Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Joe Dillon, 29, 3B/OF/2B-R
Dillon retired in 2003, spending the season as an assistant baseball coach for Texas Tech. After recovering from back surgery, he found a home with the Marlins, demolishing the upper minors while earning Organizational Player of the Year honors. Aided by a very friendly hitters' park in Albuquerque, he surpassed his total number of homers from 2000-2002, and his plate discipline remained similarly respectable. Despite not recalling Dillon during the season, Florida wisely purchased his contract in October; however, the odds of him contributing significantly in 2005 appear rather slim. You probably should wait until Dillon demonstrates an ability to echo these averages in his likely limited big league playing time before considering him for your team.
While hamstring problems limited the 11th pick of the 2002 draft to 91 games and sapped his speed skills, Hermida demonstrated developing power potential in his second full season as a professional. He posted a .265/.298/.523 performance in 132 AFL at-bats, suggesting that although his plate discipline needs to improve, he could emerge as a very impressive slugger down the line. Even a respectable first-half at AA next year might result in a second-half call-up for Hermida. Considering his five-category upside, Florida's virtually open right field spot, and an organizational willingness to let top rookies learn in the majors, Hermida ranks among the most intriguing minor league picks in spring drafts.
Elbow and shoulder problems this season limited his development. While Hutchinson managed respectable numbers in his second professional season, he lacks the dominance and overall effectiveness to emerge as a top starter. Rostering him before he earns steady work in the majors looks like a bad idea.
Triple-promoting Kensing to the majors for late-season spot starts in lieu of securing a single respectable upper-level veteran option during the season ranks with the worst moves of any time this year. Hopefully they didn't destroy his confidence, but considering he didn't dominate Florida State League hitters in the first place, I don't know what the Marlins expected of Kensing. At least his respectable command suggests he should remain successful in the upper minors, however I don't envision him contributing in the majors without another couple years of seasoning.
The best pitching prospect in the system completely dominated Florida State League hitters. Although his failure to earn a mid-season promotion somewhat concerns me, and he only demonstrated slightly improved control this year, Olsen owns the tremendous long-term upside of a southpaw with a career strikeout rate of over a batter per inning. If you can keep him reserved until he proves he won't ruin your WHIP in the majors, Olsen qualifies as a respectable spring selection in minor league drafts.
Trades of Adrian Gonzalez and then Hee Seop Choi provided a clear path to the majors for Stokes. He owns tremendous power potential, however persistent contact problems limits his immediate upside. Stokes looks somewhat likely to plateau somewhere between the skills of Jim Thome and Josh Phelps, although I at least expect him to emerge as a serviceable starter for several seasons. Spending a mid-round pick on the slugger is a good idea given Florida's history of success in promoting prospects sooner than most analysts expect.
Despite compiling a 389:80 K:BB in over 430 innings of work in his four-year professional career, Ungs remained at Carolina all season even though Florida desperately needed starting help. Yes, his hit and homer rates indicate limited upside, but his excellent command makes him a much better option than Logan Kensing, promoted him A-ball at the end of the year. Ungs still owns respectable all-around skills, so I see no reason why he shouldn't begin contributing in the majors fairly soon regardless of his organization.
Florida's failure to start Willingham during the season demonstrates their questions regarding his catching skills. If the Marlins extend Paul LoDuca, Willingham almost certainly will need a change of scenery to receive regular playing time in the majors. While his outstanding plate discipline, patience, and power potential seem to make Willingham a great pick, he doesn't belong on NL-only minor league draft lists unless Florida unexpectedly clears more than the backup backstop spot for him.
I shuddered at rumors of the Cubs trading Juan Cruz for Josh Wilson a year ago following his .253/.294/.371 with a 27:70 BB:K at Carolina; now I wish they had completed that deal rather than the eventual swap of Cruz for Richard Lewis. Yes, Wilson committed 24 errors in 136 games and obviously regressed at Albuqerque, however his across-the-board progress at Carolina this year makes him likely to succeed Alex Gonzalez no later than 2007. He owns acceptable plate discipline, power potential, and even some speed skills. While he needs a high BA to maintain impressive OBP and SLG marks, Wilson ranks as an acceptable late-round pick capable of emerging as a starter at either middle infield position.
Chris Aguila, 25, OF-R
Aguila essentially echoed his 2003 performance despite finally reaching AAA. Yes, he struggled in the majors, largely due to contact issues, but a 3.56 #P/PA and 1.15 G-F in limited action at least demonstrate decent upside. Expect him to earn a reserve job with a decent camp, although I see no reason to draft Aguila anywhere until he proves that he can maintain a respectable batting average and therefore not hurt your team.
Although Ambres departs as a minor league veteran, his intriguing plate discipline and respectable speed skills eventually should propel him to the majors. Of course, wait until he finds that big league backup job before considering him for any team.
Selected in the minor league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, Bauer moved into the rotation during his fourth AA season and unexpectedly produced the best numbers of his career. Nothing here suggests an overly impressive future, but he at least should remain reasonably productive at Albuquerque. Of course, fantasy owners still need to wait until Bauer begins succeeding in the majors before considering him anywhere.
Posting progressively better skills as he moves up the minor league ladder at least gives Fulchino an excellent shot to contribute as a big leaguer in some capacity. With his developing dominance and respectable command, I expect him to emerge as no less than a viable bullpen option by 2007.
With no history of good control, Gracesqui's problems in the majors didn't surprise me. His terrible command at Albuquerque similarly appears somewhat in line with his statistical development, rendering him completely useless to roto teams in the foreseeable future.
The elder journeyman simply seems stuck at AA, so despite strong speed skills and plate discipline, I don't expect him to reach the majors. However, if Hall ever earns a promotion, he could contribute a decent number of steals in a limited role.
McNutt appear positioned for a mid-season promotion next year as an injury replacement, but little in his statistical history suggests a strong possibility for a significant contribution in a big league bullpen. While moving to relief work last season expedited his development, he appears to need a strong defense and pitcher-friendly home park given his lack of dominance. Fortunately for McNutt, the Marlins possess both those conditions, giving him a chance to post surprisingly decent numbers in Florida.
Shifting to the bullpen in his second tour of the Southern League resulted in across-the-board skill improvement. Messenger managed to emerge as a fairly dominant relief option, and while his unimpressive control suggests he needs more seasoning, don't be surprised to see him pitch decently in a cup-of-coffee next year.
Acquired from the Cubs as the PBTN with Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee, Nannini at least maintained good control. Pitching for Albuquerque in his first exposure above AA resulted in a skyrocketing homer rate that destroyed his qualitative marks. While I still expect him to emerge as a viable big league option within a couple of years, the minor league free agent needs to find a team with an International League affiliate to secure the steadier environment that should result in more successful season and hopefully a promotion to the majors.
Respectable plate discipline soon could push the future utility infielder to the majors. Unfortunately, weak quantitative skills will keep Niles from emerging as more than decent roster.
While weak plate discipline limits Padgett's upside, his developing power potential at least should earn the minor league free agent a decent look during camp. I expect him to peak as more than a platoon player, but any improvement in his contact skills could translate into a power surge, jumping his value to a surprising extent.
Spending a third straight season for Florida's AAA squad suggests that Wathan won't see the majors any time soon despite his initial upside as a second round pick in 1998. Of course, Wathan owns decent all-around skills and good position flexibility, so he deserves a shot to hold these acceptable averages as a big leaguer. Wait until he secures a stable role before considering him, but expect him to emerge as no less than decent roster filler before he turns 30.
Declining power numbers no longer give Wood much hope of seeing more time in the majors despite decent plate discipline. Owners certainly should wait until he begins producing in a regular big league role before rostering him in any league.
The biggest problem Florida faces is where to deploy their upper-level position prospects. Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell, Juan Pierre, and Luis Castillo provided a strong offensive core of relatively young talent. While Paul LoDuca, Alex Gonzalez, Juan Encarnacion, and Jeff Conine currently block the four most interesting rookies here, Hermida almost certainly will receive the right field job no later than sometime in 2006. Drafting any of the other players is somewhat risky given the fluid big league roster for the Marlins, but at least Wilson and Stokes merit some consideration in deeper leagues. However, the possibility of Florida either will deal younger talent for mid-season help or dump veterans for superior prospects renders the Marlins' minor league pitchers currently useless to fantasy teams.
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. Colorado Rockies(Atkins, Closser, Barmes, Hawpe, I.Stewart)
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