Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
John-Ford Griffin, 25, OF-L
Griffin thoroughly repaid the Jays for demonstrating their confidence in him via a promotion to Syracuse despite a downturn in his second season in the Eastern League. While he still suffers from contact problems that likely won't disappear, Griffin employed his promising power stroke to post a career-high slugging percentage. He similarly continued to walk at a good pace, yet without a batting average over .270, he lacks the OBP necessary to contribute in the majors. Of course, the Jays' need for more power still could result in a starting job for Griffin, however with his BA likely dragging down his quantitative numbers, bidding into double digits looks like a bad idea.
Returning to competition following scarcely a year of Tommy John rehab, McGowan reestablished his command Dunedin, remained effective at New Hampshire, and then registered fairly strong skills over the last couple months of the season in Toronto. He absolutely dominated out of the bullpen, compiling a 0.82 ERA on an 11:1 K:BB in 11 IP with 5 H and 1 HR, however rather than reducing his role due to his difficulties in the rotation, the Jays instead should send McGowan back to the minors as a starter to see if can regain his former dominance. The 33rd player selected in 2000 still looks like an excellent progress nearly ready to contribute in the majors, though unless McGowan breaks camp in Toronto's relief corps, even taking a Dollar Days' gamble right now seems rather risky.
The disastrous development of former Marlins' prospect Scott Comer provided us with a necessary lesson in avoiding A-ball control freaks unendorsed by the scouting community. Banks thankfully avoided a similar fate by absolutely excelling in his first full AA campaign. Few pitchers combine an 8.1 K/9 and an unbelievable .6 BB/9 at any level, yet Banks managed this feat in the Eastern League while also compiling an 8.8 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9, perfectly acceptable ratios given his outstanding command. Only a season of unexpected good health for the Jays' starters should keep Banks from contributing in the majors by mid-season, and even if an abundance of hits or homers results in a problematic ERA, Banks always should offers a helpful WHIP to fantasy owners.
With no significant power prospect left in the lower minors after a few seasons of emphasizing pitching in the June draft, Cannon unexpectedly emerged as a likely big league contributor. The 2004 eighth round pick out of The Citadel earned two mid-season promotions, compiling a .289/.359/.582 performance with 32 HR, 98 RBI, 65 R, and a 46:137 BB:K in 450 AB. While his unimpressive Eastern League numbers diminish Cannon's otherwise excellent output, questionable plate discipline leaves him at risk for further struggles as he approaches Toronto. He needs to post an OPS over .850 for New Hampshire next year to secures his status as a potential big league starting first baseman.
Completing a move to the bullpen resulted in drastic cuts in Houston's hit and homer rates while he maintained both dominance and command. A strong first half should propel him to Toronto next September as a potential long-term member of the Jays' relief corps.
Bumped to Syracuse perhaps a month ahead of schedule, Jackson largely struggled after a spring spent toasting A-ball hitters and then still displaying strong command in the Eastern League. Toronto's second first round pick in 2004 lacks the upside of draft mate David Purcey, but superior all-around skills place Jackson slightly closer to contributing in the majors. As long as you don't mind him spending one more summer gaining needed seasoning, I see sufficient upside here to warrant selecting Jackson very late in deep AL leagues.
Earning two promotions while compiling a 136:20 K:BB in 148.2 IP during his first full season of pitching duty at any level places Janssen's season among the most impressive campaigns of the year. A fourth round pick out of UCLA in 2004, his unimpressive hit rate looks like the only worrisome stat here. Everything else suggests that Janssen will reach Toronto during 2006 and likely develop into no less than a very good middle reliever for the rest of the decade.
A good comparison for Josh Banks in many ways, Marcum departed New Hampshire ahead of schedule, saw his hits and homers rise to nearly unacceptable levels at Syracuse, and then joined the Jays down the stretch, pitching surprisingly well out of the bullpen. Marcum certainly appears set to return to his former role as a college closer, though barring a veteran exodus from Toronto's relief corps, he shouldn't contribute as more than roster filler in 2006. His upside as a starter also could force him out of the organization if the Jays seek more lineup help this winter.
Selected eighteenth overall in 2000, Negron finally left A-ball this year yet failed to maintain acceptable averages in the Eastern League. His weak stolen base success rate also diminished the sudden return of Negron's speed skills. While I still expect the Jays to push him to Toronto as a defensive replacement as soon as next September, perhaps joining David Purcey to maintain their otherwise intact string of eighteen straight first round picks that reached the majors since 1987, Negron may never develop into more than AAAA backup barring nearly immediate improvement at the plate.
Nothing here provides an overly impressive foundation for Perkins to continue progressing towards the Jays' rotation. Perhaps he could help the team most as trade bait, but given his merely average all-around skills, Perkins seems headed towards the bullpen as Toronto attempts to accumulate a bevy of live young arms. Certainly wait until be reaches the majors before sparking Perkins more than a passing glance.
The sixteenth player selected in 2004 continued rapidly rising up the minor league ladder, however Purcey's excellent strikeout rate only camouflages continued control problems. I absolutely expect him to spend five full months in the minors before joining the Jays no sooner than September. Only owners in leagues that ignore WHIP should roster Purcey at this time despite intriguing long-term upside due to his developing dominance.
Averaging barely 275 at-bats over the last three seasons obviously reduces Quiroz's chance to secure a starting job with the Jays in the near future. Adding a shoulder injury and another collapsed lung to a rapidly increasing list of injuries similarly ranks him with the most fragile players in the game. The good news is that Quiroz remains a power-hitting catcher with good patience, providing an excellent foundation for a long career. We just can't count on him beginning to play every day until 2007, so treat him as no more than a reasonable mid-round gamble or solid endgame second catcher.
Only Ramirez's consistent effectiveness particularly impresses me as he steadily climbs the minor league ladder. The sharp jump in his home run rate from .3 to 1.1 HR/9 portends future problems as he contends for a big league job, and given the competition Ramirez faces, he easily could earn AAAA status in a couple years. Conversely he also owns very impressive control, which at least provides the necessary basis for him to remain effective in relief. Ramirez may merit some consideration once he registers several solid outings in the majors.
Owning strong patience and developing power gives Roberts an excellent chance to earn a bench job in Toronto by 2007. His offensive upside also could attract the attention of other organizations looking for a middle infield bat, so though he needs at least another year of seasoning, Roberts remains on course to spend his peak years in the majors.
Shifting to the bullpen in only his second year following Tommy John surgery indicates rapidly diminishing upside for the former top prospect. While Rosario possesses good control, his previous level of dominance plummeted at Syracuse while a new crop of intriguing starting prospects reached the upper minors. I still see plenty of upside here and believe he should secure a significant big league role relatively soon, but with no clear path to amassing serious roto value with the Jays, Rosario may need a change of scenery to earn much more fantasy attention.
One more season of comparable numbers could push Thigpen ahead of Guillermo Quiroz in the organization's long-term plans. Although he lacks significant experience behind the plate, Thigpen's .18 walk rate and .88 contact rate place him among the most disciplined young hitters in the game regardless of level or position. His continued production after a double-jump to the Eastern League similarly will push him prospect lists, however barring a Quiroz deal, Thigpen still looks like the Jays' future backup backstop and therefore doesn't warrant a fantasy pick in spring drafts.
I still see a lot to like here despite the difficulties Vermilyea encountered at Syracuse. Allowing relatively few baserunners while posting a ground-fly ratio over 2.00 gives him an excellent chance to succeed at the highest levels of the organization, so although he merits no fantasy consideration next spring, Vermilyea soon should catch your attention as potential weekly roster filler as soon as the second half of 2006.
Converting another college reliever into a starter paid shocking dividends this year as Yates emerged as one of the most interesting prospects in the system. Only a slight lack of dominance keeps me from recommending him at this time, but if Yates maintains these skills at AA, expect him to follow the David Bush path straight to Toronto.
Signed as a minor league free agent last fall, Alfaro saw his offensive skills collapse upon leaving the Astros, his only organization through his first eight professional seasons. With diminishing defensive skills, mediocre power, and failing plate discipline, only an abrupt rebound in the next couple of hitters will give him any chance of a career as more than a AAAA reserve.
Toronto nearly gave Andrade a needed break, claiming him off waivers from Anaheim last December, yet instead bizarrely left him in the Eastern League all year for a third straight AA campaign, only broken by a dozen AAA appearances in 2003. He clearly needs little additional seasoning after another dominant performance and absolutely deserves the chance to contribute in the majors in 2006.
Another mediocre AAA season for the AAAA journeyman pushes Baker into minor league free agency without any recent success above AA. Only a pending move to relief seems likely to insure he reaches the majors any time soon.
Carlson absolutely toasted AA hitters in his second season at that level prior to compiling mostly respectable skills at Syracuse. Toronto's decision to cut him loose surprises me given their consistent lefty relief in the majors. Right now Carlson ranks among the most intriguing minor league free agents under the age of 25 and soon should challenge for a big league job.
A healthy Cosby unexpectedly began smashing the ball at New Hampshire, nearly equaling the twenty-two homers he totaled over the previous six seasons. Of course, the Jays already possess four potential starting third basemen in the majors right now, and Cosby lacks the plate discipline the organization prefers. He needs to echo this performance in 2006 before we can view him as more than a future bench player.
One of the most disciplined upper-level catchers in the game, Dominique enjoyed a few days in the majors for the second straight season. Unfortunately, he simply lacks the defensive skills necessary to emerge as more than the 25th man on any roster, a situation that could leave him bereft of fantasy value indefinitely.
While French wisely remained with the Jays for a second season, his patience and SB production plummeted as he posted his worst offensive numbers in several years. He still owns the skills necessary to enjoy a few years as a fifth outfielder in the majors, but blowing this shot with an organization favorably disposed towards his somewhat limited abilities instead forces French back into minor league free agency. Only an impressive spring performance or capable work as an injury replacement likely will result in more than an occasional cup-of-coffee for the journeyman outfielder .
Progressing to the International League rightfully places Gronkiewicz on the cusp of a big league promotion. However, given the increasing competition Jays' relievers face from converted starting pitching prospects, a chance of scenery offers the most upside for Gronkiewicz, who easily could remain in the upper minors indefinitely in the surprisingly deep Toronto organization.
The perennially dependable AAA slugger provides veteran stability in the upper minors yet no longer even appears likely to spend much time on a big league bench. Limited plate discipline and a weak batting average similarly leave Mottola no more than minimal fantasy value.
Nelson completely collapsed in his third straight International League season. His power spike from 2004 vanished as a dropping BA rendered him almost completely useless. Despite some upside as a reserve, I don't envision him securing a big league roster spot any time soon as he once again heads into minor league free agency.
Registering a fifth consecutive unimpressive season for the Jays' AA affiliate understandably resulted in his departure from the organization this fall as a minor league free agent. Reimers may own good control and relatively minimal downside thanks to a strong ground-fly rate, but limited dominance even could leave him short of earning AAAA status. He desperately needs to join a team like Kansas City desperate for experience upper-level pitchers or risk spending the next several years continuing to tour the country via bus.
The best long-term position prospect still in Toronto's minor league system following likely promotions for Guillermo Quiroz and John-Ford Griffin, the 2004 third round pick posted an impressive season at the plate, demonstrating decent plate discipline and a solid all-around offensive approach. Unfortunately, Lind's limited defensive skills and lack of significant power potential may keep him emerging as more than a capable reserve. Rostering Lind before we see if he can maintain this performance above A-ball looks like a highly unnecessary risk.
The problem with graduating a rookie class featuring Gustavo Chacin, Russ Adams, Gabe Gross, Aaron Hill, and Brandon League is that such an exodus of talent generally leaves multiple levels of a farm system somewhat barren. Seriously focusing on adding pitching in the last two drafts similarly results in an organization lacking more than a couple of serious hitting prospects. An expanding payroll provides even more obstacles for rookies as the strong likelihood of at least one veteran starter joining the Jays already pushes David Bush and Scott Downs from a rotation of Roy Halladay, Ted Lilly, Josh Towers, and Gustavo Chacin. With only Lilly likely to depart within the next year, no more than one slot exists for Bush, Downs, McGowan, Banks, Purcey, and Jackson, though at least Toronto possesses superb depth to cover injuries and potential trades. A lineup mostly staffed with young, homegrown veterans also lacks obvious opportunities for rookies, leaving fantasy owners no pending impact players and allowing the current Jays' system to settle above only two clubs with far less overall depth.
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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