Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Brian Anderson, 23, OF-R
Perhaps nothing here stands out as overly impressive, but the key is that Anderson owns respectable skills now and most scouts believe he possesses significant long-term upside. Reaching the majors barely two years after Chicago selected him with the 15th overall pick, he demonstrated both a good walk rate and promising power potential in Charlotte then held a 3.80 #P/PA in the majors. With any departure among the veteran 1B/DH/OF corps of the White Sox opening a clear starting job for Anderson, he appears primed to open 2006 as a big league starter, adding a quality young bat to the offense while bolstering the defense with a right fielder capable of handling center. Ignore his debut numbers in the majors as Anderson looks like an excellent sleeper candidate for Rookie of the Year given the increasing media attention earned by Chicago's success.
Possibly the most promising Chicago outfielder for fantasy teams, Young skipped over A+ to emerge as one of the most intriguing prospects in baseball. Hitters are not supposed to maintain a .15 walk rate while cutting their strikeouts in their first AA campaign even if they spent a couple years in A-ball. Young's rapid rise coupled with his significant HR/SB potential, solidifies his standing as a potential roto stud. With at least a few more months of development time at AAA Charlotte, Young should finish polishing his tools as Scott Podsednik's likely replacement in 2007. Even if further injury problems in Chicago don't create a mid-season job opening, Young still belongs near the top of any minor league draft next spring.
Felix Diaz, 25, RH Starter
Missing the first month of the year with shoulder trouble resulted in Diaz spending a third straight season at Charlotte, failing even to earn a September promotion for the stretch run. The problem here is that Diaz deserved a rotation spot at the beginning of 2004, he appears out of options, and the White Sox staff lacks obvious openings, making a change of scenery over the winter the best outcome for Diaz. Of course, keeping him as injury insurance also makes sense for Chicago given the limited alternatives available at their highest minor league levels. I still like his chances of emerging as a solid starter for no less than a couple of years, but until you see Diaz secure a big league job, he warrants little fantasy consideration.
The 18th overall pick in 2004 advanced to Birmingham after a fairly unimpressive debut in the Carolina League. Improving his OBP despite reaching AA suggests Fields will continue adapting when he reaches AAA Charlotte next year. He appears on track to replace Joe Crede the following season, assuming he makes any progress in reducing his strikeouts thereby boosting his power totals thanks to making more contact. Feel free to spend a mid-round pick on Fields if you don't mind acquiring a young power hitter destined to drag down your BA until his prime.
After considering several Chicago prospects in a late-season sim draft, we opted for Haigwood based on his continued dominance in the Southern League. The most advanced pitching prospect in the organization following Brandon McCarthy's promotion to the majors, Haigwood's 160:64 K:BB in 143.2 IP, not to mention a 14-3 record and only 110 hits allowed, all position him as the next homegrown starter to join the rotation. Yes, his control problems worry me, but he at least should maintain these skills at AAA next season before beginning to take advantage of the strong White Sox defense in 2007.
Minimizing downside to register a superb ERA is not the same as dominating your opponents. Liotta failed to compile particularly impressive skills despite his 14-5 record and 2.02 ERA. He clearly ranks behind both Daniel Haigwood and Gio Gonzalez, so hope a fellow owner jumps on his shiny basic stats rather than realizing the strong likelihood that Liotta won't contribute in Chicago much before 2008.
Claiming Alex Escobar off waivers offered little obvious upside for a Chicago team loaded with superior outfielders, but after keeping him on the 40-man roster last winter, Kenny Williams flipped Escobar to Washington during spring training for Owens, the Expos' second round pick in 2003. Owens posted mildly interesting numbers in the Sally League last year, yet his lack of power easily offset his otherwise solid performance. Now, despite joining Chris Young in skipping A+, he ranks as a very strong prospect after finishing among the top three in the Southern League in average, steals, and walks. Maintaining solid plate discipline leaves only more selective baserunning as an obvious need for improvement. While his limited power potential may hold him to a utility role, fantasy owners still will enjoy rostering Owens' SB potential once he secures a steady job in the majors .
Nearly sent to Cincinnati in a deal for Ken Griffey, Rogowski finally departed the Carolina League after more than two seasons at Winston-Salem yet failed to impress at Birmingham. A superficial look at Rogowski suggests improvement given his superior BA and steal total, but decreasing power, plate discipline, and baserunning effectiveness leave him unlikely to emerge as more than a platoon player in the majors. I cannot recommend selecting Rogowski in any league at this time, especially since he appears firmly placed on Chicago's trading block.
With three solid big league starters, Brian Anderson at AAA, and three strong prospects at AA, the White Sox possess more upper-level outfield depth than any team in the game. The main problem here is that Sweeney ranks at the bottom of that ladder based on his performance, age, and experience. Yes, the organization loves him and almost kept him out of spring training in 2004, but with only minimal current power and speed skills, Sweeney desperately needs another year or two of seasoning. Fortunately for his long-term development, Chicago can afford to give him more time in the minors. Consider Sweeney no more than a decent long-term prospect until he begins posting strong numbers in some 5x5 category outside of batting average.
Birmingham's offense resulted in an excellent record for Tracey, a performance that partially camouflages his questionable skills. He at least maintained his weak walk rate, however significant downturns in his strikeout, homer, and hit rates suggest Tracey will not emerge as a quality big league starter. On the other hand, his repertoire and skill development indicate a potential to thrive out of the bullpen, so although I can't recommend him now, a move to relief soon could provide Bobby Jenks with a young set-up man.
An unexpected speed surge from Valido, accompanied by further power development, almost allows us to overlook the significantly increased plate discipline problems he experienced in the Carolina League. However, since he remains young for his level and faces little competition prior to reaching the majors, a late-round gamble here could net you a superb speed source in a year or two, but waiting to see if Valido carries his performance gains to AA makes the most sense.
Jeff Bajenaru, 27, RH Reliever
Any sort of respectable performance in spring training easily could earn Bajenaru a spot in the majors following three excellent campaigns in the upper minors. While he appears unlikely to emerge as more than a decent middle reliever, his consistently strong skills make him an interesting roto target once he begins echoing his AAA numbers in the majors.
Three strong AA campaigns simply have not translated into any AAA success for Bikowski, who adds neither much power nor speed to his decent plate discipline. Although he's achieved minor league free agency, he could return as organization filler with AA Birmingham's superb outfield trio graduating to Charlotte.
Birmingham's fourth outfielder posted the best numbers of his career as he proved an adequate alternative to the organization's top outfield prospects. Perhaps Blakely will enjoy a few seasons as a big league reserve, but with no dominant tools and a history of barely mediocre performances, don't expect to see him spend much time in the majors.
Assigning the journeyman to Winston-Salem two years after he eked out passable numbers for AA Erie unsurprisingly resulted in a rather exceptional summer for the veteran as he demolished the pitching of prospects as much as several years younger than himself. His tremendous struggles for Charlotte better illustrate his minimal long-term upside, so while we commend Daigle on his Carolina League MVP, don't expect to see the minor league free agent in the majors any time soon.
Barring an unexpected leap forward in spring training, Joshua Fields will remain at Charlotte, where third base prospect Josh Fields will join him to wreck havoc on International League scorekeepers. Defining them as Joshua L. Fields and Josh D. Fields might help, but given Chicago's relief depth, this reliever appears rather unlikely to reach the majors with the White Sox, severely limiting his fantasy value for the next couple of years.
Gonzalez managed perhaps the best overall marks of his career in his first full AA season, but minimal quantitative production leaves him little chance of significantly contributing in the majors. I don't expect him to emerge as more than a reserve infielder.
With a career OBP of nearly .400, supported by a 789:761 BB:K and a 366/475 SB%, Hall desperately needs to find a team willing to give him more than 176 AAA at-bats. Dominating A-ball earns him few props after a couple of strong AA campaigns, but even if he will not develop into a big league starter, Hall appears to own ideal skills for a fifth outfielder on almost any team. Combining a decent average, plate discipline, and strong speed skills could result in double-digit roto value if he ever receives a full season in the majors.
The former 16th round pick at least managed to stay healthy for a half-season. Honel lost his 40-man roster spot yet pitched so poorly he appears in little danger of becoming a Rule 5 selection. With only a respectable strikeout rate standing out from otherwise unimpressive skills, he probably doesn't even merit retention in deep Ultra leagues despite my belief that his long-term upside remains fairly high.
Poor averages, limited plate discipline, and disappearing speed skills leave Lopez as little more than a defensive replacement right now. He desperately needs a strong rebound in 2006 to avoid a rapid drop down Chicago's long-term depth chart.
Missing all of 2004 due to injury resulted in Malone reemerging as a decent relief prospect as he finally registered decent command above A-ball. A trip to the AFL also suggests that the White Sox still value him in the organization, so although he seems destined for no more than middle relief, don't forget Malone completely.
With a very strong sextet of big league starters and three surging southpaw pitching prospects, Munoz no longer profiles as a starter for Chicago. Given his past dominance in relief, the White Sox need to consider carrying him in the majors next year as a second lefty out of the bullpen. Wait until he compiles a few impressive outings before adding him anywhere.
Unimpressive dominance severely limits Phillips' upside, especially in an organization like the White Sox, who possess a trio of top southpaw pitching prospects. He might contribute in a limited role, but nothing here suggests a future in a big league rotation
Pollok earned at AA berth after he tied for the minor league lead in saves a year ago. While he experienced an across-the-board skills drop, he remained relatively effective and soon could compete for a big league roster spot if he remains successful in AAA.
The minor league free agent failed to carry his mildly interesting A-ball skills to the upper levels of the system. Reyes merits no fantasy consideration right now even though his relative youth and a decent AA performance suggest he eventually will emerge as a useful back-up.
Posting a 1.83 ERA last year for AA Birmingham earned Smith a trip to Charlotte, but his continued failure to post a strong skill set may leave him perpetually short of the majors. Don't expect to see Smith on your free agent lists any time soon.
Despite a development track that should leave Stewart as organization filler, he posted the best offensive numbers of his career while repeating AA. Adding a little more power and plate discipline soon could push Stewart into annual contention for a back-up job, so while he shouldn't help any fantasy teams in 2006, I expect him to stake a decent claim in the $1 catcher derby by decade's end.
The White Sox finally gave Ulacia a season at Charlotte, where he bombed horribly on his way to minor league free agency. Compiling a few solid AA seasons at a young age at least suggests that he could develop into a big league option, but he currently lacks the skills even to maintain passable AAA numbers.
Perhaps I don't truly expect the non-drafted free agent to reach the majors, but with very little downside and consistently improving ERAs, a decent AA year will push him toward Chicago. Wasserman at least looks like capable bullpen filler if he continues developing.
Gio Gonzalez, 20, LH Starter
Gonzalez compiled a 163:47 K:BB in 131 IP despite not turning 20 until mid-September. He has not compiled many innings for his age despite dominating mostly older hitters in A-ball. Of course, drafting him next spring is a bad idea given Chicago's pitching depth and the fact Gonzalez won't require a 40-man spot until after the 2006 season. Even though you risk losing him to your competitors, wait until you see him continue excelling against AA hitters before rostering him anywhere.
The White Sox easily might field an entirely new starting outfield by the beginning of 2008 as Brian Anderson, Chris Young, and Ryan Sweeney all appear destined for Chicago in the near future. While at least one member of this trio could be dealt for more pitching depth, the potential of these youngsters as well as that of AA starters Jerry Owens and Josh Fields provides the White Sox with the incoming homegrown talent necessary to offset potential monster contracts for Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle. Chicago lacks obvious prospects in the lower levels of the system outside of the lefty trio of Haigwood, Gonzalez, and Liotta, who should begin 2006 at AA. I also see no more than a token prospect in the vital up-the-middle positions, portending possible significant problems in a few years. Yet with the first pennant in two generations secured, an expanding fan base capable of supporting an increasing budget, and a general manager always willing to trade tomorrow for today, the White Sox should remain competitive despite the somewhat limited options currently available for fantasy teams.
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)
7:05: Houston@St. Louis
Okay, the Astros let the Cardinals enjoy The Pujols Game while declining to clinch at home. Houston still looks perfectly able to win their first pennant tonight behind Roy Oswalt.
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