Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Chris Duncan, 24, 1B-L
I don't know if any Cardinals' position player will receive a shot to play regularly if Duncan fails to crack the lineup. While I realize he lacks defensive acumen after only recently beginning work in the outfield, the son of Tony LaRussa's long-time pitching coach possesses a respectable bat and at least merits John Mabry's bench spot. Duncan easily should break camp in the majors, and if someone like Larry Bigbie stumbles, he could emerge as an excellent sleeper in any league.
Always a dependable minor league starter with the Cubs, Gissell truly blossomed this summer in Memphis. Only teammate Kevin Jarvis posted a lower ERA than Gissell among all PCL Starters, and his solid all-around skills merit serious consideration for a rotation slot in the spring. Hopefully Gissell will take advantage of minor league free agency, signing somewhere with very limited depth in starting pitching like Tampa Bay or San Diego. He only needs an opportunity to emerge as a productive big leaguer.
Only a recurrence of past injury problems should prevent Reyes from breaking camp in the Cardinals' rotation. While an apparent lack of endurance concerns me, and a poor ground-fly ratio indicates a strong likelihood of a sub-optimal ERA, Reyes' fairly dynamic command and forgiving pitching environment in St. Louis will keep him productive. I expect him to coast near double-digit value, potentially competing for other post-season awards besides Rookie of the Year very soon in his young career.
Remaining healthy all season helped propel Wainwright to the cusp of a big league job. While he no longer looks like a top-of-the-rotation horse, he retains sufficient command and overall upside to develop into no less than a superb replacement for likely free agent Jeff Suppan by 2007. As I still expect Wainwright to emerge as a very dependable fantasy option, feel free to target him at a likely discount now before his value heads skyward upon his return to the majors during next season.
John Gall, 27, OF-R
Repeatedly ignored by Tony LaRussa despite a few strong AAA seasons and fairly decent power potential, Gall barely looks likely to break camp at the end of the Cardinals' bench. I want to continued recommending him, but with absolutely no guarantee of more than a couple at-bats each week, Gall doesn't belong on any fantasy roster until he somehow finds more regular playing time.
His consistent lack of dominance suggests that Haberer will emerge in the majors as a reliever, and with his excellent groundball ratio, I see little downside in considering Haberer once he joins the Cardinals. Similarly, selecting him anywhere before he graduates from the minors makes absolutely no sense given his minimal upside under almost any circumstance.
Examine Haerther's .203/.320/.297 performance on a 10:20 BB:K in 64 AFL at-bats for a better indication of his immediate upside than the power potential he demonstrated at two minor league stops this summer. While St. Louis desperately needs a homegrown corner outfield, questionable defense and inconsistent plate discipline suggest he may need two more years of seasoning. Spending a late-round pick on Haerther isn't a terrible idea in very deep leagues, but given the Cardinals' general avoidance of rookie position players, he looks unlikely to play regularly in St. Louis before 2008.
Another year of development should qualify Hanson as a viable alternative to Scott Rolen in case of further injury or an organizational decision to cut payroll at third. While Hanson lacks any particularly dynamic skill, his improved production upon reaching the upper minors this year indicates a strong chance he'll enjoy a lengthy stay in the big leagues, so keep Hanson on the edge of your radar as he nears the majors.
The nineteenth player selected in 2004, Lambert needs no more work in A-ball yet clearly lacks the command necessary to succeed in the upper minors. Nothing here warrants placing Lambert on any sort of fast track, so expect nearly full seasons at both Springfield and AAA Memphis before challenging for a rotation slot by 2008. Don't bother rostering him anywhere this spring.
At least Nelson remained healthy after reaching the club's highest affiliate. He otherwise posted fairly terrible numbers, offset only by a solid walk rate. Of course, few hitters with a .67 AAA contact rate develop into viable big leaguers at the plate, so although he remains a possibly utilityman for the Cardinals, Nelson seems fairly worthless to roto teams.
Starters who rarely dominate A-ball hitters generally don't develop into significant big leaguers without shifting to the bullpen. Despite his pedigree as a second round pick in 2003, Pomeranz shows few signs of emerging as more than an innings eater at best, rendering him useless to fantasy teams until he secures a regular role in the majors.
Papo Bolivar, 27, OF-R
Clearly stagnating in his sixth AA campaign, Bolivar no longer appears heading up the minor league ladder. His speed somewhat vanished this year, and without any significant power potential or great plate discipline, Bolivar shouldn't see the majors any time soon.
Selected with the thirteenth pick in 2000, Boyd's move down the defensive spectrum effectively solidifies a minor league career for the former top prospect. He possesses no more than mediocre power or speed skills, so despite decent plate discipline, he may never enjoy more then the briefest cup-of-coffee.
With Ricardo Rincon replacing Ray King and Randy Flores locked into a bullpen spot, Cali appears in competition with Tyler Johnson for a spot at the end of the bullpen. Unfortunately, Cali lacks Johnson's dominance and upside, so even if he snags a job at the end of camp, I neither expect Cali to see much success nor remain in St. Louis all summer long.
Cummings seems set to depart the Cardinals in minor league free agency after seven seasons in the organization. Although he clearly ranks as a respectable AAAA option who could succeed in the majors, minimal overall upside likely dooms him to more than an occasional spot start barring an immediate conversion into a dominant reliever.
Signed as a minor league free agent from San Diego last month and immediately placed on the 40-man roster, Hernandez ranks among the game's best third catchers, only needing an injury to Yadier Molina or Gary Bennett to secure regular playing time. While he certainly lacks power, Hernandez's excellent plate discipline virtually insures a solid BA, making him an excellent option for your second catching slot whenever he appears in the majors.
Released by the Mariners this spring only a few months after the club selected him from Atlanta in the minor league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, Herr signed with St. Louis and then posted surprisingly good numbers in his dad's old organization. He signed with the Reds last month and should move closer to the majors next summer. Of course, I expect Herr's awful plate discipline to stifle any further offensive development, likely preventing him from emerging as a viable fantasy option.
Oakland foolishly sent Johnson back to St. Louis rather than keep him as a Rule 5 pick, missing a great chance to add another potential closer to their increasingly dominant relief corps. Thankfully the Cardinals promoted Johnson out of the Southern League and then rewarded him with a September cup-of-coffee. Now he should break camp in the majors with a good camp, and despite inconsistent control, he currently looks like the best long-term option to succeed Jason Isringhausen. Of course, while Johnson shouldn't hurt you as roster filler, wait until he begins echoing these skills after an extended look in St. Louis before targeting him for a larger role on your team
The former top prospect wisely departed St. Louis this winter, signing with the Reds as a minor league free agent. Journell demonstrated decent upside in relief over the summer, but he won't deserve to return to a big league bullpen until his control improves. I don't expect him to contribute in the majors in 2006.
Kinney currently remains lodged between the two highest rungs of the minor league ladder, fairly dominating AA hitters yet losing all effectiveness after his promotion. While he certainly possesses the skills necessary to carry his AA numbers to the majors, Kinney likely needs another full AAA campaign barring rapid improvement in his WHIP.
Outstanding control somehow hasn't translated into Leek receiving more than the briefest AAA look. I suspect his negligible dominance may keep him from moving closer to the majors even if he shifts to the bullpen, however he at least deserves a year as a AAA starter to see if he might approach AAAA viability.
Apparently Minges just needed a change of scenery after seven seasons with Cleveland since he exploded immediately upon joining St. Louis. Minges spent the summer pounding Texas League pitching, demonstrating solid all-around hitting skills and plenty of potential to emerge as no less than a good reserve. The minor league free agent just might contribute to fantasy teams as soon as next summer.
Dealt from Colorado to Boston for Byung-Hyun Kim at the end spring training and then returned to St. Louis on waivers in August, Narveson desperately needs a move to the bullpen to keep his career from floundering. He simply appears to lack the control necessary to succeed in the rotation, though with the Cardinals possessing few openings on their staff right now, he likely needs to switch organizations again before receiving a long look in the majors.
A weak ground-fly ratio likely kept Nussbeck from joining the Cardinals last summer given his otherwise solid skills. He probably possesses as much upside right as someone like Scott Eyre, yet only an outstanding camp even will give him a shot at receiving regular playing time in the majors.
Pals remains on target to compete for a job with the Cardinals during 2007 after he maintained his effectiveness following his promotion above A-ball. Although a weak strikeout rate could force him to the bullpen, he otherwise looks no worse than competent staff filler..
A move back to the mound for Schumaker wouldn't shock me given the club's respectable outfield depth and his rather limited upside. He looks like no more than a potential replacement for So Taguchi given his speed and defensive prowess, so unless Schumaker sneaks into a similar role, he won't help any fantasy teams.
The former Brewers' prospect badly fizzled this summer, slipping down to the Texas League only a year after slamming PCL pitchers for a .293/.375/.517 performance. While I believe Zoccolillo deserves a big league bench job now, he needs to rebound in 2006 or risk slipping into AAAA irrelevancy.
The Cardinals finally appear ready to award a deserving rookie significant playing time. Anthony Reyes ranks among the game's most prepared pitching prospects for the majors and almost alone ranks St. Louis above a half-dozen systems. With a reasonable chance of secondary prospects like Wainwright, Haerther, and especially Duncan emerging into significant roles over the next couple of years, the Cardinals currently possess a solid quartet of fantasy rookies, along with potential roster filler like Tyler Johnson and Michel Hernandez. Feel free to target any youngsters that begin to play regularly for Tony LaRussa.
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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