Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Scott Atchison, 28, RH Reliever
Seattle finally promoted Atchison after his third straight successful season at Tacoma. He unsurprisingly flourished down the stretch, demonstrating solid all-around skills while establishing his big league credentials in an injury-depleted bullpen. Atchison's success should guarantee he breaks camp with the Mariners next spring, and he could coast to double-digit value as a reliable middle reliever in Safeco. Strongly consider him during Dollar Days when seeking to improve your qualitative foundation.
While he needs to develop more dominance, only his poor ground-fly rate will keep him from pitching effectively in the majors. Baek owns good control and benefits from playing home games in Safeco. Expect him to compete for a rotation spot in spring training. Although he probably needs another half-season in the minors, Baek merits a late-round flyer if he breaks camp with the Mariners.
The best long-term pitching prospect in baseball now appears on the cusp of the majors after a second straight dominant season. He could join the Mariners as soon as next summer if he echoes these numbers at AAA Tacoma. Only injury appears able to prevent Hernandez from emerging as a premiere big league starter, so strongly consider selecting him in any league where he remains available. Hernandez owns the skills necessary to earn double-digit value in only a half-season in the majors. If he spends one more year in the minors, don't be surprised if Hernandez approaches $20 while winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2006.
Only a mental breakdown by Seattle management should prevent Reed from earning double-digit value in 2004. He owns excellent plate discipline, respectable power potential supported by a 1.20 G-F, and intriguingly strong speed skills. Reed's outstanding play in September hopefully secured him a starting spot in the crowded Mariners' outfield, however his skill set suggests he won't budge from the lineup for the rest of the decade. Consider Reed the safest buy among AL rookies in 2005, so feel free to push into double digits to secure the youngster in spring draft, especially in long-term leagues where he might earn twice his salary as soon as 2006.
A broken right hamate bone and cartilage damage suffered early in spring training cost Snelling nearly the entire season. With fewer at-bats over the last three years than he accumulated in 2001 alone, his lack of batting repetitions leaves his offensive upside severely in doubt. While Snelling likely can hold a .300 average in the majors, his lack of secondary skill development suggests the need for more seasoning. A good spring could earn him Seattle's DH job, but I instead expect him to spends a few months at both AA San Antonio and AAA Tacoma before a September cup-of-coffee.
Knee problems limited Strong's playing time, however his impressive performance in limited at-bats should earn him a long look in the spring. Unfortunately, with Ichiro, Jeremy Reed, Randy Winn, and Raul Ibanez already slated for Seattle's OF/1B/DH rotation, along with a strong likelihood of signing a power-hitting first baseman, Strong seems likely to emerge in Seattle a reserve outfielder. Of course, his speed and plate discipline make him ideal for that role, so I see no reason not to target him as your fifth outfielder if he breaks camp in the majors. He almost certainly will register a couple dozen steals accompanied by an above-average BA, pushing double-digit value even if he accumulates fewer than 200 at-bats.
Travis Blackley, 21, LH Starter
Six disastrous starts for Seattle in the middle of the summer sent Blackley back to Tacoma, and then shoulder tendonitis ended his season at the beginning of September. Fortunately, he doesn't turn 22 until next week, and he compiled relatively strong skills in the minors this year. Spending another half-season at Tacoma should allow Blackley to refine his control, placing him in line to replace Jaime Moyer in the rotation in 2006. Consider spending a low-round pick on Blackley, especially in deep sim leagues, since I see a lot of long-term upside in the young lefty's stats.
Boosting his contact rate to .81 in his first year above A-ball suggests Choo will develop into a quality big league hitter. His increasingly impressive speed skills should intrigue all roto owners, so even if he lacks great power potential, he appears able to contribute in every other category. Expect Choo to spend most of 2005 at AAA Tacoma before pushing Jeremy Reed to left field in September, giving Seattle an amazingly fleet and disciplined outfield trio for the rest of the decade.
The 11th overall selection in the 1999 draft only turns 24 next spring, so he still should develop into a decent big league catcher. Christianson re-signed with the Mariners this fall after they outrighted his contract in the middle of the year, so if no one takes him in the Rule 5 draft, he should return to Tacoma, perhaps emerging as Miguel Olivo's backup next September. Although Christianson merits no fantasy consideration right now, his increasing upside warrants additional attention during the 2005 season.
Dobbs demonstrated both solid patience and power potential with the Mariners, however his poor overall plate discipline likely will keep him from any significant big league contribution. He appears most likely to emerge as a pinch-hitter and reserve cornerman, so while Seattle expects him to develop into a decent starter, Dobbs' questionable skills suggest fantasy owners should look elsewhere when seeking young position prospects.
The former pitching prospect continues to rake as an outfielder, demonstrating both good plate discipline and promising power potential as he reached the cusp of the majors. Expect Jacobs to receive an extended look in spring training, however even if he fails to break camp with Seattle, he easily could earn a mid-season promotion. While I can't recommend him right now even in deep leagues since he may not offer much upside in a limited role, Jacobs owns the skills necessary to emerge as a surprising contributor if given an opportunity as a starter.
Tommy John surgery in May ended Looper's season relatively early, preventing him from enjoying the extended look in Seattle that benefited many of his Rainiers' teammates. While he owns an intriguing history of consistent dominance, control problems, coupled with his current injury, make him a very risky fantasy option. Wait until Looper secures a steady role in Seattle's bullpen before considering him for your team.
Acquired with Jeremy Reed and Miguel Olivo for Freddy Garcia, Morse appears unlikely to remain at shortstop much longer after committing 20 errors in 94 games this year. His negligible speed, questionable plate discipline, and developing power all suggest he soon should shift to third base, however Morse's overall offensive profile isn't overly impressive. While I expect Seattle will give him a few chances to develop into a quality big leaguer, I see no reason to invest in Morse right now in any fantasy league.
Shoulder surgery last fall cost Taylor the first half of 2004, but he strongly rebounded after returning to dominate the Texas League. He appears nearly ready for the majors, however his failure to contribute to the Mariners this year allowed Scott Atchison and George Sherrill to secure bullpen spots, leaving Taylor fighting for no more than one or two roster openings. Given Taylor's historical control problems, wait until he registers a few solid big league outings before considering him anywhere.
The future utility infielder posted his best offensive numbers in his first year out of A-ball. He could challenge for a bench job as soon as next fall, however wait until he secures a steady role before considering Brown for your team in any league.
Acquired from Colorado for Allan Simpson last December, Buglovsky demonstrated across-the-board skill improvement in his second tour of the Texas League. I suspect his lack of dominance eventually will push him in the bullpen, leaving him as little more than organizational filler for Seattle at the moment. Don't expect him even to reach the majors earlier than 2006 barring severe injury problems on the Mariners.
Christman finally compiled promising numbers over several months at AAA. His previous failure to maintain respectable skills anywhere above A-ball pushed him to the independent leagues last year, but now he only needs a chance as an injury replacement to contribute in the majors. Of course, Christman still possesses very limited upside, so don't even consider him as roster filler unless he strongly echoes these stats over several big league appearances.
A second strong season for an affiliated minor league still doesn't make Delucchi a great prospect given his age, but his solid plate discipline and respectable speed skills give him some long-term upside. He'll warrant more attention from fantasy owners if he repeats this performance at AAA Tacoma.
Obvious control problems make Dorman a severe risk, especially since he probably belongs in the bullpen. He won't merit much attention until he adds improved command to his impressive dominance.
Seattle foolishly gave him a shot at Tacoma after Guzman posted decent numbers at San Antonio last year. His nearly across-the-board offensive struggles should keep him in the minors indefinitely.
While Lopez finally received a long overdue cup-of-coffee, he still appears unable to secure the extended look in the majors that his AAA performance warrants. His .372 career OBP, coupled with respectable speed skills and useful position flexibility, should attract the attention of sabermetrically-inclined general managers as long as Lopez doesn't re-sign with Seattle one more time. Wait until Lopez enter a better situation before giving him any fantasy consideration.
Promoted from Inland Empire in September as the Mariners' third catcher, Rivera needs at least two more full years of development time in the minors. He lacks any significant offensive skill. Coupled with the presence of Miguel Olivo in the majors, Rivera possesses no current fantasy value.
Ward's strong performance this year could lead to a spring training invite, especially if he returns to relief work. However, his inability to emerge as more than a AAAA pitcher into his 30s significantly reduces his chance of enjoying any extended big league career. I don't envision Ward contributing to any fantasy team in the foreseeable future.
His control unexpectedly vanished this season, leaving Williams effectively useless despite respectable dominance. Barring an abrupt drop in his walk rate, Williams should not contribute in the majors any time soon.
Building on his respectable AA performance in 2003 led to a career year for the strikeout-prone first baseman. While Zapp's power will draw attention as a minor league free agent, his questionable contact rate could leave him a AAAA batter indefinitely. I don't envision him receiving an extended look in the near future barring surprising skill development, however he could emerge rather quickly as a viable fantasy option if given the necessary opportunity.
Bumping his strikeout rate from 5.3 K/9 last year to a 6.8 mark in the California League suggests Livingston should remain effective in the higher levels of the system. He owns solid all-around skills and relatively little downside. However, I also can't recommend him too strongly until he conquers AA, leaving Livingston as someone to consider drafting only in the deepest AL leagues.
The Mariners graduated several youngsters to the majors this year, including the extremely effective Bobby Madritsch and intriguing infielders Jose Lopez and Bucky Jacobsen. However, thanks to the Freddy Garcia, Seattle's top hitting and pitching prospect each rank among the best youngsters in the game. While I don't see significant depth here after giving up several early picks in recent drafts for signing free agents, the talent at the upper rungs of the minor league ladder remains quite strong. Jeremy Reed and Felix Hernandez each own tremendous long-term potential, and several other young outfielder and pitchers, specifically Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Blackley, should develop into useful contributors.
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. Minnesota Twins(Bartlett, Kubel, Tiffee, Crain, S.Baker)
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