Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
San Diego clearly undersold Mark Loretta to save his salary, but the quick move of the All-Star second baseman signals tremendous confidence in the club's top rookie. Although Jesse's son may no longer enjoy unanimous scout support, Barfield continued his march through the system by strongly rebounding for Portland after a down year in the Southern League. With improved plate discipline, power, and surprising speed, he looks like a natural addition to a club on the brink of featuring homegrown potential stars at all four up-the-middle positions. Only the unlikely prospect of severe defensive problems should prevent Barfield from emerging as a capable offensive threat heading towards Rookie of the Year consideration and double-digit draft value.
While I want to place Carrillo at the end of the column under minor league draft picks, primarily since he doesn't require a 40-man roster slot until after the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, Carrillo possesses the skills to follow Tim Stauffer's rise by charging to the majors next summer. With the Padres reasonably likely to remain in playoff competition in the worst division in baseball and a pitching staff filled with injury questions, Carrillo just might debut far sooner than expected. The biggest problem here looks like the 192 innings he accumulated over the course of a year revolving around his selection with the eighteenth pick of the first round in June. However, if he avoids succumbing to injury, he soon should nestle behind Jake Peavy in San Diego's rotation, virtually requiring a fairly high choice in any minor league fantasy draft next spring.
Tommy John surgery cost him the entire season, leading to the acquisition of Mike Cameron until Guzman finishes polishing his skills at AAA Portland. He only needs to boost his OBP slightly to take full advantage of dynamic speed that ranks him among the game's best basestealers at any level. I still view him as a reasonable bet to hit $30 sometime this decade, and he should rank among the draft's best bargains if a good spring results in an unexpected bench job on the Padres. Consider him an excellent high minor league pick and definite in almost any league where he remains rostered.
Even without counting Chan Ho Park's slot, a gaping rotation hole exists in San Diego with as many as a half-dozen pitchers gunning for the starting slot. While Hensley theoretically holds an edge on the competition thanks to his strong work after the break, his unimpressive skill set profiles better in middle relief. Thankfully he possesses reasonably little downside and could emerge as an intriguing sleeper with a good camp, but despite growing support within the organization, Hensley just seems to lack the tools to prosper in such a significant role. Only target him in the late rounds of your draft even if he seems set to open the year as a Padres' starter.
Somehow Johnson's fairly exceptional breakout never caught my eye until the season concluded, resulting in us missing multiple opportunities to roster the Padres' future starting left fielder over the summer. A fourth round tools goof selected by St. Louis in 1999 who moved to San Diego a year later for catcher Carlos Hernandez, Johnson really struggled through three trips to AA Mobile. Somehow he boosted his contact rate from a .73 career mark to nearly .79 in his first AAA campaign, resulting in virtually across-the-board improvement in his production. Now he almost certainly will break camp as the Padres' fourth outfielder in the Xavier Nady mold, absorbing any excess at-bats ceded from Brian Giles, Mike Cameron, and especially Dave Roberts as Johnson learns the nuances of Petco Park. Treat Johnson as an outstanding bargain almost anywhere in single digits due to the strong likelihood of him succeeding Roberts no later than 2007.
Tagg Bozied, 26, 1B-R
Tagg stayed It after injuries destroyed his second straight season. Although he remains an asset when healthy, he simply must avoid the DL for the first few months of 2006, hopefully producing a AAA OPS near .900. While he certainly could blossom into a viable replacement for Ryan Klesko, Bozied currently appears headed to no more than occasional platoon duty off a big league bench.
Another respectable AAA campaign failed to earn Knott a second cup-of-coffee, strongly suggesting he doesn't fit into the Padres' long-term plans. Don't view him as anything more than roster filler until he finds an organization more attuned to taking advantage of his limited skills.
Few catchers own .16 walk rates heading to the upper minors, and despite perennial defensive questions, Kottaras' offensive upside places him on track to win the starting job in 2007. I don't like his mediocre power due to a general concern about anyone's bat in Petco, but I also see no justification for ignoring his BA and the very impressive plate discipline supporting his averages. Consider Kottaras a lock to produce upwards of $5 every year he starts in the majors following his cup-of-coffee next September.
Expect McAnulty to move into the Mark Sweeney role, perhaps as soon as next spring. He lacks the power to develop into a viable starter at the few positions he can handle defensively. Barring an injury-related increase in playing time, he appears unlikely to earn more than a couple bucks of profit on minimal bids.
If a superior performance to these marks didn't secure Brad Baker a 40-man slot this fall, Thayer will need to improve his skills for AAA Portland to remain in the Padres' plans. Expect no more than the briefest of appearances from him as injury filler as 2006 before he begins challenging for a bullpen spot the following year.
Thompson scarcely needed a month to prove he needed better competition than the California League, so the Padres shipped him to Mobile, where he pitched reasonably well despite obvious skill deficiencies. He remains a solid long-term prospect capable of blossoming if allowed a slightly slower development track. Expect at least one more full year in the upper minors before he reaches the majors as anything more than a spot starter.
Successful Tommy John surgery in 2003 unfortunately failed to result in a quick rebound for Tucker, who lacks his pre-injury effectiveness despite maintaining a great strikeout rate. He likely needs a couple more years in the upper minors before warranting any significant consideration in the majors.
Little here suggests significant big league upside despite some success for Team USA this fall. Wells already dominated few hitters before watching his strikeout rate collapse for Mobile. The Padres' recent moves thankfully provide upper-level insulation that should provide Wells the development time he desperately needs, though given his progress to date, I don't envision him contributing in San Diego's rotation.
Craig Breslow, 25, LH Reliever
Although he currently appears on target to break camp in San Diego's bullpen, Breslow's unimpressive control suggests he could slump if forced into a more significant role. Only the presence of relief stalwarts Trevor Hoffman, Akinori Otsuka, and Scott Linebrink provide the insurance necessary for us to view Breslow as viable roster filler barring further skill development.
The Padres signed Delucchi after a .244/.315/.293 performance for Tacoma pushed him out of the Mariners' organization after a couple years with Seattle. He completely rebound with San Diego, posting a great OBP in Mobile before registering an excellent .305/.440/.442 line over 197 at-bats in Portland. If given the necessary opportunity, I believe Delucchi quickly would emerge as a very useful bench player capable of contributing to championship teams from his limited role.
mfa Moving to San Diego after seven seasons with the Angels only resulted in a slightly superior performance for Emanuel, who returns to minor league free agency as he continues to fall short of the upside that secured him Anaheim's second round pick in 1998. A perpetually elevated homer rate renders Emanuel's otherwise solid skills nearly useless, likely leaving him no more than a AAAA arm indefinitely .
Isolated patience rarely earns a player much notice, especially given Jones' negligible other skills. Although he still could develop into a useful reserve, he likely requires a couple more years in the upper minors before warranting big league consideration.
Both fantasy and MLB teams should view McLeary strictly as roster insurance. He could contribute in a limited role, but keeping him in reserve makes much more sense given his role flexibility.
Acquired from the White Sox for Geoff Blum yet dumped from the organization merely three months later, Meaux should command significant attention as a minor league free agent. He possess the skills to flourish following his conversion to the bullpen this summer, and he could emerge as a viable option as soon as next summer if he lands in an organization capable of providing him solid defensive support.
Selected in the minor league phase of the 2003 Rule 5 draft from the Rockies, Merrill demonstrated the best patience of his career this summer and soon could earn a bench job in the majors. However, consistently weak averages and limited quantitative potential leave him no more than minimal fantasy upside.
I initially slotted Oxspring near the top of this column before the announcement of his signing with Hanshin in Japan earlier this month. The Australian heads back to Asia after a very impressive six-year run with the padres. He deserved a long look next spring for a spot on the Padres and still could succeed in the majors if given another opportunity down the line.
A nondrafted free agent signed in 2002, Oyervidez registered two solid season out of the bullpen for the Padres' short-season affiliates before missing all of 2004 due to injury. Somehow he rebounded into a rotation slot with Mobile, where he stayed shockingly productive despite poor control. He now looks like a definite sleeper, capable of remaining in the rotation or moving back into a more comfortable bullpen role, though given his walk rate, Oyervidez probably doesn't belong on any roto rosters in 2006.
An unexpected return to Mobile resulted in Sain's power vanishing, an effect that mysteriously vanished upon his deserved mid-season promotion to Portland. Of course, switching from third to first base perhaps accounted for this offensive hiccup, especially since Sain seems to lack the offensive skills necessary for a starting corner job. Don't expect him to emerge as more than fairly useful backup barring rapid additional development at the plate.
Shifting from third base to the outfield apparently helped Scales rediscover his flagging offense as a surge in plate discipline produced his best hitting numbers since his 1999 debut. He managed this rebound just as he prepared to enter minor league free agency this fall, though barring an unexpectedly superb spring, Scales looks likely to settle into an unimpressive AAAA role over the next couple of years.
Swapping failed first rounder Jake Gautreau to Cleveland for failed this comparable draft disaster didn't work out so well for the Padres, who watched Smith register another mediocre AA campaign without any overt improvement. Despite decent power and patience, Smith's failure to boost his contact rate renders him virtually useless until he fixes that glaring flaw.
Snare joined the Padres following his release from Texas in July, though he remained surprisingly ineffective, allowing plenty of hits and homers regardless of his level. He vitally needs a new start in minor league free agency, hopefully finding a low pressure environment where he can regain his confidence without the pressure that accompanied the former second round pick to Texas in the Ugueth Urbina deal two years ago. Fortunately Snare remains rather young and still could develop into an impact player in the majors.
With a plummeting strikeout rate and seemingly little upside as a starter, Thompson should move to the bullpen to see if his dominance might improve. He seems locked into no more than AAAA filler at the moment, though if given the opportunity with the Padres, he just might allow sufficient few baserunners to experienced success reminiscent of a right-handed Kirk Rueter.
A steady stream of groundballs mixed with relatively few walks enabled this twenty-seventh round pick to remain effective in a second season at Mobile. Of course, Whitaker possesses almost no chance of emerging as a viable big leaguer with these skills, so unless an unexpected spot start results in an extended opportunity, he should spend the next few seasons as upper-level filler for San Diego.
Only Tim Stauffer lost his rookie eligibility with San Diego this summer in a surprisingly quiet year for the Padres. Annual promotions and the occasional flameout helped drain this club's depth over the past few seasons, though at least one more round of quality talent remains before the pipeline looks dry. Josh Barfield appears perfectly ready to succeed Mark Loretta, Ben Johnson and Freddy Guzman soon should join Brian Giles in the outfield, and then George Kottaras and Cesar Carrillo will add another needed jolt by 2007. The failure of Sean Burroughs to develop into more than a marginal platoon player looks like the biggest problem for a team with sufficient assets to remain reasonably competitive indefinitely.
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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