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Of Oscar 'Cthulhu' Villarreal

Is there a draft in here...or is it just me? The draft for the But It's a Dry Heat Memorial Yahoo Fantasy Baseball League - hereafter referred to as the BIaDHMYFB League, or more likely, The League - happened yesterday, and I'm now sitting here, looking at my team, and wondering whether it's any good. Here it is - you are cordially invited to pass judgement:

 C Martinez (CLE)
1B Helton (COL)
2B Reyes (NYM)
3B A.Boone (CLE)
SS Matsui (NYM)
OF Ichiro (SEA)
OF Edmonds (STL)
OF Damon (BOS)
Ut Varitek (BOS)
Bench: Bradley (LAD), Sanchez (TAM), Roberts (BAL)

SP: Burnett (FLA), Maddux (CHC), Greinke (KC), Benson (NYM), Lawrence (SAD)
RP: Lidge (HOU), Baez (TB), Mota (FLA), Gordon (NYY)

My initial thoughts? [Apart from "Aaron Boone? Is he still playing?"] I've got two of the "big 5" catchers, so will be looking to trade one of them, either for a shortstop or a Grade-A starting pitcher. I don't mind how my rotation starts, but Benson and Lawrence at the back end could kill me. Greinke and Sanchez have definite sleeper potential, and getting both Helton + Suzuki should keep me very competitive, in the AVG category at least.

There clearly wasn't much playing of home-town favourites, as only five D'backs were selected. Glaus went first (7th round); then Vazquez, Tracy and Green in 8, 9 and 10, before Ortiz finally went, way down in the 18th. The absence of Counsell and Clayton was unsurprising, though I did think about perhaps taking a punt on Gonzo. [editor's note, by Jim McLennan] [He actually was taken, in the 17th round.] On the other hand, the Antichris...sorry, Barry Bonds didn't get chosen until almost the end of the 3rd (Wil of Baseballtopia finally caved!), though how much was due to injury worries and how much to personal antipathy (he was on my do-not draft list!) is hard to tell.

Looking at the other teams, No Necks No Names perhaps have the best pitching lineup, with Sheets, Hudson, Perez, Smoltz, Vazquez; Random Fandom aren't far behind (Santana, Schilling, Mulder and Foulke). On the hitting side, G-Unit have Beltran, Ramirez, Mora, Sexson, I-Rod, while BlahBlahBlah will be a force too: A-Rod, Cabrera, Delgado, Young, Blalock. But on the whole, it's a fairly balanced draft - as you'd expect it to seem before any actual games take place. The question is, where will it go from there?

A lot of interesting moves in the past 24 hours; some were expected, such as the release of Cormier and Tolar, whose chances of making the roster evaporated with the ping of his hamstring in Sunday's game. However, the dropping of Scott Hairston and Kelly Stinnett probably count as shocks: Hairston had really been coming along in the outfield, making some good plays and only yesterday, cracked the top three hitters for the first time. Given the choice between him and McCracken, I'd have gone with Hairston, even if simply to get his trade value up (the Banana rumbles about this today).

More of a surprise still was Stinnett getting his release. He was brought on specifically to act as a coach for the young catchers, but it was generally regarded as certain that he had the backup position locked down, with one of Hill + Snyder being the main catcher, and the other going down to Tucson. However, the youngsters' sterling work, both offensively and defensively, has convinced management that no veteran is needed.

I'm a little unsure about this: I think Snyder in particular would be better served by playing every day down in Tucson, than sitting on the bench in Phoenix. But if this ends up being close to a 50/50 split of duties, I'll take that. It does also unclog somewhat the logjam down in Tucson, where Brito and Ansman can now sit behind the plate, with Corey Myers roaming the infield. I really can't see Stinnett taking a minor league assignment at age 35.

That effectively sets the roster: McCracken gets the fifth outfielder spot, and admittedly, he may be better suited to that, temperamentally, than Hairston. Bruney looks to have locked down his spot in the bullpen alongside Aquino, Koplove, Choate, Villarreal, and Lyon. Though speaking of Villarreal...

The winning streak was, inevitably, jinxed by my mentioning it, and we went down 7-3 to the Rockies, though I'm not too upset, given the starting pitcher was, as previously mentioned, 2003 draft pick Matt Chico, who is obviously not ready for prime time yet. He allowed four runs on eight hits in four innings, while Osborne, Koplove and Choate allowed one hit over the last three innings.

But in the middle, Oscar Villarreal got knocked around, yet again: three hits, two walks and three runs in one innings of work, raising his spring ERA to a figure of near-Lovecraftian horror, a shambling, nameless, terrifying number, whose very mention sets fans of shaky sanity gibbering. Okay: 13.50. But something is very obviously not right - let's hope he works it out down in Tucson, rather than against major-league opponents.

Luis Terrero went 2-for-4 with a home run and a triple, driving in all three of our runs. Clark had two hits and scored twice, but the rest of the offense was anaemic to say the least, going 1-for-26. It was a half-team that we put out though, with only Counsell, Gonzalez and Cruz of the regulars getting to start.