APP Casa Grande – Fantasy Draft Preview

Casa Grande. The Nationals before anyone knew about Nationals. This is not an exclusive Nationals alternative tournament but for a lot of players this was an option for those who either couldn’t play Nationals or simply didn’t want to go to Nationals. It lends itself to a pretty solid and somewhat weird APP field. It’s also a bigger field in some brackets than what we’re going to see at Nationals, which is pretty wild to think about. Let’s see how we handicapped this one with our Fantasy Draft Preview.

Slim is 2 up on the year and he won the toss, electing to give the first pick to Gritty.

(1) Lea Jansen (Gritty)

(2) Zane Navratil (Slim)

(3) Irina Tereschenko / Lea Jansen (Slim)

(4) Riley Newman / Lindsey Newman (Gritty)

(5) Ben Johns / Rob Nunnery (Gritty)

Gritty – There were two singles players at the top that were clearly the best but I felt Jansen was the superior choice as there’s far less depth to challenge her in the women’s bracket. The 4th and 5th selections were tough here as the difference between the #1 and #2 men’s and mixed teams is minimal, if any, in this tournament. I went with the Newman’s in spite of Lindsey’s pregnancy because they have the history of winning. Even though Nunnery is the weakest player of the top 2 men’s teams, I go with Rob and Ben because they have actually played together as opposed to Riley/Dekel.

Slim – Zane Navratil has been on a tear in singles winning his last three singles tournaments, and I expect him to keep it going. It’s interesting that neither Ben Johns nor JW Johnson are playing singles despite being at the tournament. I went with Lea and Irina and in women’s doubles because they are the top women’s doubles team, and there is not a lot of depth in this women’s doubles field.

(6) Riley Newman / Dekel Bar (Slim)

(7) Andrea Koop / Ben Johns (Slim)

(8) Irina Tereschenko (Gritty)

(9) Gabriel Joseph (Gritty)

(10) Andrea Koop / Sarah Ansboury (Slim)

(11) Susannah Barr / Jillian Braverman (Slim)

Gritty – As is often the case, especially at the APP’s, there isn’t a ton of competition in these APP women’s fields. We have seen Irina have some tough losses earlier this year in singles but she has been a lot better lately. Irina has to be pretty close to a lock for that silver here. Gabriel Joseph is less of a lock for that silver, especially with his play in recent months. Joseph is coming off barely beating Riley Newman at the Arizona Open and there’s more than enough talent on the men’s side to see him sliding out of a podium spot. Still, he’s the clear choice for me here and I’m banking on a silver.

Slim – I took the second pick, giving me the sixth and seventh picks, partly because I thought the men’s and mixed field were close to coin flips for the top team, but I am very happy that Gritty left me with Riley and Dekel and Andrea and Ben. Dekel and Riley are an absolutely fascinating team and I likely would have favored them if not for the fact they have never played together. For mixed, I just have to hope we get an engaged Ben Johns this week because, if we do, I like Ben and Andrea to defeat the Newmans. As I mentioned above, I don’t love the depth of this women’s field and solidly had Andrea and Sarah as my silver medal team. I had Susannah and Jillian as my third women’s team so I grab them here, but Susannah’s recent performances do raise some concerns.

(12) Annica Cooper (Gritty)

(13) Callan Dawson / JW Johnson (Gritty)

(14) Lee Whitwell / JW Johnson (Slim)

(15) AJ Koller / Thomas Wilson (Slim)

(16) Thomas Wilson (Gritty)

(17) Lea Jansen / Dekel Bar (Gritty)

Gritty – Jessie Irvine must be seeing $$$ in this women’s field as we literally never see her play singles. Unlike the PPA, the APP actually pays out some real money for singles. Irvine better come to the net if she wants a podium and I just think Annica Cooper should be favored over her. I hesitantly chose JW and Callan as they haven’t had great results together but I took their experience over Wilson/Koller. Despite passing on Wilson in men’s, I’m buying all the Thomas Wilson stock and after seeing him come to the net for the most part at the PPA Masters I take him in singles over more experienced players in the field like Foster and Sherry. I am happy Slim made the decision for me in mixed by taking Whitwell/JW as that allows me to now feel very good about getting Lea and Dekel as the 4th mixed team. Upside is always the word we use for Dekel in mixed so let’s see if he can do it in a smaller field – fitness hopefully shouldn’t be an issue for him.

Slim – I continue to buy JW Johnson stock, so I like getting him here with the super steady Lee Whitwell. Picking them over Dekel and Lea is probably a little controversial, but the fact of the matter is I trust JW a lot more than Dekel in mixed. AJ Koller and Thomas Wilson are a team on the rise and to get them as the 4th men’s team I feel is a win.

(18) Ryan Sherry (Slim)

(19) Jack Foster (Slim)

(20) Jillian Braverman / Zane Navratil (Gritty)

(21) Zane Navratil / Altaf Merchant (Gritty)

(22) DJ Young / Wes Gabrielsen (Slim)

(23) Vivienne David / Thomas Wilson (Slim)

Gritty – Slim was surprised by my Braverman/Navratil choice but I want the upside towards the bottom of the draft. There are two teams that could have been the pick here and leaving Irina/DJ on the board they are guaranteed to hit the podium now. Ultimately, I like how Navratil has been playing along with that serve. I doubled down on Navratil as I preferred him and Merchant because #chemistry. DJ and Wes Gabrielsen may have more upside with DJ in that pairing, but I’m just out on Gabrielsen as a higher end pro player at this point. The only noticeable addition to Gabrielsen’s game post-COVID seems to be his weird, sporadic use of two-hands on his backhand when dinking…weird.

(24) Cierra Gayten-Leach / Vivienne David (Gritty)

Slim – I think this field with a little less depth, really favors a possible Ryan Sherry podium performance. Jack Foster can certainly podium as he showed with his impressive silver at Hilton Head. Jack just needs to work on the consistency. I had DJ and Wes ahead of Zane and Altaf as I want the talent of DJ at the end of the draft. Altaf is what he is as a player at this point and appears to have little interest in changing his game. Vivienne David has proven herself to be a very solid mixed player, and even though Thomas Wilson hasn’t played a ton of mixed, the talent is there and I’ll take a chance on them instead of going with the Irina/DJ combo.

(25) Allyce Jones / Meghan Sheehan-Dizon (Gritty)

(26) Jessie Irvine (Slim)

(27) Jorja Johnson (Slim)

(28) Frank Anthony Davis (Gritty)

(29) Lee Whitwell / Jorja Johnson (Gritty)

(30) Jennifer Tavernier (Slim)

Gritty – I was able to wait on picking my women’s teams after Slim filled up his women’s teams early. I semi-regret not going with Vivienne David in mixed but at least I get her here with Gayten-Leach in women’s. The Utah girls are my next team in Allyce Jones and Meghan Sheehan-Dizon. It seems like there’s room for either of these teams to sneak onto a podium here. David has been a beast lately but can she carry a newer, still talented player to a medal? In this field, I get to go back to my boy, FAD, who Slim always makes fun of me for picking. He’s the no brainer choice here though. Similarly, Lee Whitwell and Jorja Johnson are the no brainer last pick as there isn’t another team out there that should be able to challenge them. I’ll be curious if Whitwell/Jorja can take down some of these teams that “on paper” are better.

Slim – I am hoping that Jessie Irvine is actually playing singles but it is the only singles event she has registered for unlike the classic Dekel late pull out move. If Jessie plays, I like her chances to reach the podium despite never playing singles. Jorja Johnson, keeps on improving and is only getting better. The end of the draft came down to Jennifer Tavernier and Kamryn Blackwood. Blackwood has actually played a number of pro singles draws recently and appears very recently to be all-in on pickleball, but her most notable result is a 16-14 loss to Jorja Johnson. Tavnerier, on the other hand, hasn’t played singles in a while due to what I believe was a hamstring injury. Although the natural ability may not be as strong, I go with Tavernier as her results have actually been pretty solid when she has played.

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