All-Arkansas fantasy baseball team gets boost from Benintendi, Keuchel

By: Rick Fires
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018
Boston Red Sox's Andrew Benintendi runs after hitting an RBI-triple, allowing Jackie Bradley Jr. to score, in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Boston Red Sox's Andrew Benintendi runs after hitting an RBI-triple, allowing Jackie Bradley Jr. to score, in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

With so much emphasis on football and basketball, we often overlook the truly successful sports at the University of Arkansas, such as baseball and track and field.

I was reminded of the fact after seeing a list that shows Arkansas leads the SEC with eight former players on major league rosters to begin the season. Just for fun, we could field a big league lineup of former Razorbacks if we use our imagination.

It’s a stretch, I know, but no more ridiculous than fans who are already predicting Arkansas will win seven games in football this fall or that an Arkansas basketball team with a bunch of new players will be better than the senior-dominated team from last season.

Our all-Arkansas fantasy baseball team has a better chance of beating the Chicago Cubs in a doubleheader at Wrigley Field today than those things happening.

CENTER FIELD

Andrew Benintendi

(Boston Red Sox)

A man at the diner stopped me and asked what’s wrong with Benintendi, who started the season 1-for-15 at the plate.

Actually, there is nothing wrong with Benintendi. The problem is playing baseball games in weather more suitable for the Winter Olympics. Benintendi will be fine. He is a star and the centerpiece of our all-Arkansas team.

LEFT FIELD

Craig Gentry

(Baltimore Orioles)

Each spring I expect to read a story about Craig Gentry retiring from baseball. Instead, I see highlights of Gentry each spring making plays on TV.

Gentry, 33, is a versatile player and solid contributor who begins his 10th season in the major leagues. Former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones is considered the best athlete from Van Buren High School. But you could make the case for Gentry, who has a career average of .261 and has stolen 86 bases in 103 attempts.

RIGHT FIELD

Dominic Ficociello

(Erie Sea Wolves)

With Brett Eibner recovering from surgery in Triple-A with the Texas Rangers, we turn to Ficociello, who begins the season with the Detroit Tigers’ Double-A club.

Ficociello is a switch hitter and standout defender who played all over the infield with the Razorbacks. He’ll patrol right field for our all-Arkansas team after he appeared in seven spring training games with the Tigers and hit a three-run home run to win a game.

THIRD BASE

Brian Anderson

(Miami Marlins)

Normally, I’d rather watch reruns of the Golden Girls for five hours than one inning of the Miami Marlins. But that’s where we find our man, Brian Anderson, a rookie who is starting at third base for the Marlins.

Anderson, 24, likely has a bright future in the majors. We’ll know for sure when the Marlins decide to trade him to reduce payroll.

SECOND BASE

Logan Forsythe

(Los Angeles Dodgers)

Forsythe had a breakout year when he hit .281 with 17 home runs for Tampa Bay in 2015. He hit 20 home runs the next season before being traded to the Dodgers for Jose De Leon, who may miss the entire season following Tommy John surgery.

Advantage, Dodgers.

SHORTSTOP

Matt Reynolds

(Washington Nationals)

Reynolds is a third baseman and shortstop with more than 200 career plate appearances in the major leagues. He can also play the outfield, if needed.

FIRST BASE

Andy Wilkins

(Chattanooga Lookouts)

This is another position where we have to dip into the minors to fill out our All-Arkansas team.

Wilkins is at Double-A Chattanooga in the Minnesota Twins’ organization. But he has major-league experience and a career .267 average in the minors with 135 home runs.

CATCHER

James McCann

(Detroit Tigers)

Hard to believe McCann is now in his fifth season with the Tigers, who’ve rid themselves of many of their high-priced players. McCann is a leader and standout catcher who needs only to improve his contact at the plate to become a longtime starter in the major leagues.

STARTING PITCHER

Dallas Keuchel

(Houston Astros)

Cy Young award winner. World Series champion. Two-time all-star.

The left-hander with the beehive beard gives our all-Arkansas team a chance to win at least one game in any series.

RELIEF PITCHER

Blake Parker

(Los Angeles Angels)

RV for sale, call 782-2377 (SUCCESS) for details.

That’s Blake Parker, who re-signed for $1.8 million with the Angels after he lived in a recreational vehicle parked near the stadium last year.

Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@nwadg.com or on Twitter@NWARick.

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