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October
29th
2004
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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Post-2004 Prospect Review: Tampa Bay
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Likely 2005 September Call-ups
Potential Reserve Help
Minor League Draft Picks
Organization Rankings
Tampa Bay's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects


Prospects with Double-Digit Upside

Matt Diaz, 26, OF-R
4/21 for .190/.292/.476 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 1:6 BB:K for Tampa Bay.
167/503 for .332/.377/.571 with 21 HR, 93 RBI, 81 R, 15/19 SB%,
and a 26:96 BB:K for AAA Durham(IL).

His weak plate discipline concerns me, but Diaz offers an intriguing right-handed power bat that belongs in the Tampa lineup. Given his overall quantitative upside, not to mention a career minor league average well over .300, I don't know why the Rays haven't given him a longer look. He now appears likely to head back to Durham once again barring a great spring. However, if given the opportunity, he owns the skills necessary to enjoy a .300/20/80 season in the middle of Tampa's batting order, making him someone to watch during spring training.


Joey Gathright, 23, OF-L
13/52 for .250/.316/.250 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 11 R, 6/7 SB%,
and a 2:14 BB:K for Tampa Bay.
77/236 for .326/.384/.373 with 0 HR, 8 RBI, 34 R, 33/46 SB%,
and a 19:46 BB:K for AAA Durham(IL).
43/126 for .341/.399/.397 with 0 HR, 8 RBI, 23 R, 10/16 SB%,
and an 11:30 BB:K for AA Montgomery(SL).

Gathright probably owns the best speed skills of any respectable prospect in the minors. Tampa's treatment of him this season, involving multiple call-ups without consistent playing time, makes no sense, especially since he looks like an excellent long-term leadoff man and centerfielder. At least he managed a 3.93 #P/PA with the Rays, along with an extremely intriguing 9.00 G-F that indicates Gathright's recognition of how to benefit from his speed. All he needs is a starting job and 500 at-bats to cruise to a $30 value on the basis of his steals alone. Only playing time stands between Gathright and a peak near $50 if he combines a .300+ BA with 60 steals, so definitely attempt to roster him if he opens next year in the majors.


Jonny Gomes, 23, OF-R
1/14 for .071/.133/.071 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 1:6 BB:K for Tampa Bay.
100/390 for .256/.368/.531 with 26 HR, 78 RBI, 73 R, 8/13 SB%,
and a 51:136 BB:K for AAA Durham(IL).

Despite impressive power potential and respectable speed skills, Gomes' inability to push his contact rate much above 67% likely leaves him stuck in the upper minors indefinitely. Some teams don't object to power prospects with lofty strikeout totals, but Tampa's excess of quality young outfielders instead renders Gomes effectively useless to fantasy owners until he secures a starting job. Of course, please feel free to bid several bucks on Gomes even if he just lands as the Rays' part-time DH. I expect him to take advantage of any regular at-bats he receives in the majors to hold his slugging percentage near .500, although Gomes also could you're your BA barring unlikely contact development. Make sure you can absorb his potential .220 mark if you target him.


Likely 2005 September Call-ups

Jason Hammel, 22, LH Starter
6-2 on a 65:20 K:BB in 71.1 IP over 11 GS
with 52 H, 4 HR, and a 1.89 ERA for A+ Bakersfield(Cal).
4-7 on an 88:27 K:BB in 94.2 IP over 18 GS
with 94 H, 7 HR, and a 3.23 ERA for A Charleston-SC(SAL).

Although he probably won't see more than a cup-of-coffee or two until 2007 barring another leap in his development, Hammel's combination of dominance and command ranks him among the most interesting pitchers in the organization. Of course, his unimpressive statistical history prior to this season suggests you wait until he echoes these marks in the upper rungs of the system before considering him in any league.


Vince Harrison, 24, 3B-R
49/184 for .266/.372/.402 with 5 HR, 27 RBI, 21 R, 5/8 SB%,
and a 24:34 BB:K for AA Montgomery(SL).
72/256 for .281/.399/.484 with 11 HR, 42 RBI, 46 R, 8/13 SB%,
and a 45:49 BB:K for A+ Bakersfield(Cal).

With Tampa's future infield alignment still in flux, Harrison could merit consideration for a starting spot by 2006 if he continues developing his on-base skills. Of course, he lacks obvious power potential, so I suspect he may peak as a AAAA hitter, so don't draft him for any fantasy team until he either experiences a power surge or posts an OBP near .400 over a few hundred AAA at-bats.


Scott Kazmir, 20, LH Starter
2-3 on a 41:21 K:BB in 33.1 IP over 7 GS(8G)
with 33 H, 4 HR, a .97 G-F, and a 5.67 ERA for Tampa Bay.
2-1 on a 29:9 K:BB in 26 IP over 4 GS
with 16 H, 0 HR, and a 1.73 ERA for AA Binghamton(EL).
1-2 on a 24:11 K:BB in 25 IP over 4 GS
with 14 H, 0 HR, and a 1.44 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).
1-2 on a 51:22 K:BB in 50 IP over 11 GS
with 49 H, 3 HR, and a 3.42 ERA for A+ St. Lucie(FSL).

Stealing Kazmir from a noncontending Mets' team always should rank as Chuck LaMar's best move, almost compensating for dealing Bobby Abreu for Kevin Stocker. Kazmir only needs to develop better control to excel in the majors as he clearly dominated opposing lineups in a majority of his starts. Only the standard healthy concerns facing any young pitcher should keep him from developing into a true ace. Hopefully Tampa will give him another couple months of seasoning, but Kazmir essentially appears ready for the majors. The Rays' excellent young defense should keep Kazmir's hits and therefore his ERA depressed, making him a decent spring target for a few bucks. Of course, the hype surrounding the rookie southpaw might push his price to an unacceptable level above double digits, so please don't make Kazmir the centerpiece of any rebuilding plan. He possesses incredible upside but likely won't approach $20 until near the end of the decade.


Pete LaForest, 26, C-L
61/275 for .222/.309/.367 with 7 HR, 31 RBI, 37 R, 1/2 SB%,
and a 35:64 BB:K for AAA Durham(IL).

Multiple injuries derailed a second straight season for LaForest. He at least enjoyed a strong Olympics, hitting .300 with 2 HR, 8 RBI, and 7 walks in 30 at-bats for Canada, however LaForest no longer looks like a probable replacement for Toby Hall in the near future. Without much power development, his consistent contact problems severely limit his value. Don't consider him in the spring unless looking for insurance on Hall in very deep AL leagues.


Franklin Nunez, 27, RH Reliever
0-3 on a 14:7 K:BB in 10.2 IP over 8 G
with 11 H, 1 HR, a 1.67 G-F, and a 5.91 ERA for Tampa Bay.
4-2 and 9 Saves on a 70:34 K:BB in 51.1 IP over 40 G
with 36 H, 1 HR, and a 2.81 ERA for AAA Durham(IL).
0-1 on a 19:3 K:BB in 10.2 IP over 6 G
with 4 H, 0 HR, and a 0.84 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).

Injuries kept Nunez from fixing his command as a starter for Philadelphia, and while he still lacks great control, his impressive dominance should keep him on the cusp of the majors indefinitely. Unfortunately, he shouldn't receive a long look with Tampa unless his walk rate drops. I don't envision Nunez helping fantasy teams in the near foreseeable future barring unlikely skill development.


Chad Orvella, 24, RH Reliever
0-0 on a 2:1 K:BB in 1.2 IP over 2 G
with 1 H, 1 HR, and a 5.40 ERA for AAA Durham(IL).
0-0 and 4 Saves on a 14:0 K:BB in 7 IP over 6 G
with 0 H, 0 HR, and a 0.00 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).
0-1 and 4 Saves on a 24:4 K:BB in 17.2 IP over 15 G
with 13 H, 2 HR, and a 3.06 ERA for A+ Bakersfield(Cal).
1-0 and 4 Saves on a 76:5 K:BB in 47.1 IP over 22 G
with 28 H, 4 HR, and a 1.33 ERA for A Charleston-SC(SAL).

Orvella returned from minor knee surgery during his professional debut to slam through all four full-season Tampa affiliates. He compiled a combined 12 Saves and a 1.58 ERA on a 116:10 K:BB in 79.2 IP with 42 H and 7 HR allowed. The power pitcher should break into the Rays' relief corps next summer before potentially assuming closer duties in 2006. His nearly unbelievable level of dominance and control might make him the best relief prospect in the game, however given his limited experience above A-ball, waiting until he secures a big league bullpen job remains the best course of action before rostering him in any fantasy league.


Chris Seddon, 21, LH Starter
9-10 on a 102:44 K:BB in 119 IP over 21 GS
with 129 H, 19 HR, and a 4.39 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).
5-0 on a 41:8 K:BB in 41.1 IP over 7 GS
with 30 H, 0 HR, and a 0.65 ERA for A+ Bakersfield(Cal).

The young southpaw posted his best overall season, pitching effectively at Mongtomery after dominating the California League for six weeks. He needs at least another year of seasoning, but Seddon soon should challenge for a spot in Tampa's rotation. Although inconsistent command makes him too risky to draft in most leagues right now, a respectable performance at AAA Durham might warrant some consideration as soon he debuts in the majors.


Delmon Young, 19, OF-R
164/513 for .320/.386/.536 with 25 HR, 115 RBI, 95 R, 21/27 SB%,
and a 53:120 BB:K for A Charleston-SC(SAL).

Considering Young didn't turn 19 until September, I see few problems in these stats. The combination of a .10 walk rate, .77 contact rate, and 78% SB success rate give him an excellent all-around skill foundation that his .922 OPS only enhances. While I expect him to spend two more seasons in the minors before taking his place in the middle of the Tampa lineup, Young appears on track to develop into a prodigious offensive threat. He merits a very high pick in any league he remains available.


Potential Reserve Help

Brooks Badeuax, 28, 2B-L
63/193 for .326/.377/.404 with 1 HR, 18 RBI, 26 R, 1/3 SB%,
and a 16:23 BB:K for AAA Durham(IL).

Badeaux registered his best averages in the least playing time of his career, suggesting he could remain effective in the majors as a utility infielder. While his plate discipline indicates a strong likelihood that he'd hold a respectable batting average, Badeaux's negligible quantitative upside makes him worthless to roto teams until he finds a big league job.


Matt Carnes, 29, RH Reliever
4-2 and 2 Saves on a 43:22 K:BB in 53.2 IP over 1 GS(28G)
with 58 H, 3 HR, and a 3.02 ERA for AAA Durham(IL).
3-0 on a 33:9 K:BB in 34.2 IP over 5 GS
with 35 H, 3 HR, and a 1.82 ERA for I Somerset(Atlantic).

Minnesota's multiple failures to realize Carnes belonged in the bullpen pushed him out of the organization before he received a shot in the majors. After a brief appearance in the independent leagues, Carnes signed with Tampa and posted a surprisingly strong skill set in his first full season in relief since 1999. Carnes offers mildly intriguing upside as no worse than roster filler as soon as he registers a few solid outings in the majors.


Austin Coose, 25, RH Reliever
5-4 and 2 Saves on a 60:23 K:BB in 56.2 IP over 43 G
with 51 H, 4 HR, and a 3.18 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).

Coose compiled a career-best skill set despite spending almost all of his three previous seasons suffering control problems in A-ball. His overall dominance this year should push him to the edge of the majors, especially if he enjoys a strong camp. Expect him to receive his first cup-of-coffee next summer before settling into the Rays' bullpen the following season.


Tim Corcoran, 26, RH Reliever
3-3 on a 40:33 K:BB in 50.2 IP over 33 G
with 46 H, 4 HR, and a 3.91 ERA for AAA Durham(IL).
0-1 on a 12:3 K:BB in 16.1 IP over 2 GS(6G)
with 14 H, 2 HR, and a 2.76 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).

Consistent control problems render Coose effectively useless right now. I don't envision him contributing in the majors any time in the near future despite his decent ERA at Durham this season.


Jason Cromer, 23, LH Starter
9-11 on an 86:46 K:BB in 147.1 IP over 26 GS(27G)
with 180 H, 8 HR, and a 4.15 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).

I expect Cromer's unimpressive strikeout totals and elevated hit rate will force him to the bullpen within the next few years, however his continued success as a starter at least insures he'll remain in a rotation next year. He should move to AAA Durham, however more disciplined hitters could take advantage of Cromer's general lack of dominance, so I see no reason to roster him in any fantasy league.


Carlos Hines, 24, RH Reliever
4-2 and 5 Saves on a 64:22 K:BB in 79.2 IP over 1 GS(43G)
with 82 H, 4 HR, and a 4.41 ERA for AA Mongtomery(SL).

Although Hines failed to dominate in his second season as a reliever and first full year above A-ball, he maintained good control and a respectable strikeout rate, so he should move to AAA Durham next year. However, he may struggle to find consistent work in an increasingly impressive Rays' bullpen, so Hines won't merit any fantasy consideration until he registers several solid outings in the majors.


Jim Magrane, 26, RH Starter
8-5 on a 65:42 K:BB in 132.2 IP over 21 GS(25G)
with 160 H, 18 HR, and a 3.93 ERA for AAA Durham(IL).
1-2 on a 9:7 K:BB in 17 IP over 3 GS
with 17 H, 0 HR, and a 6.35 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).

Magrane essentially qualifies as organization filler. His poor command and consistently weak strikeout rate render him nearly useless as more than an occasional spot starter in the majors. While he remains a decent AAA starter despite his weak skills, you obviously shouldn't draft Magrane in any league.


Jarod Matthews, 21, RH Swingman
3-7 on an 84:25 K:BB in 100.2 IP over 15 GS(24G)
with 85 H, 12 HR, and a 3.67 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).

With strong all-around skills and two strong seasons as an A-ball starter behind him, Matthews should continue starting indefinitely. I see significant upside given his excellent control and respectable dominance, however he also possesses less potential than many starters already in Tampa. Wait until he reaches the majors before considering Matthews anywhere.


Travis Minix, 27, RH Reliever
3-0 and 1 Save on a 28:10 K:BB in 36 IP over 22 G
with 39 H, 6 HR, and a 4.75 ERA for AAA Durham(IL).
0-0 on an 18:3 K:BB in 15.1 IP over 12 G
with 12 H, 1 HR, and a 1.76 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).

Tampa bizarrely forced Minix to start a third straight season in the Southern League before finally promoting him to Durham. While he demonstrated increased downside in the International League, Minix also maintained strong strikeout and walk rates, suggesting he soon should warrant a look in the Rays' bullpen. Of course, given his slow progress through the system, I suspect Minix won't reach the majors until he finds a more appreciative organization, so he possesses negligible fantasy value right now.


John Webb, 25, RH Starter
0-0 on a 9:7 K:BB in 9 IP over 4 G
with 12 H, 2 HR, a 9-13 G-F, and a 7.00 ERA for Tampa Bay.
1-3 on a 22:14 K:BB in 33 IP over 6 GS
with 31 H, 5 HR, and a 3.27 ERA for AAA Durham(IL).
2-1 on a 12:8 K:BB in 26.1 IP over 3 GS(9G)
with 26 H, 3 HR, and a 4.10 ERA for AA Montgomery(SL).

Webb broke his ankle in a February incident while chasing his dog at home, prompting an attempt by the Cubs to remove him from the 40-man roster. Tampa instead snagged him off waivers, and he pitched reasonably well in the second half. Although he doesn't look like a long-term solution in the Rays' rotation and still needs AAA work, Webb at least adds depth to their system. Unfortunately, I don't see him providing a similar service for any fantasy teams in the near future barring very unexpected skill development.


Minor League Draft Picks

Elijah Dukes, 18, OF-S
70/211 for .332/.416/.540 with 8 HR, 34 RBI, 44 R, 16/23 SB%,
and a 26:50 BB:K for A+ Bakersfield(Cal).
47/163 for .288/.368/.423 with 2 HR, 15 RBI, 26 R, 14/15 SB%,
and 18:47 BB:K for A Charleston-SC(SAL).

Slamming through A-ball in his first full minor league season significantly boosts Dukes' prospect profile. He shockingly earned a promotion to the California League before Delmon Young and then improved his performance nearly across-the-board against tougher competition. Of course, missing a month in the middle of the season to attend anger management training dims his luster, however Dukes still should open 2005 at AA Montgomery as a teenager, a remarkable accomplishment that gives Tampa another potential All-Star outfielder. Despite the system-wide depth at his position and general lack of discipline, Dukes merits a high minor league pick next spring in any reasonably deep league.


Aside from players listed above, no other Tampa Bay prospect deserves consideration in 2005 fantasy drafts. No Devil Ray lost his rookie status by exceeding the service time minimum.


Organization RankingsGraduating B.J. Upton to the majors slightly earlier than expected cost the Rays their best rookie, a poor organizational decision due to Lou Piniella's apparent unwillingness to allow him to improve his consistency at shortstop in Tampa, not to mention the addition of an unnecessary two months in the majors to Upton's service time. Of course, I can't truly fault the development system after the success of Aubrey Huff, Toby Hall, Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, and now Upton. This solid young offensive core should remain productive for the rest of the decade, and I still like the upside of pitchers like Dewon Brazelton and Doug Waechter. However the prospect pipeline isn't so strong right now. Yes, Gathright, Kazmir, Young, and even Dukes all possess excellent long-term potential, and a few other pitchers could emerge as decent options, but I see little depth here, particularly in the infield.

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)
2. Oakland Athletics(D.Johnson, Swisher, Blanton, Street)
3. Seattle Mariners(Je.Reed, Choo, J.Strong, Fe.Hernandez)
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays(Gathright, Kazmir, Delmon Young)
5. Anaheim Angels(McPherson, Kotchman, Callaspo, E.Aybar)
6. Cleveland Indians(F.Cabrera, Denney, F.Gutierrez, Aubrey)
7. New York Yankees(Halsey, D.Navarro, E.Duncan)
8. Baltimore Orioles(Majewski, W.Young, Maine)
9. Chicago White Sox(W.Valdez, B.McCarthy)
10. Kansas City Royals(Teahen, Den.Bautista, Maier)
11. Boston Red Sox(H.Ramirez, B.Moss)
12. Detroit Tigers(Granderson, Giarratano)


Today's Fantasy Rx: While Joey Gathright never will possess the power potential of Carl Crawford or B.J. Upton, he owns more SB upside than the more established Devil Rays' speedsters. If he wins a starting job in the spring while demonstrating decent plate discipline, consider a significant investment in Gathright anywhere you need a significant infusion of steals.


Tampa Bay's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2005
1. Joey Gathright, OF
2. Matt Diaz, OF
3. Scott Kazmir, SP
4. Jonny Gomes, OF
5. Delmon Young, OF
6. Jarrod Matthews, SP
7. Jason Cromer, SP
8. Elijah Dukes, OF
9. Pete LaForest, C
10. Travis Minix, RP
11. Chad Orvella, RP
12. Vince Harrison, 3B
13. Chris Seddon, SP
14. Jason Hammel, SP
15. Franklin Nunez, RP


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