Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Brian Bannister, 24, RH Starter
The Mets surprisingly allowed Bannister to pitch for Team USA after this outstanding campaign, though he only registered seven innings and appeared sufficiently poised to warrant consideration for a rotation slot in the spring. My biggest concern here is that New York already fields six established big league starters, as well as Aaron Heilman, so Bannister probably ranks first as trade bait and then merely pitching depth. However, Floyd's kid possesses both a solid pedigree and impressive all-around skills, making him a good gamble in almost any NL league.
Although I don't want to prop Hernandez, historically viewing him as no more than a poor man's Jose Reyes, improved skills somehow accompanied his push into the upper levels of the system. Hernandez appears quite capable of combining a high average with sufficient patience and speed to emerge as a productive top-of-the-order threat. He also possesses the defensive acumen desired in the Mets' infield of future stars and superstars. Spending an late-round pick here could net a useful big league player, especially if New York allows him another few months of development time as expected.
Keppinger just missed spending the second half as New York's starting baseman following a Felix Martinez slide that resulted in a cracked tibial plateau for the second baseman. The fracture at the top of Keppinger's left tibia, just below his knee, forced him out for the season yet shouldn't prevent him from competing for a big league roster spot in spring training. If the Mets don't acquire another second baseman, he even might challenge Kaz Matsui for the starting job, and with his strong plate discipline and consistently solid averages, Keppinger looks like a potentially strong addition to the New York lineup.
An outstanding spring just might earn Self the right field job, but given the far greater upside of Victor Diaz and Xavier Nady, as well as their places on the Mets' 40-man roster, Self needs a great camp just to avoid a return to the minors. Of course, he clearly doesn't deserve that demotion given that he maintained a .406 career OBP despite progressing beyond AA for the first time, but due to limited power and defensive skills, Self seems destined for no more than a bench job. With more value in sim leagues than traditional roto, he nevertheless won't merit any fantasy roster space until he begins producing in the majors.
Aarom Baldiris, 22, 2B-R
Moving Baldiris from third to second base makes sense for an organization hopeful that David Wright will remain at third for the next generation. Baldiris managed perfectly respectable marks in his first full AA campaign, though with the Mets exploring plenty of other second base options, he looks like no more than a utility player in this organization. Wait to see how he handles AAA pitching before considering Baldiris anywhere.
The song of long-time catcher Brian Harper, Brett finally carried a lofty OPS into the upper minors. Unfortunately, Harper now lacks any chance of emerging as a viable starter on the Mets thanks to the Carlos Delgado deal. He instead needs to rediscover his decreasing plate discipline while maintaining these power totals to retain respectable trade value, a relatively unlikely proposition that sharply limits his immediate fantasy value.
Collapsing command forced Lindstrom into the bullpen, further deflating his prospect status and suggesting he may never succeed in the majors. Lindstrom probably needs a return to the Florida State League to develop additional confidence as a relief, but until we see an improved WHIP cut his ERA, he won't belong on any roto roster.
Compiling a 10-4 record and 2.43 ERA on a 134:16 K:BB in 137 IP over 24 GS(26G) split between A Capital City(SAL) and A- Brooklyn(NYP) in 2004 clearly prepared MacLane to continue rising through the system. He remained a force in the Florida State League before his mediocre stuff started dragging down his AA numbers. However, MacLane remains a talented young hurler with the skills necessary to succeed in almost any role. Even echoing these marks over a full year in the upper minors should shoot him up the Mets' prospect list, especially if Omar keeps moving the system's best rookie for more immediate help.
Although I certainly admit that Milledge possesses as much upside as almost any prospect in the game, his performance to date doesn't particularly impress me. All his success stems from a high batting average, yet since he lacks especially strong plate discipline and significant power production, he might continue developing at a slow pace. Conversely, moving somewhere like Oakland, Boston, or Tampa by draft day could expedite his progress, also significantly boosting his value thanks to the safer situation and a lack of additional trade risk. He currently appears to need at least one more complete year of seasoning, and coupled with the strong likelihood of his inclusion in trade for another superstar, only owners in leagues that allow you to keeper crossovers still should view Milledge as a top fantasy rookie right now. Otherwise consider him a respectable prospect, capable of blossoming into a Carlos Beltran clone or merely plateauing as a healthier Rondell White.
Moving to Norfolk resulted in a fairly mediocre season for Pagan, who essentially repeated his AA numbers at a higher level without demonstrating that he belongs in the majors. Unimpressive plate discipline and scattershot speed skills leave him headed for no more than a reserve slot, however Pagan still will merit plenty of fantasy attention as soon as New York promotes him due to his significant SB upside.
Shifting to first from third this summer adequately indicates Wilson's limited defensive value, but his offensive output continued improving, giving him a good chance to develop into no less than a viable platoon option. Of course, his advanced age suggests very limited upside, however Wilson still merits monitoring as he nears the majors.
Chris Basak, 27, SS-R
The aging organizational soldier finally lasted a full season at Norfolk after three partial campaigns. He surprisingly produced his best season since debuting in 2000, providing a solid foundation for him to challenge for a spot in the majors. With respectable patience, power, and speed skills, Basak merits consideration for a bench job next spring and just might emerge as a starter before the end of the decade, though given his gradual rise through the system, he lacks any roto value until he departs the minors.
A broken finger in late summer effectively ended Brazell's career as a Met since he seems set to depart the organization in minor league free agency. Of course, he also never managed anything approaching an acceptable OBP in the last couple years, so I no longer expect Brazell to develop into more than a marginal big league bench option.
While the minor league free agent managed decent marks in 2004 as a AA swingman, returning to the rotation this summer resulted in general skill degradation and a career-worst ERA. Despite decent command and likely upside as a full-time reliever, Chenard doesn't seem capable of reaching the majors without another couple years of seasoning.
Selected from the Padres in the minor league phase of the 2003 Rule 5 draft, Edwards continued blossoming in his second year with the Mets. His strikeout rate nearly doubled despite departing A-ball, so although the minor league free agent only owns limited upside, he could move quickly if he signs with the right organization.
Back surgery cost Fortunato the entire season yet shouldn't prevent the 31-year-old rookie from competing for a bullpen spot in the spring. He owned an impressive statistical history prior to his move to the Mets in the Scott Kazmir deal, even pitching fairly well down the stretch in 2004. A return to health and effectiveness should result in Fortunato emerging as a capable roster filler by the second half.
Currently the top candidate for the Mets' second lefty relief slot after Billy Wagner, Hamulack finally dominated the upper minors like I expected, only stumbling in New York. Of course, after the club kept a couple of NRI relievers last spring, Hamulack needs an excellent camp to avoid another year in the minors. He certainly will merit fantasy consideration as soon as he registers a few strong outings in the majors.
Finally recovered from a couple years of injuries, Junge emerged as a force in Norfolk's rotation, again demonstrating solid all-around skills. The problem is he embarked on his comeback against one of the deepest groups of big league starters on any team, so hopefully he'll find a better situation in minor league free agency this winter. I still believe in Junge's skills and fully expect him to emerge as no less than a capable middle reliever within the next couple of years.
Rotator cuff problems effectively cost Keppel more than a season of action over the last two years. Considering he also couldn't manage a passable strikeout rate before these injury problems, he seems destined for the bullpen upon his return to full health, therefore possessing no fantasy value until he emerges as a viable big leaguer.
Few 34th round picks explode in this fashion upon reaching the upper minors. Lambin demonstrated excellent offensive upside at multiple infield positions, and given his skills and defensive flexibility, a good camp just might result in him breaking camp in the majors. However, I instead expect him to stagnate at Norfolk as the Mets instead waste a bench spot on another worthless veteran retread, likely limiting Lambin's shot at enjoying the career his performance virtually demands.
Another quietly successful season from the minor league vet didn't lead to any overt skill improvement. Lavigne certainly deserves to remain in a AA or AAA bullpen indefinitely, but nothing here indicates reasonable potential for continued effectiveness if pushed into the majors.
Repeating Binghamton clearly didn't agree with Lydon, who saw all his averages fall as his SB total also decreased for the third consecutive year. Despite his significant upside as a reserve, he needs to reach the majors before meriting a pick in any minor league draft.
With little power, plate discipline, or speed, Malek simply lacks the baseball skills necessary to take advantage of the tools that secured his selection in the fourth round of the 2002 draft. I don't expect him to contribute in the majors any time soon.
Only an elevated homer rate, essentially traceable to his brief stint as a starter, provides any indication that McGinley does not belong in the majors. The Mets could save a couple million if they just let their homegrown product break camp in the bullpen, though until you see first a commitment from New York and then an echo of this performance in the majors, don't risk rostering McGinley.
Musser possesses the skills necessary to blossom into an intriguing reliever if some team could convince him that he could reach the majors very soon after shifting roles. Limited dominance currently indicates little upside as a starter, but with respectable pedigree as a second round pick back in 1999, his combination of youth and experience provides the necessary foundation for him to emerge as a very useful bullpen option. Of course, the minor league free agent won't merit a fantasy slot anywhere until his stats improve, and I doubt he'll cut his ERA to an acceptable level until leaving the rotation for good.
mfa An elevated walk rate translated into needed improvement for Nye in his fifth year at one of the Mets' top two affiliates. The major obstacle preventing him from reaching the majors remains the lack of any notable tool, so unless he can elevated his OPS to a level demanding at least cup-of-coffee consideration, the minor league free agent will miss AAAA status, instead peaking as a AAA journeyman over the next few years.
Few assignment decisions baffled me more than the horribly illogical placement of Redman back at Binghamton in the spring of 2004 following a passable .254/.326/.406 performance in 433 AB for Norfolk the previous year. Forcing Redman to begin yet another season in the Eastern league simply seems cruel. Yes, he no longer possesses much speed and now appears likely to develop into no more than a bench option, but scouts generally considered him a respectable prospect a few years ago. Hopefully minor league free agency will lead to the new start Redman desperately requires to fulfill his rapidly diminishing potential.
Another year of unremarkable numbers understandably failed to earn Roman a 40-man roster slot, so now he should head to a less intimidating environment in minor league free agency. Perhaps he'll finish returning to the bullpen, taking advantage of the improved dominance he demonstrated this year. Of course, regardless of his role next spring, Roman shouldn't warrant any fantasy consideration in the near future.
Keeping Scobie in the minors all year just seems rude after he nearly equaled his previous career win total of seventeen in his first full AAA season. Despite minimal upside, he appears fully prepared for job as an innings eater, though he clearly won't receive the necessary opportunity in the Mets. Hopefully some club will liberate Scobie during the spring, giving him a chance to emerge as either useful rotation filler or a potentially impressive middle relief option.
Surprisingly selected from San Francisco in the Rule 5 draft, Wylie remains a decent prospect, just lacking the skills normally expected of Rule 5 picks. I certainly don't expect him to spend next season marking time on a Mets' team virtually demanding a playoff spot after another expensive shopping spree this winter. He shouldn't contribute more than minimal roto value even if he somehow breaks camp in the majors, so don't waste a pick on Wylie regardless of your league's depth.
The rediscovered willingness to add productive veterans with a goal of winning immediately reduces the perceived value of all Mets' prospects. Keppinger could emerge as a solid second base option. Hernandez, Bannister, and especially Milledge similarly possess plenty of long-term potential. We just don't know which prospects will follow Yusmeiro Petit, Mike Jacobs, and Gaby Hernandez out of town and which will join current homegrown contributors David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jae Seo, and Aaron Heilman in New York, making any of these players a risky addition in keeper leagues. I therefore can't rank this system particularly high as the limited likelihood of more than a couple of these guys succeeding with the Mets overshadows both the best players' upsides and the respectable 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. Florida Marlins(Hermida, Jacobs, E.Reed, Willingham, J.Wilson, Petit, Olsen)
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