Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
1. Freddy Guzman, 25, OF-S
Dealt to Texas in May with Cesar Rojas for Vince Sinisi and John Hudgins, Guzman failed to break into the Texas outfield due to the unexpected emergence of Gary Matthews, Jr. Now, with Matthews virtually certain to leave in free agency and Guzman fully recovered from his 2005 Tommy John surgery, the fleet youngster appears the current favorite to start in center next year. With excellent plate discipline, baserunning instincts, and defensive range, Guzman looks like a great fit between potential starters Brad Wilkerson and Nelson Cruz while adding a welcome dose of speed to the bottom of the order. While he offers no power of note, his BA/SB upside in Arlington elevates Guzman to the $20 range if he breaks camp as a starter.
Perhaps the biggest fantasy sleeper in the system, Botts stands to benefit the most from the managerial change as Buck Showalter never warmed to the young slugger. Ron Washington's experience in Oakland should make Botts a much better fit in the new system. If the Rangers fail to add multiple veteran bats over the winter, Botts will enter camp as the favorite to DH while Brad Wilkerson, Freddy Guzman, Nelson Cruz, and Victor Diaz also compete for OF/DH at-bats alongside any new additions. Of course, Botts simply doesn't need more minor league experience as he managed a 4.22 #P/PA and 1.00 G-F in the majors while registering .258/.328/.476 MLE averages and a 1.05 G-F. He deserves 400 at-bats for Texas in 2007, and if the team deals Mark Teixeira, this former first baseman looks like the best alternative. Ignore his BA downside and plan to spend a few bucks on Botts if he breaks camp in the majors, otherwise considering anteing at least a mid-round minor league pick on someone with this much HR/RBI upside.
A skyrocketing walk rate sabotaged Volquez's development, likely a side effect of his rise from A-ball to the majors in 2005 following only ten games in the upper minors. However, his strikeout and hit rates continue to depict a pitcher with plenty of upside, and if he endears himself to the Rangers' new coaching staff, he easily could open the year in the big league rotation. Unfortunately, the club's historical lack of patience with young starters could create plenty of problems for Volquez, who could find himself shunted to the bullpen if he doesn't produce immediately. He appears far too risky for anyone to gamble more than an endgame flyer, and even then only risk the pick-up if you can keep Volquez reserved until he posts an extended run of successful starts.
Although Danks performed respectably during his first full campaign in the upper minors, a mediocre WHIP and sub-1.00 groundball rate leave him little margin for error. The Rangers probably should return him to Triple-A, allowing Danks to gain more experience in a comparatively low pressure situation before promoting him to the majors after the trade deadline creates an opening in the Texas rotation. Despite his excellent long-term potential, he doesn't deserve my recommendation as a fantasy prospect at this time due to the obstacles to success he faces in 2007, so only roster Danks if you see him producing during the season.
While I wish I could endorse Arias to fantasy owners, he simply faces too steep a hill in his path to the majors. He failed to exceed twenty walks for the second straight season despite once again tallying over 490 at-bats. Unimpressive baserunning instincts limit his upside in steals, and most troublingly, he posted his worst average since A-ball without offsetting the BA drop with a power spike. Arias possesses sufficient defensive skills to force Mike Young from shortstop, but without immediate offensive upside anywhere near Young's level, his best bet for advancement looks like settling for a bench spot, where he at least merits a Dollar Days' gamble as likely trade bait from your MIF slot. Otherwise don't bother selecting Arias before the later rounds of your minor league draft
Gradually ascending the Rangers' minor league ladder since joining the club in the 2002 draft, Gold finally broke out in the Texas League, demonstrating solid plate discipline while posting his best averages since Rookie-ball. He now ranks as the only real first base prospect in the system, and if Jason Botts fails to take advantage of all available opportunities in 2007, Gold will emerge as the likely successor when Scott Boras steers Mark Teixeira back home to Baltimore in free agency. Spending a late-round pick on Gold could net a couple years of really cheap production, though you also should realize that he won't possess much trade value barring surprising success following an unexpected mid-season promotion next summer.
Continuing to demonstrate excellent plate discipline and good baserunning skills while ascending the minor league ladder significantly elevates Hulett's prospect profile. Although his lack of power should limit him to a bench job, a good camp could push him into the majors as soon as next spring due to the Rangers' lack of disciplined infield talent in the upper levels of the system. If available as a free agent, Hulett almost certainly won't hurt you, however he also offers far less upside than most young backups.
The Rangers' sleeper pitching prospect and prospective member of the HDVD rotation at Triple-A with John Danks, Edinson Volquez, and Thomas Diamond, Hurley probably possesses the most trade value in the system after his dominant month in the Texas League. Matching a high strikeout rate with a solid WHIP makes him a safer gamble than Diamond, and Hurley's history of respectable walk rates indicates less downside than Danks and Volquez. I see nothing to worry me in these stats other than a mild dip his innings due to a mild oblique strain that ended his summer two weeks early. If you find yourself desirous of drafting a Rangers' rookie pitcher, snagging Hurley in the last round offers more fantasy potential than any of his likely 2007 teammates.
Right now Diamond looks like a good comp for Edinson Volquez despite posting less impressive stats at a lower level than his former teammate. John Danks, two years younger than Diamond, received a mid-season promotion to Triple-A, but the Rangers' third top pitching prospect only realized marginal gains in his second summer at Frisco. With an elevated walk rate and flyball problems presenting obvious difficulties for the right-hander, a move to the bullpen appears potentially warranted if he struggles at Oklahoma in 2007. Of course, Diamond's dominance could let him shoot to the closer's role in Texas, so although I can't recommend him now, he might emerge as a solid keeper next summer.
I see far more to like here than in the profiles presented by any other Rangers' outfield prospect who didn't reach the majors this summer. Harrison excelled in the Cal League and remained very successful for Frisco. Though his lower walk rate concerns me, everything here depicts someone perfectly capable of developing into a reliable reserve outfielder. He could push Nelson Cruz and Victor Diaz for at-bats by the second half of 2007.
As Webster's slow development prompted the trade for Freddy Guzman, the six-year veteran doesn't factor into the Rangers' plans as more than a backup. Considering he lacks Guzman's patience, speed, and defensive skills, Webster probably doesn't deserve anything more than a Triple-A berth right now. If Texas signs a veteran or two in the outfield, Guzman will remain on the big league bench and Webster never will see the inside of Arlington, leaving him negligible current value.
Masset followed Josh Rupe's ascent over the past year by reaching Triple-A, shifting to the bullpen, and then earning a shot in Texas. While a superior strikeout rate gives Masset one edge on his September teammate, I need to see additional success from Masset before recommending him in any league. Considering he also faces significant competition for a spot in the Rangers' relief corps, he shouldn't earn much roto value in 2007 despite some chance of developing into a closer by decade's end.
Claimed off waivers from Seattle two weeks ago merely fourteen month after the Mariners snagged him in identical fashion from the Indians, Cruceta only needs a good spring to find a significant role on the Rangers. He finished second in the minors in strikeouts and maintained acceptable all-around skill rates, which while not portending much success as a starter do hint at dramatic upside in the bullpen. Of course, right now he looks like a probable member of the Texas rotation given the pending free agent departures of Adam Eaton and Vicente Padilla, though if the Rangers add a couple of free agents as expected, Cruceta should blossom in relief.
Elbow problems cost Rupe much of the first half, though his conversion to the bullpen obviously worked out nicely down the stretch. Yes, a low strikeout rate could create problems, but Rupe also owns one of the best groundball rates in the minors, nicely minimizing his downside in Arlington. While not someone to target due to his low likelihood of receiving many save opps, Rupe also shouldn't hurt if needed as short-term roster filler.
The 2005 first round pick from Stanford simply doesn't impress me. He only played in the Midwest League at an age when many of his former teammates played at Double-A or higher. Scouts also hate his long swing, so while Mayberry should develop into a decent corner outfielder, his minimal immediate upside harshly limits his current fantasy value. However, he progresses to the California League next summer, so though I can't advocate drafting him particularly high in any draft, he shouldn't hurt you as an end-round flyer for teams looking for prospect trade bait.
Casey Benjamin, 26, SS-R
Benjamin shockingly will enter camp more deserving on a spot on the Rangers' bench than respective current and former top prospects Joaquin Arias and Drew Meyer. The independent league refugee adds a little power and speed to solid plate discipline, however despite Benjamin's decent production to date, nothing in his statistical history indicates much hope of posting much positive fantasy value in the majors.
Texas dumped David Dellucci to the Phillies at the end of spring training in a move designed to add depth, which succeeded as Robinson Tejeda emerged as the most reliable young starter in the rotation by year's end. However, acquiring Hank's little brother in the deal proved largely irrelevant as Jake again failed to demonstrate any power potential for the second straight summer. At least his averages barely dropped after leaving A-ball, but I just don't see the majors in his future without significantly and completely unexpected development at the plate.
Despite suffering through a tough summer limited by both injury and ineffectiveness, Galarraga somehow enters the winter as the Rangers' best bet to recoup long-term value from the Alfonso Soriano deal following Terrmel Sledge's trade to San Diego and Brad Wilkerson's health problems. Yet he still hasn't posted an ERA below 5.00 above A-ball, and given his lack of dominance in the past, expect an overt breakout from Galarraga seems unwise. Expect him to spend the year in the upper minors preparing for a possible September call-up, possessing zero roto value until that promotion occurs.
The Rangers snagged the former White Sox prospect in a July trade with Philadelphia after Texas tired of keeping Rule 5 pick Fabio Castro on the active roster. While Haigwood looked good for Reading, his continued control deterioration in the Texas League presents an obvious problem despite his respectable ERA. He appears far behind most of the Rangers' other upper-level pitching prospects and soon may shift to the bullpen unless his command improves.
Possessing excellent control allowed the 2005 Pepperdine product to shoot to Double-A after only a year as a professional. However, Kometani's skills generally declined at Frisco, and as he already possesses far less upside than most of his teammates, a move to the bullpen appears appropriate due to his growing platoon split. He won't possess any fantasy value until he begins succeeding as a lefty specialist in the majors.
The minor league free agent really should try to find a club where he can work in relief to see if he can wring any improvement from his mediocre skills as a starter. Simply possessing good control isn't sufficient to merit Lee an otherwise overdue shot in the majors.
Pummeling A-ball pitchers obviously didn't prepare Mahar for the Texas League as his batting average dropped fifth points, more than matched by an even greater OBP decline. While his decent power bats should keep him in the upper minors for several years, Mahar needs a strong rebound in 2007 or else risks blowing a good chance for advancement given the Rangers' currently unsettled outfield situation.
Historically any upper-level Rangers' starter could reach the majors at any time, however with no less than a half-dozen widely admired prospects now standing between Mathis and the similarly youthful pitchers likely to open the year in the big league rotation, Mathis looks like no more than organizational filler right now. Simply experiencing success in the California League merely makes Mathis someone to monitor if promoted next summer. Do not draft him in any league at this time.
Watching his averages drop in his second AAA season leaves Meyer in a very precarious position. The tenth player selected in 2002 no longer rates as a prospect and now profiles best as a utilityman, but if can't hit, he'll never see more than an occasional cup-of-coffee. Wait until he begins producing in the majors before rostering Meyer anywhere.
Departing the Oakland organization simply didn't agree with Morrissey. The minor league free agent watched all his AAA averages drop for the second straight year, so while I still see some upside for him on a big league bench, he probably won't reach the majors for another couple of summers.
A nice power stroke and a history of success against right-handers remain Murphy's primary assets. Though he performed nicely in his first full campaign as a professional, he needs at least two more years of seasoning and still might plateau as no more than a AAAA talent.
Poveda possesses no fantasy value right now, but he merits some attention after registering solid strikeout and walk rates in his first full season as a professional despite not turning nineteen until late September. He could shoot up prospect lists if he echoes these numbers at Bakersfield, so remember Poveda's name when perusing the California League leader boards.
Signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2002, Richardson finally emerged as a decent prospect this summer in his first full campaign in the upper minors. He demonstrated both patience and plenty of power, very useful skills for a catcher seeking a shot as a big league backup. Given the Rangers' limited depth at his position, Richardson just might receive a promotion next summer if injury fells Gerald Laird or whichever veteran initially lands the bench job as Laird's caddy.
A lack of guaranteed playing time remains the primary obstacle for most of these prospects. Freddy Guzman and Jason Botts regularly appear near the top of these prospect lists yet can't seem to earn regular at-bats in the majors. Ameriquest Field also continues to rank among baseball's top batters' park, dramatically limiting the utility of Rangers' pitching prospects. Yet despite a worrisome lack of lower-level talent, a complete lack of high-upside position players, and the 2006 matriculation of Ian Kinsler, Scott Feldman, Wes Littleton to the majors, I see sufficient talent here to rank the Rangers' minor league organization in the middle of AL teams. Hopefully Jon Daniels signs a couple of hitters and starters to short-length deals, exploits the picks received from the anticipate signings of Carlos Lee, Gary Matthews, Adam Eaton, and Vicente Padilla on other clubs, and then deals the newly-acquired veterans for a boatload of prospects in July. Of course, the club also could gel under Ron Washington, taking full advantage of an infield loaded with current and future All-Stars, the upside offered by a half-dozen young fireballers, and the historical post-Showalter bump to match the recent ascents of the Red Sox, White Sox, and Tigers to a Series berth. Retaining that core of talent while supplementing the current heart-of-the-order with offensive assets in the outfield remains the key to long-term success in Texas, particularly since the approaching wave of pitchers should stabilize the staff into the next decade.
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. Tampa Bay Devil Rays(Delm.Young, Dukes, Riggans, Brignac, Longoria)
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