Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
While the Brewers's 25-man roster may be so talent-deficient that only a significant dollop of good luck would push them to a .500 record, they possess as many high-upside minor leaguers as anyone in the game. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, and J.J Hardy respectively rank with any first base, second base, and shortstop prospect in the game, and if Dave Krynzel's plate discipline continues improving, he owns some of the best leadoff skills of anyone in baseball. Corey Hart is a promising third baseman, and other young outfielders like Brad Nelson and Anthony Gwynn essentially give Milwaukee a top prospect at every position. Even catcher Lou Palmisano posted a .391/.458/.592 in Rookie-ball, so all the Brewers really need this off-season is patience.
Ben Sheets still looks like a future ace, Danny Kolb could close for the next few years, and if Mike Jones and Luis Martinez match the recent improvements from Matt Kinney and Wayne Franklin, I see little reason this team can't compete by 2006. Over the next couple of seasons, the top priority for the surprisingly solid management team of Doug Melvin and Ned Yost is to not rush the youngsters. Every player discussed above should debut no later than September of 2005.
Yet Milwaukee continues bringing in nearly as much talent in the majors as they're adding to the farm system. Rookie of the Year candidate Scott Posednik still needs to avoid a sophomore slump, but he should hold an outfield position indefinitely. Wes Helms nicely surprised us with his overall play at third base, and Keith Ginter and Brady Clark at least are solid platoon players. Young right-handers Luis Vizcaino, Luis Estrella, Jayson Durocher, and the newly-signed Travis Phelps all should contribute next season, and mid-season acquisitions Doug Davis and Wes Obermueller likely will compete with Martinez and a free agent or two to fill out the rotation. Although the Brewers certainly don't own even an above average pitching staff by any means, adding largely free talent is the best way to keep a team with limited payroll competitive until better prospects arrive in the majors.
You likely noticed I haven't mentioned the heart of the team yet, left fielder Geoff Jenkins and first baseman Richie Sexson. Both players will reach free agency by the end of 2005, and with the number of prospects quickly rising, particularly those unable to play anywhere but first base like Prince Fielder, Sexson in particular isn't a good fit given his salary and current trade value. Jenkins, on the other hand, is a homegrown talent capable of producing All-Star numbers when healthy, and he even looks like Wisconsin saint Brett Favre. Jenkins and Sheets are the two veterans around which the team needs to build.
The biggest off-season decision should involve where to trade Sexson. Dumping the team's only true star is a risky move, but given that Arizona and Los Angeles in particular need a power-hitting first baseman and will deal pitching depth, I see little downside in dealing him since Milwaukee isn't ready to challenge for a playoff spot. Completing a deal with Arizona needs to be Milwaukee's priority as the Diamondbacks own as much major league-ready pitching as any team in the game, along with an abundance of young infielders. I suggested offering Lyle Overbay, Junior Spivey, and John Patterson for Sexson in last week's Arizona article. From the Brewers' point of view, I think both Spivey and Overbay are excellent targets given the need for short-term second and first basemen until Weeks and Fielder reach the majors. However, acquiring at least two young starters is even more important, so Milwaukee probably should ask for Overbay, Patterson, and either Edgar Gonzalez or Chris Capuano. I see enough catching depth available where neither Chad Moeller nor the Dodgers' Paul Lo Duca is a vital target of a Sexson trade.
After exchanging Sexson for a replacement first baseman and rotation depth, Melvin should enjoy a relatively easy off-season. John Vander Wal reportedly wants to re-sign in right field, allowing Brady Clark to remain his platoon partner. Melvin again should employ the Rule 5 draft to gab a couple of pitchers to fill out the bullpen, preferably AA or even high-A starters who might dominate in middle relief. Finally, while Ginter and Bill Hall could handle middle infield duties, if the team has any worries about either player's defense, replacements are needed to help the young pitchers mature. Sacrificing some offense in favor of excellent middle infield defense is a wise move, making Rey Sanchez a great fit here for under $2M; he can cover short while Ginter and Hall platoon at second. With a pitcher prone to flyballs on the mound like Kinney or Franklin, Ginter can play. When any overt groundball pitchers start, Hall belongs at second to improve the team's range.
I wish I could tell our friends who root for the Brewers that they'll provide better competition for the Cubs in 2004, but at least the approaching future finally looks very bright for Milwaukee. Brewers' fan can enjoy watching a few waves of young talent debut in the majors over the next two seasons, and if all goes as planned, Milwaukee's core of homegrown talent will keep them competitive throughout the second half of the decade.
Luis Martinez, 23, LH Starter
While Martinez failed to reach the 6th inning in any big league start, he also faced playoff contenders Houston and St. Louis in his last three appearances of the year. Unfortunately, his control and flyball problems don't appear likely to vanish against easier competition. Martinez suffered from a questionable walk rate even as he otherwise dominated minor league hitters, so although he could emerge as an excellent rookie starter, a poor WHIP could lead to a terrible season, particularly if Milwaukee doesn't give him the additional development time he probably needs. Only owners in leagues with very deep rosters and relatively few transactions restrictions should risk drafting Martinez next spring.
Adams should emerge as a solid big league short reliever once he improves his consistency as his AA dominance already suggests he could remain effective in the majors right now. However, his elevated walk rates limit his immediate upside, so wait until Adams at least echoes this performance at AAA Indianapolis before considering him for your team.
A 16th round pick in 2002, Bruso slammed up San Francisco's minor league ladder before the Giants dealt him to Milwaukee for Eric Young this summer. While he appears to need at least another year of seasoning, ignore Bruso's two poor starts with Huntsville since his other stats are so strong. However, his overall performance thus far suggests he might not struggle even if promoted to the majors in the middle of 2004, and only his decreasing dominance keeps me from recommending you draft Bruso in the spring.
Despite his unimpressive dominance, Childers is as good a relief prospect as nearly every righty employed in the Brewers' bullpen this year. While he shouldn't close any time soon with Danny Kolb available, Childers' control and overall effectiveness would make him a welcome addition to Milwaukee's pen. Feel free to roster him as soon as you see him echo this skill level in the majors.
Jason Childers' young brother owns quite similar skills, yet his comparatively lower age makes him a better long-term prospect. Of course, Matt also appears ready to succeed in the majors in the near future, so expect him to follow his brother to Milwaukee within the next year, a likely progression that suggests you should wait until he established himself in the majors before investing in the younger Childers' brother.
Milwaukee grabbed Coco this spring after Toronto released him for reportedly stealing money from a teammate's locker. While we don't recommend targeting Coco due to this problem potentially biasing both teams and fellow players against him, he owns sufficient skills to succeed in the majors if given the necessary opportunity. You still should wait he secures a steady job before giving him any consideration.
After signing Ford last winter, Milwaukee wisely moved him back to the bullpen, where he finally emerged as a potentially dominant reliever. He hadn't displayed skills close to this level of excellence in several years, so hopefully the Brewers will keep him this winter given his immediate upside in the majors. Unfortunately, like so many other upper-level pitchers in this system, wait until he wins that elusive big league job before rostering Ford.
If Milwaukee doesn't acquire a replacement first baseman in a Sexson deal, Gemoll might allow the team to sign a veteran to a one-year deal, trade him in July, and then install Gemoll at first base. While he doesn't appear to possess significant upside, Gemoll owns good plate discipline and decent defensive skills, as well as enough power, highlighted by his 32 doubles this year, to handle first for a year or two until Prince Fielder arrives. Don't invest in him quite yet since he isn't guaranteed to see the majors any time soon, but he should't disappoint if given an opportunity.
I don't believe Giron possesses quite as much upside as many of his Indianapolis teammates due to his weak control, yet he also could contribute in a limited role if necessary. He still remains quite unlikely to help fantasy teams any time soon.
While his poor performance for Team USA indicates Hardy needs another season in the minors, nearly all his skills indicate he should emerge as a solid shortstop with definite promise for Milwaukee no later than 2005. I disparaged Hardy a year ago due to his weak plate discipline, but he dramatically improved this year to post a .14 walk rate and .87 contact rate. He also only committed 15 errors in 108 games, a fairly decent total for a young shortstop in the Southern League. For anyone looking for a middle infield anchor for the second half of this decade, target Hardy as he should begin exceeding double-digit value once he earns a full-time big league job. Unfortunately, any 2004 fantasy contribution other than a few dozen September at-bats appears unlikely barring surprising aggressiveness by Brewers' management.
Hart committed 32 errors in 119 games in his first full season at third base, however as Milwaukee can't shift him back to first base due to Prince Fielder's presence, the Brewers will give Hart every opportunity to master third base rather than move him to the outfield. The other basic problem here is that his plate discipline is fairly weak, yet given his age, consistently solid BA, good speed, and superb doubles' power, Hart possesses significant fantasy upside. Now, since he just joins their 40-man roster this winter and Wes Helms is a decent short-term 3B option, Milwaukee could send Hart back to Huntsville until he posts an OPS well over .900. Of course, keeping Hart and J.J. Hardy in the same infield seems like an equally worth goal, so instead expect Hart to register a similar overall performance at AAA Indianapolis before moving winning a starting job for the Brewers in 2005.
Elbow problems cost Hendrickson a couple of months this year, but he pitched fairly well when healthy and looks good in the Arizona Fall League. If his dominance improves while his walk rate drops even slightly, Hendrickson could emerge as a very solid starter for the Brewers. However, due to his health questions, gambling on him at this time is an unnecessary risk. Instead, wait until he reaches Milwaukee, and then as long as he holds his skills at AAA Indianapolis, roster Hendrickson as a free agent.
Jones' skills mostly suffered after Milwaukee double-promoted him past high-A to Huntsville, and he ended the year suffering from elbow soreness. Yet as he appears fundamentally healthy, Jones' overall performance reinforces my belief in his future success. I wouldn't draft him in the spring since he likely needs another season in the upper minors, but the Brewers could recall him at any time if he can remain effective in 2004. Assuming his skills improve whenever he reaches AAA Indianapolis, Jones will be a decent pick-up once Milwaukee recalls him.
Scott Podsednik's emergence actually qualifies as welcome news for Krynzel as the Brewers can give him another couple years of development time rather than rushing their future leadoff man to the majors. Krynzel maintained a respectable .13 walk rate while demonstrating better overall speed skills in his first full AA season. He still owns no power, and both his .74 contact rate and 11 errors in 120 games concern me, but Krynzel almost certainly will attain double-digit value for the Brewers within the next few seasons. Although drafting him in 2004 is a risky short-term move, his future remains relatively bright.
Lee, who really needs to go by his given name of Robert rather than risk confusion with Marlins' first baseman Derrek Lee, should merit an NRI next spring as a minor league free agent. Perhaps he'd succeed as a starter, but he looks ready to help a bullpen now. These skills suggest a prospect who could develop into a dominant reliever, and if he finds the necessary opportunity, consider him as a free agent.
I wouldn't mind that his strikeout rate dropped from 9.5 to 7.3 K/9 if his control improved at Huntsville, however Liriano's walk rate only edged downward from 4.0 to 3.9 BB/9. Increasing hit and homer problems also limit his immediate future, suggesting Liriano will end up in the bullpen rather than develop into the top starter I expected after his A-ball dominance. While he certainly could improve as he nears the majors, he isn't a viable fantasy pick right now.
While he reaches the majors for the first time this year, providing the Brewers with two spot starts in their search for reliable starting pitching, nothing in his skills suggests a high likelihood of contributing in the big leagues. The World Champion Marlins signed him in the middle of last month, however he shouldn't see any additional playing time for them since Florida owns better pitching than Milwaukee. Even if Manning makes the majors again, he certainly isn't a viable roto option.
I see just enough promise here to include Marquez with the other Indianapolis relievers, but I also don't expect him to see sufficient playing time in the majors to merit any fantasy consideration. While Marquez deserves at least a cup-of-coffee, he shouldn't see any extended big league action.
Despite a career .401 OBP, Paz only reached AAA this season, yet he hit the ball with such authority that he should possess a decent chance at seeing some big league playing time next summer. Of course, his nearly complete lack of power and speed gives him little value to most teams, yet I can think of a dozen franchises that need a solid defensive second baseman capable of posting a .400+ OBP. If he signs with a team like St. Louis, he could luck into a starting job and double-digit roto value by 2005, making him a good fantasy target as soon as Paz begins to see regular at-bats.
Florida released him after two games, and Milwaukee then purchased his contract from the Cubs after three more starts. While Teut rebounded to some extent with Indianapolis, nothing in his skills suggests he will develop into a solid big league starter. However, he owns decent control, so if converted to the bullpen, Teut should emerge as quality middle reliever in a year or two. Ignore him until he makes that change.
The only partially troubling stat in Week's superior debut season is that he committed 7 errors in 19 games at second base at Beloit, and in 18 AFL games in the middle infield, he added 8 more errors to his total. However I see no reason he won't eventually settle between Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy in the Brewers' infield, particularly since Weeks' bat would rank with any second baseman in the game. He suffers from no obvious weakness at the plate, and while his major league contract means the Brewers probably can't send him to the minors after 2005, he easily should be able to master the upper minors over the next two years. Other than September call-ups, don't expect to see Weeks in Milwaukee before 2006, but he should start pounding the ball as soon as he joins the Brewers for good.
An impressive AAA debut earned Zoccolillo a starting job over the last few weeks of the season. Unfortunately, he performed so poorly that he might not see another cup-of-coffee for years. While he possesses sufficient skills to succeed in the majors if given another, hopefully longer look, he isn't someone you want on a fantasy team right now.
Perhaps the best pure hitting prospect in the minors, Fielder is the centerpiece of a system that now contains as many high-upside prospects as almost any organization in the game. A .14 walk rate and .84 contact rate are great marks for a teenager in a full-season ball, and given his tremendous power, Fielder should begin crushing big league pitching as soon as he reaches the majors. The only downside is here is that he should spend at least two more full seasons in the minors, however if you exercise patience, Fielder should reward you with a few incredibly productive seasons at the salary of a rookie.
Milwaukee owns as many high-upside hitting prospects as any franchise in the game. Fielder and Weeks might be the respective top first and second base prospects in baseball, and J.J. Hardy looks like the top NL shortstop prospect. Unfortunately, I only view those three players are likely stars, and no pitcher in the system overly intrigues me. The Brewers still appear nicely positioned to challenge the aging NL Central leaders by the latter half of this decade, but drafting anyone beyond the top half-dozen prospects here isn't a good gamble.
1. Minnesota Twins(Restovich, Mauer, Crain, Balfour, Bartlett)
1. J.J Hardy, SS
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