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December
2nd
2004
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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Post-2004 Prospect Review: Cincinnati
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
Cincinnati's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects


Prospects with Double-Digit Upside

Anderson Machado, 23, SS-S
15/56 for .268/.379/.393 with 0 HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, 3/4 SB%,
and a 10:26 BB:K for Cincinnati.
92/404 for .228/.326/.349 with 6 HR, 38 RBI, 65 R, 14/22 SB%,
and a 60:99 BB:K between AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre(IL) and AAA Louisville(IL).
5/22 for .227/.346/.227 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 4:2 BB:K for A+ Clearwater(FSL).

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 .


Likely 2005 September Call-ups

William Bergolla, 21, 2B/SS-R
132/466 for .283/.342/.369 with 4 HR, 38 RBI, 79 R, 36/42 SB%,
and a 40:63 BB:K for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Edwin Encarnacion, 21, 3B-R
132/469 for .281/.352/.443 with 13 HR, 76 RBI, 73 R, 17/20 SB%,
and a 53:79 BB:K for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Richie Gardner, 22, RH Starter
5-2 on a 59:13 K:BB in 70.1 IP over 11 GS
with 68 H, 7 HR, and a 2.56 ERA for AA Chattanooga(SL).
8-3 on an 80:13 K:BB in 86.1 IP over 12 GS(18G)
with 77 H, 3 HR, and a 2.50 ERA for A+ Potomac(Car).

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.


Steve Kelly, 25, RH Starter
12-7 on a 116:48 K:BB in 161.1 IP over 28 GS
with 156 H, 12 HR, and a 2.96 ERA for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Dustin Moseley, 22, RH Starter
2-4 on a 48:34 K:BB in 71.2 IP over 12 GS
with 78 H, 7 HR, and a 4.65 ERA for AAA Louisville(IL).
3-2 on a 40:10 K:BB in 47.1 IP over 8 GS
with 33 H, 4 HR, and a 2.66 ERA for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Bubba Nelson, 23, RH Starter
1-10 on a 45:26 K:BB in 59.2 IP over 12 GS
with 74 H, 12 HR, and a 7.09 ERA for AAA Louisville(IL).
1-2 on a 35:12 K:BB in 53 IP over 9 GS(10G)
with 61 H, 5 HR, and a 4.08 ERA for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Brian Peterson, 26, C-R
94/313 for .300/.361/.444 with 6 HR, 40 RBI, 40 R, 3/4 SB%,
and a 24:61 BB:K for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Elizardo Ramirez, 21, RH Swingman
0-0 on a 9:5 K:BB in 15 IP over 7 G
with 17 H, 3 HR, a 1.33 G-F, and a 4.80 ERA for Philadelphia.
2-5 on a 20:14 K:BB in 33.2 IP over 8 GS
with 51 H, 4 HR, and a 6.68 ERA for AA Reading(EL).
1-0 on a 23:4 K:BB in 31 IP over 5 GS
with 35 H, 6 HR, and a 3.19 ERA for AA Chattanooga(SL).
5-1 on a 33:8 K:BB in 59 IP over 9 GS
with 55 H, 3 HR, and a 2.44 ERA for A+ Clearwater(FSL).

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.


Joe Valentine, 24, RH Reliever
2-3 and 4 Saves on a 29:25 K:BB in 29.1 IP over 1 GS(24G)
with 23 H, 4 HR, a .78 G-F, and a 5.22 ERA for Cincinnati.
5-5 on a 61:32 K:BB in 64.2 IP over 9 GS(30G)
with 63 H, 8 HR, and a 5.01 ERA for AAA Louisville(IL).

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.


Potential Reserve Help

Andrew Beattie, 26, OF-S
104/347 for .300/.381/.438 with 6 HR, 43 RBI, 51 R, 8/12 SB%,
and a 47:67 BB:K for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Matt Belisle, 24, RH Starter
9-11 on a 106:51 K:BB in 162.2 IP over 28 GS
with 192 H, 16 HR, and a 5.26 ERA for AAA Louisville(IL).

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.


Jim Chamblee, 29, 3B-R
104/397 for .262/.364/.428 with 11 HR, 63 RBI, 73 R, 3/5 SB%,
and a 52:117 BB:K for AAA Louisville(IL).

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.


Daylan Childress, 26, RH Reliever
3-5 on a 77:31 K:BB in 81.2 IP over 9 GS(29G)
with 73 H, 9 HR, and a 3.42 ERA for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Todd Coffey, 24, RH Reliever
1-0 and 4 Saves on an 11:2 K:BB in 13.2 IP over 15 G
with 15 H, 1 HR, and a 5.27 ERA for AAA Louisville(IL).
4-1 and 20 Saves on a 53:4 K:BB in 45.1 IP over 40 G
with 36 H, 3 HR, and a 2.38 ERA for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Bobby Darula, 30, OF-L
19/63 for .302/.389/.413 with 1 HR, 8 RBI, 11 R, 5/5 SB%,
and an 8:13 BB:K for AAA Louisville(IL).
56/153 for .366/.427/.536 with 6 HR, 27 RBI, 38 R, 8/10 SB%,
and a 16:16 BB:K for AA Chattanooga(SL).

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.


Aaron Holbert, 31, 2B/1B-R
103/380 for .271/.349/.361 with 4 HR, 46 RBI, 66 R, 32/46 SB%,
and a 41:66 BB:K for AAA Louisville(IL).

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.


Brian Mallette, 29, RH Reliever
1-0 and 5 Saves on a 36:12 K:BB in 43.2 IP over 40 G
with 35 H, 1 HR, and a 2.27 ERA for AAA Louisville(IL).

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.


Juan Padilla, 27, RH Reliever
1-0 on a 17:12 K:BB in 25.2 IP over 18 G
with 39 H, 7 HR, a .94 G-F, and a 7.71 ERA between New York(A) and Louisville(IL).
2-1 and 3 Saves on a 52:6 K:BB in 58 IP over 45 G
with 49 H, 1 HR, and a 2.02 ERA for AAA Columbus(IL).
0-0 on a 4:3 K:BB in 4 IP over 3 G
with 4 H, 1 HR, and a 9.00 ERA for AA Trenton(EL).

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.


Dane Sardinha, 25, C-R
85/324 for .262/.294/.404 with 9 HR, 40 RBI, 32 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 10:94 BB:K for AAA Louisville(IL).

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.


Brian Shackelford, 28, RH Reliever
8-1 on a 63:42 K:BB in 73 IP over 59 G
with 58 H, 6 HR, and a 3.58 ERA for AAA Louisville(IL).

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.


Steve Smitherman, 26, OF-R
123/452 for .272/.340/.420 with 10 HR, 52 RBI, 55 R, 5/10 SB%,
and a 42:107 BB:K for AAA Louisville(IL).

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.


Rob Stratton, 27, OF-R
42/119 for .353/.392/.773 with 12 HR, 34 RBI, 23 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 9:35 BB:K for AAA Louisville(IL).
20/109 for .183/.204/.294 with 3 HR, 12 RBI, 109 R, 1/1 SB%,
and a 2:54 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

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.


Minor League Draft Picks

Thomas Pauly, 23, RH Starter
8-7 on a 135:26 K:BB in 121.1 IP over 19 GS(28G)
with 96 H, 12 HR, and a 2.97 ERA for A+ Potomac(Car).

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.


Joey Votto, 21, 1B-L
25/84 for .298/.385/.560 with 5 HR, 20 RBI, 11 R, 1/2 SB%,
and an 11:21 BB:K for A+ Potomac(Car).
118/391 for .302/.419/.486 with 14 HR, 72 RBI, 60 R, 9/11 SB%,
and a 79:110 BB:K for A Dayton(Mid).

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.


Aside from players listed above, no other Cincinnati prospect deserves consideration in 2005 fantasy drafts. Jermaine Clark lost his rookie status by exceeding the service time minimum.


Organization Rankings

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)
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. Cincinnati Reds(E.Encarnacion, W.Bergolla)
17. Detroit Tigers(Granderson, Giarratano)
18. Chicago Cubs(DuBois)


Today's Fantasy Rx: The Reds' willingness to let solid speedsters accumulate steals makes the top three Cincinnati prospects particularly appealing for roto owners. While Encarnacion and Machado regularly should register double-digit stolen bases whenever they secure starting jobs, Bergolla ranks among the best SB prospects in the upper minors due to his combination of speed and plate discipline. Owners looking for future speed should consider selecting Bergolla in spring drafts.


Cincinnati's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2005
1. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
2. William Bergolla, 2B
3. Anderson Machado, SS
4. Elizardo Ramirez, SP
5. Dustin Moseley, SP
6. Steve Kelly, SP
7. Joey Votto, 1B
8. Steve Smitherman, OF
9. Todd Coffey, RP
10. Joe Valentine, RP
11. Richie Gardner, SP
12. Bubba Nelson, SP
13. Matt Belisle, SP
14. Thomas Pauly, SP
15. Jim Chamblee, 3B


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