Friday, February 8, 2008

Arizona Diamondbacks 2008 Fantasy Preview

The Arizona Diamondbacks were the other young team that came out of now where last season to surprise everyone and make the playoffs. The D-Backs were formidable last season and look even stronger this season having added former Oakland A's ace, Dan Haren. Let's get to it.

Projected Positional Starters

C- Chris Snyder
1B- Conor Jackson
2B- Orlando Hudson
3B- Chad Tracy
SS- Stephen Drew
LF- Eric Byrnes
CF- Chris Young
RF- Justin Upton

Projected Starters Pitchers

Ace -Brandon Webb
#2 - Dan Haren
#3 - Doug Davis
#4 - Randy Johnson
#5 - Micah Owings

Hitters to Draft

1) Chris Young, CF - The young slugger had some very unique numbers last season. In his 2007 rookie year, Young hit 32HR to go along with 27SB, and 85R. But wait! There's more! Young also only managed to hit .237avg with an ops of .756, and drove in 68RBI. The RBIs are not a major deal because the majority of Young's at bats came in the lead off spot. But the batting average was a bit lower than most would like to see. A positive is that the numbers he put are very consistent with what he did in the minor leagues. 20/20 with a low batting average, not something that is too common, but that does not necessarily mean it is a bad thing. Look for Young to improve all facets of his game this season, as he matures as a hitter and learns the league.

2) Eric Byrnes, LF - Has been around for a while now, and has always been a decent guy to keep around and pluck off the wire or stash on your bench because he could always do a variety of things in a pinch. But over the last 2 seasons Byrnes has cemented himself as a solid 20/20 outfielder and a guy who can be counted on to knock in about 80RBI, and score 90R. Last season's stats were definitely a career season for Byrnes, and do not expect him to repeat his 21HR, 50SB and .286avg. He hit only .258 with 7HR after the all star break, showing that perhaps he was playing a bit over his head in the first half of the season. Another reason for the second half slump, could be that Byrnes plays so hard, he is constantly nicking himself up, and playing with bumps and bruises, that cause him to wear down. Despite the drawbacks Byrnes is still a good bet go 20/20 this season, with solid RBI and R.

3) Justin Upton, RF- Another D-Backs outfielder, which means another player with a shot to go 20/20. He will only be 20 years-old when the season begins, and will go through some growing pains along the course of the long season. Upton's numbers in the minor leagues show that he is capable of putting up big numbers and the off season trade of Carlos Quinton to the White Sox shows that the D-Backs are committed to going with Upton in right for the start of the season at least. He will be drafted by many people earlier than he should go, based mainly on the success of his brother B.J. Upton last season in Tampa Bay. He will eventually be a very good major league player, but I wouldn't expect to see anything overwhelming in 2008. Look for around 17/17 with a .280average. 2009 is the season I expect him to bust out and separate himself as an upper tier outfielder.

4) Conor Jackson, 1B - It seems like we've been talkin' about Jackson ever since the fire went out. In 415at bats last season he hit 15HR, with 60RBI, 56R and a .284avg. He also committed 11errors and by the end of the season was splitting time with Tony Clark. In a full season Jackson might hit 25HR and knock in 80-90RBI. Nothing overwhelming, but he is a nice fill in type player, and the batting average should be decent. Draft him when there are not too many 1B left, after guys like Konerko, Kevin Youkilis and Lyle Overbay. He is not quite a sleeper, because I don't see him doing anything during the season to warrant taking any earlier than he should go.

Pitchers to Draft

Starters

1) Dan Haren - Leaves the A.L. and a team that struggled to score runs, and goes to the N.L. with a team that has a solid offense. Haren has won 14,14, and 15 games the last 3 seasons, and had 34 starts in each of them. He is durable,and that could help make a run at winning 20 games this season. Haren is one of the top pitchers in all of baseball, and should be one of the top 10 pitchers taken on draft day.

2) Brandon Webb- Is a legit ace both in reality and fantasy. He is a good source of wins and K's and, much like Haren, is a work horse who has started 30+ games with 200+ innings the last 4 seasons. He is one of the best and having Haren on the team as well, only helps him more. This next line should look familiar, Webb is one of the top pitchers in all of baseball, and should be one of the top 10 pitchers taken on draft day.

3) Micah Owings- I am not sure why I like this guy or why I think he will be a decent fantasy starter, but I do. I think he could win 15 games, but pencil him in for 12. He had a WHIP of 1.28, but was prone to the homerun ball, giving up 20 of them, which hurt his over all final numbers. Draft him later on in your draft toward the end, and enjoy what should be a fine season for the second year hurler.

Relievers

1) Brandon Lyon- Has established himself as a solid middle reliever, and has been named the closer early on for the D-Backs. Arizona should give him plenty of save opportunities, and will be a good closer option later in the draft.

2) Tony Pena- Will be a good pick to "handcuff" Lyon, if he falters or gets injured. At worst is a good choice to help ERA, WHIP, and Holds if your league counts them.

3) Chad Qualls- The new comer by way of the Jose Valverde trade, Qualls is a valuable arm to bring in from the pen, who not only eats up innings, but can also get a big out when it counts.

4) Juan Cruz- Electric arm, can gather up the strikeouts, and provides another solid middle reliever for Arizona to use. If your league counts hold then he could be a good pick later on in your draft, who some people will forget about. Do not look for him to get any save opportunities, as there are 3 guys already ahead of him.

Sleepers

1) Mark Reynolds- Could his 30HR if he got the atbats. Could strike out 170 times if he got the at bats. If Chad Tracy continues to struggle at third, Reynolds will find himself the beneficiary of those at bats. He is a legit power and RBI bat, he needs a place to play, and his minor league and major league numbers prove it. He hit .279avg with 17HR and 62RBI as well as 62R, in only 366at bats, in his first major league season. Take him late and reap the benefits later on in the season.

Players To Avoid

1) Chad Tracy- Had a great first season, hitting 27 homeruns, but since then his career has taken a step back. Various injuries have cost him a bit at the plate, and he seems like the type of player who needs to be completely healthy to hit. Think of him like Shawn Casey, a guy who had a really good season or so, but is always battling injuries that cost them their ability to hit anything.

2) Stephen Drew- Not a big fan. I was expecting to see some growth in the second half of last season, and did see any stats that blew me away. The numbers were pretty consistent all season, and were not that good. He never really had a minor league track record that would blow you away and make you think he is going to be an all star. Scouts seem to like him, but that doesn't mean I have to.

3) Randy Johnson- The Hall of Famer has spent the better part of the last 2 seasons rehabbing various back injuries. The D-Backs won't count on him to be their ace any more, he'll just need to give them 6-7 innings a start, and eat up innings. That could be a big problem, as Johnson's injury prone back will cost him some starts this season, and could potentially at any point go down with a season, or career ending injury. Injured players do not win baseball games. If you do draft him and he is pitching well in the first half, trade him in May or June and get something for him before he falls apart.

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