Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
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.
Ryan Church, 26, OF-L
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Larry Broadway, 23, 1B-L
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wilton Chavez, 26, RH Starter
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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