1.007 OPS in 14 games for Houston after making his debut in September 2007. Towles never hit higher than .200 the following four seasons and never took hold of the starting job for the Astros.

We are now about a month away from September, so the latest bumper crop of elite prospects will be filling out MLB rosters shortly. Therefore, it's time to take a look at potential impact prospects in September and what the future might hold next spring.

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox

Bogaerts is making a beeline for the majors. The 20-year-old shortstop prospect began the year at Double-A, but he was promoted to Triple-A in early June and appears on the verge of a major-league promotion. With Stephen Drew blocking his path this season at shortstop, Bogarets has started to work at third base for Pawtucket. With Jose Iglesias now with the Tigers, Bogaerts could join the Red Sox lineup prior to September, as long as he isn't a defensive liability at third base.

Early 2014 outlook: If Bogaerts proves he's ready to play in the majors, then the shortstop job will likely be his heading into 2014 since Drew is only in town on a one-year deal.

Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals

Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras has been hobbled by injury in 2013. If he was healthy, he'd likely already be in the majors. Taveras is having a slow recovery from a high ankle sprain, but the Cardinals will get him some at-bats in the minors before likely adding him to the roster in September. The Cardinals have a crowded outfield, but Taveras' presence could help spell veteran Carlos Beltran down the stretch, and Taveras has enough offensive potential to be an impact bat for the Cardinals' playoff push.

Early 2014 outlook: Taveras is likely to get a long look in spring training. If the team chooses to start him in the minors next year, it might not be long before he's promoted to the majors. If that happens, then he could be a similar draft-and-stash option like Bryce Harper and Wil Myers have been in recent years.

Archie Bradley, SP, Diamondbacks

It usually takes pitchers drafted out of high school a few years before they get their shot at the majors, but the new crop of talent is changing the game, i.e. Jose Fernandez, and Diamondbacks starting pitcher Archie Bradley might be the next young hurler to make the quick ascent. The 2011 first-round pick and 20-year-old hurler is dominating in the minors, and Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said he's not opposed to giving Bradley a look in September. Though, it could be as a reliever, similar to how David Price made his much-anticipated debut for Tampa Bay.

Early 2014 outlook: Bradley will probably be in the mix to win a rotation spot next spring, but with players like Randall Delgado and Tyler Skaggs in the system, Arizona could afford to start Bradley at Triple-A in 2014.

Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets

Likely a regular in the Mets' lineup by now had he not suffered a broken foot in April, d'Arnaud is back in action. He just returned to a rehab stint in the minors and isn't expected to be promoted until September. Though, if the Mets are out of contention in the final month, then don't be surprised if New York gives d'Arnaud a fair amount of starts to see if he's ready to take over as the primary catcher in 2014.

Early 2014 outlook: In all likelihood, the Mets' starting catcher gig is his to lose next spring, so d'Arnaud is going to be a popular Fantasy sleeper on Draft Day 2014. He's an elite offensive prospect at a thin Fantasy position.

Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 8/1)
Player % owned
1. Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees 53
2. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 40
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 39
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox 32
5. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 31
6. Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners 30
7. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 29
8. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 28
9. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks 25
10. Josh Rutledge, 2B, Rockies 23

Plenty of Fantasy owners used a late-round flier on Reds outfield prospect Hamilton this spring, hoping he would get a chance to make an impact in 2013. Sadly, Hamilton didn't force the Reds' hand and is now shaping up to earn a bench role in September. Though, his primary role will likely be as a pinch runner. He has shortstop eligibility at the moment, but that clock is ticking fast. Once this season is over, he will be outfield-only.

Early 2014 outlook: If the Reds opt not to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, then a spot in center field opens up for Hamilton. He's shown he can handle the defensive responsibilities, committing just five errors in 90 games since moving from shortstop. Fantasy owners are going to be fighting over Hamilton in drafts next spring because of his stolen-base potential.

Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday outfield prospect Castellanos can play in the majors "right now," but he didn't indicate if he would be up this season. Unless they really aren't happy with Castellanos' development or feel the rookie won't be able to handle the pressure of a pennant race, then it's difficult to imagine Castellanos won't be a bench option in September.

Early 2014 outlook: Castellanos will likely be in competition for the starting left field job next spring with the likes of Andy Dirks and Matt Tuiasosopo. If it looks like Castellanos is emerging with the starting job, then his Draft Day value will rise quickly.

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Player News
Twins pitcher Brian Duensing struggles in outing Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Twins pitcher Brian Duensing struggled through his start Monday against the Red Sox, allowing six runs on eight hits in just one inning of work.

It was Duensing's first true rough start of spring training, after allowing just one run in his last seven appearances.

'"He couldn't make pitches, he got behind. But he's had a good spring overall. Things kind of snowballed on him," manager Paul Molitor said to the Star Tribune. "We just couldn't get him through that inning. I'm willing to let that go by. Obviously, you don't want to see that for anybody, but he’ll be back out there."


Red Sox C/1B Mike Napoli homers in win over Twins
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Mike Napoli of the Red Sox homered Monday in the team's 14-2 win over the Twins, reports MLB.com.

Napoli's homer was a broken-bat homerun and he talked about it after the game.

"I watched the video on it," said Napoli. "It looked like I got the barrel to it. My at-bat before, when I shot the ball to right field, he kind of got in a little bit on me. That's probably where it broke there."

"It was just a weird feeling," said Napoli. "The bat exploded and it was just kind of sitting there. It's a weird feeling any time you do that. I don't know. I can't really explain it. I was just kind of running around the bases like, 'What just happened?'"

Napoli, 33, hit .248 last season with 17 home runs and 55 RBI. 

 


Rockies P Rex Brothers struggles again in loss to Athletics
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers struggled again in his latest outing against the Athletics, per MLB.com. The Rockies fell to the Athletics an 11-2 loss on Monday.

After only giving up one run and two hits in his first five appearances, Brothers has yielded six runs on five hits with five walks in his last three outings (2 2/3 innings pitched).

The 27-year-old lefty finished the 2014 season with a record of 4-6 posting a 6.07 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 39 RBI.


Report: Dodgers sign P Freddy Garcia to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) The Dodgers have signed pitcher Freddy Garcia to a minor-league contract, according to a report from MLB.com

Garcia spent 2014 pitching in Taiwan, and was with the Braves and Orioles in 2013 before that. He has a career 4.15 ERA since entering the majors in 1999. 


Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts rips eighth double of spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts continues to rip through pitchers in spring training. Bettes went 2 for 3 with a double, one RBI and three runs scored for Boston against Minnesota Monday. 

Betts now has eight doubles this spring with a blistering .467 average in 45 plate appearances.


Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson gives up one run in outing Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson went 5 2/3 innings Monday, allowing just one run on five hits with four strikeouts against the Twins.

Masterson is now 2-1 this spring with a 3.50 ERA in five appearances.


Royals P Jason Vargas gives up five runs in win over Rangers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Royals pitcher Jason Vargas gave up five earned runs in five innings in Monday's 11-7 win over the Rangers. 

Vargas surrendered seven hits, one walk while striking out five batters. His ERA this spring is now 9.68. Vargas struck out five batters but gave up four home runs. 


Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris posts eight strikeouts Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris recorded eight strikeouts over six innings of work Monday against the Astros. Norris allowed four runs on five hits in the outing.

"I'm actually glad that happened tonight, just being able to bounce back and make the adjustment in-game," Norris said to MLB.com. "It was a good finish. It was one of those nights where 90 percent of the mistakes I made got hit. That's baseball, I guess."

Norris has posted a 3.28 ERA in 24 2/3 innings of work with a team-leading 29 strikeouts in spring training.


White Sox pitcher Zach Putnam tosses straight scoreless appearance
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) White Sox pitcher Zach Putnam continues to make a push for a role in the bullpen. That journey continued Monday, throwing his fourth consecutive scoreless appearances after giving up eight runs over 3 2/3 innings in his first four games of spring training.

"I feel as if it's been there since the start of camp, but what changed was the frequency with which I was throwing it," Putnam said to MLB.com. "I was going into at-bats early on trying to kind of work on my fastball and polish my cutter just a little bit.

"When you are not fine with those pitches and guys are coming in taking massive hacks trying to hit homers, as they are sometime in Spring Training, I got hurt a lot. As soon as I figured it out and started throwing it more and setting up hitters the same way I set them up during the season, things fell into place for me."


Orioles comfortable with Everth Cabrera at short
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Orioles GM Dan Duquette gave Everth Cabrera a vote of confidence on Monday. 

With expected starting shortstop J.J. Hardy missing the start of the season with a strained muscle in his shoulder, Duquette was asked if the team was in the market to acquire a shortstop. 

"We signed one just before camp opened," Duquette said, per MASN Sports. Cabrera signed with the team as a free agent in late February. 

Cabrera has hit .238 this spring. 


 
 
 
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