Javelinas Triumph in Surprise PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 11:27

Those who joined me in Surprise on Monday will talk about the 400-foot line drive home run to right center field by Astros 1B Japhet Amador that gave the Javelinas the 5-3 victory over the Salt River Rafters.


Forgotten will be two good efforts by the starters, Jason Adam, KC, who  worked four innings giving up just one run on two hits and a walk while striking out four, and Bo Schultz, AZ, who bested that with five innings of one run ball, giving up five hits and one walk while striking out five. The Rafters actually scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning which would have given Schultz the win had the bullpen not coughed up the lead in the bottom of the frame.

Amador is an imposing batter at 6’4” and 305 pounds, and is more fluid around the first base bag than you would imagine. The three-time All Star in the Mexican league was signed halfway through the summer by the Houston Astros and will try and win a spot with them next spring.

It was a very adventurous day for Javelinas leadoff hitter and centerfielder Delino Deshields, also an Astro prospect, as he was 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles while making a couple of acrobatic catches in the outfield where his GPS failed him at the crack of the bat, but speed like that can often turn a longer route into an out.

Two notes from the game in Mesa where the hometown Solar Sox got back on their winning ways with a 9-6 win over the Surprise Saguaros. Shortstop Addison Russell, OAK hit his first home run of the campaign while the win went to Nationals once and perhaps future prospect Sammy Solis, who gave up six hits and one walk but only one run in earning his third win and lowering his AFL ERA to 1.42. Solis, who was a second-round pick in the 2010 draft out of the University of San Diego by Washington, had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and is trying again to re-establish his chance to pitch in the major leagues. The 6’5” LHP will have a lot of people hoping he makes it to the Show.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 07:12
INJURIES Part 2: Draft Strategy in the Time of Injuries PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pasko Varnica   
Monday, 21 October 2013 00:00

Can I honestly claim that the only teams that did well in 2013 were the ones not bit by the injury bug? Is it true that while the rest of us limped along rummaging weekly through the free agent garbage dumpster, the lucky ones cruised along happily?

I think that there is a bit of truth to it. Player injures affect team performance, duh. Nevertheless, I believe that in the time of injuries some draft strategies may need to be reviewed and modified or, possibly, even abandoned.

In my FantasyPros911 AL-only league, I relied on the by now famous “stars and scrubs” method. The budget was spent on a few key players. My team did well for I would say, two weeks. When a good number of my stars ended on the DL, my team sunk in the standings.

Given the scarcity of players in a non-mixed league, there were not enough available free agents to cover the holes in my lineup. On top of that, the league allows only five bench spots, too few to keep my many players on the DL. I was faced with the dilemma of either dropping one of my superstars or having an incomplete active roster. That was not a happy situation.

“Stars and scrubs” is gone from my playbook.

Another strategy needing refinement is the concept of having one top pitcher who “anchors” a pitching staff. In one of my leagues, I paid good money for Justin Verlander. He did not get hurt but he also did not perform as a pitcher worth $31 (out of a total of $260). His performance is beside the point. In this era of injuries, is it really smart to spend that much on a single player?

Picking a pitcher to “anchor” a pitching staff is not too different from the “stars and scrubs” strategy. Both ideas call for spending a lot on a single player. Time has come to modify my spending habits.

Next year, I will return to the idea of a balanced team. My goal will be to avoid paying more than $20 for a player. Losing a $20 player hurts less than losing a $45 one, right? To win, players must produce above the value they had at draft time. A $45 player can give you very little additional value.

If you look into the stats of the teams that reached the postseason, it seems that we have entered a moneyball “phase 2” era. In the AL, Boston has the most wins followed by the Oakland A’s. Boston’s top winner is Jon Lester (43rd rated hurler at the beginning of the season) while for the A’s it's Bartolo Colon (193rd rated) In the NL, the Cardinals, the top team in the win category, has a star in Adam Wainwright (9th). The second best team is the Atlanta Braves, whose top winner is Kris Medlen (24th). The Pittsburgh Pirates follow with Francisco Liriano (237th).

Granted, there is a difference between real and fantasy baseball. Nevertheless, the lack of star power on some of the teams that reached the playoffs tells me that having a well-balanced team may be the way to go next year in this era of injuries.

 Do check out Sports in Antiquity, Pasko's site that looks at sports and competition through history.

Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2013 07:18
INJURIES: What To Do? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pasko Varnica   
Sunday, 20 October 2013 09:02

My sad conclusion: there is nothing that can be done about player's injuries; all possible solutions have been tried, nothing has worked. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

By the end of the the season though, my teams’ active rosters look nothing like what I have drafted five months ago. This is particularly true for my pitching.

Today an article in the "Wall Street Journal" discussed the durability of pitchers and pointed out that Mark Buehrle and Bronson Arroyo have a stellar record avoiding injuries. Well, what can I tell you other than I am not going to draft either of these two gentlemen in a mixed league?

Two years ago, I honed my draft on young guys who have not lost significant playing time. My first pick was Matt Kemp. You know the rest of the story.

So, what’s one to do?

Up to very recently we agonized over frequent injuries to catchers. Now, and in a foreseeable future, it is the pitchers’ turn. My strategy for next year’s draft is to ignore injuries and pick up the best next guy. That said, I am going to stay away from players with even a minor hint of discomfort during spring training (think Jason Motte).

Following that, my bench will be padded with pitchers. If your league rules do not allow a bench or permit only a shallow one, this could be the right time to argue for a rule change.

Given the experience of the last couple of seasons, relying on the draft day will not be enough. It is clear that to do well one must keep his eyes open throughout the entire season. I suggest reading the weekly Tout Wars and LABR free agent reports including the attached commentary. Good pitchers pop up frequently. Check whom the experts pick up. This year in-season pickups, just to name a few,  are Jose Fernandez (SP, Marlins), who is fine, Jeff Locke (SP, Pitt) was good, actually very good, for a while, Chris Archer (SP, TB) still good, Chris Rusin (SP, CHC) may not give you many Wins, but his WHIP and ERA are low.

Grumble, grumble, there is nothing new with our favorite pastime. To win one must have a bit of luck, but given all things equal, fantasy baseball demands time. Let’s spend it wisely.

Editor's note: Pasko has a new blog out there entitled Sports in Antiquity. Pasko, a bona fide Romo-phile, looks at some interesting aspects of sports and gaming in the past. Do check it out.

AFL 2013 - Facts & Figures PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Monday, 07 October 2013 00:00

If you read my earlier AFL Primer, I mentioned the incredible success of young players sent to the Fall League. The numbers are worth updating and repeating here:

There were 397 former fall leaguers on MLB Opening Day rosters in 2013 (plus 50 more on injured reserve).

In addition to the success of players, 30 former AFL managers and players have become major league managers, including 11 this season (post your guesses in the comments section below – winner gets free ticket to an AFL game this year and lunch in the press box with me).

That IS tremendous success and is why MLB proudly calls the AFL its premier development or showcase league. As I mentioned in the primer, each MLB team is required to send seven players each year subject to the following eligibility requirements:

  • All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible (must be on Double-A roster by August 15)
  • Each organization is permitted to send  two high A level players
  • No players with more than one active year or two years of total credited major league service as of August 31 are eligible except a team may send one player picked in the most recent Rule 5 draft (generally these are pitchers who missed time with injuries)

There are 29 players returning for their second AFL appearance this year.

25 of’s current Top 100 prospects are on AFL rosters this year, including the 2013 Minor League Player of the Year, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, who will be playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs at Camelback Ranch Stadium.

33 of this year’s AFL players were selected in the first round of June’s annual amateur player draft. Four of those players – Kris Bryant (2nd overall by the Chicago Cubs), Colin Moran (6th overall by the Miami Marlins), Michael Lorenzen (38th overall by the Cincinnati Reds) and Corey Knebel (39th overall by the Detroit Tigers) were drafted this June. There are 11 first-rounders from 2012, seven from 2011, seven from 2010, three from 2009 and one from 2008 - LHP Mike Montgomery, now with his second MLB organization.

63 of the 210 AFL players were on 2013 minor league all-star teams. 12 of those were in the Futures Game, eight who played for Team USA and four who played on the World Team. Another five played in previous Futures games.

There are 15 AFL players this year with some MLB experience, 13 of which saw the Show for the first time this year. Shawn Tolleson, who pitched for the Dodgers this year, also saw some time in the Majors last year and Arodys Vizcaino, who was on the original roster of the Mesa Solar Sox, played for Atlanta in 2011. Vizcaino has since been removed by the Cubs due to injury concerns.

32 of this year’s AFL players were born in ten different foreign countries (and one more in the territory of Puerto Rico). Canada, Columbia, Curacao, Germany, Mexico and the Republic of South Africa each have one native son here, while there are two from Nicaragua, four from Venezuela, seven from Cuba and 13 from the Dominican Republic.

There are three AFL players born in 1994, so they will celebrate their 20th birthday after “graduating” from the Fall League. Shortstop Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Glendale Desert Dogs is the youngest, just 11 days younger than the Cubs' Albert Almora and three months younger than shortstop Addison Russell of the Oakland Athletics and a teammate with Amora on the Mesa Solar Sox.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 October 2013 07:04
AFL Preview - The Surprise Saguaros PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Sunday, 06 October 2013 00:00

Saving the closest to my house for last, we now look at the Surprise Saguaros which, per my earlier post, feature the “home” Texas Rangers prospects along with those from the Brewers, Indians, Orioles, and Red Sox.

The Rangers start with their #1 prospect (again as rated by catcher Jorge Alfaro who had a breakout 2013 with 16 home runs, 53 RBI, and 16 stolen bases between A Hickory and high A Myrtle Beach.  Alfaro was another AFL player who was in the 2013 Futures Game.

The Brewers #2 prospect, hurler Taylor Jungman will also play in Surprise with organizational mates Mitch Haniger, an outfielder who is at #12 and pitcher David Goforth, #17 for the Brewers. Jungman who starred at the University of Texas won the Dick Howser Trophy as the national college baseball player of the year in 2011 and was also a finalist for the Golden Spikes award that year.

The Indians delegation will be led by outfielder Tyler Naquin, the Tribe’s #5 prospect and include catcher Tony Wolters, #12 on the Cleveland prospect list who will catch several as yet unknown Indian pitchers.

Baltimore is sending several prospects you may have seen starting with second baseman Jonathan Schoop who was the franchise's 2012 Minor League Player of the year and was also in Phoenix last season. Schoop #4 on the Oriole’s prospect list saw some time in Baltimore at the end of the year and played for the World Team in this summer’s Futures Game. Outfielder Henry Urrutia also saw some time with the big club this year although the former Cuban had enough at bats to be off the prospect list but not enough to prevent his assignment to the AFL. Other young Birds here will be the #2 prospect southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez, and catcher Michael Ohlman, Baltimore’s #12 prospect.

Garin Cecchini, the #7 prospect of the Boston Red Sox will play third base for the Saguaros. You may recognize the last name: his younger brother Gavin was a first round selection of the NY Mets in the 2012 draft.

2013 Arizona Fall League play begins next Tuesday and I will have one final preview blog on Monday with some interesting facts and figures on the players and some updated information on late roster changes.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 07:13
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