Scott Pianowski

Hot Stove Helper: Felipe Lopez, Chapter Four

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Throughout January and February (and probably March), we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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The Snakes were a playoff club in 2007 and just missed by two games last year (albeit in a weak division) so there wasn't any reason to blow up the foundation of the franchise in the offseason. There's a strong starting staff in place and the offense, while maddeningly inconsistent at times, has plenty of highly-regarded young talent at the core. Even if the Dodgers get Manny Ramirez back, as expected, the Diamondbacks probably open the year as co-favorites in the NL West.

Arizona dipped into the free-agent pool for a pair of notable signings over the winter, though just one of them deserves to be on your fantasy radar. Let's meet the new Snakes.

Signed 2B Felipe Lopez to a one-year contract

It's hard to believe Lopez is still just 28 because his career has had more than its share of twists and turns. He did little to justify his draft slot and minor-league hype earlier in the decade before putting it all together in 2005, assembling a dynamic five-category season with his second team, the Reds. His power disappeared the next year and with that Cincinnati shipped him out of town, beginning a disappointing 2.5-year hitch Lopez spent in Washington. His head and his bat were so messed up by the middle of last summer, the Nations actually released him in late July.

The Tony La Russa land of second chances took a flier on Lopez for the final two months and something magical happened out of nowhere; Lopez, getting regular play as a super-utility man, got his stroke back and went ballistic down the stretch (.385, 20 runs, four homers, 21 RBIs). It essentially turned into a two-month audition for the rest of the league, and in December the Snakes came around with a one-year contract for $3.5 million. He'll take over for the departed Orlando Hudson.

Let's consider the contrast in Lopez's situation, last spring to now. The Nationals play in one of the tougher parks to hit in; Arizona offers one of the easiest. The Nats jerked Lopez all around the lineup; the Snakes will give him every chance to take the leadoff spot and run with it. Washington has one of the worst offenses in the National League; Arizona has, well, a better one. Maybe I'm talking myself into the story here, but I've become something of a Lopez Apologist over the last few weeks. Give him a look and see what you make of it.

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Signed SP Jon Garland to a one-year contract

To fully illustrate how scarce pitching is these days, consider that Garland is coming off a messy season (4.90 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, .303 batting-average against) and yet the Diamondbacks are going to pay him at least $6.25 million for this season. Yep, that's good work if you can get it. Missing bats isn't Garland's bag (just 188 whiffs over his last 405 innings) and I can't envision any crazy scenario where he's actually a fantasy asset in Arizona. Maybe you're seeing something I'm not.

Raising Arizona: If watching Max Scherzer's electric stuff doesn't put a bounce in your step, maybe you're following the wrong game. The Diamondbacks are giving him a spot at the back of the rotation and would love to get 160-170 innings out of the filthy right-hander. … Chad Qualls has the closer job to lose and looks like a tasty ADP value at the moment (257.1, making him the No. 31 reliever off the board). You might have been too buried in football to notice, but Qualls was lights-out as the Arizona stopper in September (two wins, seven saves, 13 scoreless innings, five hits, one walk, 13 strikeouts). … The Snakes are taking it slow with Eric Byrnes and his hamstring this spring, resting him for the first patch of exhibition games. Byrnes on paper is the No. 4 outfielder, behind starters Conor Jackson, Chris Young and Justin Upton. … Young, for what it's worth, was back on his game in the second half (.278 average, .343 OBP) and looks priced for profit entering 2009. … Emerging star Stephen Drew will get a shot to hit third against right-handed pitching and second against lefties. He did a capable job as Arizona's leadoff man in the second half of 2008, but he's a more natural fit to the middle of the lineup. … The underrated tag is slowly being lifted off Dan Haren, who didn't have any problems adjusting to his new league and park. Surprisingly, his 2008 stats were just about identical home and away, despite the offensive nature of Chase Field.

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