Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Matt Diaz, 26, OF-R
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.
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.
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.
Jason Hammel, 22, LH Starter
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brooks Badeuax, 28, 2B-L
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Elijah Dukes, 18, OF-S
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.
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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