Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Jason Botts, 25, OF-S
Absolutely nothing should prevent Botts from securing a starting job in the Texas lineup next spring. The biggest problem he faces is a potentially wariness of adding a seventh batter likely to exceed 90 strikeouts. Thankfully the Rangers' don't seem to mind plenty of whiffs when combined with plenty of walks and extra-base hits, giving Botts a clear shot at approaching his 2005 numbers in the majors. Bidding into double digits for him makes sense as long as he looks like an everyday player on the day of your draft.
I considered Kinsler perhaps the best long-term position player available in most drafts last spring. Demolishing both the Midwest and Texas Leagues while demonstrating five solid tools rightfully resulted in another promotion to Oklahoma for Kinsler, and if the Rangers deal Alfonso Soriano as expected, Kinsler will step into the starting lineup in April. His five-category upside offers more immediate fantasy potential than any position player in the league, especially considering his home park and superior plate discipline to most comparable prospects. Kinsler enters 2006 as a primary Rookie of the Year candidate meriting bids into the mid-teens in most any standard fantasy league.
Expect Arias to push Mike Young back to second base or even out to centerfield in another year or two. While his limited power, questionable baserunning instincts, and poor patience all indicated approaching for struggles for Arias as he nears the majors, the combination of his defensive skills and historically solid BA suggests he'll refine his tools in the Rangers' infield. The upside offered by any starting position player on Texas warrants a reasonably high pick regardless of Arias' skill deficiencies.
The ninth pick in 2003 seemingly only moved to Frisco to remain in the same rotation with Edison Volquez and Thomas Diamond. Danks did not particularly dominate the California League prior to his unsurprising collapse at Frisco. At least he seems healthy, but given his rising WHIP, unimpressive ground-fly ratio, and the general risks associated with all pitchers at his age, Danks does not merit a fantasy pick in any league next spring.
Pushing the 10th overall pick in 2004 to the Texas League made sense since Diamond clearly needed no more A-ball experience. However, sharp fall-offs in his walk and groundball rates drastically reduced his effectiveness, and considering Frisco offers a similar environment to Arlington, Diamond probably needs at least one more full year in the minors before he'll have any chance of posting positive value in the majors.
Elbow surgery ended a worrisome season for Hudgins in August. After only 16 A-ball appearances and a dozen AA starts, his poor year for Oklahoma strongly suggests the Rangers rushed him through the system. Unimpressive dominance similarly leaves Hudgins in danger of posting some truly scary numbers in Texas, so despite his decent upside, you can't risk rostering him anywhere right now.
Shifting to relief resulted in rapid improvement in Littleton's skill set. He returned to dominating many hitters after a mediocre 2004 in A-ball. Now he absolutely should begin next year at AAA Oklahoma, possibly reaching the majors as soon as mid-season. I don't expect Littleton to develop into an outstanding short man, but nothing here indicates he can't pitch effectively for many years in middle relief.
Somehow Murray registered the best season if his career after missing all of 2004 due to labrum surgery. He demonstrated excellent command and Bakersfield, significantly improved his 2003 numbers at Frisco, and then even pitched decently in two starts at Oklahoma. Expect him to return to AAA next year, and although I don't expect him to emerge as more than a competent inning eater this decade, his rebound this summer suggests a bright long-term future.
Like nearly every other primary pitching prospect in the organization, Rupe received a mid-season promotion despite questionable command at his first stop of the year. Even his strong ground-fly ratio couldn't prevent his formerly effective pitching from evaporating at Oklahoma. Perhaps his late-season stint with the Rangers will provide Rupe the confidence necessary to overcome his otherwise disastrous second half, but nothing here depicts a particularly promising future Rangers' starter.
With no significant skill outside of a good BA supported by acceptable patience, Senreiso certainly seems destined to peak as a reserve. A lack of more than minimal power and good speed skills even might force him back to Frisco, though he could echo these numbers at AAA and then possibly merit a mid-season FAAB gamble if needed in the majors.
Shooting to the majors from the California League pushes Volquez slightly ahead of fellow DVD starters Thomas Diamond and John Danks in the Rangers' plans. His superior performance at Frisco provides welcome support for the otherwise questionable decision to promote him to Texas. Hopefully Volquez now will receive the full year in the upper minors he requires to finish honing his skills before the Rangers recall him for good. Do not risk even a Dollar Days' pick on Volquez if he somehow opens the year in the big league rotation.
Shane Bazzell, 26, RH Reliever
A consistently effective AA swingman over the previous four years with Oakland, Bazzell moved to the Rangers yet only managed a single AAA appearance. Returning to minor league free agency after this fairly mediocre campaign simply doesn't leave him positioned for much movement towards the majors.
Cutting his strikeouts this year might result in a Rule 5 pickup for Coughlin if the Rangers don't protect him this fall. He owns solid speed, some power potential, and sufficient plate discipline to spend a long career as a big league reserve. Switching to any organization more comfortable with employing speedsters easily could push him towards double-digit value as soon as next summer.
Eldridge finally translated his impressive lower-level numbers into a rather dynamic offensive performance. Anyone managing an OBP over .400 in the upper minors merits significant spring attention for no less than a reserve, and if the Rangers take advantage of a strong trade market for centerfielders by moving someone like Gary Matthews, Eldridge deserves to break camp in the majors. Unfortunately, his skill set provides much more value in sim leagues, so more owners shouldn't view him as more than roster filler for now.
You just don't see many players transitioning from merely thirteen innings in the Arizona League all the way to the American League in less than a year, especially unheralded thirtieth round picks. Riding an outstanding ground-fly ratio and passable control, Feldman shot to the majors, where he shockingly emerged as the club's best middle reliever in September. Although rostering him anywhere in the spring appears quite risky, Feldman's low home run rate makes him a safer in-season addition than almost any otherwise comparable Rangers' reliever.
Shifting to the bullpen resulted in welcome improvement in Jimenez's effectiveness as he continued marching to the majors with a solid AAA season. If he continues refining his control next year, Jimenez certainly will merit a mid-season promotion to the historically violent Rangers' relief corps, possibly sticking in the majors as soon as 2007.
Only an excellent ground-fly ratio provides any reinforcement of the scouting projections for Masset as a future #3 starter. After five minor league seasons he owns merely questionable command while rarely dominating hitters. Although I realize nearly all of the organization's best prospects struggled to pitch for Frisco this year, Masset's skill set places him far back of no less than a half-dozen superior rookies when considering possibilities for the Rangers' long-term rotation.
At least McDougall finally reached the majors this year, enjoying three separate stints with the Rangers, although he seemed overmatched, registering a 4.56 #P/PA thanks to an abhorrent .44 contact rate. However, he clearly needs no more seasoning, leaving Texas with no excuse not to keep him on the big leach bench next year. An endgame pickup could net a surprisingly productive player if McDougall receives the necessary opportunity to contribute.
The tenth player selected in 2002 began his move down the defensive spectrum this year. While Meyer posted the best stats of his career at Texas, his general lack of both power and plate discipline probably condemns him to a career as no more than a big league backup. As he may not even reach that minimal level with the Rangers, don't be surprised to see him moved to the Padres to reunite with former management sponsor Grady Fuson
Smith surprisingly moved to Oklahoma and then stunningly posted his best performance since Rookie-ball, nicely buoyed by vastly improved plate discipline. While I don't expect him to maintain these numbers if given a shot in the majors, he soon could emerge as a useful big league backup.
The minor league free agent breezed into the bullpen after seven years of starting to emerge as a very useful AAA closer. Hopefully his save total won't prevent Veras from receiving the consideration he deserves for a set-up job in the majors. Any improvement in his control should result in that last step up the organization ladder.
Claimed off waivers from the White Sox last fall, Yan boosted his OBP from .315 to .366 in his second AA campaign. He now appears primed to succeed with Oklahoma, and if he even echoes this level of plate discipline, he could emerge as one of the most attractive leadoff prospects in the game. A late-round Ultra pick here might net you a $30 player as soon as 2007, though exercising plenty of caution also makes sense given Yan's previously inconsistent progress through the minors.
Compiling these numbers despite only turning 20 in September, merely fifteen months after Texas selected him thirtieth overall in the 2004 draft, suggest Hurley could develop into a force in the Rangers' rotation. Although I expect him to spend no less than two more seasons in the minors, Hurley also could move faster given how quickly Texas pushed John Danks and Edison Volquez to the highest levels of the system. Expect his respective 2006 stats for wins, losses, strikeouts, walks, and ERA to look something like 4 8 151 62 342.
Possessing the best hitters' park in the league unfortunately diminishes the fantasy value of Rangers' pitchers by a significant amount. Even the vaunted DVD AA trio of Diamond, Volquez, and Danks likely won't post particularly solid stats in Arlington. Of course, the benefits of Ameriquest include virtually insuring future All-Star berths for Ian Kinsler and possibly even Botts and Arias. Even without a reasonable expectation of seeing even the best Rangers' minor league pitchers remain effective in Texas, the upside of the best half-dozen position prospects here warrants a very high ranking. The combination of two strong all-around hitters and a couple of potential SB leaders forces the Rangers above several clubs with much better overall depth, allowing any unexpected contributions by the young hurlers merely to add to the impressive list of likely fantasy contributors in the system.
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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