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Post-2006 Prospect Review: San Diego

by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

San Diego's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007
Roster Filler and Long-Term Prospects
Team Overview and Organization Rankings

San Diego's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007

1. Paul McAnulty, 25, OF-L
3/13 for .231/.333/.538 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 2:4 BB:K.
148/478 for .310/.388/.521 with 19 HR, 79 RBI, 34 R, 1/3 SB%,
and a 62:79 BB:K for AAA Portland(PCL).

Essentially the best batter in the system, McAnulty spent the summer learning third base in an attempt to find him a clearer path for the majors. While he didn't exactly bomb at Portland, the acquisition of Kevin Kouzmanoff best illustrates how the Padres view McAnulty's future at third. Ironically, he profiles as a more disciplined albeit less powerful version of current San Diego utilityman Russ Branyan, so I strongly suspect the Padres will return McAnulty to Portland for one more PCL tour to focus on his defense before he replaces the pending free agent in 2008. He also should be the first choice when injuries strike any of San Diego's cornermen, making McAnulty a decent option in very deep NL leagues but generally not too useful as more than roster filler. Although owning him at a buck isn't a terrible idea in keeper leagues, he really the lacks the opportunity to emerge as more than a roto afterthought in 2007 barring an abrupt change of heart by Padres' management.

2. Sean Thompson, 24, LH Starter
6-10 on a 134:46 K:BB in 154 IP over 27 GS
with 148 H, 18 HR, a 1.59 G-F, and a 3.86 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

Returning Thompson to Mobile for the full tour of the Southern league proved a surprisingly wise decision as he consolidated his gains from only spending a month at High-A in April of 2005. His skill rates returned far closer to his career norms as he now appears prepared to challenge for a spot in either the Padres' rotation or bullpen. As a reliever he'll soon qualify as acceptable roster filler, but if he secures a starting slot in San Diego, Thompson could surge toward double-digit value next summer. Consider him a solid sleeper whenever he receives his chance in the majors.

3. Michael Ekstrom, 23, RH Starter
3-7 on a 49:19 K:BB in 84.1 IP over 14 GS
with 87 H, 2 HR, a 1.75 G-F, and a 3.84 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).
7-4 on a 68:21 K:BB in 82.1 IP over 14 GS
with 76 H, 2 HR, a 1.68 G-F, and a 2.30 ERA for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).

Ekstrom's low strikeout rate doesn't impress me, but he doesn't allow an abundance of hits and his strong walk, groundball, and homer rates all depict someone with a future in the majors. While I suspect Ekstrom will need to slip into the bullpen at some point, his success to date as a starter suggests he just might develop into a decent fourth starter. Don't be surprised to see him recalled next summer when the Padres take their annual dip into the minors for the pitcher most prepared to contribute low-downside innings in San Diego.

4. Chase Headley, 23, 3B-S
141/484 for .291/.389/.434 with 12 HR, 73 RBI, 79 R, 4/9 SB%,
and a 74:96 BB:K for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).

San Diego's second round pick in 2005 seemingly blossomed in his first full professional season, but his lack of power development likely contributed to the club's decision to deal for Kevin Kouzmanoff. Now, following an equally uninspiring AFL campaign, Headley's future in the organization as anything more than a very useful backup appears quite uncertain. Definitely at least wait until we see if he can maintain these stats above A-ball before rostering him anywhere.

5. Cesar Carrillo, 23, RH Starter
0-0 on a 1:3 K:BB in 2.2 IP over 1 GS
with 2 H, 0 HR, a .50 G-F, and a 6.75 ERA for AAA Portland(PCL).
1-3 on a 43:15 K:BB in 50.2 IP over 9 GS
with 45 H, 5 HR, a 1.81 G-F, and a 3.02 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

Still the brightest pitching star in the Padres' system, Carrillo had just reached Triple-A in his first full year as a professional when a strained elbow ligament ended his season in June. Perhaps the only good news is that he avoided surgery and appears on track to return to the mound in the spring. I still consider him a solid late-round pick due the Padres' paucity of upper-level pitching depth, but I also see no reason to charge after Carrillo in shallower leagues. Simply waiting until his expected cup-of-coffee in September also makes plenty of sense regardless of your format.

6. Justin Hampson, 26, LH Starter
1-0 on a 9:5 K:BB in 1 GS(5G)
with 19 H, 3 HR, a 15-18 G-F, and a 7.50 ERA for Colorado.
8-4 on a 95:39 K:BB in 121.1 IP over 13 GS(31G)
with 121 H, 10 HR, a 1.22 G-F, and a 3.33 ERA for AAA Colorado Springs(PCL).

Anyone who can manage an ERA this low in Colorado Springs qualifies as a decent pitching prospect, so I don't know why the Rockies allowed Hampson to depart on waivers to San Diego in October. He easily could claim a job as either a lefty middleman or even a long reliever, and while I don't see tremendous immediate upside here, I expect Hampson will emerge as a solid option for roster filler sometime next summer. The improved command he demonstrated this season gives him surprising upside in a park as forgiving as PETCO.

7. Cedric Hunter, 18, OF-L
4/15 for .267/.313/.267 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 1:3 BB:K for A- Eugene(NWL).
79/213 for .371/.467/.484 with 1 HR, 44 RBI, 46 R, 17/22 SB%,
and a 40:22 BB:K for R Padres(AZL).

I rarely discuss any rookies here who haven't played above short-season ball, but Hunter, just drafted with a third round pick in June, caught my eye with his combination of speed, plate discipline, and that superb batting average. Of course, he won't see San Diego before 2009 and might not emerge as a starter sooner than 2011, but anyone with his profile certainly will attract the attention of prospect hounds in deep NL leagues. While you obviously can't draft him unless you know at least a couple other owners might want to deal for him during the year, Hunter at least belongs on your radar as he heads to the Midwest League for his first full professional campaign next summer.

8. Luis Cruz, 22, SS-R
130/499 for .261/.301/.415 with 12 HR, 65 RBI, 65 R, 8/12 SB%,
and a 29:62 BB:K for AA Mobile(SL).

An average shortstop and a very solid second baseman, Cruz joined the Padres' 40-man roster last month following this complete rebound from his awful 2005 campaign. Despite a general lack of patience and speed, his fifty extra-base hits indicate respectable power potential, making him a likely choice to fill San Diego's utility infielder slot for most of the next few years. Cruz only should need to echo this performance at AAA Portland for a few months in 2007 to earn a final promotion, though unless his plate discipline improves, he may not emerge as anything more than roster filler for roto teams.

9. Vince Sinisi, 25, OF-L
11/50 for .220/.298/.300 with 0 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 6:9 BB:K for AAA Oklahoma(PCL).
102/379 for .269/.349/.417 with 7 HR, 48 RBI, 52 R, 7/9 SB%,
and a 50:71 BB:K for AA Mobile(SL).
21/68 for .309/.373/.368 with 0 HR, 9 RBI, 9 R, 2/4 SB%,
and a 6:11 BB:K for AA Frisco(TL).

Acquired with John Hudgins from Texas in May for Freddy Guzman and Cesar Rojas in a rare all-prospect challenge trade, Sinisi settled at Mobile to produce respectable albeit unspectacular stats over the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, Sinisi's lack of power combines with his mediocre defense and limited speed to give him fairly limited upside despite an opening in San Diego for a corner outfield. I just don't see him developing into the player necessary to fill that slot unless his 1.51 G-F drops like a rock by the time he hits the majors.

10. Nick Hundley, 23, C-R
49/176 for .278/.357/.403 with 3 HR, 23 RBI, 18 R, 1/2 SB%,
and a 20:44 BB:K for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).
59/215 for .274/.355/.474 with 8 HR, 44 RBI, 20 R, 1/2 SB%,
and a 25:45 BB:K for A Fort Wayne(Mid).

The emergence of both Josh Bard and Rob Bowen this summer allows the Padres plenty of time to develop Hundley, generally considered the best catching prospect in the system following the trade of George Kottaras. As the club's second round pick in 2005, he still ranks as San Diego's catcher of the future, but with Bard, Bowen, and Colt Morton lodged ahead of Hundley on the organizational depth chart, don't expect him to reach the majors prior to 2008.

11. Matt Antonelli, 21, 3B-R
2/16 for .125/.222/.313 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 2:6 BB:K for A Fort Wayne(Mid).
54/189 for .286/.426/.360 with 0 HR, 22 RBI, 38 R, 9/10 SB%,
and a 46:31 BB:K for A- Eugene(NWL).

Drafted out of Wake Forest with the seventeenth overall pick in June, Antonelli appears almost certain to shift to second base following the acquisition of Kevin Kouzmanoff. With outstanding plate discipline and decent speed, Antonelli also should emerge as an intriguing offensive asset despite questionable power skills. The best news is that his advanced approach should let him shoot to the majors very quickly, giving him a good chance to compete for a starting job as soon as the fall of 2008. Of course, if Marcus Giles joins his brother on the Padres, Antonelli's short-term fantasy value mostly vanishes since he'll no longer possess a clear route to San Diego.

12. Jared Wells, 25, RH Starter
2-9 on a 55:46 K:BB in 73 IP over 15 GS
with 87 H, 8 HR, a 1.10 G-F, and a 7.27 ERA for AAA Portland(PCL).
4-3 on a 49:27 K:BB in 61.1 IP over 12 GS
with 53 H, 4 HR, a 1.17 G-F, and a 2.64 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

Seemingly on track to join the Padres' rotation in the near future, Wells instead collapsed upon reaching Triple-A, suffering through the worst three months of his career and then pitching nearly as bad in the AFL. Given both his limited dominance and a rising walk rate, Wells likely will head to the bullpen unless he can rebound in 2007. While I believe he'll merit at least some fantasy attention as soon as he reaches San Diego, his timetable for that promotion now appears slowed to no sooner than next fall.

13. John Hudgins, 25, RH Starter
2-2 on a 23:8 K:BB in 25 IP over 4 GS(9G)
with 29 H, 4 HR, a .80 G-F, and a 5.40 ERA
between AAA Oklahoma(PCL) and AAA Portland(PCL).
4-3 on a 55:16 K:BB in 51.2 IP over 9 GS
with 41 H, 2 HR, a 1.00 G-F, and a 2.79 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

Like Vince Sinisi, Hudgins joined San Diego from Texas in May for Freddy Guzman and Cesar Rojas in a rare all-prospect challenge trade, but the 2003 third round pick from Stanford lost much of the second half on the DL with a generally sore elbow. While he pitched well when healthy, the uncertainty regarding his elbow makes Hudgins very risky headed into 2007. He appears as likely to miss the entire year due to surgery as to emerge as a low profile contributor to another Padres' playoff push.

14. Luke Carlin, 25, C-S
65/244 for .266/.392/.381 with 4 HR, 29 RBI, 27 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 49:54 BB:K for AAA Portland(PCL).
0/5 for .000/.000/.000 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:1 BB:K for AA Mobile(SL).

Yes, catchers generally develop slowly at the plate, but Carlin still deserves recognition for posting the best offensive season of his career in his first Triple-A campaign. While he obviously lacks any semblance of power, his strong on-base skills make him an acceptable option if injury strikes Josh Bard or Rob Bowen, although not someone worth employing on fantasy teams as anything more than short-term roster filler.

15. Jose Oyervidez, 24, RH Starter
6-12 on a 131:75 K:BB in 149.1 IP over 28 GS
with 146 H, 11 HR, a 1.90 G-F, and a 3.92 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

Posting essentially identical stats at Mobile in each of the last two years indicates that Oyervidez probably should return to his old role in relief. His strikeout and groundball rates certainly suggest he could flourish with a lighter workload, and if the Padres agree with my analysis, he easily could break into the majors by next fall.

Roster Filler and Long-Term Prospects

Stephen Andrade, 28, RH Reliever
0-0 on a 5:4 K:BB in 4.2 IP over 4 G
with 5 H, 0 HR, a 7-2 G-F, and a 9.64 ERA for Kansas City.
3-2 on a 67:30 K:BB in 67.2 IP over 38 G
with 54 H, 4 HR, a 1.00 G-F, and a 2.44 ERA
between AAA Omaha(PCL) and AAA Portland(PCL).

A 2005 Rule 5 draft selection from Toronto then dealt by Tampa to San Diego with Dewon Brazelton for Sean Burroughs, Andrade failed to earn a spot on the Padres, headed to Kansas City on a waiver claim with a week left in camp, and then also didn't make the Royals. He opted for free agency after the Rays didn't pay to get him back, however he quickly re-signed with the Royals and spent two months at Omaha, briefly surfacing in Kansas City for a fortnight before the club eventually cut him from their 40-man roster for the second time in three months. Andrade then returned to the Padres and spent the rest of the summer embarrassing AAA hitters in his first extended AAA experience. I still consider him one of the best minor league relievers from the past few years, so his inability to win a regular job in the majors continues to baffle me. Hopefully Andrade's return to the Rays on a minor league deal this winter finally will result in an extended look for him as part of a big league bullpen.

Tim Brown, 23, 1B-L
128/428 for .299/.427/.460 with 10 HR, 75 RBI, 74 R, 4/5 SB%,
and a 79:90 BB:K for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).

Following four poor years with Pittsburgh's short-season clubs earlier in the decade, Brown headed to the Frontier League in 2005 and returned to affiliated ball this summer and new player. He demonstrated both excellent patience and decent power, and while Adrian Gonzalez should man first in San Diego for a long time to come, adding Brown to the system appears a good move given the Padres' general lack of depth in good hitters.

Erick Burke, 29, LH Reliever
3-3 on a 79:45 K:BB in 80.1 IP over 1 GS(49G)
with 78 H, 10 HR, a 1.63 G-F, and a 4.15 ERA for AAA Portland(PCL).

Remaining with the Padres for another season should give the minor league free agent his best chance of making the majors to date, but given his high walk rate, his margin for error in the bigs seems quite low. Right now Burke will struggle even to emerge as roster filler.

Jack Cassel, 26, RH Starter
3-5 on a 44:28 K:BB in 76.1 IP over 11 GS(18G)
with 96 H, 12 HR, a 3.37 G-F, and a 6.48 ERA for AAA Portland(PCL).
6-3 on a 75:18 K:BB in 78.2 IP over 12 GS
with 66 H, 3 HR, a 3.56 G-F, and a 2.29 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

Cassel's move to the rotation this year just didn't buoy his long-term prospects for the majors. While he clearly breezed through Double-A lineup, his struggles at Portland suggest the groundball machine should focus on shorter outings. His return to the Padres for 2007 hopefully will result in a deserved shot in the majors after seven relatively impressive campaigns throughout the San Diego system.

Roger Deago, 29, LH Starter
4-5 on a 40:32 K:BB in 59.2 IP over 11 GS
with 67 H, 10 HR, a 1.06 G-F, and a 5.28 ERA for AAA Portland(PCL).
6-3 on a 44:21 K:BB in 64.2 IP over 10 GS(17G)
with 53 H, 5 HR, a 1.50 G-F, and a 3.76 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

Although Deago continues to hang in the Padres' upper minors, his annual struggles at Portland indicate a fairly limited upside as he long as he continues to start. Considering San Diego appears content to employ him primarily as a swingman on whichever minor league team needs innings, Deago may never receive an extended shot in the majors.

Josh Geer, 23, RH Starter
7-4 on a 56:16 K:BB in 89 IP over 15 GS
with 116 H, 7 HR, a 1.81 G-F, and a 4.96 ERA for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).
6-2 on a 46:13 K:BB in 72.2 IP over 11 GS(12G)
with 72 H, 3 HR, a 1.44 G-F, and a 3.10 ERA for A Fort Wayne(Mid).

A third round pick in 2005, Geer pitched effectively yet not impressively at either A-ball stop. Concerns about his velocity proved well-founded as he only managed a 5.7 K/9, along with a worrisome 10.5 H/9. At least he demonstrated excellent control, but considering he fared worse against right-handed hitters than lefties, I don't see a lot of upside here. While pitching in San Diego increases the fantasy value of all Padres' pitchers, Geer's ceiling looks like inning eater or long reliever at best.

Dirk Hayhurst, 25, RH Starter
1-2 on a 12:9 K:BB in 20 IP over 4 GS
with 29 H, 4 HR, a .92 G-F, and a 6.75 ERA for AAA Portland(PCL).
3-5 on a 49:18 K:BB in 52.1 IP over 10 GS(12G)
with 58 H, 6 HR, a 1.36 G-F, and a 4.82 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).
2-7 on a 51:20 K:BB in 59 IP over 11 GS(12G)
with 61 H, 3 HR, a 1.51 G-F, and a 3.97 ERA for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).

Apparently Hayhurst's third tour of the Cal League was the charm as he dramatically cut his ERA and transitioned to the upper minors without severe difficulty. Of course, he still doesn't possess particularly intriguing upside, but at least his nicely balanced skill set should enable him to succeed in the upper minors, potentially placing him in line for a berth with the Padres next fall with a little luck.

Royce Huffman, 29, 1B-R
105/351 for .299/.396/.467 with 10 HR, 59 RBI, 62 R, 3/5 SB%,
and a 50:73 BB:K for AAA Round Rock(PSL).

I realize that the Astros rarely needed another right-handed first baseman over the last decade, but since joining Houston in 1999, Huffman posted a .302 BA in over 3400 at-bats with the organization. He also owns a career OBP over .385, so I don't understand why they let him depart this winter without so much as a cup-of-coffee in Minute Maid. Apparently realizing that the Astros never would let him play in the majors, Huffman quickly signed with the Padres this fall, and if he enjoys a good spring, he just might fill Jon Knott's role as the club's occasional right-handed pinch-hitter. Despite Huffman's limited upside, his solid plate discipline and consistently high batting average mean he at least won't hurt you if needed as roster filler.

Eric Junge, 29, RH Starter
4-5 on a 61:26 K:BB in 71.2 IP over 13 GS(21G)
with 86 H, 7 HR, a 1.32 G-F, and a 5.15 ERA for AAA Portland(PCL).

Although Junge flopped in the Beavers' rotation, he missed a week with a strained shoulder at the end of June but then returned in July to post a 1.69 ERA on an 8:2 K:BB in 10.2 IP with 8 H and 1 HR. However, instead of earning him a deserved promotion, Junge found himself released by the Padres late that month. Hopefully his new deal with the Reds will result in Junge receiving the big league shot denied to him over the past three years.

Ryan Ketchner, 24, LH Reliever
0-0 on a 2:1 K:BB in 2 IP over 1 G
with 4 H, 0 HR, a 1.00 G-F, and a 9.00 ERA for AAA Las Vegas(PCL).
2-1 on a 19:5 K:BB in 18.2 IP over 9 G
with 10 H, 2 HR, a .61 G-F, and a 1.45 ERA for A+ Vero Beach(FSL).
0-0 on an 8:1 K:BB in 6 IP over 2 GS(3G)
with 3 H, 0 HR, a .33 G-F, and a 0.00 ERA for R Dodgers(GCL).

A very solid prospect with the Mariners and Dodgers through 2004, Ketchner missed all of 2005 due to Tommy John surgery. He returned in the second half of this summer to post respectable stats in the lower minors, though his performance couldn't convince Los Angeles to prevent him from exploring minor league free agency. The Padres awarded him a major league deal, so despite Ketchner's limited experience over the last two seasons, he likely will spend at least some time in San Diego's bullpen in 2007, albeit not in a role that earn him more than minimal fantasy value. Consider Ketchner merely someone to remember if he ever receives a chance to start in future seasons.

Jon Knott, 28, OF-R
0/3 for .000/.000/.000 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:1 BB:K.
134/479 for .280/.353/.572 with 32 HR, 113 RBI, 80 R, 3/6 SB%,
and a 52:103 BB:K for AAA Portland(PCL).

Despite a glaring need for right-handed power, the minor-league leading RBI total listed here, and Knott's mildly intriguing MLE averages of .258/.318/.468, which include twenty-two home runs, San Diego non-tendered the outfielder after his fourth stint in Portland. He barely even snagged a September cup-of-coffee, but the move still shocked me considering he seems a perfectly decent option to replace the traded Ben Johnson. Hopefully he'll land with one of the few AL clubs similarly seeking a right-handed slugger, especially since Knott only needs a starting job to reach double-digit value. His failure to receive that opportunity in San Diego after three equally impressive AAA campaigns just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Drew Macias, 23, OF-L
110/430 for .256/.334/.365 with 7 HR, 46 RBI, 43 R, 4/16 SB%,
and a 44:94 BB:K for AA Mobile(SL).

Primarily known for his defense, Macias at least didn't embarrass himself in the upper minors. However, he also failed to progress at the plate, leaving us no reason to expect he'll reach the majors as anything more than a September defensive replacement.

Colt Morton, 24, C-R
37/139 for .266/.329/.468 with 6 HR, 21 RBI, 15 R, 0/0 SB%,
and an 11:44 BB:K for AA Mobile(SL).
40/176 for .227/.374/.398 with 5 HR, 22 RBI, 30 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 36:44 BB:K for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).

Almost certainly destined for the majors as nothing more than a backup, Morton at least handled his somewhat unexpected mid-season promotion with aplomb when the Padres bumped him to Double-A to make room for Nick Hundley at Lake Elsinore. His improved power at Mobile suggests at least minimal fantasy potential, a meme reinforced by his .269/.333/.462 output in 52 AFL at-bats. While I don't expect him to serve as anything more than a third catcher for the next year or two, Morton certainly could develop into a decent endgame option before the end of the decade.

Bubba Nelson, 25, RH Reliever
5-7 and 2 Saves on a 82:44 K:BB in 83 IP over 3 GS(52G)
with 67 H, 7 HR, a 1.12 G-F, and a 3.80 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

Just three years removed from ranking as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, Nelson partially reinvigorated his career this summer with the Padres and now looks to find a club with less relief depth in minor league free agency. While his control problems probably will prevent him from reaching the majors in the near future, he had plenty of time to reemerge as a viable big leaguer given his strikeout rate and the fact he only turned twenty-five in August.

Cesar Ramos, 23, LH Starter
7-8 on a 70:44 K:BB in 141 IP over 24 GS(26G)
with 161 H, 9 HR, a 1.63 G-F, and a 3.70 ERA for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).

Far less prominent than the other pitching prospect named Cesar selected by San Diego in the first round of the 2005 draft, Ramos failed to develop a true out pitch this summer, failing to meet expectations that he would finish the summer at Double-A. At least he pitched effectively in the Cal League, but I see a very slim margin of error for Ramos as he heads to the upper minors next summer. He won't belong on any fantasy roster until he proves that he can remain successful nearer the majors despite his significant lack of dominance.

Leo Rosales, 25, RH Reliever
5-6 on a 54:18 K:BB in 61.2 IP over 53 G
with 53 H, 6 HR, a .95 G-F, and a 3.21 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).
1-0 on a 7:2 K:BB in 6.1 IP over 5 G
with 1 H, 0 HR, a 1.40 G-F, and a 0.00 ERA for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).

I won't fault Rosales for cutting both his strikeout and walk rates at Double-A considering he remained very effective and followed that performance by posting a 2.57 ERA on a 17:6 K:BB in 14 IP over 13 AFL appearances. He appears very close to contributing in the majors and almost certainly will see San Diego at some point next summer. While I don't envision him succeeding Trevor Hoffman, Rosales otherwise looks like a solid choice for both the Padres' future bullpen and your fantasy team whenever you need very low-risk roster filler.

Adam Shabala, 28, OF-L
80/289 for .277/.376/.412 with 5 HR, 41 RBI, 45 R, 7/10 SB%,
and a 48:67 BB:K for AAA Fresno(PCL).

The long-time Giant prospect never possessed sufficient power or speed for San Francisco, so upon reaching minor league free agency, Shabala signed with San Diego almost immediately. He'll receive an extended look in camp, and if he echoes these stats at AAA Portland, he almost certainly will receive another cup-of-coffee no later than September, albeit not in a role likely to offer much fantasy value.

Kyle Stutes, 24, LH Reliever
4-2 on a 51:8 K:BB in 55.2 IP over 40 G
with 44 H, 4 HR, a 1.18 G-F, and a 3.07 ERA for A+ Lake Elsinore(Cal).

Perhaps Stutes will stumble in the upper minors, but considering he ascended the lower rungs of the Padres' minor league ladder without difficulty, he should possess the skills necessary to remain effective against tougher competition. Unfortunately, given his steady progression to date, I don't see him competing for any significant job in San Diego until 2008.

Dale Thayer, 25, RH Reliever
0-0 on a 4:1 K:BB in 3 IP over 2 G
with 2 H, 1 HR, a 3.00 G-F, and a 3.00 ERA for AAA Portland(PCL).
7-4 and 27 Saves on a 57:22 K:BB in 65.1 IP over 57 G
with 59 H, 3 HR, a 1.06 G-F, and a 2.48 ERA for AA Mobile(SL).

After saving twenty-seven games in each of the last two years at Mobile and 102 games in his four-year career, Thayer ranks among the youngest established minor league closers in the game. Unfortunately for Thayer, minor league closers almost never develop into major league closers, and I don't see him defying that trend after taking a second tour of the Southern League. Anyone with his control should succeed in San Diego, but barring the abrupt breakdown of several of the Padres' current relievers, Thayer probably won't receive a big league opportunity for another year or two.

Will Venable, 24, OF-L
148/472 for .314/.389/.477 with 11 HR, 91 RBI, 86 R, 18/23 SB%,
and a 55:81 BB:K for A Fort Wayne(Mid).

Taken in the seventh round out of Princeton in 2005, Will got to spend the summer at Fort Wayne with dad Max, the former big leaguer and current Padres' coach. After an awful debut last year, Venable blossomed in the Midwest League, demonstrating solid all-around skills and then strongly echoing that performance by posting a .330/.393/.473 output with 1 HR, 10 RBI, and an 8:22 BB:K in 91 AB in the Hawaiian Winter League. While Venable still seems most likely to peak as a decent reserve, he now ranks as one of the Padres' better outfield prospects and at least merits monitoring as he progresses through San Diego's system

Steve Watkins, 28, RH Starter
7-7 on a 78:41 K:BB in 112.1 IP over 20 GS(21G)
with 105 H, 10 HR, a 1.47 G-F, and a 3.85 ERA for AAA New Orleans(PCL).

Another of the Padres' recent minor league signings, Watkins spent the summer as one of the few Zephyrs' pitchers who never received a promotion to Washington despite the Nats' desperate need for pitching. Of course, he also posted a reverse platoon split and didn't exactly dominate PCL hitters, but Watkins still ranks as a solid AAAA option capable of contributing to a big league bullpen, which is why San Diego re-signed him after allowing him to depart in 2004 after his previous seven-year tenure with the organization.

Today's Fantasy Rx: With PETCO continuing to play as baseball's best pitchers' park, every young hurler who joins the Padres at least possesses some chance of posting positive fantasy value. San Diego's starters in particular offer plenty of long-term upside, and even if you miss on Peavy, Young, and Hensley, whoever wins the fifth starter's job from Mike Thompson, Tim Stauffer, and Sean Thompson could replicate Hensley's emergence from this summer. Of course, targeting almost any Padres' pitcher, regardless of age, also remains a great way to improve your qualitative foundation in any NL league.

Team Overview and Organization Rankings

Obviously Kevin Kouzmanoff would top this list, as well as move up the Padres dramatically in the ranking while sending the Indians plummeting, but since I included him when discussing Cleveland, I neither wanted to list him twice nor to flip the rankings that significantly with only four teams remaining. While that trader radically altered San Diego's current rookie crop, I see few long-term effects from the deal. Adrian Gonzalez, Khalil Greene, and Kouzmanoff should comprise three-fourths of the infield through the end of the decade, and with Marcus Giles expected to sign any day now to replace Josh Barfield, the Padres don't need to rush Matt Antonelli's nevertheless certain conversion to second base. The outfield appears far more fluid since Mike Cameron should depart next fall and Brian Giles no longer possesses much power and could leave after 2008, leaving likely left fielder Terrmel Sledge as the only potential long-term solution on the roster. Hopefully 2006 third rounder Cedric Hunter will lock down center, but dealing Jason Bay for Giles clearly didn't work in San Diego's favor.

Conversely, Kevin Towers robbed the Red Sox blind by initially dumping Mark Loretta for Doug Mirabelli to clear a spot for Barfield, Towers then took advantage of Boston's need for a viable knuckleball catcher, netting Josh Bard and Cla Meredith in a May deal for Mirabelli. Bard joined waiver claim Rob Bowen as the best second and third catchers in the game, and following Mark Piazza's departure in free agency, both players will move up one spot on the depth chart. Meredith added another dominant arm to a loaded bullpen still anchored by Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman and premier set-up man Scott Linebrink. Trading Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins to the Mets last month brought Heath Bell and Royce Ring to solidify the middle innings, and a platoon of solid options remain available to fill the last two spots in the pen. San Diego's rotation appears equally strong after Greg Maddux accepted an effective two-year deal to support ace Jake Peavy and budding studs Chris Young and Clay Hensley. With Mike Thompson leading a pack of contenders that includes Tim Stauffer, Justin Hampson, and Cesar Carrillo for the fifth starter's job, the lack of prospect depth in the system doesn't appear an immediate problem since the Padres really need bench and pitching depth more immediately than the addition of more impact players. Most importantly, San Diego appears on pace to receive as many as six supplemental picks plus a compensation pick, giving the Padres as many as nine of the first ninety picks in June thanks to the new CBA. Everyone expects the front office, which currently includes Sandy Alderson, Towers, Paul DePodesta, and Grady Fuson, to use that haul to replenish the franchise's only real weakness. While the club neither possesses many notable prospects nor many opportunities on the current big league roster at the moment, both San Diego's short-term and long-term competitiveness appear assured.

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)
2. Tampa Bay Devil Rays(Delm.Young, Dukes, Riggans, Brignac, Longoria)
3. Colorado Rockies(Iannetta, Tulowitzki, J.Baker, I.Stewart, D.Fowler)
4. Kansas City Royals(A.Gordon, B.Butler, Ju.Huber, Lubanski)
5. Cleveland Indians(K.Kouzmanoff, T.Crowe, B.Barton)
6. Los Angeles Angels(Willits, B.Wood, J.Mathis)
7. Chicago White Sox(Fields, R.Sweeney, J.Owens)
8. Chicago Cubs(F.Pie, Er.Patterson, D.Veal)
9. Los Angeles Dodgers(J.Loney, An.La Roche, Delw.Young)
10. Houston Astros(J.Hirsh, B.Conrad, M.Albers)
11. Cincinnati Reds(J.Votto, H.Bailey, J.Bruce)
12. Philadelphia Phillies(M.Bourn, C.Ruiz, J.Happ)
13. Texas Rangers(Fr.Guzman, Botts, Ed.Volquez)
14. Pittsburgh Pirates(Raj.Davis, B.Lillibridge, A.McCutcheon)
15. Boston Red Sox(Pedroia, Ellsbury, Kottaras)
16. Minnesota Twins(Garza, G.Perkins, A.Casilla)
17. New York Yankees(P.Hughes, K.Thompson, J.Tabata)
18. New York Mets(M.Pelfrey, C.Gomez, P.Humber)
19. Toronto Blue Jays(A.Lind, T.Snider)
20. Seattle Mariners(Ad.Jones, LaHair)
21. Milwaukee Brewers(R.Braun, Y.Gallardo)
22. Oakland Athletics(Barton, Windsor)
23. San Diego Padres(P.McAnulty, Se.Thompson)
24. Detroit Tigers(Maybin, An.Miller)
25. Atlanta Braves(Gr.Blanco, J.Saltalamacchia)
26. Florida Marlins(He.Owens, J.Stokes)
27. Baltimore Orioles(Fiorentino)

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