|Fantasy Take: 2009 Arizona Diamondbacks||| Print |||Send|
Written by Robert Democh (Contact & Archive) on March 31, 2009
Brandon Webb (SP): We‚Äôre about out of superlatives to describe Webb‚Äôs elite talent.¬† Just when you thought he had peaked, he located another gear and summoned his best season yet, finishing 22-7.¬† Webb‚Äôs legacy of excellence deserves favorable comparison with great hurlers of other eras.¬† Tom Seaver immediately comes to mind.¬† Like Seaver, Webb is not a true flame thrower (7.3 K/9 IP last season) but excels at inducing grounders (2.93 G/F ratio) and minimizing base runners (a respectable 2.6 BB/9IP).¬† He has accomplished this while juggling a substantial workload, exceeding 225 innings each of the past four seasons.¬† His stamina is legendary. Webb has never recorded an ERA above 3.60 in six full ML seasons.¬† Webb is the closest thing you‚Äôll find to a lock for 20 wins, and that will be reflected in his upscale price on draft day.¬†¬†
Stephen Drew (SS): Cream rises to the top and so did Drew.¬† He was nothing short of spectacular when perched atop the Arizona lineup, hitting .313 with 11 homers and 39 RBI.¬† The only disappointing trend was the evaporation of walks as Drew became overaggressive at the plate last season.¬† His quick feet afield have not translated into stolen bases, but that‚Äôs not why you‚Äôre targeting him.¬† Twenty homers and a .300 average out of a middle infield slot are sweet and yours for the taking in the seventh round.¬†
Chris Young (OF): Young's production dropped precipitously last year after he came within a whisker of gaining entry to the 30-30 club (29 homers/30 steals) in 2007.¬† His 22 homers and paltry 14 steal totals would have been even worse save a solid second half showing during which he batted .278 with nine thefts.¬† Young may never develop the plate discipline to necessary to push his average north of .265, but a return to 25 homers/20 steals is a distinct possibility in 2009.¬†¬†
Conor Jackson (OF): There‚Äôs much to like about Jackson.¬† He hits for consistently high average, demonstrates impeccable contact skills (59 walks, only 61 strike outs in 2008) and reaches base with regularity (.376 OBP last season).¬† Add to that multiple position eligibility and he‚Äôs an attractive option in mixed leagues.¬† Unfortunately, fantasy gamers crave power from their corner infield types and Jackson is unlikely to ever satisfy an appetite for 20 homers.¬† Bid expecting 15 dingers, 80 RBI and a .300 average and he‚Äôll deliver.
Max Scherzer (SP): Arizona‚Äôs top pitching prospect is receiving the kid gloves treatment this spring in response to lingering shoulder stiffness.¬†¬†¬† Scherzer has thrown briefly but it‚Äôs unclear how debilitating the condition is as of this writing.¬† Having acquired veteran innings eater Jon Garland in the off-season, the D-Backs enjoy the luxury of not rushing Scherzer.¬† He threw slightly over 100 innings last year between Triple-A and the majors, suggesting an increased 2009 workload.¬† Don‚Äôt bid expecting him to accrue 200 innings (175 is more likely).¬† Even at that reduced level, Scherzer has dual starter/reliever eligibility in many leagues, making him a useful addition during the middle rounds of your draft.¬†
Mark Reynolds (3B): Now possessing the dubious moniker ‚ÄúKing of the Whiffs,‚ÄĚ Reynolds finished the 2008 season with a dreadful .239 BA sandwiched around 28 homers, 97 RBI and the aforementioned 204 strikeouts (a ML single-season record).¬† He exhibited an element of versatility in his game by claiming 11 steals (up from zero in 2007).¬† Reynolds‚Äô big swing is custom made for low batting averages and astronomical strike out rates, diminishing his value in most mixed leagues.¬† Given his defensive limitations at third and a bevy of corner infielders eager to play, Arizona won‚Äôt hesitate to sit him if the power subsides, making him something of a gamble as your starting third baseman.
Chad Qualls (RP): Abundant grace under pressure (seven straight save conversions during the heat of the September pennant chase) earned Qualls the closer gig entering 2009.¬† He should be able to beat back his main challengers -- Tony Pena and Jon Rauch -- with excellent control (a 71:18 K:BB ratio last year) and an ability to miss opposing bats (a .224 BAA).¬† A journeyman middle reliever, Qualls gave every indication during last year‚Äôs cameo run that he has the moxie to succeed as a full-time fireman.¬† He‚Äôll be slightly undervalued in most drafts for someone capable of grabbing 30 saves.¬† Surrounded by quality alternatives, Qualls may have a shorter grace period than other closers if problems ensue or Arizona decides to exploit his ability to toss multiple innings.¬†
Justin Upton (OF): Scarcely old enough to shave (just 20 in 2008), Upton¬† flexed his emerging muscles with five April home runs before settling into an offensive funk and missing nearly two months with an oblique strain.¬†¬† He proved a one-man wrecking crew at home, hitting .321 with 12 homers but was invisible on the road (.169 average in 166 AB).¬† Upton demonstrated impressive plate discipline for a youngster, assembling a .353 OBP.¬† He should run more this season on a D-Backs team committed to being more aggressive on the base paths.¬† Beginning 2009 with an assured role should boost his confidence and 20 home runs with 10 steals would surprise no one.¬† He‚Äôs definitely someone to acquire in keeper leagues.¬†¬†
Felipe Lopez (2B): Lopez has bounced around the past few seasons before surfacing in St. Louis last season.¬† He‚Äôs not a star but can play very well in spurts, hitting a sweltering .385 in 43 games with the Cards.¬† Lopez was 4-for-18 with a homer and three RBIs in five WBC games before joining the D-Backs training camp.¬† He will be the every day second baseman and inherits a hitter friendly stadium.¬† A .270 average with 12 homers and 18 steals from a middle infielder available late in the draft is tasty indeed.¬† Scoop him up as a valuable reserve.
Eric Byrnes (OF): Following his phenomenal 50-steal, 21 homer outburst in 2007, Arizona hastened to lock in Byrnes‚Äô elite skills, inking him to a relatively affordable three-year, $30 million deal.¬† Last year was disappointing all around, as multiple hamstring pulls quashed his speed and a frustrated Byrnes barely surpassed 200 AB‚Äôs.¬† His 2009 spring training debut was postponed until March 20 in deference to his tender hamstring.¬† Even if blessed with impeccable health, Byrnes is currently odd man out in the D-Backs outfield behind Young, Jackson and Upton.¬† Provided he musters sufficient at bats, there‚Äôs every reason to project 15 homers and 20 steals from Byrnes this season.¬† He‚Äôs a great late round sleeper with upside.¬†
Chad Tracy (3B): Knee injuries have muted Tracy‚Äôs bat the past two seasons.¬† Last year, he opened the season on the DL while recovering from knee surgery.¬† Tracy managed to return in a limited capacity by May, and then enjoyed increased playing time once the D-Backs transitioned Conor Jackson from first base to the outfield.¬† Tracy underperformed in the second half (.233 BA) and tallied a mere eight homers in 273 at bats overall, suggesting his power stroke awaits further refinement.¬† He appears healthy this spring and could see 400 at bats in 2009 while splitting time between first, third and the corner outfield positions.¬† He‚Äôs just two years removed from 20 home runs, making him an intriguing end of the draft play.¬†
Gerardo Parra (OF): Parra transitioned from High-A to Double-A last season and held his own with a .275 average in 265 at-bats.¬†¬† Parra has shown good plate discipline (.362 OBP) and the potential to steal some bases.¬† He‚Äôs only 21, allowing ample time for him to nurture power, a prerequisite for Parra to crack Arizona‚Äės crowded outfield.¬† The D-Backs have surrendered their top minor league talent through trades, meaning Parra will likely reach Triple-A this year and perhaps be a spring training invitee with Arizona in 2010.