Solar Sox Flex Muscles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Saturday, 26 October 2013 00:00

Power is just one of the reasons that the Mesa Solar Sox have the best record in the Arizona Fall League this year.

And in a game with several lead changes, several of this year’s Sox showed their hitting skills. The Cubs young Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler gave the Solar Sox the lead in the top of eighth inning with a two-run home run – a bomb to right center field. The sound of the ball off Soler’s bat brought an instant comparison to me of Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes – there is just a special sound when one of these young men really gets ahold of a pitch.

After the home team Javelinas tied the game in the bottom of the frame on a line drive into the left field bullpen by Mariners' third baseman Patrick Kivlehan, could the Solar Sox take the lead in the top of the ninth?

They could and did as after a one out single by Angels' second baseman Taylor Lindsey, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (yes you have read about him before – get used to seeing the name – hopefully on one of your teams) hit a long fly ball to right field which scored Lindsey as Bryant  made it to third base with his first AFL triple. Bryant scored as the next batter hit a ground ball to the Peoria shortstop, who could not get Bryant at the plate on a fielder’s choice.

Washington RHP Richie Morowski, who struck out 88 minor league batters this year in 68 innings, retired the Javelinas in the ninth as Mesa won 7-5.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 09:26
Week 2 AFL Honors PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 23 October 2013 00:00

The Arizona Fall League named STL outfielder Stephen Piscotty of the Salt River Rafters as Week 2 Player of the Week and White Sox pitcher Stephen McCray of the Glendale Desert Dogs as the Pitcher of the Week.

Piscotty, a 22-year-old fly chaser who was a first round pick by St. Louis in the 2012 draft out of Stanford University, led the league in hitting (.611), hits (11) and total bases (16) in the second week of AFL play.

Piscotty is 6’3” and 210 pounds and has a .295 BA in his first two professional seasons with 19 home runs and 86 RBI in 167 games. He ended the 2013 season at Double-A Springfield where he batted .299 in 49 games.

McCray, mentioned in an earlier blog post here, held opposing batters to a .100 average and did not give up an earned run. He was a 16th round pick by the White Sox in the 2010 draft and split his 2013 season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 October 2013 08:47
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.

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