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Prospects Report: Houston's pipeline

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Jeff Luhnow calls the shots in Houston. He's the general manager, you see.

So coming from him, this means something:

"We're not going to put a timetable on him," Luhnow told The Houston Chronicle Monday. "If you look at his development, he missed a lot of time last year. He's making up for it quickly, and he's doing well. If that continues to happen, it could be any time."

That's right: any time.

Most owned minor leaguers (as of 5/15)
Player Own %
1. Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT 71
2. Trevor Bauer, SP, CLE 55
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, STL 54
4. Archie Bradley, SP, ARI 49
5. Javier Baez, SS, CHC 47
6. Noah Syndergaard, SP, NYM 40
7. Byron Buxton, OF, MIN 36
8. Jon Singleton, 1B, HOU 35
9. Dan Straily, SP, OAK 32
10. Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC 29

Whatever minute of whatever hour of whatever day you read this, it falls within that span. Jon Singleton may already be on his way to the big leagues.

"Oh, enough with the dramatics," you're probably thinking. "We've been down this road before with George Springer and don't like where it ends up."

First of all, we still don't know where it ends up for Springer. He's had a rough first 25 games, hitting .232, but you know, Mike Trout hit .220 in his 40 games. And while Jurickson Profar, last year's No. 1 overall prospect according to some publications, disappointed those who put in a claim for him last May, Yasiel Puig became an immediate stud just a few weeks later.

You should know by now how this whole prospecting thing works. Some players come up and succeed right away. Some don't. Most get there eventually, but when deciding which ones have the best chance of making an immediate impact, it's a real crapshoot.

The good news is Singleton has made the kind of progress that suggests he has an even better chance than Springer. Believe it or not, he might be the most valuable player to come out of the Astros farm system this year.

The one knock on Springer in the minors was his strikeout rate of one every three at-bats, which is terrible for any player at any level. He consistently overcame it in the minors, but considering it's been even worse in the majors so far, it's probably had some say in his early struggles. Singleton has struck out his fair share as well, but his current rate at Triple-A Oklahoma is closer to 1 in 4, which is more typical of a young power hitter. He's also been one of the most disciplined hitters at every level, consistently posting an on-base percentage about 100 points higher than his batting average.

And then there's the matter of what he's already overcome to get to the point -- the elephant in the room, so to speak. He missed the first 50 games last season because of a second suspension for a failed drug test. Marijuana was the culprit. Not until spring training did he open up about it, telling The Associated Press he had become so dependent on marijuana to cope with the rigors of life that once he returned from rehab and got back to playing baseball, he turned to alcohol to improve his mood and was "waking up hung over every morning."

That's one way to make the hardest thing to do in sports even harder.

But now, it's behind him. He's keeping himself sober by focusing on the opportunity in front of him, and as a result, he's delivering on everything the scouts projected for him and then some. His 12 home runs in 140 at-bats rank fourth in all the minors and combine with his stellar plate discipline to give him a monstrous 1.030 OPS.

With numbers like that, he has some hope of him becoming sort of a Giancarlo Stanton of the infield. As baseball continues to become more about pitching, with offense down across the league, home runs are now among the scarcest commodities in Fantasy, so when you have a chance at a player with that kind of power potential, you have to take it.

First base is deep, of course -- too deep to go without a regular contributor at the position. Not knowing exactly when Singleton will arrive makes him impossible to rank over startable players like Adam Dunn, Chris Colabello and Lucas Duda. But if in your league, those players would just sit on your bench anyway, why not go for the lottery ticket, the upside play?

Singleton is the one who could impact the standings, and like Luhnow said, he could arrive at any time. After Gregory Polanco, he's the prospect most worth stashing in Fantasy.

Five on the Farm ... by Michael Hurcomb (@CBSHurc), CBSSports.com

It's been a few days since word spread about Marlins ace and reigning NL rookie of the year Jose Fernandez possibly being the latest pitcher to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery, and the news still stings. It's bad for the Marlins. It's bad for Fantasy owners. And it's just bad for baseball.

When the news broke Monday, it was like a knife cutting through butter. I can remember my colleague, Igor Mello, who happens to be a Marlins fan, utter the words, "Oh no ... Jose Fernandez is headed for an MRI." We didn't know the extent of the injury at the time, but it just felt like a bad omen.

The sentiment around baseball has been supportive despite the disappointing news. Whether you are a fan or not of the Marlins, Fernandez was one of the good guys. You could root for him even if he wasn't on your team because you were amazed by his talent and how dominant he was on the mound. I think MLB.com columnist Phil Rogers said it best when he wrote, "This kid is a joy."

Well, plenty of joy was sucked out of baseball with this news, and Fantasy owners everywhere are now scrambling to pick up the pieces after losing their Fantasy ace.

The Marlins initially answered the question about who will replace Fernandez when they announced Tuesday starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani would be promoted from Double-A Jacksonville to start Wednesday against the Dodgers. The outlook then changed when the team signed veteran Randy Wolf, who appears to be the longer-term replacement for Fernandez in the rotation. However, the name many Fanasy owners wanted to hear called was Andrew Heaney, who is considered by many to be the team's top prospect.

We will get to Heaney in a second, but first a little background on DeSclafani, who was acquired in the mega deal in November 2012 with the Blue Jays that sent players like Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle north of the border. In fact, he was considered a throw-in to a deal that brought Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Henderson Alvarez to Miami.

The former University of Florida hurler and 2011 sixth-round pick is 3-4 with a 4.19 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in eight starts for Jacksonville this season. The scouting report on the right-hander is that he's aggressive on the mound and feeds off his fastball. The scouts feel he could succeed as a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation arm in the majors because he's durable, has three quality pitches and good command. But the scouts also feel he might be better suited in the bullpen, even as a future closer.

Had the Marlins not signed Wolf, then DeSclafani might have been worth a flier in deeper formats, primarily NL-only. Still, Heaney remains the Marlins' pitching prospect worth stashing because of his potential to be an impact arm. Wolf could just be keeping the rotation spot warm until Heaney passes Super-2 status, which usually happens in June.

The left-handed pitching prospect and 2012 first-round pick (ninth overall) is a dominant force on the hill, much like Fernandez. He has a 2.25 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in his career (168 1/3 innings). He is striking out 8.6 batters per nine innings, and the scouts suggest he makes it look easy on the hill. He has two plus pitches (fastball, slider) and his changeup also keeps hitters off balance.

Heaney projects as a top-of-the-rotation arm and seems like the perfect replacement for Fernandez, who had no starts above high Class A before he surprisingly joined the rotation at the start of the 2013 season.

Manager Mike Redmond said this spring Fernandez's promotion "was a different set of circumstances," referring to the rash of injuries the rotation suffered in the spring of 2013. He added the Marlins had "more depth" this season and the team didn't feel like it had to push Heaney (per MLB.com).

We've seen a lot of big time prospects get early calls to the majors this season, including George Springer, Rougned Odor and Rafael Montero. Heaney should be hearing his name called at some point -- hopefully in June -- so if you can afford to clear a bench spot, he could be worth the wait. We can only hope Heaney has a similar impact to what Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey did following his promotion to the majors in 2012.

Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Rays
Affiliate: Triple-A Durham
2014 stats:.180/.293/.220/.513, two doubles, no home runs, three RBI, four runs, eight walks, 13 strikeouts and two stolen bases in 17 games
Lee has spent more time on the disabled list in the last year and a half than on the field. He was unfortunately limited to 15 games last season due to a knee injury, which was a real shame since Lee got off to a torrid start. This season, he began the season on the disabled list due to a calf strain, and as you can see by his numbers he's still playing catch up. Prior to getting hurt last season, Lee was one of the top shortstop prospects in baseball. Had he been healthy, perhaps by now he could have unseated Yunel Escobar as the Rays' starting shortstop, especially since Escobar's defense has been shaky, which is usually a strength of his. You really have to hope the knee injury isn't going to be what derails Lee's career. He's not going to be a power threat for Fantasy owners, but Lee has proven in the past to be a great contact hitter, good OBP threat and uses his speed effectively to leg out extra-base hits and be a threat on the base paths. He's still a candidate for a 2014 promotion. He just needs to pick up the pace.

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
Affiliate: Double-A Akron
2014 stats: .297/.364/.464/.827, five doubles, three triples, four home runs, 27 RBI, 20 runs, 14 walks, 25 strikeouts and nine stolen bases in 35 games
It appeared in April the perfect situation was brewing for the Indians to promote the highly touted Lindor, who is considered the team's top prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America. The Indians were off to a slow start, which included shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who was struggling at the plate and in the field. But Indians manager Terry Francona was preaching patience, and it seems his Zen-like approach is working. The Indians have won 8 of 12 games through Wednesday and Cabrera is heating up offensively, getting some of the critics off his back and quieting the talk of Lindor's promotion. Lindor is one of the more impressive prospects in baseball. The only tool he doesn't project to be above average is raw power. However, the scouts feel he still could be a 15-homer threat once he fills out his 5-11 frame. In my opinion, Lindor projects to be a Dustin Pedroia-like Fantasy option at shortstop. Pedroia has moderate home run power, but he does so much else to make up for it and is still an elite Fantasy option at his position. Lindor's plate discipline is also as good as Pedroia's. The Indians seem to be preaching patience with Lindor, so it wouldn't be surprising if we don't see him in the majors until later in season, if at all.

Jake Thompson, SP, Tigers
Affiliate: Class A Lakeland
2014 stats:3-1, 1.07 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, five earned runs, zero home runs allowed, 12 walks, four hit batters and 39 strikeouts in seven starts (42 innings)
It would not surprise me one bit if Thompson continues at his current pace that he will be considered the Tigers' top prospect heading into next season. The 2012 second-round pick has been nothing short of outstanding since turning pro. He has a 2.34 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and is striking out 9.4 batters per nine innings in 31 outings (30 starts). One of Thompson's biggest weaknesses right now is his command, as he is walking 3.2 batters per nine innings. Though, it's related to some delivery issues, which happens a lot with young pitchers. But the right-hander has the arsenal to develop into a front-line starter. He projects to have three average or better pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) and is working on incorporating a curveball into his repertoire. Durability seems to be an issue as Thompson wore down in his last high school season in 2012 and only extended to 83 1/3 innings in 2013. The Tigers haven't been shy about rushing pitching prospects (Andrew Miller, Rick Porcello, Jacob Turner) to the majors, but Thompson still needs to build up some stamina before his number is called.

Tyler Danish, SP, White Sox
Affiliate: Class A Kannapolis
2014 stats: 3-0, 0.71 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, eight runs (three earned), zero home runs allowed, 10 walks and 25 strikeouts in seven starts (38 innings)
Danish is probably a name you are going to start hearing a lot about after the start he's gotten off to in his pro career. The 19-year-old righty and 2013 second-round pick is 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 22 career appearances (eight starts). That is not a typo. He's had a pretty spectacular start to his career, and he's likely to shoot up the prospect rankings if he continues at this pace. The biggest knock on Danish is his high-effort delivery, which might land him in the bullpen down the road. However, if he keeps posting these kinds of results, maybe it just works for him. He gets compared a lot to Jake Peavy because of his bulldog mentality and low release point in his delivery. Peavy has had a pretty solid MLB career, but he's had his share of durability issues, which is why you can understand the scouts concerns with Danish. But there's no denying this kid is talented. He didn't allow an earned run in 94 innings in his senior year in high school. Danish thrives on a sinker/slider combo and is working on developing his changeup. Danish, who was promoted to high Class A Winston-Salem Wednesday, is likely to progress to Double-A this season and appears on the fast track to the majors.

Daniel Winkler, SP, Rockies
Affiliate: Double-A Tulsa
2014 stats: 5-1, 1.07 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, five runs, 18 hits, two home runs allowed, 12 walks, four hit batters and 46 strikeouts in seven starts (42 innings)
If I told you to name the best pitcher in the Tulsa rotation, you probably would either say Jon Gray or Eddie Butler, who are considered two of the best pitching prospects in baseball. However, if you went off performance, Winkler has them both beat. Who is Daniel Winkler? Well, that's a great question. It's not easy to find information on him because he was barely on the radar entering 2014. He didn't get much pub as a 20th-round pick out of Central Florida in 2011 and still didn't get a lot of attention despite going 13-7 with a 2.98 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 27 starts last season between high Class A and Double-A. He also struck out 175 batters in 157 innings last year. The scouts still don't know what to make of Winkler. He gets batters out, has good control, works both sides of the plate and keeps his fastball down, but his "funky delivery", as the The Denver Post calls it, seems to put Winkler in the same boat as Danish -- could it be the reason he ends up as a reliever in the majors? Unorthodox delivery or not, Winkler is getting the job done and outshining the likes of Butler and Gray, which is very hard to do.

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Player News
Edgar Olmos headed back to Mariners due to shoulder injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:54 am ET) The Rangers announced Wednesday the waiver claim for pitcher Edgar Olmos is being reversed due to a shoulder injury, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Olmos, who was claimed off waivers last week, will head back to the Mariners roster.

Rays manager Kevin Cash tabs Alex Cobb as opening day starter
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:41 am ET) Rays manager Kevin Cash announced Wednesday starting pitcher Alex Cobb will start the season opener on April 6 against Baltimore.

"There's a lot of things on your short list of career highlights that you can say you've done," Cobb said, per the Tampa Bay Times. "Obvioiusly, with being in the World Series and winning the World Series being at the top. Being an opening day starter falls somewhat shorter than that, but it's right up on that list."

Cash also announced Cobb will be followed in the rotation by Chris Archer, Drew Smyly and Jake Odorizzi. The team will choose a fifth starter this spring.

"He was extremely excited," Cash said of Cobb. "I kind of expected him to say, 'Yeah, OK, whatever,' but he was pumped. And you look back and you're like, 'Man, he's had some good pitchers here that maybe he's had to wait in turn for (James) Shields and (David) Price and those guys. I think he looks at it as being an honor, because there have been some good ones here in the past that have done it."


Red Sox's Castillo on injury to left side: 'Thankfully it's nothing serious'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:34 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo underwent a medical exam Wednesday for an issue on the left side of his body, according to CSNNE.com. 

"Thankfully it's nothing serious," said Castillo, who added he expects to be available for Thursday's spring game against the Twins.


Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos (hand) able to play Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:27 am ET) Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos made it into the lineup for Wednesday's spring game against the Orioles after leaving Tuesday's game with a left hand contusion, per MLB.com. Castellanos underwent X-rays on Tuesday, which came back negative.

Tigers release Joel Hanrahan, who needs another Tommy John surgery
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:06 am ET) After visiting a specialist on Tuesday, reliever Joel Hanrahan will undergo a second Tommy John surgery, ending his stint with the Tigers. Detroit released him Wednesday, according to the Detroit Free Press. He will have surgery on his right elbow on March 18, per the team's official website.

Hanrahan never pitched in the majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery May of 2013, and signed a minor-league deal with Detroit before he was released. Now he will likely be out of commission until the early portion of the 2016. The 33-year-old registered a career 3.85 ERA over 404 2/3 innings.


Cardinals' Rosenthal considering abandoning the windup
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:01 am ET) Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal is considering ditching the windup this season, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Rosenthal had trouble against the first batter he faced last season, and believes he may be able to get around that by pitching from the stretch. The idea has been discussed, but it's unclear if Rosenthal will follow through with it. 

He did stress that getting ahead of batters is his main goal this season. "Working ahead (in the count). Making quality pitches early in the count. These are the big goals for this year," he said. 

The 24-year-old posted a 3.20 ERA over 70 1/3 innings last season.


Blue Jays' Martin: Pirates 'were going to do everything they could'
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin says the Pirates did everything they could to try and re-sign him, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Martin signed a five-year, $82 million deal with Toronto, but said the Pirates really pushed to keep him around. "They were going to do everything they could," Martin said. "They were pretty vocal about that. But then it comes to a point where, as an organization, if you're thinking business-wise, you can't stack all your chips and then leave yourself vulnerable for later."

Martin also admitted that the opportunity to be a role model in Canada was a big reason he signed in Toronto. "The opportunity to play in Canada, for my family to be able to watch me play, to be a role model for younger Canadians and be that guy, it's a better fit for me overall for that reason," he explained.

In the end, the money and a fifth year led Martin to the Blue Jays. "[The Pirates] were pretty vocal, and I think that they definitely wanted me back. It was just a feeling that Toronto wanted me a little bit more," he said.

The 32-year-old hit .290/.402/.430 over 379 at-bats last season.


Rockies' Wilin Rosario receives positive reviews at first base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario received positive reviews after playing first base on Tuesday, according to MLB.com.

Rosario showed off his athleticism, saving two possible errors during the appearance. The club is trying to work Rosario in at the position after signing Nick Hundley in the offseason. Rosario has been taking extra fielding practice at first during camp. Rosario is expected to see equal time at first and behind the plate this spring.

The 26-year-old hit .267/.305/.435 over 382 at-bats last year.


D-backs' Yasmany Tomas does well in spring training debut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Diamondbacks third baseman Yasmany Tomas went 1-for-2 in his spring training debut against Arizona State. The Cuban born player thought he did just okay for his first game.

"Everybody knows it was my first day," Tomas said. "It was a good day. I put in the hard work to see it happen, and it felt like overall a good day."

Tomas played in five innings on the day. Manager Chip Hale said he thinks Tomas is right where he expected him to be offensively.

"With the bat, I thought this was how he would look," Hale said. "He looked very comfortable. He looked very relaxed."


Diamondbacks' Goldschmidt not concerned about hand this year
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is not concerned about his hand this year, according to MLB.com.

Goldschmidt saw his first game action since last season on Tuesday, singling in his first at-bat since August 1. Goldschmidt missed the final two months of 2014 due to a broken hand, but said the injury has not been an issue during camp. 

"It was the last thing on my mind," Goldschmidt said. "It's not the first time I've gotten hit. It's not the first time I've gotten injured. Hopefully it doesn't happen again, but chances are something is going to happen in the future."

Goldschmidt has been wearing a small pad in his batting glove in order to prevent the injury should he get hit in the same spot. He's used the pad during batting practices, and said he doesn't even feel it. 

The 27-year-old hit .300/.396/.542 over 406 at-bats last season. 


 
 
 
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