Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
1. Josh Fields, 23, 3B-R
Fields simply dominated the International League in only his second full professional season. The 18th player selected in 2004, Fields improved every facet of his game, even demonstrating shockingly good speed. His performance demands an everyday job 2008, preferably Chicago's if the club makes a logical trade such as swapping Joe Crede and Neal Cotts for Erick Aybar, Jeff Mathis, and Hector Carrasco. If the Sox keep Crede, Fields should replace Scott Podsednik in left or move to another franchise with an obvious third base opening, but as long as he breaks camp as a starter somewhere, push into double digits for someone with the potential to hit $30 within the next three seasons.
Chicago's 2nd round pick from 2003 advanced to the International League while nicely improving upon his .298/.357/.371 from AA Birmingham last year. Sweeney needs to develop more power. His plate discipline also continued deteriorating from his A-ball numbers. Yet since he only turns 22 in February, Sweeney probably ranks as the best long-term prospect in the system. Feel free to treat him as the natural heir to Jermaine Dye, and if Sweeney returns to Charlotte as expected and bumps his OPS near .900, he'll rank with the top rookies in baseball in 2008. I see no reason not to consider him a strong fantasy pick in any reasonably deep AL league, and if a strong camp lets him usurp Scott Podsednik, bidding several bucks here at least gives you excellent trade bait due to the high likelihood that Sweeney can maintain a .280+ BA.
Perhaps Owens can consolidate his halted development with a second season at Charlotte, but given the likelihood of him spending next year on Chicago's bench, we can ignore his $30 upside and focus on his immediate fantasy prospects. If the Sox dump Scott Podsednik, Owens will receive plenty of stolen base opportunities, making him a superb late-round option in any league. He could hit double-digit value even if Podsednik stays, so while I don't envision him regularly starting for Ozzie Guillen, Owens nevertheless merits plenty of fantasy attention.
Ideally named for a future prime-time pitcher, Broadway unfortunately lacks the dominance to emerge as more than a middle-of-the-rotation arm. Of course, if the Sox trade an expensive starter as expected to open a rotation slot for Brendan McCarthy, Broadway should begin the season as the club's sixth starter. Don't expect any extended run of special performances from him, but he could contribute surprising value as a rookie and might warrant late-round consideration in deep AL leagues with a good spring.
The knuckleballer emerged as one of the unlikeliest upper-level pitching prospects in the game, even earning a spot start for the Sox by virtue of his outstanding AAA performance. He doesn't offer much upside in standard roto due to his high walk rate, but with intriguing upside and the inevitable rubber arm, he fits perfectly as Chicago's long man once Brandon McCarthy enters the rotation. However, even though Haeger's progress over the last three years suggests Wakefieldesque potential, you simply can't roster him until he demonstrates extended success in the majors due to the inherent volatility of young knuckeballers.
Lacking the offensive upside to start in the majors, Rogowski still could supplant Ross Gload on Chicago's bench given his comparable overall skills and superior speed to the veteran backup. I suspect he'll instead see another campaign at Charlotte, but if given the opportunity, he could earn a couple of bucks in a limited role. Rogowski just isn't someone worthy of regular at-bats barring completely unexpected power development.
The 6'8" Russell appears headed to the bullpen at some point, but after demonstrating surprisingly strong skills at Birmingham, Chicago should leave him in the rotation for another year or two. Yet his dominance in the early innings suggests greater potential as a reliever, and given his respectable if mediocre numbers to date, Russell could shoot to the majors in a more limited role. Unfortunately, that uncertainty prevents me from endorsing him in any fantasy league at this time.
Tracey entered Chicago's sports consciousness when his failure to hit Hank Blalock on Ozzie Guillen's orders resulted in an immediate demotion preceded only by an Ozzie tirade in the dugout that made Tracey cry. Rather than mope, he returned to Charlotte and continued pitching well as a starter, earning two additional promotions to the bullpen bench. A good spring easily could secure him a spot in the Sox relief corps next summer, and although his highly questionable command limits him as a starter, I see plenty of upside for Tracey as a reliever. Keep an eye on his progress to see if he warrants mid-season consideration as roster filler.
The 2004 13th round pick improved across-the-board in the Carolina League, then remained extremely effective in a late-season quartet of AA starts. Egbert belongs in any conversation of Chicago's better pitching prospects, and with little obvious downside, he should develop into no less than a decent reliever within the next few years.
Cunningham ranks as the best of Chicago's lower-level position prospects, and with Fields, Sweeney, and Owens knocking on the door of the majors, Cunningham could top this list within the next couple of years. With seven solid skills and plenty of time to develop, I envision him pushing $20 by the end of the decade. He still could crash and burn upon facing upper-level pitching, and I can't endorse rostering him now due to the cadre of young outfielders on the 40-man roster, but Cunningham's upside at least merits mention here.
One more solid season at Charlotte should place Lopez atop the list of candidates for a reserve infield job in 2008. He possesses decent power, a little speed, and some of the best defensive skills of anyone in the organization. While he never should start, he shouldn't hurt you if occasionally needed once he actually reaches Chicago.
Solid plate discipline remains Gonzalez's best attribute as his minimal power and erratic basestealing capability effectively render him no more than a AAAA option. He could post decent numbers in Chicago if given the opportunity, but unless desperate for speed, most fantasy teams should ignore him indefinitely.
Perhaps Phillips doesn't dominate hitters, but his performance at Charlotte still deserved a big league promotion in September. Chicago's failure to recall the southpaw thoroughly suggests he doesn't factor into the organization's long-term plans. Coupled with his lack of dominance, Phillips possesses surprisingly little value for someone capable of pitching this well in the International League.
Finishing the year with a combined 0.81 ERA on a 91:19 K:BB in 77.2 IP with 46 H and 3 HR probably makes Perez the best relief prospect in the organization. His absolute dominance at three levels suggests excellent long-term upside, and although I want to see another couple months of solid work before endorsing him anywhere, expect Perez to pop up on your free agent list in the very near future.
One of the club's best infield prospects entering the season, Getz's complete lack of power and overall offensive potential limits him to a utility role at best. Fortunately impressive plate discipline and respectable speed give him ideal tools for that role, so although he merits scant attention now, he could contribute as an endgame middle infielder by the end of the decade.
Ray Liotta, 23, LH Starter
Chicago's best remaining pitching prospect following the inclusion of Gio Gonzalez and Dan Haigwood in the Jim Thome deal, Liotta significantly slipped this summer. His limited dominance resulted in an unimpressive performance for Birmingham, and he completely imploded after his demotion back to Winston-Salem. With a rapidly dropping ceiling and plenty of competition for starts in Chicago, Liotta appears worthless right now in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.
Following Boone Logan's rise from short-season ball to the Opening Day roster, any decent Sox southpaw merits a slightly longer look. Marshall's fantastic performance already demanded a decent opportunity in spring training given his combination of overall effectiveness and tremendous groundball rate yet now seems capable of propelling him straight to the majors. Like any minor league reliever, Marshall needs to succeed in the majors before deserving a fantasy roster spot but I see plenty of long-term upside in these numbers.
Chicago's top pick in June out of U Texas-Austin, the 6'3" starter dominate the Pioneer League for a month, then surprisingly remained relatively effective in the Carolina League into September. McCulloch certainly needs at least another year-and-a-half of seasoning and doesn't possess outstanding upside, but he also should move quickly given the relative lack of competition in the lower levels of the organization. Expect him to rank among the top three pitchers here by next fall.
Unexpectedly outrighted off the 40-man roster earlier this month despite a decent season, Montero needs to take advantage of his next opportunity or risk sliding back to the minors for good. Signing with a club like the Royals at least would give him the opportunity to succeed in a lower-pressure environment.
The combination of Boone Logan's ascent and regressing back to the Southern league probably kills Munoz's chance to emerge as a reliable reliever with the White Sox. Although I still expect him to enjoy a lengthy big league career, he desperately needs a change of scenery before he'll receive that needed look in the majors.
Gradually ascending the minor league ladder finally brought Reynoso within spitting distance of the majors this year. Unfortunately, his continued control problems severely limit his upside and therefore could keep him in the upper minors indefinitely. I don't consider Reynoso a likely candidate to earn positive fantasy value any time soon.
An extremely mediocre AAA campaign probably will prevent Stewart from securing the backup job in 2007. His across-the-board offensive drop-off also suggests the Sox should explore alternatives outside the organization in the search for A.J. Pierzynski's eventual successor. Don't draft Stewart until he begins succeeding in the majors.
Hopefully this solid campaign as the AA closer will allow Wassermann to maintain his role for the fourth straight season while advancing to AAA Charlotte. Of course, the severe drop in his command from A-ball concerns me, as does his shrinking strikeout rate. Only continued effectiveness despite questionable skills will give Wassermann any shot at reaching the majors.
7:05: St. Louis@New York Mets
Returning home should provide the Mets all the necessary incentive to force Game Seven.
With 90 wins and the best record of any team that missed the post-season, the Sox could make no moves this winter other than picking up options on Mark Buehrle and Tadahito Iguchi, watch Sandy Alomar and David Riske leave, and still enter next year in fantastic shape to make the playoffs. Yet reloading now would insure continued contention for the rest of the decade. With Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye, Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez, and Buehrle all free agents after 2007, dealing Crede and one starter for a young shortstop, catcher, and a couple of pitchers leaves sufficient money to re-sign Dye and Buehrle to long-term extensions. Fields and Brandon McCarthy can replace the departed veterans with Ryan Sweeney also elbowing aside Scott Podsednik within the next year, providing the Sox with the roster flexibility necessary to deal less prepared prospects for whatever needs arise during the season. The only real downside here is that outside of top few guys here, few Chicago rookies possess any significant fantasy value right now, leaving Sox fans with more to like here than any fantasy owner. Solid defense, pitching depth, and the superb Dye/Thome/Konerko heart-of-the-order insure a winning record regardless of any off-season action, and after last winter's solid series of moves, expect more action from Kenny Williams along these lines.
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. Chicago White Sox(Fields, R.Sweeney, J.Owens)
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