Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Felix Diaz, 24, RH Starter
Hopefully Diaz's respectable 3.78 ERA on an 11:6 K:BB in 16.2 IP over 11 games as a reliever won't convince the Sox he belongs in the bullpen despite his impressive success as a minor league starter. His command and control make him a definite asset in the majors, especially if Chicago focus on improving their defense this winter as planned. Diaz owns the skills and tools to emerge as a viable middle-of-the-rotation starter. If the Sox demonstrate faith in his abilities, he could flourish as their #5 starter in 2005, however his extended difficulties this year indicate approaching Diaz with caution remains the best course of action for most fantasy owners.
Valdez first caught Ozzie Guillen's eye with the Marlins as he swiped 47 bases in 2002 before adding another 54 steals last year. While catchers also caught Valdez 49 times in 2003, Guillen appears to prefer speedy youngsters with poor plate discipline that remind Guillen of himself. Acquired for Billy Koch in the spring, Valdez's high average at Charlotte masks his weak .04 walk rate, and a 3.22 #P/PA in September indicates little likelihood that he'll develop much patience. Of course, Jose Valentin's likely departure opens a middle infield position in Chicago, so if Valdez beats out Willie Harris, he should spend next season starting every day for the White Sox. His SB upside gives him the potential to exceed $20 as a rookie, so if you don't mind the BA risk, feel free to target Valdez for your 2005 middle infield.
Brian Anderson, 22, OF-R
Chicago selected Anderson with the 15th overall pick in 2003 out of the University of Arizona. While he didn't wow management with a great spring like second round pick Ryan Sweeney, Anderson performed much better in the Carolina League before echoing those numbers at Birmingham. Following his AFL appearances, Anderson seems prepared to return to Birmingham to begin 2005, and if he continues developing, he should receive a September cup-of-coffee followed by serious consideration for a starting outfield job the next spring. Definitely consider drafting Anderson in most standard AL leagues since he looks likely to contribute in the majors by 2006.
Elbow soreness and cascading shoulder problems cost Honel nearly the entire year. He ranked with the brightest long-term prospects in the game prior to 2004, so hopefully losing the development time only will benefit Honel due to the decreased workload. Selecting him in any save the deepest AL leagues is a risk, however at least monitor Honel's progress due to his intriguing fantasy upside.
While he tied for the minor league lead in wins, McCarthy supported that success with 202 strikeouts, which also led the minors, against only 30 walks for an excellent 6.7 K:BB. He dominated all three levels where he appeared and now seems set to reach the majors next fall. McCarthy belongs in any discussion of the best starting prospect in the game, and he especially merits serious fantasy consideration in strikeout leagues. With a career 406:60 K:BB in 351 IP, he looks like an asset to any roto team.
Following Arnie Munoz from the bullpen to the Birmingham rotation severely disrupted Meaux's skills. While he could develop into an adequate starter, Meaux appeared on track to emerge as a dominant reliever prior to 2004. Expect him to reach the majors as a reliever late next year, so he doesn't belong on spring draft lists.
Chicago nearly kept Munoz at the end of spring training in 2003 as a third lefty reliever before sending him to Charlotte, where he managed a 4.75 ERA on a 63:27 K:BB in 55 IP. Rather than allowing Munoz to continue developing into a power reliever, the Sox bizarrely demoted him into Birmingham's rotation this year after five full minor league seasons without a single starter. Surprisingly, Munoz neither struggled nor succumbed to injury, however he flailed badly upon two subsequent promotions. While he still possesses significant upside, his uncertain role makes Munoz an extreme risk, so don't roster the 5'9" southpaw until he experiences consistent big league success over several outings as either a starter or reliever.
A great spring training nearly resulted in Sweeney leaping from Rookie-ball to the majors as a teenager in his first full professional season. Instead Chicago sent their 2003 second round pick to the Carolina League, where he demonstrated little power or overall offensive skill. Of course, Sweeney also remains quite young and still managed decent batting and on-base averages due to a decent walk rate and respectable plate discipline. While he needs a couple more years of seasoning, the Sox will promote him quickly if he succeeds at AA, making him an acceptable long-term pick in deep AL leagues.
Converting to the bullpen enabled Allen's skills to flourish despite a promotion from A-ball. Although spending a full year at AAA makes sense to see if he can cut his walk rate again, Allen could challenge for a big league roster spot as soon as next fall.
Bajenaru's control problems reemerged upon reaching the majors, however his success at Birmingham and Charlotte should keep him in Chicago's plans even though he posted another poor walk rate in the AFL. Feel free to consider Bajenaru for your team as roster filler once he compiles several solid outings while holding a decent WHIP.
The likelihood of Bell ever losing his rookie status continues to drop despite his respectable power due to his weak plate discipline and continued movement down the defensive spectrum. Even if he returns to the majors in the near future, a weak BA should negate Bell's quantitative upside.
At least Bikowski again improved his AA numbers, but his problems at Charlotte leave him unlikely to develop into more than a reserve outfielder at best. He won't contribute to fantasy teams unless he secures steady work as a big league backup.
The White Sox spent their first round pick this year on an infielder named Josh Fields despite drafting Joshua Lee Fields in the 23rd round of the 2001 draft and then watching him develop into perhaps the best rookie lefty reliever in the system. Although I suspect both Fields won't play for Chicago at the same time, this Josh Fields appear nearly ready to contribute in the majors after posting his best numbers since Rookie-ball in his first season above A-ball. Of course, like almost any other minor league reliever, wait until Fields compiles a few solid big league outings before rostering him.
Chicago kept Hankins in the minors for a seventh straight season despite his respectable offensive numbers and a need for catching help. Hopefully he'll receive a better opportunity elsewhere as a minor league free agent this fall since he appears essentially ready to contribute in the majors.
Nelson returned from Japan to post the best numbers of his career. Due to his improved plate discipline and developing power, he should receive a long look in some camp next spring, but wait until he begins contributing in the majors before rostering him anywhere.
Although Paz backtracked after managing a .284/.411/.354 between the Southern and International Leagues in 2003, he still owns a career OBP near .400. Unfortunately, questionable defense and negligible quantitative upside will keep him from securing steady work as a reserve infielder, however feel free to roster him if he ever sticks in the majors since his great plate discipline should enable him to hold an acceptable BA
Phillips posted the best marks of his career in his first extended experience above A-ball. While unimpressive dominance gives him less upside than most of his teammates, Phillips' great control also makes him more likely to reach the majors than most 2004 Barons. Assuming he maintains these skills through AAA, only concerns regarding the impact of a weak hit rate on his WHIP should keep you from adding Phillips once he earns a big league roster spot.
While Spidale never should emerge as more than a capable reserve outfielder, the hometown product owns sufficient power, speed, and plate discipline to flourish in a limited role. Spidale should merit some fantasy consideration in deeper leagues once he reaches the majors in a couple years.
Although Stewart regained full health this year and again demonstrated good control at Charlotte, his terrible performance with the White Sox pushes him to the edge of the organization's pitching picture. Yes, he still should develop into a decent starter, however his unimpressive dominance suggests Stewart won't flourish until he coverts to the bullpen, rendering him effectively useless to most fantasy teams in the near future.
At least Ulacia remains relatively young and again demonstrated good command in the Arizona Fall League; otherwise his failure to start more than a couple AAA games truly might concern me. The southpaw also lacks obvious upside compared to most other Chicago pitching prospects, so while I expect him to develop into a decent starter, Ulacia appears rather useless to fantasy teams at this time.
The minor league free agent appears headed elsewhere after again failing to earn a promotion to Chicago. Of course, weak plate discipline renders his respectable power fairly largely ineffective, so don't expect Valenzuela even to earn general AAAA consideration in the near future.
Chicago snagged the former Rockies and Royals' prospect off waivers during the season. He surprisingly remained successful in his first extended shot as a starter, however I don't expect Villacis to contribute in the majors any time soon. Don't place him on any draft list barring an extremely unlikely stupendous spring performance.
Injuries curtailed Wylie's progress after an impressive 2001 AA campaign. He barely managed more total innings over the past three years than he registered that year alone; Wylie also hasn't regained his formerly decent control. Hopefully the minor league free agent will find an organization with less upper-level competition for big league jobs since Wylie won't reach the majors if he returns to Chicago.
While Yan owns good speed, questionable baserunning instincts and weak plate discipline give him little long-term value as a prospect. He could develop into a useful SB option, but I see no reason to roster Yan until he secures steady work in the majors.
The Japanese League veteran advanced to Charlotte and posted another very strong season. Despite his lack of big league experience, he warrants a look in the majors after compiling an 8.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over the last two years. Unfortunately, the low likelihood of Yofu receiving that chance in the near future renders him uselss to fantasy teams.
While Rogowski's impressive OBP, high walk total, and double-digit HR and SB totals all might catch your eye, he also registered these numbers in his third straight Carolina League campaign. Unless his contact rate improves, Rogowski probably will develop into no more than a respectable platoon player, so I see little reason for fantasy owners to invest in him next spring.
With Young only in the Sally League and Aaron Rowand, Brian Anderson, and Ryan Sweeney all ranking above him on the organizational depth chart, Young may spend several more seasons in the minors. An poor .69 contact rate similarly foretells problems once he graduates A-ball. Of course, Young owns considerable power-speed upside and possesses promising plate discipline, but I just don't envision him contributing to most fantasy teams within the next few years as anything more than trade bait.
Dealing Jeremy Reed and Jon Rauch cost Chicago their two highest-upside rookies from last year. Adding Wilson Valdez improves the upper-level depth, but he offers more potential to fantasy teams than the White Sox. While several young pitchers and outfielders soon could emerge as contributors for Chicago, Brandon McCarthy easily ranks as the player most worth your attention and draft choice.
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: Houston@St. Louis
While only the Astros' questionable bullpen kept Houston from winning games one, two, and six, a rested Clemens, coupled with Oswalt ready in the bullpen, should propel the Astros to their first pennant.
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