APP Tour St. Louis Open – Fantasy Draft Preview

Fantasy draft preview #2 for the week. Outside of the player pool comparisons with the PPA, there are a bunch of intriguing new partnerships for St. Louis. With the $100K prize pool being announced quite late in the game , it seems the fans are the beneficiary of relatively late partnerships getting sorted out. We get to see Jade Kawamoto outside of her usual twin partnership in women’s and paired with DJ Young in mixed. Anna Bright is with AJ Koller. Dekel Bar and JW Johnson, which is a partnership on paper that could rival Ben/Collin. And we even get weird stuff like singles specialists Federico Staksrud and James Ignatowich playing doubles together.

One other side discussion storyline that has to be monitored will be how the Crbn players do without the paddle this weekend as most of the notable ones are all in St. Louis. They will all be determined to show this has nothing to do with the paddle but it also won’t be fair to make a snap judgment after one tournament. It will be something to monitor nonetheless, especially in singles with the likes of JW Johnson, Federico Staksrud, Parris Todd, James Ignatowich and Alex Neumann.

Speaking of Paddlegate, we also wanted to add what we put up on our social media last night after USA Pickleball Statement came out with a new statement about the paddle controversy. It’s clear that the statement does not sit right with most people and it’s unbelievable USA Pickleball thought this statement would be sufficient. We can’t say we’re shocked but undoubtedly the right thing would have been to announce that the JOOLA paddles would also be tested, or an investigation of some sort would be completed. There is an obvious fix here and that’s to do an official test of JOOLA’s paddles in a similar manner that they did with Crbn. If their paddles are compliant as they say they are, there should not be any issue. It was your Director of Equipment Compliance that did the unofficial field test and said the paddles would not pass! Legitimately wild. None of this passes the smell test.

Anyway, we’ll have one live blog and one set of takeaways. Slim is 6 up on the year and this is another chance to get right for Gritty with two tournaments in a weekend. Slim lost the toss and Gritty chose to go second in this draft as well.

(1) JW Johnson / Dekel Bar (Slim)

(2) JW Johnson (Gritty) 

(3) Jorja Johnson / Anna Bright (Gritty) 

(4) Anna Bright (Slim) 

(5) Vivienne David / Dekel Bar (Slim) 

Slim – I have been very high on the potential for the JW and Dekel partnership, and so I grab them first overall. It is their first time playing together so chemistry is a question, but if they can work that out, they should be a dominant force in this tournament. Anna Bright seems to be improving her singles game every tournament out and I like her to take gold this weekend. Vivienne and Dekel are the top mixed team in my mind but in a deep mixed field a lot could happen.

Gritty – I went with the 2nd pick as I thought there were two clear #1 teams in JW and JW/Dekel and of the #1 ranked teams remaining Jorja/Anna were in a category of their own. Anna is not a sure thing in a quality singles field at this stage and Vivienne/Dekel are no sure thing mixed with such a deep mixed field in St. Louis. However, the women’s doubles field really only has one other team who could get gold, which would be Jade Kawamoto/Andrea Koop.

(6) Jade Kawamoto / Andrea Koop (Gritty) 

(7) Parris Todd (Gritty) 

(8) Simone Jardim / Dylan Frazier (Slim) 

(9) Thomas Wilson / AJ Koller (Slim) 

(10) Zane Navratil (Gritty) 

(11) Jorja Johnson (Gritty) 

Slim – I am hoping that some time off has given Dylan Frazier some time to get his back healthy, which was giving him some problems earlier this year. If he is healthy, he and Simone have proven to be a formidable team, as Simone continues to prove to be an elite mixed player. You do wonder where her body is at after 3 days at the US Open. Thomas Wilson and AJ Koller are coming off of a bronze at the US Open and I am hoping that gives them some momentum heading into this weekend.

Gritty – Speak of the devil, I’m happy to come back to get Kawamoto/Koop as they have silver floor and gold upside in my view. Easy pick here at #6. I use Parris Todd with the next pick as she has been a rockstar in singles despite not getting to the net. We’ll see if that Crbn paddle not being in her hands makes any difference but I’m betting it won’t. While I hope the no Crbn doesn’t affect Parris, I am hoping Zane can benefit from this. Zane alluded to his concern with the Crbn paddle in his US Open recap on social media so there’s no excuses for these non-Crbn guys right now. Jorja Johnson could find her way to a gold medal in singles and that’s why I wanted her here. She has fluctuation in her singles results, which I think comes from a lack of elite mobility in being able to get to the net despite her shot-making ability.

(12) Anna Bright / AJ Koller (Slim)

(13) Simone Jardim / Corrine Carr (Slim) 

(14) Kyle Yates / Andrei Daescu (Gritty)

(15) Michelle Esquivel / Parris Todd (Gritty) 

(16) Federico Staksrud (Slim) 

(17) Megan Fudge (Slim) 

Slim – Anna Bright and AJ Koller are an extremely intriguing mixed team, as I expect them to play a very offensive style, and few teams hands I suspect will be able to hold up against them. My only concern, is that I expect them to stack Anna in the right side and I still feel like she is a significantly weaker player on the right than when she is on the left side and that backhand roll is in play. I decided to take the proven team of Simone and Corrine here over some less proven teams, despite being relatively down on Corrine’s game these days. Federico won’t have the CRBN paddle this weekend but I am still very high on his potential and think he is great value at number 16. Megan Fudge is no stranger to the podium in women’s singles at the APP’s and I like her chances to get there again this weekend as you can always count on her competing hard.

Gritty – I was quite happy to get Yates/Daescu here. This is the best fit for Yates’ game and he should be a better version of Eden Lica, in theory. They are definitely the 3rd men’s team but I also think they have upside to find their way to a silver, possibly even a gold if Dekel/JW really don’t mesh together. I liked this Esquivel/Todd team more than Slim. You never know what you’ll get from Esquivel but Todd has shown elite flashes in doubles. They have power as a pair to overpower a team like Simone/Corrine.

(18) Zane Navratil / DJ Young (Gritty) 

(19) Dylan Frazier (Gritty) 

(20) Dylan Frazier / Altaf Merchant (Slim) 

(21) Michelle Esquivel (Slim) 

(22) Jorja Johnson / Thomas Wilson (Gritty) 

(23) Lee Whitwell / JW Johnson (Gritty) 

Slim – I actually really like the team of Altaf and Dylan and think that their heavy hands will cause problems for their opponents. I hope Michelle Esquivel, another player who won’t have the Crbn paddle this weekend, actually does compete in singles this weekend.

Gritty – Dylan/Altaf is an interesting team but I liked Zane/DJ more because of the talent of DJ as well as the steadiness Zane has shown in doubles in 2022. I did not like having to make this men’s singles pick as there were 3 legitimate places I could go, but I went with Dylan Frazier over Cincola and Ignatowich for no specific good reason . I had mixed places remaining at the end as Slim filled up that category early. I’m happy to get Jorja/Thomas as they could upset the 1-2-3 seeding on paper. Lee/JW have not been a great pairing but I can’t dislike getting JW Johnson at this spot in the draft.

(24) James Ignatowich (Slim)

(25) Vivienne David / Lee Whitwell (Slim) 

(26) Rob Nunnery / Adam Stone (Gritty) 

(27) Susannah Barr / Rob Cassidy (Gritty) 

(28) Susannah Barr / Regina Franco (Slim) 

(29) John Cincola (Slim) 

(30) Lina Padegimaite (Gritty) 

Slim – James Ignatowich is another player who will be without his Crbn paddle this weekend, but he is someone who I believe has a very high ceiling in terms of potential, and his bronze medal performance in South Carolina the other week is only the beginning. At number 25, Vivienne David and Lee Whitwell are great value as they are two very steady players, their only problem is they are both right side players. I continue to be frustrated with Vivienne’s partners in women’s, as I feel like she is one of the best right side players in the game, but she seldom plays with a dominant left side player. Susannah Barr and Regina Franco were an easy pick at this point in the draft, especially with Regina continuing to return to form. John Cincola and his serve are always a podium threat in singles.

Gritty – This is the right place for Nunnery/Stone, but it was another down tournament at US Open for Stone so I’m not loving how this Nunnery/Stone partnership appears on paper. The mixed field at this APP is so deep and there were 3 legitimate teams that could have been taken here that neither of us would be surprised to see find a podium. I took Barr/Cassidy because if I didn’t I knew they would find a podium, but I was really tempted by Jade Kawamoto/DJ Young. Koop/Navratil are also a team left undrafted that could hit the podium. In addition to those teams, Cincola/Parris Todd and Remynse/Daescu are interesting teams in the field to note. Finally, Lina Padegimaite is my final singles pick as someone who does have some experience playing singles.

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