Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
1. Mike Pelfrey, 22, RH Starter
Stolen with the ninth pick of the 2005 draft our of Wichita State, Pelfrey signed for $3.55M in January and only spent three weeks dominating FSL hitters before reaching Double-A. The Mets' searching everywhere for capable starters, recalled him in July, and although he struggled in the majors, he didn't pitch as bad as some of the pitchers run through New York this summer. New York optioned him at the trade deadline to Norfolk, where he only made two starts before a strained lat muscle sidelined him for the season. While he briefly appeared in the AFL, Pelfrey spent most of the fall preparing for spring training, so unless the Mets sign one of the many available free agent starters, he probably enters camp as the favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation. Of course, Pelfrey certainly would benefit from more seasoning, especially given his questionable control at Binghamton. Yet he also shouldn't hurt you if he breaks camp in the majors, easily meriting $5 bids or at least a selection in a high reserve round since Pelfrey appears the current Met with the best chance of ranking as the club's ace in three years.
I won't be surprised if both Lastings Milledge and Gomez claim jobs in the Mets' 2008 outfield, but with Moises Alou, Shawn Green, and Endy Chavez flanking Carlos Beltran next year, both youngsters appear set for a summer at the club's new AAA affiliate in New Orleans. However, Gomez may possess more roto upside than anyone in the system due to his excellent speed. He also handled Eastern league pitching without difficulty at age 20 despite skipping High-A completely. Only questionable plate discipline causes me any real concern here. Gomez almost certainly will approach $20 by 2009 at the latest, and though he won't necessarily remain in New York, his skills will demand a starting job somewhere. Consider him a solid mid-round investment in any NL league, only dropping past the first reserve round due to the possibility of him changing teams in a deal for a needed starting pitcher.
Humber, the third player selected in 2004, impressed at St. Lucie in his 2005 debut but needed Tommy John surgery that July. He returned this summer, this time excelling against High-A competition and looking just as good against Double-A hitters. A September cup-of-coffee helped him acclimate to the majors, and now he heads into spring training in the middle of the competition for a couple of open rotation slots. While Humber seems to lack Mike Pelfrey's upside, he still should develop into no less than a solid #3 starter. He warrants a few bucks in any NL league if he breaks camp in the majors, otherwise deserving a mid-round reserve pick due to the near-certainty that he'll spend two months with the Mets at some point in 2007.
An excellent 2005 campaign pushed Hernandez into the Mets' starting second base job by the end of spring training. However, he fared terribly at the plate, and when back problems sidelined him after less than three weeks of play, New York quickly shifted to Jose Valentin and never looked back. While he landed a spot on the playoff roster, his terrible overall season likely will force him back to Triple-A for another summer. Hernandez remains first in line for any work as an injury replacement, he at least possesses the speed to make a roto impact, and he still might emerge as the club's long-term second baseman, but until he actually returns to duty in New York, he won't belong on anyone's fantasy roster.
With respectable cumulative MLE stats of a 49:24 K:BB in 56.2 IP with 53 H and 0 HR allowed, Soler deserves a longer shot than he received the Mets in 2006. The Cuban refugee pitched just fine in his first season of affiliated-ball despite seemingly spending more time switching teams than actually pitching. Although Soler's poor command in the majors portends a possible move to the bullpen, I still see plenty of upside here regardless of his role. He just doesn't quite merit a spot right now on any fantasy team where you can't keep him as a rookie unless he unexpectedly wins a rotation spot in camp.
Acquired from the Marlins last month with Jason Vargas for Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom in a clear attempt by the Mets to add some young left-handers to the organization, Bostick's continuing control problems portend a move to the bullpen in his future. He probably enters camp no higher than tenth on either the rotation or relief depth charts, so while I see a lot to like here regardless of his role, Bostick won't merit much fantasy attention until he actually begins succeeding in New York.
A twenty-third round pick in 2004, Devaney excelled in his debut in short-season ball, remained very effective as a Sally League swingman in 2005, and then truly blossomed this summer at St. Lucie. While he slightly stumbled at Binghamton, his strong strikeout, groundball, and hit rates all indicate he possesses the foundation necessary to develop into a decent big league starter. However, given his somewhat advanced age and the presence of multiple pitchers with far more upside surrounding him in the organization, Devaney needs to push to Triple-A by next summer to remain in the Mets' plans.
One of a handful of teenagers who wowed Sally League scouts this summer, Martinez didn't even turn eighteen until the middle of October, after the conclusion of his first professional season. He simply dominated the circuit in the first half despite a jammed thumb that cost him the last month of spring. While he harshly regressed following the Mets' overly aggressive decision to send him to High-A, he nicely rebounded in the AFL, registering a .253/.305/.379 performance on a 5:17 BB:K in 87 AB, holding his own against much more advanced competition. Now the Mets needed to resist the temptation to rush him through the system, especially with a solid group of outfielders in the majors and both Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez both nearly ready for starting jobs at Triple-A. He ranks with the longest of long-term prospects, probably not reaching the majors sooner than the fall of 2008 and most likely not until 2009. Given both that extended development schedule and New York's overall outfield depth, I see no reason not to let someone else draft Martinez in all your spring leagues.
An improved contact rate let to welcome BA and OBP gains for Carp, however his slugging percentage also dropped twenty-six points from the Sally League, presenting a definite cause for concern given the prolific power numbers generally required for any first base prospect to break into the majors. Poor plate discipline also detracted from an otherwise solid Hawaiian campaign this fall. Carp really doesn't merit much fantasy attention at this point and appears here mostly so I can tell you to avoid him until he exceeds twenty homers while playing in the upper minors.
Signed out of Venezuela in 2002, Sanchez continues to slowly climb the Mets' minor league ladder. This summer he won eleven games for the second straight year while posting his best ERA above the Venezuelan Summer League. While Sanchez doesn't compare favorably to most of the club's better pitching prospects, his impressive control suggests he only needs to echo this performance at Double-A next year to insure he receive a shot in New York relatively soon.
The Mets signed the Cuban veteran last February and unsurprisingly watched him terrorize Eastern League pitching. Abreu almost certainly should man first base at AAA New Orleans in 2007, and if he echoes these stats in the PCL, he'll place himself in line to replace Julio Franco whenever the ageless pinch-hitter retires. Unfortunately, Abreu is not a viable fantasy option right now and seemingly lacks the opportunity to emerge as more than a bench option.
With only control problems causing Niese any problems in the Sally League, he should remain in the Mets' future plans as he returns to High-A in 2007. Of course, he didn't exactly dominate most hitters last spring, so while I see a lot of promise here, Niese appears a long way from contributing in New York or fantasy leagues.
Switching from the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues to the Eastern and International Leagues proved a welcome salve for Collazo's former lofty qualitative stats. He posted his best numbers since moving into the rotation a few years ago, although since I still think his future lies in the bullpen, he won't belong on any fantasy roster until he begins succeeding in the majors.
Already a solid hitter entering the season, Coles paced the Florida State League in batting average by fourteen points. He also demonstrated welcome plate discipline growth, but unfortunately without either significant power or speed skills, this breakout merely improves his outlook from organization filler to potential bench help. Wait until he reaches the majors before considering him in any capacity.
Six months younger than primary Mets' wunderkind Fernando Martinez, Guerra performed just as well at Hagerstown despite the minor fact that he just turned 17 only two weeks before New York allowed him to debut in March. He clearly possesses as much upside as any pitcher in the organization, but despite a solid build, do you really think I'm going to recommend you draft a 17-year-old pitcher when we generally advise against rostering most 22-year-olds without at least some support from both the scouting and sabermetric communities? For the next couple of years Guerra only belongs on your fantasy radar as someone to talk up in the hope that a fellow owner will blow a reserve-round pick on someone not likely to join the Mets before the club moves into CitiField in 2009.
Brian Bannister, 25, RH Starter
Among the biggest Spring Training surprises this year, Bannister unexpectedly won the fifth starter's job following three quietly effective minor league campaigns. While he didn't perform badly, his poor command didn't impress many people, especially after a strained hamstring forced Bannister to the DL and John Maine emerged as a solid #4 starter in his place. Bannister remained sidelined for the rest of the first half and only headed to Triple-A in August. His return to the Mets later that month didn't fill one of the club's gaping rotation holes, and apparently satisfied with the progress of Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber, New York dealt Bannister to Kansas City last week for Ambiorix Burgos. While I generally believe the club bailed on Bannister to soon, he should receive a much better opportunity on the Royals, where he should break camp as no worse than the fifth starter. Feel free to gamble a buck or two in any league where you can reserve players at your leisure since Bannister's minor league numbers all suggest he possesses far more upside than indicated by his mediocre big league stats. Bannister would slot behind only Pelfrey among Mets' prospects if not for the trade and now ranks as Kansas City's top rookie pitcher following the deal.
Basak's fifth summer at Norfolk proved his last as he departed the organization as a minor league free agent. Despite decent speed, plate discipline, and some defensive flexibility, he never even earned a cup-of-coffee with the Mets, most likely due to his limited offensive upside. He need either a strong spring training or more likely a key injury or two during the year to receive his overdue shot in the majors.
Cullen hasn't looked like a decent pitching prospect since missing 2004 due to injury, but his strong campaign at Binghamton at least places him back on track to the majors. A strong follow-up at Triple-A in 2007 appears vital to fulfilling his big league dreams.
On track to snag a bullpen job in 2005, Fortunato instead missed the entire year due to back surgery. A solid April at Norfolk earned him another chance in New York, whereupon he won his debut and then allowed eight runs in his second appearance. The Mets quickly optioned him, though he only lasted a week before arm problems shelved him. Fortunato appeared poised to undergo Tommy John surgery before a change of heart apparently prompted New York to release him outright, and since he hasn't signed anywhere, we may not see him return to the majors any time soon.
Shoulder surgery sidelined Harper nearly all year long, though considering he appeared set to spend a third summer at Binghamton, his chances to enjoy any extended big league career appear rapidly diminishing. He'll need an outstanding 2007 campaign to keep himself in any of the Mets' plans.
No team bid for Iriki when Nippon posted him in November of 2005, and after the club subsequently released him, he signed for $750K with the Mets. While he barely missed winning a spot in spring training, he lost his 40-man slot in mid-April and then incurred a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. New York apparently didn't give him another thought after that incident as while he finished the year at Norfolk, he never sniffed the majors and departed the club as a free agent in October. I don't expect to see Iriki receive another shot in the States.
Lambin missed a perfect opportunity to insert himself into the Mets' second base mix by badly regressing from his apparent career year in 2005. His terrible AAA numbers leave him a surprisingly long way from the majors, and given his minimal quantitative upside, he probably won't belong on many fantasy teams even in the unlikely event that he reaches New York sometime soon.
Pitchers who post the best years of their careers in their first extended look at Double-A generally impress me, and with decent all-around skill rates, Maldonado suddenly looks like a decent prospect. However, unless he either begins truly dominating hitters or at least cuts his walk rate, he may not receive more than a cup-of-coffee with the Mets.
Once again McGinley performed just fine at Norfolk but didn't impress anyone with his 2.95 ERA and failed to receive a look in September. Hopefully his more dominant AFL performance will result in a second look, but given his low strikeout and groundball rates, the Mets' apathy toward him doesn't surprise me. McGinley shouldn't emerge as more than a situational reliever even if he does reach the majors any time soon.
Acquired in late August when the Mets surprisingly dumped Victor Diaz, Nickeas now ranks as the club's only real catching prospect following the loss of Jesus Flores in last week's Rule 5 draft. Of course, Nickeas also profiles as little more than a backup due to his general lack of both power and speed. Nothing here offers any indication that he'll ever exceed $5 in the majors, leaving him with negligible fantasy value for now.
Pinango finally advanced to Double-A just in time to leave as a minor league free agent. Given his low strikeout rate and general lack of dominance, he likely needs a move to the bullpen unless he wants to spend the next decade as rotation filler in the upper minors.
While Roman already re-signed with the Mets once as a minor league free agent, his failure to progress beyond Double-A over the past three years likely spells the end of his time with New York, especially considering he didn't exactly dominate upon his conversion to relief this summer. Roman appears a surprisingly long way from the majors despite his career 650:286 K:BB in 629 IP.
A solid upper-level pitcher for the past few years, Wylie nearly broke camp with the Mets' as a Rule 5 pick in the spring before eventually signing a minor league deal with New York after he refused his minor league assignment. He missed a few weeks with a sore shoulder but otherwise pitched well when healthy. However, he didn't receive a shot with the Mets this year and departed as a minor league free agent in October.
No team solidified their future this summer more than the Mets, who locked down both Jose Reyes and David Wright respectively through 2011 and 2013 at a total cost of less than $70M over the next five years. With Carlos Beltran alone costing the club $86M over that same time period, New York will field perhaps the best 1-2-3 combo in the game for a fairly reasonable $30M a year. Some combination of Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, and Fernando Martinez soon will reinforce that trio on the outfield corners, and I also expect Carlos Delgado to remain with the club a few more years. With Billy Wagner and Aaron Heilman anchoring the bullpen and plenty of money to address needs at catcher and second base, the Mets' foundation appears as solid as any team in baseball.
The major issue facing Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph is a starting rotation without any certainty. Tom Glavine likely will retire in another year or two, likely followed by Orlando Hernandez and possibly Pedro Martinez, who should rebound from rotator cuff surgery but might never return to form. New 2006 acquisitions John Maine and Oliver Perez really seem more like inning eaters more than potential aces, and although they should join the veterans to form a surprisingly solid starting quartet in 2007, their long-term prognosis remains uncertain. The development of first rounders Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber may play the most important role in insuring the Mets' replicate the Yankees' playoff run from the last decade. At least one of these youngsters needs to develop into no less than a borderline ace, and while I like both pitchers a lot, both remain definite risks at the moment. Minaya probably needs either to break the bank for a free agent like Carlos Zambrano or to deal one of his young outfielders to secure a comparable #1 starter considering the increasing prevalence of other GMs to sign their best players before free agency beckons. While the Mets certainly possess the financial resources to sign anyone in the game, only a savvy trade or two will insure that New York will move to CitiField in 2009 prepared to hoist a new pennant to the rafters.
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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