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December
13th
2004
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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Post-2004 Prospect Review: San Francisco
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
San Francisco's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects


Prospects with Double-Digit Upside

Jason Ellison, 26, OF-R
2/4 for .500/.500/1.250 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, 2/2 SB%,
and a 0:1 BB:K for San Francisco.
159/505 for .315/.368/.459 with 9 HR, 40 RBI, 90 R, 27/39 SB%,
and a 40:66 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

Ellison demonstrated welcome average improvement in his second tour at Fresno. More importantly, he noticeably boosted his quantitative output, which should intrigue most roto owners. I see no reason Ellison couldn't contribute as a full-time starter, but given San Francisco's plans this off-season, only a strong spring even will give him a chance to break camp in the majors. Of course, feel free to roster him once he lands a big league bench job since Ellison could push double-digit value in a limited role on the strength of his speed alone.


Brad Hennessey, 24, RH Starter
2-2 on a 25:15 K:BB in 34.1 IP over 7 GS
with 42 H, 2 HR, a 1.58 G-F, and a 4.98 ERA for San Francisco.
4-1 on a 16:15 K:BB in 35.2 IP over 5 GS
with 26 H, 2 HR, and a 2.02 ERA for AAA Fresno(PCL).
5-5 on a 55:34 K:BB in 101 IP over 18 GS
with 106 H, 8 HR, and a 3.56 ERA for AA Norwich(EL).

Removal of a benign tumor from Hennessey's upper back kept the 21st overall selection in the 20021 draft from debuting professionally until 2003. His 44:27 K:BB with 81 H and 6 HR in 79.1 IP over 15 starts in the Sally League didn't indicate much immediate potential, but a succession of injuries to the Giants' big league staff this year resulted in a mid-season promotion from Norwich, where Hennessey pitched effectively without demonstrating great skills. Somehow he remained relatively successful for both San Francisco and then Fresno over the balance of the year, and Hennessey even pitched rather well in a couple of starts in the majors. However, he still largely struggled and should spend most of 2005 in the minors since he won't emerge as a quality starter for the Giants until his strikeout rate improves, making Hennessey an unnecessary risk for fantasy owners at this time.


Todd Linden, 24, OF-S
5/32 for .156/.289/.188 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 6 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 5:7 BB:K for San Francisco.
127/489 for .260/.349/.466 with 23 HR, 75 RBI, 93 R, 8/14 SB%,
and a 63:149 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

Contact rate erosion from .78 to .70 sabotaged his numbers, forcing the Giants to look for additional outfield help this off-season rather than just hand a starting job to Linden. He at least managed a significant power increase while demonstrating better patience, which still indicates solid long-term potential. However only a significant spring training injury will provide Linden the necessary opportunity to contribute to fantasy teams in 2005.


Likely 2005 September Call-ups

David Aardsma, 22, RH Reliever
1-0 on a 5:10 K:BB in 10.2 IP over 11 G
with 20 H, 1 HR, a 1.13 G-F, and a 6.75 ERA for San Francisco.
6-4 on a 53:29 K:BB in 55.1 IP over 44 G
with 46 H, 2 HR, and a 3.09 ERA for AAA Fresno(PCL).

His April debut bumped Hank Aaron from the front of the alphabetical list of all baseball players, and while I still like Aardsma's long-term upside, he isn't an adequate replacement for Aaron. Rushed to the majors after accumulating only eighteen innings in the California League, the 22nd overall pick in 2003 continued to experience control problems, even compiling a 17:9 K:BB in 15.1 AFL innings. Of course, his solid strikeout, hit, and homer rates kept his ERA low at Fresno, so I expect him to emerge as a viable complement to Armando Benitez over the next couple of years before replacing Benitez later this decade, making Aardsma a good pick as soon his big league walk rate drops.


Matt Cain, 20, RH Starter
6-4 on a 72:40 K:BB in 86 IP over 15 GS
with 73 H, 7 HR, and a 3.35 ERA for AA Norwich(EL).
7-1 on an 89:17 K:BB in 72.2 IP over 13 GS
with 58 H, 5 HR, and a 1.86 ERA for A+ San Jose(Cal).

As he only turned 20 at the beginning of October, Cain's control problems at Norwich don't concern me considering he still remained effective over a half-season in the Eastern League as a teenager. He ranks as the brightest pitching prospect in the relatively deep upper-levels of the Giants' system and should debut in the majors next September. Nothing here indicates Cain won't develop into an excellent fantasy option over the next few years.


Justin Knoedler, 24, C-R
0/1 for .000/.000/.000 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:0 BB:K for San Francisco.
112/409 for .274/.335/.423 with 9 HR, 47 RBI, 64 R, 5/8 SB%,
and a 32:98 BB:K for AA Norwich(EL).

The converted pitcher posted the best numbers of his three-year career at the plate. Although Knoedler probably shouldn't spend much time as a big league starter, solid defensive skills and respectable offense should keep him employed for a long time. Like most other probable backup backstops, he won't belong on any fantasy roster until he begins producing in the majors.


Fred Lewis, 24, OF-L
7/23 for .304/.429/.478 with 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 1/2 SB%,
and a 5:5 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).
132/439 for .301/.424/.451 with 8 HR, 57 RBI, 88 R, 33/47 SB%,
and an 84:109 BB:K for A+ San Jose(Cal).

With a career on-base percentage of .395 and respectable speed skills, the 2002 second round pick should emerge as a quality leadoff man within the next few years. Of course, his skills also remain similar to those of Jason Ellison, who can't even earn a bench job with the Giants. Lewis likely will spend at least a full year in the upper minors, so he doesn't deserve significant fantasy consideration right now given the competition he'll face in the upper levels of the system.


Pat Misch, 23, LH Starter
7-6 on a 123:35 K:BB in 159 IP over 26 GS
with 138 H, 13 HR, and a 3.06 ERA for AA Norwich(EL).

A quality performance in the Northwest League last year resulted in a triple-promotion to Norwich for Misch. He easily fulfilled expectations by demonstrating solid across-the-board skills and now should see at least some time with the Giants in 2005. While I can't recommend rostering him right now since he ranks below ten other pitchers already on San Francisco's 40-man roster, Misch definitely merits monitoring next season.


Merkin Valdez, 23, RH Starter
0-0 on a 2:3 K:BB in 1.2 IP over 2 G
with 4 H, 1 HR, a 0-6 G-F, and a 27.00 ERA for San Francisco.
0-0 on a 5:4 K:BB in 5 IP over 1 GS
with 6 H, 0 HR, and a 7.20 ERA for AAA Fresno(PCL).
1-4 and 1 Save on a 31:15 K:BB in 41.2 IP over 7 GS(10G)
with 35 H, 3 HR, and a 4.32 ERA for AA Norwich(EL).
3-1 on a 44:5 K:BB in 35.2 IP over 7 GS
with 30 H, 4 HR, and a 2.52 ERA for A+ San Jose(Cal).

Despite missing the first several weeks of the season with shoulder tendonitis some late-season struggles as he moved up the minor league ladder, Valdez still compiled a 82:27 K:BB in 84 IP with 75 H and 8 HR, respectable marks considering he hadn't pitched above the Sally League until this year. Valdez still could develop into an ace, and the emergence of Noah Lowry and Brad Hennessey, as well as the return to health by Jerome Williams and Jesse Foppert, should give Valdez the extra time he requires before his next promotion to San Francisco. Definitely consider drafting Valdez if you see him available in any NL league.


Potential Reserve Help

Jamie Athas, 25, SS-L
107/419 for .255/.324/.341 with 4 HR, 45 RBI, 58 R, 13/24 SB%,
and a 38:91 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

With 27 errors in 124 games, little power or plate discipline, and weak speed skills, Athas shouldn't reach the majors any time soon. Of course, San Francisco's weakness for poor offensive middle infielders will keep him in the organization's plans, but Athas shouldn't contribute to fantasy teams any time soon.


Chris Begg, 25, RH Starter
2-5 on a 17:18 K:BB in 41.1 IP over 9 GS
with 55 H, 10 HR, and a 6.97 ERA for AAA Fresno(PCL).
9-1 on a 61:11 K:BB in 94 IP over 14 GS(16G)
with 87 H, 3 HR, and a 2.30 ERA for AA Norwich(EL).

The Northern League refugee caught my eye with an impressively effective performance for Norwich. Unfortunately, Begg severely struggled at Fresno and then only managed a 3.6 K/9 in the Arizona Fall League, so don't expect to see him in the majors any time soon.


Mike Cervenak, 28, 3B-R
11/44 for .250/.267/.614 with 5 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:7 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).
138/410 for .337/.414/.583 with 21 HR, 68 RBI, 77 R, 6/7 SB%,
and a 52:53 BB:K for AAA Norwich(EL).

Cervenak thoroughly trashed AA pitching in his fourth Eastern League campaign. Smacking 37 doubles and 26 homers this year, not to mention demonstrating solid plate discipline, earned Cervenak an AFL berth, where he managed a .274/.337/.405 performance in 84 at-bats. However, San Francisco didn't add him to their 40-man roster, and due to his weak batting and on-base averages at Fresno, Cervenak probably won't reach the majors in 2005 barring severe injury problems.


Doug Clark, 28, OF-L
157/537 for .292/.348/.439 with 10 HR, 71 RBI, 82 R, 33/41 SB%,
and a 44:103 BB:K for AA Norwich(EL).

The minor league free agent re-signed with San Francisco for an eighth season despite limited opportunity to accumulate much time at AAA Fresno. Clark's SB spike this season accompanied an OBP decrease, leaving him with little chance to reach the majors in the near future.


Brian Dallimore, 31, 2B-R
12/43 for .279/.347/.395 with 1 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 4:7 BB:K for San Francisco.
140/432 for .324/.396/.447 with 8 HR, 65 RBI, 72 R, 9/11 SB%,
and a 40:53 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

Dallimore finally reached the majors in his ninth professional season. Developing plate discipline kept him reasonably productive for the Giants despite limited power and speed, and if given another opportunity, he could contribute even stronger numbers as a big league reserve. Unfortunately, Dallimore appears unlikely to accumulate more than a few bucks of fantasy value due to his minimal quantitative output.


Lee Gardner, 29, RH Reliever
7-4 and 1 Save on a 42:22 K:BB in 70.2 IP over 57 G
with 79 H, 8 HR, and a 4.46 ERA for AAA Fresno(PCL).

Departing the Devil Rays for the first time resulted in a sharp drop in Gardner's strikeout rate, not to mention the loss of his AAA closing job. I no longer expect Gardner to contribute in the majors any time soon.


Josh Habel, 24, LH Starter
4-10 on a 123:50 K:BB in 136.1 IP over 25 GS(27G)
with 130 H, 21 HR, and a 4.36 ERA for AA Norwich(EL).

The combination of a double-jump from the Sally League and a full-time move to the rotation didn't faze Habel too much, however his relative effectiveness dropped due to across-the-board skill deterioration. While I still expect him to develop into a decent big league option, he likely needs at least a couple more years of seasoning.


Trey Lunsford, 26, C-R
102/405 for .252/.319/.351 with 5 HR, 41 RBI, 39 R, 3/5 SB%,
and a 35:83 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

Lunsford lost his 40-man roster spot to Justin Knoedler, however he should remain a potential replacement at Fresno for another few years. Unfortunately, his lack of offensive development suggests Lunford won't spend much more time in the majors.


Lance Niekro, 25, 1B/3B-R
72/241 for .299/.339/.568 with 12 HR, 47 RBI, 42 R, 1/2 SB%,
and a 14:32 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).
19/61 for .311/.328/.508 with 1 HR, 14 RBI, 61 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 2:5 BB:K for A+ San Jose(Cal).

While he finally demonstrated decent power this year, Niekro's unimpressive overall offensive skill set shouldn't result in more than a platoon job in the majors. I don't envision him positively helping fantasy teams any time soon.


Dan Ortmeier, 23, OF-S
95/377 for .252/.352/.424 with 10 HR, 48 RBI, 55 R, 18/20 SB%,
and a 47:110 BB:K for AA Norwich(EL).

I see just enough upside here to keep my attention thanks to a good walk rate and somewhat interesting quantitative upside. However, a sharp drop in Ortmeier's contact rate from .78 to .71 concerns me, so wait to see how if he rebounds in 2005 before considering him anywhere.


Adam Shabala, 26, OF-L
126/401 for .314/.365/.449 with 9 HR, 48 RBI, 63 R, 21/24 SB%,
and a 32:81 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

Managing across-the-board average improvement despite a promotion to AAA ranks as an impressive accomplishment for Shabala, who also nearly exceeded his SB total from the previous two seasons. Hopefully the Giants soon will provide him with a change of scenery since I don't expect him to receive much major league consideration in San Francisco due to the upper-level outfield depth of the organization.


Jack Taschner, 26, LH Starter
4-7 on a 44:32 K:BB in 53.1 IP over 9 GS(18G)
with 71 H, 14 HR, and a 9.28 ERA for AAA Fresno(PCL).
3-1 on a 55:16 K:BB in 58 IP over 10 GS(14G)
with 47 H, 5 HR, and a 2.48 ERA for AA Norwich(EL).

San Francisco selected Taschner in the second round of the 1999 draft, and due to injuries, he only reached AA a year ago. He rebounded nicely from his command problems in 2003 to effective dominate at Norwich over the first couple months of the season. Yes, abrupt drops in his walk, hit, and homer rates at Fresno make Taschner an extreme risk right not, but any lefty starter with a good strikeout rate at least should succeed in relief, so don't be surprised if he breaks into the Giants' bullpen by 2006.


Tony Torcato, 25, OF-L
5/9 for .556/.583/.556 with 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 1:0 BB:K for San Francisco.
114/395 for .289/.314/.367 with 3 HR, 57 RBI, 39 R, 4/5 SB%,
and an 11:35 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

Torcato finally rewarded the Giants for keeping him on their 40-man roster over the last few years with a few strong hits down the stretch. Of course, he again failed to post a .700 OPS in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, so pay no attention to his big league averages and ignore Torcato whenever you look for fantasy help.


Jeff Urban, 27, LH Reliever
5-4 and 1 Save on a 56:23 K:BB in 66.1 IP over 46 G
with 69 H, 7 HR, and a 4.07 ERA for AAA Fresno(PCL).

Three straight seasons of relative effectiveness at Fresno failed to earn the 41st overall pick of the 1998 draft even a September cup-of-coffee despite solid all-around skills. Hopefully the minor league free agent will find the necessary opportunity with another organization after his mistreatment by San Francisco. If Urban develops as I expect upon reaching the majors, feel free to roster him after he posts a few solid performances.


Minor League Draft Picks

None.


Aside from players listed above, no other San Francisco prospect deserves consideration in 2005 fantasy drafts. Cody Ransom lost his rookie status by exceeding the service time minimum.


Organization Rankings

San Francisco's system appears headed downward quickly due to trades and Brian Sabean's relatively new desire to give away their #1 draft choice to save money. With no pick until #70 this year and likely no selections in the first two rounds next year due to the signings of Omar Vizquel and Armando Benitez, the Giants' pitching pipeline soon will see an abrupt drop in output. While the current big league squad remains competitive thanks to Barry Bonds, and to a lesser extent, Jason Schmidt, the organizational depth is diminishing rather quickly. Only a couple of upper-level outfielders and pitchers still overly interest me here, but don't expect to see rookies contribute any more than absolutely necessary due to Felipe Alou's increasing preference for veterans.

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. San Diego Padres(Fr.Guzman, B.Baker)
11. Atlanta Braves(Da.Meyer, J.Capellan, Marte)
12. Texas Rangers(Kinsler, Ad.Gonzalez, C.Young)
13. Los Angeles Dodgers(Brazoban, Ed.Jackson, Loney, Joel Guzman)
14. Pittsburgh Pirates(Fr.Sanchez, McLouth, Z.Duke)
15. Florida Marlins(Hermida, Willingham, Stokes)
16. New York Yankees(Halsey, D.Navarro, E.Duncan)
17. Baltimore Orioles(Majewski, W.Young, Maine)
18. Toronto Blue Jays(R.Adams, F.Rosario)
19. Chicago White Sox(W.Valdez, B.McCarthy)
20. Kansas City Royals(Teahen, Den.Bautista, Maier)
21. Philadelphia Phillies(R.Howard, Bourn)
22. Houston Astros(C.Burke, Josh Anderson)
23. Boston Red Sox(H.Ramirez, B.Moss)
24. Cincinnati Reds(E.Encarnacion, W.Bergolla)
25. New York Mets(Lydon, Yusmeiro Petit)
26. Detroit Tigers(Granderson, Giarratano)
27. San Francisco Giants(M.Cain)
28. Montreal Expos(Hinckley)
29. Chicago Cubs(DuBois)


Today's Fantasy Rx: Rostering Valdez and Cain makes sense in most leagues, but until you see young Giants actually contributing in the majors in the footsteps of Pedro Feliz and Noah Lowry, spending more than low draft picks on San Francisco rookies ranks as an unnecessary risk given the superior prospects on most other teams.


San Francisco's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2005
1. Jason Ellison, OF
2. Todd Linden, OF
3. Merkin Valdez, SP
4. Mike Cervenak, 3B
5. Matt Cain, SP
6. Fred Lewis, OF
7. Brian Dallimore, 2B
8. Brad Hennessey, SP
9. Adam Shabala, OF
10. Dan Ortmeier, OF
11. Justin Knoedler, C
11. Pat Misch, SP
12. David Aardsma, RP
13. Josh Habel, SP
14. Lance Niekro, 1B/3B
15. Jamie Athas, SS


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