Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nick Blackburn, 23, RH Starter
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anthony Swarzak, 20, RH Starter
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.
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)
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