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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