Prospects Report: Time to buy into The Franchise

Music to the ears: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire using the term "antsy" about the possibility of a July return by Francisco Liriano . To Fantasy owners, it really is a month overdue.

Heck, they have been "antsy" -- no, make that totally buggin' -- since the lefty formerly known as The Franchise was sent down in April.

Gardenhire has said in the past week that Liriano could return to the Twins' rotation by the All-Star break, maybe even before.

Minor League stats
Interested in seeing how your favorite prospects are performing in the minor leagues? You can find a player's stats on his page or you can sort stats for Triple-A and Double-A by clicking here .

"He's going to start getting antsy here pretty quick if he starts going along and dominating that league, running off a bunch of wins in a row," Gardenhire told MLB.com this week. "And that's OK with us. Good pitching is hard to find.

"We know that he can be a dominant pitcher. If he starts rolling down there, then you start making decisions up here as to how you fit him in."

Liriano has been rolling for weeks now, posting seven quality starts in his past eight outings since early May, including four in a row. His full season numbers are not eye-popping (3-2, 3.78 ERA, .232 batting-average against, 52 strikeouts and 23 walks in 66 2/3 innings), but he has improved his strikeout-to-walk rate and is (3-0)-2.79-.214-19-5 in 19 1/3 innings (three starts) in June.

"His command is better," Rochester Red Wings pitching coach Stu Cliburn told the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently. "(It) is allowing him to make pitches to stay in games. He's getting that feel to pitch back and he's not relying so much on sliders with two strikes to get people out. He's using his fastball more and his changeup more, and he's getting the feel for getting guys out."

While the slider is his "out" pitch, it is the fastball that has kept him down in the minors for this long. He is not reaching the mid-90s he was at before the surgery and is sitting between 87-93 mph, mostly 90-91, according to the Tribune. The Twins are still hopeful his arm catches up.

"No doubt about it, (increasing his velocity) could happen," Cliburn told the Tribune. "Only time will tell. Right now, the main thing is that he's going out there every day and getting his work in and getting to his pitch count.

"He's getting a feel to pitch and learn to be a pitcher and not a thrower. He's learning to pitch with less."

The 63 percent of CBSSports.com leagues that own Liriano right now -- he has been the most-owned minor leaguer in Fantasy all season -- might not like to hear he is not throwing in the mid-90s. But learning to pitch is very important, too, especially after taking that full year off. Liriano was a rookie, and still learning, when he blew his elbow out.

"I haven't heard anything other than, 'He's been great,'" Gardenhire told MLB.com. "(Tom Kelly), when he saw him, said he handled himself really well on the mound. We haven't had any bad reports, which was what I expected. He saw where he was at up here and he knew he had work to do. And that's the only thing he can do, is work."

The best news is Liriano is at least healthy and built back up to 100 pitches, although the Twins haven't quite let him go to the 110 pitch-count the other Triple-A starters are limited to. As far as getting back up to his original velocity, most Tommy John survivors say it happens 18 months post surgery. That is right about where Liriano is now.

"We're not going to force the issue. We'll let him get enough starts down there to where the (Minnesota's front office) feels comfortable," Gardenhire told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Whether it's at the All-Star break or right before that, I don't know."

Let's venture an optimistic guess for you ...

Liriano last started Sunday, June 15 (7 1/3, five Ks, no walks). He can pitch Friday, June 20 and then Wednesday, June 25 -- most likely in Triple-A -- so don't consider him for Fantasy Week 13 (June 23-29).

June 30 could be a target date if he stays on his current roll in Triple-A. That is Glen Perkins turn, tentatively.

We should mention Perkins was solid Thursday for the Twins and the other struggling young arm, Kevin Slowey (two consecutive victories), has been great of late, too. Nick Blackburn (5-4, 3.87) or Scott Baker (2-2, 3.71) don't seem to need to be replaced right now, either. In fact, the De facto "ace" Livan Hernandez , who leads the staff with seven victories but has a 5.51 ERA, has struggled the most. He could be trade bait.

But none of that matters. Liriano is a get-out-of-his-way guy. Like Gardenhire said, when he is "ready" you make decisions on how to fit him in.

Right now, he fits nicely as a must-have stashee in all leagues with reserve spots.

Prospect watch

Every Thursday, we break down all the minor leaguers who are owned in at least 1 percent of our Fantasy leagues. This will be your essential guide to unearthing the elite prospects before they hit the big time.

The stats are through Wednesday's games of June 18 and are those of the player's level he has most recently played.

CBSSports.com's most-owned minor league hitters
Player TM Pos Own% Level AVG HR RBI R SB OBP SLUG
Billy Butler KC DH 22 Triple-A .373 3 10 13 0 .453 .587
Cameron Maybin FLA OF 18 Double-A .260 12 33 48 14 .356 .480
Josh Fields CHW 3B 13 Triple-A .251 8 26 27 3 .327 .474
J.R. Towles HOU C 13 Triple-A .257 2 5 8 0 .381 .486
Asdrubal Cabrera CLE 2B 8 Triple-A .394 0 2 6 0 .412 .485
Colby Rasmus STL OF 8 Triple-A .247 10 33 44 9 .341 .402
Wladimir Balentien SEA OF 8 Triple-A .254 6 20 13 1 .333 .597
Brandon Wood ANA 3B 7 Triple-A .250 10 25 26 2 .306 .507
Matt LaPorta MIL OF 7 Double-A .295 19 58 50 1 .411 .610
Ronny Paulino PIT C 6 Triple-A .410 4 10 10 0 .465 .949
Travis Buck OAK OF 6 Triple-A .337 2 10 16 3 .425 .490
Felix Pie CHC OF 6 Triple-A .225 4 20 22 4 .273 .395
Chris Davis TEX 3B 4 Triple-A .356 9 27 22 1 .410 .733
Jerry Owens CHW OF 4 Triple-A .258 1 15 24 17 .326 .305
Mat Gamel MIL 3B 4 Double-A .370 14 62 63 5 .434 .630
Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 3 Triple-A .286 8 28 43 20 .368 .436
Jed Lowrie BOS SS 3 Triple-A .289 2 17 23 0 .388 .447
Steve Pearce PIT OF 3 Triple-A .255 8 41 26 5 .306 .427
Eugenio Velez SF 2B 3 Triple-A .330 2 9 17 9 .376 .495
Matt Wieters BAL C 3 High A .347 14 38 47 1 .452 .577
Dallas McPherson FLA 3B 2 Triple-A .296 22 47 48 5 .410 .650
Shelley Duncan NYY DH 2 Triple-A .279 6 17 13 1 .438 .672
Jayson Nix COL 2B 2 Triple-A .275 11 29 37 7 .348 .551
Matt Antonelli SD 2B 2 Triple-A .191 3 20 28 3 .316 .282
Reid Brignac TB SS 2 Triple-A .261 5 33 32 4 .306 .436
Adam Lind TOR OF 2 Triple-A .326 5 47 23 1 .389 .525
Travis Snider TOR OF 2 Double-A .281 10 40 34 0 .368 .480
Fernando Martinez NYM OF 2 Double-A .280 3 16 19 3 .314 .408
Kendrys Morales ANA 1B 1 Triple-A .324 8 37 22 1 .365 .505
Sean Rodriguez ANA SS 1 Triple-A .250 4 12 19 3 .420 .515
Josh Anderson ATL OF 1 Triple-A .283 1 20 30 15 .328 .345
Eric Patterson CHC OF 1 Triple-A .319 5 26 27 10 .354 .503
Danny Richar CHW 2B 1 Triple-A .230 3 11 17 5 .330 .370
Joe Koshansky COL 1B 1 Triple-A .296 15 66 43 0 .375 .601
Seth Smith COL OF 1 Triple-A .323 9 44 43 11 .432 .540
Matt Joyce DET OF 1 Triple-A .276 10 31 27 2 .357 .540
Ryan Shealy KC 1B 1 Triple-A .240 9 23 20 0 .321 .455
Chin-lung Hu LA SS 1 Triple-A .182 0 0 1 0 .250 .273
Tony Gwynn MIL OF 1 Triple-A .319 0 8 11 6 .409 .340
Neil Walker PIT 3B 1 Triple-A .229 10 33 40 2 .264 .445
Nate Schierholtz SF OF 1 Triple-A .301 10 47 39 8 .347 .541
Joe Mather STL OF 1 Triple-A .309 13 26 32 3 .401 .671
Taylor Teagarden TEX C 1 Triple-A .246 5 13 17 0 .372 .447
Max Ramirez TEX C 1 Double-A .352 16 46 47 2 .451 .639
Jordan Schafer ATL OF 1 Double-A .227 3 12 10 3 .354 .455
Austin Jackson NYY OF 1 Double-A .285 7 45 41 10 .361 .448
Jose Tabata NYY OF 1 Double-A .241 2 29 34 9 .319 .298
Elvis Andrus TEX SS 1 Double-A .269 1 25 36 24 .328 .324
Lars Anderson BOS 1B 1 High A .308 8 36 38 0 .398 .493
Chris Marrero WAS OF 1 High A .250 11 38 40 0 .325 .453
Mike Moustakas KC 3B 1 Low A .228 9 31 31 4 .285 .386
Josh Vitters CHC 3B 1 Low A .286 0 3 0 0 .375 .286
CBSSports.com's most-owned minor league pitchers
Player TM POS Own% Level W-L ERA K BB HA WHIP IP
Francisco Liriano MIN SP 63 Triple-A 3-2 3.78 52 23 57 1.200 66 2/3
Clay Buchholz BOS SP 47 Triple-A 1-1 2.45 22 12 20 1.455 22
Max Scherzer ARI SP 36 Triple-A 0-0 2.84 43 6 16 0.868 25 1/3
Dontrelle Willis DET SP 32 Triple-A 1-1 4.41 11 7 16 1.408 16 1/3
Homer Bailey CIN SP 30 Triple-A 4-4 4.15 55 31 66 1.399 69 1/3
David Price TB SP 27 High A 3-0 1.27 30 5 23 0.988 28 1/3
Rich Hill CHC SP 19 Triple-A 2-3 3.91 31 24 19 1.697 25 1/3
Franklin Morales COL SP 5 Triple-A 4-2 6.08 25 33 38 1.775 40
Nick Adenhart ANA SP 4 Triple-A 5-6 4.66 47 35 74 1.611 67 2/3
Chuck James ATL SP 4 Triple-A 2-2 1.18 28 11 30 1.079 38
Adam Miller CLE SP 4 Triple-A 0-1 1.88 20 12 26 1.326 28 2/3
Aquilino Lopez DET RP 3 Triple-A No stats yet
Gio Gonzalez OAK SP 3 Triple-A 3-5 5.01 78 38 79 1.481 79
Chris Volstad FLA SP 3 Double-A 3-2 2.92 50 25 64 1.203 74
Rick Porcello DET SP 3 High A 3-6 2.94 41 19 67 1.277 67 1/3
Jason Hirsh COL SP 2 Triple-A 0-0 4.42 12 14 16 1.636 18 1/3
Justin Germano SD SP 2 Triple-A 1-2 4.42 16 3 23 1.418 18 1/3
Carlos Carrasco PHI SP 2 Double-A 4-6 3.78 85 32 85 1.330 88
Jake McGee TB SP 2 Double-A 6-3 3.81 65 34 64 1.295 75 2/3
Wade Davis TB SP 2 Double-A 6-5 4.03 58 34 78 1.355 82 2/3
Dustin Moseley ANA SP 1 Triple-A 2-4 5.48 28 11 47 1.359 42 2/3
Sean Marshall CHC SP 1 Triple-A 0-1 4.18 21 5 22 1.141 23 2/3
Philip Humber MIN SP 1 Triple-A 3-5 5.52 39 29 69 1.624 60 1/3
Kei Igawa NYY SP 1 Triple-A 6-4 3.74 72 24 76 1.154 86 2/3
Brad Hennessey SF SP 1 Triple-A 4-3 4.84 20 13 53 1.478 44 2/3
Jeff Niemann TB SP 1 Triple-A 3-2 4.63 43 10 43 1.187 44 2/3
Tyler Clippard WAS SP 1 Triple-A 4-4 3.41 59 25 48 1.203 60 2/3
Matt Belisle CIN SP 1 Triple-A 4-0 5.29 10 3 26 1.706 17
Matt Chico WAS SP 1 Triple-A 0-0 9.00 1 2 7 2.250 4
Jon Meloan LA SP 1 Triple-A 4-6 4.29 63 43 73 1.626 71 1/3
Taylor Tankersley FLA RP 1 Triple-A 0-0 1.35 7 1 6 1.050 6 2/3
Jensen Lewis CLE RP 1 Triple-A 0-1 4.91 9 5 12 1.545 11
Daryl Thompson CIN SP 1* Triple-A 3-0 3.31 22 4 23 0.990 27 2/3
Rick VandenHurk FLA SP 1 Double-A 2-1 4.76 30 9 23 1.129 28 1/3
Jaime Garcia STL SP 1 Double-A 3-2 2.06 41 16 26 1.200 35
Ross Detwiler WAS SP 1 High A 5-3 5.73 56 32 63 1.727 55
Jarrod Parker ARI SP 1 Low A 5-3 3.70 37 11 54 1.336 48 2/3

* denotes a player who has been called up since Wednesday, or will be called up soon.

Rookie watch

Top AL rookies to date

  1. OF Jacoby Ellsbury , BOS -- Fantasy steals leader leads all rookies in the category by almost 30.
  2. SP Armando Galarraga , DET -- Resurgent Tigers really have this guy to thank right now, with a rookie-high seven victories.
  3. OF David Murphy , TEX -- No one could have expected this guy would be on a 100-RBI pace in mid-June.
  4. 3B Evan Longoria , TB -- He is a bit too much of a free-swinger, which makes him a streaky guy for Fantasy.
  5. SP Justin Masterson , BOS -- They will have to continue to come up with ways to keep him in the rotation, but he has been outstanding.
  • Honorable mentions: 2B Alexei Ramirez , CHW; SP Aaron Laffey , CLE; OF Ryan Sweeney , OAK; SP Garrett Olson , BAL; SS Mike Aviles , KC; OF Ben Francisco , CLE; SP Nick Blackburn , MIN; RP Jesse Carlson , TOR; SP Luke Hochevar , KC; RP Masa Kobayashi , CLE; RP Dennis Sarfate , BAL; SP Greg Smith , OAK.

Top NL rookies to date

  1. C Geovany Soto , CHC -- He leads all rookie hitters with 61 strikeouts, but suppose we can accept those from this mashing catcher.
  2. SP Jair Jurrjens , ATL -- The Braves would be buried if not for his contributions thus far.
  3. OF Jay Bruce , CIN -- You had to expect him to cool off. He is a must-have in all leagues, but perhaps not a must-start.
  4. SP Kosuke Fukudome , CHC -- His power has come around, just in time to compensate for the loss of Alfonso Soriano .
  5. 1B Joey Votto , CIN -- After great April and May, he has been a bit quiet in June. He will heat back up, though.
  • Honorable mentions: SP Johnny Cueto , CIN; SP Jorge Campillo , ATL; SP Clayton Kershaw , LAD; SP John Lannan , WAS; SP Hiroki Kuroda , LAD; SP Charlie Morton , ATL.

Newbie needs

Pete Binco, Fallston, Maryland: Since Chris Davis is white hot in Triple-A, do you think he will be called up by Texas or will they let Hank Blalock block him with the move to first base, when Blalock comes back?

Emack: You likely shouldn't need to worry about Blalock blocking Davis at this point. He is a masher who the Rangers will find at-bats for and just about anyone in Texas will have to get out of his way. The 22-year-old Davis has picked up the production to even another level after his promotion to Triple-A in late May. In 71 games combined between Double- and Triple-A, Davis has hit .341 with 22 homers, 69 RBI, 65 runs, six steals, a .387 OBP and a .656 SLUG. We could be awaiting the arrival of the next Mark Teixeira . Pick him up in any league you can afford to wait on an elite prospect who could be an impact Fantasy player in the second half. His mere 4 percent ownership in CBSSports.com's leagues is embarrassingly low.

Mike Johnson: I just picked up Daryl Thompson because Dusty Baker is really getting sick of Homer Bailey not living up to his hype. When do you think he will get the call and what kind of numbers can be expected of him when he does?

Emack: Way to be on top of things. Thompson is getting the call to start Saturday at the N.Y. Yankees. That is a tough spot for your major league debut. In Yankee Stadium against Alex Rodriguez , Derek Jeter and company. The Reds obviously must think a whole lot of Thompson (see numbers above) to trust him in that spot. Baseball America didn't list him among the Reds' top 30 prospects this spring, but clearly that was an oversight. In 14 starts (89 innings) between Double- and Triple-A, Thompson is 6-2 with a 2.22 ERA, .213 batting-average against, 78 strikeouts and just 18 walks. He won't be Edinson Volquez-good, or as dominant as Cueto is from time to time, but his command is far better than Bailey's. Consider Thompson a sleeper in deeper leagues right now, but expect some erratic results.

Manny Carrera, Guayaquil, Ecuador: Can you tell me why Volquez has no rookie elegibility? He has never pitched in the majors, right?

Emack: Even though the Rangers organization has performed like a Triple-A one in past years, Volquez exceeded the 50 innings with the Rangers. That is the total required by rule to maintain rookie status.

You can e-mail Emack your Fantasy Baseball prospect questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: Prospects in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.

Crave freelancer Eric Mack is a writer, radio producer, and podcaster based in Taos, N.M., but he lives in Google+. He's also managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org... Full Bio

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