Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Selected in the second round of the 2002 draft, Votto continues to climb the minor league ladder, ascending one rung every summer. Unfortunately for Votto, he mastered Double-A pitching by mid-season and essentially treated water for half the year, demonstrating all-around offensive skills highlighted by very impressive plate discipline, intriguing speed, and a 1.01 G-F that hints at plenty of power upside in the GAB. Thankfully a stint in the Dominican Winter League kept his bat primed for Triple-A as he owns a .294/.467/.474 performance in 34 AB this fall. Both the contracts of Adam Dunn and Scott Hatteberg also expire after 2007, so despite the options the Reds hold on both players for 2008, expect the former to depart by the deadline and the latter to slide into a reduced role after Votto gains a few months of experience at Louisville. I see no reason he shouldn't emerge as a key member of the Reds' next offensive machine, joining Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion in the heart-of-the-order. Plan to select Votto with a very high minor league pick in 2007. He shouldn't cost you a first rounder but will return $5 of production in the second half before emerging as a dramatic bargain in 2008 as he reaches $20 without difficulty. Ignore Wayne Krivsky's general illogic when dealing with talented hitters, hope for the best, and draft Votto.
Hitting .347 in his first Triple-A tour earned Hopper a shot in the majors, and he took full advantage of that opportunity by improving his performance in the majors. Now he'll spend the winter on the Reds 40-man roster and enter spring training as a primary candidate to join Chris Denorfia on the bench behind starter Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, and Ryan Freel. Given Hopper's speed and plate discipline, he merits serious fantasy consideration if he breaks camp on the big league bench. An end-round investment of a buck or two here easily could translate into a double-digit profit due to his BA and steals alone.
David Dewitt Bailey, the most touted Texas gunslinger since Josh Beckett, somehow owns one of the most ironic nicknames in the game. This summer Bailey didn't allow many homers or any pretty much any other type of hit. Despite progressing from the Midwest to both the Florida State and Southern Leagues, he cut his hit rate from 7.7 H/9 to a 6.4 mark and dramatically dropped his walk rate from 5.4 BB/9 to a 3.2 mark while maintain a strikeout rate over 10.0 K/9. Yes, he increased his workload by 34 innings, a significant warning flag for any young pitcher, but I suspect Bailey's greater effectiveness reduced the stress on his arm to a manageable level. Cincinnati's plan to let him consolidate his progress in Triple-A next spring also will allow him an easier mid-season debut in hopefully friendlier weather. While Bailey still suffers in comparison to some pitching prospects since he'll spend the rest of the decade at the GAB, remember that few pitchers jump to Double-A during the year and immediately dominate the entire league. Given that he should clear $5-10 next summer and then emerge as the Reds' most valuable starter if he stays healthy, at least consider taking Bailey as the first pitcher selected in any minor league draft.
While Bruce possesses incredible long-term value as a developing power hitter headed for the GAB and player great in the Midwest League as a teenager, he also won't contribute to fantasy teams as more than trade bait for the next two years. His 1.15 G-F isn't great, he struggles against left-handers, and he won't play in a particularly good hitters' park until hitting the majors. Yet if Bruce stays in centerfield, which he continues to handle respectably, he could develop into a very valuable player for the Reds. Currently he merely ranks as a useful player to own in leagues that value prospects, although we highly doubt that the majority of Bruce's current owners still we hold his rights by the time he actually reaches Cincinnati in 2009.
While Cueto demonstrated decent skills over the last two seasons in the Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast Leagues, apparently his 5.03 ERA with the Reds disenchanted most prospect watchers. This summer, leaving the bullpen for good, Cueto emerged as a force in the Midwest League before carrying his success through the second half with Sarasota. He only turns 21 in February yet could reach the cusp of the majors by year's end. With all-around respectable skills and plenty of long-term upside, Cueto should join the Reds sometime in 2008, making him someone for Cincinnati fans to watch next summer.
Dickerson handled Double-A far better than expected, demonstrating somewhat surprising power while maintaining excellent patience at the plate. Of course, he remains extremely strikeout-prone and can't hit lefties, so while I see some upside here, Dickerson almost certainly needs a few more years of seasoning.
With merely mediocre AFL numbers, a command ratio that refuses to improve, and a significant platoon split, Pelland's performance to date demands a move away from starting. His stats to date suggest plenty of upside in a more limited role, so don't be surprised if he shoots to the majors if the Reds realize his future remains in relief.
Acquired from the Phillies for the late Cory Lidle in 2004, Moran still hasn't hit under .300 at any level since joining the Reds. Yet other than his high average and decent defense, Moran adds little to his teams, and an awful AFL campaign doesn't bode well for an older prospect on a club that spent its last two first round picks on outfielders. I strongly suspect Moran wouldn't hurt you if needed as roster filler, but don't bother finding out in 2007 unless completely desperate.
The probable reason that Cincinnati left Joey Votto in Double-A all year, Gutierrez finally reached Triple-A but continued to watch his power output decline. Everything here merely depicts a decent backup, not someone with any potential to start. He even could return to Double-A if the Reds want to give him regular at-bats but realize the foolishness of blocking Votto another year with someone possessing as little long-term upside as Gutierrez.
Started at a surprisingly low level given his pedigree as the eighth player selected in June's draft and two seasons starring for the University of Texas, Stubbs demonstrated decent defense, patience, and speed but otherwise didn't impress at the plate. Serious scouting concerns regarding his offensive upside leave his value shockingly depressed for a collegian with his experience and physical tools. Either Jay Bruce or Stubbs eventually will emerge as the Reds' long-term centerfielder, but unless Stubbs significantly improves in 2007, he may not see the majors within the next couple of years, leaving him with little current fantasy value.
A twelfth round pick in 2004, Strait spent two summers in the Midwest League before posting the best stats of his young career for Sarasota. Demonstrating excellent speed and solid power, he remained relatively effective in the AFL, registering a .257/.341/.358 performance with a 12/14 SB% and a 14:28 BB:K in 109 AB. While Strait certainly needs a couple more years of seasoning, he possesses as much fantasy upside as anyone in the system not on the regular prospect radar.
Even a scalding tour of the Venezuelan Winter League can't persuade me to envision any immediate fantasy upside for Bergolla. While I liked him a lot prior to 2005, he stalled while serving as a backup for the Reds and then uncomfortably regressed this summer. Yes, Bergolla could reemerge as an intriguing option, most likely as a speedy utilityman, but you shouldn't pay him much attention until he begins receiving regular playing time in the majors.
Initially demoted to Double-A after an unimpressive 2005 campaign at Louisville, the Reds' 2001 fourth round pick rebounded this summer, nicely echoing his previous stats in the Southern League and returning to the International League for the stretch run. However, his command again deteriorated noticeably after the promotion, so I strongly suspect Kelly needs a switch to relief work in order to reach the majors in the near future. Otherwise he could spend the next several season as no more than an unheralded AAAA swingman lucky to receive the occasional cup-of-coffee.
Securing a full-time starting job upon his promotion from swingman duties for A Dayton resulted in an overdue breakthrough for the 2002 fourth rounder. While Vazquez didn't dominate hitters, his overall effectiveness now places him within range of the majors of he remains successful. Echoing this performance in 2007 should result in a September cup-of-coffee, albeit not one worthy of much fantasy attention for now.
Drafted by the Cubs this morning in the Rule 5 draft and subsequently sold to Cincinnati, Hamilton joins the Reds after playing in only fourteen games over the past four seasons. After selecting Hamilton first overall in 1999, Tampa allowed him to develop gradually for a couple years, then jumped him to Double-A in 2001, where a combination of injuries and a significant lack of plate discipline ruined his season. Then in a move that illustrates the downside of spreading your affiliates throughout the country, the Rays assigned Hamilton to Bakersfield in the California League in 2002. Already on steroid injections to help his back problems and now ripped from his support system on the east coast, he missed half the season with various physical problems with reportedly enjoying far too many late nights. Hamilton appeared a different prospect during spring training in 2003, continuing to nurse injuries while demonstrating an obvious lack of concentration before taking a leave of absence rather than report to Orlando. He missed the entire season, and after violating the league drug policy, Hamilton received annual, season-long suspensions covering the 2004, 2005, and 2006 campaigns. However, while MLB cleared him to return to the game in June, he only lasted two weeks with Hudson Valley before requiring season-ending knee surgery. Even if we assume that he won't relapse off the field, Hamilton appears quite vulnerable to exceeding both the frequency and severity of Ken Griffey's health issues. Only true gamblers should risk pulling Hamilton in any league, and if you plan to draft him, wait until Dollar Days and plan for him to spend no less than half of 2007 on the DL.
The fourteen-year veteran journeyman only saw his third cup-of-coffee this year after sneaking onto the Reds' Opening Day roster. Unfortunately for Abad, Scott Hatteberg quickly reemerged as a decent offensive player, relegating Abad to sharing a job in the minors. With his window for big league success nearly closed, Abad needs to find some team relatively bereft of first depth and then clobber the ball in camp.
Despite not possessing particularly impressive skills, pitchers who post a sub-2.00 ERA at Triple-A require no less than a September call-up. Given the Reds' seeming worldwide search for relievers capable of getting outs this summer, the failure to promote Chiasson appears particularly glaring. Hopefully he'll find a team willing to judge players by their performance and not just scouting reports.
Claimed on waivers from San Francisco at the end of spring training, Coutlangus progressed to Double-A without significant improvement from his Cal League stats. Even a great groundball rate barely compensates for his excessive walks, however pitching through the end of the AFL without difficulty earned him a 40-man roster spot. We could see him in the Reds' bullpen next summer if injuries sideline the dozen veteran southpaws I expect Wayne Krivsky to find by the beginning of camp.
Continued control problems and a general lack of dominance make Dumatrait a terrible fit for the Reds' ballpark. With an unimpressive AFL campaign providing further evidence of his inconsistency, the 2002 first rounder appears far from succeeding in the majors and shouldn't merit much fantasy attention for another couple of years.
Despite a general decline in his dominance at Double-A, Guevara still registered a 10.4 K/9 to rank among the most promising pitchers in the system. However, most of his problems occurred in the second half, so as Guevara gains experience and pitches more innings each year, we should see his stamina improve. A good spring will put him on the list of potential in-season injury filler for the Reds.
The minor league free agent finally reached Triple-A, posting perfectly respectable averages during his fortnight at Louisville. Otherwise Herr essentially echoed his Double-A stats from the past two seasons, demonstrating a little upside but probably not enough plate discipline to warrant an NRI at this time.
Alex Gonzalez will patrol short in Cincinnati for the next few years, but Janish could push aside the veteran by decade's end. After an uninspiring full-season debut in 2005, the 2004 fifth round pick from Rice nicely rebounded, looking strong on both sides of the ball and reaching Double-A in September. He'll return to Chattanooga in 2007, and although minimal quantitative upside leaves Janish with little fantasy value for now, Reds' fans will want to monitor the progress of the club's future starting shortstop.
One of the top pitchers on the Texas Longhorn's 2004 College World Series team, LeCure landed with the Reds in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, posted decent numbers that summer, and then emerged as an intriguing starting prospect in High-A this year. While his general lack of dominance should limit his upside, LeCure's pedigree suggests he at least should remain successful in the upper minors. We could see him push for innings in Cincinnati by 2008.
Only two years ago Machado enjoyed an extended stint in the majors, and the summer saw him spend a little time with both the Reds and Rockies. Unfortunately, knee problems left him with less than a hundred total at-bats during 2005, and his return to Double-A for the first time since 2003 didn't result in a significant rebound. With his speed seemingly gone and only limited power accompanying his respectable plate discipline, Machado may not regain a big league bench spot any time soon.
Remarkably dominant despite his 5'9" stature, Medlock's walk rate spiked in his return to the bullpen this summer even as his strikeout and hit rates improved. Remaining successful in the AFL earned him a 40-man roster slot, and I fully expect to see him in Cincinnati next summer. Yet unless his control rebounds, he won't remain too effective in any park as unforgiving as the GAB.
At least Perez only lost fifty-eight points of OPS upon progressing from A+ Sarasota to the Southern League. While he excels defensively, he failed to develop at the plate in any noticeable way, and with the Reds planning on playing another year with three veteran catchers on the 25-man roster, Perez simply doesn't belong on the 40-man roster. He is not now nor do I expect him to become a viable fantasy option for anyone.
Heading to southern Ohio after three years with Cleveland just resulted in another mediocre performance for the journeyman right-hander. With command problems consistently sabotaging his offense, Robbins remains roster filler at best both for big league and fantasy teams.
Finally trusted to pitch for Louisville during his fourth stint at Chattanooga, Salmon responded with an extremely impressive performance, leavening his high walk rate with superb strikeout, hit, and homer rates. He absolutely belonged in the majors during the second half of the summer, and if given the opportunity, I see no reason he won't succeed next year. His improving dominance even makes him a dark horse closer candidate if the Reds ever take a close look at the upside his numbers suggest, though if they don't, Salmon at least should head into minor league free agency next winter.
I can't fathom the reason that Shafer spend a second summer in the Southern league while the Reds scoured the majors for bullpen arms. He clearly fixed his control issues from 2005 by mid-season and deserved no less than a shot at Triple-A. Cincinnati's decision to keep Shafer closing for Chattanooga strongly suggests that the new management doesn't envision a big future for him on the Reds. While the club added him to the 40-man roster, I suspect they wanted to protect Shafer from the Rule 5 draft just to swap him for veteran help withint he next year.
Re-signing with the Reds for a second straight winter resulted in a greater starting role for Shearn, who truly appears a sleeper given his 6-2 record and 2.13 ERA on a 53:24 K:BB in 63.1 IP over 10 GS(11G) this fall in the Mexican Winter League. If slotted exclusively in relief next spring, Shearn appears prepared to emerge as a significant surprise during camp even if he appears unlikely to receive a real opportunity from Wayne Krivsky.
Still a rookie after failing to earn a mid-season promotion for the second straight season, Snyder's bat unfortunately looks a little worse every year. He no longer possesses particularly impressive patience or power, so unless he finds an overly friendly hitters' park to call home in minor league free agency, he might stay in Quadruple-A-land forever.
While Watson won Washington's centerfield competition with a great spring, he lasted less than two weeks before heading to the minors in favor of Ryan Church, who deserved the job in the first place. Inconsistent work at New Orleans led to a decision to DFA him in July, whereupon the Reds claimed him in the final, mildly ironic twist of the disastrous dump of Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez. He showed nothing with the Reds, and after departing this winter, signed today with the Tigers, where he'll remain available at Toledo in case injury strikes one of Detroit's good players. Despite still possessing decent fantasy upside due to his speed, Watson appears unlikely to contribute in a regular role in the near future. Only roster him if desperate for steals.
With numbers comfortably comparable to Homer Bailey's full-season debut at the same age and level, this 2005 second rounder probably ranks as the second long-term pitching prospect in the system. Of course, he allows too many flyballs and walks too many batters. Wood's strikeout rate also falls short of Bailey's mark. While I still see lot to like here and recommend monitoring him, you need to wait to see how he handles his upper-level hitters before investing in Wood's future.
Few organizations experienced the roller coaster year enjoyed by the Reds, who enjoyed a truly impressive season until July, when new GM Wayne Krivsky erased all the positive feelings earned since his hiring in February. New Reds' owner Bob Castellini nearly hired Jim Beattie but instead grabbed Krivsky from the Twins. He chose poorly. Yes, Krivsky secured a two-year extension for Adam Dunn. Respectively acquiring Bronson Arroyo, David Ross, and Brandon Phillips for Wily Mo Pena, Bobby Basham, and Jeff Stevens also secured three key pieces of the Reds' future at the cost of a couple of questionable pitching prospects and Pena, who wasn't helped the club as a fourth outfielder. Unfortunately, Krivsky also developed a ridiculously itchy trigger finger, shuffling his pitching staff and bench as often as any GM in the game. Then, beginning with the trade of Travis Chick to Seattle for Eddie Guardado in July, he dumped a ridiculous number of minor leaguers in an insane attempt to patch a bullpen without employing any of the dozen decently intriguing relievers stuck in Cincinnati's upper minors. Justin Germano headed to Philly for Rheal Cormier and Zach Ward to Minnesota for Kyle Lohse. Reds' PTBNs spread throughout baseball in deals for Ryan Franklin, Todd Hollandsworth, Scott Schoeneweis, Tim Bausher, and Sun-Woo Kim. Krivsky capped the summer with a two-year extension for Juan Castro, previously acquired for outfield prospect Brandon Roberts. Following the season, Abe Woody headed to Arizona for the hollow bat of Jerry Gil, and within the last month, Krivsky massively overpaid to secure Alex Gonzalez, Mike Stanton, Dave Weathers, and then negated the benefit of sending Jason LaRue to Kansas City by awarding Chad Moeller a major league deal.
Of course, all this hyperkinetic activity ignores the franchise-gutting deal with Washington. Former Reds' GM Jim Bowden robbed Krivsky blind, nabbing Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, and Ryan Wagner for Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris, Daryl Thompson, and the centerpiece of the trade, relievers Bill Bray and Gary Majewski. Cincinnati recently filed a grievance against the Nationals over Majewski's health, but even adding Chad Cordero to the quintet of players acquired wouldn't have balanced this deal. Dealing Kearns created a giant hole in the outfield barely filled by Ryan Freel, also costing the club the only right-handed Red capable of hitting thirty home runs. The move also alienated Adam Dunn, Kearns' best friend, who dropped from a .237/.369/.547 first-half performance to mediocre .229/.360/.416 second-half averages completely bereft of his formerly imperious power stroke. Losing Lopez created a giant hole in the infield that necessitated the outlandish Gonzalez deal, and the Reds still need more pitching. Current rumors involve Adam Dunn's departure for a starter, further wrecking the once-potent offense. Essentially, other than answering the phone when Boston sought an outfielder and gambling a 40-man roster spot on Brandon Phillips, both likely moves from any reasonably competent biped in a similar situation, Krivsky demonstrates none of the analysis acumen normally required of people in his position. Thankfully for Reds' fans, the club still possesses a few impressive prospects and decent smattering of veteran talent. However, none of the more than thirty players discussed today appears certain to see more than a cup-of-coffee in the majors in 2007, really limiting the value of anyone in the system as more than trade bait or in-season roster filler.
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. Arizona Diamondbacks(C.Young, M.Montero, Callaspo, C.Gonzalez, J.Upton)
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