Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Willy Aybar, 22, 3B-S
The Dodgers' pursuit of Bill Mueller simply baffles me given Aybar's development track and September performance in the majors. His 3.91 #P/PA buoyed a .87 contact rate and an unbelievable .21 walk rate, though management also obviously doesn't believe Aybar can maintain that walk rate. However, even significant drops in both his BA and walk rate should leave Aybar a good comp for Mueller, as well as a decade younger. I absolutely believe Aybar will register double-digit value if allowed to play every day, and if an off-season acquisition blocks him, clubs like the Pirates and Devil Rays should jump at any chance to acquire this guy. As he owns the skills necessary to enjoy a lengthy big league career, only the organizational reticence towards Aybar keeps me from a wholehearted endorsement at this time.
Billingsley appears nearly certain to compete for a rotation spot during spring training barring multiple veteran pitching acquisitions over the winter. The 24th pick in 2003 continued his rise through the system, registering excellent all-around skills in the Southern League, highlighted by marked improvement in his control. Skipping AAA Las Vegas just might allow Billingsley to avoid any lapse in confidence, so if he opens the year in Los Angeles, Billingsley warrants bids near $10 in most standard leagues. Few rookie pitchers possess as much fantasy potential.
Jonathan Broxton, 21, RH Swingman
A season of trade rumors haven't resulted in Los Angeles moving Broxton to date, so he easily still could open the year with the Dodgers. Of course, his massive control problems in the majors, coupled with a propensity towards flyballs, suggest he could bomb in middle relief. Hopefully the club either will allow him more development time or place him in a pure setup role, rarely facing situations with inherited baserunners. Despite plenty of long-term upside as a closer, Broxton only merits a Dollar Days flyer in 2006 if your league allows unlimited rotation of pitchers, providing you an out if his skills don't improve.
Few reports suggest Guzman will remain at short, prompting a likely move even before the Rafael Furcal signing. Now Guzman appears certain to head to the outfield sometime in 2006, yet while his future position remains unclear, his offensive upside stayed very strong. He only turned 21 on Thanksgiving, and anyone who manages a .826 AA OPS at 20 possesses plenty of potential. Even gradual improvement in his plate discipline and power will push Guzman towards .300/.400/.500 seasons by his prime. If this superficially unimpressive season, coupled with the addition of Furcal, lowered Guzman's value in your league, take advantage of the opportunity to nab the youngster. Even his potential inclusion in a trade doesn't dim my increasing assessment of his fantasy value.
Kemp added over a dozen steals and nine more homers to a relatively respectable 2004 campaign. He now ranks as the best outfield prospect in the organization, and though more advanced AA pitching logically will stymie him, his five-tool talent should rebound by season's end. I absolutely expect him to break camp as a starting outfielder in 2008, but any change in his plate discipline could alter that timetable by a full season in either direction. Consider Kemp a true high-risk, high-upside prospect, worthy of a mid-round draft pick due to his long-term upside yet still largely a lottery ticket capable of stalling in the upper minors.
Despite impressive power numbers and plenty of upside, LaRoche still needs additional seasoning and still should struggle if rushed to the majors. He also faces plenty of competition for the Dodgers' third base job, albeit remaining the preferred choice of the organization. Expect LaRoche to move to AAA Las Vegas, post fairly mediocre numbers for a couple months, and then explode down the stretch, earning an everyday job during September. However, if you see someone in your league overvaluing LaRoche, feel free to ignore the youngster until he reaches Los Angeles.
Repeating the Southern League allowed a finally-healthy Loney to post the best season of his young career. He added respectable power potential to solid plate discipline and defensive skills, resecuring his position as the long-term solution at first base. Expect any echo of these numbers at AAA Las Vegas to result in a post-trade deadline promotion into the big league starting job, making now your best chance to grab Loney before his stock skyrockets.
The idea that the Dodgers need Paul Lo Duca remains one of the single most farcical notions in recent baseball memory. Dioner Navarro possess plenty of upside after just losing his rookie status, and Martin now ranks among the best catching prospects in the game after posting career-best stats in his first year above A-ball. While I still believe in Navarro and expect him to develop into an All-Star, Martin's overall improvement indicates that he'll secure the starting job after one last minor league campaign. Exceptional plate discipline and surprisingly impressive speed give him plenty of roto upside, warranting a fairly early pick in any prospect draft.
Another effectively lost year for Miller ostensibly drops him down the Dodgers' deep prospect list. However, he continued to hold a great strikeout rate when healthy and just turned 21 in November. Miller still possesses tremendous potential, and although further injury problems could push him into the bullpen, I fully expect him to flourish for no less than a few years in the majors. The only problem fantasy owners face is that his short-term value remains minimal, so I see little reason to continue spending a rookie slot on Miller in any save the deepest NL leagues.
The 33rd player selected in 2004, Orenduff adroitly handled both the Florida State and Southern Leagues, positioning himself for a mid-season promotion in 2006. Of course, allowing a steady stream of flyballs and registering an impressive walk rate suggest he absolutely needs another full year in the minors. While I see plenty of upside here, especially if he moves to the bullpen, Orenduff shouldn't contribute to fantasy teams prior to September due to the holes in his skill set.
A 2004 GW product, Raglani compiled fairly solid numbers in his first full minor league campaign despite barely playing short-season ball a year ago. I certainly expect him to peak as a reserve if he remains with the Dodgers indefinitely, though with impressive plate discipline and respectable all-around skills, Raglani certainly eventually could emerge as a starter.
Ross rebounded from an injury-plagued 2004 campaign to post fairly nice AAA numbers, however he missed a golden opportunity to win a starting outfield job this summer. While he never received a fair chance at an everyday position, the rapid deterioration of his plate discipline also didn't bolster his case. Ross already looks like no better than sixth an the Dodgers' outfield depth chart, so although I still believe he should spend a few seasons as a big league starter, we need to wait until he secures that position before gambling on him anywhere.
Nearly all of Tiffany's skills slipped this year despite only a single-step promotion from the Sally League. He remains an excellent long-term bet as a young southpaw with a tremendous strikeout rate, but given the competition in the Dodgers' system, he hopefully will receive no more than a cup-of-coffee or two before 2008. Additional seasoning should help Tiffany blossom into a very useful pitcher, but barring rapid skill development, he won't merit more than the briefest of looks until next fall.
Young's elevated batting average adequately compensated for a sharp drop in his patience upon moving into the upper minors. He desperately needs a full AAA campaign to consolidate his gains and boost his plate discipline, but barring a complete breakdown at the plate, Young easily could challenge Cesar Izturis for the second base job in 2007. A late-round pick here could pay welcome dividends in deeper leagues.
Chin-Feng Chen, 28, OF-R
No longer a prospect yet still a competent AAAA bat, Chen deserves a season in the majors after four fairly similar seasons at Las Vegas. Since he clearly won't receive that opportunity with the Dodgers, hopefully he can move to an AL East team as all five franchises appears in need a right-handed slugging reserve outfielder. An Opening Day roster slot for Chen will warrant a Dollar Days bid in most leagues, so if another club wisely grabs him for the A-ball PTBN I expect he costs now, he just might help you as a definite post-hype sleeper.
Donovan only broke thirty steals once since his debut in 1999, so exceeding his combined SB total from the past two seasons suggests a career year. The minor league free agent at least finally reached the highest rung of the minors this summer, so if he echoes these numbers in 2006, Donovan will warrant plenty of consideration for a bench job the following spring, thereby placing him high on the list of likely cheap speed.
Las Vegas simply doesn't agree with Eckert, who looked like a perfectly respectable prospect until moving from the Mets to the Dodgers, seeing three AA starts, and then moving right into the Vegas bullpen last year without the necessary development time in the Southern League. Remaining in the PCL this season only resulted in minor skill gains as his role varied, so despite the decent upside suggested by his strikeout rate, Eckert appears far removed from contributing in the majors.
Perhaps some member of an MLB front office will take the time to write us, providing some logical explanation for why Flores languished at Las Vegas while the Dodgers suffered an awful .310 combined mark from six different shortstops. I know Flores lacks any special defensive prowess, but he can handle both middle infield positions and has some experience in the outfield. He also clearly owns seemingly ideal skills for a Paul DePodesta team, and if Jim Tracy prevented this promotion, then I definitely pity Pirate fans. Of course, perhaps the collective Los Angeles braintrust simply failed to grasp the need for a bench player with these skills, so now Flores desperately needs to sign with a franchise willing to focus on the positives Flores brings to a club rather than his weaknesses.
Three years removed from an outstanding campaign that involved two mid-season promotions for Gonzalez, he finds himself heading into minor league free agency with the Dodgers no longer requiring his services after a mediocre AAA campaign. Gonzalez simply seems to lack the command necessary to remain effective in the upper minors, and unless he rebounds soon, he may never fulfill his promie.
I slotted Hanrahan among the game's best pitching prospects merely two years ago, yet he drifted all the way down to A-ball, essentially invalidating his last three years of development. He simply never gained full control of his pitcher, suffering an inflated walk rate and a growing homer problem at every level. Don't expect Hanrahan to emerge as more than roster filler unless he smartly shifts to the bullpen as soon as possible, taking advantage of his dominance while hopefully minimizing his command issues.
The former nondrafted free agent registered the best year of his career, posting very solid all-around skills in his second tour of Jacksonville. If Hull's control somehow improves at Las Vegas, he could head to Dodger Stadium next summer, providing Los Angeles with another inexpensive middleman capable of pitching effectively for minimum cost.
Currently the only southpaw reliever on the 40-man roster, Kuo still shouldn't break camp in the majors despite the upside suggested by his debut this year. However, since Las Vegas provides a less than stellar environment for young pitchers, don't be surprised if Kuo breaks camp as a lefty specialist, though an expectation of continued WHIP problems prevents me from recommending him at this time. He just might emerge as a closer someday on a team with far fewer alternatives than the Dodgers
With a career OBP over .390 supported by solid plate discipline and decent power numbers, Meadows' failure to play above AA simply shocks me each year when I see his final stats. He absolutely requires a AAA starting job in 2006, and if he somehow can't find that slot, exploring overseas options makes more sense than registering another pointless AA season. Unfortunately, remaining with the Dodgers likely insures continued stagnation for this perfectly capable journeyman.
A thoroughly deserved September promotion failed to translate into any regular action for Myrow, who owns a career OBP well over .400 yet somehow can't land a bench job despite the lack of capable pinch-hitters on more than a dozen teams. Myrow probably even deserves a starting slot on a club with OBP issues, though with his strongest supporter no longer in the front office, don't expect him to receive his next big league chance with the Dodgers despite significant short-term potential.
The Japanese All-Star flailed badly over six weeks in the majors, then failed to impress over the balance of the year at Las Vegas. Current reports indicate he may return to Japan, a logical move since Nakamura appears unlikely to receive another big league opportunity. His skills simply don't suggest much greater upside than many younger yet comparable minor leaguers who lack the chance to return to an everyday job overseas.
Stanley continued to stagnate at AAA, posting his worst numbers since debuting in 2000. He desperately needs to register an impressive season in the very near future if he wants to enjoy an extended big league career, especially with the Red Sox, Padres, and Dodgers seemingly showing little interest in Stanley as a reserve option.
Somehow Stults failed to remain effective in Las Vegas as his homer rate exploded despite an improved ground-fly ratio. I suspect he simply tired towards the end of the year as his 144 IP easily exceeded his 124 career IP prior to 2005. Wait until his AAA skills improve before considering Stults in any league.
Beginning a second season at Jacksonville resulted in a very impressive performance from Thompson, which earned him a May promotion to fill one of the gaping holes in the big league rotation. While he pitched decently, control problems rightly pushed him back to the minors, where he only lasted four more games before a torn ligament ended his season, necessitating his second Tommy John surgery in two years. I still expect Thompson to emerge as a capable big leaguer, though barring a medical miracle, he likely will settle into middle relief at best. Don't expect anything from him until 2007.
Another capable organization filler with the skills to develop into a solid reserve, Weber seems a poor fit in a filled Dodger system. Switching to a club with less competition for first AAA and then big league openings makes more sense than a third AA tour.
Despite incredible overall system depth secured by Scouting Director Logan White and Paul DePodesta, two obstacles prevent me from placing the Dodgers in the top quartet of teams here. The club's best prospects seemingly remain in competition for the same positions, and the pursuit of Rafael Furcal and Bill Mueller indicate that a commitment to winning in 2006 will supersede the seemingly necessary development process for these rookies. Willy Aybar deserves to start at third, yet Mueller may take the job ahead of Andy LaRoche and possibly Joel Guzman. Even after Jeff Kent departs second base, Cesar Izturis, Delwyn Young, and Blake DeWitt seemingly all deserve regular work. Both Navarro and Martin remain top young catchers, then no less than a dozen pitchers appear reasonable bets to start in the majors. I simply can't recommend more than a few of these players right now until we gain a better understanding regarding the role of prospects in Ned Coletti's administration. Gambling on anyone beyond Billingsley, Loney, and possibly Aybar, Martin, and Guzman, simply doesn't seem a logical move.
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. Florida Marlins(Hermida, Jacobs, E.Reed, Willingham, J.Wilson, Petit, Olsen)
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