Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Following trades for Dustin Hermanson, Alan Embree, Cliff Floyd, and Bobby Howry, Boston lacks any publicly acknowledged premiere prospects. Repeated signing of free agents and stinginess with their best picks keeps their system mostly empty and forced to rely on foreign talent to replenish the organization. They also continually sign quality minor league free agents, but likely due to the pressure of a major media market, such players don't receive extended chances to contribute.
Offensively, Freddy Sanchez and Kevin Youkilis soon should occupy 2B and either 3B or 1B respectively, so the Red Sox need to focus on extending the contracts of their core players at SS, RF, and C. Manny, Damon, and Nixon should give them a great outfield for several years, and I also like the run-producing upside of their infield, since even Brian Daubach is a solid, if frequently underrated contributor.
Boston's pitching situation is more complicated given Pedro's perpetual health concerns and Lowe's arbitration eligibility. Fortunately Tim Wakefield should return as a solid #3, and there's little wrong with using Casey Fossum and John Burkett at the end of the rotation, with Hancock replacing Burkett towards the end of 2003. Though Bobby Howry is the lone reliever signed through next year, Boston will look at some older minor leaguers along with re-signing Embree to fill out their pen. Roberto Hernandez seems like a good candidate to close if they don't want Urbina back, although I'd prefer a more creative solution such as moving Burkett to closer and signing a cheap starter, or re-signing Dustin Hermanson to close.
Despite columnist complaints about the need for the Red Sox to rebuild, they already have a team capable of competing for the World Series at least for the next few years. They should be able to add a couple of solid prospects when they deal Shea Hillenbrand to make room for Youkilis, and hopefully they'll own some quality prospects by the time that Pedro, Nomar, Manny, and Damon begin their declines in a few seasons. I see no reason for them not to challenge for the division as long as management intelligently spends their $100M payroll, especially now that Dan Duquette's many contractual boondoggles are off the roster.
Todd Betts, 29, 1B-L
Boston should make every effort to keep Betts from exploring minor league free agency. Not only is he a decent injury replacement for 1B or DH, but if the Red Sox want to explore a cheaper option than the arbitration-eligible Brian Daubach or free agent Cliff Floyd, a platoon of Betts and someone like Juan Diaz wouldn't cost them much production. While more productive minor league free agents are available, if Boston liked Betts' AAA numbers this year, they should give him a shot in the majors.
Freddy Sanchez, 24, 2B/SS-R
Freddy's MLEs at both AA and AAA were superior to incumbent 2B Rey Sanchez's stats in the majors. So while Boston could give Freddy more time in AAA, I wouldn't be too surprised if they give him every chance to win the starting job in Spring Training. Not only did he show good speed for the first time this year, but he maintained a .300+ BA with a solid .74 BB:K and acceptable .10 walk rate; his improvement from his previous career averages of .59 BB:K and a .07 walk rate is more impressive considering he was playing against better competition this year. He's significantly more prepared to start in the majors in 2003 than Hillenbrand was in 2001, so don't be surprised if Sanchez contends for Rookie of the Year. His speed and BA upside make him a welcome addition to fantasy teams.
Dernell Stenson, 24, OF-L
Stenson's now spent the last four seasons at Pawtucket without reaching the majors once, and unfortunately his skills have declined in each season. However there's no reason he can't return to his previous level of production, especially as he's likely to change organizations in the off-season. He's maintained a .10 walk rate despite his other problems, and since he's still a few years from his prime, I expect a team like Toronto will be happy to find him regular playing time in the upper levels of their system. If he makes the majors next year, consider a small investment if you have an open roster spot and need someone with power potential.
Kevin Youkilis, 23, 3B/1B-R
Youkilis posted a .512 OBP on a 70:28 BB:K in 183 AB last year in his debut at A- Lowell(NYP), and he jumped all the way to AA this season, improving his averages at every level before finishing with a .962 OPS in 160 AA at-bats. His plate discipline ranks with the best hitters in professional baseball, and as long as Boston gives him sufficient time to finish maturing at AAA and perhaps even another month or two at AA, he'll give them an incredible bat for the top of the order. Boston reportedly turned down an offer of Jeremy Giambi for Youkilis, and I agree with that decision despite our belief in Giambi's upside. Youkilis is a patient batter who should continue developing power, and if Boston doesn't rush him, his downside is probably a career similar to Bill Madlock, except hopefully without the umpire harassment. Go acquire him now before he starts approaching a .400 OBP in the majors on a consistent basis.
Diaz has homered 20 times in each of the last two seasons at Pawtucket, and he certainly seems capable of producing against left-handed pitchers if given an extended shot in the majors. However Boston probably wasn't pleased to discover that he turned 28 last February since he previously was listed at age 26. He doesn't display any noticeable plate discipline, but anyone with this much power deserves an opportunity of a few months to prove himself. I don't expect him to receive enough playing time to earn significant roto value, although for a buck or two he could hit double-digit homers without a terrible BA.
Justin Headley, 27, 1B/OF-L
He spent three years in independent leagues after leaving the University of Kansas, and after he displayed both power potential and plate discipline, the Red Sox purchased his contract in July of 2000. Headley looked rather promising at A+ Sarasota(FSL) last season, and he's posting even better numbers at AA. Both his .70 BB:K and .11 walk rate are respectable numbers given the current level of talent in the Boston organization, and he should challenge for a spot as a back-up outfielder in a year or two if he can continue developing power as he reaches his prime. While he won't be a star, he might not hurt you as roster filler.
Calvin Pickering, 26, 1B-L
Pickering missed the entire 2002 season after tearing his right quadriceps at the beginning of Spring Training. The 6'5" first baseman still owns considerable power potential and usually walks at a good rate, however he struggles to stay in the majors because he strikes out very frequently. If given a full-time major league job, he'd easily rack 20 or more homers, likely compiling numbers similar to incumbent 1B Brian Daubach, although I doubt the Red Sox will give him an extended look. For now, just keep Pickering in mind if you ever need a power boost when he's next recalled.
Jerry Salzano, 27, OF/1B/UT-R
Salzano doesn't own any impressive tools, but he has a little power potential decent speed, good plate discipline, and a fairly good glove at several positions; he only committed three errors despite spending 60 games in the outfield, 37 at 1B, 10 at 3B, and even 1 at 2B. After spending the last two years at AA Trenton, I suspect he may remain in Boston's organization indefinitely, and he probably would provide comparable production to Lou Merloni if given a chance. I don't see much fantasy upside here, but he might steal a few bases without dragging down your BA too much.
Angel Santos, 23, IF-S
While he committed 18 errors between 67 games at 2B, 29 at SS, and 5 at 3B, he also owns a decent .11 walk rate and a little speed and power. Barring somewhat unlikely skill development, he shouldn't start within the next few years, but he's probably ready to assume a utility infielder role in 2003. While I don't think he'll hurt you, he also won't earn more than a buck or two. You should probably only target him in Ultra drafts where you need a backup for Hillenbrand, Nomar, and/or Freddy Sanchez.
Tom Sergio, 27, DH/OF-L
Sergio spent four years in the Rangers' system before excelling for Allentown of the Northern League in 2001. He was a Texas League All-Star at 2B back in 1999, displaying solid power skills, speed, and plate discipline, so I'm surprised that Boston didn't let him play any infield this year aside from a game at first. I'd like to see him spend next year at AAA to see if he can join Angel Santos and give Boston two very inexpensive yet decent utility infielders for the next few years, although I'm not sure if he'll ever merit owning in roto.
Chris Elmore, 25, LH Starter
Elmore hasn't demonstrated great dominance or command throughout his minor league career, although in his first AAA exposure this season, he posted a 30:12 K:BB in 29.2 IP. He definitely needs to keep building his arm strength, but he appears to own the talent necessary to challenge for a major league rotation spot in the next couple of years. However Boston's probably equally likely to deal him for veteran help, so approach any decision to acquire him very carefully. While I like his upside at the moment, he still needs to prove his skills at AAA.
Josh Hancock, 24, RH Starter
Despite a 3.45 ERA in 44.1 AAA innings, a 29:26 K:BB indicates he needs more minor league time and would likely fail any extended big league audition before mid-2003, especially since most scouts believe his mechanical flaws might cause injury troubles if not corrected. While he's clearly mastered AA, I'm concerned that his weak dominance of only a 5.9 strikeout rate will limit his upside, and he could find more success in relief. Hancock's an acceptable late-round minor league pick but he's certainly a riskier choice than most other comparable pitchers.
Derek Hasselhoff, 28, RH Reliever
Knight Rider's third cousin really merits a look in the majors after eight minor league seasons. Prior to 2002, he owned career skill ratios including a 2.5 K:BB and 7.8 K/9, and after this season, his career AAA ratios include a 2.4 K:BB and 7.6 K/9. He turns 29 tomorrow, and barring injury, there's no reason he shouldn't debut in the majors next year.
Mike Kusiewicz, 25, RH Starter
He'll only turn 26 in November even though he's now spent eight seasons in the minors. While he's with his fourth organization, he's also pitched great for the Red Sox in the last two years, compiling skill ratios of 3.3 K:BB, 7.8 K/9, and a .7 HR/9 while splitting his seasons between Trenton and Pawtucket. Boston should consider adding him to the 40-man roster to insure he returns to the team next year since he appears ready to compete for a starting job in the majors. I don't expect him to receive many touts in the spring, although he's probably more prepared for the majors than any other rookie starter in the system.
Anastacio Martinez, 23, RH Starter
Gaining two years in agegate leaves Martinez turning 24 in November, significantly reducing the upside projected after he displaying significant talent the Florida State League as a "20-year-old" in 2001. While he might wind up in relief, he deserves another year in the AA rotation to see if he can fix his control problems, especially since he maintained a great 8.2 K/9. Boston will need to keep him on the 40-man roster another season since several teams would likely jump at the chance to draft Martinez, as while he could help in long relief next year, I still like his starting potential if he's given sufficient time to develop.
Juan Pena, 25, RH Starter
He missed half of 1999, all of 2000, and most of 2001 followed shoulder tendinitis and then a torn elbow ligament that necessitated Tommy John surgery. In 1998 and 1999, he'd compiled AAA ratios of 3.2 K:BB, 9.9 K/9, and a 1.2 HR/9, skills that ranked with any prospect in baseball. Now the Red Sox might have made a serious error in returning him to AAA this year since he didn't overly impress anyone in 8 starts in the Florida State League in late 2001. Pena could still regain the form that warranted projections of stardom, but he's an extremely risky fantasy pick at this time.
Andy Shibilo, 26, RH Reliever
Boston acquired Shibilo with Alan Embree for Brad Baker and Dan Giese back in late June, and while San Diego previously recalled him in May, he didn't pitch during his three days in the majors. While he probably needs a half-season in AAA, I don't expect he'd struggle if the Red Sox needed him in Fenway at the beginning of the season. He's dominated hitters at every level since converting to relief, and he may be the best internal candidate for saves in the Red Sox system, although I don't expect him to begin closing until late next season at the earliest. Don't spend a minor league pick on him, but look to FAAB him when he reaches the majors.
Jason Shiell, 25, RH Reliever
He's probably Boston's rookie most prepared to join next season's bullpen after they claimed him on waivers from San Diego a week ago. Shiell moved to the bullpen in 2001, and while his numbers weren't bad as a starter, he's developing into an excellent reliever. You could probably consider picking him up if Boston auditions closers next year, so although I'd prefer to wait until he sees some success in the majors, I don't expect his qualitative numbers to hurt your team.
Tim Young, 28, LH Reliever
Boston gave up two solid pitching prospects to acquire Alan Embree to finally solve their search for a capable left-hander, but Young looked ready for the majors back in 2000 and they only gave him seven innings in the majors. He spent 2001 in Japan before returning to Pawtucket this year and again pitched quite effectively, managing a solid ERA and 7.8 strikeout rate while only suffering from some minor control problems. A smart organization would have given him a long look in the majors in September, since now the Red Sox enter yet another off-season with no left-handed reliever under their control for the following year. While I definitely think Young could contribute to a big league bullpen, the combination of his difficulty at earning a promotion and somewhat inconsistent command necessitates waiting until he demonstrates solid skills in the majors before considering him for your roster.
No Boston minor leaguers seem like good minor league draft targets aside from players listed above.
Tony Blanco, 20, A+ Sarasota(FSL) 3B-R
Terry Byron, 23, A+ Sarasota(FSL) RH Reliever
1. Anaheim Angels(F.Rodriguez, R.Quinlan, C.Bootcheck, C.Kotchman)
7:00: San Francisco@St. Louis
Barring an unlikely free agent signing, the lack of competition at every level of the system should allow Kevin Youkilis and Freddy Sanchez to own stable major league jobs by the end of the next season. Both players look nearly ready to contribute now, and after another year in the upper minors, you'll want them on your fantasy team.
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