Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Abe Alvarez, 22, LH Starter
Despite lacking a great fastball and only pitching nine games in short-season ball after the Red Sox drafted him in the second round last year, Alvarez opened the year in Portland and registered the best numbers of any upper-level Boston starter. He owns excellent control and appears nearly ready to contribute in the majors. Give his youth and upside, the Red Sox won't rush him to the majors, likely giving Alvarez a full year at Pawtucket unless they instead allow him to follow Casey Fossum's development pattern as a middle reliever. Expect Alvarez to join Boston's rotation in 2006 if he doesn't settle into a relief role or end up as trade bait next season.
Andy Dominique, 28, 1B/C-R
Unfortunately, Dominique failed to impress Boston during his in-season audition, and they removed him from the 40-man roster last month during the stretch run. He appears headed elsewhere despite good patience, respectable power potential, and sufficient fielding skills both to catch and man first base. I still expect him to receive a long look in the majors at some point, and if he echoes his Pawtucket numbers in 2005, he could contribute next September.
Ramirez's fairly disastrous 2003 caused my opinion of his worth as a prospect to crater. He proved me wrong with a strong rebound this year despite a promotion at the beginning of the season. His improvement upon reaching Portland convinced me of his potential, and given his developing plate discipline and intriguing speed skills, he could arrive in Boston for good in September. While Ramirez committed 23 errors in 98 games, his defensive skills will make him an asset in the majors. Anyone who missed out on B.J. Upton should make a significant effort to acquire Ramirez this winter before his stock truly explodes.
Although Shoppach demonstrated solid defense and impressive power potential, the fall of his contact rate from .76 to .65 demolished his formerly respectable batting average. I now expect Boston to re-sign Jason Varitek, and as Doug Mirabelli also should remain with the Red Sox as Tim Wakefield's personal catcher, Shoppach looks like trade bait. Of course, he still owns excellent long-term upside, especially if he can boost his contact rate back over .70 in the majors, but Shoppach needs a strong rebound in 2005 to reassert his prospect status. He doesn't merit much consideration in standard leagues at this time.
Jeff Bailey, 25, C/OF-R
Hopefully pounding AA pitching for the second time in three seasons will earn Bailey the extended look he merits at Pawtucket. The former 2nd round pick owns good patience and developing power. However, while his potential as a utilityman should guarantee him an eventual shot in the majors, Bailey looks like fantasy roster filler at best.
Despite excellent command, flyball problems and inconsistent dominance should force Brown to the bullpen if he wants to enjoy a lengthy big league career. I still see significant upside in these skills, but wait until he emerges as a consistently effective major league pitcher before rostering him in any league.
Control problems continue to limit Cameron's effectiveness. Spending a full season in relief might help him overcome his current obstacles to reaching the majors, but I suspect most teams will view him as no more than respectable organization filler, rendering Cameron useless to fantasy teams for now.
Although command problems caused Deschenes to fail in two previous AAA trials, his improving skills merits another look. Unfortunately, I don't expect him to emerge as a contributor in the majors even with his growing save totals.
Another impressive AA performance should push Donaldson back to AAA in 2005, and his previous success at that level suggests he eventually should secure a big league job. However, expecting him to emerge as anything more than roster filler seems unwise given his stagnation in the upper minors.
The Red Sox acquired Duff for Tony Womack during spring training. While he failed to reach the majors this season and lost his spot on Boston's 40-man roster, Duff posted another strong strikeout rate despite growing control problems. He still owns the skills necessary to contribute in the majors, so feel free to roster Duff if he compiles several strong outings upon reaching the big leagues.
His failure to take advantage of the opportunity offered by Boston might keep Hamulack out of the majors for a few more years. Although his strikeout rate remained strong, severe control problems give us no assurance he even can remain effective at AAA, forget about the big leagues. Hamulack appears unlikely to contribute to fantasy teams any time soon.
Boston bumped the journeyman to AAA in his second season in the organization, and Kester responded with another fairly strong campaign. He demonstrated superb control, however weak strikeout, hit, and homer rates all suggest he offers minimal long-term upside. Unless he finds a team with a great defense and forgiving home park willing to give him a long look some spring, Kester may never reach the majors.
While Martinez pitched fairly well in his first extended look at Pawtucket, he flailed badly in Boston and continued to suffer from a high walk rate in the minors. He appears to need at least a few more months of seasoning, and with their system seemingly improving every few months, Boston shouldn't need his services until his command improves. Martinez merits little consideration until he demonstrates some ability to pitch effectively in the majors.
Nelson again failed to impressive in a brief big league look, which probably leaves him stuck in the high minors for another couple years. Of course, returning to compile these stats after missing nearly two full years with torn ligaments suggests he still could emerge as a fantasy contributor. I see no reason not to roster Nelson if he ever begins echoing these marks in the majors.
Although he clearly owns good patience and somewhat intriguing power potential, O'Keefe appears unlikely to develop into more than a passable AAAA player at best. Don't expect him to help any fantasy teams barring a surprising reversal in his development trend.
Perez continues to impress following his move to the bullpen last year. He pitched very effectively in his first full season at Portland, and while a rising walk rate concerns me, Perez's relative youth suggests he should reach the majors as an effective reliever within the next couple years. Of course, like most inconsistent young lefties and almost all minor league relievers, Perez won't merit much attention until he secures a steady big league bullpen job.
Since Roneberg exceeded his total homer production for the past two years while maintaining good plate discipline, he deserves a AAA starting job in 2005. If he at least echoes this performance after a promotion, expect him to challenge for a big league bench job the following year.
Acquired from the Cubs in April of 2003, Schrager fulfilled Boston's faith in his abilities by finally reaching AAA and registering his best numbers in a few years. However, unless he finds a better opportunity as a minor league free agent or impresses management during spring training, Schrager appears unlikely to contribute in the majors any time soon.
Seibel's inconsistency led Boston to waive him in September, however he remains a quality young lefty starter with intriguing long-term potential. If Seibel continues building on this performance next year as I expect, he should emerge as a decent fantasy option the following season.
With consistent sub-.70 contact rates and no more than respectable power or patience, Sherrod appears unlikely to develop into more than a quality AAAA bat. If he earns more than an occasional cup-of-coffee in the majors, wait until Sherrod demonstrates the ability to maintain an acceptable BA before rostering him anywhere.
3.50; 2-1 G-F Another high strikeout total kept Snyder in the minors for most of the season despite prodigious power numbers. Yes, he owns intriguing offensive potential and useful position flexibility, but if even a sabermetrically-oriented organization like Boston barely gives Snyder a chance, he may remain stuck as no more than big league roster filler indefinitely. Don't consider him in any league until he finds a team willing to overlook his strikeouts in the majors on a regular basis.
Growing ERA problems suggest that Stevens probably won't emerge as more than organizational filler. While he continues to demonstrate excellent command, his lack of dominance leaves him very vulnerable in the high minors. Stevens needs to take advantage of any opportunity to impress management or risk remaining in the minors indefinitely.
Finally running out of options allowed Thomas to begin the season in the majors with the Twins, however early ineffectiveness led to Boston claiming him off waivers. Elbow surgery almost immediately ended his season upon joining the Red Sox, but given his success in the upper minors over the last few years, Thomas now qualifies as one of the most intriguing minor league free agents available this winter. He still possesses significant upside and could emerge as a quality big league contributor as soon as next spring if he finds the right situation.
Brandon Moss, 21, OF-L
The 2002 eighth round pick excelled during his first year in full-season A-ball. He won the Sally League batting title and MVP award, establishing him behind only Hanley Ramirez among Boston's long-term position prospects. With his contact rate above .80, respectable speed skills, and significant power potential, Moss should develop into no worse than a respectable replacement for Trot Nixon. Definitely place him on your minor league draft list if you don't mind waiting until 2007 for him to emerge as a big league regular.
His move into the rotation qualifies as one of the most impressive successes of Boston's new minor league management. Papelbon excelled in the Florida State League in his first full professional season. A 10.6 K/9, 6.7 H/9, and .4 HR/9 all suggest the potential for Papelbon to emerge as an impact player for the Red Sox. While his unimpressive walk rate keeps me from recommending him anywhere save very deep AL leagues, monitor his progress since he could reach the majors by 2006.
Alvarez, Ramirez, Shoppach, Moss, and Papelbon all intrigue me, however only Alvarez and maybe Ramirez should push double-digit value within the next two seasons. Boston possesses very little depth throughout their system despite two relatively strong drafts, and many of the respectable players in the upper minors appear headed elsewhere as minor league free agents. Of course, a $100+ payroll doesn't require much replenishment from the minors, so while Ramirez and Alvarez belong on any minor league draft list next spring, Boston generally does not appear a good place to find young talent for fantasy teams right now.
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)
3:00: Houston@St. Louis
Even forcing a seventh game against the Yankees ranks Boston's comeback as the best in baseball history, and even though we expected the Red Sox to win in six, we still believe they can sneak one more victory. Somewhat similarly, since we predicted Houston in six behind Clemens on short rest, the change to Munro does not cause much doubt for us, although the Astros may need a rested Clemens to nail the series down tomorrow depending on how many innings the Chads pitch tonight.
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