Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Sean Henn, 24, LH Starter
Remaining healthy in 2004 allowed Henn to post a respectable campaign at Trenton, providing the foundation for his drive to the majors this summer. He compiled another couple of strong months at Columbus, though his troubles in New York easily could push him on the trade block. Henn also faces significant competition for more starts with the Yankees, who might return as many as seven pitchers that started no fewer than a dozen games for New York this year, as well as the strong likelihood of adding at least one veteran pitcher before spring. Of course, another spate of injuries could give him a needed second chance, but you still need to wait for him to echo Chien-Ming Wang's debut before rostering Henn anywhere.
Another older rookie who should follow Shane Spencer and Bubba Crosby's path, blossoming in front of adoring New York fans, Thompson only stalled at Columbus after his BA and power output dropped precipitously. However, that development doesn't concern me since Thompson normally struggles when debuting at a new level following a mid-season promotion. He remains a competent defender with sufficient speed skills to emerge as an important fantasy player even as a Yankees' reserve. Everyone in standard leagues needs to consider an endgame addition of Thompson as a fifth outfielder with 20-steal upside almost regardless of his playing time.
Melky Cabrera, 21, OF-S
Tiring of Bernie Williams' defense, the Yankees jumped Cabrera from Trenton to the majors to play centerfield. The heir to DiMaggio, Mantle, and Williams lasted six games before the Yankees redecided that perhaps Cabrera required more seasoning. Like Eric Duncan, Cabrera blew through A-ball in a season before watching all his averages decline at Trenton, though unlike Duncan, Cabrera lacks the patience to continue improving even when struggling to make contact. I still see no reason he can't develop into a quality starter for the Yankees, but before investing in him, you need to see a commitment by New York to develop Cabrera properly, beginning with a trip back to Trenton to start 2006.
Clippard advanced to high-A yet posted superior numbers in almost every respect to his similarly dominant 2004 campaign. The combination of tremendous strikeout totals and few walks easily compensate for an otherwise worrisome ground-fly rate. He'll open next season at AA Trenton as the most heralded pitching prospect in the system outside of Phillip Hughes. While drafting any A-ball pitcher, especially a Yankees' rookie, remains quite risky, Clippard just might deserve an end-round gamble.
Tommy John surgery ended De Paula's 2004 season, a year that began with him breaking camp in the Yankees' bullpen and lasted all of three outings. He rebounded aggressively this summer, nicely echoing his 2003 season at Columbus before again joining the New York relief corps. Even a respectable spring training performance should push De Paula back to the majors, where he only needs regular work to emerge as potentially a very useful player both for Joe Torre and fantasy owners.
Only his comparatively advanced age prevents DeSalvo from ranking high in the system on most prospect lists. DeSalvo effectively toasted Eastern League hitters as only continued control problems kept him from posting superb across-the-board ratios. He appears fully prepared to progress to AAA and perhaps even the majors by summer, although barring unexpected improvement in his overall command, DeSalvo's potentially troublesome WHIP initially will keep him from registering much roto value.
At least Duncan ranked as one of the youngest players in the Eastern League after blowing through A-ball last year. He realistically didn't own the necessary skills to progress beyond the Midwest League, so I don't understand why the team rushed his development so dramatically. Now he apparently will learn first base as Jason Giambi heads towards retirement as a DH. Maintaining a .13 walk rate given his age and level qualifies as the most impressive element of Duncan's seasons, though considering him anything more than a potential contributor by the fall of 2007 seems unwise.
Consistently high hit rates create the biggest obstacles for Karstens' continued climb up the minor league ladder. As he also lacks outstanding dominance or control, a AAAA peak seems possible, yet his overall effectiveness over the last few seasons suggests a higher upside to me. We could see him helping the Yankees as soon as next fall, though I instead suspect Karstens will debut in the majors with another organization.
Reaching Trenton automatically places Santos on the short list for when the Yankees need an extra catcher. Joe Torre historically prefers a plus defensive player as Jorge Posada's backup, and if New York doesn't add another veteran, Santos could push for a big league spot by 2007 almost regardless of his offensive development. Of course, barring unexpected improvement at the plate, he never will merit much fantasy consideration.
Staying in the outfield didn't result in any progress at the pate for the increasingly disappointing Sardinha. Lacking any dominant tool, he probably needs a move to an organization more adept at developing toolsy youngsters. Staying with the Yankees could further dim his prospect star as Sardinha appears largely unprepared for a probable move to AAA Columbus.
An abdominal strain cost White a couple months, and now even an impressive AFL performance doesn't allow me to consider him particularly close to the majors. Allowing an abundance of flyballs will wreck the ERA of most any pitcher, so despite his strong strikeout rate, White needs at least another year in the minors. Don't count on any help from him prior to 2007.
Colter Bean, 28, RH Reliever
Finally reaching the majors merely two years after Bean appeared ready for that promotion, he at least performed decently in the one game Joe Torre permitted him to pitch. I understand that Bean suffers from inconsistent control and scouts highly doubt he can remain effective. Yet after three seasons with a sub-3.00 AAA ERA, he requires a long look in a big league bullpen, where he easily could emerge as a viable fantasy option.
The Yankees' second round pick in 2001, Duncan spent three years developing more power in A-ball before blossoming into a more respectable offensive force this summer. Of course, his weak batting average rather limits both his immediate effective and long-term upside, so despite his strong slugging percentage and respectable patience, Duncan rates as no more than roster filler both for big league and fantasy teams.
Registering perhaps the best overall season of his career upon reaching Columbus indicate a reasonable likelihood for Jones to remain effective if promoted to the majors. While his abundant contact problems leave little chance for him to play everyday, he owns the skills necessary to contribute as a platoon player, perhaps even with the Yankees. Teams needing power should risk a late-round here if he breaks camp in New York.
Another Trenton strikeout artist with control problems, Julianel at least appears on track to debut in New York next fall. The Yankees desperately need a homegrown southpaw reliever, and although he may not impact fantasy leagues immediately, Julianel possesses plenty of long-term upside.
Demonstrating this level of plate discipline in the Eastern League provides an excellent foundation for Lopez's continued development. He possesses an excellent shot at earning an eventual big league reserve job or even lucking into a starting job despite his limited power and speed..
Moving to the bullpen didn't translate into much additional success for Manning. He still suffers from WHIP problems, and despite handling AA, he pitched very poorly for Columbus. Every year Manning seems further and further from contributing in any significant way at the major league level.
Marsonek's skills disintegrated during his third tour of Columbus. Following two reasonably successful season as the primary closer, his dominance dropped as his hit rate skyrocketed, leaving Marsonek in a rather unenviable position as he heads to minor league free agency.
Acquired from the Angels for Bret Prinz during the spring, Nieves managed another decent BA at AAA before providing marginal additional depth for the Yankees later in the year. A worrisome drop in power production probably insures Nieves never will emerge as more than short-term big league roster filler.
While Parrish stayed above AA the entire season, his barely adequate performance for Columbus as he approaches his prime essentially insures that the 28th overall pick from 2000 won't develop into a viable starter in the majors. Barring an unexpected BA boost, I don't even expect Parrish to see much time as a backup, rendering him useless to fantasy teams.
Acquired from St. Louis with Ben Julianel for Sterling Hitchock in 2003, Pope emerged as Trenton's closer, demonstrating solid all-around skills in his first year in relief. Unfortunately, a general lack of dominance indicates minimal long-term upside, especially since minor league closers rarely even emerge as more than good AAAA middle relievers.
Remaining productive for Columbus thankfully resulted in a brief call-up for the perpetually undervalued Reese. Although I recognize he lacks significant upside, his combination of a little power, promising speed skills, and very solid plate discipline describes a perfectly viable reserve outfielder to me. Hopefully Reese soon will receive an extended chance following his abbreviated debut.
Increasingly overwhelming longball problems pushed Schmitt back to Trenton, where at least his control nicely rebounded. Perhaps a permanent move to the bullpen will allow Schmitt to consolidate his development into a more effective performance, but I currently see no reason to pay much attention to Schmitt until we see him pitched better above AA.
Demonstrating his best patience since A-ball finally earned Vento a look in New York. Of course, he barely appeared at all as Joe Torre showed little interest in experimenting with older rookies this year, so while I believe he could contribute in the majors as a reserve, Vento needs to find a new organization in the near future to avoid wasting his prime in the minors.
Despite past discipline problems, a bout with bone cancer, and an awful .63 contact rate, Battle only turned 20 in September and compiled 60 extra-base hits, 50 walks, and 40 steals, deservedly earning attention in leagues with extensive minor league drafts. Battle almost reminds me of Toe Nash in some respects, but playing a full season in the Sally League suggests a much brighter future for Battle. While I don't generally recommend drafting him at this time for multiple reasons, chiefly his 195 strikeouts, Battle possesses more long-term fantasy upside than any player in the system short of ARod.
Hughes, the 23rd player selected in 2004, emerged as the brightest prospect in the system before a broken toe ended his season in August. His 93:20 K:BB in 86.1 IP suggests significant long-term upside as he dominated A-ball hitters. Continued injury problems remain his primary obstacle in reaching in the majors, though after another year in the upper minors, he may join Chien-Ming Wang in 2007 to give the Yankees two very promising homegrown starters for the first time in many years.
Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang respectively rank as the Yankees' best entirely homegrown rookie hitter and pitcher since Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. Only Alfonso Soriano stands out as a competent youngster developed in New York's system over the last decade as foreign free agents Hideki Matsui, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, and Hideki Irabu otherwise highlight the Yankees' top rookies. A lack of opportunity probably explains this history far more than a lack of prospects as the quest to remain perennial championship contenders led to annual mortgaging of the future for veterans prepared to contribute. While the reversal of the trend signified by Cano and Wang should give New Yorkers hope for continued competitiveness as the current core passes its collective prime, I just don't see many more prospects prepared to emerge here. Only the presence of several older rookies with a chance to earn playing time next year allows me to consider placing the Yankees higher than list here, but given the fairly unimpressive campaigns of Cabrera, Duncan, and Sardinha, I can't justify placing New York above the Royals or Tigers, who at least possess a couple of premium prospects who demolished minor league competition this summer. The additional opportunities awaiting the AL Central prospects similarly gives them comparatively extra fantasy value, forcing the Yankees into the basement of this ranking.
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: Chicago White Sox@Houston
Houston must win tonight to return to Chicago. Freddy Garcia appears primed to complete a potential sweep tomorrow, and without an Oswalt win giving Clemens on more shot on Thursday, the AL might net a second straight sweep of an NL squad with a sleeping offense.
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