Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
The Yankees' Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007
1. Philip Hughes, 20, RH Starter
Selected as the twenty-third pick in the 2004 draft with the compensation pick for Andy Pettitte, Hughes ranks as the best pitching prospect developed by the organization in no less than a decade and potentially far longer than that. With a career ERA slightly above 2.00 and a 269:54 K:BB in 237 IP, nothing here indicates Hughes will encounter any difficulties when he reaches New York in 2007. Any other organization would consider him almost unilaterally untouchable, and I can't believe even the Yankees would deal someone with his upside. He probably ranks as the best right-handed rookie in the game, and if he breaks camp as the Yankees' fifth starter, spend to $10 without blinking. I see no reason Hughes can't earn at least that much, especially lodged in the rotation behind Randy, Wang, and at least one more veteran. Otherwise select him with a high draft pick in any league where he remains available.
Thompson absolutely excelled when playing in New York, demonstrating excellent patience, as well as sufficient speed and defense to contribute in the majors for the next decade. If the Yankees can't find a spot for him in 2007 as a superior fifth outfielder to Bubba Crosby, hopefully another team will liberate him over the winter given Thompson's immediate upside. As long as he breaks camp in the majors, Thompson will warrant a few bucks in almost any league, especially if you can slot him at the end of your outfield and watch him head toward double-digit value based on his steals and average.
Sometimes overlooked next to Philip Hughes yet still frequently mentioned in trade talks this summer, Clippard will advance to Triple-A in the spring and should spend the summer as no worse than the Yankees' sixth starter. While the club still could deal him, his continued dominance just might provide New York with three very solid homegrown starters by next fall. Drafting him in fairly deep AL leagues is a decent gamble, and if you see Clippard available on waivers, grab him in the hope that he maintains this level of effectiveness in the majors.
Losing the last several weeks of the summer to a thumb injury hasn't prevented Tabata from returning in the Venezuelan Fall League, playing shockingly well given his age and experience. Considering he spent the entire season as a seventeen-year-old, Tabata ranks with the top long-term prospects in the game, warranting plenty of attention as a future fantasy superstar and Yankees' mainstay if they resist all the trade entreaties. He just might push to replace Bobby Abreu by 2008, and although I don't expect Tabata to earn an everyday job until the following season, you should demand no less than a $40 stud if looking to deal him any time soon. Don't be afraid to move him if you receive a decent package since his current 2.40 G-F suggests a slow growth curve in his power development
Beginning a second season at Trenton apparently provided Karstens with the incentive to pitch effectively for a full season despite increasing strikeout problems. Excellent control allowed him to remain successful in the majors, and although I don't see significant upside in his skills, Karstens probably belongs in the Yankees' bullpen as a long reliever and spot starter. Of course, he might break camp as the fifth starter if Philip Hughes and Tyler Clippard don't wow anyone, but regardless of his initial level and role, wait until Karstens demonstrates his 2006 numbers weren't a fluke before deploying him on a regular basis.
With the upside of Ryan Freel yet lacking any clear path to the majors, Christian simply doesn't warrant a roster spot in any fantasy league for the moment. However, keep an eye on his progress with the intention of FAABing him the second he hits the majors. Christian only needs playing time to begin racking dozens of steals.
One of the best baserunners in organized baseball, Gardner also possesses sufficient batting skill to warrant consideration for the majors as soon as next summer. His .255/.331/.306 MLE averages, coupled with an acceptable 1.65 G-F, gives Gardner plenty of potential to emerge as a nice complement to Johnny Damon on Yankee Stadium's basepaths. Of course, Gardner lacks the power to warrant a corner outfield spot, so either he'll push Damon to a corner, he'll spent most of his time as a fourth outfielder, or New York will leverage him into a more necessary asset given the demand for pure leadoff man with adequate defensive skills. Only the decent odds of that last scenario occurring keep me from endorsing the drafting of Gardner in any standard league, instead relegating him merely to AL leagues with moderately deep farm systems.
The Yankees claimed Rasner off waivers from the Nationals in February despite a desperate need for starting pitching in Washington. Although Rasner required a 60-day DL stay during the height of summer due to shoulder soreness, he impressed during both the spring and fall, placing himself in contention for a big league job in 2007. If he can maintain an average WHIP in the majors, he could merit plenty of fantasy consideration surprisingly early in the year.
Beam's high flyball rate unfortunately leaves him with a very small margin for error, one dramatically exploited by big league hitters this summer. Yet his otherwise dominant skills, coupled with an impressive AFL performance, place him atop the list of AAAA options for the Yankees, perhaps even allowing him to break camp in the majors with a good camp. If he can echo his minor league numbers in New York, Beam should warrant a fantasy roster spot some time next summer.
The successor to Huston Street as the Texas closer, Cox continued excelling in his second professional season. He appeared on a track for a late-season promotion until encountering mild health problems, yet I see no reason he can't continue to New York in 2007. Despite mild control problems, Cox should emerge as the first young homegrown reliever developed by the Yankees in several seasons.
Virtually stalled at Trenton, Sardinha's late-season promotion to Columbus reignited his prospect light. Perhaps he won't fulfill the organizational expectations from when the Yankees selected him in the first round in 2001, but Sardinha definitely merits a shot in the majors in the near future. Hopefully New York either will give him a long look during spring training or can send him somewhere with more amenable to scout-friendly, inconsistent outfielders.
Briefly summoned to New York in each of the last two years, a separated shoulder ended Reese's season in mid-June and destroyed an excellent opportunity for him to gain big league experience during the Matsui and Sheffield injuries. Now he appears behind Melky Cabrera, Bubba Crosby, and Kevin Thompson on the depth chart, which drastically reduces his odds for more time with the Yankees unless he enjoys an excellent camp. With Reese's walk and steal totals dropping and relatively little fantasy upside here, he just doesn't appear ready to contribute to an overly competitive team.
Strong plate discipline continues to compensate for Cannizaro's limited power, earning him a September call-up. Of course, he'll never receive regular playing time in New York and also lacks the upside to merit that shot, leaving him as little more than roster filler at best. He isn't someone you want on a contending fantasy team.
Widely dismissed as a prospect after capping this wholly unimpressive season with an awful AFL campaign, Henn's solid groundball rate and previously workable control will lead to no less than a bullpen job in the majors. Don't discount him from contributing to the Yankees in 2007 even if he isn't someone to target for fantasy teams at this time.
Poor performances in the International and Arizona Fall Leagues accompanied this slight uptick from his 2005 AA stats, sharply reducing Duncan's value for the second straight winter. He no longer enjoys a clear path to the majors even if dealt, and with defensive questions at both third and first base, Duncan's likely upside continues to drop. Only owners in relatively deep leagues should continue to carry him as even significant improvement in his AAA numbers won't restore Duncan's prospect status to its former level.
Colter Bean, 29, RH Reliever
Continually effective in relief yet shockingly dominant in six late-season starts, Bean's AAA performance over the past four years simply demands an extended look in the majors. I don't care if scouts continue to doubt him and a creeping walk rate suggests concentration problems. His body of work warrants another promotion, and if the Yankees won't give him that opportunity, New York needs to cut him loose now before induced malaise completely destroys Bean's formerly superlative skill set.
His demotion into Trenton's rotation allowed Childers to post respectable stats as a starter for the first time in years, but his previous AAA difficulties demonstrate the obstacles he faces to receiving regular big league innings. A comparatively weak strikeout rate simply suggests very limited upside, so unless he takes advantage of any further opportunity as injury filler, Childers will remain in the upper minors indefinitely.
DePaula's 2004 injury effectively destroyed his prospect status, and although I still see plenty to like here, his main path for advancement now appears in the bullpen due to his reduced strikeout rate. Until he makes that switch to relief, he could continue posting mediocre AAA performances indefinitely, requiring an extremely lucky break for more than the briefest additional big league appearance.
Failing to sign as a first rounder with Cleveland in 2001, Horne instead required Tommy John in college, slipping to the eleventh round in 2005. His professional debut this summer nevertheless impressed me, and although he appears at risk for a demotion to the bullpen at some point, his strong strikeout rate will keep Horne starting indefinitely. Don't be surprised if you see him pushing for a big league job late next fall, albeit not one likely to earn him any positive fantasy value sooner than 2008.
Acquired in the Tony Womack deal last winter, Howard backtracked dramatically from his 2005 Southern League numbers, declining in virtually every statistical category. After never hitting below .285, this comparatively awful BA destroys his value and gives him scant chance to reach the majors any time soon.
Finally freed of the Yankees after seven seasons without so much as a cup-of-coffee in New York, the minor league free agent should find a better opportunity with a club less focused on employing viable defensive replacements on their big league bench. Jones possesses decent patience and a respectable power bat, and despite his declining power numbers over the past couple years, he at least appears capable of hitting left-handers in the majors. A buck of FAAB spent here could pay nice dividends if you see Jones available as a free agent during the year.
Kennard's first successful season in the upper minors gives him a base from which to enjoy no less than several seasons at the same level. However, his strikeout rate and generally respectable skills hint at greater potential, and if he echoes these stats after another promotion, he should hit the majors within a couple of years.
Holding left-handers to a .163 BA on a 45:7 K:BB in 35.2 IP with 20 H and 3 HR demonstrates that Manning possesses the necessary skills to succeed in the majors. Yes, he likely needs another year or two of AAA seasoning and may never develop into more than a specialist, but the former starting prospect deserves a long look in camp. Manning appears better positioned to succeed in New York than the majority of journeyman southpaws likely to spend spring training in Tampa.
Virtually across-the-board improvement for Marquez gives him the chance to reach New York as soon as next summer, though due to an elevated hit rate, a move to relief looks likely. Definitely wait until you see him succeed at a much higher level before rostering Marquez.
Stuck with a perennially awful OBP due to his limited patience at the plate, Nieves doesn't deserve his current spot on the Yankees' 40-man roster. Yes, he possesses a little power and just might post positive value as Jorge Posada's backup, but plenty of minor league free agents own more fantasy upside. Even though New York likes him, Nieves does not belong on your team.
While Ruiz doesn't deserve a long look as a minor league free agent with no Triple-A experience, his development into a professional hitter continues to intrigue me. His .349/.405/.669 performance for AA Reading last summer truly warranted a promotion, however posting a negligible platoon split in a second tour of the Eastern League suggests he could surface for a brief look in the majors. Don't automatically ignore Ruiz if he manages to break through onto your league's free agent list.
The former Tampa starting prospect blossomed in his second full season as a reliever this summer. Demonstrating a well-rounded skill set and plenty of dominance, Veras should receive a very long look in Yankees' camp next spring. If he opens the year in the majors, he could warrant a spot on your roster by the end of April if his command continues improving.
Only selected in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, White finally remained healthy and effective for a full season, quickly earning a promotion to Triple-A and finishing the summer on the cusp of the majors. Of course, I don't view him as a future starter in New York due to his unimpressive skill set and somewhat limited upside, but if moved to the bullpen, he could develop into a real asset. Otherwise the Yankees should deal him now while his trade value remains high as a nominal starting prospect capable of contributing for a team with fewer secure options.
7:05: Detroit@St. Louis
While Nate Robertson should perform admirably, the Cardinals possess all the relevant momentum due to the combination of starting Chris Carpenter, returning home, and watching the national media dissect Kenny Rogers' magical dirt spot over the last two days.
Although I see more youngsters here with significant fantasy upside than in Boston's minors and a greater number of viable late-round picks than fielded by the Tinws, only Philip Hughes appears certain to join the Yankees and play regularly. All the other prospects, from speedsters like Kevin Thompson and Justin Christian to relievers like T.J. Beam and J.B. Cox and even long-term options like Jose Tabata and Brett Gardner face plenty of hurdles to reaching New York. Hughes only overcomes the standard anti-rookie bias due to his ranking among the top couple of pitching prospects in the game. The Yankees still possess a cadre of highly-compensated veterans who only will cede playing time through injury and long-term decline, such as the gradual usurpation of Bernie Williams by Melky Cabrera. Treating Yankees' rookies other than Hughes and possibly Tabata and Gardner as anything more than potential FAAB bait places completely ignores Joe Torre's historical reluctance to incorporate youngsters into his regular playing time rotation.
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. Kansas City Royals(A.Gordon, B.Butler, Ju.Huber, Lubanski)
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