Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
1. Chris Iannetta, 23, C-R
Despite rumors of the Rockies signing someone like Rod Barajas, Iannetta already possesses excellent defense and has nothing to prove in the minors. Iannetta annihilated Texas League pitching while demonstrating plenty of plate discipline then somehow boosted his OBP to truly outstanding levels during two months at Colorado Springs. Combined MLE averages of .282/.359/.448 give you an idea of his current production floor. Spending September in the majors resulted in another impressive OBP, and although his 1.35 G-F highlights slower development in his power stroke, he offers an immediate upgrade to Colorado on almost any alternative at catcher. As long as the Rockies clearly commit to him by your draft, Iannetta merits double-digits bids in every league as he should spend 2007 among the most valuable fantasy catchers based on BA alone.
We really want Tulowitzki to succeed next year after investing in him in multiple leagues. He excelled in the AFL, registering.329/.398/.468 averages with an 11:11 BB:K in 79 AB. Colorado's plan to bat him leadoff this summer helped his plate discipline improve. He even performed solidly on defense when promoted in September despite some struggles at the plate. However, we still someone who might benefit from a little more seasoning. Only selected by the Rockies in 2005 with the seventh pick in the draft, Tulowitzki's 692 professional at-bats don't demand a big league berth at this time, and he'll need to earn the starting job in spring training. Definitely exercise some caution in drafting, and if other owners push his price into the teens, let someone else take the short-term gamble since Tulowitzki may not blow past $30 for a couple more years
Pushed from third base due to the development of Garrett Atkins and Ian Stewart, Baker's bat continued to mature as expected. After a year-and-a-half at Colorado Springs, he appears fully prepared for the majors and likely will platoon with Brad Hawpe. However, the Rockies appear intent on keeping Baker, Hawpe, and Matt Holliday on the corners, leaving Baker with only a couple of hundred likely at-bats barring an injury to a starter. The good news for roto players in keeper leagues is that spending a couple bucks on him during the later rounds of the draft should net you superb mid-season trade bait, especially if Colorado's upcoming outfield glut leads to a mid-season deal involving the far less mobile Hawpe.
If Dan O'Dowd fails to acquire a new centerfielder from outside the organization, Salazar could unseat incumbent starter Cory Sullivan with a strong spring. He possesses excellent plate discipline and a .91 G-F that will enable him to take advantage of Coors' deep power alleys to amass doubles and triples. The major problem for Sullivan is that his defense appears inadequate for those same outfield gaps, leaving the Rockies hesitant to employ him as more than a reserve. Salazar could blossom atop the lineup if given the opportunity, but due to his deficiencies, don't bid the necessary amount to acquire him if he wins the starting job and don't exceed about five bucks for him as your fifth outfielder if he opens 2007 on Colorado's bench.
Garrett Atkins isn't a particularly good third baseman, but after his dynamic breakout at the plate this summer, Atkins' role on the Rockies appears secures. Now Stewart, who offers more upside in the field and even greater power potential at the plate, might move to the outfield despite a multitude of options on the corners led by incumbent starters Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe, not to mention backups Jeff Baker and Jeff Salazar, all of whom remain under the Rockies' control past the end of the decade. Of course, Stewart remains a premier offensive prospect prepared to reemerge as one of the game's best rookies due to his upcoming promotion from Tulsa to AAA Colorado Springs. I expect to see an OPS over .900 from Stewart next summer, so target him this winter before his value shoots skyward
Gaetti's OPS declined over a hundred fifty points from his superlative performance in the Cal League last year. Fortunately for his future in professional baseball, trading a few walks for reduced strikeouts helped him maintain a batting average near .300 and hold a slugging percentage just shy of .500. While he still appears likely to peak as a reliable AAAA bat, the expected boost from playing for AAA Colorado Springs next summer should push Gaetti into the majors next fall, giving him an opportunity to attract the attention of an organization with far fewer young outfielders. Merely monitor his 2007 progress rather than investing in Gaetti at this time.
Decent plate discipline and superb doubles' power could allow Smith to thrive in Coors, however he doesn't currently offer even as much upside as Jeff Salazar. Perhaps a full year at AAA Colorado Springs will result in a breakthrough at the plate for Smith. Despite excellent credentials for a long-term big league career as a journeyman reserve, he'll need to boost his production significantly to emerge as more than a reliable backup before decade's end.
Once again Jimenez excelled in the first half before struggling after a mid-season promotion. Of course, since he reached Triple-A this summer and only lacks consistent control, he could join the Rockies' rotation at any time. My major concern remains his relatively young age, however Jimenez's improving dominance at least will allow him to pitch effectively in Colorado, albeit not to a level meriting much immediate fantasy attention.
Already ranking as the most improved prospect in the organization following an impressive Sally League campaign, Fowler further boosted his profile by posting a perfectly respectable .266/.380/.376 performance, including an 18:30 BB:K in 109 AB, in the Hawaiian Winter League. Switch-hitting for only two years, the natural centerfielder performed better against right-handers than southpaws, as well as holding a higher OPS on the road than at home. The true upside here for fantasy teams is Fowler's pending promotion to the Rockies' affiliate at Modesto in the California League, where he should enjoy an offensive explosion to vault him into the game's upper echelon of prospects. With a clear route to centerfield in Coors, Fowler will reach Colorado no later than 2009 and immediately offer $30 potential due to his combination of developing power and pure speed.
Koshansky ranks alongside Cincinnati's Joey Votto and Oakland's Daric Barton as one of the best first base prospects in the minors following the recent matriculations of Prince Fielder, Conor Jackson, and Kendry Morales. The overwhelming problem for Koshansky is the presence of Todd Helton, though increasing trade rumors surrounding the best players in franchise history could create an opening sooner than the 2011 expiration of Helton's contract. Koshansky also needs at least another year of development due to his contract problems following a very poor showing in the AFL. Drafting him appears an obvious risk, especially since the Rockies always could slide Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, or even Ian Stewart to first base. Most owners should explore alternate options in minor league drafts even though Koshansky should destroy PCL pitching next summer at Colorado Springs and remains merely a minor trade away from significant fantasy value.
In only his second year of full-season ball, Morillo posted perhaps the best overall skills of his career. Yet like the Rockies' other best pitching prospects, he can't control the strike zone and doesn't demonstrate the same level of dominance as Ubaldo Jimenez or Franklin Morales. I see nothing here to suggest that Morillo belongs in the majors in 2007, and he may need a couple of summers at AAA Colorado Springs to develop into a real asset for the franchise.
I hesitate to recommend any Rockies' second base prospect after Jayson Nix's flameout, however Young's prolific basestealing, plate discipline, and intriguing bloodlines give him plenty of long-term potential. Posting a .287/.348/.366 performance on a 7:14 BB:K in 101 AB in the Hawaiian Winter League elevates his profile even more, and he could truly blossom in the California League next summer. While I can't recommend investing in Young's long-term future since he may not reach the majors with the Rockies, definitely consider drafting the speedster with a mid-round pick and exploiting any press he reserves in the Cal League to leverage Young into a significant mid-season addition from a rebuilding club.
While Morales hasn't demonstrated acceptable control at any level, I don't blame him for avoiding home plate in the Cal League. He posted a very good groundball rate, managed impressive hit and homer rates, and most importantly, finished fourth in the minors in strikeouts, indicating that batters still swung at his offerings despite the command issues. Morales offers as much upside to the Rockies as any position player in the system, however given that he exceeded his 2005 inning total by fifty-eight frames, he ranks as a significant injury risk. Merely monitor his progress in all leagues rather than risking a pick on Morales at this time despite his tremendously intriguing skill set.
With the confidence of a 40-man roster slot despite no experience above A-ball, Corpas rewarded Colorado with his best season to date, dominating both Texas and Pacific Coast League opponents before emerging as a reliable reliever on the Rockies in the second half. Along with Ramon Ramirez, he gives the Rockies their best pair of homegrown relievers in franchise history, although unless Corpas emerges as a closer, he won't warrant much fantasy attention unless he switches organizations.
A decent backup defensively, Colina's regression in his second tour of the Tulsa League suggests even Coors might not elevate his offense to respectable levels. Given his unimpressive skills and significant BA downside, avoid Colina in most leagues, only considering him as roster filler if multiple injuries somehow push him into a temporary starting job in Colorado.
Although unlikely to see playing time aside of the seven superior outfielders currently on the 40-man roster, the 2002 sixth round pick still possesses enough overall upside to reach the majors in the near future. Of course, any fantasy owners interested in the admittedly limited upside offered here need to wait until Barker switches organizations to roster him anywhere.
Born on Christmas Day in Pocatello, Idaho twenty-five years ago this December, the 2003 fifth rounder appears unlikely to advance much further in the Rockies' system given the club's glut of upper-level outfielders. Perhaps he should focus on what we must assume are annual tours of duty with the Salvation Army, where he someday might progress to Christian General if his inherent power ever develops. Right now Colonel will need a lucky break to receive even a cup-of-coffee before decade's end, another problem easily solved by returning to the Salvation Army.
Demonstrating surprising similar stats to fellow Driller Christian Colonel, Czarniecki also appears far from reaching the majors due to his lack of any overly impressive tool. Even major improvement from Czarniecki in 2007 won't assure him any extended future with this organization.
I'm beginning to think Rockies' management targets wild flamethrowers, particularly those with strong groundball tendencies. No one will complain if some of these starters reach the majors on the basis of an extraordinary number of innings that go walk-groundball double play-strikeout, although developing pitchers focused on minimizing balls in play will lead to higher workloads for everyone on the staff. For Deduno, his success and frequent dominance of Cal League hitters drastically improves his standing in the system, giving him a decent chance to reach the majors by next fall, albeit not in a role capable of producing much fantasy value.
The Arizona State product excelled in the Cal and Texas Leagues before badly stumbling during consecutive tours at Colorado Springs. While Esposito enjoys a little more success against left-handed hitters, he simply isn't a good fit for a high-altitude park due to his lack of dominance. He won't merit any fantasy attention as long as he plays for the Rockies.
An outstanding groundball rate makes McClellan a good fit for Colorado Springs, but with high hit and walk rates unaccompanied by an abundance of strikeouts, he could combust quickly if thrust into Coors. While relief work clearly suits the former starting prospect, McClellan needs a change of scenery to succeed in the majors.
While Miller completely dominated hitters over the last two years, his strikeout rate plummeted at Tulsa as the superior competition took advantage of his terrible groundball rate. Further struggles in the AFL depict a pitcher particularly ill-suited toward success in Coors, so don't be surprised if Miller finds himself in a new organization in the near future.
An extremely erratic season for the 2004 thirteenth rounder culminated with a .322/.369/.576 performance in the AFL, along with a 4:10 BB:K in 59 AB. Between his limited defensive upside, unimpressive power and speed, and the loaded outfield corps already on the 40-man roster, Miller needs to conquer Double-A in 2007 to remain in the club's plans as more than trade bait.
Repeating the Sally League only resulted in scant improvement from his .241/.304/.330 disaster in 2005. He doesn't impress defensively, doesn't project prolific power potential, and owns a .261/.305/.375 performance in the reconstituted Hawaiian Winter League with an awful 4:19 BB:K in 88 AB against low-level competition. Nothing in Nelson's performance over the last two years demonstrates the upside that resulted in him joining the Rockies as the ninth overall pick in 2004, and frankly, that high draft position is the only reason he merits discussion here. Nelson appears a long way from the majors, and due to the combined questions regarding his offensive and defensive profiles, doesn't deserve a place on any fantasy roster for the 2007 season.
Ranked among the best prospects in the minors three years ago, the forty-forth player selected in the 2001 draft continued to struggle against upper-level pitching. Although he adequately handled a AAA tour after a couple summers at AA Tulsa, Nix lacks the offensive potential to succeed in the majors despite above-average defensive skills. He may never see more than the briefest big league action barring a dramatic resurgence of his lower power.
Surprisingly selected second overall this June from Stanford, the highest draft choice in the school's illustrious baseball history, Reynolds demonstrated both why the Rockies wanted him and why the vast majority of analysts preferred Tim Lincecum, Brad Lincoln, and even Andrew Miller, who never wanted to pitch in Colorado. Despite the system's depth of infielders, even Evan Longoria possessed more value since high-upside shortstops always will attract interest from potential trade partners. Yet the Rockies settled on Reynolds, who pitched effectively in the Cal League, a remarkably similar environment to his college surroundings. The problem is his lack of dominance appears unlikely to improve, so I vastly prefer the upside of Nuts' teammates Franklin Morales and Samuel Deduno even though none of them belong on anyone's 2007 fantasy draft list.
February surgery to repair a torn labrum cost Speier the entire regular season, although he returned in the AFL, posting a 4.50 ERA on an 11:2 K:BB in 8 IP over 8 G with 5 H, 1 HR, and a 13.00 G-F, very solid numbers given the severity of his injury. While a trip back to the minors in 2007 appear the next logical step, he could break camp with the Rockies if he impresses in spring training, albeit not in any significant role given the improving relief depth in the organization.
Now in his third season with the Rockies following stints with Seattle, Montreal, and a couple of Atlantic League teams, Ulloa's second straight summer at Tulsa resulted in an across-the-board downturn from his 2005 success. While Ulloa apparently gained durability, he deserved an extended look at Colorado Springs. His failure to receive that opportunity virtually insures him little chance of reaching Colorado any time soon.
Williams succeeded when used as a lefty specialist but just pitched terribly against right-handed batters. He surprisingly never played for the Rockies this year after an extended look in Coors a year ago, so hopefully as a minor league free agent he'll find a club willing to focus on his usable skills rather than overexposing him as a generic middle reliever.
Both Wimberly's OBP and stolen bases demand plenty of fantasy attention, however he lacks the defensive skills to play second base in the majors and a 3.40 G-F obviously limits his power, a desired attribute for all Rockies' starters. Rather than gamble on unexpected development from this 2005 sixth round pick, instead look to 2007 Modesto starters Dexter Fowler and Eric Young, Jr. when seeking lower-level offensive prospects heading for starting jobs in Coors.
Trading Ryan Shealy to Kansas City and graduating Choo Freeman, Ryan Spilborghs, Omar Quintanilla, and Ramon Ramirez to the majors definitely costs Colorado a few upper-level prospects. However, the blossoming of Chris Iannetta and Troy Tulowitzki into likely 2007 starters overshadows the loss. Jeff Baker, Jeff Salazar, and Manuel Corpas all should spend 2006 in the majors, Ubaldo Jimenez will push for a rotation slot, and aside from Iannetta and Tulowitzki, fellow AA prospects Ian Stewart and Joe Koshansky should rejoin their former teammates by next fall. In addition to this impressive upper-level depth, Dexter Fowler appears primed for a true breakout in the California League and offers the missing piece to the offense given his outstanding defense in center. All these prospects merely compliment a surprisingly successful big league campaign for the rebuilding Rockies. Aided by the infamous humidor, Jason Jennings, Jeff Francis, and Aaron Cook enjoyed very impressive seasons while several relievers posted shockingly good qualitative stats. The development of Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins into true offensive forces helped offset the erosion of Todd Helton's power, Jamey Carroll stunned everyone with his emergence into a #2 hitter and Gold Glove candidate, and a gamble on Kaz Matsui added a second solid veteran middle infielder. Unfortunately, meager results from the other up-the-middle positions resulted in another sub-.500 finish, though at least Iannetta and Tulowitzki should fill the biggest holes. If Dan O'Dowd fails in his quest to re-sign Jennings, hopefully the pending trade of the budding ace will net a significant pitching prospect and possibly a short-term centerfield upgrade, possibly allowing the Rockies to spend all season in contention as soon as 2007. While I can't rank them above the far more well-rounded systems in Arizona and Tampa, I see plenty to like here in almost every aspect of the franchise for the first time ever, especially with the humidor at least allowing owners to draft Brian Fuentes and the more skilled starters without persistent fear of qualitative disaster. Feel free in particular to target Colorado position players since unlike the core of the Blake Street Bombers, the Rockies' current generation of sluggers appears capable of succeeding in any offensive environment due to superior overall plate discipline.
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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