With yesterday being my last day off work before the AZ Snakepit fantasy draft on Monday, I spent a good chunk of the afternoon trying to work out my draft order. This is as good a way to waste four hours as any, I suppose: the main problem was that, while I am deeply familiar with the Arizona team, and had no difficulty ranking them accordingly, my opinions of the other 29 are on somewhat less solid ground. Even in the top 20, there were a couple of players that I hadn't actually heard of, which is kind of an embarrassing admission for any fan.
The knowledge gaps are particularly apparent in the AL. On the senior circuit, as Arizona plays the other teams several games a year, I am at least vaguely aware of the opposing superstars - as candidates for the All-Star game, if nothing else. But when it comes to American League teams, I pay very little attention. Even though he only hit .331 last year, with 24 homeruns, names like Texas shortstop Michael Young flew over my head, to the extent I initially suspected some kind of mix-up (was he maybe an NBA player?) when I saw him in the top 10 anticipated picks. Sorry about that, Michael. :-)
I don't know if this is standard among AZ fans, or if - probably - I am extreme in this way. Be curious to here how much attention people give to other teams. Certainly, this is one thing that fantasy baseball is good for; you pay a damn sight more attention when every game is of crucial importance. That's especially so in head-to-head league like ours, where what your specific opponent's players are doing, is equally as vital as the performance of your own team. There's nothing quite like the agony of seeing one of your hitters at the plate, bases loaded, two out... and facing one of your own pitchers.
Suspect I'll talk more about fantasy baseball over the weekend. though can I discuss my draft strategy in general terms without giving away trade secrets? Okay, "Be sure to put Russ Ortiz on your do-not-draft list" is hardly more than stating the bleedin' obvious. Especially after yesterday's performance where, as William K kindly reported [sorry, I was off watching Bloody Mallory again. Hey, I've an excuse, since I'm interviewing the director this week], Russ allowed ten hits and a walk in five innings - seems like he was very lucky to escape allowing only four earned runs.
Lyon followed with two shutout innings, fanning four, and Vizcaino allowed one hit in the ninth, but we were outhit 13-6, and so to lose by only two runs, 4-2, was something of a lucky escape. No-one had more than one hit either: Byrnes and Gil got the RBIs, and Estrada the only extra-base knock, a double. We only managed two walks, and fanned 11 times in total, eight in Hernandez' five innings. He's just gone up a notch or two on my draft list...
Heroes and Villains of Spring Training, Week 3
Hitting [min. 30 at-bats]
Jerry Gil: 16-for-35, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1.343 OPS
Conor Jackson: 16-for-37, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1.327 OPS
Carlos Quentin: 14-for-40, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 1.200 OPS
Johnny Estrada: 13-for-32, 0 HR, 6 RBI, .862 OPS
Shawn Green: 9-for-41, 1 HR, 8 RBI, .628 OPS
Alberto Callaspo: 9-for-40, 0 HR, 6 RBI, .611 OPS
The future is bright, looking at the players who've made a run to the front over the past week [Tracy's had a bit of a slump, and Carter was well short of the required at-bats, with 25]. Gil's leading OPS is all the more remarkable given he's had only one walk. Jackson is not far behind, batting .432, and his .543 OBP is beaten only by Jeff Davanon (at .568 - but unusually, Davanon is slugging below that, at .548), while Quentin's line is pleasingly rounded, at the very least: .350/.500/.700.
A little sympathy for Johnny Estrada: batting .406 would not normally merit a spot on the "villains" list, but he's just this week's victim of our inspired hitting. That, and the fact he has only one walk and one double to add to the average. Eighteen D'backs have now mustered double-figures in hits this spring: Green and Callaspo are not among them, and continue to bump along the bottom. Green, too, has just one walk to his name (against 8 K's), while Callaspo's weakness is...well, his weakness, with only three extra-base hits. I know it's only spring training, but both men haven't got much time left to pick it up.
Pitching [min. 7 IP]
Brandon Webb: 14 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO, 1.93 ERA
Greg Aquino: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 1.29 ERA
Randy Choate: 7 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2.57 ERA
Brandon Lyon: 8 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 9.00 ERA
Brad Halsey: 11 IP, 18 H, 11 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 9.00 ERA
Brian Bruney: 7.2 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 9 K, 9.39 ERA
The B-force - Brandon L, Brad and Brian, occupy the three bottom slots, at least as judged by ERA [not a bad measure in spring training: you usually tend to get left to finish whatever innings you start, so inherited runners are less an issue] Halsey is supposed to be working on his pitches, but it's clear he's not fooling anyone yet, and those 18 hits include five long bombs. Bruney's lack of control is his undoing, and Lyon's failures mean Ortiz escapes being named and shamed this week - albeit, at 8.15, only just...
Webb's latest performance was his most wobbly, but given the birth of his daughter, can be overlooked - he starts today, so should be back on form. Aquino might have a shot at a bullpen spot, if he can cut back on those pesky free passes, but the high number of hits Choate has allowed is a warning sign that he may simply have been lucky. Still, for what it's worth, based purely on spring training performances, my bullpen picks would be: Mulholland, Choate, Daigle, Bajenaru, Koplove, Aquino and Valverde. However, I think Grimsley may slide in, replacing one of those with minor-league options.
Couple of things to note in the Banana today. Long piece on Garrett Mock: when asked whether Mock could make the majors this season, Byrnes replies, "I wouldn't rule it out." I still reckon the chances on this are slim, since he has yet to face hitting above A-ball with any comfortable results, but a good performance could certainly see him in Triple-A by year-end. Said Byrnes, "I think we're more apt to be aggressive in Year 2. If we feel like he's conquered a level, we may consider moving him up."
And where in the world is Felix Heredia? Not where he's supposed to be, that's for certain. The Banana says, he "has still not reported to major league camp after being assigned there earlier this week. If he doesn't give the team an indication of his plans soon, he will either be released or face a possible suspension by the Diamondbacks." Why we even bothered to give him roster space remains a mystery to me.