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Down on the Farm: Under the radar

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Usually, for this top portion of Down on the Farm, I focus on the big boys -- the prospects most likely to matter in Fantasy from the moment they set foot in the big leagues. You know, the Taijuan Walkers and George Springers of the world.

But in the meantime, plenty of little guys arrive to significantly less fanfare. More often than you'd think, those little guys become big boys. It's not the most likely scenario, but it's common enough that they shouldn't go ignored.

So instead of looking at what's next in line, let's take this opportunity to play catch-up, examining a few of the recent call-ups worth monitoring in Fantasy even though they didn't prompt a mad dash to the waiver wire.

Keep in mind "little guys" is a relative term. These players are all still prospects on some level -- they got to the majors, after all -- and chances are most dynasty league owners have already heard of them.

But considering most are owned in less than 15 percent of leagues, they're going overlooked even in some of those formats.

Cody Asche, 3B, Phillies

One thing Asche has going for him is regular playing time. With Ryan Howard potentially out for the season and Darin Ruf now entrenched in right field, first base is wide open for at-bats leach Michael Young, leaving no one but Asche to play third. Unfortunately, with superior prospect Maikel Franco just a couple levels behind him, it's an opportunity he'll have to seize right away, and I'm just not sure he has it in him. His minor-numbers were ... OK, but he wasn't exactly pacing the home run leaders, and his poor plate discipline makes his solid batting average no certainty to translate. If he ends up being another Trevor Plouffe, which is my guess at this early stage of his career, he won't be long for the starting lineup. I wouldn't bother with him outside of NL-only leagues.

Wilmer Flores, 3B, Mets

Flores has his share of skeptics who believe his .321 batting average, 15 homers and 36 doubles at Triple-A this year were more a product of the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League than anything else. But his emergence as a .300 hitter with pop actually came last year, in more neutral environments at Class A and Double-A. He was dreadful before then, but he was also a teenager whose potential was evident even to the scouts who grew impatient with him. Considering he never struck out even 80 times in a minor-league season, I buy him being a good source of batting average and suspect he'll deliver at least a dozen homers per year. The question is where he'll play. He doesn't profile at first base, has proven less-than-satisfactory up the middle and, at least with the Mets, doesn't have a future at third base.

Scooter Gennett, 2B, Brewers

Gennett might be the most perplexing of all the prospects to arrive this year. In fact, just calling him a prospect is generous, judging by his minor-league numbers. OK, so he hit .300 in the lower levels, but with minimal pop and even less on-base ability. Yet there Baseball America lists him, eighth in the Brewers system, touting his offensive potential and declaring him an eventual replacement for Rickie Weeks. Look, they know more than I do, so if they see something beyond the .745 OPS he compiled over four minor-league seasons, I'll certainly hear them out. Martin Prado compiled a .743 OPS over his minor-league career, and clearly, he turned out fine. Weeks' season-ending hamstring injury will give us a good, long look at Gennett over the final seven weeks, so though he doesn't excite me now, I could see how he might at season's end.
Most Added Relievers (as of 8/15)
Player % owned
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox 43
2. Tommy Milone, SP, Athletics 41
3. Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Mariners 41
4. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 39
5. Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees 39
6. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 32
7. Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners 30
8. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 30
9. Tommy Hanson, SP, Angels 23
10. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Indians 22

Matt Davidson, 3B, Diamondbacks

Really, another third baseman? Haven't we had enough turnover at the position over the last two years, with Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier, Will Middlebrooks, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado and on and on and on? Look, another can't hurt, especially since so many of that group, at least to this point, haven't panned out. Among this group, Davidson is one of the safer bets, though right now, he doesn't have the same claim to at-bats that Cody Asche and Wilmer Flores do. He'll play some with Cody Ross on the DL, but the Diamondbacks don't need to move Martin Prado off third base to fill out their outfield. And in the heat of a pennant race, manager Kirk Gibson doesn't seem too thrilled with the idea of breaking in a youngster. Davidson didn't put up obscene power numbers over his minor-league career but could eventually develop into a steady .270-hitting, 30-homer type.

Andrew Lambo, OF, Pirates

As prospects go, Lambo is the ultimate wild card. OK, so Evan Gattis was the ultimate wild card, but Lambo is of the same ilk. He was once so highly regarded that Baseball America ranked him 49th among all prospects, but that was back in 2009. Since then, he's battled substance abuse and a wrist injury, putting up mostly uninspiring numbers in between. To say he's come back strong this year would be an understatement. At the time of his promotion Monday, he was tied for the minor-league lead in homers with 31 in only 436 at-bats. And no, he wasn't playing in the Pacific Coast League. At age 25, Lambo is at a sink-or-swim stage of his career. He might not get too many opportunities after this one, and a slow start could bury him on the Pirates' bench. But if they're patient with him, I like his chances. The talent was always there.
Five on the Farm ... by Michael Hurcomb (@CBSHurc), CBSSports.com

It's time to take a trip down memory lane. Though, if you are a Phillies' fan, this could be painful.

Let's go back to the spring of 2011, when the Phillies entered the season with such promise and had a pretty healthy farm system, especially when it came to elite pitching prospects. If you recall, the Phillies had a quartet of starting pitcher prospects dubbed the "Baby Aces."

They were Brody Colvin, Jarred Cosart, Trevor May and Jesse Biddle. Once considered the potential replacements or rotation complements for the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, the "Baby Aces" are more like the "Baby Ace" nowadays.

Cosart and May are no longer in the system, and while Biddle is still on track to help the Phillies down the road, the same can't be said for Colvin, who was considered the team's top pitching prospect in 2011.

Although Colvin came with some off-the-field baggage, the scouts loved his live arm and felt he had the most upside of all the "Baby Aces." Sadly, Colvin seems the farthest away from maxing out his potential.

The 6-3, 195-pound right-hander has struggled with consistency and fastball command. His long-arm-circle delivery results in an inconsistent release point, which Colvin hasn't been able to overcome. He's walking a career-high 6.0 batters per nine innings in 2013 and 4.0 batters per nine innings in his career.

Colvin has spent the last two seasons bouncing between the rotation and bullpen, as the Phillies have tried to settle him down and get his promising career back on track. But on top of a career-worst 6.46 ERA this season, Colvin has walked more batters (47) than he's struck out (32), and his career might have reached the point of no return.

The former top 100 prospect isn't the first and won't be the last player to fail to live up to expectations. This week's Five on the Farm highlights a few other prospects whose struggles are impacting their long-term Fantasy keeper appeal.

Gary Brown, OF, Giants
Affiliate:Triple-A Fresno
2013 stats:.228/.286/.384/.670, six triples, 12 home runs, 26 doubles, 46 RBI, 70 runs, 13 stolen bases, 29 walks and 116 strikeouts in 116 games
After a breakout season in 2011, Brown was considered the Giants' top prospect heading into 2012. He was also considered a top 50 prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com last year. The Giants thought so much of Brown that when the Mets asked for the 2010 first-round pick in exchange for outfielder Carlos Beltran at the 2011 trade deadline, San Francisco instead parted ways with Zack Wheeler. In hindsight, the Giants probably wish for a mulligan. Brown was expected to be in the Giants' outfield by now. Sadly, his career has stalled. Brown, who rated off the charts by scouts for his ability to fill up the stat sheet, started to struggle last season at Double-A, but he finished strong, giving hope 2013 would bring better days. That hasn't been the case. I'm not of the belief Brown's 2011 numbers (.336/.519/.925) were inflated by the hitter-friendly California League. I just feel advanced pitching has gotten the better of Brown. He still has all the tools to succeed, but he's got plenty of work to do before getting a chance to start in the majors.

Matt Barnes, SP, Red Sox
Affiliate:Double-A Portland
2013 stats:5-8, 4.27 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 126 strikeouts, 41 walks, 101 hits and 11 home runs allowed in 22 starts (99 innings)
Barnes went eight picks behind fellow University of Connecticut standout George Springer in the 2011 MLB draft, and his career was on a similar trajectory after a standout 2012. But while Springer has only elevated his status in 2013, Barnes has taken a step back and might fall out of the mix as a top 100 prospect heading into 2014. Barnes still has great stuff, especially his fastball, which Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper calls "special," according to The Providence Journal. Where Barnes has struggled in 2013 has been with his delivery and secondary pitches. While he was overpowering in college and at Class A last season, he's learning the hard lesson -- advanced hitters aren't as easy to retire. While Barnes hasn't had a banner season, it's not time to give up on him. Not when he's still striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings. If he doesn't bounce back in 2014, then it might be time to worry, but the 23-year-old right-hander is just learning what it's like to deal with adversity. He's still very talented and has value as a long-term Fantasy keeper.

Trevor Story, SS, Rockies
Affiliate:Class A Modesto
2013 stats:.227/.295/.381/.675, three triples, 10 home runs, 29 doubles, 51 RBI, 57 runs, 157 strikeouts, 35 walks and 18 stolen bases in 111 games
Story entered the year as one of the Rockies' top prospects, just making the top 100 list for Baseball America and MLB.com. The 2011 first-round pick had great success to start his pro career. He was named the Pioneer League's top prospect in 2011 and came back in 2012 to slug .505 for low Class A Asheville. Unfortunately, the story has changed a bit for the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder this season. Playing in the hitter-friendly California League was only supposed to elevate Story's standing as a top shortstop prospect. Instead, Story is not even considered tops at the position within the Colorado organization, as MLB.com moved Rosell Herrera ahead of Story at its midseason rankings. Talk about a quick fall from grace. Perhaps the most alarming stat is Story's increased strikeout rate. He is striking out in 37.1 percent of his at-bats after striking out in 25.4 percent of at-bats in 2012. Much like Barnes, it's not time to toss away Story after one uneven season. He still has promising speed-power potential, and he hasn't even reached the high minors yet. The 20-year-old has plenty of time for a comeback story.

Mike Montgomery, SP, Rays
Affiliate:Triple-A Durham
2013 stats:7-5, 4.24 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 63 strikeouts, 39 walks, 86 hits and eight home runs allowed in 16 outings (87 innings)
Out of all the players on this list, Montgomery probably had the highest ceiling. He made Baseball America's top 100 list in 2010, 2011 and 2012 -- climbing as high as No. 19. While Montgomery dominated in the low minors and flashed ace potential, it hasn't been the same story in the high minors. He has a career 5.05 ERA and 1.46 WHIP at Double-A and a 5.14 ERA and 1.53 WHIP at Triple-A. The Royals got fed up with waiting on the left-handed hurler to develop, so they shipped him to Tampa Bay in the offseason. No matter how good Tampa Bay has been with developing pitchers, the Rays haven't figured out how to cure Montgomery's erratic ways. He might make it to the majors as a back-of-the-rotation arm or middle reliever, but long-term keeper owners don't need to waste a roster spot on Montgomery anymore.

Mason Williams, OF, Yankees
Affiliate:Class A Tampa
2013 stats:.262/.329/.353/.681, three triples, three home runs, 21 doubles, 23 RBI, 55 runs, 14 stolen bases, 60 strikeouts and 39 walks in 98 games
Williams had a tough start to the year. Not only did he hit below .300 in April and May, but he also had some legal problems (DUI) in late April. Though, he began to play better in June and July, hitting .313 and .325, respectively. But even if Williams finishes the year on a high note, he's going to take a stumble in the prospect rankings heading into 2014. The scouts love Williams for his athleticism. The Yankees love him for his upside. One club official told Baseball America the team compares Williams to former Yankees prospect Austin Jackson. We all know how valuable Jackson is in Fantasy, so Williams living up to expectations could pay huge dividends down the road. Although he hasn't shown it this year, Yankees' officials feel Williams has 20-homer potential. Williams is expected to start in the high minors in 2014, despite a less-than-spectacular season. It's advisable for long-term keeper owners to hold onto Williams in the offseason in hopes he bounces back next year.

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
Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers working to fix command issues
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers gave up four runs on four hits in Thursday's game, his first rough patch of spring training. Brothers thinks his command faded when he got batters down in the count, reports the Denver Post.

"It was like an out-of-body experience," he said Friday. "Just one of those oddity nights. I was sharp until I got into put-away counts, then it was brutal. Absolutely brutal."

Manager Walt Weiss isn't concerned about his appearance and thinks it was more of an aberration.

"There's been enough positive signs in spring to feel good about where he is," Weiss said. "But fact of the matter is, that stuff is always right around the corner. Not just him, but anybody."


Seven no-hit innings for Royals' Yordano Ventura
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:56 am ET) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura threw seven no-hit innings in Friday's start. 

Ventura walked two and struck out four, while throwing 49 of his 88 pitches for strikes. He lowered his spring ERA to 5.14.

The Royals took Ventura from the game after the seventh, as reliever Jason Frasor made it one out further before giving up a hit. 

The bullpen completed the one-hitter. 


Brewers pitcher Will Smith holds key to success out of the bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Brewers pitcher Will Smith could be the best cog in Milwaukee's bullpen this season. Manager Ron Roenicke sure hopes so, reports MLB.com.

"I think coming into it, we're counting on him to pitch some high-leverage innings," Roenicke said Friday. "He's going to be a huge part of that bullpen and what we do and how I match up the seventh and eighth inning. He's going to be important."

Smith has a 0.87 ERA in eight appearances this spring and posted a 3.70 ERA in 78 games last season.

"My last two outings I felt really good out there, really strong," Smith said on Friday. "Me and the catchers are on the same page for everything now. I think I'm good to go now."


Still no decision between Mariners' Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon still hasn't named a winner in the battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. 

RHP Taijuan Walker and LHP Roenis Elias are in the running for the spot. Walker has a 0.00 ERA in 18 innings this spring, while Elias' ERA is 6.75. 

McClendon said he wouldn't announce his fifth starter until the final week of spring. Saturday marks the start of the final week, and McClendon said he'd "be close" to making the call, per MLB.com's Greg Johns.


Brewers to decide leadoff hitter Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) Brewers manager Ron Roenicke plans to decide between Scooter Gennett and Carlos Gomez for the leadoff spot in the lineup by Monday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Gennett hit .289 with 54 RBI and 55 runs scored in 440 plate appearances last season while Gomez hit.284 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 574 plate appearances.


Phillies' Jake Diekman historically bad in loss
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Phillies pitcher Jake Diekman declared his Friday appearance, "the worst outing in the history of the world." 

Diekman entered a scoreless game in the fifth inning and promptly gave up a double and four singles before recording an out. He ended up allowing seven runs in one third of an inning.

"I fell behind in counts and every strike I threw they took a good swing at," Diekman said, per CSN Philly. "It’s embarrassing. ... It's unbelievable." 

Despite his 12.27 ERA, Diekman got a vote of confidence from manager Ryne Sandberg. "There’s no concern," he said. 


Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy gets first start at first base Friday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Brewers regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy drew his first start at first base after being cleared from a strained right hamstring injury. Manager Ron Roenicke wanted to be able to see Lucroy's versatility.

"Thought we needed to do it, so hopefully we can do it at least once more,” said Roenicke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But as much as he gets out there, it will help. There’s some pitchers that we still want him to catch and if we can get through those then maybe some other days we can get him over there again."

Lucroy was happy to finally be back on the field.

"I've been doing a little bit out there every day," Lucroy said. "Taking some grounders and stuff to stay sharp over there."


Cardinals' John Lackey ready for the regular season
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) John Lackey pitched seven innings, the longest of any Cardinals starter so far this season. 

Lackey allowed one run on six hits and didn't walk a batter, throwing 84 pitches. 

"Throwing seven innings, that was probably a little bit further than I thought I'd go today with the pitch count," said Lackey, per MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch. "But they were pretty aggressive, and I was throwing a lot of strikes. It worked out pretty good."

Lackey had his catcher call the game as if it were a regular season game, and his performance indicates that he's ready for the season to begin.

"That's what it looked like," coach David Bell said. "It looked like he was making all his pitches. The velocity was there. He probably had a little more in the tank, which is a good thing."


Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez not worried about role on staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez gave up just one run on five hits in five innings of work Friday against the Nationals. Martinez, who is competing for the final spot in St. Louis' starting rotation, has allowed just seven runs in 16 innings of work.

"I've been working hard," Martinez said through an interpreter to MLB.com. "Some of the outings haven't gone as good as I've wanted to, but I'm just trying to learn from that and get better every day."

Martinez is still focused on earning a starting spot.

"Right now I'm fighting to be a starter," Martinez said. "But if they call me into the bullpen I'm going to be ready for the team. I just want to help the team win, and I'm going to be ready when my name gets called."


Rays pitcher Everett Teaford making push for spot on pitching staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Rays pitcher Everett Teaford tossed two scoreless innings Friday, sending all six batters down in order. The 31-year-old is making management give him an extra look before deciding on the final pitching staff, reports MLB.com.

"I thought he threw the ball well. First pitch, Reimold was ready to go, but after that I thought Teaf did a nice job of mixing pitches just like he always does," manager Kevin Cash said.

Cash likes that Teaford can get out of nearly any situation that arises.

"He's been around enough that he's probably given up enough home runs and big hits so he knows how to handle it when he does deal with some adversity," said Cash. "I wouldn't have expected anything other than that from him. Just getting right back into the strike zone again."

Teaford has spent most of spring training working on his command and effectiveness.

"That's really been the biggest thing I wanted to do this spring is not walk anybody. If I'm going to get beat, make them beat me and up to this point, I really have," said Teaford.


 
 
 
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