Springfield (AP) –
First round draft picks changed hands at a near record clip this offseason. Five teams (Georgia, Springfield, Ed Couch, Lake Champlain, and Pocono) do not have selections in the first round of this year’s draft. This is one short of the record six from last year. The Springfield AP wants to welcome a couple of newcomers to the first round this year as the Phoenix Pony Express will make its first ever selection in the 1st round of a NASBL draft and the Canyon Country Cannons will do the same. Well not really for Canyon Country, but this marks the first time in four years that Brendan has a selection in Round 1 so it probably feels like it to the Cannon faithful. Apologies to the Illinois Chow Chows (who hold three first round selections with the 10th, 15th, and 16th selections), but this year’s draft belongs to Grundy County and will clearly determine the future of Jack Howard’s franchise. Although it was extremely costly to do so, Grundy County has the 1st, 2nd, and 14th picks in this year’s draft.
The Times predicts that hitters will be over-represented in the 1st round with a full three-fourths of the picks going to hitters. Note that speaks more to the strength of the hitters vs. a dearth of pitching in the 2018 draft.
Without further adieu, the following is the Springfield Times’ Annual First Round Projections.
#1) Grundy County Grizzlies – Aaron Judge (RF)
All Rise! Word is that Jack Howard’s architects have been working double time since the middle of last season. Finally, the Judge’s chambers have come to Grundy County. In a draft that includes power hitters galore– the Judge broke MLB’s rookie record for home runs in a season and has on base skills and defense to match. As a result, Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year in MLB’s American League and finished 2nd in the MVP race to Jose Aluve. Judge is clearly head and shoulders above all others in this draft and deserves to go here. There is a chance that Howard selects Cody Bellinger or Luis Severino here – but that would only be because he can select Judge with the second pick if he sees fit.
#2) Grundy County Grizzlies (from GRK) – Cody Bellinger (1B/OF)
It took an offer that Johnny Miller couldn’t refuse to pry this pick away from Georgia. Even though Luis Severino may make more sense here for the starting pitching starved Grizzlies, you don’t make a deal like Howard did to take a guy who is one pitch away an operating table and 18 months away from baseball. Did I mention that Aaron Judge broke MLB’s rookie home run record? Well, Cody Bellinger broke MLB’s rookie home run record in the Senior Circuit – a record that has stood since hall of famer Frank Robinson played his first season as a member of the Cincinnati Redlegs back in 1956. Bellinger/Judge will be #3/#4 in the Grizz batting order for the foreseeable future – much to the chagrin of the other teams in the Less Filling Central.
#3) Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs – Luis Severino (SP)
Let me introduce you to Luis Severino. He is a 24 year old starting pitcher that started 31 games and finished 3rd in the MLB Cy Young award behind only Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. That is all you need to know in order for you to realize that (a) this draft is loaded with high end talent AND (b) Kevin Burns will make Severino his pick. I have failed to mention yet that Severino threw 193 innings and struck out 230 MLB hitters in his first full season. Severino is an ace already and an easy pick here.
#4) Dallas Fort Worth Spurs – Mike Moustakas (3B)
Red Robbins needs a 3B and there happens to be a guy who hit 38 homers in MLB at that position in Mike Moustakas. There is also a 3B who hit 41 homers in MLB available here – but Joey Gallo clocked in with a smooth .209 batting average, 196 strikeouts, and is not known for his glove. As such, the Springfield Times predicts that Moustakas becomes the first player in NASBL history to be taken in the 1st round on THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS. Moose was drafted 11th overall in 2016 by the Fighting Sioux and 12th overall in 2012 by the Bulldogs. Makes you wonder why those teams gave him up and why no rebuilding team in NASBL ever takes a flyer on Moose when he is injured or has a down year.
#5) Denville Ultras (from SPR) – Rafael Devers (3B)
The Springfield Times is a big believer that a player must be very special to be the youngest player in the league – as Devers was in MLB’s American League. Well Devers checks off that box. It is extra special when that player rakes from day one at the age of 20. Devers checks off that box as well. Devers’ defense is definitely behind his offense at this point. However, the Ultras traded Max Scherzer to the Topes for this pick and a couple of players. As such, the Ultras are clearly not in win now mode and can be patient for the glove to come around.
#6) Denville Ultras – Yoan Moncada (2B)
Moncada entered this season as the arguable #1 overall prospect in baseball. After a rough early call-up, Moncada hit his stride with an .800 OPS the last two months of the season. Starlin Castro has to realize his days are numbered as a member of the Ultras after this selection. These Devers/Moncada picks could end up being seen as the launching off point when the Ultras are making deep runs in the NASBL playoffs in a few years.
#7) Vermont Fighting Sioux – Matt Olson (1B/OF)
Matt Olson had 24 home runs in 189 MLB at bats in his rookie season. Olson’s clip of one home run every 7.15 at bats against righties is simply gaudy. For comparison purposes, Giancarlo Stanton had a homer for every 10.7 at bats against righties and Aaron Judge hit a homer in every 9.75 at bats. To put this in perspective, Mark McGwire had a homer every 6.89 at bats against righties when he broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Oh yeah, Olson also is a well above average fielder at 1B and hit at every level of the minors.
#8) Shawnee Crows – Chase Anderson (SP)
Finally, another pitcher comes off the board. Anderson finally harnessed his immense raw talent and turned in a great year in MLB 2017 posting a 2.74 ERA in 25 starts and allowing only slightly more than a baserunner per inning. The Crows are 1.5-3.5 starters short of a full rotation (depending on how supplemental draft falls) and Anderson is the first step in rebuilding the staff.
#9) Canyon Country Cannons – Tommy Pham (OF)
Pham finished 11th in MLB’s NL MVP voting in 2017 – and deservedly so. Pham was a revelation for MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals - putting up a .411 OBP and showed exceptional pop in 530 plate appearances. The Cannons are EXTREMELY happy that Pham is here and this pick clearly puts the Cannons in a position to challenge for the title in 2018.
#10) Illinois Chow Chows – Andrew Benintendi (OF)
In 658 plate appearances in MLB in 2017 as a 22 year old, Benintendi posted a very solid season as a first time regular. The hype machine was in full swing before the season started. As such, Benintendi’s year may seem a little underwhelming at first glance. Benintendi is a borderline gold glove caliber outfielder who didn’t just put up his production in 200+ plate appearances like many above him in this list. Benintendi had to deal with a full season of pitchers adjusting to him and more than held his own. Benintendi finished the season with 20 homers and 90 RBIs and finished second in the AL ROY balloting. There is a reason for the hype.
#11) Phoenix Pony Express – Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF)
Hoskins was the fastest player in MLB history to hit nine homers, ten homers, eleven homers, twelve homers, thirteen homers, fourteen homers, fifteen homers, sixteen homers, and seventeen homers. You get the point. Hoskins burst onto the scene in MLB like few players before him. Although he does not have the prospect pedigree of many above him on this list, Hoskins turned in an impressive 1.014 OPS in 212 plate appearances. Is he a flash in the pan? Even more impressive may have been Hoskins’ 46/37 K/BB ratio. Discipline like that bodes well for his future and Hoskins could turn out to be a steal at #11.
#12) Outlaw Josey Wales – Joey Gallo (1B/3B/LF)
The prospect most resembling Adam Dunn award winner in MLB in 2017 – Gallo hit 41 homers in his first full year in MLB in 2017. 41 homers for a 24 year old at #12 overall – sign me up you say. Mark Hildebrandt agrees. To say there are warning signs that Gallo may have issues living up to his prodigious power and pedigree for the long haul is an understatement. Although quoting batting average is no longer in vogue and strikeouts are considered collateral damage in exchange for power, one cannot easily ignore a full season batting average of .209 and 196 strikeouts in 532 plate appearances. That being said, Adam Dunn hit 462 homers and had an .854 OPS across 14 seasons. If Gallo ends up being an Adam Dunn clone, Outlaw will be thrilled with this pick.
#13) Slatington Bulldogs – Chris Taylor (2B/SS/3B/OF)
Taylor entered this season with little fanfare. All he did was play six positions and put up an .850 OPS in a full 568 plate appearances, and win MVP of the NLCS in his first full season in MLB. Taylor’s offense is for real. Although he can play anywhere, Taylor’s defense seems to play better in the outfield – which is fine with the Bulldogs as they could use another outfielder or two.
#14) Grundy County Grizzlies (from ECN) – Zach Godley (SP)
After taking two sluggers at the top of the draft, the Grizz need a shiny new pitcher with this pick. Godley or Alex Wood represent the best available starting pitcher here. Six of one/half dozen of the other. When in doubt, the Grizz avoid the guy who has averaged only 16 starts the last four years and take Godley here.
#15) Illinois Chow Chows (from LCC) – Ozzie Albies (2B)
The Springfield Times is a big believer that a player must be very special to be the youngest player in the league – as Albies was in MLB’s National League. Well Albies checks off that box. It is extra special when that player rakes from day one at the age of 20. Albies checks that box as well. The extra, extra special thing about Albies is that his defense is not behind his offense at this point. Albies grades out as one notch below a gold glove 2B at age 20. Chows get great value here at #15.
#16) Illinois Chow Chows (from PCM) – José Berrios (SP)
Berrios flashed some of the best stuff in all of MLB baseball in 25 fantastic starts during his first full MLB season. Berrios also is not afraid to pitch inside, as evidenced by his Don Drysdale-esque 13 hit batters. Left handed batters got to him during 2017. That is the only reason that Berrios is still here for the Chows. Great talent and a great pick here to round out the 1st round of the 2018 draft.