Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Michael Bourn, 22, OF-L
The fleet Bourn skipped high-A and appeared on the cusp of challenging for the Phillies' centerfield job until the club acquired Aaron Rowand. Now Bourn should receive a needed additional year of development time, preparing for a promotion to Philadelphia's leadoff slot in 2007 if the club deals Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu to open a corner slot. With strong speed skills and excellent patience, Bourn could blossom into a $40 player in his fantasy prime, so he definitely warrants a fairly high pick in most leagues this spring.
Jake Blalock, 22, OF-R
A relative power outage accompanied a contact rate jump from .76 to .80 following a promotion from the Sally League. However, he otherwise carried all his offensive skills to the higher level and now appears primed for move to the Eastern League. Blalock will merit plenty of attention if he continues to developing while nearing the majors, but with outfield prospects currently comprising the deepest crop of rookies in a fairly barren organization, his limited upside in Philadelphia currently renders him useless in any standard league.
Few players rank as bigger injury risks than the 17th pick of the 2002 draft. With only a total of 152 professional innings in the four seasons since Philadelphia drafted him, further depressed by a 2005 that featured Hamels breaking his hand in a January bar fight and a stress fracture in his back, he at least doesn't appear at risk for long-term arm fatigue. However, he simply must remain healthy for a full year in 2006 to retain his theoretical top prospect status. You only should keep Hamels in leagues with relatively deep rookie crops given his results to date.
Hernandez finally conquered the International League after two failed attempts, demonstrating respectable all-around skills and positioning himself near the top of the line as a likely injury replacement next summer. Although I expect he won't develop into a late-inning option, Hernandez soon could merit some fantasy consideration as no less than capable roster filler.
A successful season in Clearwater led to fall berths on Team Canada and the AFL, ranking as the best pitching prospect in Arizona as scouts ignored his 6.92 ERA to focus on an impressive 36:11 K:BB in 26 IP with 34 H and HR allowed to a league loaded with top young hitters. While a lack of upper level depth could force the Phillies to push Mathieson up the organizational ladder, I currently expect him to enjoy most of 2006 in the Eastern League before competing for a big league job no sooner than mid-2007. He likely won't merit any fantasy attention ahead of that schedule if rushed due to the unforgiving environment of CB Park.
The Phillies' third round pick in 2003, the 5'9" infielder shockingly boosted his slugging percentage over a hundred points despite progressing from the Sally League to Clearwater. Moss now will hit the Eastern League with plenty of confidence from this dominant performance in a pitchers' circuit. He won't move quickly with Chase Utley secured in Philadelphia, though a continuation of this relative offensive barrage at least will place Moss in line for a backup job sometime in 2007.
Apparently Phillies' management just doesn't trust Ruiz as the club signed Sal Fasano with the intention of playing him semi-regularly to lighten the load on Mike Lieberthal. Given Ruiz's impressive offensive development and capable defense, the added depth simply looks like a case of preferring a veteran presence over a promising homegrown product. I fully expect Ruiz to produce positive value regardless of his role if promoted to the majors, though until he receives that call, he doesn't belong on any fantasy roster.
Although I realize Roberson remains old for his league, he still combined his offensive output from 2004 with much of his plate discipline from the previous year, registering his best overall season in his first AA campaign. He now appears on track to join the Phillies bench by next fall, and given his speed skills, Roberson could emerge as a roto force in almost any role that provides him even occasional playing time. Feel free to roster Roberson as soon as he appears on free agent lists.
Sandoval thoroughly enjoyed his first full AAA campaign, compiling the best overall stats of his career and looking quite ready to break camp in the majors next year. While the Phillies wisely retained him on the 40-man roster, the Abraham O. Nunez signing leaves Sandoval competing with Matt Kata, Shane Victorino, Endy Chavez, Carlos Ruiz, and a twelfth pitcher for no more than two roster spots. Even if a great camp allows Sandoval to survive every round of cuts, he still doesn't belong on any fantasy roster until you see him begin echoing these numbers in the majors.
Eude Brito, 27, LH Swingman
Managing a decent ERA in a half-dozen appearances for the Phillies somehow earned Brito the occasional mention among the game's promising young pitchers. Ignore any hype here at all as you focus on his weak command and extremely limited upside as a starter. Brito might belong in Philadelphia's bullpen, but nothing here provides any indication of more than minimal immediate fantasy potential.
Suffering his lowest OBP since 2001 resulted in Budzunski spending another full season in the minors following his brief cup-of-coffee in 2003 with Cincinnati. Although I still believe he could contribute off a big league bench, he needs to boost his OPS back towards .800 before any team seems likely to provide him that opportunity.
The former Rangers' farmhand managed welcome skill improvement in the safer pitching environments offered by the Phillies' affiliates. Unfortunately, while Burke's AA numbers should keep him above that level indefinitely, he needs to cut his AAA walk rate before receiving a look as anything more than a short-term injury replacement.
Returning to the bullpen provided the impetus for Butto's promotion to Reading in his seventh year in the system. With a strong strikeout rate and adequate all-around skills, he could push into a big league bullpen sometime during 2007.
Repeated control problems in his last couple AAA attempts left Cameron in the Eastern League all season, where he thankfully blossomed as a minor league closer. He certainly deserves a promotion and an extended look in the International League, which just might push him into a big league bullpen by next fall.
Continued command problems leave the minor league journeyman well short of reaching the majors. Despite consistently respectable performance in the upper minors, I just don't believe Chantres possess the skills necessary to earn that last promotion.
Coste stunningly approached his career total of twenty-five homers with affiliated teams in one season with the Red Barons. Of course, if he can't earn a cup-of-coffee at the conclusion of this career year, Coste likely never will receive his deserved shot as a 25th man.
Returning from the independent Central League at the conclusion of 2004 provided the foundation necessary for Davis to resume his mastery of the Eastern League from earlier this decade. He clearly appears capable of eating AAA innings, though due to obviously limited dominance, Davis won't reach the majors unless he emerges as a viable bullpen option, likely leaving him with little immediate fantasy value.
The injuries suffered by the Phillies' starters eventually resulted in Franco returning to the rotation, leading to lowered skill ratios following his fairly impressive conversion to relief in 2004. Franco's strong groundball rate and consistent control at least give him a chance to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by minor league free agency this fall.
Hodge appeared fully ready for a big league job after a 2004 season that featured him posting a 3.41 ERA on a 63:9 K:BB in 74 IP over 49 G for AAA Rochester(IL). Instead he foolishly returned home to Texas, pitching poorly for the Astros and earning an exile to Philadelphia to conclude the season. Now Hodge heads towards his thirtieth birthday next October without any reasonable shot at reaching the majors in 2006. Hopefully he at least will find a safer pitching environment to regain his seemingly departed confidence.
Continued injury problems again cut short Lee's season, however he excelled in his return to the Reading rotation when healthy and certainly still should reach the majors within the next couple of years. Of course, his future role remains extremely uncertain, so wait until Lee emerges as a decent big leaguer before rostering him anywhere.
Shockingly released at the beginning of the month after an impressive AAA campaign, Liriano's skills suggest he should blossom whenever he completes his move to the bullpen. A consistent groundball rate alone should secure his AAAA status, so especially if he lands in a pitchers' park or a club with plenty of defensive range, Liriano easily could develop into a useful big leaguer over next season.
Signing with Philadelphia makes sense for McClaskey, who finally might reach the majors given the Phillies' limited pitching depth. Hopefully he'll also shift back to the bullpen since his weak dominance easily overpowers his otherwise outstanding control as a starting pitcher. You need to wait until he secures a regular big league job before rostering McClaskey anywhere.
Minix moved to the Phillies last winter yet bizarrely failed to reach the majors on the AAAA carousel despite this outstanding performance. He at least snagged an AFL slot, registering a respectable ERA in a strong hitters' circuit. Hopefully a strong camp will earn Minix the consideration he deserves for a job in the majors after seven seasons spent compiling an impressive statistical history.
The failed third base prospect finally appears headed out of the organization after clearly stagnating at AA Reading over the past three seasons. Richardson still might develop into a capable reserve, but he deserves little attention until he begins playing regularly at the highest level of the minors.
A fourth consecutive AA season surprisingly saw Rojas post his best skills since departing A-ball. Although he remains likely to spend his career as no better than AAAA fodder, the minor league free agent just might emerge as a viable option if he can build on this success.
Ruiz spent the summer simply punishing the ball in the Eastern League merely one year after he slipped back to the Sally League to severe contact problems. He absolutely deserves a AAA starting job in 2006, along with the chance to reach the majors on some club desperate for a capable bat on the bench.
At least Rushford took full advantage of his return to the Red Barons, posting averages right in line with his career marks as he reestablished his qualifications for a big league bench job. If given the necessary opportunity, he just might emerge as more than short-term roster filler due to consistently solid plate discipline.
Finally departing AA after nearly four full seasons, Sanches unsurprisingly remained a very effective option in the International League. With a solid overall skill foundation and impressive pedigree as a second round pick back in 1999, he certainly still possesses the time necessary to emerge as a vital contributor in a big league bullpen, though like nearly every pitcher discussed today, Sanches doesn't belong on any target list until he secures that elusive job in the majors.
The former Blue Jays' prospect landed with Philadelphia in the spring, falling back to AA for the first time since 2001 and then merely managing mediocre skill ratios. I simply see no indication that Smith still resembles the pitcher who compiled a 162:47 K:BB four years ago, and until his qualitative stats and walk rate approach his former marks, he barely deserves extended consideration for a job in the upper minors.
With no rookie even looking likely to spend 2006 in the majors and less quality depth than any franchise in the game, the Phillies absolutely deserve a dead-last ranking that won't change given that the remaining five clubs at least each possess one rookie set for significant playing time next summer. I like Bourn's upside a lot and expect guys like Roberson and Ruiz to emerge as bench options, but with Ryan Howard and Gavin Floyd in the majors, a lack of recent high draft picks, and an abundance of injuries to former top arms, few players here even merit the discussion space I awarded them. No one should look to Philadelphia for quality fantasy prospects in 2006.
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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