Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
I'd like to see General Manager Brian Sabean rebuild this franchise, streamlining the team away from the veteran-heavy model preferred by departing manager Dusty Baker. San Francisco possesses the best upper-level pitching depth of any team in the game, and aside from Jason Schmidt, the Giants could replace their other four starters with AAA Fresno's starting staff and likely improve the team. So I'd essentially like to see Sabean complete that transition. I like Ryan Jensen as a long reliever, although Kirk Rueter, Livan Hernandez, and especially Russ Ortiz could bring significant return in trade, especially in the way of offensive prospects.
Now Sabean needs to sell Bonds that a rapid rebuilding project is the only way to insure he returns to the World Series in the near future. San Francisco can keep Bonds in left and Aurilia at short while replacing the rest of their lineup. Use the money earmarked for Kent to sign Edgardo Alfonzo away from the other few teams I recommended grab him. Exercise David Bell's option and deal him to a team like Philly for someone like Chase Utley. Deal J.T. Snow to a team like Atlanta that appreciates a slick-fielding first baseman, replacing him with a platoon of Pedro Feliz and Damon Minor. Promote impressive AAA outfield prospects Todd Linden and Tony Torcato to respectively occupy centerfield and right field. The trades of Rueter and Livan should be able to snag San Francisco a top catching prospect, and they might even be able to field a first baseman with more upside than the platoon. They could also move Toracto to first, Linden to right field, and rush centerfielder Jason Ellison to the majors to improve the outfield defense. Considering the likely decline of Jeff Kent due to age, replacing him with Alfonzo might improve the offense, and within two seasons I expect this team to outscore the 2002 Giants.
The safest route for the pitching staff is probably to keep Schmidt and Ortiz, promote Kurt Ainsworth and Jesse Foppert to replace Rueter and Livan, and then either leave Jensen in the rotation and Jerome Williams in AAA or also promote Williams and move Jensen to long relief. Triple-A lefty Jeff Urban should give them a second excellent long reliever.
In the bullpen, Sabean should allow Robb Nen to leave, finally let Felix Rodriguez move to closer, pick up Tim Worrell's option, and then select two left-handers based on their showing in camp.
While I doubt Sabean will enact even a small portion of this plan, Bonds' best chance to return to the Series as a player is to advocate a drastic remodeling based primarily on youngsters with excellent upside and a greater likelihood of improving than declining. Any other plan could keep the Giants in the playoffs next year, but I don't believe the current roster possesses the talent to play deep into October again. Of course, hiring a competent veteran manager is necessary, so Sabean should head to Florida to beg, plead, and somehow coax Davey Johnson back to help Bonds with a ring.
Tony Torcato, 23, OF-L
Torcato's rather unique in that he's somewhat fragile but also very resilient. He's maintained his skills throughout a few years of injury troubles, and now he's poised to give the Giants their first homegrown power-hitting cornerman in several seasons. There's no reason he shouldn't open 2003 as the Giants' starting right fielder, and he could turn a nice profit if you can grab him for only a few dollars late in the draft.
Kurt Ainsworth, 24, RH Starter
We ranked Ainsworth among the best pitching prospects in the game before this season, and while San Francisco didn't give him the necessary opportunity, he compiled another fantastic season in AAA. He's ready for the majors now and could approach a roto value in the high teens with some luck, so definitely target him in your drafts next year.
Jesse Foppert, 22, RH Starter
He actually spent more time in Fresno than Shreveport this year, but he showed very solid command and fantastic dominance at both levels. Foppert may be the best pitching prospect in the game, and you certainly should try to acquire him in 5x5 leagues. San Francisco needs to make room for both Ainsworth and Foppert as they're ready to start dominating major leaguers on a consistent basis.
Jerome Williams, 20, RH Starter
Despite continuing to excel in AA against competition at least a few years older than himself, Williams' stock has somehow dropped as a prospect over the last several months, largely due to previously unrealistic expectations. You need to remember that he remains one of the best starting prospects in baseball given his stats, projectability, and age, so even if he spends another season in the minors, we'll just expect him to pitch that much better once he reaches the majors. He's a great draft pick in any league, and if he breaks camp with the Giants, there's no reason not to spend several dollars on him.
Jason Ellison, 24, OF-R
San Francisco jumped him straight from the California League to AAA, and yet he somehow posted the best OBP of his career at .389 in 49 games. He's a skilled defensive outfielder who's capable of playing center in the majors, and with the combination of his good batting average, very promising on-base abilities, and above average speed, Ellison could give the Giants their first solid homegrown centerfielder in years. However he's not a good spring target if GM Brian Sabean continues to stock his team with expensive veterans.
Todd Linden, 22, OF-S
Considered one of the most professional hitters available in the 2001 draft, San Francisco selected him with the 41st overall pick and he compiled some very impressive stats in the Texas League this year. With only 100 at-bats in AAA, he likely needs another half-season in the minors, however anyone only a year out of college who can manage a .250/.380/.380 line in AAA merits recognition among the better prospects in the game. Linden should develop power as he ages, but for now he's simply a skilled hitter who should take his place in the Giants' #2 hole sometime in 2003.
Trey Lunsford, 23, C-R
San Francisco jumped Lunsford three levels this year, giving him little time to acclimate to each new environment before promoting him. He displayed good patience and some offensive potential, however I'd like him to spend another year in the minors so that his offense can develop closer to his apparently fantastic defense.
Cody Ransom, 26, SS-R
Instead of promoting him to a starting job in the majors as he expected, San Francisco sent Ransom back to repeat AAA, and his OPS declined 126 points to a dreadful .635. He's an excellent fielder who could emerge as a utility infielder, but I see nothing in his skills that indicates he'll merit fantasy ownership any time in the near future.
Jason Pearson, 26, LH Reliever
San Francisco finally settled on Scott Eyre and Chad Zerbe as their primary lefties, so Pearson's now a minor league free agent with a mildly impress stat history. Unfortunately his command isn't quite at major league standards, so I don't expect him to earn any noticeable fantasy value in 2003.
Jeff Urban, 25, LH Swingman
Urban's skill ratios at lower levels indicated great promise in the majors, however his lack of dominance has forced San Francisco to convert him into a reliever. I expect he'll compete for a lefty relief job in Spring Training but likely spend most of 2003 back in Fresno. Given he's still adjusting to his new role, wait until he displays good skills in the majors before rostering him.
Jeff Clark, 22, RH Starter
Clark is at the front of the next wave of Giants' arms, and as you can tell from his unbelievable 7.3 K:BB, he's a control pitcher that still manages a good strikeout rate. I'm slightly concerned he may end up in the bullpen, but if you're looking for someone almost guaranteed to reach the majors, I suspect Clark will debut with the Giants next September.
Ryan Hannaman, 21, LH Starter
Hannaman clearly separated himself from Erick Threets and Francisco Liriano as the best power lefty in the organization, but since he only reached San Jose for one start, he's still three years away barring injury problems. His skills are fantastic and I think he'll continue to dominate while rising in the system, but you still only should select him the deepest of leagues.
Kevin Alexander, 22, A Hagerstown(Sal) 2B/IF-R
Luke Anderson, 24, AA Shreveport(TL) RH Reliever
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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