Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Scott Atchison, 29, RH Reliever
Elbow problems kept Atchison from pitching until July, yet he largely dominated in the second half, likely resecuring a spot in Seattle's bullpen for next season. He now owns a career 4.10 ERA on a 45:15 K:BB in 37.1 IP over 31 G for the Mariners, numbers that give him a good chance to post positive fantasy value over the next few seasons. Assuming Atchison continues to pitch well during spring training, I see no reason not to target him during Dollar Days to complete your staff as his possibility of vulturing wins outweighs his lack of save opportunities.
Bohn's stock skyrocketed as BA and SB surges resulted in the best year of his career. While I admit his slipping plate discipline worries me, Bohn still seems prepared to compete with Jamal Strong for a bench job in Seattle. A Dollar Days' flyer here could net you a dozen or more steals.
Reduced power, less speed, and a lower contact rate all accompanied Choo's increased walk total. While the added patience indicated by his 4.29 #P/PA provides an excellent foundation for his further success, his lack of generally weak quantitative output might prevent him from winning the third job in an outfield already two-thirds full of players with minimal power, dependent on high averages to remain productive. However, playing Choo every day would improve the Mariners' defense, and his long-term upside remains as high as any outfielder in the organization. Sending him to the minors for more than another couple months looks quite unfair given his development to date, so if Seattle can't find a starting spot for Choo, the Mariners need to deal him somewhere more in need of an outfielder with good on-base skills, perhaps San Diego, Baltimore, or even St. Louis.
The best, completely healthy, upper-level pitching prospect in the system continued to demonstrate solid command as he neared the majors. A good spring even might result in Livingston breaking camp in the rotation, though I instead expect him to return to Tacoma until injuries open a starting slot. Given his skill set and effectiveness since joining Seattle as a fourth round pick in 2001, he justifiably can hope to emulate the career of Jamie Moyer. I view Livingston as an excellent sleeper in most spring drafts.
I can't even attempt to feign surprise that Snelling again failed to finish the season, succumbing to the seventh surgery of his seven-year career. The good news is that he simply pounded PCL pitching and remained productive upon winning a job in the majors. Simply slotting him as the starting DH looks like a great idea if the Mariners prefer Snelling's bat overall Shin-Soo Choo's overall upside in left field; Raul Ibanez will fill the position not occupied by a rookie. Of course, even if Snelling appears fully healthy and wins a starting job in the seemingly safe DH slot before your auction, bidding above the mid-single digits still leaves you with increasingly reduced chance of seeing a profit here.
A 10-day steroids suspension and a broken left hand bookended Strong's disappointing season. He clearly appears unable to earn a starting job, yet with his speed, patience, and overall plate discipline, even a reserve role in the majors should translate into double-digit value. The biggest problem he faces is that Seattle doesn't require defensive replacement for their probably starting outfield, giving Strong less value to the Mariners than almost any other team. Only an unexpected lucky break will result in Strong finding the opportunity he deserves next year.
Elbow problems interrupted Baek's season, likely contributing to this disaster. At least he maintained good control, but awful hit and homer rates render him useless right now. Wait until he begins echoing his 2004 numbers before even considering him for your team.
Stolen from the Marlins with Mike Flannery for Ron Villone, Bazardo adequately handled AA batters and now moves to the cusp of the majors at AAA Tacoma. His unimpressive dominance eventually could force him to the bullpen, however Seattle also offers Bazardo a practically ideal environment for him to succeed. A late-round flyer here could pay welcome dividends, especially in deep keeper leagues.
Multiple tears in his labrum led to February surgery for Blackley and kept him from pitching this summer. Perhaps he'll return to full health by spring training, but considering Blackley never owned great command even before his injury, he looks like a severe risk until we see him regain his effectiveness. Don't gamble on Blackley as more than a reserve round flyer.
Bubela finally performed adequately in his third season at San Antonio, even earning a look in Seattle towards the end of the year. Of course that promotion doesn't convince me that the Mariners like Bubela more than Jamal Strong or T.J. Bohn, but if given the opportunity, he certainly could contribute useful steals to many fantasy teams.
Generally competing against much older competition didn't prevent Jimenez from another effective campaign, demonstrating little overt downside even though his strikeout and walk rates lagged behind his 2004 numbers. He should spend all of 2006 at Tacoma before joining George Sherrill in Seattle the following year to give Seattle perhaps the best southpaw relief combo in baseball.
Yuniesky Betancourt likely secured the long-term shortstop job with his performance this summer, resulting in a shift to the outfield for Jones by the AFL. The key to his offensive output is that he only turned 20 on August 1st, which left Jones among the youngest players in the Texas League. Passable patience, developing power potential, and even a bit of speed combine to indicate tremendous long-term upside for Jones, so although contact problems could hinder his development, he also might challenge Jeremy Reed for a starting job by 2007.
Returning to the bullpen allowed Key to blossom, especially after building his confidence by starting the year back in A-ball. Registering very good command and an excellent ground-fly ratio resulted in two deserved promotions, placing Key on the cusp of the majors heading into 2006. A good spring should solidify his position as the top southpaw reliever at Tacoma, giving him a good chance to contribute as no less than fantasy roster filler by the second half.
A completely unexpected power surge, accompanied by a dramatic improvement in plate discipline, propelled LaHair from unknown 39th round draft-and-follow to the best first base prospect in the organization. He even secured a berth on the US World Cup team in September. While LaHair needs to echo this performance above A-ball before earning any fantasy consideration, his overall offensive skill set now depicts a player perfectly capable of succeeding at higher levels.
Acquired form San Diego with Miguel Ojeda for Miguel Olivo, a skyrocketing WHIP resulted in Mateo largely combusting after joining San Antonio. While his overall skill set suggests reasonably intriguing long-term potential, Mateo appears to need a couple more years of seasoning before impacting the majors in any significant way.
Rivera posted the best BA of his career in the Texas League and then shocked Seattle fandom by obliterating big league pitching during his tenure with the Mariners. Of course his success stems almost entirely from the virtues of a limited sample size, though his 3.60 #P/PA at least suggest some upside. Even though Rivera shouldn't spend much time starting in the majors, echoing his San Antonio numbers in Tacoma next summer will result in a third straight September call-up, likely leading to a regular role in Seattle the following year.
Moving down the defensive spectrum while watching his at-bats and quantitative stats decrease leaves Brown positioned for no more than a respectable AAAA career. Of course, improving his overall production despite advancing a level every year conversely gives him a great chance at emerging as a regular utility player. Seattle's off-season moves, as well as spring training, will determine whether Brown receives a chance to break camp in the majors or begins his likely annual April journeys to the highest level of the minors.
Endurance issues pushed Buglovsky into the bullpen for Tacoma, where he at least roughly maintained his skill ratios from two years in the Texas League. Hopefully spending all of 2006 as a reliever will result in the improved dominance normally necessary for AAA relievers to receive long looks in the majors.
Expect Campillo to miss all of 2006 after September Tommy John surgery following an injury in his first big league start, a rather unfortunate situation given his performance for Tacoma. He only possesses value for teams needing a disabled player in leagues with specific cap rules.
Christianson finally seems set to depart the Mariners as a minor league free agent after seven seasons following Seattle's selection of him with the 11th pick in the 1999 draft. His failure to produce consistently at the plate in the upper minors while avoiding the DL allowed Rene Rivera to displace him on the 40-man roster. However, Christianson still only turns 25 next April, and given his improving patience and latent power potential, he easily could emerge as a very useful big leaguer by the end of the decade.
Claimed off waivers from Cleveland at the end of August, Cruceta completely failed to consolidate his improvement during the summer of 2004. He instead deservedly finds himself struggling to remain in the rotation as an awful ground-fly rate resulted in a scary number of disastrous outings. Fantasy owners absolutely must wait until Cruceta begins pitching effectively in the majors before rostering him in any league.
Welcome skill development in a second tour of the Texas League unfortunately didn't translate into anything resembling an acceptable performance following an August promotion to Tacoma. Yet considering Fruto only turned 21 in June, the Mariners should give him another year or two in the minors before risking him in Seattle. His development to this point portends a very solid career, and given the Mariners' middle relief depth, waiting until Fruto can dominate big league hitters remains the overwhelmingly logical course of action.
Acquired from Colorado for Aaron Taylor last December, Green earned a mid-season promotion with solid skill improvement in a brief return to the Texas League. An outstanding ground-fly ratio then let Green remain successful for Tacoma despite poor control, so if his command continues developing, he should push for a job in Seattle sometime next summer.
The former top prospect wisely remained in the bullpen, staying healthy and relatively effective in his first reasonably decent season since 2001. While his questionable command requires a return to Tacoma, Heaverlo still owns the skills that enabled him to dominate the Texas League at 23. He should emerge as a useful middle reliever within the next couple of years.
Huber pitched decently for San Antonio, but the former fifth round pick simply doesn't look like a future big league starter. Perhaps a move to the bullpen could jump-start his lagging career, but he also might never develop into a viable fantasy option.
Southpaw starters automatically deserve added deference considering their comparatively slower development, yet other than a high hit rate, Oldham otherwise already possesses a solid all-around skill set. While his slipping strikeout rate suggests a potential move to relief sometime this decade, Oldham's overall effectiveness should keep him starting for Seattle at least for a couple more years. He could see Safeco later in 2006 if injuries create an opening in the Mariners' rotation.
Added in the minor league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, Rifkin unsurprisingly remained productive for Tacoma despite never surpassing AA in the Yankees' system. Nothing here suggests he merits an extended look in the majors, however if given the necessary opportunity, Rifkin certainly could emerge as a competent platoon starter during his approaching prime.
Minnesota foolishly returned Rowland-Smith to Seattle at the conclusion of spring training rather than keep him as a Rule 5 pick. Of course, the Mariners then failed to take advantage of their good luck by letting him continue starting for half the season instead of developing him as a potentially dominant reliever. Regardless of his role, Rowland-Smith needs to improve his control at AAA Tacoma next year if he wants to join the Mariners in the near future
Sandoval continued his measured progression towards the majors by somehow nearly keeping his ERA under 4.00 despite no overtly impressive skills other than a shockingly low home run rate. I expect him to peak as a AAAA starter given his development to date, though given his improving control as he ascends the minor league ladder, Sandoval could surprise after another year or two of seasoning.
Possessing perhaps the best pure power in the system next to Richie Sexson and maybe Jeff Clement, Balentien spent most of the summer crushing the pitches he found hittable. Yet continued contact problems as well as an unimpressive walk rate virtually demand that he spend no less than two more years in the minors. Feel free to wait until Balentien echoes this performance at AA San Antonio before rostering him anywhere.
Surprisingly selected third in the June draft over safer picks of Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Tulowitzki or Cameron Maybin, Clement at least continued producing at the plate. The holder of the prep career home run record could challenge for a big league job as soon as the spring of 2007, however defensive questions could delay in matriculation from the minors. While Clement possesses the bat to play anywhere in the field, his uncertain future position makes him no more than a respectable mid-round pick until he gains more professional experience.
A general lack of immediate quantitative upside leaves me little reason to recommend Tuiasosopo right now. While he owns decent patience and could develop into an offensive force, he also appears to need no less than three more seasons before departing the minors. Offering more than a last-round flyer in the deepest AL leagues makes little sense in 2006.
While the Mariners deserve consideration for the top ranking, the best long-term Seattle prospects remain a level or two lower than the Angels' core talent. I also absolutely doubt that both Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Snelling will develop into everyday players here. Of course, despite no observed organizational commitment to playing the best upper-level prospects, the Mariners possess superb depth for fantasy teams as the pitcher-friendly environment gives nearly every young hurler in the system a good chance to earn positive value. The largely unsettled lineup similarly offers plenty of opportunity for almost any position player to secure regular playing time. Plus, Jamal Strong, T.J. Bohn, or even Jaime Bubela soon should emerge as a solid source of steals as a reserve outfielder. Graduating a fairly impressive rookie class led by Felix Hernandez and Jeremy Reed simply doesn't hurt the system that much as the Mariners added a couple decent arms during the season, one premium talent in the draft, and watched youngsters like Adam Jones and Bobby Livingston surge forward.
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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