Arizona won 84 or more games or more in 5 of its first 6 seasons of existence, including the 2001 World Series title. The club hasn’t won more than 77 over the past three seasons, as it waited for its farm system to start producing talent. That day has finally arrived, as the D-backs of 2007 are chock full of youngsters with talent and plenty of upside. The question here, however, is how many of these talents will be valuable for your fantasy team?
The Top Tier
SP Brandon Webb – This Cy Young winner is only 28, just entering his prime, and has demonstrated durability and consistency the past two seasons. With Unit aboard, some of the pressure is off, and there is additional competition in the rotation, which should keep Webb among the pitching elite in 2007. Project him to 17-wins, 3.28-ERA, 1.18-WHIP, with 175-Ks.
SP Randy Johnson – Despite his age and fighting through injuries, while pitching in the American League, Unit managed 17 wins and 172-Ks in 205 innings. He moves back to the NL, (where he’ll again mow down pitchers), and is reported to be free from the pain that suppressed his numbers (5.01 ERA in 2006) with the Yanks. While he’ll likely never be as consistent as he was when he peaked in 2001 and 2002, moving to the NL, and into a division chock full of pitchers parks and weak offenses is going to be beneficial to this future Hall of Famer. Project him to bask in his return to the tune of a line of: 19 wins, 2.97-ERA, 1.20-WHIP with 215-Ks. (Of course, the danger of injury and age-related decline will suppress his draft status a bit, so don’t overpay, or jump too quickly).
The Second Tier
2B Orlando Hudson – At first glance, there isn’t much that jumps out about Hudson to make him appear particularly valuable. The key info is position. Today, second base is a vast wasteland in terms of production. Other than Chase Utley, the position is devoid of talent that would be “obvious” fantasy selections. Hudson is a quiet producer, who is just good enough at a number of things that he’s valuable. In 2006, he was 6th among all 2Bs in OPS -- 10th in average – 7th in HRs – 8th in RBI – 5th in runs scored – 11th in steals. He was nothing stellar anywhere, but upper third in everything. Given an improved lineup in a hitter’s park, another solid year should be expected. Project him to: .283; 14-HR; 11-SB; 69-RBI; 93-Runs.
3B Chad Tracy – Coming off a disappointing third season, Tracy suffers from being compared to a very deep and rich pool of talent at third base. In 2006 he pressed, and his numbers suffered. But it is often the case with developing hitters that they must take a step backward before taking two steps ahead. I believe Tracy is in an excellent position to rebound and produce a career year. Project him to: .295, 31-HR, 101-RBI, 96-Runs with 6-SBs.
OF Eric Byrnes – Though ranked only 36th among all OFs in OPS in 2006, Byrnes’ value was hidden in his SB count, where he finished tied for 12th in steals among all OFs. His average is never going to be impressive, but only 5 OFs managed 20 steals and 20 HRs last season: Soriano, Damon, Cameron, Byrnes and Sizemore. If he could hit for a better average, he might show up on the radar as a true talent. As it is, he’s a bargain basement version of Soriano – a true 20/20 guy. Project him to: .267, 23-HR, 81-RBI, 83-Runs with 23-SB.
The Third Tier
SP Doug Davis – While Davis is valuable in the real world because of his stamina and ability to provide 200+ innings per year, in fantasy terms, he’s a dud. His lack of control, (93-BB in 2005 and 102 in 2006) jacks up his WHIP and prevents him from having a particularly juicy ERA. Moving to one of the premier hitters parks in the NL isn’t going to help. With Webb and Johnson and Livan ahead of him, he won’t even need to provide a ton of innings, which will likely suppress his K-count as well. Project him to: 11-Wins, 4.53-ERA, 1.48-WHIP, 157-K.
SP Livan Hernandez – Lack of control (generally walking 80+ batters per season) has always created inconsistency in an otherwise solid starter. He’ll post a .500 record and strike out 160-180 hitters per season, while piling up 230+ innings. The problem here is that his WHIP will generally be subpar, and his ERA will be high. He makes a really nice #3 starter in the real world, but a below average one in fantasy terms. His career numbers show a guy who is a consistently average pitcher (ERA+ of 101). Project him to 13 wins, 154-K with a 4.25 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP.
SP Enrique Gonzalez – His rookie line showed a 3-7 record with a 5.67 ERA. His BB/K numbers weren’t bad, (34-BB and 66-K in 106 innings), but they weren’t good either. Like many young arms, he could blossom and be a late round steal. On the other hand, if he doesn’t throw well, he could quickly lose his job completely. Too much risk to be anything but a long-shot fill-in.
1B Conor Jackson – His rookie line was decent enough, (.291 BA with 15-HR and 79-RBI in 140 games). The problem with young guys like this, (and the D-backs have a slew of them), is that it’s impossible to predict on an individual level how long it will take for him to develop. With 1B packed with lots of HR/RBI guys, the bar is really high for Jackson to have any significant fantasy value. Even projected to something like: .287/24/90, as a 1B, he’s a likely bench-warmer in all but the largest leagues.
SS Stephen Drew – His rookie line was .316/5/23 with 2 steals in 209 at bats. His minor league totals show a .315 average with a .931 OPS, including 31-HR in 167 games. The combination of plate discipline, contact and power have Drew slated for a great career. But how quickly (or if) his potential will be realized is guesswork. Project him to .284/19/75 with 6 steals – but be prepared for anything from a major breakout to a complete flameout.
OF Carlos Quentin – His rookie line was .253/9/32 in 166 at bats. He posted a .949 OPS in 346 minor league games, including a 21-HR effort (136 games) at Tucson in 2005. Quentin has almost 120 points of innate patience, (difference between batting average and OBP), showing a career .427 OBP in the minors. While still learning, this is the new guy I believe has the biggest upside for the D-backs. Think Abreu without the stolen bases for his upside. I’d project him to .293/23/91 with a couple of steals, but if he adds just a little more power to go with his patience, he could become an All-Star in a couple of years.
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