What a long strange trip it’s been. True we could say that about every baseball season whether real life or for our fantasy teams, but it did seem both longer and stranger for my fantasy teams this year as well as for many MLB teams.
Too long in fact for a handful of major league managers who have already been let go or will have been by the time you read this, although frankly I never thought Matt Williams had the temperament to lead a major league franchise.
What about our fantasy teams? We can’t fire that manager. We can, however, attempt to improve both his drafting and in-season management. And by we, I mean you. But I am trying to help you with this column and Todd, Lawr, and all the writers here at Mastersball are here to help you. All year long – not just prior to your draft. Because in today’s fantasy environment, if you play in a league and want to win, whether you are playing for pesos or matchsticks, it should almost be a year round cycle.
Traditionally, the months after the baseball season ends are for watching the playoffs, enjoying college and/or pro football, giving thanks for everything we have whether with family or friends or even alone at Thanksgiving, and then celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus for the rest of us in December. Then it is the new year and time to follow the MLB winter meetings and trades and getting ready for spring training and looking at new projections, whether you make your own, get them here at Mastersball or elsewhere.
But we have missed a fall event that is specific to fantasy baseball players, one that should both tie up our thoughts on the previous season and get us ready for Opening Day 2016. It is unique in both its location and baseball opportunity. First Pitch Arizona is held in Phoenix, AZ with 80-degree sunny days (yes, sometimes lower or grayer) during the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is the premier development league of major league baseball featuring top prospects from each organization (usually high A players but with some Double-A players and even some who were in the Majors for a brief time but need additional work without leaving the country for winter ball in the southern hemisphere. Incredibly, nearly 2,300 of the 3,900 players -- 59 percent -- who have played in the Arizona Fall League have made it to the Major Leagues, and 13 players have won the Most Valuable Player Award. Four players with AFL ties have won the Cy Young Award, and 25 have won the Rookie of the Year Award.
Last year, we saw highly regarded prospects Eddie Rosario and Dalton Pompey, who everyone thought would be in the Majors at some point last season. But we also saw Greg Bird, who no one projected to be with the Yankees but because we saw him in the AFL and saw the power (he led the league in home runs and runs), he was added as a minor leaguer by some but certainly was on the radar when he was called up to New York. This happens every year in the AFL. In 2011, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were in the same outfield for the Scottsdale Scorpions. In addition to several AFL games, you will also see the Fall Stars Game, the league’s All-Star Game, at Salt River Fields.
And you can talk to many writers or broadcasters you might never have the opportunity to meet. Both Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com will be at the AFL and Callis will be one of the speakers in an AFL Scouting report for conference attendees on Friday morning along with Blue Jays’ scout Kimball Crossley.
I could go on and on but the one thing I would tell you is that many of my friends, regardless of what level or leagues they play in, find the First Pitch AZ conference one of their favorite weekends of the year and wouldn’t miss it. If you come alone or with fantasy baseball friends staying at the host hotel – the Doubletree is adequate but don’t miss the opportunity to bring your significant other. In that case, I would suggest staying at a much nicer hotel like Talking Stick Resort, which is just on the other side of the freeway from Salt River Fields, or any of the excellent resort hotels in Scottsdale. Spa and shopping opportunities and great restaurants abound.
Here is a link if you want more information on the program > http://baseballhq.com/seminars/arizona.shtml
Come say hello to Todd, Lawr, Brian and I when you arrive.