We have two big tournaments from the APP and PPA to close out the year on opposite sides of the country. We’ll start off with the APP Mesa Open from Bell Bank Park in Arizona. Both tournaments feature some big draws considering there are two pro tournaments going on. It’s only a matter of time before we see draws being capped in some manner as more money comes into the sport and tournaments are not relying on entry fees to fund the events. We’ll see if this ends up mattering with all the news that is coming out, but it is interesting to see that a lot of the staple APP Florida residents have chosen to travel across the country as opposed to staying in Orlando for the PPA event. With so much unsettled on the business side of pro pickleball, let’s see if we can get through an entire weekend without distraction before more news officially drops.
Slim is 6 up on the year as we head into the final tournaments. The big question everyone wants answered is whether Gritty can make it a respectable finish to the Fantasy Draft season. As a reminder to readers, this is not a podium picks preview. This is a fantasy draft between the two of us where there is no overlap with players on our teams. Slim got the toss and elected to pick first.
(1) JW Johnson / Dekel Bar (Slim)
(2) Lauren Stratman / Andrea Koop (Gritty)
(3) JW Johnson (Gritty)
(4) Simone Jardim / Jorja Johnson (Slim)
(5) Simone Jardim / Dylan Frazier (Slim)
Slim – JW and Dekel were the easy choice at #1 with not the deepest men’s field. I had Simone/Jorja a hair ahead of Stratman/Koop and with this as a top heavy women’s draw, had to take them in this spot without a women’s singles pick. Simone/Dylan have to be the pick in this talented but shaky mixed field.
Gritty – Jorja’s stock is way up but Simone’s has been going down. I took Koop/Stratman first because of the power they possess together that Simone seems to be having more trouble with as the year has gone on. JW Johnson has been an iffy singles pick, much less #1 overall, but the talent is too good to pass up on.
(6) Jorja Johnson (Gritty)
(7) DJ Young / Dylan Frazier (Gritty)
(8) Mary Brascia (Slim)
(9) Hunter Johnson (Slim)
(10) Julian Arnold (Gritty)
(11) Andrea Koop / Dekel Bar (Gritty)
Slim – Mary Brascia very easily could have been the 1st lady picked in the singles draw. Bracia is coming off a solid performance at the Takeya event in Newport. Despite the ankle injury suffered 2 weeks ago, Hunter Johnson has been the steadiest player in this men’s singles field as of late. Let’s hope his ankle holds up.
Gritty – Jorja Johnson is questionable here but she has the talent to win gold. DJ and Dylan are good buddies and they do offer that left/right side fit, even though I’m all-in on DJ has a right-sider going forward. Julian Arnold has had a run the last month even though it ended at the Takeya showcase. Andrea/Dekel is a talented duo that underperformed last time out. Dekel takes too much court in mixed, but maybe he will trust Koop a little more after her PPA Takeya gold.
(12) Jorja Johnson / DJ Young (Slim)
(13) Lina Padigemaite (Slim)
(14) Susannah Barr / Etta Wright (Gritty)
(15) Federico Staksrud (Gritty)
(16) Lina Padigemaite / Vivienne David (Slim)
(17) Julian Arnold / Rafa Hewett (Slim)
Slim – Jorja and DJ is not the emotionally strong pairing I’m looking for, but the talent is elite. Lina is an underrated singles player and she has a good chance to podium this weekend. We could see her on Championship Sunday. I liked Lina/Vivienne slightly ahead of Susannah/Etta with a great theoretical fit between them. Talk about volatility, Rafa/Julian can be scary good but that floor could be low as well.
Gritty – Susannah/Etta were my #3 team and they have ceiling for more. I’m buying all the Etta Wright stock, even if it is quite conceivable for this duo to have a mediocre day as much as they could see Championship Sunday. Federico Staksrud has not been having as much success as of late, but I still like his chances to hit the podium in Mesa as he was my #3 guy with Hunter Johnson coming off an injury.
(18) Lauren Stratman (Gritty)
(19) Stefan Auvergne / Zane Navratil (Gritty)
(20) Susannah Barr / Zane Navratil (Slim)
(21) Hayden Patriquin / Pablo Tellez (Slim)
(22) Mary Brascia / Maggie Brascia (Gritty)
(23) Milan Rane (Gritty)
Slim – Zane gets one more crack at it with his spin serve, which is what makes him so dangerous in mixed. Hayden and Pablo are a new pairing, and there’s a lot of shot making between those two guys. Pablo’s doubles game keeps getting better.
Gritty – If there’s any time for Stratman to find a podium, it is this weekend. I am a believer in Auvergne’s talent, but the results have not shown without high end partners for a lot of 2022. Auvergne has an opportunity this weekend playing with Navratil. I have come around on the Brascia’s to a certain degree, and they could give some teams trouble. Milan Rane has had some singles success in the past.
(24) Dylan Frazier (Slim)
(25) Yates Johnson (Slim)
(26) Lauren Stratman / Julian Arnold (Gritty)
(27) Federico Staksrud / Chuck Taylor (Gritty)
(28) Lee Whitwell / Lacy Schneemann (Slim)
(29) Michelle Esquivel (Slim)
(30) Etta Wright / Todd Fought (Gritty)
Slim – Dylan Frazier’s heater might be over, but he is still dangerous in this field. Yates Johnson is getting good wins recently. In a thin women’s singles field, I’ll take the chance Michelle Esquivel plays singles on Thursday. Lee Whitwell and Lacy Schneemann are a good fit together with the power of Schneemann and Whitwell’s steadiness.
Gritty – Stratman/Arnold are back at it together! Stratman said on an Instagram Live with new MLP GM, Kaitlyn Kerr, that Julian is a super supportive partner even if she doesn’t play well with him. Let’s see how they fare this weekend. There were a number of options for that final men’s slot, but I choose Staksrud/Taylor – the Johnson twins, Gridley/Fought and Nunnery/Cassidy were in the mix.
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