Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
1. Dustin Pedroia, 23, SS-R
Virtually certain to open next year as Boston's starting second baseman barring a spring training meltdown, Pedroia appears one of the safest rookie bets in a long time. Yes, he lacks much immediate quantitative upside, however his rock solid plate discipline quickly will push his big league BA toward .300 and his OBP toward .400, giving the Red Sox a nice complement to Kevin Youkilis either as 9-1 or 1-2 hitters. Bid to $10 in the hope that he'll approach that value in 2007 before building toward $20 in the following seasons.
Boston's top draft pick in 2005, Ellsbury rocketed to the upper minors a year after signing and appears on track to join the big league outfield by next fall. His skills warrant comparisons to former Red Sox icon Johnny Damon as Ellsbury's speed, plate discipline, and defense will give Fenway fans a worthy leadoff hitter for their loaded lineup. With a decent chance of earning $20 as soon as 2008, Ellsbury warrants a top reserve pick in any roto draft.
Theo Epstein absolutely stole Kottaras from Kevin Towers for a six-week rental of David Wells that didn't even result in an NLCS berth for San Diego. Now he qualifies as perhaps Boston's safest fantasy prospect with only the presence of Jason Varitek preventing me from listing Kottaras atop this ranking. A nearly perfect developmental situation will allow Kottaras to spend the majority of 2007 at AAA Pawtucket, joining the Red Sox whenever injury strikes Varitek and otherwise learning to catch the knuckleball with Charlie Zink. With Tim Wakefield unlikely to retire for a few more years, Kottaras should break camp as Varitek's backup in 2008 as Boston begins a similar job-sharing arrangement to the way the Yankees developed Jorge Posada while starting Joe Girardi. Consider Kottaras a mortal lock to begin earning $5-10 annually from 2008 through the next decade with the only serious question involving his long-term power development.
Pushed to Pawtucket despite a slow start in his second season at Portland, Murphy rewarded Boston's faith by posting his best OPS since Rookie-ball. Yet his lack of power development likely will keep him from emerging as more than a fourth outfielder for the Red Sox, a role he could fill as soon as next summer. Murphy at least appears capable of registering an acceptable batting average, but until you see him posting better quantitative stats, don't spend more than a couple of bucks on him.
Pitching a complete game no-hitter on the last day of the season ranks as an amazing accomplishment for the Nicaraguan native, who spent the last two years pitching in his home county while working as a lobsterman. Of course, the rain-shortened, five-inning outing doesn't count as an official no-hitter, but he still earned a long look in spring training given his success as a starter and the absolute dominance he demonstrated out of the bullpen. Hansack registered a 1.71 ERA on a 36:9 K:BB in 31.2 IP with 24 H and 3 HR for Pawtucket, numbers which should insure he spend much of 2007 on the Red Sox in some capacity. A Dollar Days' gamble here could pay welcome dividends very quickly.
Exceptional patience could allow Corsaletti to swoop past both David Murphy and Brandon Moss to earn a reserve job on the Red Sox. Developing speed and even a little power also could boost his quantitative profile, but with most of his value based in OBP, I don't envision Corsaletti contributing too much in standard leagues. The reason to monitor his progress is that unless his contact rate plummets, I suspect he can hang around the edge of the majors indefinitely while holding a respectable batting average, at least making him very useful as roster filler.
Improved walk and contact rates translated into a nice BA jump for Moss in his second straight AA campaign, but a small drop in his slugging percentage leaves him little margin for error as he advances toward the majors. He needs to post an .800 OPS for AAA Pawtucket next year to retain any hope of emerging as a starter in Boston. Of course, the left-handed Moss and right-handed David Murphy look like potentially superb reserve outfielders, and given that likely limited upside, Moss no longer even merits carrying in the minor league system of most fantasy leagues.
While his somewhat advanced age mildly diminishes his otherwise impressive numbers, Buchholz's overall experience gives him a decent shot to shoot to the majors by next fall if Boston experiences another round of starter atrophy. I can't really recommend him until he conquers AA hitting, but definitely plan to ante a couple of bucks if you see him on free agent lists late next summer.
A 32nd round steal in the 2005 draft, Natale registered a .368/.474/.557 line last year in 201 AB split between A- Lowell(NYP) and Greenville before resuming his pitcher abuse this summer. With a 1.11 G-F and an MLE OBP of .340 despite spending all year in A-ball, Natale appears to own the skill set necessary to slam through the upper minors in similar fashion. Yes, he frequently faced far younger pitchers and suffered a worrisome power outage after his promotion, but I still see no reason he can't emerge as no less than a quality utilityman within the next couple of years.
Alvarez simply needs a change of scenery to a more forgiving environment as he appears a poor fit on the Red Sox barring a move to the bullpen. Of course, given his potential utility to a club like Washington, a trade makes more sense than a role shift, and if he receives that new opportunity, he could reemerge as an interesting starting prospect due to his solid control. Otherwise ignore him as long as he remains stuck with Boston and subject to the obvious downside of pitching in Fenway as a soft-tossing flyball pitcher particularly vulnerable to right-handed batters.
Essentially the first starter recalled this summer when the Red Sox needed rotation filler, Pauley bombed in Boston and then continued struggling in the International League. Although he clearly needs no more AA seasoning, his general lack of dominance suggests a ceiling somewhere between AAAA swingman and end-of-the-rotation starter, not generally the profile of a rookie to target in most roto leagues. Wait until you see Pauley pitch effectively for no less than a couple of big league starts before rostering him anywhere.
While Spann's plate discipline remains mediocre at best, his success in his first full AA season suggests he'll still develop into no worse than a platoon player. I can't recommend risking a reserve pick on him at this time, but if he echoes these numbers at Pawtucket, the 2002 fifth round pick just might emerge as an acceptable successor to Mike Lowell in Boston.
An unimpressive strikeout rate limits Smith's upside, but if he continues to succeed in a full season at Pawtucket, we could see him in Boston sometime next summer. Excellent control at least will allow the 2002 fourth round pick to hold AAAA status indefinitely, along with the potential to emerge as respectable rotation filler for teams with good defense.
San Diego foolishly non-tendered this Yale product last December, allowing the Red Sox to grab the extremely impressive young southpaw at little cost. Breslow excelled at Pawtucket, dominating left-handed hitters in particular, and then remained quite effective during his auditions in Boston. Frankly he shouldn't even need to compete for a job in spring training, but assuming he doesn't combust in camp, Breslow looks like no worst than roster filler for most fantasy leagues.
The brightest light of the next generation of Red Sox pitching prospects, Bowden excelled in the Sally League despite not turning 20 until September. Everything here suggests he'll split next season between the Carolina and Eastern Leagues before pushing for a promotion to the majors as soon as the following spring. Gambling on any young Boston pitcher remains risky give the expected staff cleaning over the next year, but if you like high-risk, high-upside pitchers, Buchholz could be a good fit for your team in a late reserve round.
Finally translating his impressive AA numbers into an .872 AAA OPS merely qualifies as a nice little accomplishment for this AAAA hitter. The Red Sox appear unlikely to give him a chance any time soon with the club's corner positions fairly full, and few teams bother employing right-handed 1B/DH-types simply to obliterate southpaws twice a week. While I see some upside for Bailey if promoted, I doubt he'll receive a big league opportunity in the near future.
I understand why the Red Sox failed to promote a prospective lefty specialist with a reverse platoon split, but with a high homer rate Beam's only obvious weakness, he at least deserved a look at Pawtucket. Thankfully he remains relatively young and still has plenty of time to emerge as viable member of a big league bullpen, though certainly wait until he begins succeeding a that level before paying too much attention to him.
Another respectable campaign for the twelve-year journeyman unsurprisingly failed to earn him a promotion despite the big league club's many staff vacancies. I recognize he's a Boston native, stayed home for school at UMass-Lowell, and spent the last three years with the Red Sox, but if Deschenes wants to make the majors, he needs to follow the lead of someone like Joe Nelson and head toward a club with few quality pitchers, then dominate for a couple of months in the spring. Unfortunately, even employing that plan won't lead to a long look for Deschenes as he simply doesn't offer more upside than any other AAAA swingman.
Boston's third round pick in 2004, Dobies finally reached the upper minors this year despite demonstrating the worst command of his career. He seems destined to shift to the bullpen if his dominance doesn't improve, and since I don't see much upside for him as a starter, generally ignore Dobies in fantasy leagues until you see him succeeding in the majors.
Although Gabbard generally doesn't impress me due to his weak command, any pitcher that can induce groundballs at this rate deserves an extra look. He at least should develop into a decent reliever in a year or two, albeit not one worthy of any fantasy consideration in the near future.
Hottovy excelled in his second tour of the Carolina League before an unsurprising downturn at Portland. The 2004 fourth round pick still lacks the dominance he demonstrated right out of college, and barring shocking skill improvement, soon should head to the bullpen to speed his path to the majors. Don't be surprised if you see Hottovy in Boston late next summer, though don't roster him until he experiences some success with the Red Sox.
Another respectable AA campaign for Jimenez hopefully will result in a AAA berth next season. While he lacks significant upside, he certainly should develop into no worse than a platoon 1B/DH option by the end of the decade. Netting an NRI this winter in minor league free agency looks like the next logical step for Jimenez's career.
A potentially superb utilityman for fantasy teams, Machado unfortunately lacks the power most clubs want on the bench. Yet Machado's speed and versatility should earn him another look in spring training, and if he breaks camp in the majors, definitely consider grabbing him as your Dollar Days' MIF.
The six-year minor league catcher continues to flourish in the three seasons since he moved to the mound. While I'm surprised that Boston didn't recall him this September, Martinez should challenge for a bullpen spot no later than next summer. He looks like a good fit for Boston's increasingly youthful bullpen, and if holds these skills at Pawtucket, he'll warrant plenty of consideration for a buck or two in most leagues by 2008.
Seibel nicely rebounded from spending all of 2005 on the DL to compile a combined 1.24 ERA in 80 innings split between three minor league levels. He deserves a long look in spring training after this unexpected display of dominance and could emerge as an intriguing mid-season pick-up in AL fantasy leagues.
While Van Buren compiled a second straight set of impressive minor league numbers, his massive struggles in the majors soon will earn him AAAA status if he doesn't rebound in the next year or two. Concentration appears his primary problem as only an awful walk rate stands out among an otherwise decent skill set. He certainly could emerge as viable roster filler at any time, but don't risk owning Van Buren until you see him register two dozen innings while holding solid all-around skills.
Perhaps the only knuckleballer who still qualifies as any sort of prospect, Zink nicely improved his ERA this year despite diminished command. He still appears to need another couple years of seasoning, but at least he'll offer George Kottaras good training next year for catching Tim Wakefield. Despite Zink's intriguing long-term upside, he won't belong on any fantasy roster until we see him maintain this level of effectiveness over several appearances in the majors.
7:05: New York@St. Louis
The extra day of rest for the Cardinals' bullpen should make the difference, sending the Mets back to New York down 3-2 and likely forcing Game 7 on Thursday.
The Red Sox retain a decent cadre of prospects despite promoting Jon Papelbon, Jon Lester, Craig Hansen, and Manny Delcarmen this year while dealing Cla Meredith and Adam Stern. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury both should join the starting lineup within the next year while rookies also will begin filling some of the bench spots formerly occupied by overpaid journeymen. Meanwhile, the late-season addition of George Kottaras plugs the biggest hole in the system with a catcher capable of starting everyday if Jason Varitek suffers additional injury problems. Boston appears weaker compared to last year's class of prospects and the organization still lacks great depth, but the burgeoning farm system remains on the upswing and soon should begin producing annual classes of talent to supplement the current big league core of David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Papelbon, Josh Beckett, and whichever outfielders survive this winter's machinations.
Current ranking of potentially helpful fantasy depth for teams discussed thus far in 2006, based on both the quality and quantity of players ready to contribute in the majors, as well as consideration of the trade value of low-level minor leaguers from each system:
1. Boston Red Sox(Pedroia, Ellsbury, Kottaras)
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