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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
Report: Twins contemplating shutting down Glen Perkins
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) The Twins could be considering shutting down closer Glen Perkins for the season, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ron Gardenhire has admitted he's worried about the struggling veteran left-hander.

"Yes, I'm concerned," he said about Perkins' recent drop in velocity. "We're going to talk with him (Wednesday). There's a lot of frustration involved right now. We're going to definitely talk with him and see where we're at and see how he's feeling because he just came off that (neck/shoulder) thing and he's had a couple outings where we think the velocity is down. We just want him to be honest with us and not hurt himself."

Perkins has blown three of his last five save opportunities, including Tuesday night, when he surrendered a three-run homer to Detroit slugger J.D. Martinez in the ninth inning. He has allowed five homers in his last eight appearances and at least one hit in each of his last nine.


Jake Arrieta gives owners something to remember
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:32 pm ET) Just in case you were beginning to have some doubts about Jake Arrieta, noticing that he hasn't been quite as dominant in recent weeks with a 3-4 record, 3.67 ERA and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 12 starts since his breakthrough June, he made sure that line of thinking wouldn't haunt you in the offseason, regardless of how his final two starts go, with his performance Tuesday night.

Not only did he record his first complete game and shutout, but he threw a one-hitter, setting a career high with 13 strikeouts. It was a start even better than any of those he had in June, and he did against the same Reds team that beat him up for six earned runs in four inning back on Aug. 28 -- one of two ugly starts that served to inflate his ERA during that 12-start stretch.

The 28-year-old right-hander has maintained his velocity throughout and, apart from a trio of three-walk games at the beginning of July, hasn't encountered any of his past control issues. And for all his strikeouts, he has one of the lowest home run rates in the majors, making him the best of both worlds as far as quality pitchers -- a groundballer who won't give up a bunch of cheap singles pitching to contact.

In other words, he checks off every box on the list.

The one exception, of course, is durability. Until he goes 200 innings, you have reason to wonder if he can. But once all the established aces go off the board, Arrieta will rank as high as any pitcher in 2015. Top 25 seems like a lock.


Jake Lamb, David Peralta still out for Diamondbacks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:18 pm ET) Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb (quad) and outfielder David Peralta (back) remain absent from the lineup Wednesday against visiting San Francisco.

Lamb has had just one at-bat since Friday after an encouraging 7-for-19 stretch. Peralta has been sidelined since Sept. 5.


Nolan Arenado down again Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:09 pm ET) Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is set to sit again Wednesday against the visiting Dodgers with a chest contusion. Rafael Ynoa has been tabbed to man the position.

Arenado was on a 1-for-13 slide before going down.


Hanley Ramirez again a no-go Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:03 pm ET) An elbow strain that prevented oft-injured Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez from playing Tuesday night also has him sidelined Wednesday afternoon in Colorado.

Ramirez, who has missed more than 30 games this season, boasts a stat line of .277/.362/.444. He had nine hits in 17 at-bats before his latest physical setback.


Dee Gordon catching break Wednesday against Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) Red-hot Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon will cool his heels Wednesday afternoon in Colorado. He is out of the lineup in favor of Darwin Barney, who will also assume his leadoff spot.

Gordon owns a 10-game hitting streak with seven multi-hit games. He is 18 of 41 during that stretch with 14 runs scored and four stolen bases.


Brad Peacock start Friday pushes Dallas Keuchel back a day
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:49 am ET) Astros right-hander Brad Peacock, who lost his Monday start to back soreness, has returned to the rotation, thanks to a pain-free bullpen session Tuesday. He is set to start Friday night against Seattle, the Houston Chronicle has reported.

The move pushes ace lefty Dallas Keuchel back to Saturday, giving him an extra day of rest.


Steve Pearce could be in line for occasional break
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) The promotion of prospect Christian Walker could mean a bit of rest for blossoming Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce downt the stretch after the team clinched the American League East title Tuesday night, per the Baltimore Sun.

Pearce has received more significant playing time than at any point in his major league career. He has been particularly hot lately with eight hits, including two home runs, in the last 17 at-bats. Despite having made his debut in 2007, his 320 at-bats this year nearly doubles his previous single-season high.


Yonder Alonso seeking return to Padres next year
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:32 am ET) Padres shelved first baseman Yonder Alonso is hoping he will be asked back in 2015 after losing the last seven weeks of this season to a wrist injury that required surgery.

"I don't deal with the business side of it, but I think we have really good people here, really good guys that make really good decisions (as far as) the guys that came in," Alonso told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "They know the game, they know baseball and they know what I can bring."

What Alonso brought this year was a stat line of .240/.285/.397 and seven home runs in 267 at-bats. He finished with a flourish with 11 hits in his last 17 at-bats, including two taters.

Alonso could be non-tendered next season in his first year of arbitration eligibility.


Rusney Castillo not much help this year
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:31 am ET) Rusney Castillo's debut for the Red Sox Wednesday night in Pittsburgh shouldn't create the mad dash to the waiver we're used to seeing for midseason callups. If you play in a traditional weekly league, you have just one more opportunity to set a lineup, and nothing he does in the next five days would compel you to switch from what you already have (outside of AL-only leagues, of course, where he's probably been owned since the day he signed).

And I suspect it won't be so noteworthy anyway. Other than the 22 at-bats he got during the minor-league playoffs, he hasn't played competitive baseball in over a year. And now, he's competing against the best the world has to offer.

But his arrival is still welcome news in Fantasy. Often, the most difficult players to assess going into a new season are the ones imported from overseas, where the competition is questionable and the available scouting reports are limited. The Red Sox are removing much of the mystery by giving us this sneak peak.

So what would be a successful debut for Castillo? My latest post to the Fantasy Baseball Today blog discusses just that. Be sure to give it a look.


 
 
 
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