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July 28, 2006

Fantasy Focus

ROI 100 Update

by Erik Siegrist

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Any prospect list is probably obsolete the moment it's released. Even in the space of the few weeks since the American League and National League ROI lists were published, enough has happened to make some major alterations to the rankings of many of the prospects.

Rather than trying to re-rank everyone, I'm simply going to indicate the players who have improved their fortunes (or had their status slip) over those weeks. One player, Casey Janssen, had to be dropped from the list entirely, to make up for a somewhat egregious oversight.

Remember that the ROI (Return On Investment) 100 is not a ranking of prospect ceiling or ability, but rather an attempt to measure which youngsters make the best investments purely from a fantasy perspective, based on their probably current salary and likely earnings over the length of a standard fantasy contract.

Disclaimer: Past performance does not guarantee future results. Prospect values and investment returns will fluctuate. This article is not intended to provide specific individual advice including, without reservation, investment, financial, legal, accounting, or rotisserie.

National League

OF Matt Kemp, LA Dodgers, previously #14, FALLING: A slump cost him his job at the big league level, and his 41/8 K/BB ratio with the Dodgers indicates how much he still has to learn. Don't be surprised if he's back before September in case Los Angeles needs him to be playoff eligible.

SS Stephen Drew, Arizona, previously #34, RISING: Although it's a small sample size, Drew certainly seems to be doing his best to Pipp Craig Counsell, hitting .302/.348/.512 through his first eleven major league games. With Carlos Quentin also up and the Diamondbacks' youth movement in full swing, it's hard to imagine Counsell getting his job at short back when he gets healthy.

LHP Scott Olsen, Florida, previously #45, RISING: Olsen still has some efficiency issues, lasting just over 6 1/3 innings on average in his last ten starts, but over that stretch he also sports a 2.39 ERA and 60/20 K/BB ratio. If Dontrelle Willis is 1A in the Marlins rotation, and Josh Johnson 1B, Olsen is making a case to be considered 1C.

OF Josh Willingham, Florida, previously #49, FALLING: His bat has cooled off to the point that even if he were going to be catcher-eligible in 2007, he still might not be one of the top three options. As an outfielder, his production will likely be thoroughly average.

RHP Cesar Carrillo, San Diego, previously #61, FALLING: His multiple arm injuries (first his forearm, and now his elbow) have wrecked his first full pro season, and made even a 2007 major league debut somewhat iffy. If you paid a lot for him this year, you'll be better served throwing him back into the pool and trying to get him back at a discount.

LHP Gio Gonzalez, Philadelphia, previously #68, FALLING: Although his strikeout rate remains exceptional (9.9 K/9) he's otherwise hit a wall at Double-A, with a huge increase in his home runs allowed and control issues. He'll probably need another full season in the minors before he's ready for the majors.

3B/OF Jose Bautista, Pittsburgh, previously #92, RISING: His rates with the Pirates are a close mirror image to what he managed last season with Double-A Altoona, except for a slight increase in his walk rate. Given his nomadic career to date, both in terms of the number of uniforms he's worn and where Pittsburgh has had him play this season in the field, that's impressive consistency.

2B Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati, previously unranked, RISING: All but forgotten in the Cleveland system, he escaped his exile in Buffalo and reminded everyone why he was considered just as important to the trade that sent Bartolo Colon to Montreal as Grady Sizemore. His 18-for-20 success on the basepaths might be the most impressive aspect of his development, and the one that promises the most value from a fantasy perspective.

American League

OF/DH Jason Kubel, Minnesota, previously #5, FALLING: His knees have begun acting up again, raising the possibility that he could end up as a DH long-term, as well as cutting into his playing time in the short-term. His production (eight home runs in 160 at-bats) when he is able to play isn't in question, however.

3B Dallas McPherson, LA Angels, previously #15, FALLING: Back problems continue to sideline him, and lingering back problems are never a great sign for a power hitter. With the Angels in a dogfight for a playoff spot, they may end up taking no chances and finding a veteran option to man the hot corner while shelving McPherson for the rest of the season.

1B Kendry Morales, LA Angels, previously #26, FALLING: His chance to establish himself as the Angels' first baseman of the future ahead of Casey Kotchman slipped through his fingers, sending him back to Triple-A. The value of both will be volatile until one of them gets traded.

RHP Jered Weaver, LA Angels, previously #29, RISING: Weaver proved to be so good as a rookie that he chased his older brother out of town. He had a brief scare with a case of biceps tendinitis, but he's still picked up the victory in his first seven major league starts, an unbelievable achievement, and would almost certainly in the top five of a revised ROI list.

2B Howie Kendrick, LA Angels, previously #33, RISING: Yep, another Angel. Kendrick hasn't been quite as good as Stephen Drew, but he's been good enough to make Adam Kennedy expendable. Kennedy's presence still leaves Kendrick a tick behind Ian Kinsler among AL second base prospects, but only a tick.

RHP Scott Baker, Minnesota, previously #36, FALLING: His continued struggles sent him back to Triple-A, but the demotion didn't seem to solve his problems. Matt Garza's continued ascent up the ladder threatens to pass Baker by on the big league depth chart, maybe even before the season is over. Baker's still in the Twins future plans, but he's not featured as prominently as he once was.

3B Andy Marte, Cleveland, previously #42, RISING: He's picked up the pace at Triple-A after an adjustment period, and the Indians' own consolidation-type season has them thinking about getting Marte's adjustmenmt to the majors underway before 2006 is finished. If he gets enough at bats in 2006, he'll enter 2007 a Rookie of the Year favorite.

RHP Matt Garza, Minnesota, previously #64, RISING: Garza is well on his way to conquering his third minor league level after three Triple-A starts, and with the back of the Twins rotation a shambles, they may elect to try and make it four-for-four with an August promotion. There's nothing in his minor league rates (10.3 K/9, 142/30 K/BB, 0.44 HR/9) to suggest that it would be a mistake.

1B Ryan Garko, Cleveland, previously #65, RISING: His numbers at Triple-A remain no better than adequate, but the recent trades of Brian Broussard and Eduardo Perez certainly give the impression that the Indians are opening up first base at-bats for the youngster. His main obstacle to seizing a big league role might be Kelly Shoppach; the larger the load that Shoppach can carry behind the plate, the more Victor Martinez will be freed up to claim those first base at bats for himself.

Erik Siegrist is a senior beat writer for RotoWire, covering the Marlins and Nationals.

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Prospectus Notebook: W... (07/28)
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