Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Anderson Machado, 23, SS-S
Registering a 4.06 #P/PA with the Reds after arriving in Cincinnati with Josh Hancock in the Todd Jones deal demonstrates Machado's excellent patience. The switch-hitter also owns solid speed skills and can handle both middle infield position, but his limited power and weak contact rate significantly limit his upside, especially considering he only owns a .230 career average in the minors. Even if he wins a starting job in spring training, selecting Machado before Dollar Days looks like a mistake due to his unimpressive overall roto performance since reaching the upper minors, however spending a late pick on Machado in sim leagues just might help some owners .
William Bergolla, 21, 2B/SS-R
Possessing only negligible power limited Bergolla's upside, but his excellent speed skills and solid plate discipline make him a great target in most roto leagues. The main reason not to draft Bergolla is that D'Angelo Jimenez, Felipe Lopez, Ray Olmedo, and Anderson Machado all rank ahead of the youngster on the Reds' depth chart, and Jimenez ranks as the veteran of that quartet at 25. Of course, the latter three also appear likely to remain in competition at shortstop, so Bergolla stands an excellent chance to replace the arbitration-eligible Jimenez no later than 2005. Strongly consider selecting Bergolla in any standard league.
While Encarnacion remains a very solid prospect, he didn't quite register the breakout I envisioned this year. Committing 25 errors in 119 games also worries, however he demonstrated good power potential, solid speed skills, and very impressive plate discipline for a 21-year-old in the Southern League. The problem with Encarnacion's failure to exceed even an .800 OPS is that Cincinnati now appears inclined to shift Austin Kearns to third base, although I suspect the Reds instead will deal one of their four outfielders. Despite his errors and limited initial offensive upside, Encarnacion remains the third baseman of the future here, and therefore merits a high minor league pick in every league where he remains available. He needs a few more months in the upper minors, but I fully expect him to receive a long look towards the end of 2005 before assuming the starting job the following season.
Gardner excelled in his first professional season, cruising through the Carolina League and remaining extremely effective in the Southern League. Even echoing these numbers in 2005 should position him for a September cup-of-coffee and a solid chance at winning a rotation spot in camp the following year. Grabbing any pitcher after only year in the minors qualifies as a risk, but Gardner ranks as the safest gamble among young pitchers in the system.
Although his failure to reach a 7.0 K/9 since leaving Rookie ball certainly limits his upside, Kelly owns strong walk, hit, and homer rates, insuring that he soon should receive some big league consideration. Don't draft him in the spring, but if he echoes these marks at AAA and then compiles a couple of solid outings after a mid-season call-up, certainly consider him if you need SP help.
Command problems kept Moseley from building on his solid 2003 season. While he clearly needs no more time at Chattanooga, nothing in his stats this year indicates he can contribute in the majors right now. Drafting him also looks like a mistake for most fantasy teams, although Moseley should emerge as reliable rotation filler within the next couple of years.
Nelson ranked as an excellent long-term prospect when Cincinnati acquired him with Jung Bong from Atlanta this spring for Chris Reitsma. Unfortunately, Nelson again failed to maintain acceptable skills in the International League, forcing us to adjust our expectations downward yet again. Expecting him to develop into more than a solid set-up man appears increasingly optimistic, so risking a pick on him in any league looks like a mistake.
While committing 11 errors in 87 games for the Lookouts and another 7 in 17 AFL games ranks as an obvious source of concern, Peterson also managed a .379/.463/.534 with a 9:7 BB:K in 58 AFL at-bats, catching my eye given the unimpressive alternatives in the Reds' system. The limited sample size admittedly indicates relatively little, but if Peterson at least maintains a strong BA at AAA, he might not hurt you if recalled later next season.
The PTBN in the Cory Lidle deal, Ramirez rebounded in the Southern League following his relatively unimpressive performances for Reading and Philadelphia. He still owns intriguing long-term value despite his hiccup in his otherwise solid statistical history. While Ramirez appears unlikely to develop into a particularly dominant starter and instead might settle into a relief role, his respectable marks with the Phillies also suggest that he could emerge as an acceptable fantasy option late next year if he excels over the first few months of the year in the upper minors.
Consistently poor control could keep Valentine from developing into a decent big league pitcher indefinitely, especially if he continues to suffer from an elevated homer rate. He obviously offers respectable upside due to his strikeout rate, but I see no reason to consider him in any league even if he did spend part of 2004 closing for the Reds.
Andrew Beattie, 26, OF-S
Beattie finally appears headed elsewhere as a minor league free agent following his best performance in his seven seasons in the Reds' system. Of course, with only 39 AAA at-bats, limited power, and declining speed, he shouldn't reach the majors any time soon even if his plate discipline keeps improving.
While Belisle owns decent command, he appears incapable of succeeding at the highest levels of baseball when not supported by an excellent defense. He also lacks the upside of most of his competition on the Reds' 40-man roster for spots in the majors, rendering him useless to fantasy teams until he registers several solid big league outings.
Chamblee's respectable AAA numbers probably merit some consideration for a reserve job given Cincinnati's mostly unimpressive infield options, but consistently weak contact rates don't endear him to management. He won't help fantasy teams any time soon.
Combining this performance with even better numbers in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League should result in Childress receiving a long look in spring training. Unfortunately, his failure to cut his walk rate below a 3.4 suggests he needs at least full AAA season, so don't expect any help from Childress in 2005.
A 41st round pick back in 1998, Coffey needed four seasons of Rookie ball but managed a combined 136:42 K:BB in 149.1 IP over the last two campaigns at A-ball before exploding through the upper minors this year. He now ranks as the best relief prospect in the system and appears likely to break camp in the majors if he impresses during spring training. While Coffey won't warrant an immediate pickup regardless of his numbers in camp, he also might emerge as intriguing roster filler very quickly if he echoes this performance over his initial outings with the Reds.
Solid plate discipline, speed skills, and a career minor league batting average of .316 should force some team to give the minor league free agent an extended look during spring training. However, his failure to move up the ladder with both the Brewers and Reds suggests Darula will peak as no more than a fifth outfielder, likely rendering him worthless to almost all fantasy teams.
Registering his best skills in the upper minors over the last few seasons makes Holbert surprisingly intriguing, especially given his impressive stolen base total. If he somehow breaks camp in the majors, spending a buck on Holbert could pay welcome dividends.
Another season of demonstrating solid command failed to earn Mallette a second shot in the majors. Hopefully the minor league free agent will find an organization willing to focus on his upside rather his limitations since he otherwise appears unlikely to spend much more time in a big league bullpen.
Padilla just returned to New York, signing with the Mets today to provide some competition for their relief prospects. While he struggled in the majors this year, his dynamic performance for Columbus obviously intrigued the Mets, although fantasy owners should wait until Padilla proves he can remain reasonably effective over several big league outings before considering him in any league.
Cincinnati's decision to purchase his contract, combined with the loss of Corky Miller on waivers to Minnesota, again ranks Sardinha as the Reds' third catcher. Unfortunately, his awful plate discipline and limited potential make him an unacceptable fantasy option when needed in the majors due to his significant BA downside.
Keeping the veteran minor leaguer as Louisville all year makes little sense considering the Reds' fluid bullpen this season, however he again failed to maintain an acceptable walk rate. While the converted outfielder still could blossom into a decent reliever, Shackelford simply merits no fantasy consideration right now.
The combination of Wily Mo Pena's emergence and a very unimpressive campaign for Smitherman resulted in the Reds removing the minor leaguer from their 40-man roster. Yet I don't expect anyone to bother grabbing Smitherman in the Rule 5 draft given his apparently limited upside. While he should develop into at least a capable backup, nothing here suggests he warrants any consideration in spring drafts.
Stratton at least finished strongly with Louisville, again demonstrating his prolific power potential, but his incredibly high strikeout totals may keep him out of the majors indefinitely. His significant BA downside means no roto owner can risk rostering the slugger until he secures regularly work in the majors while holding a moderately acceptable average.
Thomas Pauly, 23, RH Starter
The 2003 second round pick from Princeton exploded in his second professional season, building on his respectable performance in a dozen Midwest League starts a year ago in impressive fashion. Pauly now possesses as much upside as any pitcher in the system, and only general concerns regarding the workload increase of the college closer keep me from heartily recommending him in deep leagues.
Votto will move through the system fairly slowly unless he bumps his contact rate above .72. He also lacks speed and doesn't possess obviously great power potential. However, he also owns excellent patience and intriguing upside. Expect Votto to displace Sean Casey in 2007 if he builds on his progress as expected over the next two years in the upper minors, so owners in very deep leagues should consider selecting him late.
Although only Encarnacion looks like a future star here, Bergolla, Votto, and several of these pitchers should develop into useful fantasy assets. However, the presence of several very inexperienced pitchers already in the majors for Cincinnati increases the risk involved in drafting any of the starters discussed above. Generally wait until they at least pitch well at AAA before considering them for your team; holding off until they begin succeeding the majors qualifies as an even safer plan of action.
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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