Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Bill Bray, 22, LH Reliever
Selected thirteenth overall in 2004, Bray surprisingly remained in the minors all year as the Nationals wisely avoided wasting a 40-man slot on him this winter. Now he only needs a good spring to break camp in Washington's bullpen, and given his significant upside as a late-inning force, Bray merits a Dollar Days' selection in almost any league. Any injury to Chad Cordero could result in plenty of unexpected roto value for Bray.
Kept as a Rule 5 pick from Toronto at the cost of A-ball starter Aaron Wideman, Godwin finally emerged as a capable outfielder in New Orleans. Of course, the Nationals remain somewhat stocked with decent outfielders, but given his impressive tools and overall upside, Godwin just might snag a starter job with a good spring. He at least looks like a solid bench player capable of a dozen or more steals and therefore meriting at least an endgame pickup in every NL league.
Potential rotation filler as soon as next spring, a poor strikeout rate unfortunately leaves Rasner with little long-term upside. However, outstanding control conversely could keep him in the majors indefinitely, and if he breaks camp in the majors, Rasner absolutely merits a couple bucks during the endgame. Consider him a strong sleeper as long as the Nationals remain at RFK.
Unfairly pushed back to Harrisburg after merely a mediocre 2004, Watson finally exploded upon his return to the PCL, demonstrating solid plate discipline, speed skills, and a BA that indicates plenty of upside on a big league bench. Like Tyrell Godwin, Watson only needs to break camp in the majors to automatically merit a fantasy roster spot throughout NL rotodom, though limited player gives Watson less upside than his New Orleans teammate.
Even an awful spring probably won't prevent Zimmerman from opening 2006 as the Nats' starting third baseman following the fantastic trade of Vinny Castilla for Brian Lawrence. Capable of handling shortstop, Zimmerman profiles as one of the top fielding third baseman in baseball. More importantly, he possesses plenty of offensive upside despite a rookie season of home games at pitcher-friendly RFK Stadium. While I expect Zimmerman's unimpressive plate discipline will prevent him from blossoming into a $20 player for a couple years, a respectable batting average and quantitative output should fuel a push towards double-digit value, an impressive result for anyone only a year out of college. Push bidding to the low teens in all standard keeper leagues given Zimmerman's long-term upside, however holding your offering to single digits similarly makes sense in single-season leagues.
Larry Broadway, 24, 1B-L
With Brad Wilkerson dispatched to Texas and Nick Johnson heading towards free agency next fall, Broadway remains positioned to win a starting job in 2007 despite his awful summer. Knee problems effectively ruined his season, likely forcing him to begin a fourth AA campaign in April barring a shockingly productive off-season. The good news is that Broadway remains a relatively disciplined hitter headed towards his prime, so although he lacks significant long-term value, he merits a roster spot in virtually every league with any minor league system.
So impressive in A-ball that we believed him worthy of a mid-summer pick-up, Casto looks like a future cleanup hitter in Washington regardless of whether he plays third, second, or a corner outfield position. My biggest concern regarding his development is the possibility of Casto turning into another Val Pascucci, however Casto's superior defensive skills should insure he avoids a quick move to AAAA status and eventually Japan. Consider Casto a solid mid-round pick in any league, likely to win a starting job sometime in 2007.
The extremely forgiving environment of RFK Stadium currently boosts the value of all Nationals' pitching prospects, earning Everts inclusion here despite his slow development track. Tommy John surgery at the end of 2004 thankfully only cost him a year, and give his significant long-term potential, Everts just might challenge for a rotation slot by the end of 2006. Of course, waiting until he remains healthy for a full year makes much more sense than rostering him now, so only keep Everts on your spring draft radar in the deepest NL leagues.
Sent to Texas in the Alfonso Soriano deal earlier this month, Galarraga no longer looks like a viable fantasy prospect given both the severe competition in the Rangers' upper minors and the downside of pitching in Ameriquest. He somehow needs to improve his effectiveness in the Texas League while echoing these skills to remain a viable future members of the Rangers' rotation.
Tommy John surgery cost Hill the entire year, and considering his limited dominance prior to the injury, he should shift to the bullpen upon his return. I don't expect him to emerge as more than roster filler until 2007.
Shoulder problems resulted in a delayed start to the season for Hinckley, who largely flailed for Potomac despite dominating in the Eastern League over the second half of 2004. Although an expected rebound next summer would return Hinckley's top prospect status, he needs to demonstrate better skills before warranting serious fantasy consideration. Monitor his progress with the thought of possibly rostering him during a likely September cup-of-coffee.
The sixth pick of the 2001 draft, chosen ahead of Chris Burke, Casey Kotchman, Aaron Heilman, Bobby Crosby, Jeremy Bonderman, Noah Lowry, Jeff Mathis, and David Wright in the first round alone, Karp barely still deserves a place on Washington's prospect list. However, his pedigree and passable control still suggest some big league potential for the UCLA product. Perhaps shifting to the bullpen will result in him avoiding complete draft bust status.
Remaining at Harrisburg for a second season suggests rather limited upside given the club's need for pitching help throughout the year. Rueckel appears headed for no more than a likely brief career in middle relief, though until he actually reaches the majors, he won't belong on any roto roster.
Jay Bergmann, 24, RH Reliever
Bergmann blossomed in his first full year in the bullpen, largely dominating the upper minors prior to remaining a force on the Nationals. He needs to cut his walk rate before earning serious consideration from fantasy owners, however continued effectiveness could qualify Bergmann as no worse than roster filler fairly early in 2006.
Former Golden Spikes winner Bouknight wisely signed with Washington following his release from Toronto last December. Although he still looks like a no better than a decent AAAA option, his performance in New Orleans just might earn him a look in Washington next summer. Don't be surprised if Bouknight emerges as a roto sleeper, especially if he heads into the Nationals' bullpen.
A third AAA campaign resulted in only minor development in the skills of this minor league free agent. Bowers won't possess any fantasy value even if he lands a job on a big league bench.
The 1997 first round pick entered his ninth professional season without so much as sniffing the majors. I still believe Bridges might see some success as a reliever, but he clearly doesn't deserve any consideration for a big league rotation slot.
Developing speed skills, decent plate discipline, and moderate defensive flexibility just might push Dorta to the majors as a utilityman. However, a meager OBP indicates the minor league free agent requires significantly more seasoning in the upper minors.
While Echols might rebound if finally forced into the bullpen, allowing an abundance of homers certainly renders him useless as a starter. He may never develop into more than minor league roster filler despitean intriguing strikeout rate.
The former Cardinals' prospect shifted to the Nationals in May for future considerations yet simply lacks an apparent role in Washington. Limited patience renders Haynes fairly useless as more than a one-dimensional slugger, although given his repeated AAA problems, he easily could crest as AAAA roster filler.
An April waiver claim resulted in a couple trips to Washington for Hughes this summer. Of course, his continued failure to translate AAA success into big league effectiveness renders him useless to fantasy teams until he manages to cut his walk rate to an acceptable level.
Few players wear six different uniforms in one season, and even fewer emerge as impact big leaguers following such an insane campaign. Yet Kelly demonstrated intriguing fantasy potential at Louisville, so despite no longer profiling as a future starter, he still could impact the game as a speedster off the bench. He just might emerge as a viable Dollar Days option with a strong camp.
Returning to the rotation somehow resulted in an amazing comeback for Maust, who appeared unable to pitch effective above A-ball prior to this summer. Even echoing this performance in 2006 will push him to the cusp of the majors.
Returning to an affiliated club for the first time since 2002 resulted in another solid performance from the minor league journeyman. With a career AAA OPS near .800, Melo deserves a chance to contribute off a big league bench, though his failure to stay in the upper minors over the past couple of years indicates only minimal chance of him ever reaching the majors.
Rundles again failed to earn that necessary promotion, instead spending a fifth summer in a AA bullpen. Hopefull his excellent all-around skills at least will push him onto a AAA staff in 2005 since his overall success suggests some potential to remain effective against tougher competition.
The second prospected acquired by Montreal from Boston with Tomo Ohka for Ugueth Urbina in 2001, Rundles stalled at Harrisburg over the last two years. A low strikeout rate apparently prevented his advancement, however given his relative youth and effectiveness, I fully expect Rundles to develop into a viable big leaguer by the end of the decade.
Ignoring their respective fantasy values but not their salaries, frankly I'd rather own Rick Short than Alfonso Soriano on any MLB team. Short led all affiliated hitters in batting average, appears able to handle half-a-dozen positions, and owns superb plate discipline. Yet following the ridiculously lopsided trade with Texas, the addition of Soriano pushed Short right off the roster, leading to a likely move to Japan. Of course, I realize that Soriano possesses much more upside, but due to his inflated price and continuing refusal to move to a position where his defense won't kill the team, Washington erred in letting a potentially outstanding bench player depart the organization this week.
An unexpected return to the rotation surprisingly didn't cause White's skills to collapse as he remained quite effective as a AAA swingman. He still profiles as a future middleman, though his immediate future remains rather uncertain given his performance this summer. I suspect White will need a year to reconsolidate his skills in a AAA bullpen before seriously challenging for a permanent spot in the majors.
I really didn't expect to see so many potential fantasy assets on Washington. While additional off-season moves could severely limit the value of many of these players, Zimmerman and Brady seem certain to spend the season in the majors, Watson and Godwin look like no less than solid reserves, and Casto, Broadway, Hinckley, and Everts all remain excellent prospects for future years. With RFK suppressing hitting for a few more seasons, the Nationals now look as promising as the three NL California teams for developing young pitchers. Unfortunately, although you should feel free to roster even untested relievers here if they register decent skills over their initial outings in Washington, the Nationals possess very little overall depth of prospects. Aside from their highest-upside players, the continued uncertainty facing the club renders the majority of their minor leaguers fairly useless.
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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