Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Although the Diamondbacks failed to make the playoffs, I don't see how this season can be viewed as anything but a wonderful success from a development standpoint. Arizona should easily win every organization of the year award as the upper-level minor league talent kept the team in contention throughout the summer when Randy, Schilling, Mantei, and half the offense spent time on the DL. Brandon Webb not only deserves the NL Rookie of the Year, but only a couple of poor outings at the end of the year kept him off our Cy Young ballot. Alex Cintron gives Arizona the most promising shortstop in franchise history, Matt Kata and Robby Hammock proved themselves as valuable reserves, and Jose Valverde and Oscar Villarreal solidified the short relief corps.
Unfortunately, the bill from Arizona's deferred contracts begins hitting in 2004. The retirements of Mark Grace and Matt Williams barely create any payroll room, and while we don't agree with the decision to decline Miguel Batista's option, the Diamondbacks will need that $5M to add a top hitter.
Arizona faces an uncomfortable decision in the coming weeks. The team possesses very few players in their primes as nearly all the major contributors are over 35, injury-prone, or under 27. Unfortunately, Schilling, Elmer Dessens, Matt Mantei, Craig Counsell, and Steve Finley all appear likely to depart after 2004.
Yet the NL West looks like a free-for-all as only Colorado appears unable to contend next season. Arizona already possesses a wealth of minor league talent approaching the majors, so I believe their best approach is to take one more shot at another title before rebuilding in 2005. Randy, Schilling, and Webb comprise the best starting trio in the majors when healthy, and Mantei, Valverde, and Villarreal provide solid late-inning protection.
Offensively, Hammock and Moeller are decent behind the plate, Overbay, Counsell, Spivey, Cintron, Kata, and Hillenbrand provide impressive infield depth, and Gonzalez, Finley, and Bautista comprise an acceptable if predictable outfield. Of course, a lineup that begins with Counsell, Cintron, Gonzalez, Hillenbrand, and Finley lacks both power and on-base ability. The Diamondbacks need to add a real clean-up hitter, and by offering starters John Patterson, Junior Spivey, and Lyle Overbay, they should be able to acquire a pending free agent like Richie Sexson. Arizona can find a platoon partner for Bautista in free agency, keep Kata as a back-up, and then shift either Chad Tracy or Shea Hillenbrand to first base in 2005.
While they won't be able to sustain this team beyond 2004, keeping the current roster and dealing for a power-hitting first baseman should place them in the middle of the AL West. Trading Schilling for young talent now doesn't seem like a desired move given the age of Randy and Gonzalez, so instead I hope we see Arizona attempt to win one more title before a dismantling necessitated due to the win-now mentality that led the team to sign so many players to contracts with significant deferred money.
Chris Capuano, 25, LH Starter
Not ranked among Arizona's top couple dozen prospects prior to the season, Capuano rebounded from Tommy John Surgery in May of 2002 to emerge as the best young lefty in the organization. Although he only dominated in two of his five starts, he will compete for a rotation spot in the spring, and as he held left-handers to a miniscule .129/.222/.129, he should break camp in the bullpen even if he doesn't earn a starting job. Even if Capuano's dominance doesn't return soon, he possesses the control necessary to pitch effectively in any role. Definitely target him in almost any draft, particularly if a move to the bullpen means you can grab him for a buck or two.
Two effective starts in June should have solidified Gonzalez's future as perhaps the most promising pitcher on the Diamondbacks. Only Brandon Webb is more valuable right now given Gonzalez's skills, age, and upside. I expect Arizona will keep Gonzalez in the minors for most of 2004 as the entire rotation could return, which will place him among the top Rookie of the Year candidates in 2005. As long as they keep his workload relatively low for the next few years, Gonzalez possesses as much promise as any young pitcher in the game. He deserves significant consideration from fantasy owners in the spring.
After running into a brick wall of pitching at El Paso a year ago that kept him to a .216/.301/.356, Martin rebounded to post numbers far more commensurate with his previous performance. Unfortunately, despite his obvious power potential, this season looks like a career year given his .76 contact rate, lack of speed, and unimpressive defense. Martin certainly possesses the talent to succeed in the majors if given the necessary opportunity, but I somehow doubt Arizona is willing to either give him a starting job in the near future or allow him the needed time to develop into a quality pinch-hitter. His inconsistent track record and uncertain future in the organization makes Martin a bad gamble next season despite his 2003 stats.
Tracy may rank with the top hitting prospects in baseball and likely could outproduce Shea Hillenbrand right now, however his .08 walk rate and undiscovered power hasn't impressed Arizona as he didn't even earn a September call-up. Committing 20 errors in 125 games at third also hasn't helped Tracy endear himself to the Diamondbacks. Hopefully he will find himself in a new uniform next spring as plenty of teams will sacrifice a little defense to start a third baseman capable of batting .300 immediately and hitting second in the order. Only Arizona's reluctance to use him keeps me from fully endorsing Tracy to fantasy owners, but remember that if he finds a starting job next spring, he should approach $15 and contend for Rookie of the Year. Anyone with a career .333 BA in three minor league seasons, the majority spent in the upper minors, deserves more praise than Tracy normally receives even acknowledging his secondary average is rather weak.
The limited sample size reduces the impressiveness of these numbers, however as Ansman now owns career averages over the .310/.400/.575 level, I envision a bright future for him in the majors. Of course, since Arizona obviously isn't rushing him and the Diamondbacks possess decent catcher depth, Ansman isn't worth more than a low round pick in very deep NL leagues.
His conversion to pitching looks better every year since Aquino possesses solid dominance and control, as well as enough stamina to succeed as a starter. While I don't expect he ever will enter Arizona's rotation due to the organization's pitching depth, he would be an asset either as a reliever or trade bait. Aquino isn't fantasy material yet, but he could emerge as roster filler sometime in 2004.
Family connections haven't helped Bell find a regular job with Buddy not managing in the majors and David struggling for Philly. Mike also lacks obvious offensive skills, and most teams prefer their utility players not commit an error every few games. He should reach the majors again sometime, but Bell isn't a viable fantasy player.
After he spends this fall in Team USA's bullpen, Bruney will compete for a bullpen spot with the Diamondbacks next spring as the most promising reliever in the system. The only trouble spot I see in his skills is that his walk rate jumped this year to nearly one base-on-balls every two innings. Fortunately his overall dominance limited the damage from all those baserunners. Bruney likely will begin 2004 in the minors, receive a call-up to fill the first opening in the bullpen, and then establish himself as a decent set-up man. I don't know if he can beat out Jose Valverde to close once Mantei departs within the year, but that possibility is certainly worth a couple bucks whenever you can acquire him.
With Robby Hammock already past him on the Diamondbacks' depth chart and Craig Ansman closing quickly, Cresse appears in danger of slipping off the Arizona radar after four largely unimpressive years in the upper minors. Posting the worst OBP of his career leaves Cresse very vulnerable despite his power. Only a trade to an organization that embraces plate discipline to a greater extent seems likely to lead to Cresse spending more than a couple seasons in the majors barring very unexpected improvement.
The 31st overall pick in 1999, Daigle demonstrated significantly improved skills once he joined El Paso, both in 7 starts a year ago and throughout this season. Unfortunately, despite impressive control, he doesn't deserve much roto consideration given his weak dominance and consistently elevated hit rates. Ignore Daigle unless Arizona surprisingly needs him for a couple of spot starts in 2004.
While not a particularly gifted prospect, Devore should challenge for a reserve outfield spot in the spring. His weak contact rate and unimpressive tools will limit his at-bats in the majors, however Devore shouldn't hurt you for a minimal bid if he breaks camp in the majors.
Gordon seems superficially similar to fellow Sidewinder Doug Devore as a left-handed outfielder with minimal tools, but Gordon's plate discipline is rather poor and he doesn't even appear a relatively safe player to own. Although Gordon could emerge as a decent benchwarmer for Arizona, I don't envision him contributing to fantasy teams in the near future.
Although this season qualifies as a complete disaster by nearly every measure given Gosling's ineffectiveness and the success of nearly every other Arizona prospect, at least Gosling remained healthy. Given the attrition rate of pitching prospects, his poor performance likely contributed to the lack of injury by limiting his workload. Of course, Gosling also roughly maintained his strikeout rate(6.2 '02; 5.9 '03) and walk rate(3.3 '02; 3.7 '03) while moving to AAA. Additionally, I suspect his atrocious hit rate, though largely due to inconsistent defensive support, also isn't helped by his inexperience as Gosling hasn't pitched in one game below AA in his two-year professional career. While may not develop into an ace, consider a low draft pick on Gosling as the Diamondbacks will give him a long look at some point after giving him a $2M bonus as a second round pick out of Stanford in 2001.
A third-generation big leaguer, Scott will become the fifth Hairston to play in the majors sometime soon. Scouts love his tools, however Hairston committed an error every five games at second base this year, so he simply may not possess the fielding consistency normally necessary to remain in the middle of the diamond. He also didn't display obvious offensive upside after Arizona limited him to only 18 games at high-A before promoting him to El Paso this year. Yet his lack of excellent plate discipline doesn't obscure his impressive power, and the Diamondbacks should hold a spot for him at either second base or right field. Expect him to debut late in 2004 before challenging for a starting spot the following season.
Houston nearly kept Hall as a Rule 5 pick last spring, however his negligible experience above A-ball, combined with the Astros' outfield depth, made that an unlikely proposition from the start. Now he looks like a much better Rule 5 candidate after a year at El Paso. Unfortunately, even though he maintained most of plate discipline, a 55% SB success rate further demonstrates his horrible baserunning instincts. Nearly identical marks in OBP and SLG also illustrate his complete lack of power. Although his batting average and stolen base totals indicate he merits attention as a future bench player, Hall isn't someone who should expect much time as a starter in the big leagues given his current skills.
A 7th round pick in 2002, Henrie's progress could push him to majors by the end of next season. I'm not overly impressed with his combined 5.1 K/9 this season, yet few second-year players can compile a walk rate of only 1.7 BB/9. He isn't someone to target now, but Henrie should emerge as a solid starter soon.
Marshall needs to find a AAA team with excellent defense or else his hit rate will never fall to the level necessary for his ERA to impress any front office. He still should emerge in someone's bullpen within the next few years, but he certainly needs more seasoning before he deserves a big league job, forget about consideration in most fantasy leagues.
Medders finished his conversion to relief during his debut AA season, and based on his stats, he should begin enjoying an extended big league career sometime in the next couple of seasons. He now owns a 9.9 career strikeout rate, along with a respectable 3.3 walk rate, so although he doesn't merit fantasy consideration now, he could see the majors very soon if Arizona suffers from more injuries next year.
The relatively unknown fifth player in the Mariners' trade, Meyer isn't even at the level of most AAAA relievers right now. His overall skills still suggest Meyer will develop into a decent reliever, however he isn't worth your roto attention at this time.
Even if a 5.02 ERA for a right-handed AA reliever appears unimpressive, any 20-year-old who compiles a 7.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 at El Paso certainly deserves notice. Silva possesses the most upside among Arizona's minor league relievers, and although he likely needs another couple years of seasoning, he should join Jose Valverde in short relief for the Diamondbacks within the next year or two. Assuming he receives the necessary development time, Silva could approach double-digit value as soon as he reaches the majors.
Stockman's emergence as one of Arizona's most promising starters is a welcome development for this improving system. Born in England and currently residing in Australia, he began dominating opponents in the California League a year ago before his very impressive performance at El Paso this season. Although the starting depth at the Diamondbacks' upper levels suggests that Stockman isn't worth a draft pick right now, he should emerge as a decent fantasy option no later than 2005.
Scouts love Terrero's tools, however his lack of baseball acumen could keep him from enjoying a productive big league career. Terrero possesses few baserunning instincts and obviously needs better plate discipline. Although he hit 15 triples this year, he compiled a relatively few 20 doubles. He could develop as quickly as Alex Cintron if he at least begins walking more, however as the Diamondbacks should hold one more option on him, I expect him to search for those missing skills in the minors. Terrero is not someone to target in any fantasy draft in the spring unless he surprisingly wins a bench job and your team needs speed desperately.
Despite two relatively solid years at Tucson, Ward returned to the minors again this season, compiling unimpressive stats before missing most of another season due to injury. I still believe Ward will see a few productive years in the majors, however his most recent difficulties suggest he may need a change of scenery before he emerges as a consistent big league contributor.
Aside from players listed above, no other Arizona prospect deserves consideration in 2004 roto drafts.
Arizona lost significant system depth as Brandon Webb, Alex Cintron, Matt Kata, Robby Hammock, Jose Valverde, Oscar Villarreal, and John Patterson all graduated to the majors in 2003. However, the organization remains fairly strong thanks to respectable upper-level pitching depth and a few high-upside position players like Chad Tracy and Scott Hairston. Unfortunately, despite the immediate upside of Tracy and Gonzalez, they don't rank with baseball's best systems thanks to the questionable skills of their best lower-level prospects and the matriculation of so many rookies this season.
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. Minnesota Twins(Restovich, Mauer, Crain, Balfour, Bartlett)
1. Chad Tracy, 3B
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