Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Justin Huber, 23, 1B-R
Even a disappointing offensive season from John Buck didn't push Huber back behind the plate. He needs to continue developing at first base to avoid slipping behind Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, both of whom may require 1B/DH slot by the time they reach the majors. The good news is that shedding the tools of ignorance resulted in an offensive surge for Huber, who appears set to beat out Ken Harvey to share two starting jobs with Mike Sweeney. Approaching double-digit bidding isn't a terrible idea for a potential long-term COR solution in many leagues, although potential BA problems also place a fairly hard $15 ceiling on his 2006 performance.
Largely unexpected power development gives Aviles a chance to emerge as a future starter, but with plenty of competition in the system and no dominant tool, he currently appears headed for the Royals' bench. Unimpressive plate discipline similarly renders his speed too risky to roster barring further improvement in his overall effectiveness at the plate.
Remaining healthy all year at least allowed Bass to consolidate his development at Wichita, but his failure even to reach AAA Omaha despite an ineffectively expedient rotation of pitchers between the top levels of the Royals' system suggests minimal long-term upside here. I see no reason to roster Bass anywhere until he established himself as a viable big league pitcher.
Ignore both Bucker's elevated walk rate and ERA at the hitters' haven in High Desert. More importantly he struck out nearly a batter per inning while compiling a strong 2.13 G-F. Expect him to open 2006 as a primary starter for AA Wichita, and any early success in the Texas League could result in a mid-season promotion. Buckner ranks as a strong candidate to secure a long-term rotation spot in Kansas City, although fantasy owners need to wait to make sure the Royals don't rush him to the majors, thereby risking his impressive development thus far.
The biggest obstacle facing Kaaihue is the tremendous glut of talent likely competing for 1B/DH at-bats in Kansas City by the time he reaches the majors. Impressive improvement in his plate discipline boosted Kaaihue to an impressive year, but he simply appears to lack the power necessary to develop into more than a quality AAAA option.
Yes, Lubanski played at one of the best hitters' parks in professional baseball, but he also accumulated 72 extra-base hits in high-A after turning 20 in March. A .75 contact rate, good speed, and increasingly intriguing power potential easily could compensate for his lack of patience. The fifth pick from the 2003 draft should challenge for a big league job by next fall, so despite his questionable plate discipline, Lubanski's clear path to the majors insures he deserves a high pick in any minor league draft.
Maier's struggles for Wichita better illustrate his diminishing potential than his unsupported average at High Desert. The 30th overall pick of the 2003 draft simply hasn't developed any plate discipline, effectively negating his respectable speed skills and gradually improving power. Don't risk a pick here until Maier offers a definite sign that his future involves more than a reserve job in the majors.
Few development on the Royals baffled me more than Murphy's progression from the second baseman of the future to essentially expendable organization soldier on the basis of a couple unimpressive weeks in the majors. HRH Buddy Bell needs to realize that Murphy, despite deserving perhaps two more full years of upper-level seasoning, still managed a 4.16 #P/PA and .96 G-F for Kansas City, accompanied by a .12 walk rate. His weak plate discipline at Wichita concerns me, but I see no logical reason Murphy can't develop into a productive everyday player. You simply can't risk picking him for fantasy teams until he either receives a change of scenery or Royals' management offers some indication of a chance of heart regarding Murphy's place in the organization.
Cory Aldridge, 26, OF-L
Failing to maintain an adequate performance level as he finally progressed beyond AA suggests Aldridge won't impact the majors any time soon. Even considering him viable roster filler seems a mistake given his limited patience.
The Royals' seventh round pick in 2002 shifted to the bullpen with very promising results. Bayliss compiled the best skill set of his career with only a weak ground-fly rate suggesting potential problems at a higher level. Demonstrating continued command with the Royals gives him an excellent chance to break camp in the majors, though with several more dominant options available in the majors, Bayliss appears stuck in middle relief for the indefinite future.
Snagged in the minor league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, Demaria dominated in two hitters' parks, earning an extended audition in Kansas City. Of course, he clearly needs at least a few more months in the minors, but Demaria easily could earn a regular role with the Royals by next fall.
Returning to an affiliated team to conclude the year reasserts Elder's status as a very viable AAAA option. Of course, he needs to begin producing comparable numbers in the majors before earning any fantasy consideration.
Hopefully Gemoll will receive a long look during spring training after spending the last three seasons in the upper levels of the Royals' system. While he lacks significant offensive skills, he can handle most infield positions adequately, possibly providing Kansas City with a respectable homegrown utilityman.
Top-ten picks with a 100 MPH fastball always will receive plenty of chances until either they approach 30 or succumb to injury. The Royals wisely kept Griffin in relief, yet rather than allow him to gain confidence by dominating weaker opponents in A-ball, they allowed his command to regress over a full season in the Texas League. Griffin no longer merits retention in any fantasy league until he offers some indication of a future spent as more than a hard-throwing AAAA reliever.
A top relief prospect with the Rockies less than two years ago, losing his formally superb command in Omaha sharply reduces Huisman's expected upside. Improvement in his walk rate appears vital for a return to the majors.
Returning to Wichita made little sense for Middleton, although at least his command improved even as his hit rate skyrocketed. He still retains the potential to develop into capable rotation filler, so hopefully th Royals will give him the first available slot at Omaha next year.
Phillips finally secured the backup catcher's job during the second half. While his declining plate discipline and overall lack of offense indicate little upside, Phillips also appears quite capable of maintaining a decent BA, making him a viable $1 catcher in most standard leagues.
Three successful AA seasons, culminating in this impressive campaign, finally should earn Pressley a starting job closer to the majors. While he no longer ranks as a respectable prospect likely to see extended playing time in the majors, Pressley at least shouldn't hurt you if given a shot next season.
Failing to earn a promotion to one of the worst teams in recent memory adequately illustrates Ramirez's slipping prospect status. Now entering minor league free agency for the second straight year, only an immediate improvement in his overall dominance will keep Ramirez from earning the unfortunate label of minor league closer and virtually insuring a career as a AAAA middle reliever.
Kansas City understandably soured on Santos after he failed to produce strong numbers over a year at Omaha. With several superior 1B/DH options available in the organization, the Royals allowed Santos to depart via minor league free agency, and although he lacks significant upside, he still should emerge as a useful pinch-hitter or even a platoon starter.
The Royals' former closing prospect returned to the Royals yet still somehow failed to earn a berth in the big league bullpen. While a poor ground-fly rate limits Sonnier's upside, his outstanding command should enable him to take advantage of any opportunity in the majors.
Back problems curtailed Stemle's season, ruining an ideal chance to secure a role in the majors after three tours of AAA with the Cardinals. Now he at least seems track to receive a long look during spring training, but until you see him contributing to the Royals, don't risk rostering him anywhere.
The fourth overall pick of the 2000 draft barely remains a prospect after missing most of the previous two seasons and failing to boost his strikeout rate over 5.0. Fortunately Stodolka still owns excellent control and the limited downside of a groundball pitcher, so even if he fails to remain effective in the rotation, I see no reason he can't contribute in a big league bullpen.
An adequate AAA debut positions Tamayo to challenge for a rotation slot as soon as next spring. While unimpressive dominance indicates limited upside, Tamayo still might warrant fantasy consideration in the near future assuming he maintains good control in the majors.
Wilkerson continued to demonstrate excellent command upon reaching Omaha, but with persistently high hit rates and meager strikeout totals limiting his potential in relief, I no longer expect him to enjoy any lengthy stay in the majors. Avoid Wilkerson unless he manages to take significant advantage of any available opportunity for advancement.
Billy Butler, 19, OF-R
Playing in two high-offense environments only slightly detracts from Butler's amazing season. Turning 19 in mid-April only ten months after signing as the 14th pick of the draft, Butler largely demolished two league's pitchers despite his status as one of the youngest players at both levels. Perhaps he even could earn a mid-season promotion next year, but I instead believe the Royals will wait until they need to protect him on the 40-man roster, giving Butler a full year in the upper levels of the minors before allowing him to compete for a big league job in the spring of 2007. The biggest obstacle facing Butler is an obvious lack of defensive skills, potentially forcing the youngster into competition with Mike Sweeney, Justin Huber, and even possibly Alex Gordon for 1B/DH at-bats. Hopefully instead Butler will continue developing in left field since the Royals' chance for consistent playoff contention by the end of the decade relies largely on Butler's presence in the middle of the lineup, alongside a few other power hitters.
The second pick in the June draft finally signed at the end of September and recently started seeing some playing time in the Arizona Fall League. College baseball's player of the year didn't get a big league contract, which should insure he spend all of 2006 in the minors, likely finishing the season no lower than AA Omaha, a perfect spot for the University of Nebraska star. Mark Teahen's development at the plate then should dictate Gordon's 2007 season, since if Teahen's offense improves, his superior defense will force Gordon into the increasingly loaded future 1B/DH/OF competition in Kansas City. Regardless of his future position, Gordon's bat insures an everyday job with the Royals, thereby earning him a position among the top long-term prospects selected in any minor league draft.
Spending several recent high picks on promising hitting prospects partially helps compensate for the wealth of young talent rushed to the majors this year. Barring an unexpected development, the future heart-of-the-order should progress through AA next year as Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Chris Lubanski move upwards on the Royals' minor league ladder. Justin Huber already appears able to join Mike Sweeney, David DeJesus, and Mark Teahen in Kansas City next spring, although both Teahen and John Buck need to improve at the plate to remain part of the long-term picture here. The Royals' middle infield suffers from greater questions as some combination of Angel Berroa, Andres Blanco, and Donnie Murphy still looks like the plan around second base. Perhaps the biggest concern here is a lack of top pitchers. Zach Greinke, Denny Bautista, Mike Wood, and perhaps Andy Sisco and Billy Buckner could comprise a promising starting staff, but between injuries and the significant problems encountered by Jimmy Gobble, Chris George, and almost every other high pick from the last few years, I don't see more than a couple of pitchers prepared to compete for the glaring rotation openings. Hoping for contributions from anyone behind Huber in 2006, as well as Butler, Gordon, and maybe Lubanski by the end of 2007, likely will leave you scrambling for additional talent by each May over the next few years. Only the presence of Huber and an obvious preference for young hitters over pitching prospects allows Kansas City to place ahead of Detroit here
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@Chicago White Sox
While we expect the Astros to win in six games assuming Clemens remains a dominant force, any difficulties encountered by the veteran would result in a Game 7 that should heavily favor the home team in Chicago.
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