Springfield (AP) – Let’s forgo the pleasantries (i.e. there have been a bunch of trades, we have a new owner, yada-yada-yada). Print media in today’s day and age does not have the resources for flowery language and the Springield Times is no exception. Without further adieu, the 2020 NASBL Mock Draft is below
1) Slatington Bulldogs (from ILL) – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B)
Consider this: Vlad Jr. came into MLB only 41 days after his 20th birthday, put up a .772 OPS in 514 plate appearances, and it was a slight disappointment. I guess this is what happens when you hit .402 in AA as a 19-year-old and the consensus #1 prospect in baseball. The Springfield Times speaks every year about how success in MLB at an extremely young age usually translates to sustained success. Success at a young age/coupled with this type of prospect pedigree = CAN’T MISS. Due to some potential concerns about Vladito’s defense, there are teams that may prefer Fernando Tatis Jr. here. Adam Leickel paid a huge price to move up in this draft. With Corey Seager, Gleyber Torres and Dansby Swanson on the Bulldogs roster already, Leickel clearly did so with Vlad Jr. in mind here.
2) Phoenix Pony Express – Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS)
Fernando Tatis Jr. came into MLB only 85 days after his 20th birthday and absolutely set the world on fire from day 1 – posting an absurd slash line of .317/.379/.590 in 372 plate appearances. Tatis Jr. accumulated 4.2 Wins Above Replacement in his first 83 games in MLB as a 20-year-old due to his otherworldly hitting and crazy instincts on the basepaths. Over a full season, that equates to around 8.4 WAR. Only Cody Bellinger generated more than 8.4 WAR in MLB during 2019. Again – Fernando Tatis Jr. is only 20 years old. There are a few red flags with Tatis Jr. if you squint really, really hard. Tatis Jr. committed 18 errors in 83 games at SS in MLB – an unsightly number which aligns with his minor league error rates. In addition, he has been sidelined three times in the past two seasons with significant injuries. The latest was a stress reaction in Tatis Jr.’s lower back that caused him to miss every game after August 13th in MLB’s season. I can speak from experience that back injuries do not get better as you get older. These are all quibbles though and Joe Howard can’t rush to the podium quick enough to hand Phoenix’s envelope with Tatis Jr.’s name on it to Commissioner Beard.
3) Illinois Chow Chows (from SBU) – Pete Alonso (1B)
The first two picks are off the board and neither of MLB’s Rookies of the Year have been taken. That will change with this pick one way or another. Brad Sherlag felt comfortable trading out of the 1st pick in this draft because Pete Alonso and Yordan Alvarez are still available here. Alonso was MLB’s home run title winner and all-star game home run derby winner – slugging a record 53 home runs as a rookie. With 693 plate appearances, the league had plenty of time to figure out any holes in the Polar Bear’s swing, but pitchers were unable to do so. Uncharacteristically, Alonso does his damage equally against righties and lefties – posting an identical OPS of .941 against both. The Chows used a high draft pick a few years back on Rhys Hoskins – so they could go with Yordan Alvarez with this pick. However, Hoskins has never been able to consistently hit right-handed pitchers. As such, it will be hard to pass on a guy who you can plug in at cleanup in every game for a player whose primary position starts with a “D”.
4) Pocono Chin Music (from DEU) – Victor Robles (CF)
If any other team than the Chin Music were selecting here, the Times would have written out Yordan Alvarez as the selection. However, though “rated” in left field, Alvarez is essentially (and will always be) a DH. The Chin Music already employ a guy who is uncarded defensively in Shohei Ohtani. This makes it the only team that essentially can’t select Alvarez with this pick. If the Chows choose Alvarez, then Alonso is clearly the pick here. Otherwise, the Times predicts that Ken Anderson will pivot to someone who can play in the field as well. Victor Robles does more than just play in the field, Robles plays in the field to a tune of a 1 in Centerfield with a -4 arm. While the defense is ahead of the offense at this point, there is a reason that the Nationals won MLB’s World Series in 2019 while losing one of the premier outfielders in the game during the offseason. Robles’ is transcendent in centerfield, is still only 22, and has the prospect pedigree for the bat to catch up. It is not hard to forget that Robles was ahead of Juan Soto on everyone’s prospect lists as the top young Nationals outfielder. Soto only got the nod to the majors in 2018 due to a Robles injury. Even if the bat only gets to league average, Robles would still be in every team’s lineup. The defense is that special.
5) Slatington Bulldogs (from LVI) – Yordan Alvarez (DH/LF)
Defense/Schmefense – Alvarez’ bat alone was worth 3.7 wins in only 87 games. How is that you ask? Alvarez slashed an insane .313/.412/.655 in route to winning the AL Rookie of the Year in MLB during 2019. The only guys in MLB with a higher OPS in 2019 were a couple of former MVP’s in Christian Yelich and Mike Trout. The only guys with a higher OBP in 2019 were Alex Bregman, Trout and Yelich. Yordan ‘s career minor league slash line was .311/.395/.561. Yordan hit 50 homers with a 1.194 OPS between AAA and the majors in 2019. Yordan hit .412 with a .524 OBP and a .588 SLG during MLB’s World Series on the highest stage against a staff with Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, et all. You get the point – Yordan Alvarez is a hitting machine and there is no way he gets past Adam Leickel here.
6) Outlaw Josey Wales – Austin Meadows (OF)
Ketel Marte is rated in the outfield but is better suited at second base for this season. As such Outlaw probably needs to upgrade its outfield - which includes a plethora of defensively challenged corner outfielders/DH types (JD Martinez, Ryan Braun, Nick Castellanos, Corey Dickerson). Meadows grades out as average according to HAL and will not likely win many gold gloves. More importantly though, the ball doesn’t make a “clank” sound when it hits his glove in right field either. This is a solid step ahead of all Mark Hildebrandt’s other corner outfielders and is good enough. What Meadows can do is hit. Meadows just missed the appearance cut-off for last year’s draft – which has allowed him to accrue a large sample size of 782 plate appearances at the MLB level with a slash line of .290/.354/.534. Meadows was a consensus top 10 prospect in all of baseball – so the production is no fluke.
7) Dallas Ft. Worth Spurs – Mike Soroka (SP)
Although “One day for Greinke, four days for crying in your hanky” is a catchy meme, it probably won’t lead to another championship for Red Robbins. At #7, Red gets his pick of available starting pitchers. While the starting pitching is not incredibly deep in this draft, there is cream at the top. It can be argued that Chris Paddack was more dominant, but there is no argument that no rookie pitcher was better than Mike Soroka in MLB during 2019. Over 29 starts, Soroka amassed a 2.68 ERA – 3rd in the National League as a 21/22-year-old. Soroka did not have the gaudy strikeout numbers that many prefer in today’s MLB, but Soroka has other skills that should translate to long term success. Soroka led MLB’s National League in home run suppression with 0.721 homers allowed per 9 innings. As a historically offensive league with tiny ballparks – this may be the most valuable skill a pitcher could have in NASBL.
8) Pocono Chin Music – Chris Paddack (SP)
Any time a MLB starting pitcher has a WHIP under 1.00 for an entire season, people should take notice. When this is accomplished by a rookie over his first 26 starts, it should make people stand at attention. Paddack was a strikeout machine in the minors (averaging a gaudy 11.7 K/9) while only allowing an ERA of 1.82 in starts across three seasons. Paddack was so good in MLB’s Spring Training that he broke camp with the team and never looked back. MLB’s Padres were very careful with Paddack’s pitch count in order to protect his arm. However, when he was on the mound, he was a dominant force. Paddack reminds the Times of another Chin Music starter – Noah Syndergaard. If they ever combine their powers for good during a NASBL playoff run, Paddack and Thor could be leading the Chin Music to the promised land.
9) Mt. Pirongia Kiwis – Keston Hiura (2B)
Hiura’s availability at #9 is proof unto itself that this is an incredibly deep draft. From his time at UC Irvine through the minors and into the major leagues, Hiura has hit at an elite level. In 84 games in MLB, Hiura put up a slash line of .303/.368/.570 as a “middle infielder” and only got better as the season progressed. Note that middle infielder is in quotes. Any analysis of defense (rudimentary or otherwise) rates Hiura unfavorably. Hiura somehow committed an unsightly 16 errors over less than a half season of work at 2B – with subpar range to boot! The defense of Hiura is the only reason he is still available here for the Kiwis. In the Times’ and (more importantly) Mike Dickson’s minds, the bat more than makes up for the defense. Also, at 22 years old, Hiura can still improve defensively. If that were to occur, it would make Hiura one of the elite middle infielders in all NASBL and an absolute steal at #9 in ANY draft.
10) Illinois Chow Chows (from SPR) – Bo Bichette (SS)
The first two picks in this draft were both sons of major leaguers. This theme continues with the 10th pick in the 2020 NASBL Draft as the Chows select its shortstop of the future in Bo Bichette. Everyone hits home runs in MLB today – and Bo Bichette is no exception with 11 long balls in 212 plate appearances. What sets Bichette aside is his ability to hit the gaps as well. Bichette had 18 doubles while compiling a .311/.358/.571 slash line in his first taste of MLB. This type of offensive production from a 21-year-old shortstop is crazy. Did I mention yet that this is an insanely deep draft?
11) Mt. Pirongia Kiwis (from SHA) – Eloy Jimenez (LF/RF)
The Times just mentioned that everyone hits homers in MLB today. While this is true – not everyone has “light-tower power” and not everyone hits 31 in their first 122 games as a major leaguer. There is a reason that Eloy Jimenez was a consensus top five prospect the past two years in MLB. The ball just sounds different coming off Eloy’s bat. There are some guys whose power would drop if Rawlings gets its act together regarding the allowable tolerance levels of elasticity in the baseballs utilized in MLB. Eloy Jimenez is not one of them. The fact that Eloy is a true “left fielder” on the defensive spectrum is the only reason that Mike Dickson gets the opportunity to take him here at #11.
12) Illinois Chow Chows (from ECN) – Brandon Woodruff (SP)
While there is little doubt that the Chows have greatly accelerated its rebuild in this draft, Brad Sherlag has little in the way of young starting pitching. While I am sure that Joey Lucchesi is a fine person and a reasonably good major league pitcher, nothing about Joey Lucchesi says “Staff Ace”. The Chows need to address its pitching needs at some point and have no 2nd round pick. With Paddack and Soroka off the board, the Chows get a great consolation prize in Brandon Woodruff. Any pitcher that hit a postseason home run against Clayton Kershaw is a gamer. Woodruff is also the guy chosen to start the National League wild card game for MLB’s Brewers- and shut down the eventual champs. GAMER. Woodruff is not just a gamer – he has great stuff. Woodruff has a 10.6 K/9IP in the regular season and a 12.7 K/9IP across two postseasons. Woodruff was a MLB all-star in 2019 before an oblique injury limited him to only 4 second half starts. Without the oblique issue, there is no way he is still here at #12.
13) Grundy County Grizzlies – John Means (SP)
Clearly, the Grizz’ offense is championship caliber. Clearly, the Grizz’ pitching staff is not championship caliber. The Grizz need a pitcher. It is this type of deductive reasoning that keeps people coming back for the annual Springfield Times Mock Draft! John Means was pretty much unheralded coming into his rookie season in MLB at the age of 26. That didn’t stop Means from putting together a season in which he pitched to a 3.60 ERA across 31 games (27 starts), was a MLB all-star, and was runner up in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting. Even more impressive than all of those, Means went a Steve Carlton-esque 12-11 for a Baltimore Orioles team that went 54-108 on the MLB season. Ace of the Orioles staff is not a high bar to clear, but anyone sleeping on a rookie that somehow won double digit games for the Orioles and compiled 4.6 WAR could be missing out on a star pitcher.
14) Lake Champlain Cannibals – Tommy Edman (2B/3B/OF)
It is no coincidence that the St. Louis Cardinals run to the 2019 MLB playoffs pretty much coincided with the promotion of Tommy Edman to the majors. Edman was worth a robust 3.8 WAR across his 349 plate appearances. He hits well, he fields multiple positions well, he runs well. Edman will be in the middle of everything for the Cannibals as they win another 112 games or so during the regular season (much to the chagrin of the Springfield Isotopes who once again look third best in a division of juggernauts).
15) Pocono Chin Music (from VFS) – Bryan Reynolds (OF)
Reynolds is a young, switch hitting who slashed .314/.377/.503 across 134 games and 546 plate appearances. A former 2nd rounder out of Vanderbilt, Reynolds never really landed on the prospect radar. That is surprising, considering that Reynolds always showed on base skills coupled with good speed throughout college and the minors. MLB’s Pirates brought him up and plugged him in the 2 hole late in April, and Reynolds never looked back – finishing 7th in MLB’s National League in hitting and 4th in rookie of the year balloting.
16) Phoenix Pony Express – (from GRK) – Luis Arraez (2B/3B/SS/LF)
In a day and age when striking out 150 times is the norm from an everyday player, Luis Arraez struck out only 29 times on his way to slashing .334/.399/.439 in 366 plate appearances as a 22-year-old rookie in MLB. There were only two players in ALL OF MLB who had more walks than strikeouts in 2019. One was Alex Bregman. Luis Arraez was the other one. If he would have had qualified, Arraez would have finished second in all of baseball in batting average. This is no fluke - Arraez was a career .331 hitter in the minors with a .385 OBP as well. Arraez also plays all over the field. Unfortunately, this appears to be more of an attempt to hide Arraez defensively than anything else. With a better glove, Arraez wouldn’t be here at #16.