Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Craig Hansen, 21, RH Reliever
The former Yankee fan and top college closer finally joined Boston as the 26th overall pick this June for upwards of four million dollars, immediately beginning to pay back that investment by reaching the majors in less than two months. Any further difficulties encountered by Keith Foulke should push Hansen into the closer's role, especially if the Red Sox do not retain free agent Mike Timlin. The youngster appears quite likely to follow in Huston Street's footsteps, and although I don't expect Hansen to match Street as perhaps the most valuable reliever in the game, he can contribute to a successful team in the spring. Feel free to bid no less than several bucks here, especially in keeper leagues where you nearly know for certain that Hansen will start closing before you need to extend his contract.
Boston stole Machado from the Nationals this spring for Carlos Torres, an A-ball first baseman with minimal offensive upside. Joining his fifth organization in five seasons, Machado continued blossoming in his first AAA campaign. He sustained his strong plate discipline and solid speed skills, though he obviously lacks power. Machado also appears able to handle nearly any defensive position, including shortstop, second base, and centerfield. While he never should start for any extended time, I expect the Red Sox to carry a speedy reserve indefinitely following Dave Roberts' stolen base in the 2004 ALCS, and Machado holds an edge on Adam Stern due to greater position flexibility. A Dollar Days' flyer here might net well over a dozen steals from someone likely to qualify in the middle infield by May.
Emerging as a primary relief option on a playoff team somewhat obscures the shocking fact that Papelbon compiled a 110:26 K:BB in 114.2 IP in the upper minors after only a single campaign of full-season A-ball in 2004. Shooting to the majors in such a dominant fashion suggests a tremendous future for the rookie, and Boston correctly appears set to push Papelbon into the rotation next spring. Don't be surprised if he pushes $20 given the necessary offensive and defensive support, though bidding not much above $5 in the hope of snagging a $10-15 pitcher seems the most prudent course of action.
Only a mild wrist injury prevented Pedroia from replacing Mark Bellhorn for the stretch run. Boston's second round pick in 2004 instead finished polishing his skills at Pawtucket, and barring a largely unexpected commitment to a veteran, Pedroia will enter 2006 as Boston's starter at second base even as he possesses the defensive skills to handle himself at shortstop. While he obviously lacks speed, Pedroia's outstanding plate discipline will result in his promotion to the #2 hole before he reaches arbitration. With further BA and power development looking very likely, you should consider Pedroia a leading Rookie of the Year candidate and future All-Star.
Abe Alvarez, 23, LH Starter
Managing these numbers in most organizations might rank Alvarez among a club's top couple of prospects, yet the presence of Papelbon, Lester, and Sanchez here nearly reduces Alvarez to an afterthought in considering Boston's future rotation. Perhaps he will navigate the inevitable waves of trades and injuries and overcome his homer problems to remain on the Red Sox, though I instead expect Alvarez to follow the career path of a less dominating starter like Tomo Ohka. Wait until Alvarez begins succeeding in the majors before adding him anywhere.
A focus on Delcarmen's potential dominance as a reliever resulted in a move from the starting rotation, which resulted in an extended stint on the Red Sox this summer following a couple of impressive month at both Portland and Pawtucket. The biggest problem here is that a high walk rate renders him nearly useless to fantasy teams unless he somehow begins closing. Right now Delcarmen looks like no more than capable bullpen filler with significant WHIP downside.
His steady progression up the minor league ladder places Lester on the cusp of the majors next spring as perhaps Boston's best long-term prospect. While a mildly elevated walk rate continues to concern me, Lester's overall dominance as a very young southpaw starter bodes quite well for his career prospects. At this point, I fully expect the Red Sox to keep him rather than risk him exploding into the majors anywhere else, so despite the competition Lester faces to earn a rotation slot, feel free to gamble on him anywhere he remains available in the spring.
Meredith reached the majors behind only a couple of players from the 2004 draft, and as only his high hit rate at Pawtucket particularly concerns me, his multiple promotions appear completely justified by his otherwise dominant performance. The combination of an outstanding ground-fly ratio with very strong strikeout and walk rates ranks him among the game's top relief prospects, however with Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, and Keith Foulke in the system, Meredith probably possesses more value as a middle reliever. He merits no fantasy consideration until he begins echoing his AA skills in the majors.
A lowered contact rate appears entirely responsible for a lesser performance this summer from Boston's top outfield prospect. Moss also reached Portland a year ahead of schedule, so even if he spends another full season in the minors, he seems set to replace Trot Nixon in 2007. Unfortunately, his currently limited power and relative lack of speed reduce the immediate roto upside of Moss even if he should emerge as a consistent $15-20 option in a few seasons.
Boston expected the 17th overall pick of the 2003 draft to develop into an everyday centerfielder, and at least Murphy approximately maintained his A-ball skills in a full season at Portland. He also only turned 24 today and continues to learn the position alongside teammate Brandon Moss, his likely future partner in the Red Sox's outfield. My main concern is that Murphy lacks any singularly impressive tool or skill, so although he easily should emerge as no less than a very useful reserve, nothing here necessitates any immediate roto investment.
While he still retains significant upside, Ramirez backslid in nearly every category this year, essentially fizzling offensively in his first full AA season. Even minor improvement in his overall plate discipline cannot compensate for the lack of power development and a lower average. At least Ramirez continues to steal bases fairly regularly, so he should hold decent trade value, but nothing here suggests any imminent threat to Edgar Renteria or pending starters Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia in Boston's infield. Divest your team of Ramirez before the Red Sox similarly move Ramirez for more immediate help.
Sanchez entered this season after only a half-year in the New York-Penn League and proceeded to overwhelm both Carolina and Eastern League pitchers all season long. His combined 158:40 K:BB in 136 IP ranks him among the most dominant pitchers in the game, and if Boston gives him another year to develop as expected, he should join Clement, Papelbon, and Lester in one of the game's best rotations by 2007. Only the slight risk of a trade here keeps me from unilaterally targeting Sanchez in spring drafts.
Managing nearly across-the-board improvement in his second Pawtucket campaign elevates Shoppach atop the list of minor league catchers most prepared for a big league starting job. The problem here is that long-term commitments to Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli reduce Shoppach to injury insurance, a pleasant problem for the Red Sox despite the damage to Shoppach's career. While I see no reason Boston won't trade him this winter after nearly completing a deadline deal, don't gamble here until you see some club commit to playing Shoppach every day for his OBP and power even as he looks like a probable BA drag until his peak years.
Returning to the bullpen surprisingly resulted in slippage of most of Bausher's skill ratios, yet he remained largely successful in his first AAA campaign. Nothing here suggests he won't remain effective in the majors, so though he merits no fantasy attention until he begins contributing after another promotion, Bausher's appearance on free agent lists should provide another option for teams needing roster filler.
An 18th round pick in 2004, Beam followed Manny Delcarmen and Cla Meredith in shooting up the minor league ladder. While he appears destined for no more than a steady gig in middle relief in a year or two, Beam's 123:38 K:BB in over 114 IP as a professional suggests additional fantasy upside if given the opportunity.
Playing his tenth minor league season without reaching the majors at least resulted in the best year of Deschenes' professional career. Joining Boston after a couple of years in the Atlantic League seemingly invigorated him, and now he appears able to help the big league club whenever needed. Of course, if even the Red Sox didn't promote him in their search for bullpen stability this summer, expecting more than an occasional token appearance for Deschenes seems unwise.
Nearly every season Figueroa displays impressive plate discipline overwhelmed by his nearly complete lack of other skills. He doesn't even walk at a sufficient rate to remain useful in the majors, so despite the fact that he wouldn't hurt most fantasy teams, Figueroa also offers barely any upside.
Although Gabbard's performance improved in his return to Portland, his skills continue to lag, and he logically appears headed to the bullpen sometime soon. Regardless of his role, only immediately increased dominance will result in Gabbard warranting any fantasy consideration in the near future.
Three straight strong seasons in Boston's upper minors still haven't pushed Kester into the majors. While he certainly lacks dominance, allowing very few walks compensates for his abundant hit totals, keeping Kester largely effective against a high level of competition. He deserves a shot to contribute in the majors in some capacity, though I don't see him earning a spot on most fantasy rosters barring an unlikely breakout.
Acquired with Jay Payton and Ramon Vazquez for Dave Roberts last year, Pauley remained nicely effective in his first season above A-ball. Unfortunately, while his walk rate improved, a sharp reduction in his overall dominance suggests a future in the bullpen. Only an abundance of injuries will push Pauley to the majors prior to 2007.
Only the likely presence of a few healthy veteran southpaws in spring training should keep Perez in the minors next year as his strikeout rate adequately compensates for his other problems. Of course, heading into a probable career as a lefty specialist obviously limits Perez's fantasy value indefinitely, and his pending minor league free agency leaves us unsure of his 2006 destination.
Merely producing a little power at Pawtucket will not result in a major league promotion for Sherrod, an organization soldier whose abundant contact problems severely reduce his long-term potential. Even a possible call-up as an injury replacement will not result in any extended playing time since the Red Sox appear far more likely to jump Brandon Moss or David Murphy into the lineup.
Unlike many Rule 5 picks, Stern actually seemed to suffer from real injuries, following his obligatory two-month DL stint for hamstring problems with a sprained thumb and then requiring labrum surgery before season's end. At least he managed to continue developing at Pawtucket when healthy, and although he should return to Pawtucket next spring, Stern soon will give the Red Sox a useful defensive replacement and pinch-running option. Feel free to consider adding him as roster filler after he rejoins the big league club.
An impressive debut campaign in America did not quite earn the Japanese League veteran a trip to Boston. In consideration of his advanced age and despite his relative effectiveness, I simply don't see Tomori contributing in the majors.
Slowly progressing though the system leaves West as a no more than a secondary option in Boston's long-term planning, but if he continues developing for a year or two at AAA Pawtucket, he could earn a spot as a part-time option in the majors. Of course, even considering him a potential Kevin Millar seems unreasonable given his limited power output, so West also might spend the vast majority of his career in the upper minors.
Although the young knuckleballer rebounded from his rather dreadful 2004, he still suffers from command difficulties. However, he at least managed a decent AA performance for most of the year before struggling at Pawtucket. Given the normal development problems faced by knuckleballers, Zink should continue struggling towards the majors for a few more years before possibly embarking on an extended career as an innings eater.
Considering Theo Epstein fulfilled his initial goals of winning a World Series and rebuilding the farm system, the best hope for Boston's continued success includes Theo re-signing with the Red Sox this month. Any other course easily could result in drastic changes, highlighted by the rather insane idea of moving Manny Ramirez without receiving a comparable hitter in return. With Pedroia, a couple of outfield prospects, and a trio of dominant starting prospects, Boston finally appears set to integrate homegrown talent into the long-term franchise structure, hopefully emulating the Yankees a decade ago. I similarly expect deals involving Hanley Ramirez and Kelly Shoppach in the near future with the goal of adding one more impressive bat to the lineup, potentially reconstituting the rumored deadline deal involving Adam Dunn or perhaps moving Shoppach and a pitcher for Lyle Overbay. Of course, retaining most of the young pitchers, as well as Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo, provides the best insurance against the deterioration of aging arms Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield. Although the system still lacks a wealth of high-upside talent in the lower levels, the pending incorporation of Pedroia, Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, and other prospects with the Idiots in the majors should sustain Boston's success for a few more years before requiring an additional infusion of young talent.
Current ranking of potentially helpful fantasy depth for teams discussed thus far in 2005, 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. Boston Red Sox(Pedroia, C.Hansen, Papelbon)
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