First Pitch Arizona: Part 2

I spoke earlier about some of the different seminar sessions they had at First Pitch Arizona, but now I’d like to relay some other interesting things I either noticed or heard during the conference. Some of these will be relevant to fantasy baseball, others I just found to be enjoyable.

Miscellaneous musings

  • During the two minor league sessions, second baseman Matt Antonelli of the San Diego Padres was a name that came up quite often. Most of the guys there love Antonelli, and I have to concur. Looking at his minor league stats, he looks like he could develop into a great player. He takes a lot of walks, makes good contact, steals bases, and developed nice power this year.

    One speaker mentioned that Padres GM Kevin Towers won’t be seeking a second baseman this off-season, opting to start the year with Geoff Blum, Craig Stansberry, and Oscar Robles sharing time at second. This seems to indicate that Towers thinks Antonelli will be ready sooner rather than later. To further validating this theory, I spoke with another writer who said that he had a source with the Pads that told him Towers is extremely high on Antonelli. He’s definitely a guy you might want to target in a keeper league and keep an eye on as the season begins.

  • Everyone on the minor league panel also really liked Clay Buchholz. We all know he’s good, but these guys really liked him. When someone asked if they liked Buchholz now more than Tim Lincecum, Philip Hughes, and Yovani Gallardo at this time last year, they all said ‘yes’. I too love Buchholz, probably more than I did the other three last year.

    Even with the re-signing of Curt Schilling, I don’t think Theo Epstein will begrudge Buchholz a spot in the rotation. CBS’s early rankings have Buchholz as the #100 starter, and their early mock draft saw him go in the last (23rd) round of a 12-team mixed league draft. I think he’ll be a steal in 2008.

  • I spent some time over the weekend with a couple of guys that play in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC). The NFBC is a high-stakes fantasy game that pits hundreds of player against each other. The guys I spent the most time with go by the names of “CC’s Desperados” and “Fat Tub of Goo.” CC’s Desperados has been the most successful NFBC player over the past four or five years, and Fat Tub of Goo was the champion this year. CC’s said that he had read some of my THT Fantasy Focus articles, although the bulk of the stuff I cover isn’t really conducive to NFBC play.

    Still, we had some interesting conversations, some of which about the NFBC and the drawbacks and merits of its different setup. For example, to avoid collusion, there is no trading allowed in NFBC play. This makes the skills of drafting and properly utilizing your FAAB budget essential. It’s certainly an interesting way to play and would be an excellent challenge. I’d love to try it one day, but I don’t know if I could ever truly embrace a game with no trading.

    Another interesting thing we talked about was the Average Draft Position tool that the NFBC website provides using hundreds of mock draft results from Mock Draft Central. This looks like it will be a very useful tool for our own 2008 drafts, helping us to gauge market value for many players. Mock drafts begin December 1, so this is something we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on.

  • On the last day of the conference, I was able to catch up with Gene McCaffrey of Wise Guy Baseball, who had actually told CC’s Desperadoes about the Hardball Times in the first place. I caught him as he was going in to eat breakfast, so we only spoke for a moment, but he said what a huge fan he is of THT. I too have been loving the content on the main site recently. Excellent work guys.

  • Dave Bush is a player I was very high on coming into 2007. A lot of the other guys in Arizona were as well. During the “Fact or Fluke” session, his name came up. Bush’s 2007 was ultimately declared a ‘fluke.’ As I had also surmised, the panelists said that Bush was very good in 2006 but was simply good in 2007. A few said they would make it a point to target him in their drafts.

    Still, at the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) auction that was held on Saturday, he went for just $6 while guys like Dontrelle Willis and Chien-Ming Wang, who I consider inferior, went for over $10. Very interesting. If he gets a spot in the rotation, I think Bush will make a nice profit for fantasy owners in 2008.

  • I ran into a couple of guys, Heath and Justin Shaffer, that a run a website called RotoChamps. They got to telling me about their favorite league. The setup is incredibly complex, but sounds like an enormous amount of fun. It’s a 16-team keeper league with an extensive minor league system and an intricate contract system. They even have an arbitration system set up and allow teams to buy players out of arbitration and sign them long-term. The longer you wait, though, the more you pay.

    There were tons of smaller rules, and they will be forwarding me their league constitution soon, so maybe I’ll share some of the more intriguing facets of it with you guys in the future.

Concluding thoughts

While it was a very fulfilling weekend and while I met a lot of great guys, there were many that I just didn’t get the time to talk to. I won’t list names because I don’t want to leave anyone out, but I think this is an enormous credit to the First Pitch conference. There is just so much going on and so many knowledgeable people that it is impossible to talk to everyone. It could be extended for a week, and you might not get your fill.

As I said at the beginning of the first part of this series, if you ever get the chance to go, you should absolutely do it. Aside from the terrible toll the time change took on my body, having never been west of Pennsylvania before, it was a fantastic experience.

Anyway, that’s it for now. We’ll be resuming our regular fantasy content over the next few days. We’ll probably be taking another look at BABIP tomorrow and then we’ll do a few more player profiles. I’m hoping to begin testing the HitTracker home run system by the middle-to-end of next week, so hopefully everything goes smoothly there and we can begin looking at some hitters.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

If you have any questions about the conference, or any suggestions for player profiles, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

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