Checking in on Youngsters: McCullers, Taillon and Joseph by Josh Shepardson May 13, 2016 I love young players. This week’s piece will allow me to indulge my love of young players. The first highlighted player is highly owned, but his ownership rate at one of the major fantasy baseball providers is insanely low. He’s joined by a pair of players in the Triple-A International League who should all reach the majors in the coming months. If recent performance is an indicator, they’ll be getting a look sooner rather than later. Lance McCullers – SP – Houston Astros ( CBS: 90%, ESPN: 50.2%, Yahoo!: 77%) McCullers doesn’t require a lengthy write-up. His CBS ownership tells the story. Having said that, he gets the nod in today’s piece because ESPN gamers are apparently asleep at the wheel. In McCullers’ last rehab start on May 7th, he pitched five scoreless innings allowing two hits with two walks and seven strikeouts at the Triple-A level. He’s saying the right things about how he feels (“great”) and his feel for his stuff. He’s starting tonight, and while I wouldn’t trust him in his first start of the year in the majors against a high-scoring Red Sox offense, he’s worth grabbing in advance of the start. A pitcher who struck out a quarter of the batters he faced as a rookie and earned a 3.22 ERA that was — mostly — supported by his 3.26 FIP, 3.50 xFIP and 3.57 SIERA shouldn’t be available in leagues of any size. Jameson Taillon – SP – Pittsburgh Pirates (CBS: 28%,ESPN: 3.5%, Yahoo!: 5%) After missing the last two years, Taillon has not only not skipped a beat this year, he’s pitching better than ever at the highest rung of the minor league ladder. In six starts spanning 37.1 innings, he’s spun a 1.69 ERA, 2.14 FIP with a 2.8% walk rate and 22.7% strikeout rate. The numbers are sparkling, but box score scouting can be misleading. In this case, it’s not. Taillon was included in Baseball America’s April 29th Prospect Hot Sheet. It was noted in that article that his fastball is being thrown in the 90-95 mph range for strikes, and his curveball is still a plus pitch. An innings cap is likely in order for a pitcher coming off of two lost years, but they aren’t handling him with kid gloves yet. Taillon has pitched seven innings in three straight starts and pitched six in two others. Tyler Glasnow is pitching extremely well, too, but his 10.2% walk rate indicates he still needs a bit of work refining his control. Without an immediate opening in their rotation, the Pirates don’t need to push Taillon too hard or start his arbitration clock in advance of the Super Two deadline. It’s probably a little early to stash Taillon in 12-team mixed leagues with shallow benches, but gamers in need of pitching help in 12-team mixed leagues with bigger benches or larger leagues should scoop him up before June. Tommy Joseph – C(CBS)/1B(ESPN) – Philadelphia Phillies (CBS: 2%, ESPN: 0%, Yahoo!: Not in player pool) Check out Joseph’s eligibility at CBS. Whoops, that’s an oversight, but it has a chance to benefit attentive gamers there. Philadelphia’s first basemen have been dreadful this year (.193 ISO, 69 wRC+, .203/.262/.396), and Joseph is mashing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Back in late March, CJ Whittmann of Perfect Game USA and 2080 Baseball noted Joseph looked healthy with above average bat speed. A healthy Joseph has smacked six homers with a .275 ISO, 196 wRC+ and a triple slash of .352/.375/.626 in 96 plate appearances. His walk rate of 4.2% is poor, but his aggressiveness isn’t resulting in strikeouts as he has just a 11.5% strikeout rate. With the big league first basemen struggling mightily, the door could be open for Joseph to get his first taste of the majors soon. Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia speculates that Joseph could be promoted as soon as this weekend to replace Darin Ruf on the short side of the first base platoon. Salisbury notes that the Phillies will face four lefty starters in their next two series. Joseph’s right-handed thump will get a lift in Philadelphia. Citizens Bank Park has a right-handed batter park factor of 144, per Stat Corner. Gamers in two-catcher leagues of 12 teams or larger at CBS Sports should give him a look now. He’s not worth grabbing yet as a first baseman in ESPN games, but he’s worth adding to watch lists. Also, he’s a viable boom-or-bust play in daily games against southpaws right out of the chute if he’s priced cheaply.