Your Daily Fantasy Rx
by Tim Polko
Philadelphia's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007
1. Michael Bourn, 23, OF-L
Cutting his strikeouts allowed Bourn to push all the way to the majors in his fourth professional season, a notable accomplishment considering he definitely faltered after skipping High-A in 2005. Strong plate discipline and superb speed skills give him as much roto potential as anyone in system, and other than the fact he essentially replicates the skill set of likely right fielder Shane Victorino, Bourn offers plenty of upside as a fifth outfielder. Since returning to the minors probably won't place him on the path to a future starting job, expect Bourn to spend most of 2007 in Philadelphia, most likely as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner quite capable of stealing a couple dozen bases by year's end. Consider him a solid investment for a few bucks to fill your last outfield slot or at worse a strong reserve-round pick if the Phillies opts to open the year with more experience on their bench.
A forgotten prospect prior to reaching the upper minors, Ruiz now ranks among the top rookie catchers in all of baseball after radically improving at the plate over past three years. He deserved the Phillies' starting job last year and almost certainly will claim the position in 2007 after his solid performance down the stretch. With decent power, a solid batting average supported by strong plate discipline, and most importantly, acceptable defensive skills, Ruiz appears positioned to take full advantage of CB Park, possibly even posting the best fantasy stats next summer of any rookie catcher. While he won't replicate Mike Lieberthal's decade-long run as Philadelphia's primary catcher, Ruiz easily deserves $5-10 bids in all NL leagues.
A third round pick out of Northwestern in 2004, Happ remained healthy this season and slammed up the minor league ladder, clearing both High-A and Double-A without any difficulty. He enters camp assured of a AAA rotation slot and plenty of consideration for any openings in a rotation certain to suffer casualties during the 2007 campaign. Definitely remember Happ's name for when you want to add a promising young starter off your waiver wire next summer.
Considered the Phillies' catcher of the future since the club selected him in the second round of the 2004 draft, Jaramillo skipped High-A this summer yet still hit decently at Reading. While his batting average dropped nearly sixty points, his plate discipline and power remained intact, indicating he'll possess the bat necessary to remain in the majors once his superb defense carries him to The Show. Of course, Carlos Ruiz presents a fairly formidable obstacle to Jaramillo, but if Philadelphia defers to the better defender, Ruiz soon may find himself spending far too much time on the bench. The bad news for that Jaramillo is that Ruiz now has the chance to establish himself in the majors, so despite finishing this year with an excellent AFL campaign on top of his respectable work during the year, Jaramillo won't merit much fantasy attention until he claims a job with the Phillies.
Brito blossomed in his second tour of the International League, demonstrating improved control coupled with a low hit rate that appears particularly impressive when compared to his mediocre strikeout rate. His success with this new approach gives him a great shot to spend much of next season in Philadelphia, though at this point he appears more likely to replace Aaron Fultz in the bullpen than to start for the Phillies. Despite the potential suggested by these stats, wait until Brito begins succeeding in the majors before rostering him anywhere.
Perhaps he only possesses the upside of a fourth starter, but Germano's journey over the past two years from the Padres to the Reds and now the Phillies leaves him on a team that plays home games in a park particularly ill-suited to his skill set. Philadelphia acquired him from Cincinnati for Rheal Cormier at the trade deadline, and although he probably won't join the Phillies' rotation any time soon, Germano's high groundball rate and excellent control could make him a valuable component of the club's bullpen. While I still believe his long-term future involves starting somewhere like Washington, Germano needs to win a big league job in any capacity to possess more than minimal short-term fantasy value.
Generally pitchers who post 14-6 records with a 2.11 ERA in 166 IP in the upper minors receive at least a cup-of-coffee, but Mazone failed to receive that deserved promotion despite a stunningly impressive performance this summer. Hopefully he'll receive a longer look in spring training from the Phillies since his work over the last couple of seasons certainly warrants a shot in the majors to see if at least can contribute in long relief. He unfortunately won't possess any fantasy value until some club provides him that clearly overdue opportunity.
While we certainly endorse the decision to leave Chase Utley at second base, third base remains the clear weakness in the system with only Costanzo even looking like a future big leaguer among the club's current prospects at the hot corner. I suspect the Phillies will address this need next winter by signing Mike Lowell or even Alex Rodriguez, but if they stick with Wes Helms for the next couple of years, Costanzo just might develop into a competent replacement. He certainly possesses good patience and decent power potential, so if he can improve his contact rate, his fantasy future appears quite bright. Although I don't recommend drafting him in the spring, definitely keep an eye on Costanzo to see how he adjust to the upper minors in 2007.
I realize the Phillies lack infield depth in the upper levels of the system, but Sandoval's complete collapse at the plate from his .330/.379/.435 performance at Scranton in 2005 should have pushed him off the 40-man roster. Instead he spent most of the second half in the majors, posting unsurprisingly awful numbers and contributing nothing at the plate to Philadelphia's playoff push. If he rediscovers his lost bat and foot speed, his pre-2006 skills still could carry him to a decent big league career, however right now he belongs neither on the Phillies nor your team.
Seemingly rushed to the majors in June after just two months in the upper minors, Mathieson spent much of the next two months attempting to patch the hole in Philadelphia's rotation and realistically pitched much better than his ERA indicated. Returned to the minors following the acquisition of Jamie Moyer in late August, Mathieson tore his right elbow ligament immediately upon rejoining the Phillies in September. He underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks later and now likely will miss all of 2007. However, Mathieson still remains the brightest upper-level prospect in the system. Even with the injury, he appears closer to contributing in the majors than Carlos Carrasco. Don't be surprised to see Mathieson receive a start or two in September before pushing for a rotation spot in 2008.
Although Maloney's work realistically doesn't impress me considering the Phillies selected him in the third round in 2005 out of Mississippi, his strikeout, hit, and homer rates suggest at least respectable long-term upside. Considering his advanced age results in vastly reduced injury concerns compared to teammate Carlos Carrasco, Maloney probably possesses a better chance of contributing in the majors within the next couple of years. However, until he at least echoes this performance in the upper minors, he won't belong on any fantasy roster.
The Phillies' 2002 second round pick completed his recovery from 2004 Tommy John surgery to emerge as one of the best stories in the system this summer. Not only did he fix all his problems with Florida State League hitters from 2005, but he didn't miss a beat after his promotion to Reading. Although I don't envision a particularly high ceiling for Segovia, he only needs to echo this performance at AAA Ottawa to receive at least a brief look in Philadelphia next summer.
At least Golson acquitted himself admirably during his month at High-A, but both his significant contact problems and obvious plate discipline continue to present a major obstacle to his further advancement. His struggles upon returning to Lakewood also worry me. I wasn't a fan of Golson heading into this season and still see no reason to target him in any fantasy league.
Carrasco returned to the Sally league fully prepared for full-season ball, and by the fall he had boosted his stock more than any other prospect in the organization. Excellent strikeout, hit, and homer rates combine to give him as much long-term upside as any pitcher in the system following Cole Hamels' graduation to the majors. However, Carrasco also nearly doubled the 83 innings he pitched in 2005. His walk rate also mildly concerns me, and when we also consider that he both just completely his first full year in the minors and faces a future in the unforgiving CB Park, I see reason to draft him in any format at this time. Despite his tremendous promise, Carrasco possesses no more than negligible fantasy value in 2007.
On our radar for the past few seasons following his move to the bullpen in 2003, Sanches's career year resulted in four separate stints with the Phillies. Despite mediocre results, he remains on Philadelphia's 40-man roster and enters camp with a decent shot to win a big league job. However, until he finds a way to translate his minor league effectiveness into major league success, Sanches won't belong on any fantasy squad as more than roster filler.
Joseph Bisenius, 24, RH Reliever
An A-ball afterthought prior to 2006, Bisenius blazed through the Florida State League before finishing the season with a couple of strong months at Reading. While he backslid a little in the Arizona Fall League and winter ball, Bisenius appears perfectly on track to join the Phillies' bullpen by next fall. I still want to see him echo this performance at Triple-A before outright endorsing him, but I also won't be surprised if he claims a set-up role in 2008.
One of the Phillies' three selections in last week's Rule 5 draft, Budde hadn't cracked a .313 OBP at any level until this summer despite spending the previous four seasons in some of baseball's best hitters' parks. Nothing in his 2006 performance suggests that he deserves more than a cup-of-coffee next summer, and with Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste already slated as Philadelphia backstops, I see no role for Budde with the organization. Perhaps Pat Gillick selected Budde with the expectation that the Angels simply will refuse to pay the Phillies the $25K to reacquire him, likely resulting in Budde heading to AAA Ottawa as Jason Jaramillo's caddy.
The journeyman first baseman returned from the Atlantic League to spend the summer making Eastern League pitchers cry. He even echoed that slugfest in a brief AAA stint, but with Ryan Howard's position in Philadelphia as secure as anyone's job in the game, Burnham picked the wrong organization to resuscitate his minor league career.
Even enjoying his first full AAA campaign didn't bring Cameron any closer to the majors as his command deteriorated immediately upon his return to Triple-A. While I still see some upside here, Cameron appears unlikely to earn a significant big league role any time soon.
While Crowell failed to reach the majors for the first time in three seasons, his AAA performance didn't really change other than the fact he spent part of the year as a starter. Of course, the reverse platoon split he demonstrated also presents an obvious obstacle to his odds of winning a job as a big league lefty specialist, and even if he earns another promotion, he shouldn't accrue any roto value.
Departing St. Louis for Philadelphia as a minor league free agent led to the first full year at Triple-A of Cummings' career. Right now he looks like a perfectly decent AAAA swingman unfortunately unlikely to see more than a cup-of-coffee in the majors. He'll need a great camp in the next couple of years to avoid spending the rest of his playing days on a grand tour of the upper minors.
Although Gonzalez certainly didn't dominate Double-A, his high strikeout rate gives him plenty of long-term promise even if his walk rate doesn't dramatically improve. He'll take that potential back to Chicago after the White Sox, who initially dealt him to Philly last year with Aaron Rowand and Daniel Haigwood for Jim Thome, reacquired the southpaw last week with Gavin Floyd for Freddy Garcia. Gonzalez now faces a slightly tougher route to the majors since Chicago's rotation appears quite full, but with the Sox apparently committed to dealing all their veteran starters for cheap depth, we should see him in the majors sometime in 2007. He just doesn't deserve much fantasy consideration due to his current walk and homer issues, as well as his uncertain timetable to reach the majors.
Somehow Haines still hasn't sniffed the majors despite pitching effectively at Triple-A in each of the past six seasons. Few perennial minor league free agents possess his upside as a middleman, and we really hope to see him receive that elusive promotion sometime soon so we can begin recommending him as roster filler in deeper leagues.
Treated as the top prospect of the quartet acquired by Philadelphia in the insane dump of Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, Henry isn't a particularly good prospect despite his first round pedigree. He possesses little power, unimpressive speed, and no more than mediocre plate discipline. While he might possess the tools necessary to develop into an asset for the Phillies, Henry simply doesn't belong on any fantasy team in 2007.
Spending part of a third season at Lakewood definitely suggests a limited upside for Kendrick, but he still managed to post the best overall stats of his career while avoiding short-season ball for the first time. His limited dominance probably will result in a move to the bullpen at some point, so wait to see what role he fills before considering him anywhere.
While I liked King after his solid initial campaign at AA Jacksonville in 2002, the fact he returned to the Southern League for two additional seasons gutted his prospect status. Spending 2005 at AA Wichita also didn't help his cause, though somehow he escaped a fifth season of Double-A to post this admittedly unspectacular performance for the Phillies. Despite his age and development to date, he still probably won't emerge as a viable big leaguer, but I won't be surprised if he sees some time as an injury replacement within the next couple of years.
On the cusp of winning a starting job with the Diamondbacks in 2005 after an outstanding 2004 campaign in the upper minors, Arizona turned toward another round of veteran filler and left Kroeger stuck at AAA Tucson, where he understandably collapsed following his effective dismissal by the organization. Philadelphia claimed him off waivers in January, and he unfortunately also received no real chance to break camp in the majors this year. Hopefully his move to the Cubs as a minor league free agent will produce better results, especially since given his age and former prospect status, he possesses plenty of time to emerge as a viable big league starter.
Merely mediocre as a starter, Lee pitched much better out of the pen, posting a 3.66 ERA on a 30:10 K:BB in 32 IP with 32 H and 3 HR allowed over 19 outings. He still could recapture some of his lost prospect gleam with a good spring training in the next year or two, but the minor league free agent first has to find a club willing to ignore his inconsistency over the past few years by just giving him a job in the upper minors.
Quickly re-signed by the Phillies as a minor league free agent, Leon returns to the system for a fourth year as perhaps the club's best upper-level utility infielder. He probably deserved a spot in Philadelphia this summer more than Danny Sandoval, though Leon's extremely low quantitative upside understandably limits his value to both the Phillies and all fantasy teams.
Minix now owns an ERA just over 2.00 over his past two seasons with the Phillies. The former Rays' prospect hasn't received a look in the majors, but with a career 471:144 K:BB in 525 minor league innings, he deserves at least a cup-of-coffee at some point. Like so many similar players throughout the upper minors, Minix won't possess any fantasy value until he actually receives that opportunity.
Returning to Scranton for a third season not only didn't result in a second shot in the majors for Rushford but he instead slipped down to Double-A for the first time since 2002. With diminishing hitting skills across-the-board, he may have missed his window to win a big league bench job.
Selected from the Rangers in last week's Rule 5 draft, the right-hander returned to the Phillies after a couple years in San Francisco following his inclusion in the Felix Rodriguez trade. As he hasn't posted an ERA below 5.03 in the upper minors, I don't know why Philadelphia bothered to spend the $50K when they could have signed him as a minor league free agent just by promising him the same 40-man roster spot he occupies today. Simon appears a long way from succeeding in the majors and certainly won't help fantasy teams even if he unexpectedly sticks with the Phillies in 2007.
The only member of Philly's three-man 2006 Rule 5 draft class to possess even decent odds of sticking in the majors, Warden still didn't exactly dominate AA batters in his first extended look in the upper minors. While he at least managed a level of effectiveness far above fellow draftees Alfredo Simon and Ryan Budde, Warden's questionable command currently suggests he may never deserve regular work in the majors. Definitely wait to see if he can overcome his statistical deficiencies before even considering him as roster filler.
The conventional wisdom that the Phillies, carried by NL MVP Ryan Howard, nearly won a playoff spot because of the dump trade of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees strikes us as ludicrous. While the lineup clearly tilted to the left, removing one of baseball's best tablesetters to make room for guys like Jeff Conine and Chris Robertson to receive more at-bats is why the club finished three games out of the Wild Card. We also can't believe that Pat Gillick only received unnecessary payroll relief, a young lefty reliever, and three low-level prospects for an All-Star outfielder and a workhorse starter. Gillick seemingly admitted his error by spending the last month attempting to sign someone like Alfonso Soriano to replace Abreu for more money than Abreu cost. We like the addition of Wes Helms at third base, but overpaying for Adam Eaton wasn't an acceptable allocation of reportedly scarce resources. However, Gillick also swapped Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez for Freddy Garcia in a smart pickup of one of baseball's most dependable starters. Garcia joins Brett Myers and Cole Hamels to comprise a playoff-caliber rotation, and Eaton, Jamie Moyer, and Jon Lieber at least provide superb depth.
Unfortunately, focusing on pitching ignores the Phillies' true strength: one of the best offensive cores in the game. Ryan Howard, while not in Albert Pujols' class, still ranks among the game's top couple of first basemen, and Chase Utley paces the entire field at second. Jimmy Rollins remains an upper-echelon shortstop, insuring that Philadelphia receives massively above-average performance at three infield positions. The highly underrated Pat Burrell essentially duplicated his 2005 stats with a .258/.388/.502 output, combining with the infield trio to provide outstanding offense at the top of the order. Yet losing Abreu leaves a gaping hole in right field, and although we like Shane Victorino, deploying him with Aaron Rowand in the outfield makes no sense. A smart GM would find a way to dispatch Rowand and Lieber for the pieces necessary to pry Adrian Beltre from Seattle, but I suspect we won't see any significant changes to the Phillies' lineup sooner than next summer. The uncertain status of Charlie Manuel should dominate coverage for much of the year, relegating any actual reflection of the club's composition to next fall.
Although mentioning more rookies here might make sense given the primary subject of this column, reviewing Philadelphia's current big league roster hopefully illustrates that lack of opportunity afforded the few major league ready prospects in the system. We know that Carlos Ruiz will catch, Michael Bourn should see work on the big league bench, and one young starter like J.A. Happ might emerge, but I just don't see many rookies prepared to matriculate to the Phillies in 2007. While I don't fault the club after graduating Rollins, Utley, Myers, Howard, Hamels, Victorino, Ryan Madson, and now Ruiz over the past few years, dealing for guys like Conine and Moyer is an indication of a franchise focused on winning now and not really thinking about building for the future. The respectable ranking I assigned the Phillies reflects more the immediate fantasy potential of Bourn and Ruiz than the unfortunate fact that the system appears relatively bereft of true impact talent between Hamels and Carlos Carrasco. Expect to see the club plummet down this list in next year's prospect review.
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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