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 2005 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 batters and pitchers 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 2005 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 or should possess significant trade value in keeper leagues. 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.
The biggest change in these Post-2004 Prospect Reviews is that I'm cutting the Franchise Overview to spend more time on the player comments. I also added an extra category to delineate high-upside prospects who shouldn't see the majors until next September from minor league veterans and low-level prospects.
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 2005, 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.
Casey Kotchman, 21, 1B-L
Anaheim promoted their top prospect to sub for the injured Darin Erstad, giving him a long look in the majors without ruining his rookie eligibility. However, while Kotchman excelled in the upper levels of the minors despite accumulating only 114 at-bats above A-ball in previous seasons, his struggles in the majors suggest he needs more seasoning for his power to develop. A 2.19 G-F and 3.38 #P/PA with the Angels both worry me tremendously, so although Kotchman could hold a respectable average next year, don't expect him to exceed double-digit homers until 2006. At least Anaheim possesses sufficient offensive depth to allow him to mash minor league pitching for another couple months before promoting him to the majors for good.
Although a poor .68 contact rate in the minors indicates McPherson might never exceed a .280 average, his 4.19 #P/PA with Anaheim and a respectable minor league walk rate demonstrate decent patience. Crushing 43 homers this season also ranks him with the best power hitters in the game. If Troy Glaus departs as a free agent as expected, McPherson should start at third, and he easily should surpass 20 homers in 2005. He looks like a prime Rookie of the Year contender, and if he continues developing his questionable defense, he should occupy the Angels' hot corner for the rest of the decade.
Improving his plate discipline, power, and stolen base output while moving up a level suggests Aybar should give the Angels a long-term solution at shortstop. Of course, he needs to outplay former double play partner Alberto Callaspo, David Eckstein, and any free agents Anaheim might sign. Aybar also posted an unacceptable 57% SB success rate, suggesting that he needs significantly more seasoning. Any drop in his batting average will destroy all his averages, rendering him almost useless offensively. Yes, his combination of speed and power makes him an intriguing middle infield prospects, but don't expect him to see much success in the majors before 2007.
Rather than allow Callaspo to continue developing at second base next to Erick Aybar, Anaheim double-promoted him to the Texas League in an effort to improve his positional flexibility. He failed to maintain his .327/.377/.428 from A-ball, however improving his contact rate to a gaudy .95 and even upping his walk rate to .09 indicates he wasn't fooled by the superior pitching. Of course, since Aybar posted another great batting average in A-ball, the Angels need to push Callaspo to AAA next season or move one of their middle infield prospects to second base. At least this situation doesn't present an unwelcome dilemma for Anaheim, and despite Aybar's superior tools, Callaspo interests me more as a prospect right now since he could reach the majors by the second half of 2005.
After entering the year as the second-best catching prospect in baseball, Mathis suffered through an apparently awful season as his batting average dropped over 60 points. Yet a closer examination of his stats shows that he improved his walk rate to .12 while only seeing his contact rate drop from .81 to .77. His overall production dropped off a cliff after the Angels promoted Dallas McPherson and Casey Kotchman, leaving Mathis virtually alone in the Travelers' lineup, but he still demonstrated respectable plate discipline and solid defense. Absolutely do not write him off after only three poor months. He owns the skills necessary to reemerge as a top prospect at Salt Lake next year before supplanting the Molina brothers in 2006. Target Mathis in off-season trade talks, and you should end up with excellent trade bait by the All-Star break.
Shoulder soreness and elbow tendonitis cost Santana the majority of the season, pushing his likely arrival in the majors back to 2006. However, he should return to full health by next spring, and missing most of 2004 will prevent further wear-and-tear on a young and talented arm. Expect him to split next year between Arkansas and Salt Lake, receiving a September bullpen audition before moving into Anaheim's rotation the following spring. His continued dominance even while hurting suggests he still owns the skills to mature into a true ace.
Repeating the California League isn't a positive sign, but he improved nearly across-the-board, most impressively jumping his strikeout rate from 7.1 to 10.3 K/9 while only seeing his walk rate rise from 1.8 to 2.2 BB/9. Staying in A-ball also helped Shell build arm strength in a low pressure environment, and only a slight rise in his homer rate worries me at all. Shell should spend 2005 at AA Arkansas, possibly providing bullpen depth in September, and then challenge for a rotation spot the following season. He enjoyed the best year of any starting prospect in the organization, so although I can't recommend targeting Shell in any save the deepest leagues, keep an eye on his progress.
Sorensen's flexibility in the field makes him an intriguing upper-level minor leaguer, especially since he possesses potentially useful speed. After stagnating for four years with Cleveland, he finally blossomed after Anaheim grabbed him for a PTBN. Of course, the Angels don't need him in the majors since his skills resemble those of Chone Figgins rather closely. I don't see him even replacing Alfredo Amezaga, but if given the chance Sorensen now owns the plate discipline to warrant fantasy consideration as a MIF or UT. While he lacks the power to merit an everyday job, he could swipe a dozen bases even in limited action.
Stephen Andrade, 26, RH Reliever
Anaheim seemingly adds another quality reliever from their farm system every year. Following the emergence of Brendan Donnelly in 2002, KRod in 2003, and Kevin Gregg this year, Andrade appears on track to matriculate to the majors in 2006. Andrade also could succeed with the Angels next season after his second straight outstanding AA performance, but I don't envision him receiving the necessary opportunity barring a superb spring.
Mike Scioscia remains perhaps the one current manager unafraid to spend the season without a lefty reliever. While Bergman possesses the skills to succeed given steady work in the majors, he may not see much time with the Angels unless his dominance notably improves. He similarly won't deserve much fantasy consideration until he secures a regular role in a big league bullpen.
Although Bittner pitched fairly effectively after Anaheim returned him to the rotation upon acquiring him from the White Sox in the Scott Schoeneweis deal last year, his falling strikeout rate and increasing control problems portend a move back to the bullpen. Even if he echoes these stats in a full AAA season, I don't see him starting for the Angels any time soon, rendering him effectively useless to fantasy teams.
Bootcheck failed even to repeat his mediocre 2003 performance in a third season at Salt Lake. Yes, Anaheim rushed him up the ladder to some extent, but improving his strikeout rate from 4.3 to 5.8 K/9 means nothing when accompanied by a WHIP increase from 1.38 to 1.60 and even a homer rate jump from 1.0 to 1.2 HR/9. While sending Bootcheck back to AA might not be a bad idea, he instead appears likely to spend another year at Salt Lake barring unexpected improvement.
Selected from Atlanta in last year's minor league Rule 5 draft, Collazo moved into the rotation for the first time since college and emerged as a mildly intriguing starter prospect. He cut his walk rate from 4.1 to 2.3 without a severe strikeout rate drop. Of course, his overall dominance decreased, but he could enjoy a respectable career in almost any role after a couple more years of seasoning.
Dunn's dominance makes him a good candidate for a bullpen job next spring, especially if he can cut his walk rate. He probably needs another year at Salt Lake, however don't be surprised if he emerges as the 2005 version of Kevin Gregg. I see a lot of upside in his consistently high strikeout rates, although wait until he secures a regular role in Anaheim's relief corps before adding him to your roster.
Weak plate discipline probably destines Gordon to a AAAA career, however his respectable power eventually will earn him big league consideration if his walk rate ever improves. Of course, dropping his contact rate from .80 to .69 after leaving Arizona as a minor league free agent probably sets his timetable back a couple years. Remain very wary of Gordon despite his quantitative upside until he demonstrates better batting skills.
Further erosion of Gorneault's contact rate as he moves up the minor league ladder worries me, but his walk rate improved from .06 to .09 this year while he maintained his power stroke in his first full season above A-ball. Although he likely won't merit a regular starting job in the majors, he could challenge for a backup job in the spring of 2006. Gorneault's consistently respectable batting average also should keep him on track to debut in Anaheim as soon as next fall.
Jones recovered to demonstrate fairly good skills over the balance of the year after an inflamed rotator cuff cost him the first couple months of the season. Of course, his marks don't resemble the 10.7 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 he held at Salt Lake in 2003, but he maintained solid command. If Jones arrives at spring training completely healthy, a dominant performance could force him into the majors only one year behind schedule.
Although he possesses poor plate discipline, Nieves own sufficient power and contact ability to emerge as a big league backup within the next couple years. He hasn't posted a BA below .283 in regular work since reaching AAA, so while I don't see him receiving the necessary opportunity with the Angels, he might not hurt you as a second catcher once he secures a bench job in the majors.
Peralta missed six weeks due to injury, but his success after returning should secure him a long look next spring. His 10.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 keep me from worrying about his mildly high hit rate, especially since he possesses a solid track record of dominance and command. While you should wait until he posts several solid outings with the Angels before rostering him, Peralta could emerge as a quality fantasy option by next summer.
The former Padres' prospect posted his best numbers in three years, demonstrating promising plate discipline and decent doubles' power. Of course, he lacks the offensive skills to emerge as more than a reserve infielder, so he merits little fantasy attention in any league.
After spending two full seasons in A-ball, Woods continued developing into an effective lefty starter until Anaheim rushed him to Salt Lake. Woods understandably struggled in the harsh pitching environment, although he at least maintained a respectable strikeout rate. He likely needs a full year at Salt Lake to overcome his deteriorating walk, hit, and homer rate, however I still expect him to emerge as a viable starter for the Angels no later than 2007, and he might deserve a long look as soon as next summer.
Although Anaheim lacks significant prospect depth in the lower levels of the organization, signing 2004 #1 pick Jered Weaver should add another top arm to a respectable system. Although I don't see a steady flow of offensive prospects, the Angels don't need many impressive young hitters with their five top prospects comprising a future infield and Vlad and Garret Anderson secure as outfield fixtures. Expect them to remain near the top of the AL West indefinitely, especially if McPherson and Kotchman develop into offensive forces as expected.
Current ranking of potentially helpful fantasy depth for teams discussed thus far in 2004, 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(McPherson, Kotchman, Callaspo, E.Aybar)
4:00: New York Yankees@Boston
Boston should win at least a couple more games, although history suggests they can't rebound to win the series. However, I can see arguments for the both the Red Sox and Yankees this afternoon, Houston almost certainly should win tonight given their home field advantage and the scorching bat of Carlos Beltran.
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