Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
1. Adam Lind, 23, DH/OF-L
To put Lind's 2006 performance in perspective, his batting average at New Hampshire ranks as his lowest BA for any team as a professional. The 2004 third round pick simply destroyed the upper minors, registering very respectable MLE averages of .281/.332/.427 before impressing everyone during his September cup-of-coffee. Lind registered a 4.03 #P/PA and .95 G-F with the Jays, and although his defense relegates him either to DH or into a platoon with Reed Johnson in left field, only an awful camp should keep him from spending 2007 in the majors. While his lack of speed limits his immediate roto value, Lind conversely ranks as perhaps the safest rookie in sim leagues due to the combination of his demonstrated skill level and the welcoming environment presented by the Rogers Centre. Feel free to bid into the teens in any standard league.
Losing Guillermo Quiroz on waivers leaves the Jays with Thigpen as the only overly interesting catching prospect in the whole system. He again managed an excellent OBP in his second tour of the Eastern League, and while Thigpen stumbled at Syracuse, he nicely rebounded with an excellent AFL campaign. Expect him to spend most of 2007 at Triple-A before receiving a September call-up, spending 2008 splitting starting duties with a veteran, and then assuming the full-time job the following year. Consider Thigpen a solid mid-round pick in reasonably deep AL leagues.
Despite a performance downturn in his first extended AAA action, Hattig didn't hit terribly in the minors and produced nice numbers in limited playing time for the Jays. He can handle both corners and profiles as a nice replacement for Eric Hinske at a fraction of the price. Of course, he probably should head back to Syracuse for additional seasoning until injuries create an opening in Toronto, but if you see Hattig available for a minimal FAAB bid, he offers far less downside than many players normally available as fantasy free agents.
Carrying a .386 career OBP into this season makes Roberts somewhat of a disappointment after his walk rate and power output both shrunk at Syracuse. Yet he remains a viable AAAA infielder, and if needed in the majors, probably won't hurt the Jays too badly even if he's not someone to target in any fantasy league.
Acquired from the Athletics last December for Chad Gaudin, the Jays managed to cure Majewski's previously significant contact problems at the cost of a lower batting average at Double-A. Yet his overall stats don't look too bad, and if his BA returns to his .270 career mark in 2007, he could approach a .900 OPS with any luck. Majewski possesses plenty of upside, so Toronto may yet win that deal if his plate discipline doesn't regress.
Widely considered the top high school outfielder in the draft, Snider quickly signed after Toronto selected him with the fourteenth and unexpected won MVP honors in the Appalachian League. His offensive profile gives him the opportunity to join the Jays as soon as 2009, likely playing across from Alex Rios in left field. With solid plate discipline, plenty of power potential, and minimal platoon splits, Snider ranks among the safest investments in the game of any lower-level prospect.
Between Klosterman's double-digit homers and steals, a solid AFL campaign, and his pedigree as 2004 fifth round pick from Vandebilt, I see just enough here to place him on our prospect radar. Improving his averages as he ascends through the systems bodes well for continued development. You shouldn't draft Klosterman now, but he appears poised to jump way up this list by next fall. Think Maicer Izturis with less defensive chops and more power.
Selected sixth overall in 2005, Romero deftly handled Florida State League pitchers before simply falling apart in his first month of Double-A. Fortunately for the southpaw, he rebounded in August, registering a 2-3 record on a 27:11 K:BB in 36 IP over 6 GS with 27 H, 1 HR, a .84 G-F, and a 2.75 ERA. That performance provides us with good reason to hope for continued development for Romero. While not a future star, he should push for a spot in the Jays' rotation as soon as September.
Selected in the 2005 Rule 5 draft and then returned to the Jays by a Red Sox squad that spent all summer searching for decent pitchers, Vermilyea merely returned to the minors and posted another solid season, this time in his first full summer in the International League. He unsurprisingly pitched great in relief but also remained very effective as a starter, which should bump his prospect profile yet again. Hopefully some club with a solid infield defense will liberate Vermilyea this winter and watch him pitch several dozen remarkably low-key innings next summer, posting an ERA under 4.00 for a tenth of the cost for most comparable free agents available this winter.
Possessing respectable power alone doesn't assure Patterson a place in Toronto's outfield despite the lack of overly intriguing alternatives. Right now Vernon Wells, Alexis Rios, Adam Lind, and eventually Travis Snider look like the Jays' long-term OF/DH solutions, but if the club can't re-sign Wells before next winter, Patterson could seize a job. However, given his unimpressive plate discipline and general lack of secondary tools, gambling on him before he reaches the majors makes little sense.
After splitting 2005 between both full-season A-ball affiliates and Double-A, Cannon returned to New Hampshire and watched his progress abruptly halt. Contact problems reduced his BA and OBP to unacceptable levels, negating his merely respectable power output. Perhaps he'll reemerge as a viable prospect in the International league, but right now Cannon looks like AAAA platoon fodder at best.
Excelling in the AFL after breezing through A-ball and experiencing few problems at New Hampshire should result in a long look for Yates during spring training. Of course, a full-time move to the bullpen seems inevitable given the competition for starting jobs on the Jays, so although I see a lot to like here, wait until Yates reaches the majors before considering him for your team.
A year after smacking thirty homers and 103 RBI for Syracuse, Griffin disappointingly failed to break camp in the majors and then suffered through an awful season, mercifully culminating with a broken foot in July. He'll return to Toronto for a final shot in 2007, and while the Jays should have a space available on the bench, I suspect Griffin's persistent contact problems will keep him from contributing.
The short southpaw really took to relief work at Syracuse, dominating left-handed batters with a 12:0 K:BB in 13.1 IP with 5 H, 0 HR, a 2.38 G-F, and a 0.00 ERA. Comparable work for Toronto down the stretch seemingly makes him a logical replacement for Scott Schoeneweis, though I suspect Romero will need a great camp to overwhelm the organizational inertia that prefers more experienced relievers.
Although Banks possesses outstanding control, his combination if a mediocre strikeout rate and poor groundball rate creates far too much downside for the right-hander. Pitchers with his skill set rarely succeed in parks like the Rogers Centre, so while I see a future for Banks in the majors, he appears prime trade bait for a Toronto club eagerly seeking veteran pitching help. Banks won't possess any fantasy value until he begins succeeding in the safer environment of a true pitchers' park.
While Cheng enjoyed another solid season, he didn't see much overt improvement in his stats despite repeating the Midwest League. Given his minimal platoon splits and overall dominance, I don't know why Toronto didn't advance him, but unless he switches organizations, Cheng appears on a very slow track to the majors.
A year after reemerging as a surprisingly productive infield bat, Cosby's weak plate discipline completely collapsed after a promotion to Triple-A, dragging down his stats across-the-board. Despite a general lack of infield depth throughout the system, he does not look like a viable alternative if Troy Glaus encounters further injury problems. Cosby merits no fantasy consideration until he begins producing in the majors.
De Jong finally earned a shot at Syracuse during his fourth tour of the Eastern League. His continued success at Triple-A soon should push him to AAAA status, so while I never expect him to emerge as mor than roster filler in the majors, he at least should debut fairly soon.
Only six months younger than Curtis Thigpen yet over a level below and lacking the hitting upside of the Texas product, Diaz needs to echo this performance at Double-A merely to remain in the club's plans as a future backup. He barely benefited from repeating High-A, and without any power development, Diaz's prospect status soon will dissipate.
Returning to the majors for the first time since 2001 more directly addressed the Jays' lack of infield depth than provided any endorsement of Figueroa. He rarely walks, and his formerly exceptional contact rate dipped a bit this year, further depressing his generally limited production. I still like Figueroa better than a lot of AAA talent, but he isn't someone to target in fantasy leagues.
The Mississippi product joined Toronto in the fifth round of the 2005 draft, and although he didn't impress in his debut due to a high walk rate, he looked good this summer after a two-level jump. Of course, while his high groundball rate could mitigate his lack of dominance, I see little chance for Fowler to develop into more than a decent reliever.
Another victim of the institutional bias against short right-handers, Gronkiewicz's 3.27 ERA merely ranks as his worst mark as a professional, which nicely illustrates his previous success over the past five years. Although he clearly doesn't dominate many batters, he racked 142 saves in his six-season professional career while registering a strikeout-to-walk rate over 3.0. More than the vast majority of minor league arms, Gronkiewicz clearly deserves a half season in the majors, preferably on a club like the Angels where he could act as merely one cog in an established, successful bullpen.
Inconsistent control served as Houston's primary barrier to previous success. Although he pitched more effectively after shifting to the bullpen a couple years ago, he also offers far less upside than most of the younger relievers in the Jays' 40-man roster. Don't expect Houston to emerge as more than occasional big league roster filler.
Finishing a move to relief work prompted James best season to date as he finally reached Double-A during this third campaign with Dunedin. The 2003 fifth round pick could reach the majors by year's end if he can build on this body of solid work, however he won't accrue any positive value sooner than 2008.
Only Litsch's high hit rate particularly concerns me as he otherwise possesses a well-rounded skill set that certainly warranted his mid-season promotion. He only turns 22 in March and should receive a full year at Double-A, giving us a good opportunity to see if his future holds more than a decade as a AAAA swingman.
A solid camp nearly resulted in a big league berth for Lydon, who instead posted his best season since the Sally League. The minor league free agent should land another NRI, positioning himself for a mid-season call-up and a good chance to develop into a regular big league backup within the next few years.
Turning 25 today, the 2004 fifteenth round pick from Maine turned in a fine season for New Hampshire. Unfortunately, MacDonald's clear lack of dominance could keep him in the minors indefinitely as even a move to the bullpen shouldn't result in the necessary improvement to appease most organizations. Don't expect to see him develop into a more than a AAAA arm.
Toronto aggressively pushed Purcey to Triple-A in the spring after only eight starts at New Hampshire in 2005. The 2004 first round pick struggled at Syracuse and then experienced continued problems in his return to the Eastern league. Given Purcey's history of control problems and his general lack of dominance at lower levels, he needs a strong rebound in 2007 if he doesn't want to find himself sliding into the Jays' bullpen mix.
Repeating Double-A produced Ramirez's second dynamic season in three years, however other than an outstanding ERA, nothing in his stats suggest much major league upside. An unimpressive strikeout rate almost augers for his move to the bullpen. While he could remain effective in the International league, I don't anticipate Ramirez posting positive fantasy value until switching to relief work.
Acquired in the foolish swap of Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista for Troy Glaus last winter, Santos returned to shortstop, played awful defense, and watched his once-promising bat continue to disintegrate against AAA pitching. He probably belongs at third base but right now doesn't possess the bat for catcher. Demoting Santos a level or two might be the best way for him to regain his confidence since right now he possesses scant value for the Jays while contributing nothing to fantasy teams.
Only a year after registering a 15-7 record and 3.34 ERA in 167 IP for Norfolk, Scobie found himself released after posting a 1-11 record and a 7.91 ERA in the first half of this year. He looked understandably disappointed given his previous two years of work in the upper minors didn't warrant him even a long look during spring training, so Scobie headed to Toronto and nicely rebounded for Syracuse. Now he needs to find a club with obvious starting pitching openings in the hope that he can regain his effectiveness from the past few seasons.
While Thorpe's strikeout and hit rates intrigue me, his poor walk and groundball rates would create massive problems in the Rogers Center. He needs a change of scenery to fulfill his admittedly limited promise.
While everyone enjoyed the overall experience, the pacing seemed shockingly poor for a production after a month of previews. The actors might have benefited from a high school orchestra director yelling at them to stop rushing, especially in a first act that barely lasted seventy-five minutes. Only the tavern number Boys will be Boys truly proved a showstopper despite the obvious derivation from Beauty and the Beast's Gaston number.
The second act, following the death of Grace's father prior to intermission, proved unexpectedly boring. Queen Elizabeth emerged as the primary figure opposite Grace but wasn't portrayed as a villain, weakening Grace's character by leaving her unexpectedly unheroic in comparison and further relegating all the male roles to the level of second-rate caricatures. Elizabeth sung all her pieces an octave above the expected range, rendering her lyrics largely incomprehensible and sublimating her entire part to the overwhelming harpsichord that keyed the English scenes. The pivotal meeting between Grace and Elizabeth occurred behind a curtain, accompanied by more harpsichord and only minor refrains from the swings, removing the thematic climax to the entire play in the unstated acknowledgement of Grace's limited historical role as neither representative of changing eras nor a particularly important figure in her own right.
Perhaps Boubil & Schönberg will heed the expectedly uninspired reviews and fix these issues before The Pirate Queen heads to Broadway next year, but in retrospect, the combination of operatic score, nonsensical scene transitions, and complete lack of star power bodes ill for the success of the production. Don't expect Pirate Queen to enjoy anything remotely resembling the financial and critical success of the recent Chicago debuts of The Producers and Spamalot, which prospered in New York in a way that this musical simply won't approach. Only true theater aficionados need bother with Pirate Queen for now
The best news for Toronto is that both the Burnett and Ryan deals look like solid values in the current market, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and Lyle Overbay all posted nice offensive seasons, and Adam Lind emerged as a potential All-Star bat. However, the rage demonstrated by manager John Gibbons in confrontations with multiple players, most famously the Shea Hillenbrand incident that led to the Jays dumping Hillenbrand to San Francisco, soon could destabilize the entire franchise. No one with Gibbons' lack of self-control should manage in the majors, especially somebody who physically threatens his players. J.P. Ricciardi's support of Gibbons sabotages his otherwise merely mediocre leadership. The two key trades from last winter with Arizona and Milwaukee created gaping holes in the Jays' infield and rotation while adding salary at fairly unimportant defensive positions. Yes, Toronto finished higher than third for the first time since winning the Series, but they didn't make the playoffs, and the club's reluctance to deal Ted Lilly, Justin Speier, Ben Molina, and Frank Catalanotto cost a perfect opportunity to add needed position prospects to a mostly moribund system. If Ricciardi can't re-sign Wells and then doesn't trade him for multiple top prospects, including a comparable young centerfielder like Lastings Milledge or one of the Uptons, then the Jays may find themselves in a race with Baltimore to the bottom of the division regardless of either club's payroll. None of Toronto's recent drafts possesses the upside of Tim Wilken's years as Scouting Director, and only the presence of Adam Lind prevents me from ranking Toronto next-to-last among AL minor league systems.
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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