Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Curtis Granderson, 23, OF-L
Spending a couple weeks with the Tigers demonstrated Granderson should maintain his impressive patience in the majors, however while he could reach double-digit homers and steals if forced into a starting role next spring, he truly could blossom given several months at AAA Toledo. While he appears likely to suffer from a weak contact rate indefinitely, his all-around offensive potential absolutely intrigues me, especially since he plays for a team desperate for a young stud position player. Of course, Granderson also could stumble if pushed to adopt a less disciplined hitting approach, so selecting him qualifies as a definite gamble, but the combination of his skills and a waiting job in Detroit makes him an excellent choice in any minor league draft.
Kenny Baugh, 25, RH Starter
Baugh finally appears recovered from the abuse he suffered at Rice, which led to a labrum tear that cost him all of 2002. Following an unimpressive return last year, Baugh completely rebounded in a second tour at Erie, maintaining solid skill ratios while demonstrating his long-term upside as a starter. Of course, he obviously lacks dominance and needs at least another year of seasoning, so drafting him now looks like a mistake, but Baugh's development this year suggests he merits watching in 2005 since he could join Detroit by next summer.
Demonstrating improved power potential and speed skills in his first Eastern League seasons suggests Espinosa at least will develop into a quality reserve despite leaving the infield. Promising patience compensates for his obvious contact problems, so although BA concerns keep me from recommending him now, the 23rd overall pick from the 2000 draft finally merits at least some fantasy consideration from owners in deeper leagues.
A third round pick only a year ago, Giarratano demonstrated excellent plate discipline at West Michigan before posting very impressive averages over a second half spent in the Florida State League. Committing 14 errors in 95 games isn't too worrisome, especially give his intriguing offensive upside. He possesses the all-around skills to push Carlos Guillen to third base, but even after his progress this year, Giarratano probably won't reach the majors to stay until late in 2006. Consider him no more than a solid speculative pick who might develop into a top prospect by next fall.
Despite a late-season summons to Detroit, only continued offensive dominance will enable him to remain a starter. He committed 31 errors in only 98 games, and the former outfielder looks like a questionable investment right now. Of course, he also demonstrated both power and plate discipline even after the Tigers hurried him to the Eastern League, so a late-round selection here could pay surprising dividends.
Managing his best numbers as a professional since reaching the U.S. in his first exposure above A-ball helped Tejeda shoot up prospect charts. I now expect him to spend no less than a few seasons in the majors, but unless he reverses his contact rate drop from .85 to .78, he won't emerge as a big league starter. Wait for him to echo this performance for Toledo before rostering him anywhere.
Obvious control problems concern me here, but teenagers normally don't display this level of dominance at Erie. While his walk and homer rates indicate Zumaya needs much more seasoning, his upside ranks with that of any pitcher in the system. Unfortunately, I still can't recommend him now due to the questions raised by his abrupt walk rate jump.
Pat Ahearne, 34, RH Starter
Ahearne deserved a cup-of-coffee after a third straight solid season at Toledo. He only owns an 0-2 career record and an 11.70 ERA in 10 big league innings despite fourteen years as a professional pitcher. Hopefully some organization soon will give him a chance to contribute since he owns the overall skill necessary to remain effective in the majors, although I also don't envision Ahearne as a likely fantasy contributor due to his uncertain role.
The former Tigers' 29th round pick returned to his original organization this year, easily posting the best numbers of his career. Of course, continued contact problems leave Airoso unlikely to maintain this performance at AAA, and he probably won't see more than a brief big league appearance or two. He doesn't look like a fantasy option.
With questionable plate discipline and barely respectable power, Barkett shouldn't start above AAA any time soon. Even snagging a bench job seems somewhat unlikely for the journeyman, rendering him largely useless in fantasy leagues.
Ennis missed an excellent chance to secure a big league bullpen job by suffering a severe decline in effectiveness following his promotion to the Tigers. He still owns decent command and could emerge as a contributor in the majors, but wait until he registers several solid outings before considering him anywhere.
The Royals erred in allowing Detroit to grab Gettis off waivers. He managed a respectable OBP at both Omaha and Kansas City despite BA problems, and his .302/.377/.473 performance at Wichita last year merited a promotion to Omaha to begin this season. Most impressively, Gettis posted a 4.31 #P/PA in the majors, strongly suggesting a future as no less than a fourth outfielder. While he only merits fantasy attention in deep leagues right now, expect Gettis to blossom into a useful contributor for the Tigers over the next couple of seasons.
Claimed off waiver two weeks prior to Detroit's identical acquisition of his teammate Gettis, Gomez's terrible year at least provided the Royals with hope of not losing him. Of course, considering his significant downturn in overall performance, Gomez may help Kansas City more as an out machine for Detroit than as a drain in the Royals' lineup. While I still see intriguing roto upside in his skills, Gomez's downside makes him a terrible spring pick, and he could remain a poor option even as roster filler indefinitely.
Low strikeout rates make Karnuth unlikely to emerge as more than an occasional big league option. Even with good control, wait until he demonstrates extended effectiveness before rostering him for your team.
Kirsten caught my eye three years ago after compiling a 14-8 record and a 4.62 ERA on a 143:53 K:BB in 162 IP. Arm problems limited him to only 25 innings over the next two seasons, but he reemerged as a mildly interesting pitcher this year. Unfortunately, the disappearance of his command at Toledo makes him unlikely to develop into more than a competent middle reliever, so he shouldn't help fantasy teams any time soon.
The Tigers foolishly let their second round pick from 1997 depart as a minor league free agent this fall despite his excellent command. They never sought to see if a move to relief might improve his dominance, although hopefully now Loux will receive a better opportunity with a new organization. I still see a lot to like here and might consider grabbing him once he compiles a few strong outings in the majors.
Shifting to the bullpen following his spring promotion to AA enabled Novoa to emerge as a dominant relief option. Spending some time at AAA Toledo isn't a bad idea for him, but other than the effects of a flyball problem, he appears ready to contribute positively in a big league bullpen. While you shouldn't draft him until his secondary skills develop, Novoa could develop into an intriguing late-inning option fairly quickly.
Palma now owns a 252:84 K:BB with 262 H and 13 H in 274 AA innings over the last four seasons. Will some team please promote the minor league free agent to AAA for a full year? Yes, he likely won't dominate anyone given his hit and homer rates, but he at least deserves the chance to contribute at a higher level. Experimenting with Palma in the majors also looks like a better idea than investing millions during the winter or a solid prospect in July just to nab a tertiary southpaw option.
After his 2003 debut, Schmack fell back to AA this year, where he failed to echo his impressive stats from last season. He appears rather unlikely to receive more than a couple brief big league opportunities barring an unexpected jump in his overall effectiveness.
He looked like a terrible Rule 5 pick last winter and didn't disappoint, posting the only infinite ERA and WHIP in the majors this year. Urdaneta eventually might develop into a viable relief option, but only significant improvement in the upper minors should earn him another shot in a big league bullpen.
I have no idea why Detroit kept Van Hekken in the minors for two years after a respectable September cup-of-coffee in 2002. He owns good respectable skills almost across-the-board as only a high hit rate concerns me at all. While Van Hekken appears ready to succeed in the right situation, he likely needs a fresh start to fulfill his potential. Make sure he secures a stable starting role in a friendlier organization before considering him for your team.
Brent Clevlen, 20, OF-R
After earning significant attention with a .260/.359/.410 and a 72:111 BB:K in 481 AB for A West Michigan(Mid) last year in his first full season following high school, Clevlen's stock dropped as much as almost any prospect in the game this year. Rather than build on his intriguing numbers, further erosion of his contact rate led to across-the-board offensive problems, resulting in a meager .650 OPS. Yet he remains reasonably patient and still owns strong skills, so although I can't recommend acquiring him right now, don't dump him for nothing if you invested a pick in Clevlen this spring.
The third overall pick in 2003, Sleeth dominated the Florida State League in his professional debut. Unfortunately, his rapid skill erosion upon joining Erie diminishes his immediate upside. The Wake Forest product needs at least another year of seasoning and might not contribute in the majors until late in 2006, making him a questionable selection in minor league drafts until he demonstrates effectiveness above A-ball.
While the upside and publicity accompanying his selection as the #2 pick this year will guarantee Verlander appears high on many Detroit prospect lists, he appears unlikely to reach the majors much before 2008 despite signing a major league contract. Verlander's ERA grew progressively worse each year at Old Dominion, and while he managed a 12.9 K/9 this year, he never registered a walk rate below a 3.3 BB/9 in any of his three seasons. This potential command difficulty provides with yet another reason to avoid Verlander next spring even in the deepest AL leagues.
Outside of Curtis Granderson, Detroit's depth rests with starting pitchers suffering from endurance and dominance questions, likely reserve outfielders, and middle infielders with intriguing power potential accompanied by contact problems. Spending top recent picks on the disappointing Scott Moore, Matt Wheatland, Eric Munson, and Matt Anderson leaves the Tigers with few truly high-upside players. Only Sleeth and Verlander seem particularly probable to join Granderson as big league starters, so searching for prospects down in this system isn't a good idea. The second best option here in most minor league drafts will be Chris Shelton, who should split 2005 between Erie and Toledo before at least winning the DH job the following spring.
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)
6:30: St. Louis@Boston
Given their superior bullpen, obvious home field advantage, and the Cardinals' unfamiliarity with Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox should take an early lead in the Series.
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