Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
John Maine, 23, RH Starter
Although his control problems at AAA worry me slightly considering his excellent walk rate prior to this year, Maine pitched rather well considering Baltimore only allowed him five starts at AA before a second promotion. Registering a 7.9 K/9 at Ottawa also suggests he merits serious consideration for a rotation spot next spring. I see nothing in these numbers to indicate that he should struggle to any significant extent upon moving to the majors, so make sure to remember Maine when looking for sleeper starters next spring.
Rakers appeared nearly ready for the majors a year ago, so I don't know why Baltimore gave him a full year at Ottawa. At least he posted another dominant season, and while he probably will spend next year as B.J. Ryan's top setup man, Rakers merits a shot at closing in the majors within the next couple years. Don't be surprised if he approaches double-digit roto value as a rookie middle reliever due to his solid all-around skills, making Rakers an excellent sleeper in deep leagues.
The 19th overall pick in the 2001 draft stagnated to some extent this year even as Brian Roberts seemingly secured a starting job in Baltimore. While Fontenot posted respectable numbers, he retreated from the statistical gains he achieved last season as his contact rate fell to .79. Expect him to head back for another year at Ottawa as Fontenot attempts to converts his respectable doubles' total into consistent double-digit homers. I still expect him to spend a few years in the Orioles' lineup, but he does not appear ready to contribute due to his questionable plate discipline and limited immediate upside.
While spending a second season at Frederick pushes back Johnson's timetable, upping his slugging percentage seventy points definitely raises his prospect profile. Of course, Baltimore doesn't need a new third baseman any time soon thanks to Melvin Mora and potentially a free agent like Troy Glaus, however Johnson likely needs a few more years of seasoning. He only will merit a September promotion if he at least echoes these numbers over a full year at AA, so drafting Johnson in fantasy leagues appears quite risky given his slow progress up the minor league ladder.
Baltimore rushed Majewski to the majors when injuries depleted their outfield corps, but a torn labrum ended his season after only two weeks with the Orioles. Given his poor performance in sporadic playing time over that fortnight, hopefully the injury, coupled with a likely trip to AAA Ottawa for most of 2005, will help Majewski sustain his development. He clearly needs more time to develop his plate discipline and power, and since Majewski won't turn 21 until March, I see no reason for Baltimore to rush him. Expect Majewski to receive a cup-of-coffee next September before securing the Orioles' right field job the following spring, making him an excellent choice in 2005 minor league drafts.
Swiping Young off waivers from Pittsburgh a year ago added an intriguing power prospect to Baltimore's system. While his contact rate dropped to a worrisome .70 in his first season above A-ball, he smacked 62 extra-base hits and improved to a .10 walk rate, managing a solid .882 OPS. As the Orioles don't appear averse to employing strikeout-prone power hitters, expect Young to matriculate to Camden Yards in 2006 if he consolidates these gains in a full season at AAA Ottawa. Give him serious consideration in standard minor league drafts.
Matt Bruback, 25, RH Starter
Bruback split 2003 between Iowa, Nashville, and Portland, and he just never seemed settled at Portland this year. Moving back to AA with Bowie certainly qualifies as a disappointment, however he pitched reasonably well and still possesses respectable all-around skills. While I no longer expect Bruback to spend more than a couple years in anyone's rotation, I see sufficient upside here to keep monitoring his progress.
The huge jump in his homer rate to a 1.5 HR/9 seems somewhat shocking since Crouthers owned a .5 career mark heading into the year. Fortunately, registering a career-best 8.9 K/9 demonstrates improved dominance, which partially compensates for the added longballs. Crouthers likely needs two more years of seasoning before Baltimore should consider him for a rotation spot, however Daniel Cabrera's promotion this year means Crouthers could join the Orioles at almost any time. While his upside intrigues me, he doesn't project as a top-of-the-rotation starter, so don't roster Crouthers until you see him string together a few solid starters in the majors.
Injury problems curtailed his career with Colorado, and although he pitched respectably as a starter for AA Tulsa in 2003, DiFelice appears more comfortable in relief. Expect him to receive a long look in spring training, however I suspect he might not reach the majors for a couple more years. Don't roster him until he secures a stable job in a big league bullpen.
After spending four straight seasons as Baltimore's AA shortstop, including demonstrating obvious improvement in each of the last two years, Garabito deserves to break camp next year as a reserve middle infielder. He owns decent speed skills, promising plate discipline, and a good glove. While he lacks the power to start regularly, Garabito might not hurt you as a Dollar Days MIF and could surprise if he receives regular pinch-running opportunities.
Hundley failed to impress in two brief AAA stints with Anaheim, but his developing dominance and command merits him another look next year. Of course, he also appears unlikely to spend much time in the majors as anything more than injury filler, so ignore Hundley unless he unexpectedly repeats this performance after a promotion.
Another disappointing campaign led Baltimore to outright McDonald following the season, and he then opted for minor league free agency. His complete batting breakdown this year might push him back to football, especially since McDonald doesn't appear to possess the ability to take advantage of his latent power or speed skills.
Any pitcher who improves nearly all his skill ratios in his first season above A-ball normally catches my attention, and although he didn't maintain his normally ridiculously low homer rate, Mitchell's developing dominance indicates respectable upside. While he probably needs a couple more years of seasoning, he owns the skills necessary to emerge as a quality big league reliever if eventually given the necessary opportunity.
The long-time minor league journeyman lacks the plate discipline to deserve much consideration as a backup outfielder. Yes, Mottola possesses solid power potential, but he looks like no more than a decent AAAA bat. He does not belong on any fantasy roster.
Only questionable defensive support kept Ray from completing dominating the Carolina League following his quick tour through the Sally League. He improved both his strikeout and walk rates for Frederick, reaching an impressive 9.1 K/9. Ray looks like Baltimore's best low-level starting prospect, and if he continues excelling at AA Bowie, expect him to receive a couple of September spot starts before challenging for a rotation spot in the spring of 2006.
With career-best strikeout and walk rates in his first year above A-ball, Rleal appears ready to shoot to the majors by next summer. While his consistently high homer rate makes Rleal an unlikely candidate to close in the near future, he probably could contribute as roster filler as soon as he joins Baltimore. Don't hesitate to roster Rleal once you see him register several solid outings.
Sequea's relative youth and relatively consistent role as closer should guarantee he reaches the majors in a couple of years. However, the combination of his control problems and the low percentage of minor league closers that keep their role upon reaching the big leagues suggest Sequea will peak as a respectable middle reliever. Wait until he secures a steady bullpen job before rostering Sequea.
The veteran journeyman appears unlikely to emerge as more than an occasional injury replacement after failing to reach a .500 slugging percentage since 1997. Swann probably never will merit serious fantasy consideration even in the deepest leagues.
Baltimore's only decent catching prospect still possesses only mediocre plate discipline, but he finally demonstrated decent power potential this season for the first time since he debuted in 2001. While Whiteside eventually should develop into a quality backup due to his defensive gifts, he needs to improve his offensive consistency to emerge as a starter. Don't consider him in minor league drafts until you see significant improvement in Whiteside's batting and on-base averages.
Hayden Penn, 20, RH Starter
A 56th round pick in 2002, Penn didn't impress anyone in short-season ball last year. He returned to the rotation at Delmarva after a few solid relief outings, immediately beginning to dominate batters while receiving two in-season promotions. Penn even maintained his effectiveness upon reaching the Eastern League, a fairly amazing accomplishment for a youngster who only turned 20 a week ago. While gambling on him in a fantasy league appears rather risky, definitely monitor his progress in 2005 since Penn could reach Baltimore early the following season.
Dealing Denny Bautista cost Baltimore their best pitching prospect, and a combination of injuries and missed trading opportunities leave this system rather bare. Failing to sign 2004 #1 Wade Townsend merely completed a fairly disastrous year for the Orioles' minor league system. While Maine, Majewski, Fontenot, Rakers, Young, and Ray all look like solid future contributors, none of these youngsters appears overly likely to develop into stars. Barring shockingly good free agents signings and a couple of blockbuster trades, Baltimore appears unlikely to challenge for a playoff spot through the end of the decade.
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)
7:00: Boston@New York Yankees
No MLB team ever has forced a seventh game after losing the first three games of a series, so betting on Boston tonight is a terrible proposition. The Red Sox possess almost no rested pitchers and Schilling isn't particularly healthy, however the Yankees' bullpen also appears quite vulnerable, so if Schilling guts out five innings, we see no reason why Boston can't defy history tonight.
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