Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
1. Ryan Braun, 23, 3B-R
Drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2005, Braun excelled in his debut, adequately handled FSL pitching, and then truly exploded upon his promotion to the Southern League. He also registered a .326/.396/.641 performance in 92 AFL at-bats, further securing his status as one of baseball's top prospects. Yes, Braun doesn't possess particularly strong plate discipline, but I also see nothing particularly worrisome here. More importantly, anyone with his power-speed upside could crash past $20 in his rookie season, and if continued defensive improvement allows him to avoid a position switch, the Brewers will field a young third baseman at least comparable to the other young studs at hot corners throughout the league. While I expect some initial difficulties for Braun if he somehow wins a job in spring training, he otherwise warrants a first-round pick in any reserve draft due to both his second-half potential in 2007 and his overall long-term fantasy value.
No rookie pitcher elevated his stock in 2006 more than Gallardo, who entered the year ranked behind Mark Rogers in the organization and ended the season as the minor league strikeout leader, generally considered behind only Phil Hughes and Homer Bailey among all pitching prospects. Gallardo's shift from complete dominance in A-ball to a flyball-oriented approach in the Southern League mildly concerns me, but unless he follows the path of so many of his Milwaukee predecessors to the DL, he owns the skills necessary to develop into a superb rotation asset for the Brew Crew. Only the club's general pitching right now keeps me from wholeheartedly endorsing Gallardo. Selecting him sooner than the middle rounds of any reserve draft just seems a little aggressive given his fairly limited track record, general workload, and the competition he'll face for innings in Milwaukee.
Given surprisingly little consideration as a prospect despite his Hall of Fame pedigree and selection in the second round of the 2003 draft, Gwynn's success at Nashville at least helped him remain on the Brewers' 40-man roster for another winter despite the club's outfield depth. Any rebound in his plate discipline in 2007 could enable him to take even more advantage of his solid hitting and speed skills, so while he'll never hit for enough power to start, Gwynn appears close to snagging a big league bench job. Feel free to add him as a free agent whenever you need a SB boost next season.
The Racine product tailed off in the fall, contributing little both in Milwaukee and the AFL. However, he remains on the 40-man roster, and between his general offensive upside and his impressive defensive flexibility, Rottino offers more upside as the Brewers' 25th man than anyone since Brooks Kieschnick. While the presence of multiple bench options suggests he'll return to Nashville for one more summer, Rottino only needs a good camp and one key injury to spend 2007 in Milwaukee, likely returning a decent profit for anyone who FAABs him early in the spring.
Unexpectedly rewarded with a September cup-of-coffee after nearly posting a .300 BA for the fourth straight season, Anderson unfortunately lacks the quantitative upside to emerge as more than roster filler even if he somehow snags a job on Milwaukee's bench in the next year or two. Between his lack of plate discipline and his limited power, he just doesn't look like a future starter. Definitely wait until he begins appearing in Brewers' box scores before considering him for your team.
Acquired last winter from Toronto with David Bush and Gabe Gross for Lyle Overbay and Ty Taubenheim, Jackson contributed less in the majors than any other player in that deal despite his pedigree as a first rounder in 2004. He simply hasn't maintained an acceptable level of command at Triple-A, and although hitters aren't hammering his offerings, Jackson offers little to make me think that he'll land a long-term rotation slot with the Brewers. Given his generally superior performance against left-handed batters, don't be surprised to see him push into the big league bullpen by year's end, harshly limiting his fantasy value but potentially filling a key need in Milwaukee.
Suspended for using a corked bat in May, Iribarren continues to drop down prospect lists despite maintaining his offensive performance while climbing the minor league ladder. Yes, he lost both speed and power in 2006, but he also bumped his BA back over .300 in his second campaign of full-season ball. At least Iribarren still appears on track to develop into a solid backup. He just isn't likely to develop into an everyday player with the Brewers, leaving him scant fantasy value at the moment.
Low strikeout rates certainly suggest a similarly low ceiling for Dillard, but he transitioned to Double-A without suffering significant skill erosion anywhere aside from his hit rate. He still generally allows few batters on base, and his overall effectiveness now gives the Brewers yet another option if they need innings next summer. While I don't expect to see Dillard in the majors for another year, a 2007 cup-of-coffee appears perfectly warranted, especially if the club thinks he can earn a long relief slot the following season.
Simply staying healthy proved a triumph for Parra, who nicely rebounded from shoulder injuries to reemerge as one of the Brewers' better upper-level pitching prospects. I fully expect him to move to the bullpen in the near future, both to maximize his effectiveness and reduce his chances of further health problems. Unfortunately, despite the promise Parra presented prior to his shoulder issues, he no longer appears a good fit for the Brewers' future rotation nor ranks as a particularly good prospect. He won't belong on any fantasy team until he carries his 2006 success all the way to the majors.
Although Hammond appears on a slightly slowed development track than expected following his selection in the sixth round of the 2005 draft, his continued success upon reaching Double-A suggests he should remain a starter for now. Left-handed inning eaters possess plenty of value, so while I don't see stardom in Hammond's future, he could emerge as no less than viable roster filler as soon as the second half of 2007.
The remarkably underrated Sarfate watched his control regress at Triple-A, though shifting to the bullpen finally allowed him to reach Milwaukee in his third year in the upper minors. He registered a 4.20 ERA on a 23:8 K:BB in 15 AFL innings, giving him a definite chance to win a big league bullpen job in the spring. While you shouldn't bother selecting him in your auction, don't be surprised if Sarfate quickly emerges as a reliable set-up man for the Brewers, possibly even earning some late-inning outings by year's end. He probably offers more long-term fantasy upside than any of Milwaukee's current middle relievers other than Jose Capellan.
Forced to Milwaukee for a month at the beginning of summer when the Brewers ran out of healthy big leaguers capable of playing shortstop, Barnwell didn't exactly acquit himself admirably in the majors. While his minor league numbers to date at least warranted the opportunity, he realistically offers little beyond decent defense, a little speed, and the potential of an acceptable batting average. Only another round of injuries should result in Barnwell returning to Milwaukee in 2007.
Acquired from the Royals for Justin Barnes a year ago, Demaria nicely consolidated his growth year in 2005 by remaining quite effective all summer at Nashville. While he stumbled when promoted to the majors, his development to date indicates the definite possibility that he'll post much better numbers if given another opportunity in 2007. Demaria definitely possesses the skills to pitch effectively in the majors, as well as the chance to emerge as more than roster filler depending on how the club's bullpen develops next summer.
A third-round pick in 2005, Inman simply dominated Sally League hitters this summer, posting a 10.9 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, and a 6.1 H/9 that compare favorably with almost any pitching prospect in the game. Of course, any hard-throwing youngster engenders injury concerns, and I don't expect Inman won't match Yovani Gallardo's ascent through the system. Simply remaining healthy and reasonable effective in High-A will qualify as a definite accomplishment, so while I definitely like what I see here thus far, Inman really needs to replicate this performance while pushing toward 140 innings in 2007 before deserving more than an end-round afterthought in even very deep NL leagues
Essentially the Brewers' top catching prospect by default, Salome nicely adjusted to his first complete summer in the minors. He demonstrated solid all-around offensive skills, and although I fully anticipate he'll require another two-to-three years of seasoning, he seems the best bet for a long-term solution behind the plate among players currently in the organization. Of course, that slow timetable definitely limits his roto value, so don't bother rostering Salome at this time.
Steve Bray, 25, RH Reliever
Grabbed from the Royals in the minor league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, Bray somehow improved his effectiveness upon joining the Brewers and now owns a 3.35 career ERA on a 279:53 K:BB in 271 IP. Although his dominance dropped in the AFL, Bray likely only needs to echo these numbers to remain in line for any open bullpen slots in Milwaukee. Of course, the Brewers already possess a wealth of young pitchers in contention for those precious big league jobs, but if given the opportunity, Bray definitely possesses the skills to surprise a lot of people.
Although Crabbe at least improved in his second summer at Huntsville, his failure to advance to Triple-A definitely decreases his chances of every making the majors. Good plate discipline and solid speed skills don't impress many members of management when unaccompanied by either an excellent bat or strong defensive abilities. Crabbe's limited skill set may limit him to the upper minors indefinitely.
Once again Koonce's agent appears just behind the curve as he helped Graham sign in Kansas City last week despite a 1B/DH pipeline completely loaded with Ryan Shealy, Mike Sweeney, Reggie Sanders, Justin Huber, and Billy Butler. He appears most likely to spend the season at Omaha, continuing his tour of the PCL despite possessing sufficient hitting skills to compete for a big league job somewhere like Tampa or San Francisco. Koonce needs a break soon before his window closes for more than additional cup-of-coffee or two.
Claimed off waivers from Oakland in May, Mabeus never adjusted to his new organization, contributing little at any of the three levels to which Milwaukee assigned him. The Brewers released him outright in October, a surprising move considering the 327:103 K:BB in 344 IP that Mabeus carried into 2006. Hopefully he'll land with a team like Florida desperate for bullpen help to see if he can overcome his control issues in a more welcoming environment for pitchers.
The former Cubs' prospect still hasn't sniffed the majors despite spending the majority of this decade pitching effectively at Triple-A. Meyers unfortunately just hasn't developed into a dominate relief option, so unless he lands with a club willing to give a shot to a nearly forgotten journeyman, he may not reach The Show any time soon.
With Bill Hall, Corey Hart, Gabe Gross, Anthony Gwynn, and Laynce Nix already on the club's outfield depth chart ahead of Moss, the odds of him reaching the Brewers remain quite remote. Yet he nearly doubled his walk rate from his High-A mark, suggesting more potential than you otherwise might expect. Continued improvement in 2007 will push him into the mix for a bench spot the following summer.
Milwaukee's former top prospect not only slipped through outright waivers in June but didn't attract any attention in the Rule 5 draft. His continued failure both to hit for power in the upper minors and even acquit himself adequately at the plate in two Triple-A stints portends a AAAA peak for the young former slugger. Considering Nelson also lacks solid defensive acumen, he appears more likely to head into minor league free agency than join the Brewers. Don't bother retaining him any longer in your minor league system.
Respectable defense alone won't earn Palmisano more than a bench job in the majors unless he can rediscover his better batting stroke from the lower minors. Of course, Milwaukee still should send him to Triple-A next summer to see if he at least can hold these mediocre stats against better competition. If he passes that test, then the club can look to see if he continue developing at the plate to the point where they won't need to add more catching help from outside the organization.
DFA's by Toronto at the end of spring training, Perkins found himself claimed off waivers by the Brewers despite injuring his elbow three weeks earlier in his sole inning of work for Canada in the WBC. Perkins eventually needed Tommy John surgery, and while he appears on track to recover by spring training, Milwaukee will shift him to the bullpen upon his return. Expect him to spend much of the summer relearning to pitch in the minors before possibly pushing for second-half promotion if his conversion to relief work results in the expected improvement in his dominance.
Selecting Rogers in 2004 while passing on Jeremy Sowers, Homer Bailey, Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Stephen Drew, Glen Perkins, Philip Hughes, and a host of other solid prospects ranks as one of the Brewers' rare draft missteps of the last few years. Yes, the club grabbed Yovani Gallardo in the second round, but with Rogers now reputedly set for shoulder surgery that should sideline him for all of 2006, he possesses little immediate value to the Brewers and none to fantasy teams. Release him even in the deepest NL leagues.
While an effective situational reliever, Stetter didn't really dominate left-handed hitters. The good news is that he possesses very solid control, so I expect him to receive a big league opportunity at some point. He just might not get that chance with Milwaukee unless either he begins experiencing more success in general or starts truly toasting the vast majority of lefties that face him.
The eleven-year minor league veteran reached the majors for only the second time and the first since 1999. However, his failure to succeed with the Brewers prompted his retirement on July 4th. Considering his difficulty in finding a job with an affiliated team over the past couple of years, his move didn't surprise, though given his overall command solid groundball rate, Winkelsas still could contribute in the upper minors if he changes his mind.
Returning to the Brewers as a minor league free agent proved a definite boon to Zumwalt, who posted perhaps the best stats of his career and certainly merits a spring training invite. While he probably lacks the upside of several of his Sounds' teammates, I see no reason he can't contribute in middle relief in 2007 if afforded the opportunity.
The development of Yovani Gallardo and Ryan Braun this summer provides the Brewers two more key prospects nearly ready to join homegrown talents Ben Sheets, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J Hardy, Bill Hall, Corey Hart, and Carlos Villanueva in the majors. Savvy acquisitions of Chris Capuano, David Bush, and now Claudio Vargas similarly reinforce the club's base of young talent. However, the decision to draft Mark Rogers in 2004 and then Jeremy Jeffress this year leaves a definite gap between this wave of talent and the expected arrival of any reinforcements. By next fall, Milwaukee likely will have seen nearly all of their top fifteen prospects from 2005 graduate to the majors or head elsewhere in trade. Dealing both Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz to Texas in a deal I initially loved simply didn't provide the return of talent offered by a swap with a club like the Angels since adding Francisco Cordero and a couple of reserve outfielders didn't address the most fundamental organizational weaknesses. The reputed decision to slot Bill Hall and Corey Hart on the outfield corners similarly leaves a giant gap in center field, as well as potential issues at shortstop if J.J. Hardy doesn't develop.
Of course, none of these issues should detract from the fact that Milwaukee enters 2007 with a young yet powerful lineup, nicely augmented by a welcome complement of veterans like Geoff Jenkins and Johnny Estrada, as well as a rotation of Sheets, Capuano, Bush, Vargas, and Villanueva that may pace the league in both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. If Cordero can anchor the bullpen, the Brewers should spend all season in the middle of the NL Central race, though even that development shouldn't keep them from promoting Braun and Gallardo when the youngsters earn a shot in the majors. Both GM Doug Melvin and manager Ned Yost appear committed to building a long-term contender employing primarily homegrown talent, so feel free to target all the young Brewers to which the organization appears committed.
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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