Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
American League Second Basemen with Positive Draft Value
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We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.
Problems with right-handed pitching caused Hill to struggle while playing every day, but hopefully his new, unquestioned starting job as Orlando Hudson's replacement at second will provide the platform he needs to work through those difficulties. However, while his plate discipline virtually insures a helpful BA, he possesses no more than minimal speed and little short-term power potential. Viewing him as anything more than a significant gamble prior to 2007 looks like a mistake, so do not exceed single-digit bids in any league that does not suffer from tremendous inflation.
Extended contract finagling probably cost Harris a chance to revitalize his career in Colorado. He now looks likely to land deep on someone's bench, and given his minimal growth, he easily could slip back toward a dangerous BA. The good news is that he remains speedy and somewhat patient, so if Harris lands a guaranteed contract, the virtual certainty of double-digit stolen bases warrants a endgame pickup for your MIF slot in almost any league.
Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Baltimore for my comments on Castro.
Perennially underrated by Minnesota despite excellent plate discipline, Rodriguez finally cracked the majors this year, even emerging as a part-time starter during the summer. He unfortunately failed to post particularly impressive numbers and returned to AAA Rochester(IL), where he compiled a .297/.374/.384 performance with 16:14 BB:K in 138 AB on the season. Rodriguez at least returned to the Twins in September, but despite good skills, he does not belong on a roster with Luis Castillo at second base and Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, and Juan Castro already fighting for playing time at shortstop. While Rodriguez certainly could emerge as a viable in-season pickup as an injury replacement for the increasingly fragile Castillo, do not bother drafting the minor league veteran in the spring.
Moving to second base finally insures Lopez a starting job, a welcome development for someone virtually ready for the majors a year ago. He started slowly in 2005, suffering a broken hand in April that cost him six weeks. While he still emerged as a starter by July, he continued to hit poorly, returned to Tacoma, and then headed back to Seattle to spend September as the Mariners' starting second baseman. Lopez hit .316/.350/.506 with 5 HR, 31 RBI, and a 7:24 BB:K in 174 AB in the Pacific Coast League, so even if he experiences more growing pains due to his limited patience, he still should develop into a star. If you can weather the initial BA drag, acquiring Lopez anywhere around $5 will net you a nice long-term starter for your team. Think Jorge Cantu with better defense.
Rivas barely won a starting job at camp, headed to the bench by May, the DL by June, and AAA Rochester(IL) by the All-Star break. His OPS sunk to truly miserable levels in the minors as further BA degradation left him with a .280 OBP, only slightly buoyed by a .386 SLG. Minnesota finally released him after the season, though Rivas missed a great opportunity to reassert his potential when he suffered a broken wrist in the Venezuelan Winter League. Remember that Rivas still owns useful speed skills and will not hurt you as roster filler, but with negligible power and a highly uncertain future, he ranks as no more than a moderately interesting Dollar Days option barring a superb spring training performance.
Registering a .313/.400/.423 performance for AAA Oklahoma(PCL) with 5 HR, 68 RBI, 103 R, a 43/49 SB%, and a 65:74 BB:K in 489 AB earned German a brief glance from the Rangers in September. Echoes of these numbers in the Dominican Winter League prompted the Royals to deal the top pick in the Rule 5 draft to Texas for German, who looked like their starting second baseman for a few days until Mark Grudzielanek signed. German at least should land a bench spot from which he just might fulfill his long-term promise as a SB stud for roto teams, but you cannot count on him seeing regular playing time given the multitude of younger prospects in the organization. Gambling more than a minimal amount on German simply does not make much sense, though if you see him available in any reserve rounds, snatch him without a second thought.
Acquired from Atlanta for Jorge Sosa in a foolish deal at the end of camp, Green contributed nothing to the Devil Rays other than an ability to adequately man every infield position. Respectable marks of 3.86 #P/PA and a .83 G-F suggest Green's career year will look fairly similar to these stats, though he thankfully managed a .292/.373/.427 performance in 96 at-bats against left-handers. He may thrive in restricted platoon duty, but until he finds a manager cognizant of his limitations, Green offers too little upside to warrant a roster spot in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.
Prior to that disastrous season, we watched the Cubs evolve from a prosperous laughingstock into a club with a beautiful landmark park, the best farm system in the game, and a ravenous fan base supplemented by welcome sun-worshippers that at least boosted the payroll. Chicago also possessed an iconic home run hitter, a solid announcing team, and seemingly sufficient goodwill to carry any fan through dark ages.
After suffering through a disastrous decade that saw the Cubs choose draft busts from Ty Griffin and Earl Cunningham to Derek Wallace and Jayson Peterson, Chicago finally rebounded with the selection of Kerry Wood in 1995. Although this pick did not compensate for previously insane moves like dealing Rafael Palmeiro for Mitch Williams and allowing Greg Maddux to depart due to Larry Himes' ego, acquiring Wood signaled the beginning of the farm system's rebirth. Jim Hendry shifted to Scouting Director the following season and soon started adding prospects: Jon Garland, Scott Downs, and Mike Wuertz in 1997; David Kelton, Will Ohman, and Eric Hinske in 1998; and Bobby Hill, Todd Wellemeyer, Dontrelle Willis, Jon Leicester, and Jason Dubois in 2000. In 2001 Hendry drafted a veritable bonanza of talent, from Mark Prior and Andy Sisco through Ricky Nolasco and Brendan Harris to Sergio Mitre, Geovany Soto, and an unsigned Khalil Greene. Recent seasons provided additional depth and high-upside players, many of whom still possess plenty of potential.
Unfortunately, one major problem arose in the year I skipped. In 1999, Hendry chose Beanball Ben Christensen, one of the most despicable players to ever wear a professional uniform. Hendry indicated a clear willingness to place winning over more important issues, such as not paying a seven-figure bonus to someone who belongs in jail for attempted murder. While we agree few issues take precedence over bringing a title to Wrigley Field before 2008, adding someone like Christensen to the organization sickened us.
The Cubs' demise this generation truly began with the foolish hiring of Dusty Baker after the 2002 campaign. Rather than follow the prevailing trend of seeking young managers hungry to develop a club into a winner, Hendry again sought to push the team toward immediate glory with the sage of players' managers. Although we initially warmed to the idea of tolerating Baker despite his reputation, his usage of Mark Prior ended those hopes very quickly. His unbelievable error in not settling down Prior or even removing him from the Bartman game probably cost the Cubs a title the entire city deserved, yet somehow this misguided man remains the Cubs' manager.
Baker's inability to develop rookies into consistent contributors under any reasonable timeline gutted the franchise during his three years in Chicago. The first domino fell when the Cubs allowed Bobby Hill's unnecessary inclusion as the PTBN in the Aramis Ramirez deal, a trade only required to remedy the effects of Baker pigeonholing Mark Bellhorn as a useless #2 hitter with prolific strikeout totals.
Forty days following the final Good Chicago Sports column where we proclaimed "Yes, They're Still Our Cubs", a news item propelled me out of my chair and into the other room. I asked Jess, "What's the worst thing that could've happened that didn't involve someone's death?" Perhaps hyperbole, but the Hee Seop Choi trade crushed us. We do not care that Derrek Lee now ranks among the game's best players and Choi cannot find at-bats on the Dodgers. Choi, along with Hill and many others no longer in Chicago, represented the wave of prospects that could take the Cubs back to the Series with players we wanted to support rather than a collection of guys we still see as Marlins and Twins.
We do not just root for laundry. The Cubs we cheer the most are not always the club's best players but the homegrown players we watched develop since draft day. Despite genetic hatred for the Yankees, we regularly cast envious glances at a club that owes its greatest years to homegrown stars. The best New York team since DiMaggio patrolled center featured a dynamic nucleus of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte, all future Hall of Famers or no less than perennial All-Stars collected by a big market team that finally remembered how to build a champion.
When we play any baseball simulation on career mode, we similarly look to win with a club composed entirely of drafted talent and youngsters acquired prior to their big league debuts. Retaining such players for an average of over a decade provides the incentive that assembling a team of successful mercenaries does not offer. Although we recognize that MLB does not really compare to even the best computer simulations, the most attractive clubs annually feature a homegrown nucleus.
Dealing Hill and Choi started the systematic stripping of any chance the Cubs possessed to field such a team prior to the hundredth anniversary of the franchise's last championship. Subsequent deals dispersed Juan Cruz and Brendan Harris, not to mention the inclusion of Dontrelle Willis in a previous trade designed merely to obtain a proven closer. Even former top prospect Andy Sisco departed via the 2004 Rule 5 draft after Hendry foolishly exposed the dominant southpaw on the advice of errant lieutenants. Chicago continued to ignore prospects last summer, losing Jason Dubois to Cleveland during the season and then dispatching Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolasco, and Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre this winter.
The lowlight of the 2004 season involved a power struggle between a few Cub veterans and the broadcast team of Steve Stone and Chip Caray. Stone's tenure with the Cubs virtually predated my infatuation with the team, and although he departed for a couple of years during which Caray often stumbled, the duo emerged as viable listening options in 2003, even offering such magical bon mots as "We'll return to the fifteenth inning after this pitching change with the bases loaded, and if this game doesn't end soon, we will be, too". Rather than heed the pleas of thousands of fans, management dumped the duo after the year, and hired forgettable replacements who proved so inane by comparison that we failed to watch one complete Cubs' game during the 2005 campaign.
A flare-up with falling star Sammy Sosa dominated the other half of discussion in Chicago in the fall of 2004 as Sosa departed the park early on the last day of the year. Rather than admit that Baker no longer exerted any influence on the clubhouse, Hendry scapegoated Sosa, spearheading a PR campaign that forced him out of town in a deal to Baltimore for Jerry Hairston and a couple of lesser prospects. A similar misevaluation occurred this winter as Hendry allowed Nomar Garciaparra to leave despite the veteran's preference to stay in town and a multitude of reasons to keep Nomar for an additional season.
I intentionally omitted one additional prospect of note from my list of Jim Hendry's successful draftees. With the opportunity to select a marquee talent with the #3 pick in 1998, Hendry passed on many players prepared to contribute very quickly, such as J.D. Drew, Austin Kearns, Sean Burroughs, Carlos Pena, Jeff Weaver, Kip Wells, C.C. Sabathia, and Adam Dunn. He instead chose a toolsy young outfielder with as much potential as anyone in the organization.
Corey Patterson signed with the Cubs later that year, and although Chicago rushed him to the majors, he finally hit his stride prior to a season-ending injury in 2003. He remained reasonably effective the next summer yet collapsed during 2005 following another of Baker's foolish attempts to make Patterson (a potential Sosa clone in the middle of a lineup) into a leadoff hitter due to his archaic notions regarding anyone with good speed. Patterson lost his hard-won patience and slipped into the minors on his way to a permanent spot on the bench, a move that preceded the acquisitions of Juan Pierre and Jacque Jones, which pushed Patterson to the brink of departing the club.
Yesterday Jim Hendry gave away Corey Patterson to the Baltimore Orioles for two more mediocre prospects in an eerie echo of the Sosa deal, completing the gradual severing of my two-decade relationship with the club. Wrigley Field remains the best place in the world to see a ballgame, but we simply see nothing left to like about this carcass of a franchise. The combined efforts of Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry, and Dusty Baker have driven this diehard Cub fan to look to places like Milwaukee for a team deserving support. While we will still support the Cubs like any other Chicago team, I do not expect to actively root for the franchise again. They are simply no longer our Cubs.
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