Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Jeff Baker, 24, 3B-R
Garrett Atkins' spring injury opened the starting job for Baker, who registered a shockingly unexpected 4.14 #P/PA in a couple weeks of action after receiving just 91 at-bats in the upper minors prior to this season. He then headed to Colorado Springs, smacking the ball soundly despite battling continued wrist problems and broken thumb. The biggest obstacle Baker faces is the wealth of young infield talent accumulated by the Rockies. He just seems sandwiched between Atkins and Ian Stewart and third while lacking the defense necessary to start at second base. Perhaps he could break camp as a backup in the spring. An excellent performance in Arizona even could lead to an unexpected starting job. However, given both his questionable plate discipline and likely role, Baker probably won't develop into more than an endgame fantasy option until he switches organizations.
Salazar certainly owns the defensive ability, speed, and plate discipline necessary to emerge as the Rockies' starting centerfielder. After Cory Sullivan opened the year in the majors after missing all of 2004 and lacking any AAA experience, I also see plenty of precedent for Salazar claiming the job in camp. He ranks as a very safe pick around $10 if he wins the job, especially since his SB upside alone could push his value well over $20. Of course, his unimpressive BA in the upper minors indicates Salazar needs more development time, so you also shouldn't feel bad if the additional attention accompanying a potential vault into the lineup results in elevated bids beyond your budgetary constraints.
Ostensibly stuck at first base, Shealy began converting to the outfield this fall and now seems set to open 2006 as Matt Holliday's platoon partner in right field. If Shealy handles the position capably, I expect the Rockies to deal Holliday given he possesses less plate discipline than Brad Hawpe or Shealy. Any problems encountered by Shealy instead should lead to a midseason deal to a club looking for right-handed power at 1B/DH, and considering he registered a 4.21 #P/PA during his time in Colorado, Shealy could start for almost any AL club. He nearly headed to the Red Sox with Larry Bigbie for Kelly Shoppach, Abe Alvarez, and Adam Stern before Boston foolishly reneged on the deal, missing an ideal opportunity to secure a third masher in the middle of that lineup. Now Shealy might just blossom in Colorado, where he merits bids to the high single digits if he breaks camp in his expected role.
Mike Esposito, 24, RH Starter
Continuing to demonstrate excellent control at Colorado Springs earned Esposito a couple of spot starts, though his difficulties in the majors suggest he never may succeed until moving to the bullpen. He simply doesn't dominate hitters, and the reduced downside produced by Esposito's groundball rate unfortunately results in too many hits for us to view him as a viable fantasy options right now.
The former first rounder finally runs out of options in the spring, so even a decent camp will force Colorado to keep Freeman as an extra outfielder. Unfortunately for Rockies' fans, Freeman no longer owns any obvious tools and lacks the plate discipline to take advantage of his remaining skills. Consider him no more than a Dollar Days flyer in fairly deep leagues.
Gary's kid posted some very impressive numbers even for a power hitter in the California League. Although his mediocre .71 contact rate concerns me, Gaetti's patience and power potential suggest the twelfth round pick should blossom into a big league regular. Of course, you can't risk selecting him this spring due to the sheer number of more established outfielders in the system, but echoing this performance in the Texas League will place Gaetti on the fast track to Coors.
Only the welcome rebound from J.D. Closser in July and August keeps me from anointing Iannetta the Rockies' catcher of the future. He possesses exceptional patience and respectable power potential, leaving only occasional contact issues as an obstacle to his continued advancement. Feel free to gamble a late-round pick here in the hopes of stealing Colorado's 2007 catcher.
A healthy Jimenez completed a half season in the California League before progressing to Tulsa and expected problems in the Texas League. Combining inconsistent control with a stream of flyballs leads to the qualitative disasters that ruin fantasy seasons. Given that Jimenez already suffers from skill deficiencies despite just reaching the upper minors, he might need a couple more years before even warranting a second glance from teams willing to risk rostering Rockies' pitchers.
Bludgeoning Sally League pitchers this summer pushed Koshansky from unheralded sixth round pick to an intriguing long-term option. While he lacks any place to play in Colorado, repeating this performance at a higher level will earn Koshansky both immediate plaudits from the Rockies and midseason fantasy consideration in deep leagues.
We can't expect any relief prospect, especially a Rockies' rookie with a nasty flyball habit, to leap to the majors and beginning closing. Without that immediate fantasy upside, Miller therefore merits only the briefest of looks as someone who should emerge as a bullpen option for Colorado by next fall despite lacking any likely roto value.
The PTBN that followed Joe Kennedy in the Justin Speier deal, Nin rebounded wonderfully after missing all of 2004 due to injury. While his lower AA strikeout rate concerns me, his outstanding control should enable him to remain successful despite a pending move to AAA Colorado Springs. Nin should compete for a spot on the Rockies no later than 2007.
A second awful AA campaign severely reduces Nix's status as a prospect. However, he remains a capable infielder with the potential to rebound at any time, rediscovering his latent power and speed to emerge as a Colorado starter. Ultra owners might consider storing Nix for one more year, though if we don't see noticeable improvement in 2006, cutting bait completely seems very fair here.
Snagged from the Yankees as the primary bait in the Shawn Chacon deal, Ramirez surprisingly received a double demotion upon joining the Rockies as he headed to the Tulsa bullpen after starting for Columbus. He understandably struggled, so while he clearly possesses the skills necessary to blossom in his new role, Ramirez appears unlikely to contribute to successful fantasy teams in the near future.
Smacking 45 doubles and 6 triples demonstrates promising power potential for Smith, especially considering he skipped from short-season ball after his selection in the 2004 draft to the California League. While he probably doesn't merit much consideration in any save the deepest of roto leagues, his future remains bright and even further contact problems shouldn't prevent him from contributing in the Rockies' outfield by 2007.
Scarcely included on prospect lists prior to the season, Spilborghs exploded out of A-ball, crushing both AA and AAA pitcher on his way to earning a September cup-of-coffee. He theoretically will receive a chance to win a bench job in the spring, but with Cory Sullivan, Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, Ryan Shealy, and Choo Freeman all seemingly set in the outfield, Spilborghs may head back to Colorado Springs to continue polishing his skills. A general lack of power limits his upside, especially with no less than a couple superior defenders angling for the starting centerfield job. I just don't see Spilborghs contributing in a significant role next summer.
First hamstring and then wrist problems caused problems for Stewart throughout the year, resulting both in a late start and early finish to the season. However, he managed a .333/.435/.615 with a 7:6 BB:K in 39 AB in the Arizona Fall League before his wrist drove him home, and his overall success in the California League despite just turning twenty in April indicates significant future potential for the youngster. Stewart's upside in Colorado ranks with that of any rookie position player in the game, so despite continuing defensive questions and his health problems, Stewart still belongs on any list of baseball's best long-term hitting prospects.
Asahina scarcely looked like the same pitcher that compiled a 5.40 ERA on a 71:46 K:BB in 135 IP over 22 GS(34G) for A+ Visalia(Cal) in 2004. Similar soft-tossers generally don't improve every metric upon leaving A-ball for the Texas League. I still don't see him developing into a regular big leaguer, but continued success in Colorado Springs could force him to the majors fairly soon .
Reploying Aaron Miles rather than platoon Garabito with Luis A. Gonzalez at second base ranks with the weirder moves of the year. While the Rockies helped Miles retain some trade value, Garabito absolutely deserves no less than a big league bench job yet instead found himself on the minor league free agent list this winter. Given his plate discipline, respectable speed, and normally solid batting average, you can employ Garabito as your MIF whenever you see him in the majors.
All starters at Colorado Springs remain one Coors' blowout from a big league job. Of course, Hampson's poor command ranks him near the bottom of preferred options, and even if he begins improving without moving to the bullpen, nothing here indicates any potential for him to succeed with the Rockies.
A torn MCL suffered last winter left Machado horribly behind in preparing for the season. He then split time with Ray Olmedo before heading to Colorado on waivers. Now he heads back to Cincinnati as a minor league free agent following this wasted season yet still might break camp in the majors as a reserve infielder. I want to recommend Machado given his impressive patience, but his perennially poor batting average prevents him from possessing any fantasy value.
Although McClellan's dominance improved following his move to the bullpen, an abundance of hits overwhelmed his otherwise strong skills. He needs cut his WHIP before warranting a shot in the majors.
Taking a second tour of the Texas League led to vastly superior results for Parker, who demonstrated excellent control and an ability to get a consistent stream of groundballs, both nearly necessary skills to succeed in Coors. The problem is that he clearly lacks dominance, so despite his otherwise solid skills, he seems set for no more than a career in the bullpen.
One of the best AAAA options this decade, Pickler regularly demonstrates impressive plate discipline, speed skills, and a sufficiently high BA to overcome his limited power. Unfortunately, few teams seem to prize a 2B/OF with nearly ideal skills for pinch-hitting and pinch-running, rendering Pickler essentially useless despite his potential for success if given the necessary opportunity. Hopefully another winter of minor league free agency will lead to better results for the journeyman.
Three separate stints with the Rockies only resulted in Speier remaining in competition for a bullpen slot next year. His effectiveness dramatically declined following successive dominant seasons in the Carolina and Texas Leagues. At least he maintained reasonably respectable AAA skills, but unless he can fix his weak WHIP, he won't merit any consideration until he departs Colorado.
Solid work for Tulsa could push Ulloa to Coors by next fall, though given his meandering path Seattle's minors and the Atlantic League, hey may approach the majors very slowly. Wait to see how Ulloa handles AAA hitters before considering him anywhere.
Recently re-signed after a November DFA, Williams requires no additional seasoning and deserves the chance to build on his respectable debut with Colorado. Of course, southpaw middlemen on the Rockies merit no roto attention, but he may established the foundation in the majors seemingly required before he receives another chance in a friendlier home park.
The ninth player drafted in 2004, Nelson registered a strong debut before injuries and the selection of Troy Tulowitski this June effectively halved his prospect value. Nelson now appears destined to move to second base or even centerfield by the time he reaches Colorado, and given his performance problems this summer, hey may need three more years of seasoning. While the reasonable likelihood of a rebound means you shouldn't cut him outright in deep leagues, Nelson also doesn't warrant your attention in trade talks with other teams or on draft day.
A quad pull ended his season after barely a month of action, but Tulowitzki still looks like a superb long-term prospect. The successor to Bobby Crosby at Long Beach State, Tulowtzki benefits from frequent comparison to his fellow alum. He could shoot to the majors in a similar timeframe, and although contact problems could depress his BA, he does share the upside of placing a player like Crosby in Coors. Feel free to select Tulowitzki near the beginning of any 2006 minor league draft.
Last year Colorado fielded a prospect list absolutely loaded with youngsters ready to contribute in the majors. Of the 15 best rookies ranked here in 2004, Shealy, Salazar, Stewart, Freeman, Baker, Speier, and Nix retained their eligibility, Jason Young departed the club on waivers, and the remaining seven players all emerged into significant roles in Colorado. Losing Garrett Atkins, J.D. Closser Brad Hawpe, Clint Barmes, Jorge Piedra, Jeff Francis, and Cory Sullivan to the majors obviously depletes this system to a great extent, though the uncertainty in the big league lineup still leaves plenty of opportunities for some of the players listed here today. Shealy appears primed to break out, Salazar, Quintanilla, Stewart, Iannetta, and Tulowitzki seem destined for regular duty, and another half-dozen decent outfielders soon could challenge the quartet of outfielders that joined the Rockies this summer. While the next round of prospects faces greater competition for playing time, few clubs offer as much fantasy upside for hitters once they reach the majors. Even the obvious lack of viable young pitchers doesn't detract from the fairly low-risk lottery tickets listed below.
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. Arizona Diamondbacks(Co.Jackson, C.Quentin, S.Drew)
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