Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
An intriguing dark horse in the likely competition to break camp as Detroit's fifth starter, Baugh possesses far more experience than the more dominant Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya despite a similar pedigree to Verlander. The 11th overall pick in 2001 lost a full season to injury as expected following a college career at Rice that ranked him as the most abused pitcher in his draft class as Baugh regularly piled up lofty pitch counts. Three years of consistently effective pitching now place him on the cusp of the majors despite questionable command, yet with the two best prospects in the system in need of additional seasoning, Baugh deserves a chance to contribute in Detroit. I just can't recommend him as anything more than a late-round option due the strong likelihood of his qualitative stats offsetting any positive contribute in wins or strikeouts.
Even the second pick of the draft generally doesn't crush opponents in this fashion during his first professional season. Verlander simply dominated the Florida State and Eastern Leagues despite not signing his contract until last October, compiling a 1.29 ERA that ranked first in the minors by nearly three-quarters of a point. He now belongs in any discussion of the top pitching prospects in the game, and while giving him a couple months at AAA Toledo makes sense after he suffered from shoulder fatigue, Verlander also appears prepared to post positive fantasy value in the majors. Spend to the high single digits in keeper leagues if he breaks camp in the majors, otherwise selecting him very early in any minor league draft.
Finishing the season at Toledo gives Zumaya a commanding edge on Justin Verlander for the fifth starter's job in spring training, yet Detroit's failure to promote him in September indicates justified concerned regarding his control. Yes, Zumaya clearly dominated most of his opposition while racking 199 strikeouts, a total that ranked second only to Francisco Liriano in the minors, a 4.5 walk rate really worries me. The combination of this elevated workload and new Detroit manager Jim Leyland, notorious for allowing high pitch counts in his previous managerial stops, places Zumaya in particular danger of injury. Despite his potential for both immediate and long-term success, Zumaya only warrants a place on your team if you understand the definite possibility of him losing a season to the DL in the near future.
Two strong initial seasons pushed Clevlen near the top of Detroit's prospect list, but a terrible sputter in his first campaign at Lakeland crashed his value. Thankfully Clevlen rebounded this year, winning the Florida State League MVP while displaying markedly improved skills. Along with Curtis Granderson and Cameron Maybin, Clevlen again looks like the third member of Detroit's future outfield, and his patience, I don't foresee another step back in the Eastern League. Expect him to debut in the majors next September before ascending to a full-time starting job following the 2007 All-Star Game.
Posting the best ratios of his career in his first Florida State League campaign positions de la Cruz among the team's best pitching prospects. Combining plenty of strikeouts with a wealth of groundballs defines the skill set for a top reliever. De la Cruz soon should challenge for a significant late-inning role in Detroit if he maintains these skills at the upper levels of the Tigers' system.
The former Reds' first round pick remains a viable prospect yet unfortunately produced weaker numbers despite repeating at Erie. Of course, Espinosa merited a full year at Toledo after a .264/.366/.440 season last year, but his contact problems apparently led the Tigers to overlook his impressive walk rate. I don't envision him reaching Detroit as anything more than a reserve, though he certainly retains the potential to emerge as a starter elsewhere.
I don't understand why Detroit disrupted Giarratano's development by jumping him to the majors for three weeks in June. At least he continued improving after his return to Erie, and with Carlos Guillen, Omar Infante, and Placido Polanco covering the middle infielder, Giarratano even could return to the Eastern League next spring. While a lack of power probably condemns him to a reserve job, Giarratano's speed at least will merit fantasy attention if his overall averages increase in 2006.
A healthy Kelly obliterated Eastern League pitching in his first extended experience above A-ball. He then maintained good plate discipline and speed skills for Toledo even as his averages cratered. Yet while nothing in Kelly's history suggests obvious power potential, his overall skill set suggests a bright future as a reserve infielder, perhaps warranting fantasy consideration as soon as he starts holding a big league bench spot.
Acquired with Roman Colon for Kyle Farnsworth at the trade deadline, Miner's command continued to deteriorate as he approached the majors. Perhaps he could remain effective in the majors, but with a wealth of superior options at the top levels of the system, I instead expect him to move to the bullpen in the near future. Wait until he secures a steady big league role before rostering Miner anywhere.
The long-term deal awarded Placido Polanco leaves Raburn no logical place in the organization, yet I understand the contract considering Raburn simply doesn't appear ready to start in the majors. Returning to Toledo to start 2006 makes sense here, giving him the opportunity to improve his attractiveness to other teams or at least refine his skills in anticipation of joining the Tigers as a utility player.
While a couple of mild muscle strains halved Sanchez's season, he recovered sufficiently to join the Tigers' AFL squad, giving him a solid chance to finish next year in the majors. He ranks as one of the more dominant pitchers in the system, and if he gains consistency while staying healthy, he could give the Tigers another top-of-the-rotation starter alongside Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, and Joel Zumaya. Of course, you still can't select Sanchez until he proves himself at a higher level without encountering further injury problems, so feel free to ignore Sanchez in 2006 unless he receives a late-season promotion.
Tata built on his 116:68 K:BB in 166.1 IP in the Midwest League last year by managing an almost across-the-board improvement after a promotion to Lakeland. I still don't expect him to emerge as a primary option for the Tigers, but he could continue chugging up prospect charts if he maintains these skills after leaving A-ball.
Spending four of the last five seasons at Erie gives Airoso little reason to leave the Tigers' organization, especially considering he appears unable to secure a AAA job. An unimpressive .72 contact rate remains at the root of his problems, and without a second significant tool accompanying his respectable power, Airoso may never reach the majors despite fairly respectable AA stats.
Almonte ranked as a top relief prospect less than three years ago when the Mets acquired him from the White Sox in the Roberto Alomar deal. Now he seems slotted as a proven minor league closer, more likely to remain in the upper minors indefinitely than receive more than a token look in a big league bullpen. You can't chance a roster slot on him until he firmly graduates from the minors.
The Tigers finally added Bumatay to the organization last fall after almost keeping him as a Rule 5 pick in the spring of 2004. Unfortunately, his failure to depart AA for more than a brief excursion to Toledo suggests a severely limited upside for Bumatay, who despite decent dominance, won't peak as anything more than a middle reliever.
Completing a move to the bullpen didn't translate into additional success for Ennis, who appears to lack the control necessary to remain effective in short stints. Barring a breakthrough in the near future, he seems destined for a career as a AAAA swingman.
Following three seasons in the Midwest League, Francia managed the best averages of his career at Lakeland, shockingly earning a mid-season promotion to the Eastern League. While he certainly lacks power potential, his speed intrigues me, especially since he seems headed for Detroit's bench in the near future. A late-season pick-up here just might net you a half-dozen steals, although waiting until 2007 or later before adding Francia also makes sense.
Two impressive stints in the Texas League convinced Detroit to claim Gettis off waivers yet quickly resulted in a trip back to AA after a slow start. Expecting Gettis to emerge as a more than an occasional big league backup now seems illogical unless he finds a more trusting organization in minor league free agency.
I see little left of the player who looked like a future $30 stud after a very solid Texas League campaign in 2002. Gomez no longer possesses much power or patience, rendering his still-respectable speed skills mostly unplayable in the majors. He needs to win a firm job as a reserve before even warranting further attention as a Dollar Days' gamble.
Green switched from the Indians to the Tigers in a minor mid-season deal that at least provided the former Angels' prospect with a clearer shot to the majors. Unfortunately, even an outstanding groundball rate didn't allow Green to overcome a weak defense, so hopefully he'll sign somewhere like the Mariners or Cardinals, teams that possess a superior defense and potential bullpen openings for journeymen relievers .
Returning to the bullpen for the majority of the summer helped Hamman post the best numbers since his debut season in 2002. Yes, his hit and ground-fly rates concern me, and he also likely lacks the dominance to remain effective at higher levels, but any southpaw with his level of control should enjoy a long career while retaining the potential to move to the majors at almost any time.
.Rather than force Hannahan back to Erie for a fourth straight season, the Tigers wisely moved him to Toledo, where he again managed a perfectly pedestrian performance, right in line with his recent Eastern league numbers. Barring unexpected power development, he shouldn't see more than the briefest of looks in the majors.
Solid plate discipline remains Harper's primary offensive tool. He only needs one decent break in the majors to secure an extended tour as a big league backup backstop.
A couple years after earning praise as the potential next David Eckstein, Hooper instead barely rates a AAA roster spot yet somehow briefly saw time in Detroit. Yes, he still possesses strong speed skills and decent plate discipline, but diminishing power numbers and falling overall averages should prevent him from returning to the majors any time soon.
A healthy Johnson finally managed a full season above A-ball, posting perfectly unimpressive numbers that suggest little chance of serious success at higher levels. Perhaps a move to relief might help his dominance, but I instead expect a return to Erie to see if his skill set rebound closer to his pre-injury numbers.
I consider Karnuth one of the more talented AAAA relievers in the game as he almost always demonstrates solid command and little obvious downside. Those qualities similarly leave him without much upside in the majors, so considering him as more than potential roster filler appears increasingly foolish.
Sending first Chris Shelton and then Carlos Pena to play first base for AAA Toledo condemned Tejada to a second straight season at Erie despite his .289/.362/.516 performance there in 2004. He slipped badly this year, failing to earn a 40-man roster spot and now likely departing as a minor league free agent. While he still could develop into a decent big leaguer, Tejada seems more likely to plateau as a AAAA slugger capable of seeing platoon duty with second-division teams.
Nothing about Woodyard particularly impresses, however he posted the best skill set of his career in his first full year of relief duty and remained effective even after a promotion to the majors. His groundball and strikeout rates combine to give him a strong shot to break camp with the Tigers, and though I don't see him closing, he soon could warrant consideration as roster filler if he continues to echo these stats as expected.
The tenth overall pick of the draft finally signed late last month and will begin his professional career in the spring. Treat Maybin purely as a long-term gamble, however he rates as a pure centerfielder, so even if his bat takes a long time to develop, he eventually will emerge as a quality everyday player. Expecting any less than a majority of four seasons in the minors is a mistake, so also realize that his fantasy value consists of little more than his role as trade bait until somewhere around 2009.
Tommy John surgery in June finished a wrecked season for Sleeth, who battled elbow and forearm problems the entire year. The good news is that the fairly early surgery means Sleeth should return by the middle of 2005, and given his pedigree as the third pick in the 2003 draft, he appears set to reach the majors in 2007 barring further health problems. Nothing in his numbers portends immediate dominance, but grabbing him as a late Ultra pick at least could give you decent trade bait.
Unlike the vast majority of teams, not a single Tigers' rookie currently seems likely to post positive fantasy value in 2006. While Detroit possesses a variety of very intriguing long-term options from Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya to Brent Clevlen and Cameron Maybin, as well as Eulogio de la Cruz and Humberto Sanchez, only Verlander appears even reasonably assured of contributing by 2007. Repeatedly wasting very high draft picks on injury risks or players with very limited upside leaves an unfortunate paucity of talent here. At least continued development of their most promising prospects could result in Detroit skyrocketing up this ranking next year.
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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