Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Jose Capellan, 23, RH Starter
An impressive spring nearly jumped Capellan from the Sally League to the majors, but the Braves instead let him develop almost all year in the minors. He rewarded their patience be emerging as one of the most intriguing starting prospects in the game. Capellan combined 152:45 K:BB in 139.2 IP between the three highest minor league levels demonstrates great dominance and command. While he almost certainly at least will break camp in the bullpen next spring, expect Capellan to successfully challenge for a rotation slot. Given the Braves' solid defense and bullpen, I see no reason why he can't push double-digit value even as a rookie starter.
The combination of spending very well in over a month in the majors and his extremely solid marks at Richmond should insure Colon breaks camp in the Braves' bullpen. While he doesn't rank as a particularly impressive prospect, a couple Braves' middle relievers accumulate significant fantasy value every year, and Colon stands a good chance of continuing that tradition. Feel free to roster him as soon as he compiles a few strong outings to show that his success out of the bullpen in 2004 wasn't a fluke.
While Langerhans appears likely to peak as a fourth outfielder due to his contact problems, his unexpectedly dynamic season, including a power surge that exceeded his homer total from the previous two years, suddenly makes him a potential starter in a surprisingly open Atlanta outfield. A good spring showing will earn Langerhans a bench job and maybe even a starting slot, where he could post perfectly respectable offensive averages. He definitely merits consideration in the low single digits regardless of his role.
Meyer reached the majors in his third professional season, easily fulfilling the Braves' expectation when the selected him 34th overall in the 2002 draft out of James Madison. After completely dominating the Southern League, posting nearly identical numbers to his marks in each level of A-ball, he only experienced a slight downturn upon reaching Richmond. Nothing here gives any indication that Meyer isn't ready to pitch effectively in the majors. Definitely target the young southpaw in every reasonably deep league since he should contribute to fantasy teams regardless of his role in 2005.
Ray Aguilar, 24, LH Starter
Slamming up the minor league ladder in his return to the rotation following two years spend dominating in relief elevates Aguilar from a respectable relief option to a very intriguing young starter. While his difficulties at Richmond indicates he should spend much of 2005 at Richmond, a strong first half could result in him meriting attention from both the Braves and fantasy owners during the summer.
Despite the slight upside suggested by Betemit's 4.12 #P/PA and his overall developing patience, his limited power, questionable defensive skills, and poor contact rate rightfully will push him off many prospect lists. Yes, he still could develop into a capable starting infielder, but he appears far more likely to peak as a utility infielder, so I see no reason to draft him at this time.
Davies exploded onto prospect lists in 2003 by compiling a 148:53 K:BB in 146 IP for A Rome in the Sally League. He nicely built on that performance by registering a 173:57 K:BB in 142.1 IP this year. While I don't rank him with Jose Capellan or Dan Meyer due to his lack of AAA experience, Davies also could challenge for a big league job next summer. Even if he isn't worth rostering in any league right now, he warrants watching since he could emerge as a useful contributor fairly quickly.
These numbers appear particularly impressive considering Marte only turned 21 following the season in October and missed a month in the summer with a high ankle sprain. He again demonstrated excellent patience while maintaining a passable .73 contact rate and displaying obvious power. Marte probably ranks as the best third base prospect in the game with David Wright and Dallas McPherson both opening next year as big league starters, and I see no reason Marte shouldn't reach Atlanta during the second half if he echoes this performance over a few months at AAA Richmond. Place him near the top of your draft list if he somehow remains available in your league since his power potential at third base easily compensates for any potential BA problems while he adjusts to the majors.
Spending most of the year in Greenville's bullpen dims McBride's prospect star, however he remained rather dominant, effectively building on his superb A-ball performances over the past few years. Demonstrating excellent command as a starter in the Arizona Fall League should insure he receives a long look in spring training. Unfortunately, given the Braves' impressive depth of young starting pitching, I suspect McBride will spend at least a few years in Atlanta's bullpen, but if he breaks camp in the majors, a Dollar Days' investment here could net you a very intriguing keeper if he continues developing his skills.
Strong averages help obscure the breakdown of McCarthy's plate discipline. He lacks both speed and great power, so while I expect him to emerge as a respectable reserve within the next couple years, nothing in his statistical history suggests a strong likelihood that he can echo these stats as a full-time starter. Wait until he begins posting decent numbers after securing steady playing time in the majors.
Orr took advantage of an unexpected promotion to Richmond to post the best average of his career after managing only a .226/.299/.304 performance in 257 AB for AA Greenville(SL) in 2003. However, he possesses little plate discipline, so any decline in his averages will render Orr's speed skills useless. Gambling a buck isn't a terrible idea if he somehow breaks camp in the majors, but I suspect Orr needs a lot more seasoning before emerging as a respectable big league contributor.
Kevin Barry, 26, RH Reliever
While Barry should rank as a top relief prospect given his 11.9 career strikeout rate, consistent control problems could leave him short of the majors for several more seasons. Of course, since he also allows few hits and almost no home runs, his overall dominance will warrant a big league look very soon. Wait until he demonstrates the ability to avoid destroying your WHIP before considering him for your team.
After over five years in the Baltimore system, Calzado headed to Atlanta in April for a PTBNL. He continued to demonstrate good patience, intriguing speed, and a little power potential, although he failed to impress in a brief late-season audition at Richmond. While the minor league free agent should attract significant attention due to his respectable skills and position flexibility, he also appears unlikely to contribute in the majors in the near future given his limited AAA experience.
While Curtis posted the best strikeout rate of his career upon moving to the bullpen this year, he still suffered from mild control problems, and he simply didn't dominate hitters consistently. I believe the Braves should have purchased his contract to keep him from heading to minor league free agency, but Curtis doesn't rank with Atlanta's impressive pitching prospects and still re-signed with the Braves earlier this month. He likely needs at least a full year in AAA to refine his skills before challenging for a big league bullpen job.
Atlanta once again both failed to promote Hernandez despite an impressive season and refused to protect him on the 40-man roster. However, even though I expect some team to select the 5'9" fireballer in the Rule 5 draft, he may not post great numbers right away considering his strikeout rate dropped for the third straight season and his walk rate remains around 3.5 BB/9. Wait until Hernandez compiles several strong outings in the majors before considering him for your team.
Hollins acquitted himself admirably with Atlanta, and an impressive power surge should earn him additional attention next spring. Unfortunately, his questionable plate discipline and limited long-term upside only gives him a narrow window to establish himself in the majors, so I see little reason for fantasy owners to invest in him right now.
Although nearly across-the-board improvement in Johnson's second tour of the Southern League is a good sign, moving to the outfield, repeating a level, and failing to post a single skill breakout combine to worry me a great deal. The 38th player selected in the 2000 draft no longer looks likely to develop into more than a decent bench player. However, Johnson also remains relatively young and owns respectable power and patience, so while I wouldn't draft him in any league next spring, don't forget about him completely.
Jurries continued his fairly rapid climb to the majors by destroying Greenville for a month and then continuing to demonstrate his intriguing power skills at Richmond. Of course, he lacks significant long-term upside and the plate discipline necessary to earn regular playing time since he only owns mediocre power potential for a first baseman. While he might emerge as a useful fantasy option within the next few years, don't roster Jurries at this time.
The minor league free agent managed decent numbers in his first big league action. He probably belongs in the bullpen given his unimpressive dominance and good command, however until McConnell secures steady work in the majors, he merits little fantasy attention.
Managing nearly across-the-board skill development despite a promotion to Greenville looks like excellent progress for young right-handed who only compiled an 88:61 K:BB in 154 IP for A+ Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League in 2003. While Miner probably needs at least two more years of seasoning before seriously contending for a big league job, echoing this performance after another promotion will propel him near the top of Atlanta's pitching prospects.
Romano registered fairly strong numbers in his first full season back in affiliated ball after spending a few years in the Mexican League. While he managed a decent strikeout rate, control problems could keep him in the minors indefinitely, so he certainly doesn't warrant rostering in any league until further notice.
The Braves' third round pick in 2001 rebounded strongly following a terrible 2003 performance. Stern needs to improve his power output, but his solid BA and speed skills should enable him to challenge for a big league bench job sometime next year. Consider a late-round flyer on his SB upside if a strong spring allows him to unexpectedly break camp in the majors, however waiting until Stern at least echoes these marks at AAA Richmond also isn't a bad idea.
Jeff Francoeur, 20, OF-R
Francoeur returned to Myrtle Beach only a month after suffering a broken right cheekbone in July, and Atlanta rewarded him for quick rehab with a promotion to Greenville. Unfortunately, his struggles at Greenville, combined with his unimpressive .283/.301/.404 performance with a poor 2:19 BB:K in 99 AFL at-bats, strongly suggest he needs to spend a full season at both Greenville and AAA Richmond(IL). The 23rd overall pick from the 2002 draft may rank among the best outfield prospects in the majors, however Francoeur possesses relatively little plate discipline and won't succeed in the upper minors unless his patience improves. While I definitely recommend considering him in the minor league draft in any standard league, don't expect Francoeur to contribute to your team in any significant way as more than trade bait until at least 2006.
Graduating a couple of decent youngsters to the majors each year leaves Atlanta with less depth than a lot of teams, however Meyer, Capellan, Colon, and even Langerhans all appear ready to contribute. Marte also possesses more long-term fantasy potential than anyone who spent at least part of the year at Richmond. While I no longer see many great targets in the lower levels of the system due to trades and promotions, the Braves still rank among the best organizations to find young pitchers capable of developing into very strong big league 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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