Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Oakland's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007
1. Daric Barton, 21, 1B-L
Beset by a fractured elbow in May and then a strained hamstring during his elbow rehab, Barton missed most of the year, failing to emerge as the logical heir to Frank Thomas at DH. The good news for him is that Dan Johnson's difficulties leave an opening for Barton if Thomas doesn't return, so despite this wasted season, Barton remains on the cusp of a big league starting job while ranking as the club's top offensive prospect. His lack of power just won't matter if he can maintain a high OBP as expected, and considering Barton's age and previous performance, continue to consider him one of the safest long-term rookies in the game.
Yes, Windsor failed to impress in a few appearances in Oakland and never demonstrated much dominance at any minor league stop. He also doesn't impress many scouts and may never push beyond the back of a big league rotation. However, I look at these numbers and see no less than another Joe Blanton. Windsor succeeded in three tough parks for pitchers, owns solid command, and faces little competition to replace Barry Zito as an Athletics' starter. He also led Cal State Fullerton to a College World Series title without blowing out his arm, which demonstrates both the level of competitiveness and discipline Billy Beane desires. Perhaps Windsor will flame out, spending his career as a Kirk Saarloos clone, but given his impressive performance to date, he merits significant consideration in every 2007 fantasy draft. Prepare to spend as much as several dollars if he breaks camp in the majors since the odds of Windsor earning double-digit value appear at least as high as those favoring him spending the summer on the Sacramento-Oakland shuttle
With Suzuki outperforming Landon Powell in nearly every prospect metric, the 2004 second round pick appears perfectly on track to replace Jason Kendall once the veteran's contract expires after next season. Suzuki's outstanding plate discipline and respectable power provide the necessary complement to his strong skills behind home, with his overall presence on the field offsetting his average defense. I consider him a superb minor league draft pick as he should last to a relatively late round in most leagues despite the great probability of him providing you with a free starting catcher no later than 2008.
Excellent patience couldn't push Melillo past Double-A this summer after he shot from short-season ball to Midland during the previous year. He looks like the logical heir to Mark Ellis at second base, but increasing strikeouts could leave him in a utility role. Conversely, given Oakland's limited middle infield depth, so adroitly demonstrated in the playoffs when Mark Kiger made his big league debut in the ALCS, Melillo appears in line for significant at-bats when injuries strike. A late-round pick spent on Melillo should pay more immediate dividends than gambling on any 2006 draftee aside from Evan Longoria and Andrew Miller.
Among the scant bright spots in an awful year for Oakland prospects, the 2005 first round pick surged through the California League and then remained highly effective in the Texas League before groin problems sidelined him in mid-July. Good doubles' power and solid speed skills all depict a well-rounded player capable of thriving in the Athletics' outfield, likely as Mark Kotsay's replacement despite less range than normally desired in center. However, Buck also lacks the overwhelming tool to make him a quantitative fantasy star despite a professional BA of .328. Only target him in the middle or late rounds of any minor league draft.
The Hawaiian Punch-Out, fully recovered from 2004 Tommy John surgery, spent the year at Sacramento reestablishing his pitching bona fides. Yet his short stature and general lack of dominance both suggest a future in relief, so treating him as more than a potential mid-season acquisition seems a mistake. Wait until Komine begins succeeding in the majors before adding him to your roster.
While Knox reached Double-A on schedule after spending exactly one season at each of Oakland's four lower-level affiliates, he also watched his strikeout, walk, and hit rates continue to decline. Perhaps he'll remain effective at Sacramento despite his failing command, but none of his skill trends bode well for continued success. Only his steady progress since joining the Athletics as a fourteenth round pick in 2002 keeps me from downgrading him in accordance with his unimpressive stat line.
The Northern League refugee continues to press toward the majors. While his strikeout rate dipped at Double-A, scant change in his walk and hit rates suggests he may remain successful despite limited dominance. We just might see him in Oakland next summer when Rich Harden makes his annual DL trip, though wait until Ziegler posts a decent start or two before rostering him.
The erstwhile Jairo Garcia missed a golden opportunity to secure a role in the big league bullpen when shoulder tendonitis sidelined him for the year after June. However, he only truly needs a good spring training to break camp in the majors, and if Casilla remains dominant, soon will join Kiko Calero as Oakland's primary middle relievers. Feel free to FAAB him as soon as you see Casilla echoing these skills for the Athletics.
With a career strikeout-to-walk rate over 5.0 and now a successful summer at Sacramento under his belt, Kohn deserves a long look in the majors in 2007. He probably won't receive that chance with the Athletics given their bullpen depth, but if provided the necessary opportunity with some franchise, I expect him to post unexpectedly strong numbers that easily could warrant a roster spot in many fantasy leagues.
Ken Macha's moronic antipathy toward Brown hopefully hastened his departure as managers rarely snark that a recently promoted player won't see the field barring a severe injury to the starter. Now perhaps a new manager will give Brown a fair shot at playing time based on his minor league success and big league upside rather than the histrionics many scouts enter whenever anyone opines on Moneyball's poster boy. Of course, Brown didn't help his case by posting the worst OBP of his career at Sacramento, but if he can bump his walk rate without losing any power, he could push Adam Melhuse for a bench spot next winter at the same Kurk Suzuki replaces Jason Kendall.
Despite falling short of the 100 RBI seasons enjoyed by both of Oakland's A-ball third basemen, Spanos managed a superior contact rate and batting average that translated into an excellent OBP. He just might push for a big league bench job by 2008 if he continues building on this success at Sacramento.
Shoulder problems sidelined Braden until the second half, and while he dominated a league of high school grads in Arizona, he didn't readjust to full-season ball by the end of the season. While I see plenty of promise in his previous stats, Braden needs to follow Shane Komine's footsteps in returning from injury to reestablish his prospect credentials. He isn't someone to own in 2007 fantasy leagues unless he unexpectedly shoots to the majors by September.
While Powell enjoyed a respectable season after missing all of 2005 with a torn left ACL, his Cal League numbers don't impress me at all. He even declined from his mediocre Midland stats during an awful AFL stint to date, and with Kurt Suzuki cruising toward a starting job in 2007, Powell looks like no more than a future backup or maybe trade bait for Oakland. He won't deserve a fantasy roster spot until he conquers AA pitching.
Potentially buried in the system after failing an off-season drug test and then missing the entire season due to a torn elbow ligament suffered in spring training, Herrera desperately needs to take full advantage of his 2007 berth in the California League. Barring superb off-season reports, don't bother keeping Herrera in your minors and let someone else select him in a late reserve round.
Jeff Baisley, 23, 3B-R
An impressive RBI total and .901 OPS merit some attention despite Baisley's advanced age for an A-ball prospect. He likely will develop into little no more than a platoonmate for a left-handed starter, so merely keep his name in the back of your mind if searching for sleeper prospects among Oakland's surprisingly sparse minor league corps.
Possessing plenty of patience and a little pop makes Baker a useful option on call at Triple-A. However, with Kurt Suzuki progressing to Sacramento and Jeremy Brown also surpassing Baker on the organization's depth chart, Baker needs a change of scenery to press for big league at-bats.
With neither a strikeout rate over 9.0 nor a walk rate below 3.0, Burton will struggle to push beyond AAAA status during his prime. He doesn't merit more than the briefest glance until he begins translating his minor league numbers into big league success.
Hopefully Clark will build on his two cups-of-coffee and an increasingly impressive set of winter ball stats to land a bench job in the majors next year. With good speed skills, a promising walk rate, and decent doubles' power, he offers more upside than many comparable players that would cost teams ten times as much due strictly to their additional big league experience. Consider spending a Dollar Days pick on Clark to round out your outfield if he receives the opportunity he so richly deserves.
Although Colmarino enjoyed an outwardly successful season, his averages didn't match his 2005 AA stat line. His failure to return to AAA Sacramento also demonstrates Oakland's lack of faith in his potential. Colamarino just isn't a viable fantasy prospect at this time.
The 2002 Rice product continued his steady ascent toward the majors, demonstrating solid skills and relative effectiveness despite a reverse platoon split. If Crowder can build on this performance in a second season in the upper minors, we could see him in Oakland by next fall.
Joining his fourth franchise finally allowed the minor league free agent to reach Triple-A, where he posted respectable numbers, albeit not averages that suggest a big league future for a first baseman. He also doesn't annihilate left-handers by any measure, leaving him little chance of reaching the majors as more than short-term injury filler.
Even before he lost almost all of 2005 due to injury, Fritz never demonstrated particularly impressive skills nor dominated many hitters. The thirtieth player selected in 2002, he now seems unlikely to reach the majors as a starter and might not even see much time in a bullpen.
The first player in baseball history to make his major league debut in the post-season, Kiger replaced Mark Ellis after the starting second baseman fractured his finger. Of course, Kiger barely belongs in Triple-A as he adds little power or speed while also failing to offer more than fairly adequate defense at a couple positions. I don't view him as a viable fantasy option in any league.
Like Kane County's starting third baseman Jeff Baisley, Leslie reached 100 RBI, walked plenty of times, and enjoyed a significant age advantage over many of his opponents. Only echoing these stats at Double-A Midland will push Leslie anywhere near standard prospect lists.
The former outfield prospect emerged as a shockingly good relief prospect this summer, dominating the Texas League and even remaining effective in the AFL. McBeth still needs to impress at Sacramento, a tough task given his flyball tendency, but I see no reason we shouldn't see him in Oakland by September.
Awarded the PCL MVP when voters unexpectedly balloted in Palm Beach, McClain should be embarrassed after posting these resoundingly mediocre averages. Any player possessing even the slightest sense of shame would follow Ving Rhames' lead by passing along the award to one of the many deserving prospects, such as Tucson's Alberto Callaspo and Scott Hairston, Portland's Jon Knott or Jack Cust, or possibly minor league BA leader James Loney of Las Vegas. Round Rock's Jason Hirsh and Chris Sampson and even Tacoma's Cha Baek also rank as superior options. I sympathize with McClain and his more than five thousand minor league plate appearances. He deserved no less than a pinch-hitting job in the majors a decade ago. However his window appears closed, and accepting the PCL MVP as a de facto career achievement award simply seems wrong given the multitude of better players in the circuit this summer.
Another shoulder surgery ended Meyer's season after two poor months, drastically reducing his already diminished prospect value. If healthy in the spring, Meyer might benefit from the Roy Halladay treatment, returning to A-ball to regain his confidence and then advancing affiliates once he dominates hitters at each level. Of course, given his physical and performance issues, Meyer also might just vanish into a AAA bullpen for the next decade, so don't draft him until he begins echoing his former success.
Perhaps the club's most intriguing prospect heading into the season, Pennington suffered from hamstring problems throughout the year and failed to equal even his meager .276/.364/.359 from the Midwest League in 2005. Without much demonstrated power nor a sufficiently high BA to boost his OBP to impressive levels, he barely rates discussion here and certainly doesn't seem like a valuable asset in any fantasy league. Wait until he shows something at Double-A before reinvesting in his future.
With nothing left to prove at Double-A yet definitely struggling against PCL pitching, Perry appears surprisingly far from the majors considering his .300/.384/.530 career averages prior to 2006. He needs a strong rebound at Sacramento to remain in Oakland's future plans.
A surprisingly effective reliever who continues to improve his he ascends the minor league ladder, Robertson appears positioned to challenge for a big league roster spot by mid-season. I expect him to peak in middle relief, but if you see him succeeding in his initial outings for Oakland, he shouldn't hurt you when needed as roster filler.
At least Stavisky continued whomping the ball in his second campaign at Midland, but with neither a good BA nor much overt power displayed at Sacramento, he likely will plateau in the upper minors. Despite career OBP a few points over .400, his lack of power combines with severe defensive deficiencies to destroy his value for most teams, leaving him only the thinnest of openings to succeed in the majors with the few clubs willing to give him a shot.
With nothing left to prove in the minors after three dominant AAA campaigns and no room in an Oakland outfield slotting Bobby Kielty as a fifth outfielder, Watson headed to Japan in May as the Athletics sold hid contract to Chiba Lotte. He unfortunately only managed a .274/.362/.419 performance in 186 AB overseas, so we simply don't know what the future holds for Watson. I know that he belongs on a big league bench and probably deserves a chance to play everyday, but until some team commits to giving him playing time, Watson won't possess any fantasy value.
7:05: Detroit@St. Louis
With rain in the forecast and the Cardinals carrying all the momentum, I can't see the Tigers beating Jeff Suppan, especially with St. Louis guaranteed to receive the last at-bat if necessary whenever the game concludes.
No rookie saw significant action for Oakland as the 2005 class of Nick Swisher, Dan Johnson, Joe Blanton, and Huston Street mostly solidified their standing on the Athletics. Unfortunately, the minor league system seems surprisingly bare for the first time in years as injuries devastated several top prospects, including Dan Meyer, Javi Herrera, and Cliff Pennington. Daric Barton also missed part of the year, but his overall skill and upside still provides him an excellent shot to break camp in the majors next year. Jason Windsor will receive a long look for a rotation slot, and then likely Sacramento stars Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Melillo, and Travis Buck will spend the season at Triple-A in preparation to assume starting jobs in 2008. We also could see a couple relievers like Shane Komine and Santiago Casilla see plenty of action next summer, however other than finding replacements for Barry Zito, Frank Thomas, and team at-bat leader Jay Payton, the rest of the roster appears surprisingly set, leaving little room for surprise youngsters. Other than the top few players here, Oakland prospects don't even offer as much upside as the Yankees' current rookie retinue.
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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