Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Daric Barton, 20, 1B-R
Barton turned 20 scarcely two months ago yet seems nearly fully prepared to contribute in the majors. He clearly needs little additional seasoning below AAA, and with a likely opening at DH barring an off-season deal, Oakland could break camp with Barton and Dan Johnson sharing the 1B/DH lineup slots. I rate Barton as perhaps the best pure hitter still in the minors, and if he develops more power as expected, he'll rank as one of the dominant forces in every style of fantasy baseball by the end of the decade
While Garcia only hit three levels this year after spiraling upward from the Midwest League to Oakland in 2004, his improved control suggests nearly unlimited upside as a reliever. Yes, Garcia, remains somewhat wild, but anyone with an 11.4 K/9 over his career deserves some deference as his overall skill level continues to develop. Barring an overriding need for extra strikeouts, you generally should wait until Garcia's WHIP improves before adding him anywhere despite a strong likelihood of him spending all of 2006 in the majors. I simply don't envision him displacing Huston Street barring injury.
Multiple shoulder problems curtailed Meyer's innings and his performance as he fell from a projected starter in Oakland to barely staying in Sacramento's rotation. Yet he also slammed through all four levels of full-season ball in only two years with Atlanta, even making his big league debut last fall, so I see no reason he can't rebound from this disaster. A healthy Meyer could explode into fantasy prominence with the Athletics, so take advantage of his lowered value to snag the southpaw at a discount next spring.
A torn finger tendon ruined Rheinecker's chance of emerging as Oakland's fifth starter. While his fairly mediocre overall skill set likely will keep him out of the bullpen, he also needs to take advantage of any further opportunity or risk slipping towards AAAA status. The Athletics should enter spring training with one rotation slot available for the best pitcher in camp, so if he somehow opens the year in Oakland, Rheinecker definitely will belong on your endgame sleepers list due to the possibility of double-digit wins despite neutral qualitative stats.
Dallas Braden, 22, LH Starter
Routinely dismissed as a viable long-term prospect following his selection in the 24th round of the 2004 draft, Braden defied expectations to compile one of the most impressive seasons in the minors. He largely toasted the California League, quickly advancing to Midland, where he maintained solid command despite moving into an even tougher pitching environment. A late-season dead arm doesn't really worry me, yet the combination of doubting scouts and diminished dominance in the Texas League prevent me from enthusiastically recommending Braden at this time. The vast majority of owners in all save the deepest leagues need to wait to see if Braden remains effective in 2006 before rostering him anywhere.
Rediscovering his lost patience from 2003 earned Bynum a brief look in the majors in his sixth year in the system. Although I don't envision a long-term future for him in Oakland as anything more than a reserve, his SB upside makes Bynum a potential pick-up whenever you see him on free agent lists .
While Colamarino finally conquered the Texas League, the Athletics failed to follow the example of Mark Teahen, instead promoting Colamarino to Sacramento and watching his production plummet without including him in a mid-season deal. Perhaps continued effectiveness on defense will help him push to the majors, but nothing in his current development track indicates an overt likelihood for Colamarino to emerge as an everyday big league player.
I find Ethier's campaign less impressive than many analysts otherwise wowed by his development. The good news is that he registered improved across-the-board averages despite advancing from A+ Modesto to Midland. His power boost particularly catches my eye, yet erosion in both his walk rate(.11 to .10) and especially his contact rate(.85 to .82) indicate potential problems as he heads to a full year at Sacramento. However, Ethier also ranks position as the most advanced outfield prospect in the system and should receive the first shot to replace Jay Payton in left field by 2007, a situation that merits a reasonably high draft pick in almost any league.
Failing to earn a promotion despite another solid season should place Mabeus on the trading block this winter. Perhaps he lacks the upside of Huston Street or Jairo Garcia, but Mabeus belongs in the majors after three solid seasons in the upper minors. He could merit fantasy consideration as he soon as he registers a few solid outings.
Melillo's shot to the upper minors allowed Oakland to deal putative second baseman of the future Omar Quintanilla for pitching. Now Mellillo only needs to maintain this performance over a year likely split between Midland and AAA Sacramento before challenging Mark Ellis for the starting job in 2007. Any Athletics' prospect with a career OBP over .400 soon will reach the majors, and after managing a combined line of .305/.399/.535 with 24 HR, 93 RBI, 101 R, a 21/27 SB%, and a 79:81 BB:K, I see no flaws in Melillo's offensive game. Feel free to select him anywhere in the middle rounds of your minor league draft.
Selected only ten picks behind Richie Robnett in 2004, Putnam leapt to the front of Oakland's lower-level outfield prospects with a nicely balanced campaign. His plate discipline and run-producing effectiveness automatically secure him a spot in Midland's outfield next year, and although he could plateau as a platoon DH due to defensive questions, Putnam might deserve fantasy consideration as soon as next summer.
The 26th player selected in 2004, Robnett suffered from a high strikeout total that sabotaged his otherwise respectable performance. Perhaps he'll meet expectations by developing into a frontline outfielder, especially if he begins next season in the forgiving hitting environment of the Texas League, however I see little reason to risk a pick on him at this time.
Suzuki emerged as the almost certain long-term replacement for Jason Kendall as John Baker stumbled badly and Landon Powell missed the entire season due to injury. Excellent plate discipline, respectable power, and strong defensive skills combine to place Suzuki on the fast track to Oakland. Expect no more than two years in the upper minors before the 2004 second round pick completes his apprenticeship and emerges as one of the safest annual fantasy picks at catcher.
John Baker, 24, C-L
An abhorrent season for a prospect banging on the door of the majors after 2004, Baker slumped from his career .281/.374/.422 marks to this disaster. Questionable defensive skills similarly leave him far too risky to consider in any fantasy league, and unless he rebounds at the plate, Baker appears headed for a career as a AAAA backup.
Beattie nicely rewarded Oakland for giving him his first extended AAA look. While he doesn't look like an impact player in any way, solid plate discipline and marginal power give him a chance to contribute as a big league reserve when needed as roster filler. Hopefully the minor league free agent will find a job somewhere with clearer infield openings.
Only a year after dominating the Midwest League, Bondurant bounced back to Midland, compiling fairly respectable numbers given his two-level jump. He should remain reasonably effective at AAA Sacramento, but without any exceptional pitching skill, Bondurant easily could peak as a AAAA starter unless we see further improvement in 2006.
A third season at Midland resulted in a welcome power surge for Brown, who nearly equaled his three-year career total of twenty-one homers. Trading walks for homers resulted in this breakout, and although he no longer appears on track for a big league starting job, even a half-decent performance at Sacramento next year will insure he begins receiving annual consideration for a bench spot.
With Ricardo Rincon likely departing as a free agent, Flores almost certainly will break camp as the primary left-handed reliever. Only Joe Kennedy or a winter acquisition could relegate Flores to a lesser role, though despite his impressive qualitative stats, Flores looks like no more than roster filler right now. His unimpressive walk and ground-fly rates throughout his three years at Sacramento leave him vulnerable to occasional poor outing that can devastate the stats of a middle reliever.
While Garrett demonstrated decent power and speed at Sacramento, diminished patience leaves the Athletics little reason to retain the minor league free agent. At least this respectable performance will push him closer to a big league bench job.
Perennially impressive patience doesn't mean much when accompanied by few other acceptable skills, especially in an organization with a couple of middle infield prospects surging towards the majors. Only a strong echo of these numbers in an unexpected trip to AAA Sacramento will prevent Kiger from a deserved label as organization filler.
Anyone who can post these numbers in the Texas League despite a weak ground-fly rate deserves a second look. Kohn now owns a career 288:52 K:BB, and while he won't develop into more than a useful middle reliever, he could warrant fantasy consideration as soon as next summer.
Swiped from the Twins in the minor league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, Moreno roughly maintained his skills while advancing from the Eastern League to Sacramento. The problem is that his weak walk and ground-fly rates leave Moreno little room for error, diminishing the value of his solid strikeout totals. He currently looks like no more than bullpen filler under the best of circumstances.
A quietly respectable performance keeps Perry on track to reach the majors in 2007, however his high strikeout total and lack of any dominant skill could keep him winning a starting job. I don't view him as a good fantasy pick until he secures a regular big league role.
Failing to win a promotion despite Oakland's need for MIF help indicates no more than a brief future in the organization for Rouse. He regressed rather noticeably during his second Sacramento campaign as a slipping contact rate dragged all his averages down. Viewing Rouse as more than short-term roster filler no longer makes sense barring an abrupt rebound next year.
Saipe first reached AAA in Colorado Springs back in 1997. Aside from two terrible starts with the Rockies and a couple of brief excursions to the Southern, Western, International, and Mexican Leagues, he mostly continued to tour the PCL, stopping at Las Vegas with the Padres, Edmonton with Anaheim, back to Las Vegas with the Dodgers, and now reaching Sacramento. I fully realize that nothing here will impress almost anyone in baseball's front offices, but anyone possessing such an extended history of good command and relative effectiveness at least deserves a shot in long relief, even if Saipe never will warrant even that much consideration on fantasy teams.
The former Tampa prospect reemerged from a year of Independent Leagues to compile the best marks of his career. Santos absolutely deserves a job in a AAA bullpen next year, though as a minor league free agent, he needs to dominate wherever he lands to remain on track to reach the majors.
Hopefully Oakland will leave Stanley at AAA Sacramento for all of 2006 to see if he can hold these averages, thereby suggesting a future as a big league reserve. If he instead returns to Midland for a fourth season and again fails to develop at the plate, the former second round pick may never see more than the briefest look in the majors .
Propping minor league designated hitters rarely make sense, however since Stavisky can play the outfield if needed, his continued offensive development keeps him on track to the majors. Of course, his limited upside similarly prevents him from possessing any fantasy value until he joins the Athletics or a team that values players similarly.
Watson desperately needed to impress the Athletics in his second cup-of-coffee following over a thousand AAA at-bats. Instead he only managed a .470 OPS, demonstrating mediocre plate discipline while registering an unimpressive 3.66 #P/PA. Although I see no reason why Watson doesn't deserve a big league bench job after plastering PCL pitchers for two years, you need to wait until he begins echoing his AAA numbers in the majors before risking a roster slot on the minor league veteran.
I probably should ignore Ziegler given his huge advantage in overall experience over most California Leauge hitters, but his consistent command suggests a decent chance to remain effective in the upper minors. Ziegler at least appears set to challenge for a bullpen job if he holds these skills as he approaches the majors.
Following two truly unimpressive seasons at Sacramento and parts of four perfectly decent years at Midland, Ziegler simply seem in need of change of scenery. He possesses fairly solid command and an acceptable ground-fly rate yet sees his hit and homer rates skyrocket in the PCL, destroying his effectiveness and suggesting he won't progress beyond AAA in his current role. Hopefully the Athletics will give a shot as a reliever before likely discarding him next fall.
Javier Herrera, 20, OF-R
With his first full-season campaign concluded, Herrera only needs to boost his contact rate to slam upward towards the majors. He owns above-average power, speed, and patience, so although drafting any toolsy Oakland prospect remains a significant risk if you lose players dealt to the NL, Herrera's long-term potential insures he merits an endgame pick in very deep leagues.
The 21st player selected this summer, Pennington surprisingly began his professional career in the Midwest League, where he demonstrated strong speed skills and impressive plate discipline. He easily could finish next season at AA Midland, positioning him to challenge for a big league job by the end of 2007. Yes, Pennington currently ranks behind Bobby Crosby, Mark Ellis, and Kevin Melillo on the organization's long-term depth chart, but the fantasy upside suggested by Pennington's combination of steals and walks makes him a worthy late pick in deep AL roto leagues.
Even a healthy Dan Meyer wouldn't push the Athletics into the upper half of this list after the organization graduated the finest rookie class in the game to the majors. Joe Blanton, Huston Street, Dan Johnson, and Nick Swisher all concluded the season meriting definite consideration for Rookie of the Year, an accomplishment rarely duplicated in most seasons. The other problem is that promoting a quartet of top prospects into four of the sixteen primary roles in the majors obviously limits future opportunities for current Oakland prospects. However, even losing these young studs only drops the organization past four systems loaded with upper-level talent and one more club with clear openings for top talent. A lack of high-upside young pitchers rates as the biggest weakness here, though the majority of the current big league rotation already appears set for the rest of the decade. An excess of outfield, catching, and middle infield prospects provides welcome depth for a club looking to replace a couple expensive veterans in the near future, so although the viable fantasy talent seems low, the farm system remains set to fill the big league club's primary needs.
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
An understandably exhausted Astros' squad seems ready to conclude the season after failing to eke out the necessary run to win last night. Freddy Garcia should toast Brandon Backe, again resulting in a Sox Series' Sweep, ending a championship drought on the road in an NL Central park. The sweep also insures that no NL franchise, other than two teal-accessorized teams founded after 1992, will have won a Series in the last decade.
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