Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Matt Cain, 21, RH Starter
Cain's control problems might worry me if accompanied by a weak hit rate, but even his awful groundball rate can't convince me to stay away. He allowed a measly .151/.240/.239 line in 159 at-bats from NL batters, and with his broad skill base and forgiving SBC Park, Cain should flourish even while gaining needed experience. Only a recurrence of past health problems should keep the budding superstar from securing a rotation slot in spring training and then challenging for Rookie of the Year honors. Allowing him to depart the board with bidding under double digits makes little sense in any keeper league.
Barely a couple years ago the budding pitching triumvirate of Jesse Foppert, Jerome Williams, and Kurt Ainsworth topped most Giants' prospect lists. Williams initially received high ratings yet fell behind his fellow rookies as he failed to dominate hitters despite competing against older competition. Now Ainsworth and Foppert can't stay on the field while Williams looks like a very promising young veteran. Valdez strikes me as a similar player in that although he remains a promising youngster, Matt Cain now receives all the attention in San Francisco. Admittedly Cain possesses more upside, however Valdez still should develop into a dominant pitcher regardless of his role. He deserves a spot on your roto roster, especially if you can FAAB him at a discount when he next appears on free agent lists.
Brian Burres, 24, LH Starter
The relatively unheralded southpaw finally settled into the rotation yet watched his walk rate skyrocket in his first full year as a starter. Limited upside and plenty of competition closer to San Francisco easily could push Burres back into the bullpen, rendering him useless to fantasy teams until he joins the Giants .
Currently slated for a big league bench job barring the signing of more veterans, Chavez possesses a little power yet lacks the combination of average and OBP skills normally necessary to last in the majors. Consider him no more than short-term roster filler barring a rediscovery of his diminishing speed skills.
A good spring just might push Frandsen into the Giants' bench, although considering he only joined the club in the twelfth round of the 2004 draft, he certainly could benefit from a full year in the upper minors. Despite limited power and speed, Frandsen's overall approach to the game could result in an extended stay as a potential successor to Ray Durham, albeit without similar quantitative upside. That limited fantasy potential similarly renders him fairly useless in fantasy leagues until Frandsen demonstrates an ability to carry this performance to the majors.
The natural heir to J.T. Snow thanks to his defensive acumen, Ishikawa also manifested his true power potential for the first time as a professional this summer. Taking full advantage of the California League resulted in the best offensive performance of his young career, and with added patience compensating for continued contact issues, Ishikawa appears primed to remain successful after leaving A-ball. My only concern here involves a pending position crunch with both Ishikawa and Eddy Martinez-Esteve heading towards a collision at first base. A trade or position switch could resolve this dilemma, but given the problems every Giants' rookie hitter seems to encounter, waiting until Ishikawa matches these numbers at the next step up the minor league ladder makes the most sense for fantasy owners.
Knoedler just might break camp as Mike Matheny's backup after the Giants dumped long-term reserve Yorvit Torrealba in July. The rookie possesses good patience and overall hitting skills, and although I don't view him as a future starter, he shouldn't hurt you as a Dollar Days' pick in very deep leagues.
Possessing very good patience simply doesn't compensate for continued contact problems and unimpressive baserunning skills. Perhaps Lewis will develop into a viable leadoff man, however he lacks a clear path to a starting job and lacks any other notable baseball talents that might compensate for an unimpressive OBP. You probably should wait until Lewis moves closer to the majors before gambling a draft pick in any league.
Multiple injury problems, including off-season shoulder surgery that limited him to DH this summer, leave Martinez-Esteve with fairly limited value in NL leagues. Yes, his plate discipline ranks with the best young prospects in the game, but he faces both defensive difficulties and plenty of competition at his only possible positions of first base and left field. I see no reason to risk more than a low minor league pick on him given the reasonably probability of Martinez-Esteve switching leagues before he emerges as an impact player.
A waiver claim brought Miller to the Giants last month following another consistently effective performance from the former Rule 5 pick. Miller certainly possesses the skills to develop into a solid relief option, possibly even emerging as viable roster filler next summer if his WHIP remains respectable.
Demoted back to Norwich in July, Misch appeared to need a consolidation year after the 2003 seventh round pick jumped from short-season ball straight to AA in 2004. He appeared to regain both his lost skills and confidence in the Eastern League, and if he overcomes his PCL problems, he could join the rotation over the summer. Of course the Giants don't need a second lefty with any urgency, so hopefully Misch will continue improving even when stuck in Fresno all year.
A second tour of Norwich resulted in marked skill development for Ortmeier, who dramatically improved his contact rate while holding a passable walk rate. He also surpassed his three-year career total of 34 totals without suffering a terrible success rate. While he stumbled in the majors during September and clearly needs a year at AAA Fresno, Ortmeier seems set to replace Moises Alou in 2007, therefore warranting no less than a late-round pick in most leagues.
Developing Schierholtz as an option at all four corners might insure he reaches the majors, but with poor plate discipline, unimpressive power, and no speed, he currently lacks the offensive skills to warrant a quick move through the system. He needs to echo these numbers above A-ball before earning serious consideration in any fantasy draft.
Shifting to the Norwich bullpen didn't prevent Simon from posting his worst numbers as a professional. He still should develop into a useful big leaguer, but barring a dramatic skill rebound in 2006, Simon won't possess any fantasy value until he joins the Giants' relief corps.
Although Wilson's skill set largely vanished at Fresno, he remained reasonably effective, a rather amazing accomplishment for the twenty-third round pick from 2003. Wilson never saw action that year and only managed a 5.34 ERA on a 41:22 K:BB in 57 IP for A Hagerstown(SAL) last season, so his jump up the ladder this summer dramatically bolsters his standing in the organization. Of course, like almost any similar prospect, wait until Wilson begins succeeding in the majors before risking him on your roster.
Chris Begg, 26, RH Starter
I fully expect Begg to begin his fourth AA campaign next summer barring a dynamic spring. While he owns excellent control and a strong groundball rate, his somewhat weak strikeout rate limits his upside and could push him into a middle relief role.
The minor league vet finally enjoyed a complete AAA season, though Cervenak's failure to reach the majors continues to disappoint me. Despite somewhat limited upside, his consistent production in the upper minors at least should merit regular spring NRIs, so any injury to a projected big league reserve could sneak Cervenak onto the Opening Day roster.
A much-reported September phone call roused Clark from his off-season job as a substitute teacher to debut in the majors, an unexpected reward for the long-time organization soldier. Clark unfortunately saw little action, but his overall performance this summer should keep him near the top of in-season possibilities as injury filler.
Although Garcia failed to split a third straight season between AAA Fresno and a lower affiliate, his overall upward movement in the system should earn him consideration for a spot at Fresno next year. Hopefully he'll settle back into the bullpen soon, taking advantage of his superior dominance in relief to reach the majors on a faster timetable.
Possessing impressive power for a catcher only earns Haad an occasional promotion due to his poor plate discipline. He simply seems to lack the offensive skills necessary to hit in the majors, so he doesn't belong on your roster barring absolute desperation for any additional quantitative help.
Regularly catching my eye on minor league stat reports, Lopez posted another set of reasonably good AAA numbers. His failure to earn more than the briefest look in the majors indicates both general hardheadedness among most front offices and defensive limitations that override his seemingly solid skill set on offense, effectively dooming him to a AAAA career.
A second strong season for the Giants didn't prevent Mazone from entering minor league free agency, a logical result given his repeated failure to remain on affiliated teams. I don't expect his impressive walk rate to compensate for his seemingly limited upside barring a shift to relief that results in dramatically improved dominance.
Departing A-ball resulted in a surprisingly successful season for the former Cubs' prospect. I don't see him reaching San Francisco any time soon, however any pitcher with Montero's AA strikeout rate merits monitoring as he nears the majors.
Ever year the Giants seem to promote a couple of organizational soldiers to fill out the bullpen down the stretch, so if Sadler even echoes these stats for AAA Fresno, he should reach San Francisco in 2006. He consistently posts an impressive strikeout rate and only needs to cut his walk rate to emerge as a very useful middle reliever.
A good spring just might push Shabala onto the end of the Giants' bench if the club, yet with obviously limited upside, I don't envision him even faintly echoing Jason Ellison's 2005 development path. Shabala needs a severe rash of injuries to receive more than a couple at-bats each week, and despite San Francisco's veteran core, he lacks the upside to earn that playing time ahead of the rising crop of Fresno's starters.
Perhaps the former top Boston prospect just can't handle AAA batters as a starter, but given his impressive work in the lower minors and relative youth, I fully expect Song to develop into a big league force in some capacity. Avoiding injury for another season could allow the minor league free agent to blossom into much more than a largely unknown journeyman.
Taschner seemed to set to remain with the Giants until the acquisition of Steve Kline pushed him back of both Kline and Jeff Fassero on the bullpen depth chart. Although Taschner still could break camp in San Francisco's relief corps, he faces plenty of competition and certainly could benefit from the additional development time apparently necessary to refine his control.
Ranked among the highest-risk, highest-upside southpaws in the minors, Threets remains a severe injury risk with major control problems. Although his strikeout and ground-fly rates indicate plenty of upside, I simply don't see him contributing to successful fantasy squads in 2006.
The long-time outfield prospect heads into minor league free agency this winter after eleven seasons in the Giants' organization. Valderrama peaked in 2003, registering a .277/.324/.347 performance in 202 at-bats for AAA Fresno(PCL) and earning a ten-day stay in the majors that summer. Despite still possessing decent speed skills and some patience, he no longer looks likely to return to a big league bench barring a move to an organization with significantly weaker outfield depth than San Francisco.
Marcus Sanders, 20, SS-R
Drafting a player with minimum power potential from the Sally League rarely provides good returns, but with an intriguing .16 walk rate and strong speed skills, Sanders at least warrants a little consideration. San Francisco shifted him to shortstop this year, and with no substantial competition in the system, he ranks as the obvious heir to Omar Vizquel. Sanders also owns sufficient SB upside to emerge as one of the top fantasy middle infielders in the game, so a late-round flyer here could pay welcome dividends by 2008.
The Giants' graduated a surprisingly respectable rookie class this summer, highlighted by Lance Niekro, Jason Ellison, Todd Linden, and Brad Hennessey. Although none of those players look like future stars, San Francisco continues to blend a few youngsters into their veteran core every year. Of course, Brian Sabean remains willing to deal the young veterans at a moment's notice, most recently dumping off former top prospects Jerome Williams and Jesse Foppert this year. At least Matt Cain should halt that trend given he possesses as much upside as anyone developed by San Francisco in recent memory. He alone earns the Giants a passable decent ranking, though the potential of Merkin Valdez and a half-dozen position players certainly all intrigue me. With pending outfield openings due to aging veterans and a welcoming pitchers' park that can enable rookie hurlers to flourish soon after their arrival in the majors, San Francisco still looks like a good place to target a prospect or two each spring.
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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