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Prospects Report: Names you might have missed

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Kris Bryant, Archie Bradley, Noah Syndergaard, Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson and Maikel Franco are all owned in more than 20 percent of Fantasy leagues and known in a heck of a lot more than that. They're the prospects we've waited all year to see and the ones we'll run over each other to claim if and when they get the call.

But you know who beat them to the big leagues? Michael Taylor, for one, who hit an impressive opposite-field home run in his major-league debut Tuesday. Also, Rymer Liriano, who appears to have taken over as the Padres' starting right fielder.

Neither was anything less than a prospect at the time of his promotion, and yet both were owned in less than 5 percent of leagues. Even now, they're owned in just 11 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Um ... hello? They're actually here now. Those other guys aren't.

Which is the kind of snarky response that makes for a great line in a column, but of course, I know it's not as simple as that. Clearly, upside enters into the equation -- the prospects most likely to make an immediate impact in even the shallowest of leagues have priority -- and being in the big leagues doesn't count for nearly as much as playing in the big leagues. Taylor filled in nicely Tuesday, but he doesn't have a job all to himself. Probably not, anyway. We'll see what comes next with Jayson Werth's shoulder.

Still, neither Taylor nor Liriano is exactly Brock Holt -- and I mean that in a good way, as in if either performs well, it won't come as a surprise to anyone (as Holt's performance clearly did). Taylor put up George Springer-like numbers prior to his promotion, batting .315 with 22 home runs, 35 stolen bases and a .948 OPS in 397 at-bats between two stops, and Liriano was regarded on about the same level as Gregory Polanco before losing all of 2013 to Tommy John surgery.

And there's the common thread that explains their lack of ownership: Neither did anything of note last year. Liriano was hurt and Taylor was just a toolsy athlete who had yet to refine his game. Because of that, both disappeared into the endless collection of wait-and-see types, putting them out of mind for Fantasy owners.

So instead of touching again on Bryant, Bradley, Syndergaard, Soler, Pederson or Franco, as Michael Hurcomb and I have done ad nauseam, let's look at a few more highly available Taylor/Liriano types -- ones who have entered the discussion strictly because of what they've done this year.

(Which isn't to say any of them are on the verge of a promotion, but better to know of them ahead of time either way.)

Josh Bell, OF, Pirates
2014 level: High Class A, Double-A
2014 stats: .325 BA, 9 HR, 9 SB, .834 OPS, 33 BB, 51 K
Thought to be unsignable, Bell slipped to the second round in the 2011 draft, but the Pirates gave him a huge bonus to lure him away from college, believing, like most teams, he could be a middle-of-the-order masher. In his second year back from knee surgery, he's showing that kind of potential.

Jose Berrios, SP, Twins
2014 level: High Class A, Double-A
2014 stats: 10-6, 2.40 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 124 K, 120 IP
Like most pitchers with good stuff, pounding the strike zone has actually made Berrios less hittable this year, leading some scouts to believe he's a legitimate top-of-the-rotation option. That's something the Twins haven't had since Johan Santana.

Sean Coyle, 2B, Red Sox
2014 level: Double-A
2014 stats: .309 BA, 13 HR, 13 SB, .907 OPS, 33 BB, 84 K
The latest in the trend of diminutive second baseman with speed and surprising pop, Coyle has finally stayed healthy enough to put up the numbers the Red Sox always envisioned for him. Kind of like Mookie Betts, though, he'll need a new position to break into the big leagues. He's played some third base recently.

Brian Johnson, SP, Red Sox
2014 level: High Class A, Double-A
2014 stats: 12-3, 2.26 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 121 K, 131 2/3 IP
A line drive to the face late in 2012 set Johnson back to begin his career, but if his numbers this year are an indication of what he can do when fully healthy, the prospect hounds have underestimated him. He has a 1.87 ERA in 18 starts at Double-A Portland, demonstrating excellent control for a young left-hander.

Jordy Lara, OF, Mariners
2014 level: High Class A, Double-A
2014 stats: .351 BA, 23 HR, 92 RBI, 1.006 OPS, 42 BB, 89 K
Playing at the most hitter-friendly park in the most hitter-friendly league, Lara may turn out to be the latest in a long line of low-level Mariners fakeouts (with Vinnie Catricala also coming to mind), but he was about as good on the road as at home at that level. He's also off to a good start at Double-A Jackson, batting .333 (18 for 54) in 14 games.

Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
2014 level: High Class A, Double-A
2014 stats: .286 BA, 9 HR, 13 SB, .853 OPS, 80 BB, 87 K
The Mets selected Nimmo 13th overall in the 2011 draft suspecting he was an on-base specialist who just needed experience to bring out his other tools. Well, he has a couple years experience now, and the tools are beginning to play up.

Daniel Norris, SP, Blue Jays
2014 level: High Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
2014 stats: 10-1, 2.25 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 135 K, 108 IP
Norris has gone from project to prospect this season, refining his command to get the most out of his stuff. The way the Blue Jays have pushed him this year, promoting him after eight starts at Double-A and 13 starts at high Class A, you have to wonder if they think he's an option for the playoff push.

Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
2014 level: High Class A, Double-A
2014 stats: .313 BA, 8 HR, 37 SB, .859 OPS, 49 BB, 74 K
Pompey had a lot to learn when he signed as a 17-year-old in 2010, but he's finally making good on whatever the scouts saw in him then. The speed is more advanced than the power right now, but what he lacks in home runs he'll make up for in doubles and triples.

Daniel Robertson, SS, Athletics
2014 level: High Class A
2014 stats: .306 BA, 15 HR, .872 OPS, 64 BB, 84 K
Robertson's emergence is probably a big reason why the Athletics were willing to trade Addison Russell, which isn't to say he's as good as Russell, but clearly, his stock has risen. Beware of the California League effect, though. Grant Green looked like a top prospect when he played at high Class A Stockton, too.

Luis Severino, SP, Yankees
2014 level: Low Class A, high Class A, Double-A
2014 stats: 6-3, 2.36 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 118 K, 103 IP
Severino is only 20, but his quick ascension is an especially welcome development for a team struggling to contend with a rotation of castoffs and nobodys. He's improved at every stop, too, compiling a 1.84 ERA in three starts at Double-A Trenton with 20 strikeouts to just four walks in 14 2/3 innings.

Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox
2014 level: Double-A, Triple-A
2014 stats: .298 BA, 13 HR, .837 OPS, 29 BB, 71 K
Swihart kept placing high in the Red Sox prospect rankings despite lackluster production, and now, we finally see why. It's not all defense for him. He can hit -- and much better than the rookie the Red Sox are currently breaking in at catcher, Christian Vazquez.

Christian Walker, 1B, Orioles
2014 level: Double-A, Triple-A
2014 stats: .301 BA, 24 HR, 91 RBI, .887 OPS, 53 BB, 106 K
An older prospect at age 23, Walker has finally developed the power he'll need to stand out at first base. He has always hit for average, but his defensive limitations would have limited his opportunities with that alone.

Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
2014 level: High Class A, Double-A
2014 stats: .287 BA, 15 HR, .917 OPS, 54 BB, 68 K
At least for Fantasy purposes, Winker might have the most upside of any player on this list. He profiles as a plus hitter with plus power, and so far at age 20, no minor-league level has been able to hold him back.

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Player News
Brewers' Khris Davis to work on being a patient hitter in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Brewers outfielder Khris Davis realizes he didn't show patience at the plate last year in his first full major-league season, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I built a reputation in the organization of being a patient hitter," Davis said. "I felt like I wasn't a patient hitter at all last year. I was a little eager, wanting to please too much, too early. I found out I'm human."

Davis drew just 32 walks in 549 plate appearances while posting a .299 OBP in 2014, a number far away from his career .392 OBP in the minors.

"He was different last year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody goes through different phases. Guys change. (His walk total) was too low. He's a guy I think should be fairly patient. He sees pitches well. When he starts getting anxious, he becomes more aggressive and chases more. He realizes it, which is the first step. If you don't realize it and don't listen to other people when they tell you that, then you have issues. You have to have good self-awareness to be a good player. Sometimes these players don't have good self-awareness. But if they had better self-awareness they'd be a better player."

Davis is determined to fulfill the potential that caused the organization to move Ryan Braun to right field before the 2014 season and plug Davis into the regular left-field role.

"I can't thank them enough for having patience with me," Davis said. "I'm going to work it out. When you get here, you want to stay. That's the toughest part at first. I don't think this league has seen the best of me yet. I'm ready to pull that out and prove it day by day. I learned so many lessons there are too many to name."

Davis hit .244/.299/.457 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 501 at-bats.


Indians' Francona keeping a close eye on Giovanny Urshela
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Indians manager Terry Francona has been keeping a close eye on third-base prospect Giovanny Urshela, who was only recently cleared for a full range of activities after tweaking his knee during winter ball, MLB.com reports.

"He has a tremendous reputation of being a really good defender," Francona said. "I think I've been more wanting to watch his gait, just to make sure he's not favoring that leg. He promised us that, if he was, he'd let us know, but I also know he's a young kid in his first major-league camp."

Urshela suffered the injury on Nov. 15 and has rehabbed the injured knee at the team's spring-training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

"He's worked really hard to get himself to where he can go through a normal spring," said Indians' director of player development Carter Hawkins. "We're very excited about the spot he's in right now, given the possible outcomes of the injury."

Urshela saw his first action at the Triple-A level in 2014, hitting .276/.331/.473 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 395 at-bats with Columbus.


Reds' Brennan Boesch to see time at first base this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated Friday that outfielder Brennan Boesch would see time at all three outfield spots as well as at first base as he competes for a roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

"We already know he's a terrific player," Price said of Boesch, who has never played first base professionally. "He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit, but I think he feels -- and we feel -- that he's back on top of his game, and maybe his best days are ahead of him."

Boesch said he doesn't see the battle for a reserve outfield role as a "competition."

"I only care about the competition against the pitcher, and that's really as basic as I keep it," Boesch said. "You aren't competing against other players. We're all on the same side here. We're all wearing Red jerseys. Let the chips fall where they may."

Boesch struggled in limited time with the Angels in 2014 but hit .332/.381/.636 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 374 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake.


Dodgers' Mattingly: Turner has 'put a lot of time in and it shows'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner earned a nonroster invitation to the team's camp last year and ended up leading the team in batting average, and he's been working on his body like a fiend over the winter, MLB.com reports.

"Going into last year, we felt if he played every day, he'd get in trouble, and we found that out, but this year maybe he can handle more," manager Don Mattingly said Friday. "He's really been diligent about his work, been at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He's put a lot of time in and it shows."

Turner credited strength-and-conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his workout success.

"Brandon did everything. He's been a one-man wrecking crew," said Turner. "He and his family deserve the credit. I've been able to establish a routine and train consistently. Before I signed a year ago, I was on my own, going to 24 Hour Fitness, had to coordinate everything myself."

Turner added that he lost 18 pounds this winter through a healthier diet. Mattingly said that he intends to use the infielder at the corner-infield positions and also potentially up the middle.


Nationals' Matt Skole: 'I'm eating healthy and working hard'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Nationals first baseman Matt Skole missed most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled at the plate in 2014 but showed up to camp in better shape and will look to rebound in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."

Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a month after the season and learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently after having his hands too low during his down 2014 season.

"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a stepping stone for this year."

Skole hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI in 461 at-bats with Double-A Harrisburg last season.


Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


 
 
 
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