D-Backs Fantasy Impact

arizonadiamondbacksThe Arizona Diamondbacks have won more games than any other National League team over the past two seasons.  Considering that, you would figure that they would have a myriad of impact Fantasy Baseball players from which to select, but that really isn’t the case.  General manager Josh Bynes and company have created a team for which the whole is greater than the sum of its

That writ, there are some Diamondbacks players to keep an eye on in your fantasy draft, particularly if you’re in a keeper league, as each of the D-backs’ eight starting position players and four of the five members of their starting rotation enter the 2009 season under 30 years of age.  I’m going to go through the Diamondbacks rankings in the 2009 FoxSports.com Fantasy Guide and give my input as to whether they should actually rank higher or lower in your draft.

(The number in parenthesis is where FoxSports.com ranks each player among the players who qualify for the position listed)

Catcher – Chris Snyder (11)

Snyder is a more valuable offensive player than his .237 average indicates, since he draws walks (56) and hits for some power (16 HR).  If you are in a league that values OBP and SLG, this is a good ranking.  If not, the fact that he hits in the lower part of Arizona’s lineup should scare you away, as it deprives him of run and RBI opportunities.  Snyder’s strikeout total also jumped from 67 to 101 last year, which could be a sign of troubles ahead.  Additionally, Rule V draft selection James Skelton might stick with the team, spreading out catcher at bats among three Diamondbacks when primary backup Miguel Montero already deserves more playing time.

First Base – Conor Jackson (21), Chad Tracy (27)

Jackson ostensibly increased his fantasy value when he moved from first base to the outfield last summer.  A closer examination reveals that Jackson had an .879 OPS at first base but a .783 OPS in left field.  He did not hit a single homer in the final two months of the season, suggesting that the physical demands of flagging down fly balls may have worn him down.  He surprised
everyone by swiping 10 bases last year, but doesn’t hit for enough power to be a fantasy first baseman.  Draft him in the mid-to-late rounds for outfield help, but consider his first base eligibility only as insurance for when your primary first basemen get hurt or plays in Petco.

Just stay away from Chad Tracy.  He is three years removed from his only good fantasy season.  If he plays enough third base this season to become eligible there in your league, you can consider grabbing him off the waiver wire.  If an injury pushes Josh Whitesell into action, grab him before he starts hitting like he did in Triple-A last year (.993 OPS, 110 RBI in 127 G).

Second Base – Felipe Lopez (22)

Lopez hit a lot of homers in 2005 and stole a lot of bases in 2006, but hasn’t done anything since to suggest that he is fantasy-worthy.  His defense is so atrocious that he may even have to ride the pine whenever groundball maven Brandon Webb takes the hill.  He’s another waiver wire pickup if he shows that his brief stint with the Cardinals last year was less fluky than it seems, but don’t waste a draft pick on this guy.

Shortstop – Stephen Drew (9)

Picture of Stephen Drew at bat during a Spring...
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Here is one D-back that FoxSports has underrated.  Drew just turned 26 and really figured things out last summer.  After the All-Star break, he batted .326 and slugged .556.  Some of  his effectiveness was due to batting in the leadoff spot and seeing a lot of fastballs there, but even as he moves to the #2 or #3 hole this year, his RBI numbers will increase, offsetting any slight loss in his rate numbers.  He should be the fourth shortstop drafted in any league and isn’t higher only because he doesn’t steal bases.

Third Base – Mark Reynolds (16)

Clearly, if your league counts strikeouts against you, you cannot even consider the newly-crowned strikeout king, Mark Reynolds.  If strikeouts do not matter in your league, then this ranking is about right, as Reynolds is a legitimate source of homers and RBI from the hot corner who will even steal you a few bases now and then.  If Felipe Lopez is a complete bust, there’s even
a chance that Reynolds could move to second base, where he spent time in the minors.

Outfield – Justin Upton (36), Jackson (41), Chris Young (59), Eric Byrnes

Upton was batting over .400 and leading the league in homers and RBI for the first two weeks of 2008, then his bat disappeared for about four months.  But he returned from an injury in late August and posted a .922 OPS the rest of the way.  He’s only 21, so jump on him in keeper leagues, but his inconsistency may make the #36 ranking too high for the single season format.

Young is another Diamondback whose strikeouts can negate any other value he brings and is also a great example of a young fastball hitter struggling when removed from the leadoff spot.  I’d steer clear of him until he proves that he can hit a curveball, despite his tantalizing potential as a 30-30 player.

Eric Byrnes is now a fourth outfielder, which may just save his body to the point where he doesn’t completely collapse the second half of the season (career .239 BA, .695 OPS Post AS).  If he’s still there in the final rounds of your draft, you might want to grab him; if one of Arizona’s primary outfielders gets injured, you can trade Byrnes to some sucker owner who is ignorant of those
Pre/Post All-Star splits.

Starting Pitching – Dan Haren (8), Brandon Webb (9), Max Scherzer (35),
Doug Davis (96), Jon Garland (NR)

DENVER - APRIL 1:  Starting pitcher Brandon We...
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Speaking of second-half collapses, Haren’s career second-half ERA is 1.77 points higher than his first half total.  He’s a guy to draft high only if you are willing to ditch him at the All-Star break.  Brandon Webb, the third in the trio of premium D-backs fantasy players along with Haren and Drew, could be in for a down season.  Felipe Lopez is a big step down from Orlando Hudson defensively at second base, and the rest of the infield ranges from below average to abhorrent with the glove.  Backup Augie Ojeda is a dandy little glove man, so if he’s playing somewhere in the infield whenever Webb pitches, the sinkerballer might be okay.  But do you really want to spend a pick in the first five rounds on a pitcher whose success depends upon the regular use of a player who slugged .299 last year?

Scherzer is another no-brainer for keeper-leagues, but a bit of an injury question mark for this year.  Draft him before Clayton Kershaw, who experienced a larger jump in innings last year and will be expected to be the Dodgers’ #3 starter while Scherzer is being eased into the #5 role.
Cancer-survivor Doug Davis is a gamer, but not a viable fantasy option at this point.  As a pitcher who puts the ball in play frequently, Garland is a potential disaster, given Arizona’s poor infield defense and hot, desert air.

Relievers – Chad Qualls (23), Jon Rauch (37)

A neophyte closer in a hitter’s park is always a dicey proposition, but Qualls has been consistently good every year he’s been in the league, and it’s about time he got the chance to close somewhere.  He should get plenty of opportunities with Arizona’s strong rotation and low-powered offense, but deserves to be ranked where he does, behind the proven closers and ahead of the closers still vying for their job this spring.

I’m not sure why Rauch is ranked at 37 while Tony Pena isn’t listed among the top 50; both pitchers are equally likely to assume the closer’s role should Qualls falter.  Tom Gordon could also be in the mix when he returns in May.  None of these guys are worth drafting.

Three elite players and a couple of young studs comprise the main Diamondbacks to be concerned about fantasy-wise.  The rest are players you shouldn’t really consider until the later stages of your draft.

You can read more of Keith’s Diamondbacks analysis at FutureBacks.com

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