Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Beginning with today's article on Anaheim's prospects, I'll review the minor leaguers who could succeed in the majors in 2004 if given the necessary playing time, discussing one team each day for the next month. While I undoubtedly will miss at least several players who will shoot to the majors next season, I expect to encompass most of the rookies who will lose their rookie status next season.
Unlike practically every other prospect analyst, I'm only looking at the potential of these players for 2004 roto, fantasy, and Scoresheet teams. I won't seriously consider defensive-oriented players with few obvious offensive skills, nor will I analyze pitchers with obvious flaws that should keep them in the minors indefinitely.
I'll only consider truly outstanding performers below AA if they appear able to excel in AAA by the second half of 2004. Of players who spent all of this year in short-season ball, only a few prospects merit serious attention even in the deepest leagues as everyone else needs at least a full season of development time.
To simplify this process, I'm beginning with Anaheim today before alphabetically progressing through the rest of the AL, followed by the NL in the same order.
I make no distinction between recognized prospects and likely minor league free agents as long as the player demonstrates fantasy potential, retains MLB rookie status for 2004, and participated in affiliated minor league baseball this year. If anyone is aware of any decent prospects who missed the entire season like Joe Saunders, please e-mail me with their names so I don't accidentally miss them.
While this season can't qualify as a success for the Angels because they fell to 3rd in the division a year after winning their first World Series, several players continued performing at high levels while a few prospects emerged as potential superstars. Garrett Anderson remains their only elite position player, however the relief corps again paced the American League as Brendan Donnelly and Francisco Rodriguez developed into top relievers. Troy Percival, Ben Weber, Derrick Turnbow, Scot Shields, and Greg Jones all should return, keeping the team's strength in the bullpen. Although Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Sele, John Lackey, and Kevin Gregg all struggled at times, the rotation should be a positive next year, particularly if the team adds an ace as rumored, thereby forcing Sele, Gregg, Shields, and Chris Bootcheck into competition for the last starting slot.
The major changes to the team should occur on offense. Only Anderson, Tim Salmon, Troy Glaus, and Ben Molina look likely to return to the lineup in 2004. Anaheim will explore dealing Darin Erstad, David Eckstein, and Adam Kennedy as they look to add another power bat to the lineup. Alfredo Amezaga and Robb Quinlan could inherit infield jobs, but I expect the Angels to upgrade at shortstop with someone like Miguel Tejada or Kaz Matsui, non-tender Kennedy, re-sign Spiezio, and then try to package Erstad, Eckstein, and a pitcher for an overpriced outfielder like Richard Hidalgo or Shawn Green. Potential back-up infielders Amezaga and Chone Figgins will compete for the second base job with a veteran free agent. Shawn Wooten, Jeff DaVanon, and Quinlan will share RF/DH/1B with Salmon, Spiezio, and possibly one of the dozen veteran lefty first basemen likely on the market.
New owner Arturo Moreno already seems more fan-friendly and knowledgeable about the game than Disney. He should keep Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia in place through at least 2005 even if the team somehow continues struggling in 2004. Of course, the combination of an expanded payroll with a transfer of resources from replaceable bats like Kennedy and Fullmer to a star shortstop and ace should propel Anaheim to near the top of the AL West.
My only problem with this franchise right now is the August dismissal of scouting director Donny Rowland, who oversaw an outstanding 2001 draft class that included Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, and Dallas McPherson. Those players, as well as imports like Ervin Santana and Alberto Callaspo, are the reason we expect Anaheim to remain a viable playoff contender for the rest of the decade. Hopefully Rowland will land with a team that better appreciates his fantastic job performance for the Angels.
Alfredo Amezaga, 25, SS/IF-S
With only 118 career at-bats and 44 days on a 25-man roster, Amezaga still qualifies as a rookie heading into 2004. His impressive AAA performance should guarantee him a spot with the Angels next season, and he could start at either middle infield position depending on other off-season moves. Although his walk rate slipped in his third tour at Salt Lake, a jump in contact rate from .81 to .88 certainly boosts his immediate potential. Amezaga also possesses enough speed and power potential to deserve a spot on most fantasy rosters even if his contact rate remains near .80 in the majors. Neither a 3.68 #P/PA nor a 1.23 G-F suggests Amezaga will experience a dramatic jump in offensive output next season, however he retains sufficient overall skill to make him a good MIF choice on many teams and a likely double-digit earner once he wins a starting job.
Bootcheck suffered the misfortune of debuting against Justin Duchscherer's fantastic first start, and he then finished the year with three unimpressive long relief appearances. Not only were his skills in Anaheim poor, Bootcheck's 4.3 K/9 in the minors suggests he doesn't possesses the upside necessary to leapfrog over Kevin Gregg and Scot Shields to win a rotation job in the spring. Yet any pitcher who owns a 2.3 BB/9 and pitches in front of Anaheim's defense and superb bullpen should succeed if given a long look. I wouldn't target Bootcheck, however if he starts next season in the majors, he could reach double-digit wins with a respectable ERA and WHIP as a right-handed Jarrod Washburn.
Anaheim grabbed Gregg last November after Oakland stupidly failed to see his upside, likely due to spending most of four straight years at a great hitters' park at AA Midland. Gregg unsurprisingly began mowing down opponents immediately after joining an organization that believed in his abilities, and he finished the season by posting a 433 QA log against Cleveland, Kansas City, and Seattle. Although he obviously didn't dominate major league hitters and suffers from a poor groundball rate, Gregg deserves a long look in the spring for a rotation spot. I believe he at least would perform better than Aaron Sele and could finish 2004 as the Angels' third best starter, however despite his relative youth, Gregg could disappear from Anaheim's radar screen as fast as Mickey Callaway vanished if he struggles at the beginning of the year.
Barring surprising development in his plate discipline, Quinlan likely will remain a part-time bench player indefinitely. A 3.28 #P/PA demonstrates his impatience while batting, and a 1.65 G-F helps explain why his power fades in less hospitable hitting environments than present at Salt Lake. Yet Quinlan registered only a slight platoon split, so a club not particularly focused on OBP could give him extended playing time. Any drop in his .83 contact rate also will drop his batting average below levels helpful to most fantasy teams. Only look at Quinlan as roster filler since he lacks the secondary skills necessary to develop into a roto star.
Stephen Andrade, 25, RH Reliever
Drafted in the 32nd round in 2001 out of Cal State Stanislaus, the 6'1" Andrade compiled a 124:24 K:BB in 83 IP over 66 games at A Cedar Rapids(Mid) during the last two seasons. This season, he essentially skipped High-A, proceeding directly to Arkansas, where he dominated opponents with a 13.1 K/9, .4 HR/9, and 4.6 H/9. Only a 3.4 BB/9 even mildly concerns me, so while Anaheim doesn't need another relief prospect, a team like Toronto almost certainly will grab Andrade in his December's Rule 5 draft if the Angels don't find a 40-man roster spot for him.
I ranked Fischer very highly among Anaheim's prospects after 2002, and while he didn't progress to AAA this year, he continued to demonstrate solid all-around skills. Neither his 7.2 K/9 nor a 2.5 BB/9 are particularly impressive marks, but Fischer remains very projectable and appears quite healthy despite a heavy workload last season. He should enter the competition for spot starts in Anaheim by the second half of 2004.
Ben Molina's season-ending injury forced the unprepared Gregorio to the majors as a September back-up, however he owns no significant skills and might never contribute offensively. I see no reason to target him in any league.
While older brother Aaron found regular playing time in Kansas City, Jeff lagged behind Jeff DaVanon and Robb Quinlan, again failing to earn a promotion despite demonstrating decent skills. Of course, a .422 SLG is rather poor for anyone at Salt Lake, and aside from a solid walk rate, I see little to like here. Guiel only looks ready to make minimal contributions even if he wins a bench role in the near future, and as a minor league free agent, he just needs to find a starting job at any level.
He never rose above AA in either the Seattle or Tampa organizations, so Harrison's performance at Salt Lake is particularly impressive considering he spent most of the last two seasons playing for the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League. Unfortunately his formerly impressive speed seems gone, and without any power to complement his very solid plate discipline, I don't envision him seeing many at-bats in the majors in any capacity.
Hensley skipped from relieving at Rancho Cucamonga straight to Salt Lake at the beginning of the summer in 2002. He proceeded to compile a 7-5 record and a 4.97 ERA on a 106:39 K:BB in 118 IP over 18 GS with 132 H and 16 HR. Unfortunately, most of Hensley's skills deteriorated in his second tour in the PCL. While a 2.8 BB/9 and .9 HR/9 rank as an improvement over his 2002 marks, his 4.8 K/9 and 11.0 H/9 suggests that more seasoning certainly wouldn't hurt him. Hensley will remain behind Chris Bootcheck in Salt Lake's rotation, however the advantages of pitching for the Angels should allow him to succeed if needed in the majors.
Nuke LaLoosh remains an excellent comp for Jenks given his outstanding stuff and irregular behavior. Of course, Jenks also rebounded from a worrisome start to dominate the Texas League for most of the summer. I don't believe in drafting extremely risky prospects under most circumstances, however an 11.2 K/9, 6.1 H/9, and .2 HR/9 all demonstrate his obvious potential. Yet since Jenks' 5.5 walk rate certainly suggests he needs more seasoning, he isn't someone to target in most fantasy leagues since even if he builds on his 2003 performance next season. He most likely will compete with KRod to succeed Troy Percival in a couple years barring unexpectedly improved control.
Although Johnson's power slipped in his second year at Salt Lake, he maintained most of his raw numbers while increasing his walk rate. I don't envision him securing a bench role in the near future, however any improvement in his contact rate will make him viable roster filler.
His success during the last two months of the season doesn't guarantee him a bullpen spot thanks to his unimpressive control and ground-fly ratio, however Jones should compete in the spring with at least Scot Shields and Derrick Turnbow for no more than 3 open pitching staff slots. While Jones' dominance obviously makes him an intriguing pitcher heading into 2004, his only hope of accumulating much roto value in the near future lies in stealing Shields' former long relief role. Feel free to employ him as roster filler if he breaks camp in Anaheim.
Miadich's persistent control problems caused the Angels to DFA him this September, so hopefully he can find a way to harness his impressive stuff in another uniform when he doesn't have to compete with some of the best relievers in the game. He isn't someone likely to help fantasy teams in the near future.
Nieves' developing power potential seemingly disappeared when he moved from Portland to Salt Lake late last season when the Angels claimed him from the Padres on waivers. His overall offensive potential exceeds that of Tom Gregorio thanks to an historically solid BA, but don't use him as roster filler unless he displays enough skills in the majors to convince you that his .181/.224/.250 in 72 at-bats for San Diego in 2002 was a fluke.
Peralta converted to the mound upon joining Anaheim following his release from Oakland in 1998. He immediately began compiling excellent strikeout rate and he started completely dominating hitters upon reaching the Midwest League in 2001. The Angels never sent him to the California League for some reason as he alternated between superb pitching at Cedar Rapids and struggling at Arkansas in each of the last two seasons. Obviously he harnessed his stuff in his third tour of the Texas League, and if Peralta can maintain these ratios at Salt Lake, he should reach Anaheim next September.
Like Robb Quinlan, Riggs remains a rookie despite nearly exceeding both the at-bat and roster time limits. I'm not surprised that Anaheim outrighted him off the 40-man roster a few days ago despite his solid play down the stretch, however Riggs finally demonstrated that his continually impressive PCL performance wasn't a repeated fluke from a AAAA lifer. A 3.78 #P/PA and .75 G-F both indicate immediate power potential, and a 9:9 BB:K in 61 AB should earn him a long look in some spring camp. Riggs even looks more useful in 2004 than someone like Quinlan, so hopefully the Angels will realize their mistake and given him the necessary chance to continue contributing next year.
Although Santana aged over 10 months in agegate last spring, he remained one of the youngest pitchers at his level, especially after a late-season promotion to Arkansas. His strikeout, walk, and hit rates all improved despite his move to the California League, and his solid performance at AA pushes him into competition with the elite pitching prospects in the majors. Anaheim lacks a dominant starter, and Santana should fill that need no later than 2005.
While Wesson owns decent tools, his lack of obvious power or prodigious speed keeps his upside low. The good news is that he possesses solid baserunning skills and appears able to maintain a decent BA at AAA. He shouldn't break camp with the Angels next spring, but he again should contribute during the season as a virtual 6th outfielder, kept in reserve at Salt Lake in case of emergency.
While I don't expect to see Callaspo in the majors prior to 2006, his outstanding overall skills rank him with the best long-term middle infield prospects in the game. He committed a relatively low total of 19 errors in 131 games spent almost entirely at second base, yet the presence of Erick Aybar will keep him from shifting to the left side of the infield even though he possesses good range. Callaspo joined the Midwest League after one year of short-season ball, yet somehow he improved his walk rate from .06 to .08 while maintaining an excellent .95 contact rate. A fairly decent 77% SB success rate in 20 attempts demonstrates his solid baserunning skills, however the most impressive aspect of his stats is his 38 doubles, which suggest Callaspo will develop solid power in addition to his batting average and speed tools.
Not only did he only manage a total of 325 at-bats during the two previous seasons due to injury, he hit the disabled list again this year for a week in May, returned to spend 12 days on the active roster, and then went back on the DL until August. However he still posted impressive stats despite an initially misdiagnosed torn hamstring. Kotchman's excellent averages, .15 walk rate, and .92 contact rate combine to give him as much hitting upside as almost any player at the plate, although don't overpay in any trade for him given his seemingly ever-growing injury history.
I didn't rank Mathis here last year as he doesn't possess the batting potential of Kotchman and shouldn't see the majors before 2005. However he improved in nearly every category, continued developing as a receiver, and maintained most of his performance after a promotion to AA Arkansas for the last month of the season. He now ranks with the best catching prospects in the game. As long as he holds the .83 contact rate he posted at Arkansas this year instead of slipping down to the .80 mark he compiled in A-ball, Mathis will see Anaheim in September and compete for a starting job in the spring of 2005.
As with Jeff Mathis, I didn't discuss McPherson here last year as I believed his plate discipline problems would prevent him from taking full advantage of his five above-average tools in the near future. A back injury kept him in extended Spring Training until May, but McPherson started crushing pitches immediately upon his return. He maintained a high walk rate all year, boosting all his averages over his decent 2002 marks, and then posted a .75 contact rate in his first month at AA, his best mark in full-season ball. Although McPherson's SB production will drop as he approaches the majors, he should continue developing into an all-around threat that will push Troy Glaus across the diamond by sometime in 2005.
While Anaheim doesn't possess impressive depth anywhere, premium prospects at catcher, first base, second base, and third base, along with a few intriguing pitchers near the majors, make them one of the better organizations in which to find fantasy prospects. McPherson, Mathis, Santana, and Kotchman all rank among the game's top prospects, and although Callaspo owns better skills than double play partner Erick Aybar, they should advance together indefinitely.
Current ranking of potentially helpful fantasy depth for teams discussed thus far in 2003, based on both the quality and quantity of players ready to contribute in the majors, as well as consideration of the trade value of minor league draft picks from the lower levels of each system:
1. Anaheim Angels(Amezaga, McPherson, E.Santana, Quinlan)
7:00: New York Yankees @ Boston
Yesterday's rainout allows both teams to reset their rotations, however today's pitching match-up remains the same as expected from the beginning of the series. We originally felt Mussina would hold a slight advantage over Wakefield in their second meeting, and I see no reason to change that belief now just because of field conditions.
1. Alfredo Amezaga, SS
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