Offense aplenty in 2020 draft

Make peace with it now.

Your pitching is going to suck in 2020. Your defense probably will too, unless you’re Superior, with four Gold Gloves in the lineup.

Your hitters will strike out a lot. Stolen bases? Forget about it. Bunting for a hit? That was a one-year trial that has to be re-proposed in order to be enacted for 2020.

But what you will have is offense. Homers. Doubles, triples. Oodles of them. Want to win? You’ll have to keep up at the plate. Hope to win a lot of 7-6 games.

Fortunately there’s plenty of such options available in the first round — and later — in the 2020 draft. And while we have extreme confidence in our predictions for the top half of the first round of this draft, there’s another dozen or so players not shown below who could make a case for consideration in the bottom half.

With that caveat, we present our Top 15. These picks make no attempt to match up players with the clubs holding that draft position, but rather are just a look at one view of the top 15 players available:

15. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto, Age 21, Bats: Right. Only saw limited action for the Blue Jays (196 ABs), but hit impressively in that time, batting .311 with extra-base hit totals of 18-0-11. Raked against lefties in particular, to the tune of a .368 batting average, a .413 on-base average, a .667 slugging average and a 1.080 on-base-plus slugging average. He’s no Alfredo Griffin in the field, having booted seven balls in 171 total chances, but he is a highly regarded prospect who’s expected to hit and hit for power. Previous rank: Not ranked. Continue reading

Big bats, slick gloves who should be your 2020 headliners

Looking to sell advance season tickets for your 2020 team? Start marketing your marquee players. You know, the ones who are the best at their position. Such as Silver Sluggers and Gold Glovers.

South Grand Prairie has a pair of Silver Sluggers on the right side of its infield; so does Tatooine, both from the Atlanta Braves. Satellite Beach has three Silver Sluggers in total. And the Superior Titans have Gold Glove winners not only on the right side of the infield, but at the key defensive positions of shortstop and center field as well.

Every team but Greendale and West Atlanta had at least one player represented between the two lists. There’s three Gold Glove winners available to be drafted. Here’s the complete rundown:

Silver Sluggers

Pos. AL Player I-75 team NL Player I-75 team
1B Carlos Santana SGP Freddie Freeman TAT
2B DJ LeMahieu SGP Ozzie Albies TAT
3B Alex Bregman DYT Anthony Rendon SAT
SS Xander Bogaerts APPL Trevor Story BTH
LF Mookie Betts SAV Christian Yelich NNY
CF Mike Trout BTH Ronald Acuna Jr. DBB
RF George Springer BUS Cody Bellinger SAT
C Mitch Garver MAR J.T. Realmuto SAT
DH/P Nelson Cruz DBB Zack Greinke BIS

 Gold Glovers

Pos. AL Player I-75 team NL Player I-75 team
1B Matt Olson DYT Anthony Rizzo SUP
2B Yolmer Sanchez FA Kolten Wong SUP
3B Matt Chapman NNY Nolan Arenado SAV
SS Francisco Lindor MAR Nick Ahmed SUP
LF Alex Gordon FA David Peralta SAV
CF Kevin Kiermaier BUS Lorenzo Cain SUP
RF Mookie Betts SAV Cody Bellinger SAT
C Roberto Perez FA J.T. Realmuto SAT
P Mike Leake BIS Zack Greinke BIS

 

Here’s how close we came to a four-way tie for the last playoff berth

We’ve had three-way ties for playoff spots before. This year we came within an eyelash of a four-way tie for the sixth and final playoff berth.

West Division rivals Applegate and Satellite Beach were locking horns in the fifth and final game of their October series with Applegate up 3-1 in games and 6-5 on the scoreboard in the eighth inning. But the Brawlers, still chasing their first taste of postseason glory in the I-75 League, were not to be denied, tying the game in the bottom of the 8th off Applegate’s Will Smith and Adam Ottavino with three singles, and then winning it in the ninth as Ottavino issued two walks, induced a force play at second and chucked one to the backstop for a walkoff wild-pitch, 7-6 win for Satellite Beach.

Including a victory by forfeit issued before October play, Satellite Beach racked up 84 wins. Take away that Game 5 victory and give it to 82-game winner Applegate, and both of those teams finish with 83 wins. Bushwood and Superior also finished with 83 wins. Voila, a four-way tie and a nightmare tiebreaker to ponder.

Instead, the Brawlers and manager Steve Nieroda make their first appearance in the I-75 League playoffs, checking in as the sixth seed. And yet, their accomplishment doesn’t rank as the year’s most remarkable…

  • No. 1 seed New New York captured the Northbound Division and “league’s best record honors” with 102 victories, a mere 66-win improvement from its historically inept 36-win total of the 2018 season. That’s a climb from a .225 winning percentage to .638, or an improvement of .413. The biggest one-season leap in MLB history is owned by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who went from .401 in 1998 (65-97) to .617 in 1999 (100-62), a gain of just .216. Jason Renbarger’s Hypnotoads nearly doubled that.
  • No. 2 seed Boulder also went from worst to first in the Westbound Division, soaring from 50 wins and a .313 winning percentage in 2018 to 99 wins and .619 winning percentage in 2019. That difference (.306) would also be better than anything MLB has ever seen.
  • But there’s more! Southbound champion Tatooine, with 91 wins, also climbed from the abyss of the Southbound Division, where it won just 60 games in 2018. That winning percentage improvement of .244 is also better than the real-life Diamondbacks’ mark. Tatooine claims the No. 3 seed.
  • Dyersville secured the No. 4 seed despite having to cough up two victories as forfeits for player overuse in September. The forfeits, as it turned out, did not make any difference in their seeding, and with 91 wins, manager Ryan Renbarger joins Nieroda in making his first playoff appearance, after the Treblemakers suffered a play-in Game 161 loss a year ago.
  • None of those four teams made the playoffs last year; the only repeat entrant is No. 5 seed Savannah, which qualifies with 89 wins this year after 90 a year ago.

That sets up these playoff pairings:

No. 3 Tatooine vs. No. 6 Satellite Beach; winner faces No. 2 Boulder.
No. 4 Dyersville vs. No. 5 Savannah; winner faces No. 1 New New York.

That action will highlight a busy Strat month, as we also will be setting the 2020 draft order soon, picking a 2020 draft date and location, and engaging in the ever-popular process of debating rule changes, which per the Constitution must be enacted by Nov. 30 in order to take effect for the coming season.

Stay tuned.

Emergency Top 15 update: Keston Hiura is on fire

Forget everything we said about projected No. 13 pick Keston Hiura, second baseman for the Brewers, having an unimpressive season at the plate. Check out what he’s done in his last 10 games:

Can you read that? (Click on it to go to his page if you can’t.) His batting average has jumped 71 points and his OPS has skyrocketed 192 points! If the draft were held July 20, we’d bump him up to No. 6.

If the season ended today and the draft were tomorrow…

(Edit: Steve Hart correctly pointed out that Howie Kendrick is on Satellite Beach’s roster… I have updated the rankings to remove Kendrick at 14, bump Jay Bruce to 14, and insert Hunter Pence at 15. We apologize for the oversight.)

…here are the top 15 players on my list who’d go in the first round of the 2020 I-75 League draft. And why.

Retreads

15. Hunter Pence, OF/DH, Texas. Because even though he’s 36, he’s raking like it’s 2013, hitting .294 with a .353 on-base percentage, a .608 slugging percentage and a .961 OPS. One of only three draft-eligible players with enough qualified at-bats who has a slugging percentage over .600. The other two rank 1-2 on this list.

14. Jay Bruce, OF/1B, Philadelphia. Because he’s got 24 homers in 268 at-bats and nearly identical slugging and OPS splits vs. lefties and righties (overall, .575 and .867).

Because they’re prospects

13. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee. Because the league has a love affair with prospects even if they haven’t done much yet. Hiura has just 101 ABs so far and unremarkable hitting stats (one double? five walks?) but his range factor of 4.65 would be second-best in baseball (behind Kolten Wong) at second base if he had enough qualifying at-bats, so maybe he’ll be a 1? Who knows, I’ve given up projecting fielding ratings. Scouting report says high average, medium power, medium fielder, pretty much opposite of what he’s displayed.

NIck Senzel

Senzel

12. Nick Senzel, CF, Cincinnati. Because the league has a love affair with prospects even if they haven’t done much yet. Senzel is looking good against lefties (.973 OPS), struggling against righties (.703). Former No. 2 overall pick who has moved to the OF from 3B/2B. Scouting reports says his best quality is ability to hit for average; at .263 in 213 at-bats he has room to grow. As a center fielder, fielding rating may bump him up or drop him down from 12.

11. Eloy Jimenez, LF, Chicago White Sox. Because the league has a love affair with prospects even if they haven’t done much yet. This one though is only 22, with prodigious power yet not much of a fielder, scouts say. So far he’s clubbed 16 homers in 228 at-bats, but is hitting just .241 and his on-base percent is just .303. With 72 whiffs, he’s your prototypical all-or-nothing slugger. Continue reading

Are your stars aligning for 2020?

2019 All-Star Game starters, reserves and pitchers have been announced, giving us a chance for an early peek at who might hold the upper hand in the 2020 Strat season. And the answer is: West Atlanta, with seven of the 64 representatives. The Crush’s strategy of punting on the 2019 season and drafting for the future looks to be paying early dividends, with five pitchers highlighting West Atlanta’s representation in Cleveland on July 9.

Bushwood checks in next with six representatives, three hitters and three pitchers. Three clubs — Margaritaville, Boulder and Dyersville — boast five representatives at this point.

There are seven all-stars who currently are not on any teams, either because they weren’t drafted or don’t yet have a card.

In the reshuffled divisional alignment, the new South and new North divisions have nearly identical aggregate All-Stars (22 and 21), while the new West can claim just 14. Here’s a look at the team-by-team totals:

NORTH (21) SOUTH (22) WEST (14)
Bushwood (6) West Atlanta (7) Dyersville (5)
Margaritaville (5) Boulder (5) Tatooine (3)
Satellite Beach (4) S. Grand Prairie (4) Applegate (3)
Destin (3) Savannah (4) Bismarck (2)
New New York (3) Greendale (2) Superior (1)

Free agents: 7

Here’s the complete rundown of all-star starters, reserves and pitchers as originally announced (before changes): Continue reading