Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Beginning with today's article on Anaheim's prospects, I'll review the minor leaguers who could succeed in the majors in 2003. While I'll undoubtedly miss at least several players who will wind up shooting to the majors by the end of the year, I expect to encompass most of the rookies who will lose their rookie status next season.
Unlike practically every other prospect commentator, I'm only looking at the fantasy potential of these players, which means I won't seriously consider pitchers with a K:BB significantly worse than 2.0 like Corwin Malone(1.0) or Colt Griffin(0.8), neither of whom should reach the majors next year.
I'll only consider truly outstanding performers from A-ball if they appear able to excel in AAA by the second half of 2003. Of players who spent the entire year in short-season ball, the only prospect that I believe merits a possible look next September is the Mets' Scott Kazmir, as everyone else needs at least a full year of extra development time.
To simplify this process, I'm beginning with Anaheim today before alphabetically progressing through the rest of the AL, followed by the NL in the same order.
I'm making no distinction between recognized prospects and likely minor league free agents, and I'll consider anyone who retains rookie status for 2003 and played in the minors this year. Also, if anyone is aware of any decent prospects who missed the entire season, such as Ryan Anderson and Jeff Heaverlo, please e-mail me with their names so I don't accidentally miss them.
I expect this series to conclude as we return from the AFL, whereupon I'll spend a couple of days discussing our experiences at the Symposium.
Washburn, Appier, Ramon Ortiz, Sele, and Lackey all have set contracts, so the only pitching competition will be in the bullpen for the three spots after Percival, Donnelly, and Francisco Rodriguez, although Schoeneweis, Weber, and Shields are the likely favorites.
The Angels should consider adding a premiere bat, but with the rest of their team set and happy following their current success, I don't foresee any major changes. Few rookies will likely receive an extended chance to contribute.
Chone Figgins, 24, IF-S
He's never stolen less than 27 bases in any of his four years of full-season ball, and considering his skills look quite acceptable at AAA, he should join Benji Gil as one of the Angels' two infield back-ups. Even in a part-time role, Figgins could approach 20 steals, so he could be a solid target near the end of drafts if you need an inexpensive MIF.
Robb Quinlan, 25, 1B/OF-R
He was one of the few people in organized baseball to reach a dozen or more doubles, triples, and homers, and while neither a .08 walk rate or .44 BB:K are overly promising, the Angels' don't focus on plate discipline. Quinlan could allow the Angels to save a few million dollars over the comparable Brad Fullmer, and the difference in ability is far smaller than most people recognize. If he goes into the draft as the undisputed DH, he'll merit a bid near $10, although he also might just remain an extremely competent reserve player.
Francisco Rodriguez, 20, RH Reliever
To elaborate on his effectiveness in 2002, here are his numbers from the ALDS against New York: 2-0 on 8:2 K:BB in 5.2 IP over 3 G with 2 H, 1 HR for a 3.18 ERA. He owned an 11.6 K/9 before converting to relief this season, and considering his absolute dominance at the three top levels of the Angels' system, he could easily fulfill the frequent comparison to Octavio Dotel. I've seen him touted as a potential Rookie of the Year, and if he can approach this level next year, he'll certainly deserve some votes. He'll enter Spring Training as one of the top middle relievers available in any fantasy draft, and I see no reason not to spend $5 or more given his incredible upside.
Alfredo Amezaga, 24, SS-S
Anaheim promoted Amezaga far too quickly, advancing him to AAA after only 285 AA at-bats despite a meager 22:55 BB:K. He's now displaying roughly the same plate discipline in AAA, although a much lower BA has destroyed his OPS. Amezaga turns 25 in January, and only his 73 SB back at A+ Lake Elsinore in 2000 suggest he'll ever provide much fantasy help. If he winds up as a backup next year, he'll add little speed for a buck or two, but I don't see any great reason to own him.
Larry Barnes, 28, 1B/OF-L
While Barnes also reached double-digits in 2B(29), 3B(11), and HR(20), his weak plate discipline and advancing age continue to reduce his chance of seeing any extended major league time. A Barnes/Quinlan platoon could cheaply replace Fullmer and allow Shawn Wooten to resume his previous role as a backup catcher, thereby creating significant offensive depth. However Barnes will never excel in the majors, and since he already missed his best chance by hitting .100 with a .297 OPS in 40 AB last year, he'll be lucky to receive a longer look.
Jeff Guiel, 28, OF-L
Guiel continues to display a level of talent consistent with a backup outfielder, and I expect Anaheim to give him a chance to compete with Robb Quinlan, Jeff DaVanon, and others to replace Alex Ochoa and/or Orlando Palmeiro. There's nothing particularly impressive in his numbers, however he deserves a shot in the majors after holding an OPS well over .800 at AAA over the last two years.
Nathan Haynes, 23, OF-L
He's only played two full seasons in his six-year minor league career due to a half-dozen relatively serious injuries, but he's never even displayed much plate discipline when healthy. While he's demonstrated significant speed in the past, his 57% success rate this season is much worse than his 69% career rate, although he's also still quite young. He could contend for a backup job in 2004, but considering the other competition and possibility of re-signing Palmeiro and/or Ochoa, I hope Anaheim lets him start for a full year at AAA before promoting him.
Mike O'Keefe, 24, 1B/OF-L
Like Quinlan in AAA, O'Keefe is aided by his age advantage over fellow Texas Leaguers; of course he also possesses an impressive bat that leaves him as the second best hitting prospect in the upper levels of the organization. He's ready to contend for a backup job now, but if given the chance to develop in AAA in 2003, he'd be a quality addition to the Anaheim lineup the following season.
Rick Short, 29, UT-R
I'll be surprised if he doesn't change organizations after Anaheim didn't promote him in September despite that .356 BA. However aside from this unsupported BA, he lacks any exemplary secondary skill, and while he played several games at 1B, 2B, and 3B, I suspect Anaheim left him at DH much of the year due to fielding questions. He turns 30 in December and seems comfortable as a AAAA hitter, although he might produce in the majors if given a chance.
Barry Wesson, 25, OF-R
Anaheim claimed Wesson off waivers from Houston at the end of the season, so he might have a chance to compete for a backup job in the spring. However, he displayed neither power nor speed in his first year at AAA, and he continues to demonstrate abhorrent plate discipline. Nothing in Wesson's background suggests he'll emerge as more than an occasional injury replacement, so there's no reason to consider him at this time.
Chris Bootcheck, 23, RH Starter
Anaheim probably should have left him at AA all year, but he managed to compile marginally acceptable skill ratios in 9 AAA starts, including a 2.4 K:BB, 5.9 K/9, and .8 HR/9. I suspect he was somewhat tired since he jumped from 123 IP in his 2001 debut to 174 this year, and now Anaheim assigned him to the AFL. Considering scouts already questioned his durability prior to this season, a likely increase of 60 or more innings leaves him at great risk for injury. If he stays healthy, he should continue developing into a solid replacement for Aaron Sele in 2004, although if his dominance doesn't improve, I'd expect him to shift to the bullpen.
Greg Jones, 25, RH Reliever
Jones looked like a decent relief prospect after three years of A-ball, but a 2000 season split between A+ Lake Elsinore, AAA Edmonton, and AA Erie left both his qualitative stats and skill ratios looking poor. He only pitched 30 innings last year as a starter at the lower levels of the Angels' system, although he obviously impressed somebody since he spent all of 2002 pitching quite well at AAA. While he lacks the history of success I'd prefer in most minor leaguers, his biggest obstacle to major success in the sheer quantity of quality right-handed relievers currently present in the Anaheim system. Even though he could succeed if given a chance, I'll be surprised to see him in the majors before next September at the earliest.
Matt Hensley, 24, RH Swingman
I'm not sure why he skipped AA, but he established himself as a logical injury backup if any Angels' starters hit the DL in 2003. A 2.7 K:BB, 8.0 K/9, and a 1.1 HR/9 all look good, although Hensley certainly should spend as much of 2003 as possible at AAA. He'll need to start strong next year before I enthusiastically recommend him.
Bart Miadich, 26, RH Reliever
Prior to this season, Miadich compiled a 104:46 K:BB in 90.2 IP above AA. I'm not sure why he lost most of his control, watching his walk rate jump from 4.4 BB/9 to 7.1 BB/9, but he deserved a shot in Anaheim this year though the Angels never promoted him. He's too risky to own at the moment considering his current command difficulties, but his past minor league numbers indicate a strong chance of success if some team gives him a long look.
Casey Kotchman, 18, 1B-L
Eighteen-year-old hitters are not supposed to post an .834 OPS, .17 walk rate, or 1.30 BB:K in their first year of full-season ball. Unfortunately he only played in 11 games last year because of a sprained wrist, causing him to miss instructional league, and Kotchman missed the last two months of this season because of another wrist injury. Since he also didn't play baseball in 2000 due to a back injury, I'm growing rather concerned about his fragility. Of course he's still a six-skill player, only missing solid speed while his potential at the plate ranks with any hitting prospect in the game. If he's still available in your keeper league, definitely look to pick him up, although recognize that he shouldn't reach the majors until late-2004, so there's no rush to acquire him.
Rich Fischer, 21, RH Starter
Consistently posting an ERA over 4.00 has left him off most prospect lists, but after dominating A+ this year and remaining an effective pitcher in 7 AA starts, he could emerge as a top pitching prospect next season. A shortstop in high school, Anaheim converted him to the mound, and after adjusting in 2000, Fischer now appears to own three quality pitches, enabling him to post fantastic skill ratios of a 4.5 K:BB and 10.0 K/9. Even his 1.3 homer rate doesn't overly concern me given his overall dominance. You might be able to wait until 2004 to acquire him, but owners in deeper leagues could consider him next spring.
Pedro Liriano, 21, RH Starter
While he looked impressive in Rookie ball last year, where he posted a 2.78 ERA on 76:31 K:BB in 78 IP with 80 hits allowed at Provo in the Pioneer League, he now appears prepared to rocket up the minor league ladder after dominating following his jump to A+ this season. All these ratios, including a 2.4 K:BB, 9.5 K/9, .8 HR/9, and 6.9 H/9, suggest he can maintain these numbers at higher levels, and my only concern is his need to lower his 4.0 BB/9. Considering he'll start 2003 at AA, he'll compete for any available rotation spots in 2004.
Johan Santana, 18, RH Starter
Unlike Minnesota's young pitching stud, Anaheim's Johan Santana is right-handed and a couple years away from the majors. In his first professional experience in 2001, he posted a 1.9 K:BB and 10.5 K/9 while starting in Rookie ball. This year he dominated full-season ball, and he doesn't even turn 19 until November. As long as they can keep his innings down over the next two years, the Angels are developing a potential ace here. I don't recommend spending a minor league pick on him in 2003 unless your league regularly drafts pitching prospects from A-ball, but he's definitely someone to remember in the future.
Jared Abruzzo, 20, A+ Rancho Cucamonga(Cal) C-S
Stephen Andrade, 24, A Cedar Rapids(Mid) RH Reliever
However today is the last day to vote for the most memorable moment in baseball history, a contest sponsored by some credit card company, possibly Visa, American Express, or Discover.
As we've seen posted on other relevant web sites, the problem with this contest is that the majority of moments aren't actual moments but merely the conclusion of a series of events. They've also completely ignored vital events from the early part of the century such as Merkle's Boner, the Black Sox scandal, or anything involving Ty Cobb. More recently, the cancellation of the 1994 Series deserves a spot on the top 5, possibly as high as #2 considering that ended baseball's rule as the mostly publicly unchallenged National Pastime. Of course these are not the greatest moments, but merely memorable ones. I'd like to see "The combination of Commissioner Landis and Babe Ruth help baseball recover from the Black Sox", but I'll stick to the choices offered.
Which moments merit one of your five votes? Of the 8 pre-1950 moments, Jackie Robinson's debut, the Gehrig speech, and DiMaggio streak rank slightly ahead of Carl Hubbell in the All-Star game. Between 1950 and 1980, we have the Thomson, Mazeroski, Aaron, and Fisk homers, along with the Mays' catch. In the last twenty years, Gibson, Carter, McGwire/Sosa, and Bonds' homers strike me as memorable, along with the 1986 Series and Ripken breaking Gehrig's streak.
From this group, the Mazeroski and Carter homers tend to cancel each other out for me. I'm not comfortable calling the DiMaggio streak a moment, and the Mays' catch, while a great defensive play, doesn't quite rank with these other events for me. The 1986 Series merits recognition with the 1975 Series when taken as a whole, but I'm also unwilling to credit a single game. Lastly, while Bonds' season deserves general credit, he surpassed his overall effectiveness last year in 2002, so that even nudges Bonds a little under the four Series' homers for me.
While Hank Aaron passing Babe Ruth was an incredible accomplishment for him, the combination the scheduling shenanigans and the likelihood of a few sluggers passing Aaron in the near future diminish the greatness of that moment for me.
I'm sorely tempted to rank Bobby Thomson's homer in my top 5, but I just can't award him credit when he's acknowledged that he knew what pitch Branca threw due to sign stealing. While he obviously still had to hit the homer, he doesn't rank with these other moments.
5. The Fisk and Gibson homers are probably the two most memorable World Series' homers, but the following games of each Series effect my vote. The Red Sox lost the 1975 Series to the Big Red Machine, negating the value of the Fisk homer, while the Gibson shot completely reversed the fortunes of a Dodgers team that most prognosticators expected to be swept by Oakland.
My first vote goes to #21 on the list, 1988 Kirk Gibson: Pinch-hit homer wins Game 1 of World Series.
4. The McGwire/Sosa 1998 homer duel deserves credit for finally recapturing the front page for baseball across the nation. Although I'd place the 1994 Strike a spot or two higher, Sosa, by deflecting the media pressure from McGwire, earned his worldwide celebrity. My second vote goes to #27, 1998 Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa: Both pass Maris' mark of 61 homers.
2&3. Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken defined how to play the game of baseball for two distinct generations of fans, and both Gehrig's retirement speech and Ripken's 2,131st game stand out as moments that even the most casual of fans will recollect. Since Ripken also redefined the shortstop position, paving the way for the current Holy Quadrity of AL shortstops, I'll give him the slight edge.
My third vote goes to #5, 1039 Lou Gehrig: Retires from baseball with "luckiest man" speech.
My fourth vote goes to #26, 1995 Cal Ripken: Plays in 2131 consecutive games.
1. Fortunately Jackie Robinson's 1947 debut remains both the greatest and most memorable moment, and I can't even imagine selecting another moment since only Robinson qualifies as a memorable moment for the entire country. He excelled under unimaginable pressure, winning the first Rookie of the Year award and compiling a Hall of Fame career when, combined with his incredible dignity and grace, merited the retirement of his #42 from every team in the game.
My fifth and last vote goes to #8, 1947 Jackie Robinson: Breaks baseball color barrier.
Please vote responsibly.
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