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Your Daily Fantasy Rx
Post-2004 Prospect Review: Chicago(N)
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
The Cubs' Top 15 Fantasy Prospects

Prospects with Double-Digit Upside

Jason DuBois, 25, OF-R
5/23 for .217/.240/.435 with 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 1:7 BB:K for Chicago(N).
122/386 for .316/.389/.630 with 31 HR, 99 RBI, 76 R, 2/2 SB%,
and a 41:97 BB:K for AAA Iowa(PCL).

Despite Dusty Baker's preference for veterans and the calls from Cubs' press and fans to deploy a 2005 outfield of Corey Patterson, Carlos Beltran, and Cliff Floyd, DuBois deserves a starting job after an excellent season at Iowa. He owns significant power potential and good patience, although his questionable contact rate rightfully concerns some analysts. However, I still see a lot to like in the offensive profile of DuBois, so as long as he appears likely to see regular playing time even as a just a platoon partner to a lesser free agent, an investment of a few bucks in DuBois should pay off very nicely.

Likely 2005 September Call-ups

Dwaine Bacon, 25, OF-S
110/444 for .248/.373/.340 with 3 HR, 32 RBI, 80 R, 60/80 SB%,
and an 81:139 BB:K for AA West Tenn(SL).

While Bacon possesses very little power, his prodigious speed skills, promising patience, and rather solid on-base percentage appear increasingly intriguing. Yes, a .713 OPS in the Southern League isn't a good mark for a 25-year-old outfielder, but Bacon's speed makes him a potentially solid roto asset. Of course, you shouldn't consider him until he begins contributing in the majors, however he at least merits more attention than the similarly-skilled Esix Snead given Bacon's relative youth and superior walk rate.

Bobby Brownlie, 24, RH Starter
9-9 on a 114:36 K:BB in 147.1 IP over 26 GS
with 127 H, 15 HR, and a 3.36 ERA for AA West Tenn(SL).

The 21st overall pick of the 2003 draft regained full health this year and excelled at West Tenn after only 13 starts last year in the Florida State League. Brownlie owns solid skills across-the-board, and if he echoes these numbers at Iowa, he'll reach Wrigley by September and compete for a rotation spot the following spring. I see little reason not to consider Brownlie as the Cubs' rookie pitcher closest to emerging as a significant contributor in the majors.

Jon Connolly, 21, LH Starter
1-0 on an 8:1 K:BB in 6 IP over 1 GS
with 4 H, 0 HR, and a 1.50 ERA for AA West Tenn(SL).
11-7 on a 109:29 K:BB in 153 IP over 25 GS
with 151 H, 10 HR, and a 2.59 ERA between A+ Lakeland(FSL) and A+ Daytona(FSL).

Snagged from Detroit in a spring trade for Felix Sanchez, Connolly nicely built upon his minor league-leading 1.41 ERA in the Midwest League a year ago. He maintained his strikeout rate while cutting his walk rate, so he at least appears likely to remain effective over a full season at West Tenn. I can't recommend him until he demonstrates some ability to succeed in the high minors despite a questionable fastball, but definitely still monitor his progress since any young lefty with great command offers intriguing long-term potential.

Matt Craig, 23, 3B-S
103/375 for .275/.363/.509 with 20 HR, 62 RBI, 63 R, 3/5 SB%,
and a 49:101 BB:K for AA West Tenn(SL).

I don't envision Craig developing into a serious challenger to Aramis Ramirez at third base for Chicago, but his 19 errors in 100 games aren't terrible numbers. Craig also owns obvious power potential and good patience, which intrigue me due to the Cubs' paucity of switch-hitters. While drafting him qualifies as a significant gamble since he likely will develop into no more than a useful reserve on the four corners, echoing these numbers at Iowa would significantly improve my long-term expectations for Craig.

Angel Guzman, 22, RH Starter
0-3 on a 13:4 K:BB in 17.2 IP over 4 GS
with 20 H, 2 HR, and a 5.60 ERA for AA West Tenn(SL).
3-1 on a 40:0 K:BB in 30 IP over 7 GS
with 27 H, 2 HR, and a 4.20 ERA for A+ Daytona(FSL).

Guzman's recovery from surgery to repair a labrum tear in 2003 looks impressive statistically, especially given his unbelievable 12.0 K/9 and 0.0 BB/9 at Daytona. However, Guzman's failure to pitch even 50 innings this year after only exceeding 90 innings once in his previous four professional seasons casts serious doubt regarding his durability. Of course, his considerable upside insures the Cubs will give him every chance to succeed as a starter, yet I can't recommend Guzman to most owners right now since we simply don't know when he'll reach the majors. Only gamble on him in very deep leagues where rostering him doesn't overtly distract from competing in 2005.

Dave Kelton, 24, OF-R
1/10 for .100/.100/.200 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:3 BB:K for Chicago(N).
103/420 for .245/.303/.448 with 19 HR, 68 RBI, 57 R, 7/9 SB%,
and a 33:92 BB:K for AAA Iowa(PCL).

Although Kelton remains on the 40-man roster and could win a bench job with a strong spring, his declining averages and unimpressive plate discipline leave with a vastly diminished prospect status following repeat campaigns at both AA West Tenn(SL) and Iowa. Performing worse in his second tour of each circuit leaves Kelton with little chance of developing into a valued contributor on the Cubs any time soon. He only merits negligible fantasy attention right now.

Richard Lewis, 24, 2B-R
28/117 for .239/.274/.402 with 3 HR, 11 RBI, 13 R, 4/4 SB%,
and a 4:21 BB:K for AAA Iowa(PCL).
125/380 for .329/.391/.532 with 10 HR, 59 RBI, 68 R, 7/13 SB%,
and a 37:94 BB:K for AA West Tenn(SL).

Lewis lost the chance for a cup-of-coffee by breaking his right leg in the last game of the PCL regular season. While he probably didn't merit a promotion given his weak AAA numbers, and we still believe the Cubs severely erred by dealing Juan Cruz, Lewis's impressive AA performance at least makes him a potential future starter in the Chicago infield. He only committed 5 errors in 129 games, however Lewis also didn't demonstrate much plate discipline and no longer owns great speed skills. Of course, since a strong campaign at Iowa next year virtually guarantees Lewis a starting job in 2006, consider grabbing him late in deep NL leagues.

Felix Pie, 19, OF-L
128/431 for .297/.358/.441 with 8 HR, 47 RBI, 79 R, 32/50 SB%,
and a 39:116 BB:K for A+ Daytona(FSL).

Perhaps the Cubs' brightest long-term hitting prospect, Pie improved nearly across-the-board after a promotion to the Florida State League. Unfortunately, drops in his contact rate and continued problems on the basepaths indicate a strong likelihood of struggles if Chicago moves him to AA West Tenn(SL) in 2005. While Pie's power-speed combo intrigues me, he appears at least two years away from securing a big league starting job and probably doesn't warrant fantasy consideration in standard leagues.

Renyel Pinto, 22, LH Starter
1-1 on a 9:8 K:BB in 9.1 IP over 2 GS
with 9 H, 2 HR, and a 7.71 ERA for AAA Iowa(PCL).
11-8 on a 179:72 K:BB in 141.2 IP over 25 GS
with 107 H, 10 HR, and a 2.92 ERA for AA West Tenn(SL).

The Cubs seem to love Pinto, and I understand the interest in a 22-year-old southpaw who compiled an 11.4 K/9 and 6.8 H/9 as a AA starter. However, Pinto's control problems worsened this year, so he may develop into no more than a fairly dominant middle reliever. Drafting him in most leagues looks like a significant and unnecessary risk despite his intriguing long-term upside.

Potential Reserve Help

Scott Chiasson, 27, RH Reliever
1-0 on a 20:7 K:BB in 20 IP over 15 G
with 16 H, 2 HR, and a 3.15 ERA for AAA Iowa(PCL).
2-0 on a 15:2 K:BB in 16 IP over 12 G
with 12 H, 2 HR, and a 2.25 ERA for AA West Tenn(SL).

Chicago originally selected Chiasson as the first pick in the 2000 Rule 5 draft, letting Jay Gibbons fall down to Baltimore. The Cubs compounded that error by dealing Eric Hinske for Miguel Cairo and the right to keep Chiasson in their minors. While Chiasson excelled in the upper minors in 2001, his stumbled in 2002 before requiring Tommy John surgery that July. He missed most of the next two years, however his success in the second half of this season makes him one of the better minor league free agents available this winter. Yes, after nurturing his comeback and watching Chiasson reemerge as an intriguing reliever, Chicago allowed him to head to minor league free agency. Regardless of where he lands, he appears nearly ready to contribute in the majors, so feel free to roster Chiasson once he registers a few solid big league outings.

John Koronka, 24, LH Starter
12-9 on a 116:65 K:BB in 153.1 IP over 23 GS(29G)
with 164 H, 19 HR, and a 4.34 ERA for AAA Iowa(PCL).

Koronka posted very respectable marks in his very AAA season. Unfortunately, his consistent control problems likely will lead him to move to relief within the next few years, so he won't merit much attention until he secures steady work in a big league bullpen.

Donny Leon, 28, 3B-S
110/397 for .277/.334/.441 with 13 HR, 60 RBI, 49 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 30:54 BB:K for AAA Iowa(PCL).

While Leon managed another decent AAA performance at Iowa, his unimpressive power potential and plate discipline likely will keep him in the minors indefinitely. The minor league free agent shouldn't offer anything to fantasy teams in the foreseeable future.

Ricky Nolasco, 21, RH Starter
2-3 on a 28:16 K:BB in 40.2 IP over 9 GS
with 68 H, 7 HR, and a 9.30 ERA for AAA Iowa(PCL).
6-4 on a 115:37 K:BB in 107 IP over 19 GS
with 104 H, 13 HR, and a 3.70 ERA for AA West Tenn(SL).

Jumping to Iowa obviously proved a mistake despite his strong numbers last season and then at West Tenn. Of course, aside from those nine starts, Nolasco continued to demonstrate significant potential. While I don't envision him mounting a serous challenge for a spot in the loaded Cubs' rotation, he soon should emerge as an interesting starting option wherever Chicago deals him.

Will Ohman, 27, LH Reliever
3-3 on a 75:29 K:BB in 52.1 IP over 1 GS(45G)
with 53 H, 6 HR, and a 4.30 ERA for AAA Iowa(PCL).

Tommy John surgery cost Ohman all of 2002 and 2003, but he regained his dominant form in an impressive return to Iowa this year. While he appears prepared to challenge for a big league bullpen job, consistent control problems mean you should wait until Ohman compile several strong outings in the majors before considering him for your roster.

Carmen Pignatiello, 22, LH Starter
9-7 on a 137:39 K:BB in 148 IP over 27 GS
with 167 H, 16 HR, and a 4.56 ERA for AA West Tenn(SL).

Although his increasing his rate definitely concerns me, especially given his questionable fastball, Pignatiello still possesses excellent command and a strong strikeout rate. Drafting him in any standard league isn't a good idea, but I still expect him to develop into a useful fantasy contributor by the end of the decade.

Jason Szuminski, 25, RH Reliever
0-0 on a 5:11 K:BB in 10 IP over 7 G
with 12 H, 3 HR, a 1.55 G-F, and a 7.20 ERA for San Diego.
3-2 and 8 Saves on a 31:35 K:BB in 51 IP over 2 GS(41G)
with 57 H, 6 HR, and a 4.94 ERA for AAA Iowa(PCL).

The MIT product failed to stick with San Diego as a Rule 5 pick, and he continued imploding upon his return to the Cubs' system. Questionable command throughout Szuminski's professional career leaves him unlikely to develop into more than big league roster filler, so don't give him further fantasy consideration unless he demonstrates the skills necessary to secure a steady job in the majors.

Jermaine Van Buren, 24, RH Reliever
0-0 and 1 Save on a 5:0 K:BB in 4.1 IP over 3 G
with 3 H, 1 HR, and a 2.08 ERA for AAA Iowa(PCL).
3-2 and 21 Saves on a 64:24 K:BB in 53 IP over 51 G
with 23 H, 2 HR, and a 1.87 ERA for AA West Tenn(SL).
0-1 on a 7:5 K:BB in 5 IP over 3 G
with 6 H, 0 HR, and a 1.80 ERA for A+ Daytona(FSL).

Van Buren, a Central league refugee, returned to organized ball, moved to the bullpen for Lansing, and shot up the ladder due his effective dominance of batters. While I expect him to spend most of 2005 at Iowa, he also possesses a good chance to follow in the footsteps of Todd Wellemeyer and Jon Leicester to emerge as a viable mid-season bullpen reinforcement\.

Minor League Draft Picks

Brian Dopirak, 20, 1B-R
166/541 for .307/.363/.593 with 39 HR, 120 RBI, 94 R, 4/7 SB%,
and a 48:123 BB:K for A Lansing(Mid).

Only draft Dopirak in very deep, established long-term leagues. Yes, his 39 homers tied for 3rd among all minor leaguers and his 7 blasts in the Arizona Fall League resulted in an identical showing among AFL players. Unfortunately, he also suffers from questionable plate discipline, likely needs at least two more years of seasoning, and may not even rank as the best A-ball 1B prospect in the organization following Brandon Sing's great year. While his impressive numbers certainly deserved discussion here, Dopirak appears unlikely to contribute to fantasy teams any time soon.

Brandon Sing, 23, 1B-R
110/408 for .270/.399/.571 with 32 HR, 94 RBI, 86 R, 1/4 SB%,
and an 84:101 BB:K for A+ Daytona(FSL).

With Derrek Lee in Chicago, Jason DuBois ready to join him, and Brian Dopirak only one level back, Brandon Sing faces significant competition to reach the majors with the Cubs. Posting these numbers as a 23-year-old in his third tour of the Florida State League similarly leads me to doubt his abilities, yet he at least owns very solid plate discipline and intriguing power potential. Although I generally can't recommend drafting him anywhere, Sing appears more likely to develop into a quality big league hitter within the next couple of years than anyone else in the lower levels of the Chicago organization.

Aside from players listed above, no other Chicago(N) prospect deserves consideration in 2005 fantasy drafts. Jon Leicester and Mike Wuertz each lost his rookie status by exceeding the service time minimum.

Organization Rankings

While the Cubs control many intriguing young pitchers, including Andy Sisco, Luke Hagerty, and Chadd Blasko, in addition to the rookies discussed above and youngsters already contributing in the majors like Sergio Mitre and Todd Wellemeyer, Chicago simply lacks the necessary roster spots for more than a fraction of these pitchers to develop into quality big leaguers with the Cubs. Drafting any of them qualifies as an obvious risk due to the competition they face to earn a job in the majors. The only two pitchers I comfortably can recommend targeting among the dozens of youngsters who spend most of this year in Chicago's minors are Mitre and Brownlie, and even those two won't normally warrant high picks. Unless DuBois earns a starting job, I see relatively little reason to draft any Cubs' rookie in standard leagues.

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. Arizona Diamondbacks(C.Snyder, Kroeger, Quentin, C.Jackson)
8. Atlanta Braves(Da.Meyer, J.Capellan, Marte)
9. Texas Rangers(Kinsler, Ad.Gonzalez, C.Young)
10. New York Yankees(Halsey, D.Navarro, E.Duncan)
11. Baltimore Orioles(Majewski, W.Young, Maine)
12. Toronto Blue Jays(R.Adams, F.Rosario)
13. Chicago White Sox(W.Valdez, B.McCarthy)
14. Kansas City Royals(Teahen, Den.Bautista, Maier)
15. Boston Red Sox(H.Ramirez, B.Moss)
16. Detroit Tigers(Granderson, Giarratano)
17. Chicago Cubs(DuBois)

Today's Fantasy Rx: The combination of Chicago's excess of quality young pitchers and Dusty Baker's general aversion to playing rookies makes the Cubs a relative graveyard for viable fantasy prospects right now.

The Cubs' Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2005
1. Jason DuBois, OF
2. Richard Lewis, 2B
3. Bobby Brownlie, SP
4. Ricky Nolasco, SP
5. Carmen Pignatiello, SP
6. Felix Pie, OF
7. Dave Kelton, OF
8. Renyel Pinto, SP
9. Dwaine Bacon, OF
10. Angel Guzman, SP
11. Brandon Sing, 1B
12. Brian Dopirak, 1B
13. Matt Craig, 3B
14. Jon Connolly, SP
15. John Koronka, SP

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