Boulder fortifies playoff run with deadline deals

The Boulder Tree Huggers were late to the trade deadline party but still left with the prettiest girls.

Underused slugging utility infielder Sean Rodriguez, slugging first-round pick shortstop Trevor Story and top-flight starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez will be joining the Tree Huggers in time for the 60-game sprint to the finish, acquired at the July 28 trade deadline following a month that saw Boulder climb into first place in the Westbound Division.

Boulder gave up lefty Alex Wood to Dyersville in exchange; Wood today, with somewhat limited innings, has the best OPS in baseball (.518) among starting pitchers. And to Destin it sent unused all-star outfielder Justin Upton, while also acquiring shutdown closer Kelvin Herrera (who only has 16 innings remaining).

“I wasn’t planning on making any trades,” said Head Hugger John Renbarger, “but with a little luck I feel I was able to really bolster my team for this year at the expense of the future.”

Five total deals were consummated on deadline night:

  • Boulder sends OF Michael Saunders, P Alex Wood and P Colin Rea to Dyersville for P Aaron Sanchez and SS Trevor Story.
  • Destin sends IF Sean Rodriguez and RP Kelvin Herrera to Boulder for OF Justin Upton and RP Fernando Abad.
  • New New York sends RP Jeremy Jeffress to Superior for P Matt Boyd.
  • Margaritaville sends P Adam Wainwright to New New York for P Matt Moore.
  • Destin sends OF Yoenis Cespedes to Bushwood for 3B Mike Moustakas.

The deals helped set the stage for a frantic turn for the homestretch, which sees nine teams sporting 50 wins or more and 12 of the league’s 15 teams still in the playoff hunt with 48 or more wins. Four of those nine teams reside in the Northbound Division, lead by the best-record-in-the-league Margaritaville VolScorpions. (All of the Volcanoes plus anybody who was worth a darn on the Savannah Scorpions this year.) Springfield, on the heels of a 15-win month, and muscling-up Bushwood (a 12-win June) are looking strong at 56 wins, and the rookie-managed Tatooine Rebels are in the hunt with 52 wins.

But the division with the tightest race is the Southbound, where West Atlanta, barely treading water at 51-49, holds a one-game lead over 50-50 Dyersville, which spent deadline deal night setting itself up for next season. Defending division champ South Grand Prairie lies in wait just one game back at 49-51.

In the Westbound Division, Boulder took advantage of Applegate’s 5-15 death spiral to leap into first place with 11 wins at 56-44. Superior also posted 11 wins to nudge above the .500 mark, one back of Applegate and five back of Boulder.

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 56 44 .560
MARGARITAVILLE 63 37 .630
WEST ATLANTA 51 49 .510
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SPRINGFIELD 56 44 .560 +4
BUSHWOOD 56 44 .560 +4
TATOOINE 52 48 .520
APPLEGATE 52 48 .520
SUPERIOR 51 49 .510 -1
DYERSVILLE 50 50 .500 -2
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 49 51 .490 -3
DESTIN 49 51 .490 -3
SATELLITE BEACH 48 52 .480 -4
SAVANNAH 46 54 .460 -6
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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

Gopher Holes for June

After stumbling out of the gate with only eight March wins, the Gophers righted the ship with double-digit win totals for three consecutive months (14-6 in April, 10-10 in May and 12-8 in June) to reach the midway point with 44 wins.  The successful first half has sparked postseason hopes around Bushwood for a team that looked no better than middle-of-the-pack after the draft. Although the addition of quality starter Jacob deGrom bodes well for the second half, the Gophers over-used numerous key players in the first half —  among them SP Justin Verlander (113%), SP Yu Darvish (124%), CF Kevin Kiermaier (115%) and OF Chris Young (118%) — so the club will be relying on some lesser players to make up the difference in the second half. … No Gophers appear among the league leaders on offense.  RF George Springer leads the club with a mere 10 homers, and Kiermaier and 2B Dustin Pedroia share the RBI lead with just 40.  Springer (.208) and SS Asdrubal Cabrera (.205) got hot in June to hike their averages above the Mendoza Line.  But Cabrera, who smacked 23 homers for the Mets last year, has only four for the Gophers.

Continue reading

Lava Flow for June

Rounding the halfway pole at 80 games, the Margaritaville Volcanoes continue to head for offensive records in the I-75 League. After 80 games the Volcanoes have scored 513 runs (on pace for 1,026 runs) and hit 165 HRs (on pace for a league-record 330 HRs). In the retention era, only three teams have topped the 1,000-run barrier: the 2005 Littleton Lumberjacks with 1,171, the 2005 Bushwood Gophers with 1,087 and the 2008 Bushwood Gophers with 1,063. In this same period, only four teams have topped the 300-homer barrier: the 2008 Bushwood Gophers with 325, the 2007 Bushwood Gophers with 320, the 2005 Littleton Lumberjacks with 306 and the 2004 Brooklyn Excelsiors with 302. Post-15-team expansion (2012), the season records are 970 runs from the 2013 Margaritaville Volcanoes, and 273 HRs from the 2013 Bushwood Gophers.

Continue reading

Clip Files for June

Chatwood

The Clips’ second 5-0 sweep of Bismarck this year catapulted Applegate to a 13-7 record and a 47-33 mark after 80 games, good for a two-game lead over the Boulder Tree Huggers, who won 13 games themselves. Applegate outscored Bismarck 27-8 in the series after earlier outscoring them 26-4, for a combined 53-12 edge. … At one point during the month the Clips had an 11-game “as-rolled” winning streak, winning the last four games of a series at Dyersville, then sweeping Bismarck, then winning the first two games vs. Tatooine. … In a head-to-head clash with best-record-in-the-league Margaritaville, the clubs split the first four games and dueled into the 12th inning of Game Five, with Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller burning mano-a-mano innings, before a walkoff homer ended it in favor of the Volcanoes. … The Clips have endured 13 extra-inning games, going 5-8. Only West Atlanta (12-6 in 18 games) has played more. … The Clips have climbed to second in the league in ERA, behind just Springfield, at 3.45, as they have held opponents to a .237 batting average and just 70 homers (second-lowest in the league). … No. 5 starter Tyler Chatwood has been the surprise of the pitching staff with a 9-4, 3.28 mark, tying him for second in the league in wins. Ace Kyle Hendricks is 8-2 with a 2.97 ERA, which ranks third-best in ERA. … Bullpen ace Andrew Miller is second in the league in saves at 16. … Josh Donaldson continues to carry the Clips offensively, with 20 homers (tied for fifth in the league), 64 RBIs (third) and 56 runs scored (tied for seventh). … You might say Billy Hamilton’s contributions are “off the charts” as he leads the league in sacrifice hits (36) and stolen bases (27).

Got notes like these on your team and want to see them on the league webpage? E-mail them to me by the 4th of the following month…

Halfway Home: Not What We Expected

Apart from Margaritaville’s league-leading 49-31 mark that tops the Northbound Division, is there anything about the I-75 League’s 2017 season that we really expected?

This year’s midpoint division leaders are Margaritaville, Applegate (47-33 to lead the West) and West Atlanta (44-36 to lead the South).

Last year they were Margaritaville, Boulder and New New York. All three of those teams made the playoffs, but Superior overtook Boulder with a 45-15 flourish in the final 60 games to win the division. Will that happen again this year? The Titans may be playing possum at 40-40.

The 80-game standings will also come as a major surprise to the deadly-accurate Breath-Alyzer rankings, which, while they correctly pegged the Volcanoes to rule the North, based on a survey of brain surgeons and rocket scientists, they have misfired to this point on the Crush (picked for third in the South) and the Paperclips (picked for last in the West).

But… it’s still early. The Paperclips may be 47-33, but they’re only two wins better than they were last year, when the schedule toughened and they collapsed in the second half (39-41), failing to make the playoffs.

With a 324 “current” rating in March, the Crush ranked 13th of 15 teams entering the season, but instead it leads its division and at 44 wins has the league’s fourth-best record.

And with a 12-win June, Bushwood (ranked fourth in the North by the deadly accurate) has thrown its hat into the playoff contender ring at 44-36, just three games back of the Volcanoes.

And clubs are already beginning to jockey for playoff position following a flurry of trades, mostly of the Renbarger-on-Renbarger variety, some kinky kind of Strat porn apparently.

Intriguing head-to-head matchups await in July as we creep toward the trading deadline. Will the surprise teams continue to surprise?

Lava Flow for May

It’s been a good start to the 2017 season for the Margaritaville Volcanoes, using an impressive offense to pace the league with 390 runs, 131 H’s and 35 wins through the season’s first 60 games. In the highly subjective Strat-generated awards voting, David Ortiz, Robinson Cano and Joey Votto rank 1, 2 and 4 in MVP voting, while batting respectively 3, 5 and 1 in the Volcano batting order. The Volcano pitching keeps many games close. The team with the most HRs through 60 games is Margaritaville with 131. Second place is Boulder with 107. Third place is whoever is playing the Volcanoes with 88. While the Volcanoes are last in the league with a 4.89 ERA, the fault is mainly the starting pitchers. Volcano starters have a 5.78 ERA, while the bullpen has a more respectable 3.36 ERA. The May trade adding super bullpen arm Addison Reed should further solidify the Volcanoes’ strength out of the bullpen. Helping to put a Band-Aid on their starting pitching is the Volcano defense. Springfield leads the league with a .854 x-out conversion percentage. Margaritaville is second at .810. Fueled by the 1-rated Robinson Cano at second base and the 1-rated Francisco Lindor at SS, the Volcanoes lead the league in inducing 76 ground ball double plays. With the strong-armed Wilson Ramos and Gary Sanchez behind the plate, the Volcanoes are also near the top of the league in allowing only 21 opponent steals. June’s showdown with Applegate matches not only the league’s best and second-best records (35 and 34 wins), but contrasting styles of play. The Volcanoes rely on the longball, outhomering the Clips 131 to 57 through the first 60 games, while the Clips bring the league’s third-lowest ERA (3.54) and third fewest HRs allowed (63). June also brings Margaritaville’s first matchup with in-division rival Bismarck, and rematches with pitching-strong Satellite Beach (league-leading fewest HRs allowed with 53) and Tatooine (second-best ERA at 3.52). Both Tatooine and Satellite Beach won the earlier series against Margaritaville 3 games to 2, but must now contest the rematches in batter-friendly Coors Field. The Volcanoes have hit 80 of their 131 HR’s at home, and have a .633 winning percentage at home (.533 on the road).