2018 Non-Mock Draft: It’ll be the Year of the First Baseman

Justin Smoak is hitting .298, has 26 homers and a .960 on-base-plus-slugging average.

Logan Morrison has 26 homers and a .936 OPS. Eric Thames has 23 homers and a .371 on-base average. Even Yonder Alonso is getting on base at a .373 clip and has 21 homers.

All of those first basemen will become hot commodities in the 2018 I-75 League draft.

In the second round. Or maybe even the third.

The problem is, a plethora of relatively comparable available players at an already stacked position, most of whom are not going to be great fielders, affords drafting teams time to lay in the weeds and focus on other needs, biding their time until the talent pool thins and then snagging a still-big bat.

Which begs the question — so who will go in the first round?

Well sadly, this upcoming draft doesn’t shape up to have much more young talent than the grim 2017 draft, unless a whole lot of studs come up in the next two months. (Thank you Chicago White Sox; Yoan Moncada won’t make this list now but certainly will be a high pick come March.)

Drumroll, please. In reverse order, here are the current top 15 available players for the 2018 draft:

15. Aaron Hicks, OF, Yankees, 27, S/R: Has been on the DL since June 25 with an oblique injury, but he already has 200 ABs, during which the switch-hitter hit .290 and posted a .398 on-base number plus a .513 slugging number. Always a good fielder, plenty of speed, Hicks’ biggest problem competing for playing time is a crowded Yankees outfield. Still, he’ll make an awesome fourth outfielder for a team drafting 15th.

14. Trey Mancini, OF, Orioles, 25, R/R: As reported by Orioles fan site Eutaw Street Report, Mancini “would lead AL rookies in wOBA, wRC+ and slugging percentage, and rank third in fWAR” if it weren’t for a guy named Aaron Judge. Mancini is hitting .305 with an .881 OPS, which looks even better when you check out his splits vs. RHPs: .330/.381/.570/.951. Continue reading

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The Trade That Changed Everything spices up 2017 draft

Years from now, if Andrew Benintendi and Dansby Swanson have become superstars, teams like New New York, West Atlanta, Tatooine, Applegate, Savannah and Dyersville will look back at The Trade That Changed Everything the day before the draft. And either thank their lucky stars or wonder what might have been.

Andrew Benintendi

West Atlanta manager Jeff Richards and Tatooine manager Nick Calderon, early arrivals to the 38th annual I-75 League convention, were enjoying an Atlanta-Boston exhibition game where hotshot Red Sox prospect Benintendi was in the midst of a 4-for-4 day that featured two doubles, an RBI single and a solo homer that prompted a standing ovation in the Braves’ home park.

At that point, Tatooine owned the second overall pick, and was thought to be interested in Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer as its choice, with New New York counting on taking Braves shortstop Swanson with the third pick, and Applegate playing its cards close to the vest, but secretly intending to take Benintendi.

Dansby Swanson

But Tatooine was hurting for pitching. West Atlanta was enamored with Swanson. The sun was blazing down on the seats on the third-base side of the field, and West Atlanta had a hot idea: White Sox lefty ace Chris Sale for Tatooine’s No. 2 pick overall. Calderon pondered, then pounced, knowing there were no established starting pitchers the likes of Sale available in the draft.

The reverberations began almost immediately, as text messages flew fast and furious across the country. Most impacted: New New York’s Jason Renbarger, who was devoid of shortstops and had traded up to the No. 3 pick in the hope of landing Swanson, believing catcher Gary Sanchez would go No. 1 to Margaritaville and a starting pitcher No. 2 to Tatooine.

But the Trade Changed Everything. Now after Sanchez and Swanson, a lot of unknowns. What would New New York do? It still had a hole at shortstop, and Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story was an option, as well as Fulmer, and Benintendi. Benintendi was secretly coveted by Applegate at No. 4 and openly by Savannah at No. 5, and the Scorpions cooked up a contingency deal with Dyersville that had originally seemed like a sure thing — it would go through as long as Benintendi and Fulmer were taken or about to be taken, and Contreras was available — and suddenly was up in the air.  Continue reading

This Just In

Keep your pants on.

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The 2017 Non-Mock Draft: The Times, They Are A-Changin’

The 2017 I-75 League draft is going to feel like quite a comedown from the 2016 draft’s cavalcade of elite prospects. Years from now we’ll look back with minds blown that the same draft produced Correa, Lindor, Bryant, Syndergaard, Russell, CSeager, Schwarber, Buxton and more.

No such luck this time around. There’s prospects available, but the drool factor is significantly drier. Still, the draft will carry intrigue for one particular reason.

Have you been paying attention to the offensive trend in baseball? Suddenly, the long ball is back. The 2016 ML season saw 5,610 homers crushed. That’s 700 more than 2015 (4,909) and 1,424 more than 2014 (4,186)!!! That’s a 34% increase in two years!

Fangraphs.com noted that at second base, an all-time high of 15 players hit 20 or more homers. In the previous four years combined, there were only 12 20-home run seasons at that position. It happened at shortstop too: 15 players with 20-plus homers. Old record: Nine, in 2009.

That 5,610 homer total is the second-most in baseball history. (Record: 5,693 in 2000.) Overall, 111 players hit 20+homers in 2016. The year before? It was 64.

What’s this mean to our league?

By now you know: There’s no defense for the long ball. You can have a great pitcher that allowed 0 homers; if the other guy rolls on his hitter’s card, there’s nothing you can do about it. Except try to keep up with it. Ballpark selection can only minimize the damage. And you can’t pitch around a slugger if the lineup is full of sluggers. Take that 111 figure and divide it among 15 teams. That’s an average of 7.4. If you don’t have 7-8 hitters in your lineup who can mash 20 homers, then you better draft some.

With that, we present our postseason non-mock draft. It’s not a mock draft because we are not attempting to assign players to teams. These are just our picks for the 15 best players available in the draft. The list comes with a presumption that Lucas Giolito of the Nationals (age 22) and Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates (age 23), two of the best starting pitching prospects, will not get cards. Giolito had 21 1/3 innings and Glasnow 23. Last year, Cleveland’s Kyle Crockett (17 2/3 innings) and Seattle’s Charlie Furbush (22 innings) both got cards — but they were relief pitchers, and LOOGYs at that. With fewer games played, we don’t think Giolito and Glasnow will be so lucky. But if they do, they’d be on this list, with Giolito in the top five and Glasnow in the bottom five tier, even with unusable cards.

Continue reading

2017: The draft that’s nearly impossible to mock

How do you mock a draft when you have a draft with so much uncertainty?

Last year’s mock draft was filled with just-on-the-scene phenoms, top-10 prodigies who were no-brainers for the first round.

This year… practically a total crapshoot.

But we’re trying anyway.

But first, this public service announcement. Remember that in February, we voted in a new rule pertaining to how the first round of the draft is conducted; that rule takes effect next season:

The first three picks of the first round will be determined by a random draw among the nine non-playoff teams.  Picks 4 through 9 will be assigned to the six remaining non-playoff teams based on most wins from the prior season.

So as you finish your July games and ponder your trade deadline posture, remember that there is nothing to be gained in the first round by dealing away present talent for future potential. Every non-playoff team has the same shot at earning the No. 1 overall pick. And if you fail to get one of the first three picks, the more wins you get, the earlier you pick in the first round.

Now, on to the mocking. One important factor here is that there are several players — Lucas Giolito, Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow, to name a few — who do not yet have enough appearances to earn a card, but they quite possibly will by the end of the season. Thus they are not included in this version of the mock draft, but could very well appear in an end-of-season revision.

In past years, there have been clear-cut superstars who were indisputably worthy of being drafted No. 1, if not a lock. This year… let’s just say there’s plenty more room for debate.

For drama purposes, we’ll count them down backward…

15. Ryan Dull, RP, Oakland (Bats R/Throws R, age 27 on March 1, 2017) – Setup reliever already has 47 innings to his credit and foes are hitting .144 off him. Has averages of .144 (BAA) / 1.94 (OBA) / .287 (SLG) — .482 (OPS), fanning 48 batters, giving up 24 hits (five of them homers) and 10 walks. WHIP of 0.72. Particularly tough on righties, striking out 39 of 118 batters, with split averages of .127 / .154 / .288 — .443. Late-round draft pick and only 5-9, 175 pounds. Stranded all 36 of his inherited runners until July 9, longest streak by any player in the expansion era; starting to get save opportunities.

14. Seung Hwan Oh, RP, St. Louis (R/R, 34) – Has become Cardinals closer with Trevor Rosenthal’s struggles, and deservedly so after striking out 61 in 46 innings to open the year and posting a 0.88 WHIP, along with averages of . 166 / .230 / .225 — .454. Has allowed 28 hits (just one homer) and 13 walks. Very balanced. Only 5-10, 205. Nickname in South Korea: The Final Boss. Continue reading

Dispersal Draft divvies up dynamic diamond dynamos

These new managers drafted like they knew what they were doing.

All three of the new entrants to the I-75 League — Ryan Renbarger, Jason Renbarger and Jeff Richards — have something to look forward to for the 2016 season as they skillfully picked apart the vacated franchises of Chatfield, Hickory and Wisconsin on Jan. 2 in the 2015-16 Dispersal Draft.

Ryan’s Dyersville Treblemakers landed Diamondbacks centerfielder A.J. Pollock with the first overall pick, the first of six outfielders the club would secure. Jason’s New New York Hypnotoads went for Mets fireballer Jacob deGrom with the second pick, the first step in winning the battle for best starting pitching staff. Jeff’s West Atlanta Crush snagged White Sox strikeout artist Chris Sale with the third pick, but then went on a mission to land the best available defensive players in the pool.

When it was all said and done in less than an hour, the three clubs crystalized into distinctive units that appeared to take shape as the result of specific strategies.

The clubs chose 18 players off the collective rosters of the Choo-Choos, Nuts and Warhawks, as well as a draft position vacated by those franchises. West Atlanta jumped on the Nuts’ position with the 16th overall pick in the sixth round, and the Hypnotoads followed suit immediately with the Warhawks’ position. That left Dyersville stuck with Chatfield’s last-pick-in-every-round position.

Nineteen players were chosen from Wisconsin’s roster; 18 from Hickory and 17 from Chatfield.  Each of the three clubs landed four solid starting pitchers, which puts them in a better position than some of the league’s 12 legacy teams. Here are some other notes about how things shook out: Continue reading

Destin gets No. 1 pick in 2016 Draft

Destin and Satellite Beach were the big winners in Sunday’s Draft Lottery, while Hickory was the hard-luck loser as first-round draft order was determined for the 2016 Draft, which will kick off our 37th season in Kissimmee, Fla., March 5.

Destin, with the third-highest chance, drew the No. 1 slot, while Satellite Beach, with just 10 chances out of 164, drew the No. 2 slot.

Margaritaville, which had the best odds going in with 45 chances out of 165, came up third.

After that, the draft order reverts to highest winning percentage among non-playoff teams, meaning Hickory — which had the second-highest odds going in with 36 chances — falls all the way to the ninth slot by having the worst record among the non-playoff teams that didn’t win the lottery. Playoff teams are seeded 10-15 by lowest winning percentage to highest, with the Bushwood-Applegate tie broken in favor of Bushwood (first round only) by virtue of the Gophers’ 6-4 edge in the season series.

The draft was conducted live via TeamViewer, enabling managers to watch the draw and comment. The draft promises to unleash the biggest bounty of talent the league has ever seen become available all at one time (see most recent non-Mock Draft).

The complete first-round order then, is:

  1. Destin (draft lottery)
  2. Satellite Beach (draft lottery)
  3. Margaritaville (draft lottery)
  4. Superior (79 wins)
  5. South Grand Prairie (78 wins)
  6. Michigan (76 wins)
  7. Boulder (73 wins)
  8. Wisconsin (66 wins)
  9. Hickory (63 wins)
  10. Savannah (87 wins)
  11. Bismarck (89 wins)
  12. Springfield (94 wins)
  13. Bushwood (97 wins)
  14. Applegate (97 wins)
  15. Chatfield (103 wins)

The full 14-round draft grid for 2016 can be found here (requires Google Drive access, granted only to current league managers).