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Your Daily Fantasy Rx
Fantasy Review of San Francisco Prospects
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

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.

Double-Digit Upside

Tony Torcato, 23, OF-L
3/11 for .273/.273/.364 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and 0:2 BB:K in San Francisco.
142/490 for .290/.330/.429 with 13 HR, 64 RBI, 64 R, 4/10 SB%,
and 29:65 BB:K at AAA Fresno(PCL).

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
1-2 on 15:12 K:BB in 25.2 IP over 4 GS(6G) with 22 H, 1 HR,
and a 2.10 ERA in San Francisco.
8-6 on 119:43 K:BB in 116 IP over 19GS(20G) with 101 H, 7 HR,
and a 3.41 ERA at AAA Fresno(PCL).

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
6-9 on 183:56 K:BB in 140.1 IP over 25 GS with 115 H, 15 HR,
and a 3.46 ERA between AA Shreveport(TL) and AAA Fresno(PCL).

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
6-11 on 130:50 K:BB in 160.2 IP over 28 GS with 140 H, 16 HR,
and a 3.59 ERA at AAA Fresno(PCL).

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.

Reserve Help

Jason Ellison, 24, OF-R
148/518 for .286/.347/.376 with 8 HR, 48 RBI, 71 R, 25/37 SB%,
and 46:55 BB:K between A+ San Jose(Cal) and AAA Fresno(PCL).

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
148/492 for .301/.410/.461 with 15 HR, 62 RBI, 82 R, 11/16 SB%,
with 81:146 BB:K between AA Shreveport(TL) and AAA Fresno(PCL).

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
2/3 for .667/.667/.1.000 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and 0:1 BB:K in San Francisco.
82/318 for .258/.342/.346 with 4 HR, 34 RBI, 36 R, 7/9 SB%,
with 38:62 BB:K between A+ San Jose(Cal), AA Shreveport(TL),
and AAA Fresno(PCL).

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
2/3 for .667/.750/.667 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 0/0 SB%,
and 1:1 BB:K in San Francisco.
93/449 for .207/.283/.352 with 13 HR, 46 RBI, 53 R, 6/10 SB%,
and 47:151 BB:K AAA Fresno(PCL).

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
0-0 on 3:0 K:BB in 1.2 IP over 2 G with 1 H, 0 HR,
and a 0.00 ERA in San Diego.
3-0 on 46:25 K:BB in 66 IP over 57 G with 60 H, 8 HR,
and a 2.73 ERA between AAA Portland(PCL) and AAA Fresno(PCL).

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
5-7 on 72:36 K:BB in 103 IP over 35 G(14GS) with 114 H, 9 HR,
and a 3.41 ERA at AAA Fresno(PCL).

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.

Minor League Draft

Jeff Clark, 22, RH Starter
14-5 on 149:20 K:BB in 175.2 IP over 27 GS with 163 H, 15 HR
and a 2.66 ERA between A+ San Jose(Cal) and AA Shreveport(TL).

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
8-6 on 152:49 K:BB in 137.2 IP over 25 GS with 132 H, 10 HR,
and a 2.81 ERA between A Hagerstown(Sal) and A+ San Jose(Cal).

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.

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

Kevin Alexander, 22, A Hagerstown(Sal) 2B/IF-R
Jamie Athas, 23, A+ San Jose(Cal) SS-S
Julian Benavidez, 20, A Hagerstown(Sal) 3B-R
Bryan Carter, 24, A Hagerstown(Sal) OF-L
Jhonny Carvajal, 28, AA Shreveport(TL) 3B/2B-R
Angel Chavez, 21, A+ San Jose(Cal) 3B-R
Doug Clark, 26, AAA Fresno(PCL) OF-L
Branden Florence, 24, A+ San Jose(Cal) OF-R
Alejandro Freire, 28, AAA Fresno(PCL) 1B/OF-R
Micah Holst, 25, A+ San Jose(Cal) OF-R
Joe Jester, 26, AA Shreveport(TL) 2B-R
Justin Knoedler, 22, A Hagertstown(Sal) C-R
Ryan Luther, 25, AAA Fresno(PCL) C-R
Sean McGowan, 25, AAA Fresno(PCL) 1B-R
Derin McMains, 23, A Hagerstown(Sal) 2B-S
Juan Melo, 26, AAA Fresno(PCL) 2B/IF-S
Carlos Mendoza, 22, AA Shreveport(TL) SS/IF-S
Rob Meyer, 23, A Hagerstown(Sal) OF-R
Lance Niekro, 23, AA Shreveport(TL) 1B/3B-R
Guillermo Rodriguez, 24, AAA Fresno(PCL) C-R
Deivis Santos, 22, AAA Fresno(PCL) OF/1B-L
Adam Shabala, 24, AA Shreveport(TL) OF-L
Dan Trumble, 23, A+ San Jose(Cal) 1B/OF-R
Carlos Valderrama, 24, AA Shreveport(TL) OF-R
Tyler Von Schell, 23, A Hagerstown(Sal) 1B-R
Tony Zuniga, 27, AAA Fresno(PCL) 3B-R

Luke Anderson, 24, AA Shreveport(TL) RH Reliever
Peterson Benjamin, 24, A Hagerstown(Sal) RH Starter
Boof Bonser, 21, AA Shreveport(TL) RH Starter
Elliot Brown, 27, AA Shreveport(TL) RH Swingman
Brian Burres, 21, A Hagerstown(Sal) RH Swingman
Jon Cannon, 27, AAA Fresno(PCL) LH Reliever
David Cash, 23, AA Shreveport(TL) RH Swingman
Ryan "Marshmallow Tosser" Cox, 25, AA Shreveport(TL) RH Starter
Vance Cozier, 25, AA Shreveport(TL) RH Swingman
Luis Estrella, 28, AAA Fresno(PCL) RH Swingman
Brad Gavelek, 24, A+ San Jose(Cal) LH Reliever
Tony Gomes, 25, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Swingman
James Gregg, 23, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Reliever
Leiby Guzman, 27, A Hagerstown(Sal) RH Reliever
Brad Hennessey, 22, A- Salem-Keizer(NWL) RH Starter in '01; injured in '02
Joe Horgan, 25, AAA Fresno(PCL) LH Swingman
Wesley Hutchison, 23, AAA Fresno(PCL) RH Swingman
Matt Jarvis, 30, AAA Fresno(PCL) LH Reliever
Chris Jones, 23, AA Shreveport(TL) LH Swingman
Nelson Lara, 24, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Swingman
Francisco Liriano, 19, A Hagerstown(Sal) LH Starter
Noah Lowry, 22, A+ San Jose(Cal) LH Starter
Jackson Markert, 23, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Reliever
Albert Montes, 22, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Reliever
Daniel Padgett, 24, A Hagerstown(Sal) LH Reliever
Anthony Pannone, 21, A Hagerstown(Sal) RH Starter
Julio Pavon, 26, A Hagerstown(Sal) RH Swingman
Rafael Rigueiro, 25, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Starter
R.D. Spiehs, 23, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Reliever
John Thomas, 21, A+ San Jose(Cal) LH Starter
Erick Threets, 21, A+ San Jose(Cal) LH Reliever
Jeff Treadway, 23, A Hagerstown(Sal) RH Starter
Todd Uzzell, 24, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Starter
Kevin Vent, 25, AA Shreveport(TL) RH Reliever
Mitch Walk, 24, AA Shreveport(TL) LH Swingman
Anthony Yacco, 21, A+ San Jose(Cal) RH Reliever

The combination of Dusty Baker's desire for veterans and some very astute drafting by the Giants has allowed an incredible bottleneck of talent to accumulate at AAA. Most teams do not own three pitching prospects who all could succeed from the moment they reach the majors, and Ainsworth, Foppert, and Williams should give the Giants one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball. Even with the pending promotions of the three starters and outfielders Linden and Torcato in the near future, former high picks like Lance Niekro and Boof Bonser, as well as young studs like Hannaman and Clark, insure that San Francisco retains an impressive pipeline of talent. If Sabean wants to aggressively rebuild, the Giants should easily lead the NL and possibly the majors in rookie value, however I can't rank them over Minnesota or Texas since pitchers are not equal to hitting prospects due to the additional injury risk. As Cleveland is in the middle of the rebuilding project I'd like the Giants to try, they also possess so many opportunities for rookie contributions that the sheer number of openings, as well as the immediate upside of Martinez and Phillips, pushes the Giants down just below the top three teams while keeping them well above the now 5th place White Sox.

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. San Francisco Giants(K.Ainsworth, J.Foppert, Jer.Williams, T.Torcato, T.Linden)
5. Chicago White Sox(J.Borchard, J.Rauch, M.Olivo, K.Honel)
6. Los Angeles Dodgers(J.Thurston, L.Allen, C-F.Chen, W.Ruan, J.Loney)
7. Anaheim Angels(F.Rodriguez, R.Quinlan, C.Bootcheck, C.Kotchman)
8. Arizona Diamondbacks(L.Overbay, J.Patterson, J.Valverde, O.Villarreal, C.Tracy)
9. Colorado Rockies(J.Cust, J.Young, C.Freeman, G.Atkins, B.Hawpe)
10. Philadelphia Phillies(M.Byrd, C.Utley, E.Junge, T.Chapman, G.Floyd)
11. Houston Astros(J.Lane, J.Robertson, B. Lidge, J.Buck, C.Burke)
12. New York Mets(A.Heilman, T.Wigginton, M.Scutaro, Jo.Reyes, J.Phillips)
13. Atlanta Braves(T.Hodges, M.Hessman, W.Betemit, A.Wainwright)
14. Florida Marlins(A.Nunez, J.Medrano, K.Hooper, Ad.Gonzalez, J.Stokes)
15. Oakland Athletics(E.German, R.Harden, J.Rheinecker, J. Arnold, J-F.Griffin)
16. Seattle Mariners(W.Bloomquist, C.Snelling, J.Strong, C.Nagoette, T.Blackley)
17. Detroit Tigers(E.Munson, F.German, O.Infante, A.Torres, J.Bonderman)
18. Chicago Cubs(H.S.Choi, F.Beltran, D.Kelton, S.Smyth, B.Harris)
19. Kansas City Royals(I.Ferguson, K.Harvey, J.Gobble, A.Gomez)
20. Cincinnati Reds(B.Larson, L.Hudson, W.M.Pena, J.Hall, R.Olmedo)
21. Tampa Bay Devil Rays(R.Baldelli, L.Carter, D.Brazelton, J.Gomes(x2))
22. Toronto Blue Jays(J.Werth, K.Cash, S.Fagan, G.Gross, M.Smith, F.Rosario)
23. San Diego Padres(X.Nady, C.Condrey, J.Trujillo, M.Bynum)
24. Pittsburgh Pirates(M.Guerrier, Du.Sanchez, H.Cota, S.Camp)
25. New York Yankees(J.Rivera, D.Henson, J.DePaula)
26. Milwaukee Brewers(K.Ginter, J.Rushford, P.Liriano, M.Jones, P.Fielder)
27. Boston Red Sox(K.Youkilis, F.Sanchez)
28. Montreal Expos(R.Calloway, J.Carroll, V.Pascucci, T.Sledge, S.Song)
29. Baltimore Orioles(E.Bedard)

Today's Fantasy Rx: If any of the Giants' AAA pitching prospects reaches the majors, I doubt they'll go for more than five or six bucks in many leagues. Ainsworth, Foppert, and Williams all look ready to dominate in the majors, and I'll be shocked if any of them don't turn a profit in 2003.

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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