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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
Jason Kipnis not "at full speed"
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(2:54 pm ET) One day after serving as the Indians' designated hitter, Jason Kipnis was left out of the Indians' starting lineup for Monday's game at the Royals. Indians manager Terry Francona told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he had Kipnis batting seventh on Sunday, "because I don't think he's going to be at full speed," as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury.

Kipnis has now started just twice in the last six games.


Wilfredo Tovar getting the call
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:47 pm ET) According to NJ.com, the Mets will call up Wilfredo Tovar for Tuesday's game at Washington. They need an extra infielder with Dilson Herrera sidelined by a strained right quadriceps.

Tovar has spent most of 2014 at Double-A Binghamton, hitting .282 with a .690 OPS in 255 at-bats there.


Danny Duffy set for Monday start
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(2:43 pm ET) Danny Duffy was in the Royals' starting lineup for Monday's game versus the Indians, as expected. He had his last two turns in the rotation skipped, as he recovered from inflammation in his left shoulder.

Mark Trumbo aiming to elevate ball
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:43 pm ET) Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Trumbo homered twice Sunday at Colorado, giving him 11 in 305 at-bats this year. According to the Arizona Republic, he's been looking to improve his home run total by hitting the ball in the air.

"There's no money for me on the ground," Trumbo said. "I need to drive the ball. I need to hit the ball in the air. It's frustrating when you're not doing it, but fortunately today I was able to get a few out there, and that's kind of what I need to do."

According to FanGraphs.com, Trumbo's fly-ball rate is actually a bit higher than it was last season, but fewer of those fly balls are resulting in home runs. The former Angels slugger missed 71 games earlier this season with a stress fracture in his foot.

"Looking at my numbers, if I'm a 30-home run guy, maybe I'm not that far off pace for missing half the year," said Trumbo. "But it feels like this year it's been more frustrating. The balls I've hit hard have been lower for outs. You look around the league, and the guys who are in my same mold probably are getting the ball up in the air. That's what I've got to do, too."


John Jaso, Craig Gentry likely done
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:36 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin acknowledged Sunday that catcher John Jaso and outfielder Craig Gentry are running out of time to return from their concussions and could miss the rest of the season, according to MLB.com.

"With eight games left," Melvin said, "there's always that possibility."

Craig suffered his concussion Sept. 9 after suffering one previously in 2011. Jaso's came way back in August. He was expected to return as a pinch-hitter and part-time DH at one point, but a visit with a concussion specialist Sept. 10 pushed back his timetable.


Jurickson Profar's shoulder still not feeling right
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:27 pm ET) Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar, who has spent all of 2014 rehabbing a torn muscle in the back of his armpit, won't play in the Arizona Fall League as hoped, according to the Dallas Morning News, and will instead visit with sports medicine specialists across the country to try and find a resolution to an injury that should have healed long ago.

"He's worked extremely hard, but he hasn't bounced back," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We need to get him right, so we are gathering additional opinions from a number of the best doctors out there. It's been a frustrating case."

Profar was named the top prospect according to Baseball America prior to 2013. His availability for the start of 2015 is at this point unknown.


Orioles shuffle starting rotation
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:19 pm ET) The Orioles will start right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez at the Yankees on Tuesday, allowing them to stick to their plan of giving each of their starting pitchers an extra day of rest heading into the postseason.

"There's a fine line between not having enough rest and having too much rest, so we're trying to have every guy that pitches get one extra day before the start," manager Buck Showalter told the Baltimore Sun. “We're going to try to give everybody, so you're not too far away from the ball but you get a little extra rest. They all seem to respond well to that."

While left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start Monday at the Yankees, right-hander Chris Tillman won't start again until Friday at Toronto. Miguel Gonzalez will start the team's final game Sunday at Toronto.

As of now, Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman are scheduled to start Wednesday's and Thursday's games at the Yankees, but that could change. Jimenez could end up making a second start before season's end.


Derek Jeter will play final seven games
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:05 pm ET) Manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News that he intends to have retiring shortstop Derek Jeter in the starting lineup for each of the Yankees' final seven games.

"Obviously, some of those days are going to be DH days to keep him going," Girardi said.

Jeter has begun his final homestand with four straight multi-hit games, batting .471 (8 for 17) with a home run and two doubles during that stretch.

"He's hit the ball with more authority," Girardi said. "That's the ups and downs of a hitter. A lot of times, when a guy is older and they're going through it, everyone's ready to write him off. That's what happens. That's the nature of the business. But he's swung the bat extremely well."


Marcell Ozuna's ankle injury does him in
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:54 pm ET) According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the ankle sprain Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna suffered Sunday against the Nationals is in fact a high ankle sprain that will sideline him for the final week of the regular season.

First baseman Justin Bour could get more playing time with Ozuna sidelined, with Garrett Jones shifting to the outfield.


Domonic Brown looks good for Tuesday
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:28 pm ET) Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown was out of the starting lineup for a third straight game Sunday at Oakland, but his right hand had healed enough for him to pinch hit. He struck out in his only at-bat.

According to MLB.com, he expects to return Tuesday at Miami.

"It's just a bruise," Brown said. "We took the X-ray and everything came back negative. I'm all good to go."


 
 
 
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