Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Denny Bautista, 24, RH Starter
Despite the upside of several intriguing prospects moved during the year, Allard Baird's heist of Bautista for Jason Grimsley easily ranks as the best trade of the year. Baltimore soured on Bautista after he couldn't replicate Daniel Cabrera's completely unexpected early success in the majors. Given another couple months to develop, he pitched somewhat effectively in September with Kansas City. Now expect Bautista to spend another few months at AAA Omaha in 2005 before assuming his position behind Zach Greinke in the Royals' rotation. He possesses as much upside as any pitcher in the organization save Greinke and maybe Jeremy Affeldt, making Bautista a very viable target for anyone searching for young starters with significant long-term potential in spring drafts.
Andres Blanco, 20, SS-S
Blanco thoroughly impressed the Royals after holding his own following an April summons as an injury replacement for Angel Berroa. His 3.73 #P/PA and impressive on-base percentage demonstrated a shocking level of plate discipline, but his disastrous performance after returning to Wichita forces me to question his fast start in Kansas City. He owns only mediocre power and speed skills, and unless he holds both solid walk and contact rates, he might plateau as a defensive replacement. Of course, the Royals can give him a couple more years of seasoning with Berroa secure in the majors, so consider gambling a late pick on Blanco if you don't mind waiting until no sooner than 2006 to see any significant return on the selection.
Knee surgery immediately following his trade from the Mets ended Huber's season, always a troubling sign for a young catcher. While he possesses the skills to contribute offensively at almost any position, his uncertain role with the Royals makes him a risk after John Buck's respectable showing this year. Fortunately, Huber's bat makes him a safe gamble even if he doesn't continue to catch indefinitely.
Due to his unimpressive dominance and solid control, the 5'9" southpaw profiles as a reliever. While he may continue starting at AA Wichita next year, he almost certainly will reach the majors as part of Kansas City's bullpen, rendering him useless as a draft pick. However, keep an eye on Hughes since he could emerge as no less than solid roster filler fairly quickly given his effectiveness this season.
Murphy needs at least a couple more years of seasoning despite decent patience. He needs to continue developing power while maintaining a decent contact rate, which could keep him in the minors for a couple more years. I don't expect Murphy to contribute to fantasy teams in the near future.
Repeating AA allowed the Notre Dame product to post the best command of his career. The problem here is that a questionable strikeout rate and overall lack of dominance should force Tamayo to the bullpen. Although I expect him to contribute in Kansas City relatively soon, wait until he registers several solid big league outings before considering Tamayo for your team.
While perhaps not quite ready for the majors, Teahen should ride a strong AFL campaign into the Opening Day lineup. He won't contribute a great average, will struggle to reach double-digit homers, and could cause some problems defensively. However, his very impressive long-term offensive upside makes him a great pick in any league. Target Teahen unless all the publicity surrounding his inclusion in the Carlos Beltran deal results in unreasonable bidding into double digits.
Remaining in the rotation for the first time in two seasons, Walrond surprisingly registered perhaps the best season of his career, demonstrating both decent dominance and good control while pitching very effectively at the highest minor league levels. He deserves a long look in the spring, and even if he doesn't secure a starting slot, he appears perfectly ready to contribute out of the bullpen. Consider a Dollar Days' gamble if he breaks camp in a rotation. If Walrond instead settles back into relief work, wait until he compiles several solid outing before considering him viable roster filler.
Darren Fenster, 26, 2B/3B-R
Promising plate discipline finally translated into a strong performance at the plate for Fenster in his fifth professional season. While his negligible power and speed will keep him out of a starting job, he could contribute as a big league reserve if he continues developing offensively. Fenster just won't merit much fantasy consideration until he earns a role in the majors.
Herndon shares a birth date with fellow Wrangler Darren Fenster, but the minor league free agent still could develop into an intriguing big leaguer. He owns excellent control and could dominate if moved to relief. However, Herndon appears set as a starter, limiting his immediate upside and rendering him useless to fantasy teams.
Even a Royals' squad searching for solid southpaws can't use Keppinger, who suffered nearly across-the-board skill problems this year. While he still owns decent control, a rapid increase in hit rate upon reaching AA rarely results in youngster developing into a capable contributor in the majors.
A third round pick of Cincinnati back in 1997, Markray shifting to the mound in 2000 and suffered expected control problems. He joined the Yankees last year following a surprisingly strong Central League performance, and after departing New York, he returned to the Central League, earning a late-season look for Wichita. Markray's impressive performance should keep him in the Royals's system, so while he needs to continue developing, he owns relatively intriguing upside.
With questionable skills and a limited ceiling, Middleton even might begin a second season at Wichita. Of course, even reaching AA qualifies as a success for the 49th round draft-and-follow. Steady advancement up the minor league ladder also could result in a move into the bullpen at AAA Omaha, a move that should expedite his path to the majors. Middleton may not merit much fantasy consideration in the near future, but he possesses sufficient control at least to remain in the upper minors indefinitely.
Returning to Wichita resulted in a terrible season for Natale, who now may struggle to reach the majors after compiling a 3.14 ERA over the previous four years. Respectable command and a decent strikeout rate will keep him employed, but ignore him until his hit rate rebounds closer to an acceptable level.
Completing his move to the bullpen unsurprisingly allowed Nine to dominate AA hitters, however control problems still might keep him from seeing much time in the majors. See how he handles a full year in a AAA bullpen before considering him anywhere.
Two strong seasons at AA Wichita in 1999 and 2000 established Phillips as a decent prospect, but he only batted 59 times over the next three years due to injury. His return to full-time duty this summer resulted in a deserving call-up, and while he only ranks third on the Royals' depth chart right now, he owns the skills necessary to emerge as a long-term backup backstop. Of course, like any other aspiring reserve catcher, Phillips won't merit fantasy consideration until he secures a regular role in the majors.
Santos added an extra ten homers in his second season at Wichita. Unfortunately, he produced only a marginally superior overall offensive performance despite similar improvement in his walk and contact rates. He looks very unlikely to succeed if promoted a level to begin 2005, and remaining at one level for three years is not a good sign for any youngster. Don't expect him to emerge as more than a marginal contributor barring an unexpected permanent power surge.
The minor league free agent stumbled upon his quick promotion up the ladder. However, he demonstrated decent control in his big league debut and warrants a long look next spring from some team. Serrano soon may contribute in the majors, although wait until he registers several solid outings before considering him anywhere.
Kansas City's second round pick in 2000 no longer even looks likely to emerge as a Royals' reserve. Acquiring John Buck and Justin Huber pushed Tonis way down the depth chart, and after a second straight season of struggling at the plate for Wichita, he probably won't hit in the majors. Do not roster him at any point in the foreseeable future.
Without much success in two AAA stints, Trujillo's solid performance at Wichita doesn't impress me. While he possesses marginal long-term upside, I see nothing here to indicate that Trujillo will return to the majors in the near future.
Vasquez's dominance doesn't surprise me, but the Royals' failure to challenge him with a move to Omaha isn't a good sign. Increasing control problems also worry me, so I no longer foresee Vasquez emerging as more than a passable component of a big league bullpen. He doesn't belong on anyone's fantasy roster right now.
Mitch Maier, 22, 3B-L
I expect Maier to finish moving to the outfield if Mark Teahen continues hitting, enabling last year's first round pick to take advantage of his impressive speed without risking committing another 27 errors in 119 games. Yes, contact problems could slow Maier's progress, but he could challenge for a big league roster spot as soon as next fall. Considering the unimpressive crop of outfielders still in the system, the Royals will let him move fairly quickly to join David DeJesus in Kansas City, making Maier a fair late-round roto gamble.
Despite the obvious disappointment at regressing so horribly this season, Allard Baird completed several strong moves during the year, only overtly losing a deal when he lost Byron Gettis on waivers. Baird turned a waiver claim of Jose Bautista into Justin Huber, parlayed Carlos Beltran into an acceptable return of Mark Teahen, John Buck, and Mike Wood, moved minor league free agent Rudy Seanez to Florida for Abraham Nunez, and robbed Baltimore of Denny Bautista for Jason Grimsley. All six of these players should contribute in the majors in 2005, and Bautista, Teahen, and Huber own the skills to develop into special players. Unfortunately, graduating Zach Greinke to the majors leaves little homegrown talent, so generally wait until the Royals' others youngsters begin succeeding in Kansas City before looking to acquire them.
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)
7:10: St. Louis@Boston
After pulling out last night's win, the Red Sox, behind a rested Curt Schilling, easily should defeat Matt Morris, pitching on only three days' rest. I see no reason Boston won't hold a 2-0 lead heading to St. Louis barring even more damning defensive miscues.
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