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Prospects Report: A long-term view

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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You might not believe it, but there was a time when Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson was a relatively unknown player. I know it's difficult to imagine given the player he has blossomed into, but Pederson wasn't a high draft pick coming out of high school (11th round in 2010) and didn't become a top-100 prospect until 2013. Though, the Dodgers paid Pederson like a top prospect, handing him the second-highest signing bonus ($600,000) in the team's 2010 draft class to keep him from going to USC.

I had to go back into the archives to see what was being said about Pederson at the beginning of his career to determine just how far he's really come over the last few years. I dug up a scouting report from Baseball America from 2011. They had Pederson ranked as the Dodgers' 25th-best prospect. Here is a snippet from BA's analysis:

"Joc, who was also a wide receiver in high school, doesn't have any dominant tools, but he has the potential to be average across the board and certainly would have gone higher in the draft if not for his price tag. He has a physical, athletic build and the potential to add strength as he matures. … He has a quick bat and average raw power."

The scouting report on Pederson has certainly changed over the last few years. He's now not only one of the top prospects in baseball, but coming into the season Baseball America had labeled Pederson as "a multi-dimensional player whose tools are average to plus across the board, with comparisons ranging from Curtis Granderson to Jim Edmonds."

With Pederson on the doorstep to the majors, his rise from obscurity got me thinking about players right now with relatively low ownership in CBSSports.com leagues that are showing long-term upside. These are players whose ownership are not higher than 3 percent, but names owners in long-term keeper formats might want to put on your radar.

Luis Severino, SP, Yankees
Affiliate: Double-A Trenton
2014 stats (Class A, Double-A): 5-3, 2.50 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 111 strikeouts, 23 walks and two home runs allowed in 20 starts (97 1/3 innings)
Severino is one of the fastest rising prospects in baseball. MLB.com now has him ranked as the Yankees' top prospect and Baseball America slotted him 34th when they released their Midseason Top 50 list. The 20-year-old right-hander has been pretty dominant in his pro career. He has a 2.23 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 205 2/3 innings. He is also striking out 9.1 batters and walking just 2.2 per nine innings, and has allowed just five home runs in his career. While his fastball can reach the high 90s, it usually sits in the mid-90s. His slider and changeup are also developing into potential plus pitches. Severino earned an in-season promotion last year and has already earned two in-season promotions this year. He's making a beeline for the Bronx, and hopefully he won't fizzle out like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos did once they reached Triple-A. In Betances' defense, he's carved out a niche as an All-Star reliever, but he was once projected to have ace potential, which seems to be the path Severino is headed.

Jake Lamb, 3B, Diamondbacks
Affiliate: Double-A Mobile
2014 stats: .315/.393/.552/.945, five triples, 14 home runs, 35 doubles, 79 RBI, 59 runs, 47 walks and 98 strikeouts in 101 games
I made brief mention of Lamb last week when I was talking about fellow Diamondbacks third-base prospect Brandon Drury. The two are basically neck-and-neck when you look at any prospect rankings for the Arizona organization, but you won't hear the Diamondbacks complaining about being flush with talent at the position. Lamb has done nothing but crush the baseball since turning pro. He has a career .316/.400/.547/.947 slash line in 237 games. Although he was a sixth-round pick in 2012, the Diamondbacks knew Lamb needed work with his swing since he was a slash hitter in college. Well, the Diamondbacks have gotten the 23-year-old infielder to tap into his above-average raw power, while being able to maintain his plate discipline and feel for hitting. The Diamondbacks might have to move Lamb or Drury off the hot corner or trade one, but Lamb has shown great ability to hit in the minors and that's what Fantasy owners want to see.

Steven Matz, SP, Mets
Affiliate: Double-A Binghamton
2014 stats (Class A, Double-A): 8-6, 2.60 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 99 strikeouts, 30 walks and three home runs allowed in 19 starts (110 2/3 innings)
Matz had a long recovery following Tommy John surgery in 2010, but he's been a great success story coming back from the major elbow injury. He has a 2.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 46 career starts. He is also striking out 9.3 batters per nine innings and has allowed just eight home runs in 246 innings. You can see why the Mets were very patient with the 2009 second-round pick. Matz generates a lot of ground balls thanks to his low-90s fastball and long stride that helps him keep the ball low in the strike zone. Matz has improved his command, which is great because the scouts feel his changeup and curveball could develop into plus pitches. He is showing potential to develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 starter at the major-league level.

Ryan McMahon, 3B, Rockies
Affiliate: Class A Asheville
2014 stats: .278/.349/.484/.833, two triples, 12 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 67 runs, 42 walks, 113 strikeouts and five stolen bases in 96 games
The former high school quarterback hasn't looked bad for choosing baseball over football. The 2013 second-round pick has produced a .294/.369/.520/.889 slash line through his first 155 games. He also has 23 home runs, 54 doubles and 135 RBI. He's already an offensive standout and hasn't even progressed past low Class A. Heck, he is just 19-years-old, so it's scary to think what his power potential might be once he grows into his 6-foot-2 frame. McMahon has a fluid left-handed swing and an ability to hit to all fields that allows him to make steady contact. He projects to have plus power and the ability to hit for a high average. It's great that he might one day call Coors Field home. However, the Rockies have a pretty good third baseman in Nolan Arenado, who is expected to remain at the hot corner for years to come. McMahon might have to learn a new position or could end up as a trade candidate, but wherever he lands, this kid seems to have a bright future.

Christian Walker, 1B, Orioles
Affiliate: Triple-A Norfolk
2014 stats (Double-A, Triple-A): .301/.374/.517/.891, two triples, 18 doubles, 22 home runs, 86 RBI, 63 runs, 47 walks, 94 strikeouts and two stolen bases in 107 games
Walker entered 2014 with some scouts doubting his ability to put up big home run numbers. He silenced a lot of those critics when he hit 20 home runs in 95 games prior to his promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. Since moving up to Triple-A, the 2012 fourth-round pick has homered twice and is slugging .524 in 12 games. Walker hit .300 in his first full season as a pro in 2013, and there was little doubt about his ability to make contact. He has been lauded for his gap-to-gap power, but Walker has really taken a step forward this year, which has turned into a breakout performance for the 23-year-old first baseman. Walker has taken a big leap up the prospect rankings, as he is now considered the team's fifth-best prospect by MLB.com. As MLB.com notes: Walker "fits the traditional first-base profile better now than scouts thought he would when he was at South Carolina."

Bonus Player

Austin Voth, SP, Nationals
Affiliate: Class A Potomac
2014 stats (low Class A, high Class A): 6-4, 2.10 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 114 strikeouts, 29 walks, 67 hits and three home runs allowed in 19 starts (107 1/3 innings)
The 2013 fifth-round pick has been pretty spectacular as a pro. He is 9-4 with a 1.99 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 30 career starts. He is striking out 9.9 batters and walking 2.0 per nine innings, and he has allowed just three home runs in 153 2/3 innings. Voth's fastball can touch the mid-90s, but he mostly sits in the low-90s. His secondary pitches (changeup, curveball, slider) don't appear to be more than average offerings, but Voth really shines because of his ability to command his pitches. He has an advanced feel for pitching and can work both sides of the plate. Voth said he likes to lean on his fastball and "challenge hitters," per The Washington Post. Well, whatever he is doing is working. He was originally projected as a back-of-the-rotation arm, but he could be developing into much more. He doesn't get hit hard, he doesn't walk a lot of batters and he has a pretty good strikeout rate. If he can keep that up in the high minors, then Voth is a name we might be hearing a lot about in the future.

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Player News
Padres P Tyson Ross feeling good, ready for start of season
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:46 pm ET) Padres pitcher Tyson Ross is feeling ready to get the season under way, according to the Press-Enterprise.

“Physically I felt good,” he said. “It’s been a good spring so far, another step in the right direction … I had a good feel for my sinker today and I was able to get some strikeouts with that, running it back away from right-handed hitters and not just using my slider.”

Ross is working on his changeup and he wants to use it more often.

“It’s kind of hard when the other pitches are working well, but it’s going to be a pitch I need to use the third time through the lineup, to get a little separation (in speed) off the fastball and slider,” he said. “I mixed in a couple today and I’m going to keep working it in.”

Manager Bud Black said that could be what he needs to get to the next level.

“It’s tough, because if you take a regular season game and he’s fighting like heck to keep the other team from scoring, you never want to get beat on your third or fourth pitch,” Black said. “The other two are so devastating, it’s tough not to go in that direction.”

Ross, 27, has a career ERA of 3.70 with 416 stirkeouts and 186 walks in five years of play.


Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta does it all in start Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:43 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta tossed five strike outs over four scoreless innings of work Saturday. Arrieta also added a three-run home run and an RBI double to help his own cause, something he simply called a good work day, reports MLB.com.

"i like it," Arrieta said. "I think it allows us to put a little speed behind me. I feel I can handle the bat well. Depending on the situation, I feel I can put a bunt down efficiently."

Arrieta feels comfortable with the bat in his hand, partially why manager Joe Maddon is considering batting the pitcher eighth in the order.

"It is the pitcher, and it seems like a break in the lineup, but we feel we can do some damage there and help us out," Arrieta said.


Astros pitcher Roberto Hernandez making final staff decision difficult
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:39 pm ET) Astros pitcher Roberto Hernandez is still in the fight for the final spot on the pitching staff. He continued to prove why he belongs Saturday, allowing one run on three hits in five innings of work against the Marlins.

Manager A.J. Hinch continues to like what he's seen from the veteran, who is battling with Asher Wojciechowski, reports MLB.com.

"He had a nice game by getting through some very difficult jams and also getting a lot of ground balls," Hinch said. "I don't know what his total was, but it felt like they were pounding the ball into the ground, which is vintage Roberto Hernandez. There's a reason he's lasted this long in the league and you know what you're going to get and he found a way today."

Hernandez threw 71 pitches Saturday with 43 going for strikes.

"I don't think about that," Hernandez said when asked about his chances of making the team. "I want to continue my work and I never think about, 'Is it my last start?' I'm happy."


Cardinals pitcher Carlos Villanueva expecting to make team
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:29 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Villanueva wants to make sure he is on the major league roster this season, reports MLB.com.

After St. Louis announced the trade of Sam Freeman earlier Saturday, it opened things up for another arm to make the team. Villanueva also has an opt-out clause in his contract to be released if he is not on the roster for Opening Day.

"My preference is to stay here with this group," Villanueva said. "After that first game out there, I felt that I've thrown the ball very well. I have no regrets about how I've pitched. It's not like they haven't seen it before. I think what they needed to see from me is what they've seen in previous years. It's a decision that's out of my hands after that."

Manager Mike Matheny still doesn't know what he plans to do.

"It's coming down to the wire," Matheny said. "We probably have more questions than most clubs do late because we've given ourselves flexibility to not have it done halfway through. We're taking our time to watch these guys compete and also allowing for the potential if something doesn't go right."


Indians Closer Cody Allen changes regimen to be ready this year
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Indians closer Cody Allen has changed his throwing routine in order be ready to go for opening day, reports MLB.com.

The team has mixed in Minor League appearances with his Cactus League play.

"I think what happened the last two springs, I was ready too far ahead in the spring," Allen said on Saturday. "So, when they'd try to pull me back a little bit, I'd lose my rhythm a little bit and then try to get it again before the season started. This year, I've been able to build up to being in that perfect spot right at Opening Day."

Allen has posted an ERA of 1.50 with two walks in six innings of work this spring. Last season he finished with an ERA of 2.07 with 24 saves, throwing 91 strikeouts and 26 walks in 69 2/3 innings pitched.


Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia not concerned with runs allowed
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia isn't worried about how spring training has gone so far. The former Cy Young award winner doesn't care that his numbers, an 11.57 ERA in 4 2/3 innings, look so bad, reports the New York Daily News.

"I don't give a (expletive) what stock (people) put in it," Sabathia said. "It is what it is. I've had spring trainings where I've given up a lot of runs and went out and had a good season. I've had spring trainings like last year where I didn't give up no runs and I gave up five in the first game. Y'all can put stock in whatever you want. I'm not really worried about it."

Manager Joe Girardi expressed a similar mindset.

"The bottom line is that he's right Opening Day," Girardi said. "You try to evaluate his stuff and how you feel about that. What we've seen this year is much more positive than what we’ve seen the last, you know, in velocity, the discrepancy between that and the change up and slider, so now to me it's just ironing out and being more consistent."


Braves P Shelby Miller looking forward to new start
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:00 pm ET) After being traded from the Cardinals, Braves pitcher Shelby Miller is looking forward to a new start with his new ball club, reports MLB.com. He spent his first three years with the Cardinals.

"I'm looking forward to a clean start to the season because getting traded over from St. Louis, you never really expect that," Miller said. "It's everything I've known, being drafted by them and coming through the farm system and stuff like that.

"But it's exciting. You're getting traded from a good team to another. I'm excited about the opportunity with my new teammates. I think we have a great chance to do something special here in Atlanta, and I'm looking forward to helping however I can."

Over his career, the right-hander has an ERA 3.33 with 312 strikeouts and 134 walks.


Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes shines again in outing Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:58 pm ET) Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes continues to impress the club with his poise and prowess on the mound, reports the Boston Herald. Barnes was called on with two runners on and two outs after previous pitcher, Stephen Wright, gave up five unearned runs.

He managed to get a groundball and get out of the inning. He finished with four strikeouts and no runs allowed  in 2 1/3 innings of work.

"It was good to be in a situation like that, coming in, especially in the middle of an inning, I haven't done that in a while, starting an inning with a guy on second and having to pitch through that," said Barnes. "I was happy with all of it."


Athletics' Tyler Ladendorf pushing for spot on Opening Day roster
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:51 pm ET) Athletics utility man Tyler Ladendorf is increasing his chances by the day of making the Opening Day roster in Oakland, reports MLB.com.

Ladendorf, who was suspended for 50 games last year after testing positive for a drug of abuse, has turned heads just about every day he's been on the field.

"Tyler's really emerged this year for us," manager Bob Melvin said this week. "To me, he looks a lot more confident here. We put him on a roster for a reason. His versatility stands out, and we're all about versatility. He has a similar versatility to Ben Zobrist. He can play any of the outfield positions, any of the infield positions, and does well defensively, and his bat emerged last year as well. He's one that's stood out."

Ladendorf just hope it translates into a roster spot.

"Any time you got them talking about you," Ladendorf said, "you're doing something right."


Tigers P Bruce Rondon not a lock for the roster
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:49 pm ET) After spending last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Tigers pitcher Bruce Rondon believes he'll be ready to go for the start of this season, reports MLB.com. But the pitcher is not guaranteed to make the roster.

"I know that we've been discussing it quite a bit," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I do think you have to keep in mind that he came to Spring Training and hadn't pitched in a game in a long time. Whether he makes the team or not, or whether we think he needs more development, the important thing is his strength is there, the arm strength is there. In the long term or even in the near term, you would think he's going to have some impact on the Detroit Tigers. But I think your questions are fair and they're certainly questions that we've discussed."

Rondon has yet to pitch a full season at the Major League level. This spring he has an ERA of 5.68, allowing 10 hits, two home runs while walking two batters.


 
 
 
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