Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Koyie Hill, 25, C-S
Arizona acquired Hill from Los Angeles in the Steve Finley deal and immediately installed him as the starting catcher. He broke his right ankle after three weeks, missing the remainder of the season and allowing Chris Snyder to jump from AA to the majors, where he quickly established himself as the Diamondbacks' catcher of the future. Since Snyder possesses better plate discipline, more power potential, and stronger defensive skills, Hill now appears likely to split 2005 between AAA Albuquerque and Arizona's bench, however a strong spring still could give him a starting opportunity. Unfortunately for Hill, he instead seems set to spend several seasons as no more than a capable backup after two unimpressive campaigns in the upper minors. Gambling more than a late-round pick on him looks quite risky, although he at least possesses a statistical history that suggests he could produce surprising numbers if given the necessary opportunity.
Failure to contribute offensively as a starter down the stretch probably forces Kroeger back to the minors to begin next season. However, his overall offensive explosion in his first full year in the upper minors suggests impressive long-term upside for Kroeger, who even might secure a steady job in the majors with a strong spring. He appears capable of combining a high average with respectable power numbers, which translate into significant roto potential in hitter-friendly Arizona and should result in a starting spot no later than 2006. The biggest problem is that he faces competition from a bevy of similarly impressive young outfielders, yet still definitely consider Kroeger for your team, especially if you can nab him in a minor league round if the Diamondbacks demote him.
While his impressive plate discipline first caught my eye last season, Snyder emerged as a future star in 2004, adding demonstrating significant power potential to accompany his patience and excellent receiving skills. Posting a .785 OPS during a September cup-of-coffee, as well as an excellent 4.18 #P/PA and .87 G-F, should insure he enters spring training as Arizona's probable starter. Skipping AAA might keep Snyder's BA depressed for a couple seasons, but he seems assured to contribute double-digit homers to your team, making him a quality pick as a second catcher almost anywhere in single digits.
Craig Ansman, 26, C-R
Ansman failed to hit .300 for the first time since his 2000 debut, and his contact rate cratered back below his 2002 mark, likely due to an increase in playing time. While good patience and power potential give him definite fantasy upside, questionable defense led to Chris Snyder's promotion from AA El Paso to replace the injured Koyie Hill while Ansman spent another full season in the minors. I still like his long-term offensive potential, but Ansman no longer appears likely to develop into more than a reserve catcher, so pay little attention to him until he secures steady big league work in that role.
The third of Arizona's three early picks in 2003, D'Antona joined with the other "Three Amigos" at Lancaster, Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin, to dominate the California League. Unfortunately, D'Antona struggled after his promotion before a biceps injury ended his season in mid-July. While he still owns significant power potential, I see plenty of warning signs here, including his weak plate discipline, poor performance at El Paso, and questions regarding his eventual defensive positions. I suspect D'Antona will need at least another full year in the minors, making him no more than a decent late-round pick in long-term leagues.
Arizona's assignment of Gil first to Tucson and then the majors ranks with the worst player development decisions of the year considering he spend 2003 in the Midwest League. Yes, he possesses decent speed skills and acquitted himself respectably on defense. However, he failed to walk a single time in the majors despite a 3.65 #P/PA, and a 1.73 G-F similarly indicates no more than limited power potential. Gil's abysmal plate discipline and .403 big league OPS should insure he heads back for a couple more years of seasoning, although I never expect him to emerge as more than a capable reserve barring completely unexpected development not suggested by his statistical history.
The Diamondbacks' second round pick in 2001 still owns decent control, however a falling strikeout rate, combined with hit and homer rate problems, make Gosling no more than a questionable prospect right now. While I still see a lot of long-term upside for the relatively young southpaw, I see little reason to draft him in any league next spring unless he unexpectedly secures a rotation spot in Arizona. Even then Gosling looks like no more than a late-round flyer given his poor command.
Moving to the outfield could delay the 19th overall pick in the 2003 from securing a big league starting job, however Jackson's combination of power potential and plate discipline makes him an excellent long-term prospect. He almost certainly will receive a cup-of-coffee next September, and considering his performance in a half-season at El Paso, respectable numbers in the fall will make him a top Rookie of the Year candidate in 2006. Definitely consider selecting Jackson with an early pick in any minor league draft where he remains available.
The fourth overall pick of the 1999 draft shifted to catcher this year, which might expedite his path to the majors considering his consistently strong BA and improving plate discipline give him respectable offensive upside. However, an excellent AFL campaign might lead to his selection in the Rule 5 draft next month given his versatility. While Myers probably doesn't merit much fantasy attention right now due to the presence of Chris Snyder and Koyie Hill, he could emerge as a viable option relatively soon if he progresses behind the plate.
While Quentin's propensity as a target concerns me given his 43 HBP, he owns good plate discipline, developing patience, and excellent power potential. More importantly, his performance this season appears particularly impressive considering the 29th overall pick in the 2003 draft didn't begin his professional career until this year due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow following his selection by Arizona. He merits a high selection in any minor league or Ultra draft since his defensive skills should insure his emergence as the Diamondbacks' right fielder as soon as next fall.
Most scouts consider Santos a stronger prospect than Arizona's young outfielders, but I suspect his unimpressive 2004 campaign will downgrade the consensus opinion of his upside. Santos lacks good walk and contact rates, and his statistical history simply doesn't suggest great power potential. Questions regarding his defense all could slow his progress, so although he still seems likely to challenge for a starting spot in the Diamondbacks' infield by 2006, Santos qualifies as a fairly questionable roto pick in spring drafts.
Brian Barden, 23, 3B/2B-R
Respectable batting averages help Barden hide his poor plate discipline. His contact problems give him no more than limited power potential, so he likely lacks the bat for third base and the defensive skills to start at second. While I expect him eventually to emerge as a respectable contributor off the bench, Barden belongs on no fantasy teams until he secures a steady big league job.
After a solid 2003 campaign in the Atlantic League, Cannon joined the Diamondbacks and pitched as well as anyone at Tucson who failed to earn a promotion to Arizona. He demonstrated respectable across-the-board skills and deserves a long look in spring training, however Cannon's history of control problems indicates you should wait until he compiles several strong big league outings before considering him for your team.
Although he lacks great command, solid strikeout rates combined with a somewhat respectable performance following a double-promotion suggests Chico should develop into a decent major league pitcher. Arizona's paucity of quality left-handers similarly should speed his path to the majors, however I suspect Chico needs at least another couple years in the minors before emerging as a big league contributor.
Cota seems somewhat similar to Erubiel Durazo, but his poor plate discipline and somewhat weak power production severely limit his upside. His failure to reach AAA or even improve on his AA numbers from 2002 suggest he may peak as a AAAA player, so Cota probably doesn't merit much fantasy consideration anywhere right now
Somehow DeRenne compiled the best numbers of his career in his first season as a AAA starter. Unfortunately, his lack of speed and power leaves him unlikely to develop into more than a decent reserve, especially considering he heads into minor league free agency this winter. Only an outstanding spring will merit him any fantasy consideration.
Freed converted to the bullpen upon his trade from the Cubs two years ago, however while he roughly maintained his skills from AA last season to AAA Tucson, he still lacks acceptable command. I expect Freed to need no less than two more seasons in the upper minors before emerging as an acceptable big league relief option.
While Houston selected him in the 2002 Rule 5 draft, they returned him to Arizona the following spring. Hall demonstrated a respectable offensive skill set in his first full season above A-ball at El Paso in 2003, and then he registered even better marks prior to his promotion this year. Unfortunately, Hall possesses little power and questionable speed skills, so the minor league free agent likely won't receive a spring training invite. Expect him to spend at least a couple more years in the upper minors since Hall appears unprepared to contribute to any big league or fantasy team.
Henrie turned 25 yesterday, and while I see some upside in his command, consistently poor hit rates leave him very vulnerable on weak defensive teams. Don't expect him to emerge even as viable roster filler in the near future barring unexpected development in his overall dominance.
Effectively dominating A-ball during his first experience in full-season ball led to a mid-season double-promotion to El Paso, where he acquitted himself admirable. Juarez demonstrated strong skills across-the-board at both stops, and now he appears capable of challenging for a big league roster spot by next fall. If elbow problems hadn't ended his season in July, I expect the Diamondbacks would have placed him on their 40-man roster, but Juarez definitely should belong there next year if he echoes these marks in 2005.
Marked improvement during his relief stints suggests that Lizarraga won't develop into anything more than a spot starter. However, he owns good command and limited downside, so although I can't recommend him right now, Lizarraga might emerge as a respectable bullpen option as soon as next summer.
Pounding the ball in the upper minors gives Nichols somewhat intriguing offensive upside, especially after a breakout 2003 campaign at A+ Lancaster where he managed a .312/.380/.574 performance with 31 HR and 108 RBI in 484 AB. Unfortunately, a weak contact rate limits his upside, especially as a right-handed first baseman in an organization fairly loaded with corner options and looking to sign a veteran first baseman. Don't pay much attention to Nichols until he beats the odds to emerge as a big league contributor.
The youngster joined his fourth organization last winter as the Richie Sexson PTNB, which followed his inclusion in trades to Milwaukee for Alex Sanchez and from Cincinnati to Detroit for Brian Moehler the previous season. Taking advantage of two strong hitters' parks, Varner posted his best numbers since Rookie-ball, demonstrating good plate discipline and the high averages required of reserve outfielders. While he lacks great power and no longer owns much speed, Varner appears nearly ready to embark on a likely lengthy career as a bench jockey. As long as he roughly maintains these numbers until receiving his big league break, feel free to employ Varner as roster filler once he reaches the majors.
Stephen Drew, 21, SS-L
The 15th overall pick in the 2004 draft still could emerge as the first position player to reach the majors from his draft class. However, Drew needs to sign first, so while he might merit a high minor league pick due to his impressive upside, don't select him unless he signs with Arizona prior to your draft.
Nearly a dozen youngsters lost their rookie status on Arizona this year, including Chad Tracy, Edgar Gonzalez, Scott Hairston, Brian Bruney, and Greg Aquino, yet only Tracy, Hairston, and Aquino established themselves as quality big league contributors. However, while I don't see many great infield options still in the Diamondbacks' minors, and their pitching cupboard appears nearly dry, a wealth of young outfielders and catchers still make this team intriguing despite the prospect exodus forced by Arizona's major league ineptitude. Josh Kroeger, Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, Koyie Hill, and especially Chris Snyder warrant serious consideration in any reasonably deep league. While the presence of Luis Gonzalez, Luis Terrero, and Scott Hairston may keep the young outfielders in the minors for another year or two, both Quentin and Jackson appear virtually assured of long-term starting jobs with the Diamondbacks, making them viable keeper investments.
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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