Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
The Giants likely will enter 2004 with no less than a quarter of their playoff roster no longer in the organization. Rich Aurilia, Marvin Benard, Andres Galarraga, Jeffrey Hammonds, Dustin Hermanson, Benito Santiago, Tim Worrell, and NLDS goat Jose Cruz, Jr. all appear headed out of town. Free agents Sidney Ponson and J.T. Snow could return, as might Aurilia or Worrell, however odds suggests that next season's Giants could look significantly different from this year's version.
Of course, even though the organization will lose several long-time contributors, and the team lacks the pitching depth of a year ago following Jesse Foppert's Tommy John surgery and the deal of Kurt Ainsworth, Damian Moss, and Ryan Hannaman to Baltimore for Ponson, I still expect San Francisco to contend.
Ray Durham returns at second base, hitting first. Barry Bonds, about to win his 5th MVP in a week, remains in left field, hopefully hitting third but certainly no lower than fourth. Edgardo Alfonzo should continue regaining his hitting prowess at third base while hitting on one side of Bonds. Marquis Grissom also will stay in the lineup full-time, hitting in the lower part of the order against right-handers and possibly batting second against left-handers. Yorvit Torrealba, who posted a respectable .260/.312/.390 performance in 200 at-bats, should replace Benito Santiago as the starting catcher.
While these five players given San Francisco a respectable foundation of talent on both sides of the ball, significant holes remain at first base, right field, and shortstop. Neifi Perez seems likely to start most games at short if Aurilia departs, a move that at least bolsters the defense while partially strangling the offense. Fortunately, I expect GM Brian Sabean, a perennial contender for Executive of the Year, to upgrade the traditional power positions on the right side of the field.
After making runs at both Vlad Guerrero and Gary Sheffield, I suspect San Francisco will settle for Raul Mondesi based on their recent transaction history; Carl Everett could be the fallback option. Either player brings good power to a team deficient on offense aside from Bonds, and hopefully the new right fielder will hit cleanup, behind Durham, Alfonzo, and Bonds.
While Pedro Feliz merits consideration for a platoon job, the sheer number of quality left-handed first basemen available this post-season should make a platoon at first an unwelcome fallback. Rafael Palmeiro, Brad Fullmer, Scott Spiezio, Travis Lee, and Rob Fick all appear to be decent options, and keeping Snow isn't out of the question. Several potential non-tenders, including Doug Mientkiewicz and Randall Simon, also could bolster the lineup relatively cheaply. With the new first baseman preceding Grissom, Torrealba, and Perez in the bottom of the order, I expect the Giants should improve to some extent on offense. Dropping from Santiago and Aurilia to Torrealba and Perez hurts, so an upgrade at shortstop also would really help, however considering the average age of the starters, even maintaining their current production level is an accomplishment.
San Francisco's pitching staff could see as much turnover as the offense. Jason Schmidt, Kirk Rueter, and Jerome Williams provide a decent rotation base. Unfortunately, Foppert's injury leaves the bottom of the rotation completely open, especially since Ponson's playoff performance should signal his exit. I tend to expect the Giants to deal for an arbitration-eligible starter, however the current market dictates they wait until after the non-tender date to find a capable fourth starter. Someone like Miguel Batista would be a great fit while freeing the salary of Ponson to spend on offense.
Adding a second veteran starter isn't particularly unlikely, but given Kevin Correia's upside, the eventual return of Foppert, and decent depth that includes Jim Brower, Ryan Jensen, and Boof Bonzer, another experienced innings' eater isn't necessary.
If Robb Nen regains his health as expected, the bullpen won't miss Tim Worrell. At least three of Felix Rodriguez, Joe Nathan, Matt Herges, Scott Eyre, and Jason Christiansen should return to provide very capable middle relief work, and as San Francisco always seems to draft a couple of pitchers that charge to the majors, bullpen depth isn't a worry for the Giants. 2003 1st round pick David Aardsma in particular could reach San Francisco by mid-season after a great debut, although baseball encyclopedias never will look the same with Aardsma preceding Aaron on the first page.
Considering the exodus of talent from the Giants over the last few months, their continued contention is a tribute to the work of Sabean and his staff. The best move they could make now is to add a second elite bat, preferably Vlad but no worse than Sheffield, to give Bonds the protection he deserves. However, even if they simply spend another winter patching holes, San Francisco should cruise to a winning record and playoff contention as long as Bonds and Schmidt stay healthy or Sabean somehow can find adequate replacements during the season for his stars.
Kevin Correia, 23, RH Starter
Correia shot through the system after San Francisco selected him in the 4th round of the 2002 draft, skipping A-ball completely and reaching the majors in only his second professional season. While a poor ground-fly ratio and control problems kept him from pitching great, he still posted strong qualitative stats and now appears in line for a rotation slot next year. I don't view him as a future ace, however pitching in PacBell, in front of a good defense and relatively strong offense, almost guarantees Correia will reach double-digit value as long as he remains healthy and maintains decent command. He looks like a definite sleeper, worth targeting even if he doesn't break camp in the majors due to his intriguing short-term upside.
Compiling a .319/.385/.532 in the AFL likely secured a 2004 roster spot for Linden. If the Giants decide to spend on infield and pitching help, he even could break camp as the starter in right field, likely providing a very similar performance, albeit without as much power, to the departed Jose Cruz, Jr. Linden possesses significant long-term power potential, however none of current skills are particularly notable. While I like his upside a lot, the downside of playing half his games in PacBell, combined with his probable need for more seasoning, makes him a risky pick next spring.
While I don't see significant upside in Ransom's bat, he improved both his strikeout and walk rates in his third season at Fresno. He continued to demonstrate solid defensive skills, and he even showed off good speed skills. Ransom owns enough overall offensive potential to snag the starting shortstop job in San Francisco, however you shouldn't spend more than a couple bucks due to the reasonable likelihood Ransom never will reach double-digit value.
David Aardsma, 21, RH Reliever
When San Francisco selected Aardsma with the 22nd pick of the first round this summer, we saw considerable speculation that he could reach the majors alongside fellow first rounders Ryan Wagner and Chad Cordero by the end of the season. Although Aardsma instead spent the rest of the season in the California League, but he should compete for a bullpen job in spring training and likely will join the Giants no later than the spring of 2005. He also should win the San Francisco closing job no later than 2006, and if he surprises in camp and opens the year in the majors, strongly consider grabbing him in your draft's endgame since he could begin accumulating saves almost immediately thanks to Robb Nen's injury troubles. Despite his extremely limited professional career, I see no reason he shouldn't see as much success as Wagner and Cordero once the Giants give him the necessary opportunity.
His impressive AAA debut notwithstanding, Bonser's continued control problems suggest a future as a potentially dominant reliever. Of course, San Francisco has no reason to move him to the bullpen right now given his upside and their big league pitching depth, but he just doesn't look like a good fit in their rotation. Due to the uncertainty regarding his future, drafting Bonser is an unnecessary gamble.
A broken foot cut his season in half, yet if Clark can limit his hit rate at higher levels, I see a lot of upside in his skills. Of course, he doesn't merit any fantasy consideration next spring, but he also appears positioned to move quickly up the organizational ladder following four strong minor league seasons.
While Dallimore belonged in the majors this season, San Francisco wisely re-signed him, and he should receive a long look in spring training as a potential infield backup. Unfortunately, his lack of power, speed, and great defensive skills gives him little upside, however he can handle most positions if necessary and offers an intriguing pinch-hitting option thanks to his plate discipline. If he earns a job with the Giants, consider selecting Dallimore during Dollar Days to fill your MIF slot.
While we could view this as a skill consolidation year considering Ellison skipped from A-ball to AAA towards the end of 2002, he needed to maintain upward momentum in the system due to his weak power. Instead, his unimpressive plate discipline and stolen base success rate suggest he belongs as no more than a fourth outfielder in the majors. He isn't a viable minor league pick right now, although if he snags a bench job in spring training, consider Ellison during Dollar Days since he could approach double-digit value if used properly.
The minor league free agent already signed with St. Louis, giving him a good shot to see some time in the majors next year. However, while Horgan's command continues improving, his walk, hit and homer rates could create problems for him in the majors. Wait until you see him pitching effectively for an extended stretch before considering him for your team.
Lowry likely needs another year in the minors to refine his command, but considering the quick rise to the majors for the Giants' 2001 1st round pick, he even might break camp in the majors next spring with a strong March performance. The combination of San Francisco's strong defense and the pitcher-friendly PacBell Park makes any Giants' pitcher a decent gamble, however Lowry owns the skills to emerge as a worthy successor to Kirk Rueter. While I don't recommend him immediately unless he somehow wins a rotation job, monitor his progress in 2004 since he should begin starting games for San Francisco before next season ends.
While I have no idea why San Francisco has insured Lunsford receive time at every affiliate in the system over the last two years, his performance at Fresno at least should secure a future as a big league backup. Of course, I expect he'll see more success once he joins the coaching ranks, but he should compete in spring training with a couple of veterans for a reserve job with the Giants. Unfortunately, even if he breaks camp in the majors, he neither possesses the skills nor the home park to post acceptable stats, so don't consider Lunsford for your team.
After six seasons kicking around the minors of the Dodgers, Devil Rays, and Pirates, Montgomery finally conquered both AA and AAA with San Francisco. He looks poised to break into the majors with a good spring, and as long as he finds a team like the Giants that with a pitcher-friendly home park, he could post helpful fantasy numbers very quickly. Only the necessary opportunity stands between Montgomery and big league success.
Although Niekro owns a .313 career minor league average, he lacks power, speed, plate discipline, and defensive skills. Nothing in his statistical history even suggests he deserves a AAAA label given his apparently limited upside. He looks like a terrible fantasy pick and shouldn't contribute in the majors any time soon.
Visa problems led to the revelation that 23-year-old prospect Deivis Santos actually was a 29-year-old non-prospect without any long-term potential. I don't know why San Francisco rewarded his deception by promoting him to the majors, but nothing in his skill set suggests he should reach that level again.
The only obvious differences between Torcato and Fresno teammate Lance Niekro are that Torcato can play the outfield, bats lefty, and possesses even less plate discipline. I don't view him as a viable fantasy option now and suspect he'll never emerge as more than an occasional bench jockey in the majors.
While this season ranks as a disappointment by almost any measure, Urban's struggles aren't a complete surprise. Despite a couple of impressive AA seasons, San Francisco left him in Fresno's bullpen for much of 2003, where he continued succeeding with a solid hit rate despite diminished command. Yet he didn't even earn a cup-of-coffee, and then Giants returned him to the minors again this year while relative newcomers like Kevin Correia slashed through the minors. Urban needs both a good defense and consistent command to remain effective, and while he could succeed with San Francisco, a fresh start might be better for Urban's career. I still believe he'll contribute in the majors when given the chance, but he isn't a viable fantasy pick right now.
Despite good speed skills and plate discipline, Valderrama only reached AAA this season as a shoulder injury slowed his ascent in the system. While he still could develop into a decent big league starter, he instead appears likely to peak as a reserve due to his limited offensive upside. Valderrama also isn't a viable fantasy pick due to the competition he faces for playing time even as a backup on the Giants.
Merkin Valdez, 22, RH Starter
San Francisco's tendency to rush their best pitchers towards the majors shouldn't be a problem for Valdez as his skills should translate nicely as he moves up the minor league ladder. While he appears somewhat old for his level, his age makes me a little less worried about a potential injury since he hasn't exceeded 100 innings in any previous year. However, the upside of Valdez maturing into a starter in pitcher-friendly PacBell Park intrigues me, making him a decent minor league draft choice in deep NL leagues.
The matriculation of Kurt Ainsworth, Jesse Foppert, and Jerome Williams leaves the Giants without any likely stars in this system. Fortunately, Correia, Lowry, Aardsma, and Valdez all could contribute in the majors next year, Linden and Ransom should compete for starting jobs, and even Ellison should help in a limited role. The depth of this current AAAA talent, who all could approach double-dig it value by 2005, makes them an intriguing target for bargain hunting by fantasy owners, however off-season moves also might diminish the 2004 upside for many of these players.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates(Bay, F.Sanchez, Van Benschoten, J.Davis)
1. Kevin Correia, SP
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