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December
8th
2004
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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Post-2004 Prospect Review: Montreal
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

Given the severe disruptions regarding their annually rumored move since MLB bought the team three years ago, we will continue to refer to the club as the Montreal Expos until next year after Washington finalizes a ballpark funding deal agreeable to MLB.


Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Likely 2005 September Call-ups
Potential Reserve Help
Minor League Draft Picks
Organization Rankings
Montreal's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects


Prospects with Double-Digit Upside

Ryan Church, 26, OF-L
11/63 for .175/.257/.238 with 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 7:16 BB:K for Montreal.
119/347 for .343/.428/.620 with 17 HR, 78 RBI, 74 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 51:62 BB:K for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

Formerly touted as a future star for the Indians, Church joined the Expos last winter with Maicer Izturis for Scott Stewart in perhaps Omar Minaya's best trade. He excelled at Edmonton, demonstrating obvious power and plate discipline. While he struggled given inconsistent at-bats during a September cup-of-coffee, Church also compiled a 3.94 #P/PA and a 1.05 G-F, indicating he needs no more seasoning. A smart team would allow him to win the starting left field job in spring training, forcing Brad Wilkerson to center field and Endy Chavez to the bench, however I currently expect Church to spend the year on the big league bench, making him worth no more than a late-round gamble barring a strong camp and a surprising move by his veteran-friendly manager.


Brendan Harris, 24, 2B-R
10/59 for .169/.222/.271 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 3:12 BB:K between Chicago(N) and Montreal.
114/377 for .302/.350/.515 with 17 HR, 59 RBI, 68 R, 0/3 SB%,
and a 26:61 BB:K between AAA Iowa(PCL) and AAA Edmonton(PCL).

While arthroscopic knee surgery in the spring delayed the start of Harris's season, he excelled down the stretch, easily demonstrating the best power potential of his career. Unfortunately, plate discipline problems eventually led to difficulties upon his promotion following his trade to Montreal for Orlando Cabrera. Jim Bowden's insane acquisition of Vinny Castilla also blocks Harris barring an unexpected spring injury, so although I expect him to spend several seasons as a big league starter, he merits little current fantasy attention unless he produces unexpectedly strong numbers as a reserve.


Maicer Izturis, 24, SS-S
22/107 for .206/.286/.318 with 1 HR, 4 RBI, 10 R, 4/4 SB%,
and a 10:20 BB:K for Montreal.
127/376 for .338/.428/.423 with 3 HR, 36 RBI, 65 R, 14/26 SB%,
and a 57:30 BB:K for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

Since I reviewed Anaheim before Jim Bowden gave away Izturis so he could add payroll while downgrading at right field, Izturis remains here as one of Montreal's best prospects in 2004. His outstanding plate discipline at least makes him a viable big league reserve right now, and Izturis could open the season as Anaheim's second base starter due to Adam Kennedy's injury. While declining speed skills limit his upside, Izturis still should reach $20 sometime this decade, making him an intriguing endgame option in AL leagues.


Gary Majewski, 24, RH Reliever
0-1 and 1 Save on a 12:5 K:BB in 21 IP over 16 G
with 28 H, 2 HR, a 1.46 G-F, and a 3.86 ERA for Montreal.
3-3 and 14 Saves on a 41:16 K:BB in 42.1 IP over 35 G
with 30 H, 2 HR, and a 3.19 ERA for AAA Charlotte(IL).
1-2 and 1 Save on a 17:8 K:BB in 15.1 IP over 14 G
with 18 H, 0 HR, and a 4.11 ERA for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

Stolen from the White Sox with Jon Rauch for Carl Everett in one of the most impressive heists of the year, Majewski impressed management down the stretch and almost certainly will break camp in the majors. He even might challenge Chad Cordero to close sometime in 2005, so although selecting Majewski in spring drafts looks like an unnecessary risk, consider him potentially useful roster filler assuming he at least echoes his skills from this summer.


Val Pascucci, 26, OF-R
11/62 for .177/.297/.290 with 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, 1/1 SB%,
and a 10:22 BB:K for Montreal.
117/392 for .298/.423/.577 with 25 HR, 92 RBI, 83 R, 9/11 SB%,
and a 78:95 BB:K for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

The sale of Rotohelp fave Pascucci to the Chiba Lotte Marines for only $300K depresses me even more than the moves stemming from Jim Bowden's misevaluations of Juan Rivera, Maicer Izturis, Brendan Harris, and Ryan Church. Pascucci finally posted truly impressive averages in the upper minors. While playing in Edmonton obviously propped his numbers to some extent, his 4.07 #P/PA and .85 G-F with the Expos present a strong skill foundation. He easily could echo the previous success of sabermetric icon Roberto Petagine in Japan, hopefully earning Pascucci a trip back here next spring as the likely DH somewhere like Toronto.


Likely 2005 September Call-ups

Larry Broadway, 23, 1B-L
129/477 for .270/.362/.451 with 22 HR, 72 RBI, 70 R, 2/5 SB%,
and a 68:103 BB:K for AA Harrisburg(EL).

Broadway should supplant Nick Johnson in 2006 unless Johnson remains healthy and productive next year. While the first base prospect lacks Johnson's upside, his improving power potential and impressive walk rate at least provide a respectable skill foundation. Of course, a trade to New York would offer the most interesting opportunities, but I suspect Broadway will remain with the Expos and emerge as a starter sometime soon, making him a solid pick in most minor league drafts.


Mike Hinckley, 22, LH Starter
5-2 on an 80:23 K:BB in 94 IP over 16 GS
with 83 H, 5 HR, and a 2.87 ERA for AA Harrisburg(EL).
6-2 on a 51:18 K:BB in 62 IP over 10 GS
with 47 H, 6 HR, and a 2.61 ERA for A+ Brevard County(FSL).

With another impressively dominant season, Hinckley should challenge for a rotation spot sometime in 2005. He owns strong skills across-the-board, and while I won't advise selecting any Montreal pitcher until we see their stadium situation finalized, Hinckley deserves to be the exception to that rule as much as anyone in the system. Consider rostering him as soon as you see him promoted from his AAA team.


Josh Karp, 25, RH Starter
4-10 on a 102:51 K:BB in 127 IP over 24 GS
with 147 H, 17 HR, and a 5.95 ERA for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

Hit and homer rate problems sabotaged his qualitative marks, however Karp posted his best command since A-ball. While he doesn't deserve a look look in camp, I still expect him to emerge as a useful big league pitcher, perhaps as a reliever. Only consider him for your team after he earns a regular role in the majors.


Alejandro Machado, 22, 2B/SS-S
97/346 for .280/.363/.353 with 4 HR, 26 RBI, 54 R, 19/28 SB%,
and a 41:39 BB:K for AA Harrisburg(EL).
66/186 for .355/.424/.446 with 1 HR, 19 RBI, 34 R, 11/17 SB%,
and a 22:27 BB:K for A+ Brevard County(FSL).

Montreal acquired Machado at the beginning of the season from Milwaukee for a PTBN. He then finally managed respectable marks over a majority of one season spent above A-ball. Machado owns mildly intriguing speed skills, good plate discipline, and sufficient fantasy potential to merit your attention. While he probably needs another couple years of seasoning, he at least could challenge for a reserve job by late 2006.


Seung Song, 24, RH Starter
3-1 on a 59:29 K:BB in 63.1 IP over 13 GS
with 70 H, 7 HR, and a 4.26 ERA for AAA Edmonton(PCL).
0-1 on a 10:3 K:BB in 12 IP over 2 GS(3G)
with 14 H, 2 HR, and a 6.75 ERA for A+ Brevard County(FSL).
1-0 on a 3:4 K:BB in 9.1 IP over 2 GS
with 10 H, 0 HR, and a 5.79 ERA for R Expos(GCL).

Claimed by Toronto off waivers last month, Song missed much of the year due to a broken forearm. Since the Jays also snuck him through waivers, he should spend next year in the upper minors for Toronto unless someone chances a Rule 5 pick. Song still owns intriguing skills and significant upside, so feel free to consider him in most leagues as soon as he reaches the majors.


Brandon Watson, 23, OF-L
154/526 for .293/.332/.348 with 2 HR, 41 RBI, 74 R, 22/32 SB%,
and a 31:68 BB:K for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

While Watson held a decent average, limited patience and questionable baserunning skills kept him in the minors despite the Expos' search for solid outfielders. I simply don't see Watson developing into more than a backup. Although his speed still could lead to double-digit roto value, don't roster him anywhere until he begins producing off a big league bench.


Potential Reserve Help

Wilton Chavez, 26, RH Starter
5-12 on a 114:43 K:BB in 165 IP over 27 GS(29G)
with 178 H, 21 HR, and a 4.64 ERA for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

Montreal acquired the former Cubs' prospect a year ago, and Chavez rewarded the Expos with another respectable AAA performance. While he never will dominate as a starter, he could succeed in front of a decent defense due to his developing control. Chavez also might emerge as a capable middle reliever, although I see no reason to pay him too much attention until he finally reaches the majors, especially since Montreal let him depart this fall as a minor league free agent.


Jason Childers, 29, RH Reliever
1-0 and 15 Saves on a 27:9 K:BB in 28.2 IP over 24 G
with 20 H, 0 HR, and a 1.26 ERA for AAA Indianapolis(IL).
0-3 and 5 Saves on a 13:9 K:BB in 14 IP over 14 G
with 15 H, 1 HR, and a 4.50 ERA for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

I consider Childers one of the more intriguing AAAA relievers in the game. He dominated over the last year-and-a-half at Indianapolis before Milwaukee bizarrely included him in a deal for Peter Bergeron. Now Childers heads into minor league free agency, so hopefully he'll find a better situation in an organization more appreciative of his admittedly limited potential. Don't be surprised if he emerges as a capable middle reliever fairly soon.


Brian Harris, 29, 2B/3B-R
88/304 for .289/.375/.375 with 3 HR, 33 RBI, 47 R, 1/3 SB%,
and a 40:50 BB:K for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

Although will need an impressive camp some spring or at least a mid-season injury to create an opening for him to reach the majors, his respectable plate discipline will keep him in the upper minors indefinitely. Unfortunately, his negligible quantitative upside renders him effectively useless to roto teams.


Shawn Hill, 23, RH Starter
1-2 on a 10:7 K:BB in 9 IP over 3 GS
with 17 H, 1 HR, a 1.71 G-F, and a 16.00 ERA for Montreal.
5-7 on a 53:20 K:BB in 87.2 IP over 17 GS
with 90 H, 4 HR, and a 3.39 ERA for AA Harrisburg(EL).

September Tommy John surgery should cost Hill all of 2005, so the Expos dropped him from the 40-man roster. Since I also expect Hill to peak as a middle reliever due to his unimpressive dominance as a starter, he merits absolutely no fantasy consideration next season.


Josh Labandeira, 25, SS-R
0/14 for .000/.000/.000 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:4 BB:K for Montreal.
139/514 for .270/.357/.381 with 9 HR, 33 RBI, 72 R, 9/14 SB%,
and a 53:92 BB:K for AA Harrisburg(EL).

With 32 errors in 129 games and an unimpressive performance at the plate, Labandeira didn't deserve his cup-of-coffee. Cristian Guzman also completely blocks him now, leaving Labandeira as prime trade bait if he improves on these numbers at AAA next year. You need to wait until he wins a big league job before rostering Labandeira due to his tenuous current situation.


Luke Lockwood, 23, LH Starter
3-17 and 1 Save on an 86:30 K:BB in 136.1 IP over 19 GS(33G)
with 168 H, 20 HR, and a 4.95 ERA for AA Harrisburg(EL).

With one of the worst record in the minors and a second straight terrible hit rate, Lockwood should complete his move to the bullpen in 2005. At least his impressive control should give him a chance to reach the majors, however he shouldn't emerge as more than a lefty specialist barring an unexpected jump in his strikeout rate.


Anthony Medrano, 30, SS/2B-R
129/419 for .308/.372/.391 with 2 HR, 42 RBI, 60 R, 3/7 SB%,
and a 41:48 BB:K for AAA Edmonton(PCL).

The unheralded Medrano turns 30 today, and given his impressive plate discipline and normally respectable BA, he deserves a shot to contribute as a big league reserve. Unfortunately, I simply can't recommend him until he takes advantage of that unlikely opportunity.


Shawn Norris, 24, 3B/SS/2B-L
39/124 for .315/.429/.500 with 3 HR, 33 RBI, 16 R, 1/2 SB%,
and a 25:37 BB:K for AA Harrisburg(EL).
96/352 for .273/.379/.378 with 2 HR, 48 RBI, 48 R, 5/7 SB%,
and a 60:80 BB:K for A+ Brevard County(FSL).

Maintaining strong averages across-the-board, not to mention hinting at impressive patience and power potential at Harrisburg, gives Norris a good chance to win a big league bench job by 2006. While he lacks more than adequate secondary skills, Norris should warrant consideration as no less than roster filler once he secures a job in the majors.


Danny Rueckel, 25, RH Reliever
1-0 and 1 Save on a 10:7 K:BB in 9.1 IP over 7 G
with 14 H, 3 HR, and a 2.89 ERA for AAA Edmonton(PCL).
6-5 and 8 Saves on a 56:17 K:BB in 78 IP over 42 G
with 72 H, 3 HR, and a 2.08 ERA for AA Harrisburg(EL).

I see little reason Rueckel shouldn't reach the majors in 2005 after he managed this fairly dominant AA performance following a double-promotion from the Sally League. His overall effectiveness even could push him onto the Opening Day roster with a strong camp, although at least wait until Rueckel registers a few solid outings before rostering him.


Rich Rundles, 23, LH Starter
3-6 on a 65:35 K:BB in 102.2 IP over 20 GS
with 107 H, 7 HR, and a 3.42 ERA for AA Harrisburg(EL).
0-1 on a 0:2 K:BB in 3 IP over 1 GS
with 4 H, 0 HR, and a 6.00 ERA for A+ Brevard County(FSL).

Declining command and dominance in his first experience above A-ball suggests that Rundles won't contribute in the majors any time soon. Yes, he remained relatively effective for Harrisburg, but nothing in his skills demonstrates much immediate upside.


Chris Schroder, 26, RH Reliever
2-1 on a 32:15 K:BB in 26.2 IP over 1 GS(17G)
with 24 H, 3 HR, and a 4.39 ERA for AAA Edmonton(PCL).
2-2 and 11 Saves on a 51:17 K:BB in 48.1 IP over 32 G
with 39 H, 3 HR, and a 2.42 ERA for AA Harrisburg(EL).

The increasingly dominant Schroder will merit consideration for the big league bullpen if he ever drops his walk rate to an acceptable level. While he likely will hold a weak WHIP for the next few years, Schroder's upside at least gives him a chance to develop into a viable late-inning option.


Rick Short, 32, 3B/2B-R
140/468 for .299/.339/.419 with 9 HR, 67 RBI, 43 R, 2/4 SB%,
and a 25:46 BB:K between AAA Omaha(PCL) and AAA Edmonton(PCL).

Short owns a career batting average well over .300 and even held a .303/.362/.447 line in Japan last year. While he looks like no more than a decent backup, he deserves the chance to contribute in the majors even if I don't envision him helping fantasy teams as more than short-term roster filler.


Jason Stevenson, 23, RH Starter
0-0 on a 3:1 K:BB in 5 IP over 3 G
with 7 H, 1 HR, and a 3.60 ERA for AAA Edmonton(PCL).
8-10 on a 75:46 K:BB in 135.1 IP over 22 GS(24G)
with 132 H, 20 HR, and a 4.06 ERA for AA Harrisburg(EL).

Expect Stevenson to shift back to the bullpen due to his unimpressive strikeout rate. While he might remain effective as a starter, shorter outings should result in across-the-board skill improvement, possibly pushing him to the majors within the next couple years.


Minor League Draft Picks

None.


Aside from players listed above, no other Montreal prospect deserves consideration in 2005 fantasy drafts. Joe Horgan, Chad Bentz, and Roy Corcoran each lost his rookie status by exceeding the service time minimum.


Organization Rankings

While Omar Minaya partially compensated for a couple years of bad trades by acquiring Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, John Patterson, Ryan Church, Maicer Izturis, Jon Rauch, Gary Majewski, Brendan Harris, and Francis Beltran over the past year, Jim Bowden effectively trashed these prospects in only a month of "work". Bowden added three fairly unimpressive veterans, dumping several intriguing youngsters, and blocking Harris and Church. He also apparently intends to add a veteran starter, likely forcing Patterson and Rauch to the minors. If he also deals Nick Johnson as rumored, Montreal's sequence of moves since the end of the season will exceed the acquisition of Bartolo Colon in terms of total talent leaving the organization. At least the top few prospects here retain some value, but rostering youngsters disliked by their GM and even many scouts gives you little chance even of recouping your investment.

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)
2. Minnesota Twins(Bartlett, Kubel, Tiffee, Crain, S.Baker)
3. Oakland Athletics(D.Johnson, Swisher, Blanton, Street)
4. Seattle Mariners(Je.Reed, Choo, J.Strong, Fe.Hernandez)
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays(Gathright, Kazmir, Delmon Young)
6. Anaheim Angels(McPherson, Kotchman, Callaspo, E.Aybar)
7. Cleveland Indians(F.Cabrera, Denney, F.Gutierrez, Aubrey)
8. Arizona Diamondbacks(C.Snyder, Kroeger, Quentin, C.Jackson)
9. Milwaukee Brewers(J.Hardy, C.Hart, Krynzel, P.Fielder, Weeks)
10. Atlanta Braves(Da.Meyer, J.Capellan, Marte)
11. Texas Rangers(Kinsler, Ad.Gonzalez, C.Young)
12. Los Angeles Dodgers(Brazoban, Ed.Jackson, Loney, Joel Guzman)
13. Florida Marlins(Hermida, Willingham, Stokes)
14. New York Yankees(Halsey, D.Navarro, E.Duncan)
15. Baltimore Orioles(Majewski, W.Young, Maine)
16. Toronto Blue Jays(R.Adams, F.Rosario)
17. Chicago White Sox(W.Valdez, B.McCarthy)
18. Kansas City Royals(Teahen, Den.Bautista, Maier)
19. Houston Astros(C.Burke, Josh Anderson)
20. Boston Red Sox(H.Ramirez, B.Moss)
21. Cincinnati Reds(E.Encarnacion, W.Bergolla)
22. Detroit Tigers(Granderson, Giarratano)
23. Montreal Expos(Hinckley)
24. Chicago Cubs(DuBois)


Today's Fantasy Rx: While Montreal lacks high-upside prospects other than a couple of lower-level pitchers, I emphatically liked the upper-level talent on the club. A 2005 lineup of Brad Wilkerson, Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, Ryan Church or Terrmel Sledge, Brendan Harris, Brian Schneider, and Maicer Izturis would have managed one of the best team OBP marks in the game. Deploying a group of starters comprised of Livan Hernandez, Tony Armas, Tomo Ohka, Zach Day, John Patterson, Jon Rauch, and Seung Song similarly appeared quite promising.

Unfortunately, Jim Bowden's stunningly short-sighted moves leave this team little chance to escape the NL East basement next year with Jose Guillen, Vinny Castilla, and Cristian Guzman looking like a downgrade from Rivera, Harris, and Izturis, over $25M in debt added to the team, and Rivera, Izturis, Song, and now Pascucci discarded. With Johnson also likely on the trading block and Endy Chavez seemingly set to return to centerfield and the leadoff slot, the combination of Bowden and the returning Frank Robinson leaves this otherwise intriguing club incapable of offering much hope to fans in either Montreal or Washington. Do not expect any rookie to contribute significantly to this team other than possibly Gary Majewski in the bullpen.


Montreal's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2005
1. Ryan Church, OF
2. Brendan Harris, 2B
(Val Pascucci, sold to Japan)
(Maicer Izturis, now on Anaheim)
3. Larry Broadway, 1B
4. Mike Hinckley, SP
5. Alejandro Machado, 2B/SS
6. Gary Majewski, RP
7. Josh Labandeira, SS
8. Brandon Watson, OF
(Seung Song, claimed by Toronto)
9. Danny Rueckel, RP
10. Rich Rundles, SP
11. Shawn Norris, 3B/SS/2B
12. Jason Stevenson, SP
13. Chris Schroder, RP
14. Josh Karp, SP
15. Shawn Hill


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