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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
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara not utilizing fastball this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has been throwing an unusual amount of offspeed pitches to start the season. Uehara has thrown fastballs on just 15 percent of his pitches this season, compared to 50 percent over the last three years, according to the Boston Herald.

Manager John Farrell isn't reading too much into it.

"He's going to go with what he feels," Farrell said. "Every 3 mph is about a foot distance in traveling to home plate. So there's a little bit different reaction time. But regardless of velocity there still needs to be the use of (the fastball) just to create separation between his fastball and his split."

Uehara is 1-1 so far this season with a 4.15 ERA and three saves in 4 1/3 innings.


White Sox send reliever Daniel Webb back to Triple-A
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) White Sox reliever Daniel Webb , who was called up Sunday as the 26th man for the team's doubleheader against the Royals, was sent back down to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. 

Webb pitched in 57 games last season for the White Sox but was one of the team's final cuts in spring training. 


Diamondbacks struggling to fill in void at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale knew his team wasn't going to go the entire season without an injury. But the skipper was hoping to avoid the issue he currently has at third base, according to AZCentral.com.

With Jake Lamb on the disabled list with a foot injury, Aaron Hill and Yasmany Tomas have struggled to put it together, combining for a .559 OPS in the last five games.

"Yeah, that's huge," Hale said. "You're going to have injuries all year. There's going to be a multitude of them for every team. If you can't make the adjustment — if guys can't come in and fill the void — then you're going to be in trouble as a club."

Tomas is hitting .286 in 14 at-bats this season while Hill is scuffling along at .156 in 45 at-bats.


Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allows seven runs in rehab start
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed seven runs in five innings of work in his third rehab start in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, according to Philly.com.

Billingsley, who is currently on the 15-day DL with an elbow injury, added three strikeouts and two walks in the appearance. He has yet to appear in a major league game since 2013 while dealing with multiple elbow injuries.


Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez still working out of funk
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has yet to put things together at the plate so far this season. Gonzalez is hitting just .197 with two home runs in 66 at-bats and it's wearing on him a bit, according to the Denver Post.

"I'm not in a good place. I'm still hitting (.197)," he said. "But I'm happy that I'm healthy, and that I'm playing, and that we are winning. I think we are having a good month so far as a team."

Manager Walt Weiss thinks he's really close to seeing Gonzalez get all the pieces together and go on a run.

"I saw real good signs from CarGo, hitting the ball hard the opposite way," Weiss said. "It wasn't just the couple of hits he got. It was the way he got them. Those are things that he had been working on. Then, to get results like that, is always encouraging."

Report: Josh Hamilton trade expected to be completed Monday
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) The trade of outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Angels to the Rangers is expected to be completed Monday, with Hamilton then reporting to Texas' spring training site in Arizona to continue his rehab from offseason surgery, per MLB.com. 

The trade was rumored to have been completed Sunday, but complications arose in finalizing the deal. The Rangers are expected to hold a press conference announcing the trade on Monday. Hamilton is expected to play several games in Triple-A before being called up to the Rangers. 


Dodgers' Jimmy Rollins not concerned with early slump at the plate
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins isn't worrying just yet about his struggles at the plate, according to the Orange County Register.

"Well, some people like to panic. That has never been my MO," he said. "I have, what, 50, 60 at-bats, I'm not sure. So if these are my worst 50 at-bats this year – I'm glad they're happening now. (If they are his worst at-bats) it’s going to be a very good year."

Rollins is hitting just .186 in 70 at-bats so far this season. He believes he's still been taking good swings at the plate, just not finding the gaps in the defense.

"It's hard to compute if you just look at numbers," he said. "I'm getting myself in good counts, just not finishing it off. I know it's coming. I'm hitting some off the end, some are getting in just a little bit. But the swing path is right. It's just a click here, a click there.

"The process is good. You have to continue to trust in the process and believe in the process. You get oriented in just results – especially at times like this – then you're trying to make all these technical changes and that's when you go from one to two to 100. So the process is right. Executing it is about fine-tuning."


Angels OF Matt Joyce hopes hit signals end of slump
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce saw his eight-game hitless streak come to an end Sunday with an eighth-inning single that ended an 0-for-26 skid. The right fielder, who figures to be a fixture in Los Angeles' lineup with the expected departure of Josh Hamilton, said he hopes the small start will lead to bigger things, according to the Los Angeles Times

"Sometimes it's a tough game," Joyce said. "It seems like you try everything, and you put in so much time and effort and work, it gets to be frustrating. It gets to be hard to swallow and accept it, and hard to keep showing up and grinding it out."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he will continue to stick with Joyce, who is hitting just .140 on the season. 


Mets starter Jonathon Niese struggles vs. Yankees
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Mets starter Jonathon Niese was not sharp Sunday in the finale of the Subway Series against the Yankees, lasting just five innings while allowing six runs and eight hits. Niese was betrayed somewhat by his defense, which committed four errors behind him, leading to two unearned runs. 

Niese was spotted a 2-0 first-inning lead, but he quickly gave it back, allowing a first-inning homer to Alex Rodriguez and then giving up four second-inning runs as the Yankees broke the game open. 

"You can't look into it too deeply," Niese said to MLB.com. "It's a loss. It's a tough loss. Obviously we want to win, but we've just got to get through it, learn from it, move on and play better."

Niese, who threw 86 pitches, saw his ERA rise to 2.74 in absorbing his first loss of the season. 

"I just wish I could have a couple pitches back," Niese said. "But I threw them. The results were what they were. I've just got to move on."

Niese will look to get back on track Saturday against the Nationals.


Nationals considering keeping Yunel Escobar at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Nationals manager Matt Williams will have a decision to make when his regular third baseman Anthony Rendon comes back from injury. With Rendon on the shelf, Yunel Escobar has shifted to third and Williams is considering leaving him there even after Rendon returns, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The team is unsure yet what will happen when Rendon returns, but one theory has Escobar staying at third and Rendon shifting to second base, according to Heyman.

Escobar is hitting .292 with five RBI in 65 at-bats while slotted at third base.


 
 
 
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