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Let the games commence...

"And with the first pick of the 2006 AZ SnakePit Fantasy Draft... The Loose Seals select... Alex Rodriguez." Well, no real shock there.

My strategy was to pick the traditionally weaker spots up the middle - C, 2B, SS though not CF, since there is no concept in rotisserie, it's usually just three outfielders - and boost the leading candidates for those positions up a few spots. Similarly, those positions where there's a glut of hitters (1B and the OF, in particular), get dropped down a few spots, on the basis that perfectly-decent hitters will be available at those positions in the later rounds.

Still ended up taking David Ortiz in the first round: there are some players who transcend the general rules of thumb. I got Derek Jeter in round three: I can only apologize, and for this I am deeply ashamed. Just not enough to put him on the waiver wire though. However, I didn't get a 2B until Round 9 (Iguchi) and took a flyer on Willingham as my catcher in the 15th. Pleased to pick up Garciaparra in the 12th; he should qualify at 1B quickly, and I need that, since I don't have much as far as backup infielders go. My bench players are both outfielders, so I think I'll probably be after a 2B-qualified player instead.

Barry Bonds' dodgy status - in a variety of ways - meant he was passed by 113 times. And BBTNG, who eventually chose him, appear to have put him on the trading block already. Given William K finished ahead of me last year, my sympathy is definitely limited... :-) I had Bonds on my "do not draft" list: for moral reasons, as much as sporting ones. I just couldn't bring myself to cheer for Bonds, even if he was on my team.

On the pitching side, I wasn't too bothered about trying to pick up any closers. They pretty much only help you in a single category (saves), and so it's not worth using a top pick on them. I still got Trevor Hoffman in Round 7, and Braves closer Chris Reitsma in the 13th, though the latter is now under an injury cloud. The first closer to be chosen was - perhaps inevitably - Mariano Rivera, with the last pick of the 4th round. Lidge, Wagner and Street were the next to go.

I definitely wanted to get a stud starter though - I was crippled last year by having a bunch of scrubs, and so was happy to pick up Roy Halladay in the second round, and added John Patterson in the 6th, then Doug Davis in the 8th. No question who has the best starters: Random Fandom can boast a rotation of Santana, Johnson, Webb, Myers and Lackey, so they will definitely be the ones to chase in the K's category.

Speaking of the D'backs, Webb was the first choice, going in the 3rd round. Tracy went - also to Random Fandom - in the 4th, while Valverde was picked in the tenth. Sean Green hung around to the 13th, and Miguel Batista two rounds later, as did Craig Counsell. Gonzo was taken in round 17, and Tony Clark was the last man standing, going in the 20th. No love was shown for Conor Jackson (though I think he wasn't available on the initial draft list), Eric Byrnes, O-Dog or Johnny Estrada.

However, it all looks fairly well-balanced - as you'd expect before a single meaningful pitch has been thrown. It's when the season starts, and the bodies hit the floor that we separate the Showalters from the Pedriques. Who will survive, and what will be left of them? Stay tuned, for weekly(ish) updates as we progress through the season.

Meanwhile, back in the world of "real" baseball (rolls eyes), Miguel Batista had a longer outing against the A's, and was very solid, going five innings, and only allowing one run, on three hits and two walks, while fanning six. Batista hopes to get up to 90 pitches in his final outing, against the Yankees. Valverde allowed a hit in the sixth, Vizcaino didn't in the seventh, Glant gave up a run in the eighth, Daigle didn't in the ninth.

Chad Tracy busted out of his slump, going 3-for-4, with three RBIs, including his second homer of spring, a solo shot. Davanon, Estrada and Gonzo had two hits apiece, with Davanon adding a pair of stolen bases and Estrada delivering his first long ball of the year. Brad Halsey, in his first game for Oakland, had three shutout innings. However, Andy Green had a wretched afternoon, going 0-for-3 with a GIDP and his team-leading sixth error in the field.

The roster was trimmed a bit more: Nippert, Callaspo, Drew and Hairston were optioned to Minor League camp, alomg with non-roster invitees Koplove, Brito and Barden. The only minor surprise was the departure of Koplove, who was one of the contenders for the last bullpen spot. It now comes down to one of Choate, Bajenaru, Daigle and Aquino, though the choice is as likely to be decided by who has options left, as much as their talent or performances this spring.

And it certainly makes for an interesting squad down at Tucson. The opening day lineup for the Sidewinders will be something like:

  1. Young, CF
  2. Hairston, LF
  3. Drew, SS
  4. Carter, 1B
  5. Quentin, RF
  6. Barden, 3B
  7. Callaspo, 2B
  8. Hill/Brito, C
  9. Nippert, P
Do you think Vegas takes bets on the Pacific Coast League?