Diamondbacks Reflections: Fantasy Angle 2010
- Updated: March 22, 2010
For a team that won 70 games last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks certainly had a lot of impact fantasy players. If your squad had Dan Haren, Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds, Miguel Montero, and Chad Qualls, you probably had a pretty solid 2009 season. On the other hand, if you drafted Brandon Webb in the third round, you may not have been able to recover from his season-ending injury. What will 2010 bring?
In order to make that determination, I’m going to go through the fantasy draft rankings for Diamondbacks players in the 2010 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 – Miguel Montero (11)
This ranking is pretty absurd. FoxSports ranked Chris Snyder 11th last year coming off a season in which he hit .237. Montero hit .294 last year and .326/.371/.540 over his final 78 games of the season. This 26-year-old backstop should not be selected any lower than sixth among all catchers. Remember, he hit 30 doubles in 425 at-bats last year. If Montero turns a few of those into homers, he could be looking at 25 dingers and 90 RBI over a full season to go with a batting average around .300.
First Base – Mark Reynolds (7), Adam LaRoche (30), Conor Jackson (37)
This Fantasy Guide magazine was penned before Adam LaRoche signed with the D-backs, so it’s reasonable to assume the news that he would be playing half his games at Chase Field would have bumped him up to 25 or so. He is just a .238 hitter with a .661 OPS in 42 career at-bats there, but he claims to like Chase’s sightlines and would figure to threaten the 30-homer and 100-RBI marks in a full season in the desert. It’s hard to justify using a draft pick on LaRoche, however, since he always does his best work later in the season (.252/.326/.447 career before the All-Star break and .300/.363/.546 afterwards). It may be preferable to let another owner draft him and wait for either an easy trade opportunity or even for the unwitting owner to drop LaRoche in frustration with an early season slump.
Conor Jackson appears fully recovered from the bout of Valley Fever that sidelined him for most of 2009, as he has looked good both in winter ball and in early spring action. He still doesn’t provide enough power for a starting first baseman, however, and should be considered only for late-round outfield help and as an occasional first base plugin.
Second Base – Ryan Roberts (24), Kelly Johnson (30)
Clearly, these rankings were based on last year’s performance and little else. Ryan Roberts was a career minor leaguer before last season and is now 29-years old. Kelly Johnson was a top-notch fantasy performer at the age of 25. Johnson has since declined in two straight seasons, but is still younger than Roberts, plus is the starter in Arizona. Definitely draft Johnson before Roberts, and only consider drafting Roberts at all if you really need his multiple position eligibility of second base, third base, and outfield.
Shortstop – Stephen Drew (8)
Unless triples is a category in your league, Stephen Drew was a big disappointment last year. Injuries were part of the problem, but it’s beginning to look as though 2008 was the outlier, not the rule for Drew. Drew has much more value in daily leagues. His career OPS against righties is .797, but it is just .696 versus southpaws. At Chase Field, he has an .834 OPS, but it is just .710 on the road. There aren’t a lot of five-category shortstops around, so if you can nab Drew in the middle rounds and get someone like Everth Cabrera in the final rounds to platoon, you’ll be alright. Cabrera also has disparate splits (although he is significantly better on the road) and can provide steals while Drew supplies the average and pop.
Third Base – Mark Reynolds (2)
Reynolds had a terrific season last year – particularly fantasy-wise, assuming you are not penalized by strikeouts. Still, this ranking is too high. One good season does not put Reynolds above the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Evan Longoria, David Wright, Michael Young, Chone Figgins, and Kevin Youkilis. While Reynolds’ power is legit, there is no way he steals 24 bases again this year. Even if his strikeouts do not directly hurt you fantasy-wise, they prevent him from ever hitting for a high batting average. He belongs in a class with Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval – guys coming off one elite season who need to prove that their numbers are repeatable – not the perennial fantasy stars listed above.
Outfield – Justin Upton (7), Chris Young (78)
I like these rankings a lot. Upton is the real deal. Still just 22, he is only going to get better. .300-30-100 is probable if Upton stays healthy, and unlike Reynolds, Upton’s speed is legit. One caveat is that Upton is unlikely to repeat his .360 batting average on balls in play from
last season. He will therefore need to cut down on his strikeouts in order to hit .300 again.
Many people are predicting a rebound season for Chris Young. I need to see him hit a decent curveball before I’m willing to take a flyer on him. Young succeeded in 2007 partly because he saw a preponderance of fastballs while batting leadoff. A.J. Hinch doesn’t appear to be as willing to take the OBP hit out of the leadoff position that Bob Melvin was just to make Chris Young a viable fantasy option.
Starting Pitching – Dan Haren (6), Brandon Webb (25), Edwin Jackson (41)
Dan Haren has exceeded my expectations since he joined the Diamondbacks two winters ago. It seems that the benefit of not facing a designated hitter has outweighed the detriment of pitching in Chase Field in his case. While Haren’s inhuman strikeout-to walk ratio (5.87 last year) certainly makes him
worthy of being one of the first ten pitchers drafted, make sure you trade him to an unsuspecting owner before your league’s trade deadline. His career ERA before the All-Star break is 3.08 while afterwards it is a robust 4.21.
Edwin Jackson is similar to Haren in that he is transitioning from a pitcher’s park in a DH-league to Chase Field and had some disparate pre-post splits in 2009 (2.52/5.07). But while Haren had three solid seasons with the A’s prior to joining the D-backs, Jackson only has a few months of success on his
resume. Moreover, Jackson’s velocity and sudden recent workload makes him a substantial injury risk. FoxSports has him rated correctly.
I personally like to draft high-upside starting pitchers in the draft, as it is generally easy to pick up solid innings-eater types off the waiver wire midseason, even in 12 and 14 team leagues. So while ranking Webb at 25 accounts for the substantial risk involved in taking someone who hasn’t pitched in a year and who will begin the season on the disabled list, the chance that he will give you 150-180 innings of Cy Young goodness is one worth taking among the first 20 pitchers. Draft him, stick him on your DL, then add a high-upside youngster from the undrafted free agent pool. When Webb is ready towards the end of April, you can use him to replace whatever pitcher of yours is getting hit the hardest.
Relievers – Chad Qualls (10)
While I like to take risks with starting pitchers, I err on the conservative side for relief pitching. Outside of Mariano Rivera, closers tend to be an unpredictable lot, and even Rivera’s save totals fluctuate greatly. Moreover, with only 30 pitchers accumulating a significant amount of saves at any given time in Major League Baseball, it is very difficult to find replacement closers mid-season if the ones you drafted are injured or ineffective. So while Chad Qualls had a fantastic 2009 season that included the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of any closer (6.43), I would not draft him among the first half of teams’ closers due to the gruesome knee injury he suffered at the end of last season and the fact that Arizona has two relievers with closing experience backing him up in Bob Howry and Juan Gutierrez.