Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
The quietly effective Gorneault posted the best stats of his career in his first full AAA season. He at least should enter next season as the sixth outfielder, with his initial location determined by the rest of the Angels' roster. Gorneault also ranks as an excellent candidate for a minor trade this winter as he could flourish someplace like Kansas City, Minnesota, or even Chavez Ravine, although you can't add him anywhere until he actually secures a big league job.
Only catastrophic insanity in the Angels' front office could prevent Mathis from opening 2006 as the starting catcher. Right now he appears able to exceed Ben Molina's performance. Obviously Mathis needs to learn the pitching staff, and he may not possess Molina's defensive skills. However no one should ignore the likely fact that promoting Mathis instead of retaining Molina in free agency should save the Angels somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-five million dollars over the rest of the decade. Mike Napoli, the AA starter this year, may own even more offensive upside than Mathis, but Mathis is ready to start now and owns the caching skills necessary to secure the starting job for a long time. Consider him a bargain at $5 and a reasonable gamble towards $10 as one of the likeliest Rookie of the Year candidates in the game
The twelfth pick of the 2002 draft ascended to the majors this year as a spot starter for the Angels. He almost certainly needs a few more months of seasoning, but if pressed into service as an injury replacement, solid control should insure Saunders performs adequately. While I don't consider him a future ace, Saunders also appears capable of giving the Angels a dependable southpaw starter for a few years.
Waiting nearly a year to sign with the Angels at least allowed Weaver to rest his arm. He then spent half a season dominating hitters, compiling a 95:26 K:BB in 76 IP only sullied by an awful sub-.40 ground-fly rate. Given he didn't require a major league contract to sign, he easily could spend all of next year in the minors to finish polishing his skills. I instead expect Weaver to join the Angels around the trade deadline, but his level of command, he at least appears prepared to echo Ervin Santana's impressive debut this summer.
With a 68% stolen base success rate and only a .05 walk rate, Aybar lacks the primary skills necessary to take advantage of his natural speed. Yes, he hasn't hit below .300 as a professional. Scoring over 100 runs in consecutive seasons similarly impresses me. Yet I just can't view him as a vital cog or even a particularly good fantasy prospect when surrounded on the depth chart by Orlando Cabrera and Brandon Wood.
The 20th pick of the 2000 draft no longer qualifies as a prospect and appears unable to contribute to the Angels' rotation as more than a spot starter. However, his respectable command and overall approach could result in a move to middle relief if Los Angeles wishes to retain Bootcheck in the organization for another few seasons, although even that move should cause interesting fantasy owners to wait until he demonstrates the ability to echo Scott Shields' stats more than Esteban Yan's performance.
One of the most forgotten prospects in baseball, Callaspo still possesses the best plate discipline of any middle infielder in this loaded system. Of course, that skill, combined with his minimal power and speed, dramatically increases the chance of his presence in Anaheim's trade talks. Don't risk a minor league pick on Callaspo until he finds a clearer path to a big league starting job.
Kendrick combined with Brandon Wood to emerge as the best offensive double-play combo in the game. His .367 average only ranked behind Rick Short in the minors, though a general lack of a second dynamic tool could create problems considering he plays for the team with the most middle infield talent in baseball. Yet his continued production in the Texas League despite poor plate discipline suggests a bright future, so feel free to roster Kendrick, especially if you can keep players dealt to the other league.
I fully expect Morales to shift to a corner outfield spot in the near future rather than compete with Casey Kotchman and a possibly festering Darin Erstad at first base. Considering his performance after finally gaining admittance to the States, Morales probably possesses the bat to start at any position, leaving only a glut of talent in the majors and somewhat questionable plate discipline standing between him and an everyday job in Anaheim. Take Morales early in any minor league draft if he somehow remains available in your league.
Stolen from Cincinnati for the nearly non-tendered Ramon Ortiz in December, Moseley encountered more injury problems this year, sharply diminishing his prospect status. A concurrent drop in his strikeout rate similarly leaves his future in question, so although I still believe he should enjoy no less than a few years as a big league starter, Moseley currently merits no more than miniscule attention from fantasy teams.
Picture a slightly smaller Matt LeCroy when analyzing Napoli, who possesses as much offensive upside as all save a few players in this system. The problem is that Napoli probably lacks the tools necessary to catch regularly, and his abundant strikeout total ranks as an greater sin on the Angels. However, the powerful, patient Napoli definitely should find a regular job somewhere in the majors within the next few years. I just don't see him receiving that opportunity in Anaheim.
Registering 190 strikeouts in his second California League campaign in 2004 at least resulted in a promotion to the Texas League, where diminished dominance contributed to a fairly unimpressive performance. Shell still ranks as one of the better young pitchers in the system, but nothing here suggests a strong possibility of contributing in the majors prior to 2007.
Combining a .300 average, strong speed skills, and respectable plate discipline, Willits also ranks as the best centerfield prospect in the system. While a potential Johnny Damon signing or move of Darin Erstad or even Chone Figgins back to center will sharply cut his value, Willits currently looks like an excellent roto sleeper if he continues developing at Salt Lake City next year. His nearly complete lack of power shouldn't bother the Angels considering their apparent comfort with low-OBP speed in the #9 hole, so if the organization doesn't otherwise replace Steve Finley by spring training, target Willits with a late-round pick as the likely CF successor in 2007.
A dynamic campaign in the Carolina League vaulted Wood to the ranks of the best power prospects in the game. He led the minors in home runs, doubles, and total bases while totaling over a hundred extra-base hits. Top-four finishes in hits, RBI, runs, and slugging percentage further enhance his star despite potentially troublesome plate discipline. Of course, Wood now seems set to obliterate the AFL home run record, and with another few months of fine-tuning, he should supplant someone on the left side of the field in Anaheim. His potential for .300/30/100 seasons as a shortstop probably insures Wood's status as the first minor leaguer selected in almost all keeper league drafts.
David Austen, 24, RH Reliever
Spending part of a season second in the California League helped Austen regained his form from his debut season, when he compiled a 1.85 ERA on a 49:7 K:BB in 44 IP for R+ Provo. His outstanding groundball rate, coupled with a minimal amount of walks, should insure his success at the highest levels of the system.
Elevated hit rates during his first two full seasons suggest Davidson requires a move to the bullpen to continue climbing the minor league ladder. Yet a career record of 33-14 conversely will keep him in the rotation for a couple more seasons, thereby minimizing his chance of contributing to any fantasy team.
Striking out a batter per inning during his two years in Salt Lake provides an excellent springboard for Dunn to find a job in the majors. I see no reason he shouldn't compete during spring training for a big league bullpen job, and any consistency in a stable role will qualify him as no less than roster filler.
Weak plate discipline renders Gordon's unimpressive power largely useless to a team as loaded in the majors as the Angels. His best chance to earn even a big league bench job involves signing somewhere with far less established outfield alternatives.
Jones first caught my eye following a solid 2002 spent at Salt Lake. While another round of injuries suggests an increasingly limited upside, his fairly dominant PCL performance this summer gives him his clearest shot at breaking camp in the Angels' bullpen to date. Feel free to roster Jones if you see him echoing these numbers over his first few outings.
While Lee finished the season in Japan, his second solid AAA season again suggests that he should challenge for a big league bullpen job as soon as shifts to relief. He simply walks too many batters to remain successful in the rotation, though until he stops starting, Lee doesn't deserve any fantasy consideration.
Unexpectedly registering the best plate discipline of his career earned Matranga a brief mid-season promotion. He lacks the necessary tools to emerge as more than a reliable utilityman, and barring notable BA improvement, Matranga might remain in the upper minors indefinitely.
A third round pick back in 2000, Murphy only added respectable power numbers to his decent stolen base production this year. Improvement in his plate discipline similarly elevates his upside from organization filler to potential reserve in the majors, though Murphy needs to repeat this performance at AAA before warranting a serious look from any team.
Pavkovich reached the California League after only 236 at-bats in the lower levels of the system, then nearly skipped AA completely on his way to a full-time AAA job in merely his second full season of professional ball. Considering his rapid rise through the system, his across-the-board improvement this year suggests a bright future for the youngster. Of course, I don't envision him spending much time with the Angels, but Pavkovich at least ranks a mildly intriguing trade bait.
In his thirteenth big league season, after well over 4000 at-bats and 1250 games in affiliated ball, Prieto finally reached the majors this summer only to flop in his two at-bats in the Show. Realistically he may not return to the big leagues, yet his still-improving plate discipline, respectable speed, and strong overall performance this year warrants a long look from any team searching for a disciplined journeyman for a reserve outfield job. If he somehow breaks camp with a secure role, Prieto probably warrants Dollar Days' consideration in deep leagues.
Even reaching Salt Lake qualifies as a success for the former nondrafted free agent, however with decent overall skills and dedication, Rouwenhorst soon should challenge for a job in the majors. The Angels' general lack of southpaw options actually gives him a chance to join their bullpen sometime in 2006, but barring significant WHIP improvement, Rouwenhorst won't help any fantasy teams.
Serrano's failure to remain effective in Colorado Springs resulted in his release from Colorado. The Angels signed him almost immediately to provide a bullpen boost to Arkansas. Consistent dominance throughout his career provides Serrano with a strong foundation for future success, and with his great groundball rate, the minor league free agent only needs an opportunity to emerge as viable major league option.
Considered one of the top middle infield prospects in the system until the last couple of years, Specht now appears headed for a reserve infield slot unless he somehow earns his freedom from the Angels. A respectable all-around performance this year also indicates he could succeed in a limited role, so hopefully some team soon will give Specht a shot to succeed as a bench player.
Graduating a rookie class of Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson, Ervin Santana, Maicer Izturis, and Jake Woods in one season would bankrupt many organizations' prospect reserves. The Angels instead signed the best college pitcher since Mark Prior while watching four middle infield prospects and two catchers take significant steps towards the majors. I admit that only Jeff Mathis appears likely to emerge as a significant 2006 contributor, but the long-term upside of players like Brandon Wood and Erick Aybar insure that the Angels' system continues to rank among the best in the game. The only caveat necessary when evaluating these youngsters involves the readiness of the front office to add established expensive veterans, blocking the cheaper yet likely superior internal options, a situation that only slightly diminishes their value given the growing rotation of rookies into increasingly significant roles on the Angels.
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. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim(J.Mathis, B.Wood)
7:05: Houston@Chicago White Sox
The injury to Clemens and subsequent Chicago win dramatically shifts the momentum towards the White Sox. We already expected Mark Buehrle to defeat Andy Pettitte tonight, so we see almost no chance that Chicago won't enjoy a commanding 2-0 lead as they head to Houston for Game 3.
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