Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
I find it difficult to fault the Phillies' farm system since they have produced Randy Wolf, Pat Burrell, Marlon Anderson, Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Duckworth, and Brett Myers over the past few years. They also have not made a bad first round pick in a decade, selecting Wayne Gomes, Carlton Loewer, Reggie Taylor, Adam Eaton, J.D. Drew, Burrell, Myers, Chase Utley, Gavin Floyd, and Cole Hamels in 2002. Every one of these players should continue playing in the majors for the next few years, a rather amazing accomplishment considering several teams barely drafted a couple major leaguers in the first round. However the Phillies need to push for a championship in the next few years, and losing Scott Rolen has definitely hurt them. Once Marlon Byrd and either Utley or Travis Chapman reach the majors, only Floyd and Hamels appear very likely to contribute in Philadelphia. Fortunately the farm system's produced so much talent over the past several years that they might be able to withstand the loss of Rolen while improving their record in the next couple seasons as they head into a new ballpark in 2004. Of course, the current lack of depth hurts them in trade talks and reduces the likelihood of sustaining success, but they can afford one or two bad drafts if they can keep top players like Bobby Abreu and Burrell under contract for the next few years.
Acquiring Johnson or Cox also leaves significant payroll resources available to address other areas of need. While Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Brett Myers, and Brandon Duckworth are a solid foursome, especially when supported by Joe Roa and Eric Junge, Philadelphia desperately needs an ace and mentor for the youngsters. The search should begin and end with Greg Maddux, and even a $45M/3 year contract looks reasonable considering Maddux could help this staff grow into championship material. Gavin Floyd has significant potential, but he is a good three years away from reaching Philadelphia, and he could arrive in time to replace Maddux. Adding a veteran to this group is essential given the heavy workload sustained by Wolf and Padilla over the past few years, so Roa and Junge still will be needed as long relievers and injury replacements.
The bullpen situation is slightly more complicated as only Jose Mesa, Rheal Cormier, and perhaps Carlos Silva will return. Roa and Junge can help in long relief given the relative youth of the staff, however adding a dominant short reliever seems rather important. They probably should try to acquire bullpen help for the arbitration-eligible Travis Lee, although a free agent like Steve Reed or Ramiro Mendoza would add somewhat needed depth.
Philadelphia possesses an exceptional core of young and developing talent with no key member even over 30. While Lieberthal is currently 30, Johnny Estrada remains a superb backup option who is quite capable of starting and unfortunately seems likely to remain stuck behind Liebs for another couple of years. Everyone else is either in their prime or still developing as an athlete. Without much current depth in the system, Philly needs to win with a team based on their current collection of major leaguers, so even though the incompetence of management caused him to leave, hopefully Scott Rolen will be the last defection faced by this current group
Marlon Byrd, 25, OF-R
As long as Byrd avoids off-field issues like reported domestic quarrels and adding excess weight on his normally ripped 6'0", 220 lbs. frame, he should emerge as an impressive major leaguer, though the Phillies probably wish Byrd was not emulating Kirby Puckett quite this explicitly. While he did not sustain the five-category growth of 2001 and only managed an .838 OPS in AAA, Byrd is still a much better player than Doug Glanville. There is no good reason for Byrd to spend any more time in the minors, and I am very comfortable bidding into double digits for someone likely to quickly emerge as the best rookie outfielder in the league.
Nick Punto, 24, 2B/SS-S
Few players use the opportunity to repeat a level as well as Punto. While he still shows no power development, he bumped his base offensive skills from a .60 BB:K, .15 walk rate, and .75 contact rate to a .90 BB:K, .17 walk rate, and .81 contact rate. He even continued displaying very impressive speed. If the Phillies decided to give him a chance to start at second base, Punto could combine with Jimmy Rollins to give Philly two very speedy switch-hitters at the top of the order. However he is far more likely to stay a reserve, though know that he is a great Dollar Days selection because of his one-category upside.
Chase Utley, 23, 3B-L
Through 20 games and 80 at-bats in the AFL, he is mashing the ball for a .350/.393/.575 line, and he has only committed one error in 16 games in the field. Philadelphia selected him with the 15th overall pick of the 2000 draft out of UCLA, and despite jumping him to A+ and then straight to AAA this year, Utley has developed into an intriguing offensive player who should provide the Phillies with more offense than someone like Placido Polanco. Keeping him in the minors any longer makes no sense considering Utley responded wonderfully to Philadelphia challenging him with two double-promotions in two years. I would probably stop bidding just short of $10 due to his weak overall skills, but since Philly wanted him ready to replace Rolen, there is no reason to give Utley more development time now.
Travis Chapman, 24, 3B-R
Chosen over five hundred picks after Chase Utley in 2000, Chapman possesses stronger and more consistent offensive skills, and he could easily steal the third base job in a year or two. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which Philly would let him start over Utley in 2003 due to Chapman's need for AAA development time, however his future appears rather bright. I would only spend a low pick since either Utley or Chapman seems likely trade bait sometime next year, however once he finds a clear path to a major league third base job, I expect he will start contributing to roto teams very quickly.
Eric Valent, 25, OF-L
Forced to repeat AAA even though he appeared ready to compete either for a corner slot or a straight backup position, Valent demonstrated far less longball power and greatly reduced his immediate upside as a prospect. He is no longer worth a $1 gamble for many owners, and I would prefer to wait until I see what playing time he will find before rostering him in deeper leagues.
Geoff Geary, 26, RH Swingman
Geary continued to display very good command while pitching in his first full season at AAA. He still can struggle at times but his overall skills are rather good and he is close to meriting an extended look in the majors. Whenever Geary starts posting solid skills in the majors, feel free to roster him at that time since his statistical history would support major league success.
Eric Junge, 25, RH Swingman
Acquired from Los Angeles last year in the Omar Daal trade, Junge emerged as the best pitching prospect above A-ball in the system once Brett Myers reached the majors. While he has never displayed much dominance, he could definitely help some roto teams if he can limit his walks. Do not expect a fantastic season from him in 2003, although he will be worth owning in some leagues.
Elio Serrano, 23, RH Reliever
Philly let him pitch for three years in short-season ball before finally promoting him to full-season A-ball in 2000, and then they only needed two years to push him to AAA. I am concerned about his rather troublesome drop in strikeouts, however Serrano also maintained his excellent command. He appears likely to succeed if given opportunity in the majors, although I do not see sufficient upside to warrant an active attempt to acquire him.
Evan Thomas, 28, RH Starter
While he has demonstrated excellent command for the last five years at the top levels of the system, Thomas still has not reached the majors due to his lack of dominance. Now he is free to seek gainful employment elsewhere as a minor league free agent, but after the success of Red Barons teammate Joe Roa, I think Thomas might return for another year in the Scranton area. He is essentially ready for the majors, however, despite his intriguing minor league numbers, I would want to see him continue posting strong command ratios in the majors before taking a chance on him.
Pete Zamora, 27, LH Reliever
Zamora appeared likely to break camp in the majors until the Phillies traded for Hector Mercado. Consequently he went back to AAA and pitched effectively as a part-time closer, but his skills indicate practically no room for 2003 improvement. Avoid Zamora for the indefinite future.
Gavin Floyd, 19, RH Starter
The #4 overall pick from last year's draft, Floyd owns strong skills across the board but definitely appears to need another few years of development time. He carries the same injury risk as all good high school pitchers, so combined with a strikeout rate below the level we would like to see from a draft-worthy A-ball pitcher, only the relative lack of competition in the Phillies' system makes Floyd a reasonable pick. You should probably avoid him in most leagues.
Kris Bennett, 23, A+ Clearwater(FSL) IF-R
Daniel Adams, 24, AA Reading(EL) RH Reliever
1. Minnesota Twins(M.Cuddyer, M.Restovich, T.Sears, L.Ford, J.Mauer, J.Morneau)
As we are attending the AFL Symposium this weekend, we will be unable to reply to e-mail until later next week. However we will continue posting new columns every day, and I expect to complete these prospect reviews before spending several days discussing news and notes from Arizona.
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