Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
San Diego continues to build one of the strongest organizations in they game by re-signing their preferred major leaguers, signing inexpensive free agents and dealing them for prospects during the season, and concentrating on top hitters in the draft. Catcher Wiki Gonzalez, first baseman Ryan Klesko, third baseman Phil Nevin, and centerfielder Mark Kotsay are all signed for the next few years. Sean Burroughs and Ramon Vazquez are the current favorites to start in the middle infield, although recent top picks Jake Gautreau and Khalil Greene could push them within the next year or so. Bubba Trammell, Brian Buchanan, and Gene Kingsale currently seem likely to fill the outfield corners, however San Diego wants to re-sign Ron Gant and trade Trammell, if possible, for salary reasons. Xavier Nady should assume the starting left field job sometime in 2003, and he'll finally provide a quality power bat in the #5 hole. Several combinations of players could eventually fill right field, although I suspect someone like Greene, Burroughs, or even Tagg Bozied might move out there. Overall their offense is currently fairly deep and will receive prospect infusions over the next few years. I'd like to see San Diego stay with Gonzalez for another year despite his poor 2002, and I've also previously advocated a deal of Trammell and Kevin Jarvis to the Mets for Jeromy Burnitz and cash to fill holes on both teams while giving each outfielder a fresh start in a more friendly environment.
The Padres's pitching staff remains as loaded as any team in the game, although many of the youngsters still need more seasoning before they're able to dominate major league hitters. Brian Lawrence and the arbitration-eligible Brett Tomko give the Padres two solid veteran innings' eaters, and Adam Eaton, Jake Peavy, and Oliver Perez all show Cy Young upside. So even if they want to move Tomko to save money, they've still only opened one space for Dennis Tankersley, Mike Bynum, Ben Howard, or Eric Cyr. I'd like to see those four comprise the AAA rotation at least for a half-season, and then San Diego can deal Tomko in July, promoting the AAA starter most likely to succeed based on his recent performance.
San Diego's bullpen situation is somewhat more complicated, and if Trevor Hoffman struggles while recovering from arm surgery, this could be a disaster. Brandon Villafuerte, Jeremy Fikac, and Clay Condrey give the Padres three solid middle relievers, and J.J. Trujillo is also ready for the majors, however I'd really like to see them sign a top lefty since guys like Mike Holtz and Kevin Pickford offer very little upside. Of course, they could just find two $500K spring training NRIs like they signed last year with Alan Embree and Steve Reed, although the tremendous young pitching depth leaves me with few worries about this staff.
Overall I admire this franchise more than perhaps any other in the NL due to their united management structure and vision, and there's no reason why this team can't compete for the World Series in 2004 when they move into the new ballpark. I'd like them even more if owner John Moores wasn't one of the most despicable people in America due to his unflinching greed, although hopefully he'll soon spend an extended stretch in those unflattering horizontal pinstripes, thereby forcing his team into the hands of a more caring owner.
The combination of the sheer number of young pitchers and the Padres' questionable handling of the staff in 2002 indicates that no Padre rookie should reach double-digit value in 2003 despite the promise of several pitchers who retained their rookie status.
Xavier Nady, 23, OF/1B-R
Nady clearly demonstrated his great power potential but San Diego really needs to let him continue developing unless they really don't object to him approaching 150 strikeouts each year. He's barely holding a decent walk rate, and even his slugging percentage isn't that good. Assuming he's finally healthy after a year of recovery from Tommy John surgery, he should return to playing the field regularly, although he really should go back to AA since San Diego apparently randomly jumped him to Portland in the second half of this year. Most owners should be quite happy if they can acquire him, however he'll likely struggle for a while unless he receives another year of development time.
Wil Nieves, 25, C-R
Nieves is an organization solider who reached the majors based on his defensive prowess. His solid offense at AAA was a surprise to most people since he's never posted a SLG above .447 at any level, and while I expect him to supplant Tom Lampkin as Wiki Gonzalez's backup, I don't expect Nieves to earn more than a couple bucks once pitchers start exploiting his weak plate discipline.
Alex Pelaez, 26, 1B/2B/3B-R
While Pelaez is a competent utilityman, he barely appears ready for AAA and he lacks any impressive offensive tools. I only believe he'll reach the majors in 2003 as an occasional injury replacement, and he shouldn't earn any noticeable roto value.
Jake Thrower, 26, 2B/IF-S
He shockingly doesn't possess a great arm, so San Diego's given him more time at second base than anywhere on the left side of the infield. However he lacks both power and speed, so even if he sees time as a utility infielder in the majors, he won't contribute to fantasy teams.
Mike Bynum, 24, LH Starter
After missing the first two months of the season with an elbow injury, he returned to compile very solid minor league stats. His weak major league performance indicates he'd benefit from more development time, although I can also envision San Diego moving him to the pen in the spring. I think Bynum's upside remains sufficiently high that the Padres need to give him a chance to heal and return as a starter, so expect him to spend much of 2003 at AAA.
Clay Condrey, 26, RH Swingman
Condrey actually pitched decently in three September starts, however his minor league numbers indicate much greater potential as a reliever, especially since he never started a game until this year. While he has a chance to approach double-digit value assuming he remains with the Padres all year, I'd be quite surprised if someone with this limited dominance and a relatively inconsistent track record could make a significant contribution to any fantasy teams. Unless he winds up closing for some reason, wait until he displays decent skills over another 15-20 innings before rostering him.
Eric Cyr, 23, LH Swingman
I attribute some of his struggles to his premature promotion, as he didn't belong in the majors without any AAA experience. Cyr continues to dominate most hitters, so if he ever solves his control problem, he could emerge as a competent middle-of-the-rotation starter or top lefty reliever. Don't bother rostering him until you see solid skills in both AAA and the majors.
Ben Howard, 23, RH Starter
San Diego rushed Howard through AA like all their other prospects, however he failed to display either the command or dominance we'd like to see and obviously struggled in the majors. More than perhaps any other Padre rookie who pitched in the majors in 2002, Howard needs significantly more development time, and I wouldn't expect him back in San Diego until September at the earliest.
J.J. Trujillo, 27, RH Reliever
Trujillo emerged as a top relief prospect with solid skills across the board. While he struggled in the majors, his excellent minor league skill ratios indicate he's ready for regular relief work. Expect him to contribute to the Padres' pen for most of the year, although his poor debut suggests we should wait until he posts good numbers in the majors in 2003 before looking to acquire him.
Khalil Greene, 23, SS-R
San Diego selected Greene out of Clemson with the 13th pick in this year's 1st round, one choice ahead of where Toronto had hoped to take him. He progressed as quickly as most analysts expected, spending most of his debut season at A+, and after his impressive initial OPS, the primary question now is whether he possesses the defensive ability to stay at shortstop. Greene really didn't post fantastic numbers, but the Padres intend to move him to the majors very quickly, so he offers an interesting gamble for some owners as he should spend 2003 in AA before debuting in the majors sometime in 2004.
Josh Barfield, 19, A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal) 2B-R
Brad Baker, 21, AA Mobile(SL) RH Starter
1. Minnesota Twins(M.Cuddyer, M.Restovich, T.Sears, L.Ford, J.Mauer, J.Morneau)
As we're 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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