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October
26th
2002
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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Fantasy Review of Florida Prospects
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

The pilgrimage of Montreal employees to Miami, displacing scores of loyal Marlins' workers, ranks near the top of the list of shameful acts committed this season. Jeff Loria and Dave Samson managed to use a vendor that ran out of hot dogs on Opening Day. Then they allowed an anonymous benefactor to purchase 15,000 tickets discounted to $1 each on the last day of the season, following the announcement of attendance at the Montreal game earlier in the day, to push Florida above the Expos by less than a thousand people. Dealing Cliff Floyd and Ryan Dempster made some sense, however Loria and Samson reportedly maintain extremely poor communication with the players regarding the direction of the franchise. Now, even following ownership approval of a higher 2003 payroll, they still need to smartly deal a few of their dozen arbitration-eligible veterans to minimize expenses given their horrendous marketing ability.

Florida could field a productive offense based around Luis Castillo and Mike Lowell, each among the best players in the majors at their positions, but we've seen both players prominently mentioned in trade discussions. Derrek Lee looks ready to emerge as a top first baseman, however top prospects Adrian Gonzalez and Jason Stokes both play first. Andy Fox will remain the starter at short due to Alex Gonzalez's health and batting troubles, although his .671 OPS adds little to the team. While Kevin Millar, Preston Wilson, Juan Encarnacion, and Eric Owens constitute the current outfield rotation, Wilson and Owens earn significant salaries and Millar and Encarnacion are heading to arbitration. Abraham Nunez, even though he's no longer a prospect, still looks ready to play in the majors, so he could replace Wilson in center if anyone indicates interest in his contract. Lastly, Charles Johnson, Mike Redmond, and Ramon Castro all deserve to start in 2002; as Johnson's contract practically necessitates him remaining, hopefully Florida at least can convert Castro into a prospect. The future of this lineup depends entirely upon what trades they complete.

We would sign Lowell and Castillo to long-term deals, see if Derrek Lee can handle either corner outfield spot, start Castro at catcher, and find a way to trade Johnson, Wilson, and Encarnacion while keeping Owens and Fox for one more year. By 2005, Adrian Gonzalez, Jesus Medrano, and/or Miguel Cabrera will join Lowell and/or Castillo while an outfield of Stokes, Lee, and perhaps 2002 1st rounder Jeremy Hermida offers excellent power potential. However Florida management shows little indication that they'll focus on anything other than batting average and speed when assembling their team.

A.J. Burnett's workload alone would necessitate firing manager Jeff Torborg from nearly any other franchise, but his tight relationship with Loria seemingly insures he'll remain another couple of years. If he manages not to destroy a half-dozen young arms, their pitching could carry this team. Burnett, Brad Penny, and Josh Beckett rank as one of the most potentially dominant threesomes in all of baseball, and several prospects like Justin Wayne, Rob Henkel, Ryan Share, and Dontrelle Willis could emerge as pitchers equal to the current aces. Michael Tejera posted impressive numbers upon moving to the rotation, so I expect he'll remain their 4th starter in 2003, and Carl Pavano will compete with the prospects and any offseason acquisitions for the 5th slot. Of their current starters, only Brad Penny seems like potential trade bait, and since I'm concerned about his workload, I wouldn't object to moving him for a couple of solid prospects, perhaps a pitcher ready for the majors and a young centerfielder.

At least their bullpen looks relatively solid. I'd like to see Blaine Neal close, but Neal and Vlad Nunez are quality setup men in front of current closer Braden Looper. The pending departures of Vic Darensbourg and Graeme Lloyd leave Armando Almanza as the top lefty, and he's quite dominant albeit somewhat wild. Hopefully they'll leave Pavano in the pen since he's shown relatively little as a starter, and they can pick from a half-dozen semi-decent starting prospects to round out the relief corps. I see no reason why they can't perform better than league average.

With the combination of payroll constraints, departing veteran players, and a severe lack of impact players at the major league level, only continual outstanding performances from their pitchers will keep them out of the basement. Atlanta, New York, and Philadelphia all possess the resources necessary to field perpetually competitive teams, and Montreal will remain a viable playoff contender through 2003 due to the presence of Vlad, Vidro, Vazquez, and Colon. Florida needs to focus on the long-term development vital to franchise stability, keeping only the major leaguers likely to continue developing while moving all extraneous expensive veterans for players able to help the team contend in 2004. If trades of Lowell and Castillo can advance that goal by adding replacements such as Hank Blalock and Marcus Giles, then Marlins' fans even need to accept those moves as management attempts to build a sustainable contender.


Double-Digit Upside

Jesus Medrano, 24, 2B-R
123/414 for .297/.411/.413 with 3 HR, 32 RBI, 77 R, 39/57 SB%,
and 79:82 BB:K at AA Portland(EL).

Medrano's capable of playing shortstop but only committed 14 errors in his first full year at second base. After repeating A+ in 2001 for a .331 OBP and 61/69 SB%, he somehow exploded in AA to emerge as one of the best leadoff prospects in the game. He possesses plate discipline, an excellent .19 walk rate, and an acceptable 68% SB success rate. I suspect they'll give him a chance to win the second base job if they trade Castillo, and while I'd like him to spend a year at AAA to finish refining his impressive skills, Medrano could manage a decent BA while swiping a couple dozen bases. He's definitely someone I'd like to acquire next spring.

Abraham Nunez, 25, OF-S
2/17 for .118/.118/.118 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 0/1 SB%,
and 0:5 BB:K in Florida.
107/428 for .250/.329/.477 with 21 HR, 60 RBI, 68 R, 31/37 SB%,
and 51:112 BB:K at AAA Calgary(PCL).

Nunez's status as a prospect nearly evaporated after he gained three years in agegate. However he still should develop into a potential $20 ballplayer within the next few years. He possesses the range and arm needed for any outfield position, and while his .46 BB:K and .74 contact rate indicate he'll struggle to hold a high batting average, a .12 walk rate and 84% SB success rate give him impressive upside in roto. If Florida trades Wilson, I expect Nunez to replace him in centerfield and possibly provide more production; I envision him as a #2 hitter given his power-speed combo. When your fellow owners ignore Nunez due to his plummet on prospect lists, snap him up at a discount and enjoy the rewards.


Reserve Help

Andy Abad, 30, 1B/OF-L
107/428 for .250/.329/.477 with 21 HR, 60 RBI, 68 R, 31/37 SB%,
and 51:112 BB:K at AAA Calgary(PCL).

Oakland finally gave him one at-bat in 2001 after nine impressive minor league seasons, but despite decent power and solid overall offensive potential, I wouldn't be surprised if Abad doesn't return to the majors. He's a solid AAAA player and valuable minor league free agent, however I don't expect him to contribute to fantasy teams.

Matt Erickson, 27, 2B/3B/UT-L
109/379 for .288/.359/.385 with 1 HR, 27 RBI, 63 R, 15/19 SB%,
and 31:63 BB:K at AAA Calgary(PCL).

Erickson deserved a major league job this year after posting a .310/.386/.380 line during his first year at AAA in 2001. Instead Florida left him in the minors for another full season, and he suffered only a slightly loss of production while generally maintaining his skills. If given an opportunity in the majors, he wouldn't hurt you as roster filler, however I don't see much upside given the Marlins' persistent refusal to promote him.

Kevin Hooper, 25, 2B/SS-R
130/452 for .288/.341/.361 with 2 HR, 38 RBI, 70 R, 17/27 SB%,
and 34:51 BB:K at AAA Calgary(PCL).

Hooper holds a very strong chance to reach the majors next year given everyone continues to compare him to current national wunderkind David Eckstein. He's a dependable middle infielder who could even emerge as the starter at either middle infield position depending on Florida's offseason moves. Unfortunately Hooper's uncertain position prevents any recommendation of him as a draft pick, but he could easily turn a few dollars profit as a Dollar Days selection if he breaks camp with the team.

Derek Wathan, 25, SS-S
92/329 for .280/.330/.422 with 5 HR, 41 RBI, 43 R, 7/18 SB%,
and 23:44 BB:K at AAA Calgary(PCL).

Wathan looked fairly impressive at AA Portland in 2001 and he improved his OPS from .654 to .752 while moving to AAA. However Calgary plays in a great hitters' park, his walk rate and plate discipline deteriorated, and he showed far less speed. I don't expect him to earn any greater role than utility infielder, and he hasn't displayed the offensive prowess normally necessary to start in the majors. Don't look to Wathan for fantasy help in 2003.

Jason Wood, 32, 3B-R
144/457 for .315/.370/.503 with 15 HR, 70 RBI, 78 R, 3/3 SB%,
and 38:92 BB:K at AAA Calgary(PCL).

Unlike Cannons' teammate Derek Wathan, Wood deserves a long look in the majors in 2003 as he still could contribute for a few years despite his age. He has experience around the infield, particularly on the left side, and if Florida trades Lowell, Wood could replace some of his production. I don't expect much from him and probably would wait a few weeks to see how he'd perform in the majors before adding him to my team, but he offers more immediate upside than many AAA infielders.

Nate Bump, 26, RH Starter
7-6 on 81:29 K:BB in 127.2 IP over 20 GS with 110 H, 5 HR,
and a 3.38 ERA at AA Portland(EL).

San Francisco selected him 25th overall in 1998 before trading him with Jason Grilli for Livan Hernandez in 1999. He completed his fourth straight year of AA this season, and he's back in the Marlins' plans after a disastrous, injury-plagued 2001 forced him off the 40-man roster. Now he's pitching effectively in the Arizona Fall League and should play in AAA next year assuming he doesn't win a rotation spot. Bump's no longer a particularly promising prospect but remains a decent pitcher who should either emerge as a decent #4 or dominate in the bullpen. Monitor his 2003 progress before considering him for your team.

Rob Henkel, 24, LH Starter
13-7 on 150:49 K:BB in 145.1 IP over 25 GS(27G) with 109 H, 10 HR,
and a 3.16 ERA between A+ Jupiter(FSL) and AA Portland(EL).

I'm somewhat concerned here since he only pitched 42 professional innings prior to 2002 due to injuries, and now his workload increased over 250% in his second season with Florida. However Henkel dominated at two levels this year, and I see no reason he shouldn't move to AAA in 2003. If given a chance at the majors after a couple more months of seasoning, he might help as a free agent pickup, although I wouldn't spend a pick on him considering Florida's poor recent track record at properly pacing their recovering pitchers. Based on his 2002 numbers, his ceiling ranks with that of any pitcher in the organization, so I also might gamble a couple bucks of FAAB on him unless his AAA stats are awful.

Tommy Phelps, 28, LH Reliever
4-2 on 62:21 K:BB in 74.1 IP over 51 G with 76 H, 8 HR,
and a 3.15 ERA at AAA Calgary(PCL).

Phelps is one of the minor league free agents most prepared for a job in the majors. He's played in the minors for ten years without even one cup-of-coffee, and given Florida's need for a second lefty reliever to complement Armando Almanza in 2003, I'm somewhat surprised they didn't promote Phelps. I don't believe he'll develop into more than a competent middle reliever, but competent left-handed middle relievers with a few years of experience can earn contracts in the $10M/3-year range. He might help as a mid-season injury replacement if some team likes him in Spring Training.

Nate Robertson, 25, LH Starter
0-1 on 3:4 K:BB in 8.1 IP over 1 GS(6G) with 15 H, 3 HR,
and an 11.88 ERA in Florida.
10-9 on 109:50 K:BB in 163 IP over 27 GS with 156 H, 12 HR,
and a 3.42 ERA at AA Portland(EL).

The Expos' page on mlb.com lists his birthdate as 9.03.02, but I'll assume that's not correct for rather obvious reasons. Robertson's promotion to the majors ranks among the more surprising Marlin moves in 2002 as he barely looks ready for AAA. He definitely pitched effectively all year, however he lacked the dominance that normally insures success at the highest levels of the system. Since he appears to need another full year of development time, I see no reason to own Robertson at the moment.

Ryan Snare, 23, LH Starter
12-4 on 137:40 K:BB in 143 IP over 22 GS(29G) with 125 H, 11 HR,
and a 3.21 ERA between A+ Stockton(Cal), AA Chattanooga(SL),
and AA Portland(EL).

While I like Rob Henkel's upside a lot, Snare, picked up in the Juan Encarnacion deal, holds even more promise as he's six months younger and hasn't missed time due to injuries. He owns a solid, three-pitch repertoire that enables him to rack strikeouts even without completely dominating batters. If you want to gamble on a Marlins' pitching prospect joining the potential $100+ rotation in Florida, Snare seems the most likely to remain effective at higher levels.

Nate Teut, 26, LH Swingman
0-1 on 4:3 K:BB in 7.1 IP over 1 GS(2G) with 13 H, 0 HR,
and a 9.82 ERA in Florida.
5-6 on 82:52 K:BB in 116 IP over 19 GS(27G) with 132 H, 19 HR,
and a 5.28 ERA at AAA Calgary(PCL).

Florida swiped him from the Cubs for the arbitration-eligible Jesus Sanchez, but they missed their first opportunity to make Chicago look foolish for moving Teut. Back in 2001 at AAA Iowa, Teut compiled a 125:69 K:BB in 167 innings, and as he hadn't shown good dominance at lower levels, he looked like a great candidate to convert to the bullpen. The Marlins instead let him start for the most of the year, even briefly promoting him for a spot start in the majors before removing him from the 40-man roster. If they work him strictly in relief, I expect he'll quickly emerge as a valuable contributor in the majors, so he might help as a mid-season pickup under the right circumstances.

Justin Wayne, 23, RH Starter
2-3 on 16:13 K:BB in 23.2 IP over 5 GS with 22 H, 3 HR,
and a 5.32 ERA in Florida.
8-6 on 87:51 K:BB in 152.2 IP over 26 GS with 125 H, 13 HR,
and a 3.36 ERA between AA Harrisburg(EL), AA Portland(EL),
and AAA Calgary(PCL).

Montreal selected him out of Stanford with the 5th overall pick of the 2000 draft before dealing him to Florida as the key to the Cliff Floyd deal. Unfortunately he was barely prepared to leave A-ball this year and a 77:45 K:BB in 141.1 IP in the Eastern League is far from impressive, so of course the Marlins bumped him to AAA and then the majors on the basis of his 3.12 AA ERA. He showed little skill in the majors, and now I expect he'll struggle at Calgary for most of 2003. His tenuous position makes him a poor fantasy selection next spring, although Wayne certainly possesses the talent necessary to emerge as a solid major league starter within the next two seasons.


Minor League Draft

Miguel Cabrera, 19, 3B-R
134/489 for .274/.333/.421 with 9 HR, 75 RBI, 77 R, 10/11 SB%,
and 38:85 BB:K at A+ Jupiter(FSL).

He looked very impressive in the Futures' Game, performing great at third base while displaying a solid bat. He'll likely rank at the top of most lists of Florida prospects, although there's nothing in his stats that specifically justifies that placement. Fortunately he'll only turn 20 next April, so he was among the youngest players at A+ and improved most areas of his offense, including moving a .268/.368/.382 line from A Kane County to a promising .274/.333/.421. Cabrera also hit 43 doubles in addition to his nine homers, and his good SB success rate suggests that both his power and speed skills will continue developing. Florida expects him to supplant Mike Lowell no later than 2005, and they may rush him if Lowell departs this off-season. I wouldn't select him in an early round, but Cabrera's upside warrants a pick in 2003, since if his homers jump in AA, his trade value will skyrocket in many leagues.

Adrian Gonzalez, 20, 1B-L
135/508 for .266/.344/.437 with 17 HR, 96 RBI, 70 R, 6/9 SB%,
and 54:112 BB:K at AA Portland(EL).

Gonzalez's BA continues to slide as his strikeouts increase, yet the Marlins keep promoting him in the expectation he'll arrive in Florida to stay no later than 2004. He'll likely move to AAA next year, and due to the benefits of AAA Calgary, his overall offensive display will falsely convince some people that he's ready for the majors. While I believe he'll earn consistent salaries in the $10-15 range, I think he's probably two years away from making a helpful contribution and you should only draft him with the intention of dealing him to any owner looking for 2004 help. His age makes him among the youngest AA players, so he hit quite well with respect to his league, but his deteriorating plate discipline indicates approaching average struggles.

Jason Stokes, 20, 1B-L
119/349 for .341/.421/.645 with 27 HR, 75 RBI, 73 R, 1/2 SB%,
and 47:96 BB:K at A Kane County(Mid).

Possessing some of the best raw power of any minor leaguer, Stokes remained at Kane County all season, earning the Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year Award despite not playing after August 21st due to a cyst in the lunate bone of his left wrist. Wrist injuries often result in reduced power output, so considering Stokes is likely at least two years away from the majors, there's no reason to draft him in any but the deepest of leagues. I suspect he'll struggle somewhat in 2003, lowering expectations for his future and making him a nice sleeper for 2004 drafts, however you should look for health updates on Stokes during Spring Training.


Wait 'til 2004
(Each player listed with the highest level they reached in 2002.)

Chris Aguila, 23, AA Porland(EL) OF-R
Chip Ambres, 22, A+ Jupiter(FSL) OF-R
Dennis Anderson, 24, A+ Jupiter(FSL) C-S
Will Arroyo, 20, A Kane County(Mid) 2B-S
Ben Candeleria, 27, AAA Calgary(PCL) OF-L
Kris Clute, 23, A Kane County(Mid) 2B-R
Matt Demarco, 22, A+ Jupiter(FSL) 2B-L
Matt Easterday, 23, A+ Jupiter(FSL) 2B-R
Charles Frazier, 22, A+ Jupiter(FSL) OF-R
Jeremy Hermida, 18, A- Jamestown(NYP) OF-L
Scott Hicks, 22, A Kane County(Mid) 1B/OF-L
Anthony Iapoce, 29, AA Portland(EL) OF-R
Ryan Jorgensen, 23, AA Portland(EL) C-R
Jim Kavourias, 23, A+ Jupiter(FSL) OF-R
Angel Lopez, 29, AA Portland(EL) C-R
Pat Magness, 24, A+ Jupiter(FSL) 1B-L
Steve Morales, 24, AA Portland(EL) OF-S
Matt Padgett, 25, AA Portland(EL) OF-L
Mike Peeples, 26, AAA Calgary(PCL) OF-R
Will Smith, 21, A+ Jupiter(FSL) OF-L
Mike Tucker, 22, A Kane County(Mid) 3B-R
Matt Treanor, 26, AAA Calgary(PCL) C-R
Wilson Valdez, 24, AA Portland(EL) SS-R
Josh Willingham, 23, A+ Jupiter(FSL) 1B/3B-R
Josh Wilson, 21, AA Portland(EL) SS-R

Phil Akens, 20, A Kane County(Mid) RH Starter
Wes Anderson, 23, R Marlins(GCL) RH Starter
Jon Asahina, 21, A Kane County(Mid) RH Swingman
Allen Baxter, 19, A Kane County(Mid) RH Starter
Denny Bautista, 20, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Starter
Ronald Belizario, 19, A Kane County(Mid) RH Starter
Brandon Bowe, 26, AA Portland(EL) RH Reliever
Donnie Bridges, 23, AA Portland(EL) RH Starter
Kevin Cave, 22, A Kane County(Mid) RH Reliever
Jose Cueto, 26, AA Portland(EL) RH Starter
Elvis DeJesus, 24, A Kane County(Mid) RH Reliever
Sean Fesh, 29, AA Portland(EL) LH Reliever
Mike Flannery, 23, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Reliever
Jeff Fulchino, 22, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Starter
Geoff Goetz, 23, AA Portland(EL) LH Starter
Tim Hamulack, 25, AA Portland(EL) LH Reliever
Lincoln Holdzkom, 20, A Kane County(Mid) RH Releiver
Chris Key, 24, A+ Jupiter(FSL) LH Reliever
Don Levinski, 20, A Clinton(Mid) RH Starter
Gustavo Lopez, 27, AA Portland(EL) RH Starter
Mike McNutt, 23, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Starter
Randall Messinger, 21, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Starter
Todd Moser, 25, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Starter
Omar Ortiz, 25, AA Portland(EL) RH Swingman
Bobby Rodgers, 28, AAA Calgary(PCL) RH Swingman
Marc Sauer, 22, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Reliever
Steve Sawyer, 24, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Reliever
Jason Secoda, 28, AAA Calgary(PCL) RH Swingman
Jon Sergent, 24, AA Portland(EL) RH Swingman
John Skinner, 25, AA Portland(EL) RH Reliever
Brandon Sloan, 25, AAA Calgary(PCL) RH Reliever
Nick Ungs, 23, A+ Jupiter(FSL) RH Swingman
Dontrelle Willis, 20, A+ Jupiter(FSL) LH Starter
Orlando Woodards, 24, AAA Calgary(PCL) RH Swingman


While Florida lacks any top prospects ready to contribute to a winning team in 2003, the upside and likely trade value of Jesus Medrano, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jason Stokes give them several intriguing rookies worth drafting. Combined with perennial payroll paring and the likely development of Ryan Snare, Rob Henkel, Justin Wayne, and other young, pitchers, the Marlins rank very high in the number of prospects likely to contribute in the majors within the next few years. Without anyone likely to earn double-digits next year, I can't recommend them above Atlanta, but the openings in the majors give this system more immediate fantasy value than Oakland or Seattle.


Current organizational ranking by potentially helpful fantasy depth, based on both the quality and quantity of players ready to contribute in the majors, and consideration of the trade value of minor league draft picks from the lower levels of each system:

1. Minnesota Twins(M.Cuddyer, M.Restovich, T.Sears, L.Ford, J.Mauer, J.Morneau)
2. Cleveland Indians(B.Phillips, V.Martinez, A.Escobar, & a dozen young SP)
3. Texas Rangers(T.Hafner, M.Teixeira, R.Ludwick, J.Hart, Je.Clark, C.Lewis)
4. Chicago White Sox(J.Borchard, J.Rauch, M.Olivo, K.Honel)
5. Anaheim Angels(F.Rodriguez, R.Quinlan, C.Bootcheck, C.Kotchman)
6. Arizona Diamondbacks(L.Overbay, J.Patterson, J.Valverde, O.Villarreal, C.Tracy)
7. Colorado Rockies(J.Cust, J.Young, C.Freeman, G.Atkins, B.Hawpe)
8. Atlanta Braves(T.Hodges, M.Hessman, W.Betemit, A.Wainwright)
9. Florida Marlins(A.Nunez, J.Medrano, K.Hooper, Ad.Gonzalez, J.Stokes)
10. Oakland Athletics(E.German, R.Harden, J.Rheinecker, J. Arnold, J-F.Griffin)
11. Seattle Mariners(W.Bloomquist, C.Snelling, J.Strong, C.Nagoette, T.Blackley)
12. Detroit Tigers(E.Munson, F.German, O.Infante, A.Torres, J.Bonderman)
13. Chicago Cubs(H.S.Choi, F.Beltran, D.Kelton, S.Smyth, B.Harris)
14. Kansas City Royals(I.Ferguson, K.Harvey, J.Gobble, A.Gomez)
15. Cincinnati Reds(B.Larson, L.Hudson, W.M.Pena, J.Hall, R.Olmedo)
16. Tampa Bay Devil Rays(R.Baldelli, L.Carter, D.Brazelton, J.Gomes(x2))
17. Toronto Blue Jays(J.Werth, K.Cash, S.Fagan, G.Gross, M.Smith, F.Rosario)
18. New York Yankees(J.Rivera, D.Henson, J.DePaula)
19. Boston Red Sox(K.Youkilis, F.Sanchez)
20. Baltimore Orioles(E.Bedard)


Today's Fantasy Rx: My prediction for today's game(all times CDT):

6:30: Anaheim@San Francisco

With potentially the last game of the year on tonight, as well as very little else happening in sports, plan on watching Game 6. Plus, now that I've been wrong on all five games thus far and I expect Anaheim to win, I probably should just predict the Giants to win their first Series since moving to San Francisco. Any columnist who questions Bonds' abilities now should forfeit their BBWAA card.

If Florida moves Castillo and doesn't acquire another second baseman, jump Jesus Medrano near the top of your minor league draft lists for his BA and SB potential.


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