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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Arizona fantasy vs. St. Louis reality

I don’t often write about fantasy baseball here, though it is a passion of mine that usually quietly dovetails very nicely with my primary Cardinals-related vocation.

Saturday night was an exception.

I compete to win in every league in which I participate and as such, they are all tied for first place in importance, to steal a line from Tony La Russa. Well, being honest, that isn’t completely true.

Of them all, the league which I want to win the very most is also the most prestigious – Tout Wars. Of the three flavors of Tout, I play in the National League competition. (The others are American League and Mixed.)

In this non-keeper league auction draft back in March in New York, I tried to build a well-balanced, winning team. I had several Cardinals on my target list, including Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (pictured). I secured the latter, but when the bidding on the former climbed above my comfort level, I bailed out.

With 13 NL Tout Wars teams and 16 NL clubs from which to draft, it is easy to see that most teams will get only one closer. To go along with my choice, Chad Qualls of Arizona, I gambled a few dollars on a Chris Perez bet that has yet to deliver.

I also added a $3 Joel Pineiro, who has brought a nice return, but I didn’t do nearly as well on Khalil Greene, who I had felt was an excellent bounce-back candidate after seeing him hit .400 this spring. I also bid on Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel, but thankfully did not win either.

Yet as it turned out, my Cardinals contingent pales in comparison to the group of Arizona Diamondbacks I ended up with on my Tout roster this season. I currently have five Snakes. It wasn’t the plan – it just ended up that way and I have no complaints whatsoever. Despite the fact the real Diamondbacks are doing poorly in 2009, these five are all contributing to my fantasy squad.

Along with Qualls, I drafted catcher Miguel Montero. Though he was not the starter when the season began and will probably not be again when injured Chris Snyder returns, Montero has a very good bat and as such, is more effective than a mediocre starting catcher.

Third baseman Mark Reynolds takes a lot of gas for all his strikeouts, of which there have been many. His batting average is also nothing to write home about (.261), but the 24 home runs, 62 RBI and 15 stolen bases are superb.

Outfielder Justin Upton is a budding superstar. Though he started terribly this season, Upton is batting just under .300 with 16 home runs, 51 RBI and a dozen swipes.

Just last week, I added outfielder Gerardo Parra in a trade that also brought me San Diego closer Heath Bell. I knew Parra would receive at-bats the rest of the way, a key factor in a very deep league like this one, and offer a slightly above-average level of production.

Here was my dilemma Saturday night.

Wainwright was starting for the Cardinals with all four of my Arizona hitters facing him. Waino went seven strong innings and while he didn’t get the win, his peripherals were solid – 2.571 ERA, 1.143 WHIP and eight strikeouts.

Parra took an 0-for-4 collar while Upton had just one hit, but also swiped a base. Reynolds went 3-for-5, scoring each time and added a stolen base of his own.

The catcher Montero was clearly the Arizona offensive star of the game, going 4-for-5 with a double and a home run. He scored once and drove in two plus called an excellent game for former Cardinal Dan Haren, the winning pitcher.

As it turned out, Qualls also appeared, securing the final three outs for the save, his 17th of the season.

Though the Cardinals took the loss in the game – the one that really counts – the contest provided a good fantasy take for my NL Tout Wars team. For this one night at least, fantasy trumped reality for me.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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