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Your Daily Fantasy Rx
Post-2005 Prospect Review: Minnesota
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Likely 2006 September Call-ups
Potential Reserve Help
Minor League Draft Picks
Organization Rankings
Minnesota's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects

Prospects with Double-Digit Upside

Boof Bonser, 24, RH Starter
11-9 on a 168:57 K:BB in 160.1 IP over 28 GS
with 153 H, 22 HR, a .92 G-F, and a 3.99 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).

Bonser finally lasted the full season at AAA after two brief looks during multiple AA campaigns. Despite mildly weak walk and ground-fly rates, his overall performance would merit serious consideration for a rotation spot on no less than two-dozen teams. Instead the dominant Bonser looks like no more than the sixth starter, potentially returning to Rochester if he can't beat out Matt Guerrier and maybe J.D. Durbin for a long relief job. While Bonser still projects as a quality starter or even an exceptional short reliever, gambling more than a Dollar Days' selection seems overly risky barring an unexpectedly strong spring.

Travis Bowyer, 24, RH Reliever
0-1 on a 12:3 K:BB in 10.2 IP over 8 G
with 10 H, 3 HR, a 1.56 G-F, and a 5.59 ERA for Minnesota.
4-2 and 23 Saves on a 96:40 K:BB in 74.1 IP over 59 G
with 51 H, 4 HR, a 1.12 G-F, and a 2.78 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).

One Twins' middle reliever always approaches a dozen wins. While Bowyer ranks behind Nathan, Rincon, Crain, and Guerrier right now, he should break camp in the majors and only appears one injury away from snagging a significant relief role. I just wish he could push his walk rate under 4.0 BB/9 in some season since few pitchers with Bowyer's history of spotty control merit serious consideration in most leagues. Only spend a buck here if your league allows you to replace pitchers at your leisure

Jason Kubel, 23, OF-L
No 2005 stats.

A torn ACL in last year's AFL obliterated Kubel's 2005 season. He ranked among the best prospects in baseball prior to that injury, demonstrating superb all-around batting skills and sufficient defensive talent to supplant Jacque Jones in right field. Now the pending departure of Jones as a free agent opens a clear spot in the OF/DH rotation for Kubel, who should need no more than spring training and perhaps a month of AAA rehab before joining the Twins' lineup. Consider him an excellent buy anywhere in single digits, especially in long-term leagues where he could blow past $20 during his initial contract.

Francisco Liriano, 21, LH Starter
1-2 on a 33:7 K:BB in 24.2 IP over 4 GS(6G)
with 19 H, 4 HR, a 1.56 G-F, and a 5.70 ERA for Minnesota.
9-2 on a 112:24 K:BB in 91 IP over 14 GS
with 56 H, 4 HR, a 1.35 G-F, and a 1.78 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).
3-5 on a 92:26 K:BB in 76.2 IP over 13 GS
with 70 H, 6 HR, a 1.91 G-F, and a 3.64 ERA for AA New Britain(EL).

The top pitching prospect in the game and likely AL Rookie of the Year, Liriano developed from third player acquired for A.J. Pierzynski into one of the most dominant left-handed forces in baseball at any level. His 204 strikeouts led the minors while his 237 strikeouts on the season ranked behind only teammate Johan Santana, the preferred comparison for scouts when discussing Liriano. My biggest concern here is that he only turns 22 into a couple days yet amassed nearly 160 innings last year while topping 190 innings this summer. Of course, with Liriano's superb command and the minimal downside suggested by his hit, homer, and ground-fly rates, you simply can't deal him and risk the possibility of giving a fellow owner a minimum-cost Santana. Rank Liriano at the top of your minor league pitchers, bid to $15 in long-term leagues, and even consider double-digit bids in single-season leagues since only a lack of wins, defense, or health should prevent him from emerging as a $30 player before he hits arbitration.

Likely 2006 September Call-ups

J.D. Durbin, 23, RH Starter
5-5 on a 90:51 K:BB in 104 IP over 19 GS(22G)
with 97 H, 8 HR, a 1.23 G-F, and a 4.33 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).

A sore shoulder helped prevent Durbin from addressing his control issues, a persistent problem that resulted in Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser, and even Nick Blackburn to supplant him on the team's depth chart. Durbin now appears most likely to join the loaded Minnesota bullpen, though until you see him pitching effectively in the majors while maintaining a decent walk rate, he probably shouldn't appear on any of your fantasy rosters.

Matt Moses, 20, 3B-L
39/186 for .210/.275/.366 with 6 HR, 30 RBI, 25 R, 3/5 SB%,
and a 14:51 BB:K for AA New Britain(EL).
81/265 for .306/.376/.453 with 7 HR, 42 RBI, 37 R, 13/17 SB%,
and a 28:59 BB:K for A+ Fort Myers(FSL).

The 21st player selected in 2003, Moses only managed 177 at-bats in his initial professional seasons due to heart and then back problems. At least he remained fairly healthy this year and even earned a trip to the AFL. Stumbling at New Britain, coupled with his uncertain future position, temporarily dims his prospect light, yet Moses also only turns 21 in February. I expect him to reach the majors fairly soon even if his unimpressive development track makes him a bad fantasy pick due to the chance of him peaking as a utility player.

Glen Perkins, 22, LH Starter
4-4 on a 67:35 K:BB in 79 IP over 14 GS
with 80 H, 4 HR, a .71 G-F, and a 4.90 ERA for AA New Britain(EL).
3-2 on a 66:13 K:BB in 55 IP over 9 GS(10G)
with 41 H, 2 HR, a .75 G-F, and a 2.13 ERA for A+ Fort Myers(FSL).

Yet another high draft pick effectively pushed up the ladder by the Twins, Perkins owned a sub-2.00 ERA before reaching the Eastern league, where his WHIP jumped from around 1.00 to over 1.45. With declining dominance and a poor ground-fly rate, Perkins needs to reduce his baserunners allowed in 2006 to remain among Minnesota's best pitching prospects. Wait to see if his upper-level effectiveness improved as expected before chancing a pick here.

Alex Romero, 22, OF-L
153/509 for .301/.354/.458 with 15 HR, 77 RBI, 65 R, 12/23 SB%,
and a 36:69 BB:K for AA New Britain(EL).

Developing more power while suffering from sharply decreased plate discipline really worries me, especially since he seems to lack good baserunning instincts. Yet Romero still heads for AAA Rochester next year with a strong chance of winning a starting job on the Twins by 2007. I definitely advise caution here but can't avoid recommending at least a late-round pick on Romero, who looks quite capable of posting no worse than a .280/10/50/10 season once he starts seeing regular big league at-bats.

Denard Span, 21, OF-L
76/267 for .285/.355/.345 with 0 HR, 26 RBI, 47 R, 10/18 SB%,
and a 22:41 BB:K for AA New Britain(EL).
63/186 for .339/.410/.403 with 1 HR, 19 RBI, 38 R, 13/17 SB%,
and a 22:25 BB:K for A+ Fort Myers(FSL).

Selected with the 20th pick in 2003, Span's high average propelled him to the Eastern League ahead of schedule this summer. While his respectable walk rate insures a decent chance of future success, injuries, combined with a lack of natural power, resulted in a terrible total of only 34 extra-base hits after two-and-a-half professional seasons. Span similarly lacks great speed, so although he owns the overall skills necessary to emerge as a useful leadoff hitter, the significant competition he faces when approaching Minnesota renders him a weak fantasy choice at this time.

Potential Reserve Help

Nick Blackburn, 23, RH Starter
0-0 on a 7:3 K:BB in 14 IP over 3 GS
with 20 H, 2 HR, a 1.27 G-F, and a 5.14 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).
2-4 on a 27:10 K:BB in 49 IP over 7 GS
with 35 H, 1 HR, a .93 G-F, and a 1.84 ERA for AA New Britain(EL).
7-5 on a 55:16 KBB in 93.1 IP over 15 GS
with 95 H, 5 HR, a 1.52 G-F, and a 3.36 ERA for A+ Fort Myers(FSL).

Blackburn barely appeared capable of effective work in the Florida State Leauge before he rode strong defensive support to the cusp of the majors. Yet his lack of dominance may override a history of consistent control, especially when he faces competition from strikeout kings like Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. While Blackburn might follow Dave Gassner's path into a couple of big league starters, he shouldn't see significant time in Minnesota.

Henry Bonilla, 27, RH Swingman
6-7 and 2 Saves on a 63:44 K:BB in 118 IP over 16 GS(35G)
with 138 H, 14 HR, a 1.40 G-F, and a 5.11 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).

Good control rarely translated into effective pitching if accompanied by perfectly hittable pitches. Bonilla's overall skill set simply isn't too promising, so although he could see occasional work in the majors, he shouldn't boost any fantasy team's fortunes.

Doug Deeds, 24, OF-L
150/493 for .304/.382/.479 with 16 HR, 82 RBI, 77 R, 2/6 SB%,
and a 56:119 BB:K for AA New Britain(EL).

Deeds survived the jump to New Britain, adding additional patience to compensate for his declining control. He also now owns a career average over .300. Perhaps Deeds only will peak as a reserve, but I see little reason he shouldn't challenge for a big league bench spot in another year.

Willie Eyre, 27, RH Reliever
10-3 and 7 Saves on a 74:28 K:BB in 82.2 IP over 56 G
with 79 H, 3 HR, a 2.78 G-F, and a 2.72 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).

With his second Rochester campaign completed and his string of repeating every level for at least a half-season intact, Eyre now appears prepared to spend spring training challenging for a spot in Minnesota. He owns good command and an abundance of groundballs limit his downside. I view him as no less than a capable replacement if the Twins deal a middle reliever like Matt Guerrier for more power. Feel free to roster Eyre as soon as you see him register a few solid outings.

Dave Gassner, 26, LH Starter
1-0 on a 2:1 K:BB in 8.2 IP over 2 GS
with 9 H, 1 HR, a 12-12 G-F, and a 5.87 ERA for Minnesota.
8-8 on a 64:33 K:BB in 116.1 IP over 20 GS(22G)
with 138 H, 19 HR, a .74 G-F, and a 4.95 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).

Gassner's 16-8 season in 2004, supported by a 93:30 K:BB in 174 IP, definitely indicates the skills necessary to succeed in the majors. Unfortunately, declines in nearly every facet of his game, combined a couple of unimpressive starts for the Twins, seemingly leave his career at a crossroads. He doesn't rank alongside Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, or even Glen Perkins, so hopefully Minnesota will provide him a change of scenery to somewhere in California, where a forgiving park can compensate for his poor ground-fly ratio.

Chriz Heintz, 31, C-R
5/25 for .200/.231/.320 with 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 1:6 BB:K for Minnesota.
100/329 for .304/.343/.444 with 8 HR, 58 RBI, 38 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 22:61 BB:K for AAA Rochester(IL).

Earning any time as a Twins' catcher impresses me given the other four catchers on the 40-man roster. Of course, Heintz ranked among the more interesting journeyman minor league catchers for a few years, so he certainly deserved this look in Minnesota. At least he managed a respectable 4.04 #P/PA, but with no significant offensive skills, he shouldn't contribute to many successful roto teams.

Luis A. Jimenez, 23, 1B-L
150/531 for .282/.338/.488 with 23 HR, 87 RBI, 81 R, 1/2 SB%,
and a 40:112 BB:K for AA New Britain(EL).

Only Jimenez's mildly advanced age and second straight minor league free agency dissuade me from recommending him. A year after posting a .288/.372/.508 performance for A Columbus(SAL) in his first campaign in a full-season league, Jimenez moved the Twins, jumped two levels, and only suffered from lesser patience as he roughly maintained his power numbers in a much tougher environment. He at least merits another AA starting job and perhaps even serious consideration for a AAA slot. Nothing here presents any firm evidence that he can't develop into a perfectly competent everyday player in the majors.

Garrett Jones, 24, 1B-L
119/488 for .244/.297/.445 with 24 HR, 72 RBI, 71 R, 5/6 SB%,
and a 36:109 BB:K for AAA Rochester(IL).

Jones completely collapsed upon leaving AA as his limited patience dragged down all his averages. Yes, he still blasted two dozen homers and could develop into a AAAA player, but Jones probably requires at least another couple years of seasoning before competing for a big league job.

Beau Kemp, 24, RH Reliever
4-5 and 5 Saves on a 68:32 K:BB in 80 IP over 62 G
with 74 H, 1 HR, a 1.61 G-F, and a 3.36 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).

Rising to Rochester as a 31st round pick already qualifies as an impressive accomplishment. Now his solid work in the International League positions him to take that last step to the majors. Allowing only a baker's dozen of home runs in more than 375 career innings demonstrates a nicely limited downside, so feel free to employ Kemp as roster filler when he starts appearing on fantasy free agent lists.

Luis Maza, 25, IF-R
80/275 for .291/.318/.476 with 11 HR, 43 RBI, 43 R, 2/3 SB%,
and an 11:34 BB:K for AAA Rochester(IL).
49/197 for .249/.299/.386 with 6 HR, 23 RBI, 28 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 12:34 BB:K for AA New Britain(EL).

Unexpected power development over the last two seasons bumps Maza from organization filler to future reserve infielder. While I don't expect him to emerge as a particularly useful player, even poor plate discipline doesn't automatically prevent him from producing a decent BA and several homers.

Jason Miller, 23, LH Reliever
2-0 on a 27:17 K:BB in 26 IP over 13 G
with 28 H, 4 HR, a .61 G-F, and a 3.81 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).
1-2 and 4 Saves on a 56:22 K:BB in 49.2 IP over 26 G
with 34 H, 5 HR, a .48 G-F, and a 2.72 ERA for AA New Britain(EL).

A strikeout over 9.0 K/9 could result in Miller replacing J.C. Romero, a primary candidate to depart the organization via trade this winter. Miller intriguingly suffers from Romero's major on-field problems, questionable control and a troublesome ground-fly rate. While he soon should emerge as a viable reliever in the majors, wait to see if his dominance overcomes his inconsistency before roster Miller anywhere.

Patrick Neshek, 25, RH Reliever
6-4 and 24 Saves on a 95:21 K:BB in 82.1 IP over 55 G
with 69 H, 9 HR, a .92 G-F, and a 2.19 ERA for AA New Britain(EL).

Taking a third tour of the Eastern League somehow resulted in Neshek lowering his previous career ERA of 2.25. With outstanding command and limited downside, he at least should replace Travis Bowyer as Rochester's closer on his way to a respectable career as a likely dominant middle reliever.

Errol Simonitsch, 23, LH Starter
6-5 on a 52:28 K:BB in 78.2 IP over 14 GS
with 92 H, 6 HR, a .88 G-F, and a 4.12 ERA for AA New Britain(EL).
8-3 on a 82:12 K:BB in 80.1 IP over 13 GS(14G)
with 70 H, 5 HR, a 1.71 G-F, and a 2.69 ERA for A+ Fort Myers(FSL).

The sharp drop in all of Simonitsch's ratios in the Eastern League nicely illustrates the difficulties he faces at higher levels. He certainly could replicate his A-ball numbers near the majors, but Simonitsch won't belong on any fantasy roster until we see his overall effectiveness improve.

Levale Speigner, 25, RH Starter
0-1 on a 5:1 K:BB in 7.1 IP over 1 GS(2G)
with 14 H, 0 HR, a .42 G-F, and a 7.36 ERA for AAA Rochester(IL).
6-10 on a 94:28 K:BB in 143.2 IP over 23 GS
with 149 H, 14 HR, a 1.26 G-F, and a 4.13 ERA for AA New Britain(EL).

Selected in the fourteenth round of the 2003 draft, Speigner proceeded to pitch in exactly 22 games for R+ Elizabethtown(Appy), A Quad City(Mid), and A+ Fort Myers(FSL). He then left the bullpen for the rotation upon reaching New Britain, unsurprisingly registering 23 starters on his way to Rochester. While he probably lacks the dominance to develop into more than an innings' eater in the majors, Speigner's outstanding control should enable him to remain in the upper levels of the minors for a long time.

Kevin West, 25, OF-R
115/425 for .271/.355/.478 with 20 HR, 64 RBI, 60 R, 2/4 SB%,
and a 45:94 BB:K for AAA Rochester(IL).

Another unheralded outfield prospect in Minnesota's upper minors, West continued to demonstrate promising power and patience, placing himself in line to take advantage of any injury-related openings in 2006. However, I only see minimal fantasy upside in these skills, so you should follow the Twins' lead in only employing West as roster filler.

Glenn Williams, 28, 3B-S
17/40 for .425/.452/.450 with 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1/3 SB%,
and a 2:7 BB:K for Minnesota.
53/175 for .303/.341/.469 with 5 HR, 22 RBI, 21 R, 2/2 SB%,
and a 22:35 BB:K for AAA Rochester(IL).

While Williams probably deserved a promotion during a few years on Toronto's 40-man roster, he certainly justified his call-up this season by finishing with the highest batting average and on-base percentage of any player with at least 25 plate appearances. Unfortunately, a separated shoulder ended his season in June just as he secured the Twins' starting third base job. A good camp at least should result in a bench spot for Williams, although I see no real basis for him to emerge as a starter once more.

Matt Yeatman, 23, RH Swingman
5-7 on a 74:39 K:BB in 103.2 IP over 16 GS(28G)
with 99 H, 5 HR, a .89 G-F, and a 4.08 ERA for AA New Britain(EL).

Yeatman's failure to progress during three A-ball campaigns contributed to his move to the bullpen this summer. Of course, he remains slotted behind several superior arms in his new role, so although he probably possesses the command to approach the majors in the near future, Yeatman appears unlikely to contribute to any successful fantasy teams.

Minor League Draft Picks

Anthony Swarzak, 20, RH Starter
3-4 on a 55:11 K:BB in 59 IP over 10 GS
with 72 H, 3 HR, a 1.07 G-F, and a 3.66 ERA for A+ Fort Myers(FSL).
9-5 on a 101:32 K:BB in 91.1 IP over 18 GS
with 81 H, 7 HR, a .99 G-F, and a 4.04 ERA for A Beloit(Mid).

Teenagers rarely demolish A-ball hitters in this fashion, especially those in their first full professional season. Major caveats here include his fairly unimpressive hit and ground-fly rates, as well as the severe injury risk faced by any high school draftee experiencing a rapid innings increase. Yet owners in very deep leagues need to consider gambling on Swarzak. If he remains healthy, his command will allow continued effectiveness in the upper levels of the system, placing him in competition for a rotation spot as soon as the spring of 2007.

Aside from players listed above, no other Minnesota prospect deserves consideration in 2006 fantasy drafts.

Organization Rankings

A lack of multiple top position prospects keeps the Twins under the Angels, but Minnesota remains an excellent environment for rookies to develop into strong fantasy performers. Perhaps Francisco Liriano alone would earn the Twins a middle-of-the-pack slot, yet a fresh group of promising youngsters seems to emerge annually here. A nearly overwhelming lack of infield prospects worries me, but recent system grads Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Bartlett, and Mike Cuddyer all look like keepers. The approaching influx of outfield depth and dominant starters provides needed replenishment of the Twins' roster, and if the players from the last couple of drafts match the development curve of these prospects, Minnesota's farm system will remain among baseball's best for many more years. More importantly, a history of employing rookies wherever needed creates more opportunities here than in Boston or Chicago.

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)
2. Minnesota Twins(F.Liriano, Kubel)
3. Boston Red Sox(Pedroia, C.Hansen, Papelbon)
4. Chicago White Sox(Br.Anderson, Ch.Young)
5. Baltimore Orioles(Markakis, Maine, W.Young)
6. Cleveland Indians(Fr.Gutierrez, F.Carmona)
7. Kansas City Royals(Huber)
8. Detroit Tigers(Verlander)

Today's Fantasy Rx: We simply don't know how much publicity Jason Kubel will receive this winter, but if missing all of 2005 results in him remaining under the general prospect radar, he might rank as one of the best bargains in spring drafts. He never owned much speed prior to his injury, and if his bat remains intact, approaching $20 in 2006 isn't unreasonable. Many owners will regret letting Kubel slide to the late rounds by next summer.

Minnesota's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2006
1. Francisco Liriano, SP
2. Jason Kubel, OF
3. Alex Romero, OF
4. Boof Bonser, SP
5. Dave Gassner, SP
6. Glenn Williams, 3B
7. J.D. Durbin, SP
8. Kevin West, OF
9. Denard Span, OF
10. Glen Perksin, SP
11. Travis Bowyer, RP
12. Chris Heintz, C
13. Matt Moses, 3B
14. Garrett Jones, 1B
15. Anthony Swarzak, SP

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