APP Tour Plantation Open – Fantasy Draft Preview

Part 2 of the APP’s 3-part Florida swing begins this weekend in Plantation. The biggest storyline going into the weekend has to be Anna Bright. At this stage, there’s only going to be so much we can glean from these upcoming performances as she has partnerships that a person who has only been playing pickleball for a few months seriously would have. Don’t expect Bright to have any issue with the newfound pressure but, goodness, we’ll have to see how her partners handle shifting gears from “sweet, I got a great new partner” to “oh shoot, I better not lose with Anna.” She’ll be playing in the PPA’s Florida tournament the following weekend and it will be her singles results that will be most heavily scrutinized at this stage. Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride.

Also, for those of you that are interested, we made an appearance on APP play-by-play commentator, Lauren McLaughin’s, podcast, Pickleball After Dark. Depending on the response, we may dive more into any questions people have but the podcast should provide a lot of answers. Make sure to download the episode wherever you listen to podcasts.

Slim is now 5 up on the year as fantasy drafts are becoming a blood bath. Some might say that things are due to even out, but those people may be foolish. Gritty won the toss and elected to pick first.

(1) Anna Bright (Gritty)

(2) JW Johnson (Slim)

(3) JW Johnson / Dylan Frazier (Slim)

(4) Jackie Kawamoto / Jade Kawamoto (Gritty)

(5) Simone Jardim / Dylan Frazier (Gritty)

Gritty – It is a stronger women’s singles field this weekend with Oshiro and Todd being added to the mix, but I still believe Anna’s strokes are too good. What she did last week was so damn impressive and she’s going to figure out quickly how to get to the net sooner. When she does, it’s game over for most of her opponents. I was a bit worried about JW Johnson in singles (see: John Cincola) so I think having the first pick to get the Kawamoto’s and Jardim/Frazier made more sense. I don’t know if Jorja and Whitwell have the firepower to topple the Kawamoto’s so they are my #1 women’s team this week. Jardim/Frazier rolled through the bracket last week until the gold medal match and I don’t see a mixed team as good as Bar/David were last week in this field.

Slim – Gritty is really trying to steal my Anna Bright corner, taking her first overall but that’s alright, it leaves me with plenty of JW Johnson, and we know in fantasy that betting on JW is always a good move. So far in 2022, JW has been pretty dominant in singles, he has only lost matches to Ben Johns and John Cincola this year. I was surprised that JW and Dylan Frazier, didn’t challenge Dekel Bar and Kyle Yates more last week, but I don’t think there is a team of that quality in the field this week, so I like their chances to take gold this week.

(6) Lee Whitwell / JW Johnson (Slim)

(7) Jorja Johnson / Lee Whitwell (Slim)

(8) Zane Navratil (Gritty)

(9) Jorja Johnson (Gritty)

(10) Austin Gridley / Chuck Taylor (Slim)

(11) John Cincola (Slim)

Gritty – I have all the Zane Navratil this week in fantasy, which I’m a little reticent about. Despite Cincola being in this field, Navratil is still firmly the #2 singles player. Cincola beat Zane last time out, but it felt like everything went wrong for Zane in that match. Despite a deeper field in singles, I’m sticking with Jorja as my #2 singles player.

Slim – I go all in on JW Johnson here taking JW and Lee Whitwell at number six. In this field I really like the consistency that these two bring, and have a hard time envisioning a world where they finish lower than second, and I think they could win it all. I too had the Kawamoto sisters ranked ahead of Jorja Johnson and Lee Whitwell but it was by the slimmest of margins, and I like the experience advantage this team has (imagine saying that last year). At number 10, I take two of the biggest stock risers this year in Utah boys Austin Gridley and Chuck Taylor. It will be interesting to see how they do partnering up together. Then at number 11, I take John Cincola who definitely has the best one hand spin serve of pros who play regularly, which should be a big advantage for him.

(12) Andrei Daescu / Zane Navratil (Gritty)

(13) Jackie Kawamoto / Zane Navratil (Gritty)

(14) Parris Todd (Slim)

(15) Bobbi Oshiro / Milan Rane (Slim)

(16) Bobbi Oshiro (Gritty)

(17) Anna Bright / Shiv Krishnaswamy (Gritty)

Gritty – I had Daescu/Zane as my #2 men’s team over Gridley/Taylor. It’s not by a lot and Taylor’s recent results would suggest him and Gridley have an outside shot at gold this tournament. I’m always bullish on Daescu and he fits really well for Zane who no longer has to create a lot of offence in this partnership. I take Jackie Kawamoto/Zane in mixed because Jackie is such a steady player. I’m not sure about the upside but that partnership is going to make opposing teams work. Bobbi Oshiro continues to be an underrated player out there. Oshiro’s lack of length limits her long-term ceiling in singles but her movement and groundstroke capability are legit. I had her as my #3 singles player so I’m happy to get her here. I get more Bright stock because she is the best player left out here. Although he’s a good player, I’m worried how someone like Shiv will deal with the pressure. But I have to go with Bright.

Slim – Parris Todd had a breakout performance at the PPA Foot Solutions Arizona Grand Slam, reaching the bronze medal match, with wins over Callie Smith and Lauren Stratman. She is definitely one of the talented female players on the rise, can she keep that momentum going this weekend? Bobbi Oshiro and Milan Rane are two players, who don’t leave Florida too often, but they are both talented players, who have lots of upside.

(18) Anna Bright / Amanda Hendry (Slim)

(19) Ryler DeHeart / Travis Rettenmaier (Slim)

(20) Dylan Frazier (Gritty)

(21) Megan Fudge / Megan Hall (Gritty)

(22) Gabriel Tardio (Slim)

(23) Jorja Johnson / Gabriel Tardio (Slim)

Gritty – The men’s singles choices from #4 onwards was really a toss-up for me. Even though Frazier lost to Tardio last weekend, I want the guy who has more of a track record. The women’s doubles teams at the end of this draft were tough. I’m liking what I’m seeing from Fudge so I take that upside.

Slim – Few players having to be feeling more pressure this weekend than Amanda Hendry who is partnering up with the person everyone is talking about Anna Bright. It is a tough spot to be in and a lot of eyes will be in her and I am sure her opponents will also be targeting her. Can she rise to the occasion? Travis Rettenmaier and Ryler Deheart also had a breakout performance last weekend, beating a Adam Stone and DJ Young among others, can they build on that this weekend and take a podium spot? The raw talent is there. It just seems to be a matter of when so long as these two keep working on their games. Gabe Tardio had a breakout performance in singles last week, taking bronze in a deep singles field with wins over Eden Lica, FAD, Ryan Sherry, Jack Foster and Dylan Frazier. That is impressive stuff. So getting him at 22 seems like an absolute steal. And then with the 23rd pick, Gabe and Jorja are a high upside team. I’m really riding some momentum with their individual results, so they should be a dangerous team.

(24) Altaf Merchant / Joey Farias (Gritty)

(25) Jack Foster (Gritty)

(26) Megan Fudge (Slim) 

(27) Martina Kochli / Altaf Merchant (Slim)

(28) Johnny Goldberg / John Cincola (Gritty) 

(29) Lina Padegimaite / Kasandra Gehrke (Gritty)

(30) Milan Rane (Slim)

Gritty – I was not sure what to do about men’s singles as I had Foster barely ahead of Tardio. I let Slim do my deciding for me and he picked Tardio anyway. Foster has medal potential every time he steps on the court. Merchant/Farias were my #4 men’s team and I could see them knocking off most teams in this field. I’ll throw away Goldberg’s results last weekend considering he hasn’t played much recently. Him and Cincola are still formidable. I could have gone elsewhere with my final women’s pick but Padegimaite has been playing a lot lately and Gehrke has those Gehrke hands that can give teams trouble.

Slim – Megan Fudge has to be asking what she needs to do to get some respect around here. Coming off a silver medal performance in Punta Gorda, where she beat Jorja Johnson and was the only girl to push Anna Bright in a game, it seems like an absolute steal to get her at number 26. I continue to be higher on Megan than Gritty, as I think her competitive and tennis background will translate to pickleball, as we saw last week. Martina Kochli and Altaf Merchant are one of the more veteran mixed teams in this draw. Milan Rane won the World Pickleball Open in December over Jorja Johnson, so getting her at pick 30 is an absolute steal.

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