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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
Mets pitcher Matt Harvey may be dealing with 'dead arm'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) Mets pitcher Matt Harvey may be adding insult to injury after the worst start of his career on Saturday. The young pitcher may be dealing with "dead arm," manager Terry Collins said per the N.Y. Daily News.

"I have not talked to Matt yet, but it looks like he might be going through some of that dead arm stuff that sometimes happens. This might help him to have an extra day to get him back on track," said Collins, referring to Thursday’s off day. "He's going to pitch Friday with five days rest, be ready to go."

The team expected these types of bumps in the road in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and didn't send him for futher medical evaluation. Harvey gave up seven runs on six hits in just four innings of work on Saturday.


Red Sox 3B Pablo Sandoval abandons switch-hitting for at-bat
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8:14 pm ET) Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who has missed the last five games with a knee injury, was called upon to pinch-hit Sunday against Angels lefty Cesar Ramos, and surprised everyone by lacing an RBI single while hitting left-handed.

Sandoval told MLB.com that the lefty-lefty matchup was a one-off due to his knee soreness and that when healthy, he would continue to switch-hit despite hitting just 2-for-41 from the right side this season. 

"It feels kind of weird, but I got the job done," Sandoval said. "It's one of those things, I'm going to try to help the team, no matter what. I don't feel great hitting right-handed because of my knee, so I'll just try to keep the momentum going hitting left-handed."

Sandoval said he hopes to be in Boston's lineup Monday if his knee cooperates. 


Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka tosses bullpen session Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:10 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was able to throw a 31-pitch bullpen session on Sunday and feels prepared for his next rehab start on Wednesday, according to NJ.com.

"I feel pretty good about where I am right now," Tanaka said through Japanese translator Shingo Horie. "But basically I'm going to go where the team wants me to go to. The most important thing is for me to be able to come back strong enough to go on the mound and contribute to the team."

Tanaka is currently on the 15-day DL with a wrist injury, but said he may be able to rejoin the team without making a third rehab start if all goes well on Wednesday. Tanaka is 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 1/3 innings of work.


Rangers' Josh Hamilton to play left field when activated
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:02 pm ET) Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is expected to play left field on Monday when he is activated, manager Jeff Banister said on Sunday per the Dallas Morning News.

"We're going to open our arms and give him a great big hug and welcome him," Banister said of Hamilton. "And then we're going to treat him like he's one of 25, just like we do with everybody else."

Hamilton is expected to bat in the middle of the order, most likely fifth behind Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre. 

"We want him to come in and be one of the guys, enjoy the game," Beltre said. "We know what we can do. We don't expect him to come in and carry the offense. That's not going to be his job. With the guys we have, he doesn't have to do that."


Mariners 2B Robinson Cano working through struggles
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:55 pm ET) Robinson Cano is one of the game's best players, but he's been embroiled in a season-long slump for the Mariners, one that has seen his usually solid batting average dip to .247. Cano told MLB.com that he has "no excuses" for his slow start. 

Cano went 0-for-11 in the Mariners' three-game series at Toronto, and Sunday, twice hit into double plays to kill potential big innings for Seattle. 

"I don't know. I feel good. I'm swinging at good balls," Cano said. "I think it's just more just missing my pitches, pitches right down the middle that I've been hitting for foul balls. There's no excuses for that. I'm just struggling."

Cano's on-base percentage is .290, below his career average of .356. 

"The last thing I want to do is hang my head. It's a long season," he said. "And hopefully it'll turn soon."


Padres' Will Middlebrooks hits fifth HR of season
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:40 pm ET) Padres third baseman Will Middlebrooks hit a solo home run to left center field in the top of the third inning of Sunday afternoon's 11-3 victory over the Dodgers. 

The homer was Middlebrooks' fifth of the season. He's now slashing .218/.255/.376.

Middlebrooks finished the game 2 for 5 and also had a single. It's his third two-hit showing in his past five games. In this span, Middlebrooks is hitting .316. 


Padres OF Justin Upton hits grand slam against Dodgers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:35 pm ET) There is a clear reason why the Padres have Justin Upton hitting cleanup. 

In the first inning of Sunday's 11-3 win over the Dodgers, Upton hit a grand slam. Dodgers pitcher Carlos Frias loaded the bases and Upton cleared them with a deep shot to center field on a 2-2 pitch. 

This helped set the tempo of San Diego's barrage of hits and runs for the day. 

Upton finished the game 2 for 4 with six RBI. He also hit a two-run double in the second inning. Upton now has 35 RBI for the season. 

Upton is now slashing .284/.343/.562. 


SS Jose Reyes in Blue Jays clubhouse, expected off DL Monday
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:34 pm ET) Jose Reyes was in the Blue Jays' clubhouse after their victory over Seattle on Sunday, a positive sign that the shortstop will indeed come off the disabled list Monday, per the Associated Press

Reyes, who has been sidelined since April 27 with a rib injury, played in three rehab games at Triple-A Buffalo over the weekend, setting the stage for his return. 

In 60 games this season, Reyes is hitting .250/.266/.300 with three stolen bases.


Padres' Will Venable, Cory Spangenberg combine for 7 hits
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) As a team, the Padres posted 20 hits in Sunday afternoon's 11-3 win over the Dodgers. 

Outfielder Will Venable and infielder Cory Spangenberg combined for seven of those hits in the win. Venable went 4 for 5 and scored three runs while Spangenberg went 3 for 5 with one run scored. 

Despite the barrage of hits and runs, neither recorded an RBI. 

For Venable, this marked the first time this season and the ninth time in his career that he's recorded four hits in a game. Venable now has a slash line of .292/.354/.472. 

This is the second time Spangenberg has recorded a three-hit game. He's slashing .236/.296/.371. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero hits homer in loss
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:19 pm ET) Dodgers third baseman Alex Guerrero blasted a two-run homer in the seventh inning of Sunday afternoon's 11-3 loss to the Padres. 

Guerrero took a 1-0 pitch deep to center field for the home run off of Padres pitcher James Shields. Guerrero finished the day 1 for 4 with two strikeouts. Guerrero is slashing .300/.329/.638 for the season but is only hitting a batting average of .235 in his last five games. 


 
 
 
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