Written by David Wagner
Published: 02 March 2008
The Diamondbacks feature two stud arms, some decent offensive players, and a lot of youngsters. The big question for fantasy owners should be, How will those youngsters play? Are they legitimate stars now or does the future have to wait until next season?
Brandon Webb (SP):
Following his 2006 NL Cy Young year, Webb continued to dominate National League hitters, as he set career highs in wins (18), IP (236.3), and strikeouts (194). He also posted a 3.01 ERA (2nd in the NL), four complete games with three shutouts, and who can forget when he pitched 42 consecutive scoreless innings last July/August? The man also had 24 quality starts (6 IP/ 3 or less earned runs) in 34 total starts for the Diamondbacks last year. Averaging just over 233 innings per year, Webb is as reliable a starting pitcher you’ll find, and one that would be a smart and valuable pick-up in the early rounds.
Eric Byrnes (OF):
Byrnes is certainly an exciting player to watch and coming off a big year last year in which he hit .286 with 21 homers and stole 50 bases (exactly twice as many as his 2006 total). He certainly seems to enjoy playing in Arizona after spending 2005 with three different teams, so look for his production to continue. While it seems that he’s finally reaching his potential, Byrnes isn’t as strong of a pickup as other outfielders. That being said, he has fantasy value (especially for stolen bases) and would be a good pick-up later in the draft. That is, of course, if last season’s production didn’t happen solely because it was a contract year.
Dan Haren (SP):
Haren is a newcomer to the NL, and that generally bodes well for pitchers who don’t have to face DHs and, generally speaking, weaker lineups (especially in the NL West). He gives Arizona one of the strongest, most reliable one-two starters in the NL. Haren posted strong numbers in 2007: 15-9, 222.7 IP with a 3.07 ERA and 1.21 WHIP; he also finished in the AL Top 10 for BB/9 IP (1.82), strikeouts (192) and K/BB ratio (3.49). However, as good as those end-of-the-year numbers were (especially in the AL), they’re seemingly not as good as they could’ve been: in the first half, Haren went 10-3 with a 2.30 ERA in 129.1 IP; in the second half, he went 5-6, 4.15 ERA in 93.1 IP. A word to the wise: if you draft him, keep an eye on him after the All-Star Break – he owns a 4.09 career ERA in the second half (as opposed to his 3.54 career first half ERA).
Chris Young (OF):
Young is, well, young. He’ll be entering his second full season of playing professional ball, and finished in the top 5 voting for Rookie of the Year last season. With 32 homers and 27 stolen bases, he certainly has a lot of promise; however, unless he improves on last year’s strikeout totals and batting average (141 and .238, respectively), he could also be a strain on your team (especially if your league includes strikeouts). Expect him to be overlooked, and if you don’t mind taking a chance on him in the early-to-middle rounds, he could be a valuable pick.
Brandon Lyon (RP):
It looked like Jose Valverde was going to earn a big raise via arbitration after leading baseball with 47 saves last year, so they did what any middle-market baseball team would do: they traded him. That move gives Brandon Lyon the opportunity to step in as the Snakes’ closer. Having him on your team will help to gain saves, though he won’t contribute a high total of strikeouts or a miniscule WHIP. If he’s not able to hold the closer job or if he gets injured, look for newly-acquired Chad Qualls to gain an opportunity.
Connor Jackson (1B):
There are so many big-name, power-hitting, 30-HR/100 RBI first basemen in baseball that it’s really easy to forget about Jackson. However, he’s a strong hitter, and if you’re out of options for a 1B or an extra utility player late in the draft, consider picking him up – he’s hit 15 HR in each of the past two seasons, and he doesn’t strike out often. Look for him to continue improving with full-time 1B duties now that Tony Clark has signed with the San Diego Padres.
Orlando Hudson (2B):
Hudson’s 2007 stats – .294, 10 HR, All-Star selection, 9 triples, 28 doubles and .376 OBP – would probably merit him being higher than a third-tier placement. However, take into account that 2B is, generally speaking, one of the weaker fantasy positions (there’s just not a whole lot of power or speed in this year’s class) and the fact that a torn thumb ligament ended his year a bit early, expect Hudson to still be around when the draft is in its teens (that is, in its 13th and following rounds).
The Great Debate
Randy Johnson (SP):
Johnson isn’t what he used to be, but if he’s healthy he could still be a force to be reckoned with. After a shaky first start to the 2007 season in which he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings, he whittled his ERA with every start (excluding his final one) before a herniated disc took him out of commission and ended his season. Early indications from spring training camp are positive, so keep an eye on him to see how he comes along in March. Also keep in mind that Johnson is 44 years old now.
Prospects to Watch
Acquiring Dan Haren meant parting ways with six prospects (pitchers Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, and Greg Smith; infielder Chris Carter; and outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Carlos Gonzalez). Several of those players were at the top of the franchise’s farm system, so there is seemingly a lack of highly-touted, major-league ready prospects who might contribute this year. However, Max Scherzer is a relief pitcher who features a strong fastball that has convinced the minor league staff to try him as a reliever rather than a starter. He may spend time in the bullpen this year if space is created by injuries, though it’s likely that Arizona would prefer for him to continue improving in the minor leagues after being drafted in 2006.