Applegate Draft Recap

Normally, the Clips are big advocates of drafting a potential franchise player whenever those few-and-far-between chances come along. Heading into the 2020 draft with the fifth pick, the Clips knew there was potential for one of the Super Four — Vlad Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Yordan Alvarez or Pete Alonso — to fall to them at No. 5.

But having spent much of the offseason in deep analysis about the Clips’ roster, as well as fairly thorough analysis of the rosters around the league, the Applegate hierarchy determined it had a pretty strong contending club on its hands, including a quartet of 30-home run hitters.

With a fairly set lineup and a starting pitching rotation that offered plentiful innings if not top-to-bottom quality, Applegate decided on an “all-in” strategy for 2020 that became fairly obvious with its Feb. 29 trade when it acquired this-year upgrades from Tatooine in lefty starter Patrick Corbin and outfielder Adam Eaton, while sacrificing former Cy Young winner Blake Snell and former first-round draft pick Andrew Benintendi.

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Gopher Holes: Draft Recap

The proud owners of four of the first 29 picks in the draft, the Gophers were hoping to make a big haul in the 2020 I-75 Mail League draft and shore up several problem areas.  In the final analysis, it was mission accomplished.

Specifically, the Gophers had their own picks in the first and second rounds (No. 4 and No. 23) plus Boulder’s first two picks (No. 14 and No. 29), acquired in the Jacob deGrom blockbuster deal with the Huggers in December.  So the plan entering the draft was to snag a difference-making young slugger (such as Pete Alonso) at No. 4, the best pitchers available at No. 14 and No. 23 and the best value on the board at No. 29.

The first surprise came early, when Yordan Alvarez slipped to No. 4.  (I probably should have anticipated this, but was pretty sure that Vlad Guerrero, Fernando Tatis and Alvarez would go 1-2-3.)  I had Alvarez ranked slightly ahead of Alonso but still coveted Alonso as an everyday player who is slightly more proven with a promising future.  I hemmed and hawed, even expending an early timeout, before settling on Yordan.  Hope he’s not a half-season, sign-stealing flash in the pan.

My twin targets for No. 14 (best pitcher available) were superstar reliever Liam Hendriks and gifted but limited starter Frankie Montas.  Alas, Hendriks went to the Clips at No. 9 followed by Montas to the Brawlers at No. 10, and I was ill-prepared with no ready-made choice as Plan C.  Another first-round mini-crisis.

I decided to pivot away from a pitcher. Continue reading

First-round forecast: 12 DHs, 2 pitchers and Marcus Semien

Once upon a time in this league, when a good-fielding, offensive-mashing middle infielder who had a full season under his belt was available in the draft, the entire league would be salivating over the possibility of scooping him up as their first-round pick.

They had names like Morgan and Biggio and Trammell and Larkin.

Now, they’re lucky to get mentioned in the top five overall picks. Are we undervaluing Marcus Semien?

Marcus Semien

Semien

The ratings guide is out, and our worst fears were confirmed. The vast majority of projected first-round talent is not going to do you any favors in the field, either with their range rating, their ‘e’ factor, or both. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration on the DH assessment…)

But then there’s Marcus Semien, who hit .285, with 33 homers, 43 doubles and 7 triples! That’s 83 extra-base hits, two shy of homer-happy Pete Alonso for most XBH’s available in the draft in the upcoming card set.

And he’s a 2e12 at shortstop. With 657 real-life at-bats, or 690 allowable in our league. A nice 16 walk chances on each side of his card. Better on-base numbers vs. lefties; better power against righties. A star stealer to boot.

He’s only 29 years old, and was third in AL MVP voting, had an 8.1 WAR rating.

Those Morgan and Larkin days were back when the league did total redrafts each year. So it’s understandable if a 21-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. or Vladimir Guerrero Jr., each having eight years of potential playing time on Semien, are valued higher.

Unless you’re in win-now mode.

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

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

40th draft just the icing on the cake for milestone convention

At Strat Central in Scottsdale, Ariz., eight of the league’s 15 managers gather around a cake marking the start of the I-75 League’s 40th season.

The I-75 League kicked off its fourth decade on March 2 with an annual convention that not only featured an action-packed player draft, but also commemorated the staying power of a league that is blasting into its fourth decade.

One of the oldest continuously operating Strat-O-Matic baseball netplay leagues in the country, the I-75 League begins its 40th season with five managers who were there on Day One back in 1980, and three more who are second-generation managers.

Eight managers convened at Draft Central in Scottsdale, Ariz., for this year’s festivities, which have included golf, spring training games and some incredibly good fortune at the gaming tables.

Seven more managers participated via the Internet for the six-hour draft, which was paused halfway through for a pizza break and was celebrated afterward with cake and accolades.

The level of scouting and analyzing and mock drafting has escalated to the point where the first round came off just about as predicted, with Destin manager Mark Gergel selecting Ronald Acuna Jr. with the first pick and many other predicted picks immediately following suit.

Gergel earlier in the day had played a winning hand at a local casino that netted four figures in payout, then kindly treated the group to our mid-draft pizza.

League officers and founding managers Dave Renbarger, Mike Renbarger and Gary Kicinski were on hand for the occasion, while fellow originals Steve Hart and Steve Bizek participated remotely.

Former manager Ken Crawford helped moderate the draft, keeping time, tracking time outs and helping Gergel’s Beach Bums make the more difficult choices after the Acuna no-brainer.

Divergent strategies quickly became apparent, with teams like defending World Series champion Margaritaville, rebuilding West Atlanta and newcomer Greendale snapping up prized prospects.

Meanwhile, the second generation of Renbarger managers — John, Ryan and Jason — as well as several other strong teams, went all-in on efforts to complete the puzzle pieces that they hope will lead to postseason glory right here, right now.

There won’t be room at the postseason party for all who hold those aspirations, however, but just about every manager is eager to get the 2019 season underway to see exactly who’s got what it takes to capture our treasured trophy in our milestone 40th season.

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OK, are we 40? Or 39?

cake.

So, we were born in 1980, this is 2019… are we 39, or 40?

From an age standpoint, we are 39. We are celebrating our 40th draft and start of our 40th season.

If you think about it, you don’t “turn” 1 year old until you’ve completed 1 year of life.

Strat Central West ready to host 40th draft!

We’re just hours away now from the I-75 League’s 40th draft.

Managers on site in Scottsdale, Ariz., already have taken in a couple of spring training games and have settled into comfortable accommodations that will serve as Strat Central for this year’s online draft.

Eight managers will be drafting from Scottsdale and seven will be participating online.

The draft will begin at 5 p.m. MT (7 p.m. ET) when Destin is expected to announce the selection on Ronald Acuna Jr. as the first choice of the draft. But the I-75 League draft is always full of surprises and last-minute trades, so nothing is guaranteed until the pick is entered on the grid.

Here’s a look at this year’s clean, spacious, modern accommodations at Strat Central:

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The Big 4-0: Arizona convention to kick off milestone season

Well, we’re about to officially turn 40.

On March 2 the I-75 League will conduct its annual convention and draft that will precede the start of our 40th season of Strat-O-Matic baseball. Thirty-nine years after we held our first draft over a telephone hookup between a kitchen in Detroit and a newspaper office in Tampa, I-75 League managers will convene in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a face-to-face draft among eight managers and via an internet connection to seven more. This time around, the stars being sought are Acuna, Soto and Ohtani, instead of Seaver, Ryan and Winfield.

Five of our current 15 managers weren’t even born yet back in 1980. Another five — Dave and Mike Renbarger, Steve Hart, Steve Bizek and Gary Kicinski — are still skippering squads as they were in 1980.

We’re no longer rolling dice in a box, no longer keeping score by hand, no longer using “stooge” managers, no longer enduring 10-game series and having to mail results back to our opponents.

Now we click a mouse to roll dice, a computer keeps score for us, all 1,200 of our games per season are played mano-a-mano over the internet, and we celebrate our ability to play a five-game series in the shortest time possible.

Managers assemble for 1981 draft at Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge in Knoxville, Tenn.

But the amazing thing is merely that we have persevered, through job changes and family raising and expansion and format shifts. As best we can assess, our little league is no worse than the seventh-longest-running active Strat Netplay baseball league in the country.

Oldest active Strat Netplay baseball leagues (year founded):

1. Greater United States Strat-O-Matic Organization (1971)
2. Fly-By-Night Baseball Association (1974)
3. Capital Baseball League (1975)
4. United States Baseball Association (1977)
5. Strat-O-Matic Baseball Ivy League League (1979)
6. Delcal Strat-O-Matic Baseball League (1979)
7. (tie) North American Strat-O-Matic Association (1980)
7. (tie) I-75 League (1980)
7. (tie) Ferndale (Mich.) Strat-O-Matic League (1980)

Source: Strat-O-Matic baseball league registry research

As we embark on our 40th season, we could be seeing a changing of the guard. After a season in which four of the league’s wily veterans advanced to the Final Four, this year the league’s younger crowd is jockeying for position among the league’s anticipated elite teams. With returning strong teams, high draft picks and a freewheeling front office, teams like Boulder, Tatooine, Dyersville and New New York could be setting stakes in the ground.

Destin dealt ace Chris Sale to move into the No. 1 pick, presumably to select Brave fave Ronald Acuna Jr. Juan Soto, two-way star Shohei Ohtani, and young pitching studs Walker Buehler, Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas are expected to soon follow.

The draft will likely then quickly descend into a free-for-all for relief aces, setup stars and lefty mashers. St. Louis pitchers and Tampa Bay hitters will be prized acquisitions.

It’s only our second visit ever to Arizona for this group of Florida lovers, but it presents a chance to check out some teams we don’t usually see, with so many camps bunched around the Phoenix area. The convention will also feature the drawing of teams for the divisional realignment that will take effect in the 2020 season.

Let’s draft!

Acuna, Soto, Ohtani, oh my! And 12 more first-rounders to salivate over

OK, it’s not the 2016 draft all over again, let’s get that out of the way. That draft had studs galore but a lot of them — Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell, Corey Seager — were skilled fielders at up-the-middle infield positions. This year’s draft is stacked with great-hitting outfielders and corner infielders. We expect all six players who are among the Rookie of the Year finalists to go in the top 8 of the 2019 I-75 League draft that will kick off our 40th season. It’s not a mock draft because team drafting positions have yet to be assigned. It’s just a rundown of the best players available. Want to look back at our midseason 15? It’s here. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom as we need your help.

1. Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta (Bats Right, Throws Right, Age 20): Probably the game’s next great superstar, a five-tool player who turns 21 in December. Hit .293 with a .366 on-base percentage, a .552 slugging percentage and a .918 OPS. Smoked 26 doubles, four triples and 26 homers in 433 at-bats. Stole 16 bases. Projects as a 3(-1)e8 left fielder. Previous rank: 1.

2. Juan Soto, OF, Washington (L/L, 20): Soto has a ridiculous batting eye for a 20-year-old, walking 79 times in 414 at-bats for a .406 on-base percentage (among full-time players, only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Joey Votto were better). He was hitting over .300 most of the year as well before finishing at .292 / .406 / .517 / .923 with 25 doubles, a triple and 22 homers. Made some boneheaded plays on the bases and isn’t the best fielder in the world, but he just turned 20! Projects as a 4(0)e3 left fielder. PR: 4.

3. Shohei Ohtani, P/DH, L.A. Angels (L/R, 24): Still can make a case for Ohtani to go No. 1 as he presents an unusual pitching/hitting combination that Strat will have to deal with. Elbow injury cut into his playing time and diminished his value somewhat, but he still gives you a hard-to-beat .285 / .361 / .564 / .925 offensive card with 21-2-22 extra-base numbers in 326 at-bats. He also stole 10 bases. On the mound, Ohtani offers 51 and two-thirds innings to the tune of a 1.16 WHIP and a .203 / .289 / .322 / .621 mark. Had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1 and won’t pitch until 2020. PR: 3.

4. Walker Buehler, SP, L.A. Dodgers (R/R, 24): Slender rookie stud posted a 0.93 WHIP in 137 innings, limiting hitters to a .193 batting average. Has a Vanderbilt pedigree, is a former first-round pick (2015) and already has his Tommy John surgery out of the way. Will have a balanced card with overall numbers of .193 / .256 / .300 / .556. PR: 7.

5. Max Muncy, IF, L.A. Dodgers (L/R, 28): Crushed 35 homers in 395 at-bats. Say no more. But we will anyway. Plays three infield positions (best at first base) plus left field. Posted .263 / .391 / .582 / .973 numbers overall and is even more merciless against RHPs (.261 / .401 / .601 / 1.002). Projects as a 3e13 first baseman. PR: 15.

Continue reading

Top 15 for 2019

There will be a stunning lack of big bats and big arms available in the 2019 draft at this rate. Our top 15 players available list includes 11 guys who will be carded for the first time. With the 2018 trade deadline looming, here’s a look at the potential top 15 players available in next year’s draft:

1. Ronald Acuna Jr., LF, Atlanta, R/R, 20: Amazing five-tool player whose power is still developing (nine homers in 193 ABs). Regarded as game’s best outfield prospect, has great range, but has yet to record an assist. Doesn’t walk much, so pedestrian OBP holds down his OPS: (.264/.325/.477/.802).  Projects as a 3(-1)e11.

2. Gleyber Torres, 2B, N.Y. Yankees, R/R, 21: Hit 15 homers in his first 225 at-bats, sports a .289 average and an .889 OPS. Mashing extra hard against lefties (1.043) and acceptable against righties (.826). Probable AL Rookie of the Year. Projects as a 2e26.

3. Shohei Otani, P-DH, L.A. Angels, L/R, 24: Strat’s first two-way player will let some lucky team save a roster spot as a limited starter and part-time DH for 2019 with the potential to make an even bigger contribution in future years. Owns a 1.14 WHIP on the mound in 49 innings but is recovering from an injured pitching elbow. At the plate, in 163 ABs, the lefty hitter struggles mightily against southpaws, but is crushing righties (.314/.386/.636/1.032), against whom he has hit all nine of his homers.

4. Juan Soto, OF, Washington, L/L, 19: Sweet swinger who can hit to all fields, hit for average, hit for power, is sporting a 1.000 OPS number. Hits lefties (.385) and righties (.291). Great batting eye, has 38 walks in his first 203 ABs. Not a great defensive player. Frontrunner for NL Rookie of the Year. Projects as a 4(0)e6.

5. Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Milwaukee, R/R, 28: Has burst onto the scene with 25 homers in 291 at-bats while also hitting for average (.289/.367/.605/.972). Well-balanced against both LHPs and RHPs. Projects as a 3e7.

Eduardo Escobar

Escobar

6. Eduardo Escobar, 3B, Arizona, S/R, 29: Former Bomber is a doubles machine (37 in 368 at-bats) for Twins, just acquired by D-backs. Splits favor him vs. righties: .282/.338/.576/.915. Can play short and second, has just four total errors in 97 games. Projects as a 3e8 at third base; also eligible at 2b, ss and LF.

7. Walker Buehler, RHP, L.A. Dodgers, R/R, 24: Let the Ferris Buehler jokes commence if you like, but Buehler has posted a 1.10 WHIP in his first 12 games (11 starts). Teams are hitting just .231 off in 62 innings. First-round draft pick in 2015 (24th overall) out of Vanderbilt.

8. Miguel Andujar, 3B, N.Y. Yankees, R/R, 23: Leads AL rookies in hits and total bases (44 in 343 ABs, including 30 doubles). Only 16 walks to go with .294/.328/.499/.826. Splits show power vs. lefties, high average vs. righties. Projects as a 4e14.

9. Brian Anderson, RF/3B, Miami, R/R, 25: Likely to achieve full-time status with 400 ABs already. Hits for average equally well vs. lefties and righties and gets on base: (.285/.364/.418/.782). Former third-round pick from University of Arkansas.  Projects as a 4(+1)e2 right fielder and a 3e19 third sacker.

10. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh, L/L, 23: Not a great arm but has all of the other tools. Former first-round pick, ninth overall, out of high school. Showing more power against lefties in limited sample but hitting for average against both. Overall hitting .298/.333/.477/.810. Projects at 3(+1)e10 and as a star stealer.

Nick Markakis

Markakis

11. Nick Markakis, OF, Atlanta, L/L, 34: Enjoying a career renaissance, hitting over .300 and plus-.380 on-base against both lefties and righties. On pace for his most homers since 2009.

12. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota, R/R, 30: Nothing spectacular here but with slim pickings for starting pitchers, the former Paperclip offers innings and solid numbers, a 1.21 WHIP (21 starts, 129 innings) and balanced splits (.653 OPS vs. LHBs, .655 vs. RHBs).

13. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 2B, Toronto, R/R, 24: Hitting .308 in 133 at-bats with an .832 OPS and splits that favor him against RHPs: .330 average and .883 OPS. Seven homers. Projects as a 2e18.

14. Miles Mikolas, RHP, St. Louis, R/R, 29: Nice WHIP (1.07) in 124 innings, the problem is he could be one of those 9R guys as his splits are pronounced: Lefties hit .271 off him with a .693 OPS; righties hit .194 with a .495 OPS.

15. Max Muncy, UT, L.A. Dodgers, L/L, 27: Has 24 homers in 255 ABs, but is hurt by low average vs. RHPs (.249).  Has very nice on-base numbers both ways though: .438/.385. Projects at first base as his best position, 3e10; also plays 2b, 3b and OF.

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

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.

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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).

Mega-prospect rookies dominate updated non-mock draft

We’ve had exciting drafts in the past, but it’s hard to identify one where there is as much first-year talent available as the draft we’ll enjoy in 2016. Since our midseason analysis, even more young stars have come on the scene. Our updated projections below, based on season-ending stats, anticipate that the first nine players taken in the draft will all be rookies. Most of those names were also in our midseason non-mock draft, but later in the round, there’s also been a big shakeup, with previously unranked players filling seven of the last eight slots.

A fun debate looms for the first overall pick too. Shortstops Carlos Correa (Houston) and Francisco Lindor (Cleveland) are the probable 1-2 choices, but in what order? Both are 21, with similar at-bat totals. Correa represents the rare chance to land a power-hitting shortstop; Lindor hits for average from both sides of the plate and is rated as the better fielder.

And that presumes the top two teams decide to pass on the likely NL Rookie of the Year in Kris Bryant, the best available starting pitcher who happens to be a rookie in Noah Syndergaard, and a five-tool outfielder who’s been rated the No. 1 prospect in baseball by many rating services for the last two years in Byron Buxton.

For comparison to previous years, there are 16 rookies available who had an OPS of .800 or more in 2015. That compares to five in 2014, eight in 2013, eight in 2012 and five in 2011.

It’s a deep draft for shortstops and third basemen; a shallow one for second basemen, catchers and starting pitchers. But every team should come away happy with their first-round pick. Will some team do a major talent dump to accumulate as many high draft picks as possible, and start building a dynasty?

1. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston, 21, bats R: Correa finished the season as the No. 3 hitter in the lineup for a team that made the playoffs, with a stunning 22 homers in 387 ABs. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft. His MLB.com scouting grades (scale of 20 to 80) shake out impressively as Hit: 60 | Power: 70 | Run: 50 | Arm: 70 | Field: 50 | Overall: 70. Previous ranking: 1.

2. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland, 21, bats S: Ended up hitting a lot better than expected, including .370 in August and .362 in September to finish at .313 with an .835 OPS. Chosen eighth overall in the 2011 draft.  Hit: 60 | Power: 40 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 70 | Overall: 65. PR: 5

3. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs, 23, bats R: Slugged 26 homers, got on base to the tune of .369, and slugged .857. Was the overall No. 2 pick of the 2013 MLB Draft. Hit: 55 | Power: 75 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 70. PR: 2 Continue reading