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Pitcher prospects for 2014

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Prospect Reports: Cs | 1Bs | 2Bs | 3Bs | SSs | OFs | Ps

Maybe you've heard there's no such thing as a pitching prospect. I beg to differ.

Given how much of a hair-pulling, gut-wrenching, regret-ridden mind-bender of a task narrowing this list down to a still-unmanageable 30 (to rephrase, 30!) turned out to be, I think I have that right.

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Granted, not all of them will pan out, which is how the expression "there is no such thing as a pitching prospect" came to be, but of last year's 30, 12 -- Shelby Miller, Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler, Jose Fernandez, Julio Teheran, Dan Straily, Trevor Rosenthal, Tony Cingrani, Chris Archer, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tyler Thornburg and Martin Perez -- have now established themselves in the majors, and the others are all still in the discussion. And somehow, Michael Wacha, Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, Danny Salazar and Jarred Cosart weren't even on the list. That says it all right there.

Here's hoping these 30 come closer to being the right 30, though my guess is I can't really go wrong.

Except by leaving out Masahiro Tanaka. That would be wrong if he does end up signing with a big-league team. But since he hasn't yet, I can't include him here. If I could, he'd be No. 1. He may not have the upside of a Taijuan Walker or an Archie Bradley, but come on. The guy would be drafted in all leagues.

Note: This list has been adjusted for Fantasy purposes. Though long-term potential is a factor, it's arguably less important than the player's expected role in 2014. These prospects don't all profile as superstars, but they're the names most worth knowing in Fantasy right now.

1. Taijuan Walker, 21, Mariners
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 9-10, 2.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 160 K, 141 1/3 IP
Major-league stats: 1-0, 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 12 K, 15 IP

Consider this the culmination of the inevitable. Lauded as one of the game's top pitching prospects even as he was just learning to pitch, Taijuan Walker's progression has gone about as smoothly as possible for a player who had so much catching up to do when the Mariners took him 43rd overall in the 2010 draft. The former high school basketball star now boasts a devastating fastball-changeup combination and a complete secondary arsenal, elevating him to the No. 1 spot among pitching prospects. Dissenters might cast a vote for Archie Bradley instead, but unlike Bradley, Walker is major league-ready, having held his own in three five-inning starts for the Mariners late last season. He may technically have to win a job this spring, but the Mariners are already envisioning him forming a dominant one-two punch with Felix Hernandez, reducing Hisashi Iwakuma to third-wheel status. Like every hard-throwing 21-year-old, Walker's control is less than perfect, which means he could be in for an adjustment period. But if another Jose Fernandez exists in this year's crop of rookie pitchers, it's most likely him.

2. Archie Bradley, 21, Diamondbacks
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 14-5, 1.84 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 162 K, 152 IP

While so many of the high-end hurlers picked alongside him in the first round of the 2011 draft -- such as Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy, Jose Fernandez and Sonny Gray -- have already tasted the majors, Archie Bradley is still trudging along in the minors. But just because the Diamondbacks have been patient with his development doesn't mean he's any less talented. Drafted out of high school, he needed a chance to sort out his mechanics and refine his arsenal in the lower levels, but his 1.97 ERA over 21 starts last year at Double-A -- normally considered the biggest step up the minor-league ladder -- suggests he's close to being a finished product. He struggles with walks, which is hardly uncommon for a 21-year-old who hits 97 mph with his fastball, but his stuff is so good that they rarely come back to bite him. Some time at Triple-A to begin the year certainly couldn't hurt, but come midseason, if the Diamondbacks are in contention and not getting what they hoped from Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill or Randall Delgado, Bradley is a good bet for a promotion, especially since he's already equipped to throw 180 innings. He wouldn't be the worst use of a mixed-league roster spot if you can afford the wait.

3. Dylan Bundy, 21, Orioles
Where played in 2013: Did not play -- injured

By the time he's ready to return to game action this summer, Dylan Bundy will have gone so long without pitching that Fantasy owners might forget just how good he is. They couldn't stop salivating over him at this time last year. The talk of the minor leagues after he began his professional career with 30 scoreless innings (in which he allowed just five hits) at low Class A Delmarva, Bundy worked his way up to the majors at age 19, making a couple relief appearances in September that some people assumed would lead to a rotation spot the following spring. But that's when fate intervened. The reports of elbow soreness first broke in mid-March, and though rest and rehabilitation were initially prescribed, Bundy eventually submitted to Tommy John surgery in June. The good news is the procedure has an astonishing track record, so more likely than not, he'll be good as new by season's end. With a strong finish, he could be in the mix for a rotation spot in 2015, so if you can get him cheap right now in keeper leagues, it's worth it. If not for the injury, he'd probably be the top pitching prospect, ahead of both Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley.

4. Noah Syndergaard, 21, Mets
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 9-4, 3.06 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 133 K, 117 2/3 IP

Though Travis d'Arnaud was the biggest name acquired in the R.A. Dickey deal last offseason, Noah Syndergaard may have emerged as the superior prospect with the strides he made in 2013. Already equipped with maybe the best fastball in the minors -- a 98-mph runner that handcuffs right-handed batters -- Syndergaard has refined his curveball into a plus secondary pitch, making him a force on the mound. He has always had excellent control for a pitcher who generates so much velocity and movement, issuing 2.5 walks per nine innings over his minor-league career, and it hasn't abated with his climb up the minor-league ladder. In short, he's the latest in what has become a steady stream of top-flight pitching prospects for the Mets, and though he hasn't yet built up the innings to last a full season, he should follow in the footsteps of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler with a midseason call-up, provided he survives two months of the heavy-hitting California League. Outside of NL-only leagues, Syndergaard probably isn't worth stashing all the way from Draft Day, but you'll want to add him when the time is right.

5. Jameson Taillon, 22, Pirates
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: 5-10, 3.73 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 143 K, 147 1/3 IP

At long last, Jameson Taillon is poised to make his major-league debut this year. Just how long has it been since the Pirates took him second overall in the 2010 draft? Long enough that Drew Pomeranz, taken three picks later, has already been traded ... twice. Long enough that Matt Harvey, taken five picks later, has already started an All-Star game, placed in a Cy Young vote and had his elbow surgically repaired by Dr. James Andrews. Clearly, the Pirates have a lot riding on this guy. Fortunately, the scouting reports on Taillon haven't changed too much since he was drafted. His WHIP has always been kind of high, but that's partly because of the way the Pirates develop their pitchers, having them throw mostly fastballs early in games. His arsenal is top-notch, featuring a power curveball and plus changeup in addition to a mid-90s fastball. Of course, just because he's poised to reach the majors doesn't mean he absolutely will. The Pirates don't have an opening in their starting rotation as of yet, so if he gets hurt or bombs at Triple-A Indianapolis, well, he'll just have to keep waiting. It's why you shouldn't necessarily invest a draft pick in him in mixed leagues even though you'll want to pounce at the first sign of a promotion.

6. Kevin Gausman, 23, Orioles
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 3-6, 3.51 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 82 K, 82 IP
Major-league stats: 3-5, 5.66 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 49 K, 47 2/3 IP

Kevin Gausman barely qualifies for this list, having come within 2 1/3 innings of losing his rookie eligibility in a year when the Orioles repeatedly shuttled him between the majors and minors. Most Fantasy owners don't remember him too fondly after he failed to meet the hype upon his initial call-up in May, but the truth is he probably wasn't ready. The Orioles only drafted him one year earlier. Gausman has terrific stuff, boasting a fastball that touches 99 mph, but he's still working on the rest of his arsenal. His final 15 appearances for the Orioles last year came in relief, and he posted a 3.52 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in that role. His upside is too high for the Orioles to confine him there long term, though, so unless he forces his way into the rotation with a dominant spring training, he's probably destined for Triple-A Norfolk, where he could stand to get a little more work. Gausman should eventually pair with Dylan Bundy to give the Orioles one of the best one-two punches in baseball, but for now, he's just hoping for a midseason call-up. His relief pitcher eligibility gives him added appeal in Head-to-Head formats, but he's more of an AL-only option on Draft Day.

7. Robert Stephenson, 21, Reds
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 7-7, 2.99 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 136 K, 114 1/3 IP

While Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley and Jose Fernandez have all generated plenty of buzz for one reason or another since being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, Robert Stephenson has quietly dominated in the minors, compiling a 3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings between four stops over two seasons. And he only seems to be getting better, reducing his walk rate while adding velocity to his fastball. He now throws in the high 90s and features 12-to-6 curveball to boot. That's the arsenal of an ace, and that's the role the Reds anticipate Stephenson filling in the years ahead. Of course, they're pretty well stocked right now with Tony Cingrani emerging last year and David Holmberg waiting in the wings, but a long-term injury for Johnny Cueto or someone else might compel the Reds to turn to Stephenson, particularly if he gets off to a good start at Double-A. More likely, his time will come in 2015, so you shouldn't put too much stock in him in single-season leagues. In long-term keeper leagues, though, he's a prized commodity.

8. Carlos Martinez, 22, Cardinals
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 6-3, 2.49 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 72 K, 79 2/3 IP
Major-league stats: 2-1, 5.08 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 24 K, 28 1/3 IP

Carlos Martinez's biggest problem right now -- and the reason he doesn't rank higher on this list -- is perception. Because of his smallish build, scouts perceive he won't hold up in a starting role, and because he's now had some success in the bullpen -- compiling a 3.52 ERA over his final 21 appearances, regular and postseason combined -- the Cardinals staff might perceive he belongs there, kind of like Trevor Rosenthal last spring. With Rosenthal now entrenched at closer, Martinez and his 100-mph fastball would have nowhere to go but middle relief in that scenario, which is the last thing Fantasy owners want to see. Fortunately, the Cardinals will at least give him a look as a starter in spring training, but if he can't beat out the fragile Jaime Garcia or the scrappy Joe Kelly for a rotation spot, they're likely to keep him around in some other capacity. The potential of his electric stuff in a starting role makes Martinez worth a late-round flier in all leagues -- potentially earlier in Head-to-Head formats, where his relief pitcher eligibility comes in handy -- but the risk of him not getting a chance to deliver could steer some owners away.

9. Mark Appel, 22, Astros
Where played in 2013: short-season Class A, low Class A
Minor-league stats: 3-1, 3.79 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 33 K, 38 IP

As prospects go, Mark Appel's legend precedes him in part because of his highly publicized spurning of the Pirates as the eighth overall pick in 2012. Everyone knows he's a good one, and because he played four years of college ball, everyone expects him to arrive soon. How good and how soon remain to be seen. He was less than outstanding in his first 10 starts as a professional, all in the lower levels, but that was with him pushing 150 innings for the first time, factoring in his work at Stanford. His velocity and control were everything you'd expect of a top prospect, though, and scouts were generally impressed with his secondary stuff. In other words, when assessing Appel for Fantasy purposes, you should rely more on what you've heard over the last couple years than on his small sample of data as a professional. Of course, when assessing him for Fantasy purposes, you should be thinking more in terms of keeper leagues than single-season formats. The Astros are committed to a slow rebuild, and he'd need to skip a level or two to reach the majors this year. He might be worth a flier in deeper AL-only leagues just in case, but that's it.

10. Jonathan Gray, 22, Rockies
Where played in 2013: Rookie, high Class A
Minor-league stats: 4-0, 1.93 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 51 K, 37 1/3 IP

With sound mechanics, excellent control, a fastball that can exceed 100 mph, a biting slider and an emerging changeup, Jonathan Gray was arguably the most talented pitcher in the 2013 draft -- better even than Mark Appel, who went first overall. After the Rockies allowed him to use his full arsenal when he arrived at high Class A Modesto, he was nearly unhittable -- and that was in the California League, where ERAs are normally through the roof. In a perfect world, he'd be the perfect pitching prospect, but in this imperfect one where we live, he landed with the one organization that could potentially mess him up. The Rockies have had only one pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez, perform like an ace in their entire 21-year run. It's not because they've lacked talent, but because the thin air of Coors Field has a way of enhancing fly balls and flattening breaking pitches. Drew Pomeranz was considered a top prospect before he showed up there, lest you forget. Of course, Gray is even better, and his best pitch, his fastball, should be immune. But if the thin air neutralizes his slider, he could underwhelm. The chance of him being a complete bust is small enough that he's still a prized commodity in long-term keeper leagues, especially since he should move quickly at age 22, but you have to consider the risk.

11. Kyle Zimmer, 22, Royals
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 6-9, 4.32 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 140 K, 108 1/3 IP

You'll want to look beyond the numbers with Kyle Zimmer. He had trouble keeping the ball down during a rough patch at high Class A Wilmington early in the season, resulting in a 4.82 ERA in 18 starts at that level. His 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings in four starts after his promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, though obviously too good to be true, are more indicative of his abilities. He'll have to tighten up his mechanics to avoid the peaks and valleys going forward, but in terms of pure stuff, he's a scout's dream, boasting a fastball that can reach triple digits and a secondary arsenal good enough to give him 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in his first 31 minor-league starts. In a year when they intend to contend, the Royals have several potential pitfalls in their starting rotation, so a midseason promotion for Zimmer isn't outside the realm of possibility. He isn't equipped for a big workload, though, and is at best second in line behind Yordano Ventura, so consider his prospects better for the future than the present.

12. Andrew Heaney, 22, Marlins
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 9-3, 1.60 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 89 K, 95 1/3 IP

After a shaky first six starts as a professional late in 2012, Andrew Heaney showed last year why the Marlins drafted him ninth overall two years ago. A 27-inning scoreless streak left him with a 0.88 ERA in 13 appearances, including 12 starts, at high Class A Jupiter, and he didn't let up too much after his promotion to Double-A Jacksonville. Easing up on his fastball to keep his walks in check -- something that sets him apart from other young left-handers -- Heaney still averaged nearly a strikeout per nine innings between the two levels, aided in part by a wipeout slider. He shows so much polish and offers such a refined arsenal that the only things delaying his big-league arrival are durability concerns -- a strained lat early last season limited him to only 95 1/3 innings, though he did add a few more in the Arizona Fall League -- and financial considerations. The Marlins haven't ruled out Heaney for a rotation spot this spring. A midseason promotion is far more likely considering he has made only six starts above Class A, but then again, Jose Fernandez had made none at this time last year. Heaney isn't quite the same caliber of prospect, but he's good enough to deserve a look in all leagues when he gets the call.

13. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, 27, Phillies
Where played in 2013: Did not play -- free agent

Though recent international signees like Yoenis Cespedes, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yoenis Cespedes, who all had similarly mysterious backgrounds, should give Fantasy owners some measure of confidence in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (as should the Phillies' willingness to give him $12 million over three years), the fact of the matter is he's still an unknown quantity after coming over from Cuba. And at age 27, he's destined to either sink or swim here in the States. He'll get the requisite time to acclimate to a new league and shake off the rust -- he hasn't pitched much since 2011 because of circumstances related to his defection as well as surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow -- but by midseason, we should have a good idea what kind of pitcher he'll be. And it may not be one so worthy of a long-term investment. Or it may. Part of the difficulty in assessing him is that no one really knows how good his stuff is. Scouting reports have clocked his fastball at anywhere from 89 to 97 mph. Gonzalez is talented enough and experienced enough to have a role in the majors, but whether it's at the top of the rotation, the bottom of the rotation or the bullpen remains to be seen. He's draftable in mixed leagues for the likelihood he wins a rotation spot, but long-term, he's on shaky ground.

14. James Paxton, 25, Mariners
Where played in 2013: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 8-11, 4.45 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 131 K, 145 2/3 IP
Major-league stats: 3-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 21 K, 24 IP

It's near impossible to reconcile what James Paxton during a four-start stint in the majors last year with his Triple-A numbers. Yes, he was pitching in the Pacific Coast League, a hitter-friendly environment that has warped its share of stat lines, but he didn't have the problems most other pitchers do. His home run rate was as low as ever, and his walk rate -- which sometimes suffers as a by-product of a rising home run rate -- actually dropped. Considering it's the only blemish on his record, though, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Paxton's stuff speaks for itself. He throws a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and features a curveball that's a legitimate out pitch. Like many young left-handers, he has had control issues, but those seem to have dissipated and weren't at all an issue following his promotion. Even with all their maneuvering this offseason, the Mariners have kept a rotation spot open for Paxton, so barring a meltdown this spring, you can expect him to contribute right out of the gate, making him a sleeper for all formats. Even if his relatively low profile allows him to go undrafted in yours, you'll want to keep a close eye on him.

15. Erik Johnson, 24, White Sox
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 12-3, 1.96 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 131 K, 142 IP
Major-league stats: 3-2, 3.25 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 18 K, 27 2/3 IP

Between two stops, Erik Johnson compiled the fifth-best ERA (1.96) and third-best WHIP (0.99) in all the minor leagues, earning him a big-league promotion in September. He wasn't quite as effective there, but he showed enough to have the inside track on a rotation spot for a rebuilding White Sox team. Though his minor-league numbers may remind you of Jose Fernandez's, Johnson isn't quite the same caliber of prospect, but he throws hard, boasts a full arsenal and has the size and mentality to develop into a workhorse. In other words, little stands in his way of becoming a relevant Fantasy contributor -- and sooner rather than later. If early returns are any indication, he may endure some growing pains as a rookie, but the optimistic sort might consider investing a late-round pick in him on Draft Day, hoping he'll have learned from that experience. A big spring would go a long way toward improving Johnson's stock for the short term, so you'll want to keep an eye on him. As for the long term, you can trust him to develop into at least a No. 3 starter, with the potential for more.

16. C.J. Edwards, 22, Cubs
Where played in 2013: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: 8-2, 1.86 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 155 K, 116 1/3 IP

C.J. Edwards wasn't all that well known to the prospecting world until the Matt Garza deal opened everyone's eyes to what he was doing in the minors. Granted, most of it was in the lower levels, but he didn't take even half a step back in his six starts at high Class A, which is where things start getting serious. Judging by his arsenal, it's no wonder he's performed so well. For a player at his stage of development, he has advanced secondary stuff -- most notably, a biting curveball -- to pair with his 95-mph fastball, which suggests he could move quickly up the last few rungs of the ladder. He's a scrawny fellow, which has some scouts questioning his durability for the long haul, but he wouldn't be the first of his build to find success in the majors. If the Cubs weren't so committed to a slow rebuild, Edwards would have a decent chance of breaking into the majors this year, but most likely, they'll just leave him at Double-A to continue building up his innings. As a Johnny-come-lately, he'll be available in some long-term keeper leagues even though his upside ranks up there with anyone at the position.

17. Kyle Crick, 21, Giants
Where played in 2013: high Class A
Minor-league stats: 3-1, 1.57 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 95 K, 68 2/3 IP

Though an oblique injury limited him to only 14 starts, Kyle Crick still made an impression at high Class A San Jose, compiling a 1.57 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. In the heavy-hitting California League, that sort of performance would put anyone on the map. Just ask Tony Cingrani. Of course, unlike Cingrani, Crick was already considered a top prospect, his dominant performance at low A Class Augusta putting him on the map in 2012. He has definite command problems, averaging 5.5 walks per nine innings over his brief minor-league career, but that's because the Giants basically had to build his delivery from scratch after he played mostly first base in high school. What attracted them to the idea was Crick's pure stuff. His fastball is one of the hardest and liveliest in all the minor leagues, and he has a killer breaking ball to boot. Strikeouts will be in no short supply for Crick, and as long as he continues to progress with his delivery, bringing those walks down to a more tolerable number, neither will wins. Crick is a bit of a project, but he's a safe enough one to take priority over similar prospects in long-term keeper leagues.

18. Jake Odorizzi, 24, Rays
Where played in 2013: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 9-6, 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 124 K, 124 1/3 IP
Major-league stats: 0-1, 3.94 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 22 K, 29 2/3 IP

Jake Odorizzi put together about the same numbers at Triple-A last year that he did between Double- and Triple-A in 2013, which is a pretty good indication that he's ready for the majors. But with all the pitching depth in Tampa Bay, he's having to wait his turn after coming over from Kansas City in the James Shields trade last offseason. He may finally get it this year if the Rays indeed move David Price, but to some extent, it will depend on what they get back. At worst, Odorizzi will be next in line for the Rays, giving them another middle-of-the-rotation option who could surprise as more, much like Alex Cobb did last year. Though he doesn't throw as hard as Matt Garza, his numbers are likely to settle in that area because of his improving command and plus changeup. You'll find pitchers with more upside than Odorizzi, particularly on this list, but given how likely he is to meet his upside and how close he is to assuming a full-time role, he's a definite asset in Fantasy and a must-draft in AL-only leagues.

19. Yordano Ventura, 22, Royals
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 8-6, 3.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 155 K, 134 2/3 IP
Major-league stats: 0-1, 3.52 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11 K, 15 1/3 IP

Part of the Royals organization since signing as a 17-year-old in 2008, Yordano Ventura has always been the little guy with the big arm, shocking evaluators with his triple-digit fastball despite his 5-foot-11 frame. But the strides he's made in recent years have helped him become a legitimate part of the Royals future instead of just a sideshow. In fact, he made three starts for the big club in September, and though he didn't last six innings in any of them, he held his own. As a smallish pitcher with a propensity for high pitch counts, Ventura's ability to pitch deep into games has been called into question and may ultimately confine him to a bullpen role. Given the strides he's made so far, though, it seems like something he can overcome. He has already learned to take a little something off his fastball (while still throwing it in the high 90s) to locate it better and has developed a plus secondary arsenal to complement it. For now, the Royals are committed to making him a starter, which is why he figures to begin 2013 at Triple-A. He's worth a prospective pick in AL-only leagues just in case he ends up playing a Danny Salazar role down the stretch.

20. Trevor Bauer, 23, Indians
Where played in 2013: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 6-7, 4.15 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 106 K, 121 1/3 IP
Major-league stats: 1-2, 5.29 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 11 K, 17 IP

Between his two failed stints in the majors and escalating walk rate in the minors, the hype on Trevor Bauer has died down significantly -- and rightfully so. But just last year, Julio Teheran reminded everyone why talent of a certain level deserves the benefit of the doubt. He went from posting a 5.08 ERA and 1.44 WHIP at Triple-A Gwinnett, which nearly removed him from the top prospect discussion, to finishing fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Granted, he doesn't have Bauer's stubborn streak, but just because he lost his way doesn't mean he lost his ability. Bauer was the third overall pick in the 2013 draft and has shown he can hit 96 with his fastball. He didn't last year, but by that point, he had tinkered so much with his mechanics that he didn't know which way was up. The UCLA product has spent his career to this point trying to reinvent the wheel, incorporating concepts like biomechanics and effective velocity into his delivery. It was a worthy venture, but a failed one, and he seems to be on board with that now, working with the coaching staff to regain his delivery this offseason. The Indians are encouraged enough by the results to give Bauer a shot at a rotation spot this spring, and if he wins it, the Teheran comparisons may continue.

21. Matthew Wisler, 21, Padres
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 10-6, 2.78 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 131 K, 136 IP

Matthew Wisler is one of those prospects who lacks the upside of a true ace but whose minor-league track record gives you little reason to think he'll be any less than successful in the majors. His fastball stays mostly in the low 90s, but he gets enough movement with it to keep his hit count relatively low and his strikeout rate relatively high. He also has a full secondary arsenal. In three minor-league stops, including the heavy-hitting California League and the ever-tricky jump to Double-A, he has delivered more or less the same numbers, so consistency and predictability are part of his appeal. If he continues down that path, he'll project for something like Mat Latos numbers in the majors. Granted, that's on the higher end of what he could potentially deliver, but you get the idea: not an ace, but pretty close. At age 21, you would think Wisler is still a ways from contributing in the majors, but if he transitions smoothly to Triple-A, the Padres might not be able to resist giving him a late-season look. Still, he's better left for long-term keeper leagues.

22. Kohl Stewart, 19, Twins
Where played in 2013: Rookie
Minor-league stats: 0-0, 1.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 24 K, 20 IP

Though not as revered as college boys Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray, Kohl Stewart was the top high school pitcher in the 2013 draft and ended up going fourth overall -- the same spot where Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy went the previous two years. So will he be as relevant to Fantasy owners as they are? If early returns are any indication, sure seems so. Granted, it was just 20 innings at rookie ball, but a 1.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings are clearly no cause for concern. For a pitcher with his talent and pedigree, you can assume the best until he gives you reason to believe otherwise. So far, everything points to greatness. You should feel confident selecting Stewart in long-term keeper leagues even though he's only 19 years old. As well as he commands his pitches already, he may end up advancing quicker than anyone expects.

23. Lucas Giolito, 19, Nationals
Where played in 2013: Rookie, short-season Class A
Minor-league stats: 2-1, 1.96 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 39 K, 36 2/3 IP

Lucas Giolito might have been the top pick in the 2012 draft -- ahead of Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Kevin Gausman and Kyle Zimmer, to name a few -- if he hadn't sprained his UCL in his senior year of high school, which should give you some idea of his potential. Hey, it's not like you have a wealth of data to go on. He ended up having Tommy John sugery soon after the Nationals signed him, but as usually happens with that procedure, he seems to be back to form now. He can hit 100 mph with regularity but knows not to overdo it, and his curveball, which he throws in the mid-80s, rates as one of the best in the minors. He's still a little rough around the edges and will likely be on a strict innings limit over the next couple years to protect his elbow. But once his procedure is a thing of the past, he'll give the Nationals another ace alongside Stephen Strasburg, perhaps as early as 2016. Don't let Giolito's injury scare you away in long-term keeper leagues.

24. Alex Meyer, 24, Twins
Where played in 2013: Rookie, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 4-3, 2.99 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 100 K, 78 1/3 IP

At age 24, Alex Meyer should be knocking on the door of the big leagues. Performance-wise, he's certainly lived up to his end of the bargain, compiling a 2.91 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings over 41 minor-league starts, and the Twins wouldn't have given up Denard Span for him last offseason if they didn't consider him an important part of their future. But unfortunately, his health has prevented him from building up his innings. A sore shoulder limited him to 78 1/3 last season, and though his time in the Arizona Fall League pushed him past 100, he's still far from ready to handle a major-league workload. If the Twins get creative with how they use him early in the season, he has a chance of reaching the majors this summer, but only if he stays healthy and keeps his walk rate down. With a mid-to-high-90s fastball that his 6-foot-9 frame makes appear even faster, Meyer is a strikeout artist in the making, but at his age, he can't afford any more hiccups.

25. Henry Owens, 21, Red Sox
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 11-6, 2.67 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 169 K, 135 IP

Last year, Tony Cingrani and Alex Wood showed the world just how far a deceptive delivery can take a left-handed pitcher. Henry Owens is in the same boat, but with even better stuff. His secondary pitches are further along, particularly his changeup, and the combination has made him practically unhittable in the minors so far. He ranked first among qualifying minor-leaguers with a .177 opponent batting average last season and had a strikeout rate that wasn't too unlike Cingrani's in the minors. Owens has control issues, issuing 4.4 walks per nine innings between three minor-league stops, but if his delivery fools major-league hitters as well as it has minor-league hitters, he won't need to eliminate them completely. The Red Sox are deep at starting pitcher in both the majors and minors, so barring an epidemic of injuries or meltdowns, Owens figures to spend the 2014 season in the minors. And considering he has only six starts above Double-A, it's probably for the best.

26. Mike Foltynewicz, 22, Astros
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 6-3, 3.06 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 124 K, 129 1/3 IP

Consider this a representative pick. Zach Lee, Jesse Biddle, Marcus Stroman, A.J. Cole, Matt Barnes and any of a number of pitchers who have already tackled Double-A and are of slightly less than ace caliber could have just as easily gone here. Mike Foltynewicz was the choice because most scouts seem to think he has the highest upside of the bunch. It's easy to see why. He can hit triple digits with his fastball and has the makings of a plus changeup and slider. He's still a work in progress, though, struggling with both his control and command, which explains his 1.33 WHIP despite the impressive arsenal. He may end up having to dial back his fastball a bit to get the most out of his abilities, which would of course limit his ceiling. The Astros are in the middle of a slow rebuild but have shown enough willingness to promote their more advanced prospects that Foltynewicz could end up getting a look before season's end. It's too much of a long shot for you to draft him in single-season leagues, but it's something to keep in mind if he gets off to a hot start.

27. Tyler Glasnow, 20, Pirates
Where played in 2013: low Class A
Minor-league stats: 9-3, 2.18 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 164 K, 111 1/3 IP

Tyler Glasnow's stuff is as raw as it is spectacular. Though he pitched at low Class A last year, his 4.4 hits per nine innings and 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings were nothing short of insane. He couldn't locate anything, which may have helped those particular rates, but with a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a sweeping curveball, it's safe to say he'll be a big-time bat-misser even when he gets things under control. Of course, he's still a long way from getting things under control. At 6-feet-7, he has trouble repeating his delivery. He's only 20, so he has plenty of time to fix that -- and pitching for an organization that has developed something of a reputation for taming wild stallions only helps his cause -- but understand that no matter how good his numbers may look, he's not a pitcher on the fast track. That doesn't mean you pass up Glasnow in a dynasty league -- he's about as affordable of an eventual ace as you'll find in those formats -- but he'll require some patience.

28. Rafael Montero, 23, Mets
Where played in 2013:
Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats:
12-7, 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 150 K, 155 1/3 IP

Rafael Montero hasn't enamored scouts with his skill set, but everywhere he's gone, he's dominated. The streak looked like it would end with his promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas about midway through last season. After nine starts, he had a 4.50 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, his middle-of-the-road stuff seemingly exposed by the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League. But he got the last laugh, compiling a 1.61 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over his final seven starts -- numbers that are all the more impressive when you consider the environment. The key to his success is control. He can spot the ball as well as anyone, issuing 1.7 walks per nine innings over three minor-league seasons. And though his stuff isn't exactly electric, he's no soft-tosser, relying on location and pitch selection to get the most out of his low-90s fastball. Montero is an unconventional prospect in sort of the Kris Medlen mold. Fantasy owners would take another one of those. Though the Mets blocked his shot at a rotation spot with their signing of Bartolo Colon this offseason, they seem to appreciate his skill set. Superior prospect Noah Syndergaard is in line to debut this summer, but most likely, the Mets will have incorporated both by season's end.

29. Burch Smith, 23, Padres
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 6-3, 2.63 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 102 K, 92 1/3 IP
Major-league stats: 1-3, 6.44 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 46 K, 36 1/3 IP

Burch Smith isn't especially well known to the prospecting world. He got his foot in the door with a surprise call-up when Tyson Ross was on the DL with a left shoulder subluxation in May, which kept earning him return trips even though he rarely brought anything to the table. But his minor-league numbers suggest there's more than meets the eye here. Smith's narrative is similar to Tony Cingrani's in that he excelled in the hitter-friendly California League in 2012, posting a 3.85 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings thanks to a hard, cutting fastball and workable changeup, but as with Cingrani, he's in desperate need of a breaking pitch. Of course, Cingrani also has a deceptive delivery going for him, which helps account for his early success in the majors, so the comparison should probably end there. But the point is, like Cingrani, Smith is a potential diamond in the rough. He continued to improve at Double-A, building off last year's performance in the California League, and even had a 10-strikeout effort for San Diego in September, so it's not like he's maxed out his potential. The Padres will give him a long look this spring but don't really have an opening for him. Still, he's someone to keep on your radar in NL-only leagues.

30. Jimmy Nelson, 24, Brewers
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 10-10, 3.25 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 163 K, 152 1/3 IP
Major-league stats: 0-0, 0.90 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 8 K, 10 IP

Even though he can reach the mid-90s with his fastball, most scouts limit Jimmy Nelson's upside to that of a middle-of-the-rotation starter, which is still plenty useful in Fantasy. But obviously, it would require him to meet the full extent of his potential. So far, his minor-league career has been defined by peaks and valleys, most notably with his walk rate, but he appeared to make some progress in 2013. True, he encountered a "valley" after his midseason promotion to Triple-A Nashville, averaging 5.4 walks per nine innings in 15 starts, but he still finagled a 3.67 ERA in the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League. By comparison, Tyler Thornburg had a 5.79 ERA in 15 starts there only to deliver a 2.03 ERA in 18 appearances, including seven starts, in the majors. Nelson made a nice impression with the big-league club as well, though in much fewer innings. Walks were an issue and may always be given his all-too-frequent mechanical glitches, but equipped with a mid-90s fastball with good sinking action, he gets enough groundouts and strikeouts to work around them. With the perfect frame for a heavy workload, Nelson could develop into an A.J. Burnett type for the Brewers. He'll be the first in line should the need arise midseason.

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
Joakim Soria might be worth stashing
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:17 pm ET) Granted, he wasn't getting the most consistent save opportunities in Texas, but if you play in a league where every save matters (which is typically the case in Rotisserie formats), Joakim Soria's move to Detroit is a punch in the gut.

Mostly because the Tigers say they intend to stick with Joe Nathan as their closer. Sad face.

But let's get real here: Nathan has been terrible and has shown no clear signs of a turnaround. Since blowing his third save May 21, the longest he's gone without allowing an earned run is four appearances. That won't cut it in the ninth inning.

Soria, meanwhile, was brilliant for the Rangers even if his low save total didn't reflect it. He compiled a 2.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 35 innings. His FIP, which estimates ERA with defense and luck removed from the equation, is 1.07.

The Rangers may intend to stick with Nathan as their closer, but if both he and Soria continue to do what they've been doing, the switch could come quickly. So if you play in a league where every save matters, maybe you just stash Soria for now.


Asdrubal Cabrera targeting weekend return vs. Royals
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera increased his activities on Thursday, as he continues to work his way back from a back injury. Manager Terry Francona remains hopeful of a return this weekend against the Royals, particularly on Saturday.

Cabrera is hitting .247/.308/.392 over 365 at-bats.

Trade doesn't change much for Kendrys Morales
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:03 pm ET) Though Kendrys Morales is certainly capable of making a real contribution in Fantasy, he didn't do it in 39 games with the Twins, batting .234 with one home run and a .584 OPS.

And now with his trade to the Mariners, he's going to Safeco Field, a park known to neutralize a hitter or two. Oh noes!

Relax. We already have an idea how Morales will perform in Seattle considering he was just there last year. Of course, you would have rather seen him go elsewhere -- like to a hitter's park for once -- but if he continues to struggle like he did with the Twins, who don't exactly play in a hitter's haven themselves, the venue won't be the reason why.

After waiting half the year to sign with a team, Morales is now paying the price. While every other player is in midseason form, he's still in spring training mode -- or just coming out of it, anyway, having hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games.

Provided the Mariners stick with him every day and don't fit him into some kind of rotation with Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, he's a good bet for some cheap power numbers down the stretch. Maybe the move to a contender will even spark something in him.


Brandon Moss blasts grand slam Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Athletics first baseman Brandon Moss belted a grand slam Thursday against the Astros.

Moss stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Moss hit a grand slam on a 96 mph fastball. It was Moss' 23rd home run of the season. Moss finished 1 for 3, with two runs scored and four RBI. 


Jeff Samardzija turns in an excellent start Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:53 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija turned in an excellent start against the Astros Thursday.

Samardzija allowed one run on five hits over eight innings. He struck out six and did not allow any walks. The only blemish against Samardzija came in the fourth inning. With the bases empty, Samardzija allowed a solo home run to Chris Carter. Other than that, he was fantastic. 

With the win, Samardzija improved to 4-8 on the year. He’ll take on the Astros in his next start.


Scott Feldman struggles with his control against Oakland
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:52 pm ET) Astros pitcher Scott Feldman struggled with his control Thursday.

Feldman had a rough start in Oakland. He allowed six runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings. Feldman struck out four and walked five during the outing. Feldman first ran into trouble in the third inning. Josh Reddick doubled to start the inning, and Eric Sogard followed that up with a walk. Josh Donaldson singled in a run, giving the Athletics a one-run lead. After an intentional walk to Brandon Moss to load the bases, Derek Norris drove in two runs on a single. 

In the fourth, Coco Crisp added a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1. After putting two men on in the sixth, Feldman was pulled from the game. Both runs came around to score, giving Feldman six earned runs on the day.

With the loss, Feldman dropped to 4-8. He’ll take on the Athletics in his next start. 


Manny Machado sits out third straight game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(6:51 pm ET) Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was held out of the starting lineup Thursday night against the Mariners, as he continues to work his way back from a back issue. Machado has now missed three straight games with the injury. He is hitting .267 with 10 homers and 23 RBI in 258 at-bats.

Marcus Stroman solidifies his place in Fantasy
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:50 pm ET) So Marcus Stroman nearly no-hit the Red Sox Thursday. True story. The Blue Jays pulled him after the seventh inning, when he allowed his first hit, but still, seven shutout innings with a strikeout per is a nice reward for his Fantasy owners.

Too bad only 46 percent of them got to enjoy it.

How can he be started in so few leagues if he entered the day with a 2.50 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 8.0 strikeouts in nine starts? It's in spite of my sincerest efforts to get the word out. He's been nothing but dominant in the role and has the pedigree to back it up, making the lack of interest astounding.

And Al Melchior likes him even more than I do, ranking him 34th among starting pitchers. You can get mad, Jered Weaver owners, or you can just go out and get Stroman while he's still affordable.

(Not that I'm saying you should give up Weaver for him, but if Al ranks him higher, that should count for something.)


Logan Morrison, Corey Hart to platoon at first base moving forward
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(6:49 pm ET) With the addition of Kendrys Morales on Thursday, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon revealed his first base plans moving forward, MLB.com reports. The team will use Morales as a designated hitter, with Logan Morrison and Corey Hart platooning at first base.

Morrison has started 31 games this season at first base, compared to only one start for Hart, who was sidelined for most of the season with a hamstring injury.

Dayan Viciedo back in action Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(6:41 pm ET) White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo returned to the starting lineup for Thursday's series opener against the Twins in Minnesota. Viciedo was scratched Wednesday due to tightness in his left hamstring. He is hitting .236 with 12 homers and 36 RBI in 360 at-bats.

 
 
 
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