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