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.

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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.

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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…

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).

Clip Files for May

Shawn Kelley

In going 11-9, Applegate outscored its May foes 92-62 despite being outhomered 22-20. Hard righty reliever Shawn Kelley was a workhorse in a month that saw a lot of righty-leaning lineups, hurling 17 innings and notching three saves. Fifth starter Tyler Chatwood went 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA and No. 1 starter Kyle Hendricks went 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA. Yasmany Tomas hit .396 in May with four homers and 13 RBIs. Josh Donaldson hit . 308 with five homers and 19 RBIs. … The Clips are 13-17 at home (where they have been outhomered 46-27) but 21-9 on the road (where they have outhomered their foes 30-17). … 10 of Applegate’s first 60 games have gone extra innings; the club is 4-6. … Byron Buxton hit .037 in May, striking out 16 times in 27 at-bats. … The Clips are giving up a ridiculous number of hits on gb 2B (x) rolls. Neil Walker and Greg Garcia, both 3s at the position, recorded outs on only 12 of 22 2B(x) rolls in May, and for the year now they are a combined 48 outs in 73 2B(x) rolls, just 66%. … Centerfielder Billy Hamilton, a 1e5, has committed four errors already. … Kole Calhoun, who hit 18 homers for the Angels last year in real life batting largely in front of Mike Trout, finally hit his first homer of the year for Applegate in the club’s 59th game rolled, despite having started every game. … Hamilton has 31 sacrifice hits. The major league record is 67. …

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…

Gopher Holes for March

Martin Prado

In going 8-12, Bushwood lost Game 1 of all four series, which made it seem like they were playing catch-up all month long. … In Game 1 against Springfield, the Topes set the tone by putting up five first-inning runs against Verlander in an eventual 6-5 loss. More misery followed as Springfield won the next three games by narrow margins before the Gophers averted the sweep with a 9-1 victory against lefty Dallas Keuchel. … Both of Bushwood’s victories against Dyersville came in extra innings, with the go-ahead runs in each scoring on a squeeze bunt by Kevin Kiermaier. In the series against the Treblemakers, the Gophers hit .196 and failed to homer. … Verlander got two starts against Applegate, but Bushwood lost both games. The Gophers’ other victory over a lefty came in a 12-2 game against the Clips’ Drew Pomeranz. … After Ian Kennedy dropped the opener against SGP, the Gophers prevailed in three of the next four games, all tight contests … Martin Prado hit an even .500 for the month (21 for 42) … Albert Pujols hit just .200 but provided 7 homers and 14 RBIs. … Third-round pick Jeremy Hellickson went 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four solid starts.

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…