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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: Melky Cabrera not interested in playing on artificial surface
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:48 am ET) The chances of free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera returning to the Blue Jays aren't looking good, and it may be because of Toronto's playing surface.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN on Thursday, Cabrera's preference is to sign with a team other than the Blue Jays so he doesn't have to play his home games on artificial surface. The Blue Jays play in Rogers Centre, which uses Astroturf Gameday Grass. At home last season, Cabrera slashed .304/.352/.454 with seven home runs and 38 RBI over 273 at-bats.


Shane Victorino: 'I should be the starting right fielder' for Red Sox
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino believes he should be the team's starting right fielder in 2015 amidst a crowded group of contenders, WEEI.com reports.

"If you think there’s somebody better in right, be my guest," Victorino said. "Obviously health will dictate that. But if I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it. I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder. There are things to come into play and situations to be discussed.

"I plan on being healthy and out there and ready to go. Like I said, it’s my job. I don’t think there’s anybody can tell me differently. If they feel there is from an organization’s standpoint it is what it is. As I’ve said, whatever uniform it may be I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent and be the best I can be. Obviously I want it to be a Red Sox uniform and be a right fielder, but I can’t control decisions that are made from up top."

Victorino will swing a bat Monday for the first time since undergoing back surgery. "Everything feels great," he said. "There hasn't been any setbacks."


Report: Tigers, White Sox show interest in Justin Masterson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/27/2014) The Tigers and White Sox have joined the Royals, Twins and Cubs as teams to show interest in free-agent pitcher Justin Masterson, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Masterson's agent is scheduled to meet with teams over Thanksgiving weekend. The pitcher struggled in 2014, going 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA in 25 starts.


Reds sign Brennan Boesch to minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Reds have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Boesch, 29, is a career .256/.309/.412 hitter over five seasons for the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.

He was in the minors for most of last season, hitting .332 with 25 homers for the Angels Triple-A affiliate. 


Royals acquire infielder Ryan Jackson from Dodgers
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Royals have acquired infielder Ryan Jackson from the Dodgers for cash considerations. Jackson was out for most of last season with a wrist injury. 

Jackson hit .278 with 34 RBI at Triple-A Memphis, playing 122 games at shortstop and third base in 2013.


Report: Talks break down between Yanks, Phils about Rollins deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Yankees and Phillies reportedly discussed a deal for 35-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins before talks broke down, according to ESPN reporter Jayson Stark.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Rollins is "one of the best shortstops in baseball still" but wouldn't confirm Yankees interest in the veteran. Amaro also said Rollins is "somebody we want on our club and would be very hard to replace."

Rollins is due $11 million this season and his contract is up at the end of 2015. Rollins hit .243 with 55 RBI and stole 28 bases in 2014. 


Padres' Blaine Boyer clears waivers, heads for free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Padres right-handed pitcher Blaine Boyer cleared waivers Wednesday and will enter free agency, according to U-T San Diego. Boyer was designated for assignment last week.

Boyer appeared in 32 games last season for the Padres and posted a 3.57 ERA. 


Rays designate Sean Rodriguez for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have designated 29-year-old Sean Rodriguez for assignment. 

Rodriguez hit .211 with 12 home runs last season. 


Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa clear waivers, released by Rays
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Catcher Jose Molina and infielder Cole Figueroa cleared waivers and were released by the Rays Wednesday. 

Both Molina and Figueroa were designated for assignment Thursday. Molina, 39, hit .178 over 225 at-bats last year, while Figueroa hit .233 in 43 at-bats. 


Rays sign right-hander Ernesto Frieri to major-league contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have announced signing of right-hand pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract. Frieri will make a base salary of $800,000, going up to $3.15 million with incentives, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Frieri, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2013, had 11 last season with a 7.34 ERA.


 
 
 
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