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Prospects Report: The best of the rest

Senior Fantasy Writer
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If you didn't stash Oscar Taveras or Jon Singleton ahead of time, chances are you don't have them now.

That's because as soon as everyone heard they were coming up, the competition for their services escalated to where you didn't even have a shot at them. Someone else either won the race to the waiver wire in a simple add-drop league or blew half his budget in an FAAB league.

Most owned minor leaguers (as of 6/5)
Player Own %
1. Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT 83
2. Javier Baez, SS, CHC 46
3. Archie Bradley, SP, ARI 43
4. Andrew Heaney, SP, MIA 41
5. Noah Syndergaard, SP, NYM 38
6. Danny Salazar, SP, CLE 38
7. Byron Buxton, OF, MIN 35
8. Maikel Franco, 3B, PHI 33
9. Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC 33
10. Dylan Bundy, SP, BAL 28

I'm not talking about one of those 10-team Head-to-Head points formats where only half the owners are still paying attention. In those leagues, Singleton might still be unowned, given the depth at first base. But in anything deeper, Taveras and Singleton have the kind of talent that could shake up the standings, as both showed by homering in their debuts.

Granted, in terms of immediate impact, the Yasiel Puig types are few and far between, but even if Taveras and Singleton just make the kind of impact Wil Myers did last year, emerging as must-start options in the process, owning them at the moment of their arrival is like making a trade so outrageous that even the most lenient veto policies couldn't prevent an uproar.

And to think you could have been the one to benefit from it if you had just acted with a little foresight.

Of course, even worse than the initial mistake is a failure to learn from it. When that next game-changer arrives, you want to be the one with him already in your back pocket, having won the competition before it even begins.

So then, who's next? That's the appropriate question to ask here. Though Taveras and Singleton may have kicked off promotion season, more are sure to come.

Let's leave Gregory Polanco out of this discussion. He's 82 percent owned and has had so much written about him already that anyone still questioning whether or not to own him wouldn't benefit from this sort of list anyway. Plus, given the rumors he'll be up as soon as this weekend, he may not qualify for this list much longer.

Meanwhile, all the prospects listed here are owned in less than half of all Fantasy leagues.

1. Javier Baez, SS, Cubs

Between the .219 batting average, the .688 OPS and the 65 strikeouts in 169 at-bats, Baez's overall numbers at Triple-A Iowa are nothing short of terrible, which is especially surprising with him playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He appeared about ready to debut when he hit .264 (14 for 53) with five home runs this spring, and as Jon Heyman recently wrote, his disappointment in not making the team may have contributed to his struggles. He's been much better of late, though, batting .356 (21 for 59) with four home runs in his last 17 games, and is one of the players expected to benefit most from Manny Ramirez's expertise in working the count and squaring up a breaking ball. If he can overcome his mental hurdles, Baez is still on track to reach the big leagues this summer, most likely to man second or third base. And a shortstop-eligible player with his power potential (he hit 37 home runs between two stops last year) is as big as you'll find off the waiver wire this time of year.

2. Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies

If you'll remember from last week's Prospects Report , Cody Asche's hamstring strain presented Franco with an opportunity to claim the starting third base job if he could just put together a hot streak at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. But he hasn't. As a matter of fact, in his last five games, he's just 3 for 21 (.143). Like Baez, he has hit much better in recent weeks than his overall numbers would suggest, but unlike Baez, his path to the majors ... well, it isn't exactly blocked, but Asche is more than just a seat warmer. Franco showed his potential by hitting .320 with 31 home runs, a .926 OPS and just 70 strikeouts in 541 at-bats between two stops last year and is clearly the player the Phillies want at third base long term. A convincing enough hot streak should be enough for him to push Asche aside, injured or not, but right now, mid-July seems more likely than mid-June.

3. Andrew Heaney, SP, Marlins

Starting pitchers typically don't make for the most stashable prospects in Fantasy since they usually face an innings limit of some kind, but those who made a play for Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha and, to a lesser degree, Zack Wheeler last year were rewarded in the end. Heaney is already about 25 innings away from last season's total, which probably gives him not much more than 65 innings to go, but since the only thing standing between him and his big-league debut is a Randy Wolf meltdown, he should get most of those in the majors. The Marlins recently promoted him to Triple-A New Orleans, perhaps as a primer for the final leap, and though he's given up his share of hits there (who hasn't in the PCL?), he has maintained the kind of strikeout-to-walk ratio (18 to 1 in 17 innings) that lends itself to immediate success.

4. Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers

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Unlike the first two players on this list, Pederson is putting up the kind of numbers at Triple-A Albuquerque that make his prospect status apparent to all, batting .337 with 15 home runs, 13 stolen bases and a 1.071 OPS. Granted, his best minor-league seasons, including this one, have come in extremely hitter-friendly leagues, but he proved to be just as much of a power-speed threat, with a patient approach to boot, in between, batting .278 with 22 homers, 31 steals and 70 walks in 439 at-bats at Double-A last year. So why doesn't he rank higher on this list? Because unlike Baez and Franco, his route to the big leagues isn't so clear at this point. The ankle injury to Carl Crawford has reduced the clutter for now, but it figures to be a short-term issue. When he returns, the Dodgers are back to four outfielders for three spots -- and that's before even adding Pederson to the mix. Of course, most of those outfielders -- specifically, Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier -- are on the wrong side of 30 and/or susceptible to injuries, so at some point in the next four months, two figure to be down at once. But no one can predict exactly when.

5. Kevin Gausman, SP/RP, Orioles

We got to see Gausman in the big leagues for an extended stretch last season and one start earlier this season, and the results were less than satisfactory. The stuff is apparent to anyone watching him pitch, but in only his second professional season, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 is still fleshing out his arsenal. The result is exactly what we saw in his May 14 start against the Tigers -- a few innings of dominance before hitting a wall the second or third time through the order, which explains why he was so much more effective as a reliever last year. He still shows the makings of something great with a 2.40 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A Norfolk and has gotten back to throwing strikes after struggling with his control earlier this year. He's not as exciting as the other four on this list simply because he has failed before, but he's still more likely than not to become a regular part of the Orioles starting rotation by season's end.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Padres shortstop Alexi Amarista grateful to have starting job
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:21 pm ET) Padres shortstop Alexi Amarista is ready for the challenge of entering the season as a starter for the first time in his career, per MLB.com.

"I'm blessed that they gave me the opportunity and that gave me more confidence, being an everyday player," he said.

Monitoring Amarista's progress will be one thing Padres general manager A.J. Preller will watch closely this spring.

"I think, in general, we're really more anxious just to see how the spring training goes for the infield, in the middle of the infield, with Alexi and Clint Barmes, we're hoping we're covered," Preller said.


Twins C Josmil Pinto has eyes set on improving defensively
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:20 pm ET) Twins catcher Josmil Pinto struggled defensive last season. He was unable to throw out a base steals in all 20 attempts in 2014. Pinto, who is an early favorite to secure a backup spot behind Kurt Suzuki this season, told reporters he played Venezuela this offseason to get more reps and improve his skills defensively, according to MLB.com.

"That's the first reason I went to Venezuela," Pinto said. "I wanted to catch a couple games and improve my defense. It was the first year I played a complete season. So it was good.

"Improving my defense is the most important part to me making the team," Pinto said. "And I want to make the team."


Hernandez's absence could hurt chances of making Astros' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:13 pm ET) Astros starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez, who is expected to compete for a spot in the rotation, has still not arrived for spring training due to visa issues.

While he is throwing bullpen sessions in the Dominican Republic, manager A.J. Hinch said Friday that Hernandez's absence could cost him a chance to earn a spot in the rotation.

"It's going to depend upon him showing up ready to go," Hinch said, per MLB.com. "He is a veteran guy, so I don't sense that he's going to come in unprepared. But once games start, we're starting to get a little bit behind."


Royals' Yost: We're going to give Raul Mondesi a 'good look' in camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:11 pm ET) Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters he's going to give shortstop prospect Raul Mondesi a "good look" during spring training, per MLB.com.

"We are just here to give him a good look, let him play and get some experience and let him enjoy big league Spring Training," Yost said. "Everything jumps out. He's that kind of guy. He just stands out a little bit. He's going to be a special player."

Mondesi, the son of Raul Mondesi Sr. and the youngest player in camp at 19, is the top prospect in the organization, after signing for $2 million as an international free agent in 2011, according to MLB.com. He hit .211/.256/.354 over 435 at-bats in the Carolina League in 2014. He could be in line for a Double-A promotion in 2015.


Royals OF Alex Gordon says he feels great after hitting off tee
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:06 pm ET) Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, who had surgery on his right wrist in December, remains on track to be ready for the start of the season, according to MLB.com.

"We don't have a progression. It's just day by day," Gordon said. "After we swung it today, we talked about how we are going to approach it [Saturday], and I think that's how we are doing it right now. If it was during the season, obviously it would be pushing it forward a lot quicker, but we are just taking it slow and trying to be smart about it."

Gordon has taken the next step in his rehab after hitting off a tee Thursday and Friday.

"I had about 20 or 30 swings, and it felt great," Gordon said. "As long as it doesn't come back with any pain or suffering tonight, I'll probably have a little soft-toss. It's pretty exciting. Honestly, it is. That's not a joke.

"I turned it loose the last 10 swings [Friday], and it almost felt like the more I turned it loose, the better it got. That's a good sign that most of the discomfort, if there is any, comes from lack of swings and being stiff."


Reds' Billy Hamilton given green light to work on bunting in spring
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:00 pm ET) Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton told reporters he feels less pressure this season now that he's entering his sophomore season in the majors, per MLB.com.

"I'm just more comfortable, more relaxed," the Reds sophomore speedster said before Friday morning's workout. "I've been able to come here and not put so much pressure on myself. My work ethic is going to be the same, always, every single year. But it's more relaxing now. I come in every day being able to breathe."

The 24-year-old hit .250 as a rookie in 2014. He also finished second in the National League with 56 stolen bases. Hamilton revealed that he's working more on his bunting this spring, after registering 15 bunt hits last season. The club has given him the green light to experiment on his bunting in game action this spring.

"Bunting can be a big part of my game, which I didn't use as much as I should have last year," Hamilton said. "Bunting for base hits can get you out of different kinds of slumps and when you're not feeling good at the plate.

"If it's two outs or two strikes, this is the time to work on it," Hamilton said. "Even if it's 3-2, they gave me permission to [bunt]. It's something I might not do during the season, but you want to work on it in a game versus just here in practice."


Braves OF Melvin Upton Jr. out at least two months with foot injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:52 pm ET) The Braves announced Friday outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. could miss at least two months after tests revealed inflammation in his left foot. Upton will be in a short leg cast fot two weeks, then a walking boot for 4-6 weeks.

Upton missed Friday's workout after he was seen limping following batting practice Thursday, per MLB.com. He went through a round of treatment Friday before being sent for an MRI.

The Braves initially declined to speculate on the severity of the injury until Upton went for further testing.

"[The discomfort] is more in the toe area, but we're calling it a foot [injury]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Friday morning.

Upton was listed as the starting center fielder on the depth chart on the team's official website. The backups were listed as Todd Cunningham and Eury Perez.

Upton is entering the third year of a five-year, $72.25 million contract. However, his first two years with the Braves have been largely disappointing. He has a .198/.279/.314/.593 slash line in two seasons in Atlanta.


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(3:39 pm ET) The Athletics announced a pair of roster moves on Friday, per the team's official website. The club claimed outfielder Alex Hassan off waivers from Baltimore, and placed pitcher A.J. Griffin on the 60-day disabled list, as he continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery.

Phillies P Cliff Lee to start Thursday's Grapefruit League game
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:36 pm ET) Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure announced that pitcher Cliff Lee is slated to start in Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Astros, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Lee strained his elbow in 2014 and missed the final two months of the regular season. He's scheduled to pitch two innings in Thursday's start. 

“He’s thrown well," McClure said. "He feels really good, so he’s right on schedule.”


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(3:33 pm ET) Athletics first base prospect Matt Olson, who suffered a grade three tear of the AC joint in his right shoulder while playing in the Arizona Fall League, is back at 100 percent and is looking forward to his first big-league camp with the club, MLB.com reports.

"It's good, 100-percent strength," Olson said. "Occasional soreness, maybe once every two weeks, but it feels good. No setback at all."

Olson, considered the organization's top prospect, hit .262 with 37 home runs and 97 RBIs in 138 games with Class A Advanced Stockton last year. Although he played all but 10 of his 284 games in the minors at first base, Olson is showing some versatility and has seen some working in the outfield during camp.

"Whatever they want me to do," Olson said. "I feel pretty comfortable out there. Whatever gets me in the lineup."


 
 
 
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