Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 BoS Opening Week

Tomas exploded out of the gate with the T.C. Panthers, hitting 4 bombs.
The 2017 Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League had it's opening week this past week! Like every start to any season, there are always some surprises.

I was a bit surprised by my team, the Traverse City Panthers on sweeping my brother Chris' San Diego Heroes in a 6-game series. I do know that my Panthers will rake, but that should be about it, this season... I was surprised how much power they put on display in that opening series.

  • .315 AVG, 18 HR & .981 Team OPS.
  • 8.7 runs per game (52 runs).
  • Currently have 3 of the Top 5 leaders in Batting Average: Nick Castellanos (.500), Jean Segura (.458) & Miguel Cabrera (.423). 
  • Yasmany Tomas & Miguel Cabrera tied with 4 HR, while Giancarlo Stanton added 3 HR.
The Panthers have been in a reshuffle, while San Diego was rebuilding a bit in the off-season, both teams will definitely have their downs... Panthers may have that lineup carrying them further than they would expect. You need pitching to compete in this league & both teams compared to other teams, definitely don't have pitching.

Big K Daddy: Scherzer notches 30 strike outs in 2 opening week outings.

For the Corktown Tamales, Max Scherzer exploded out of the gate with a 2-0 record, while throwing for 30 strike outs in his opening week -- in all my time in this league, I have never seen one week's worth of K's like this, let alone opening week. Scherzer, has a 2.35 ERA & a .848 WHIP.

Corktown starts the season with a 5-1 record, leading the A.L. East, while the Swatara Eliminators (3-3) are in second after splitting their series with the Vancouver Storm. The A.L. West is headed by the Fairgrove Tigers (defending BoS Champs) & the Watersmeet Nimrods at 5-1.

The King Road Kings who have the pitching, but their team hitting .215 opening week, led to their team faltering at 2-4, while the Portland Microbrewers (3-time Division champs) are tied with the Seattle Rainiers on top of the N.L. West at 4-2.

The Vancouver Storm also batted over .300 their opening week at .311, while the Nimrods lived on the long-ball with 13 round-trippers.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

My 2017 MLB Picks

The Cubs will be the best dynasty since those Yankees.

In the past, I have done in depth division-by-division breakdown... this year, I'm doing a quick report of my thoughts & predictions on 2017 MLB Season. Last year, I predicted the Chicago Cubs to win it all from day one & kept with them all season long... this year definitely gave me tougher decisions to make on my predictions.

I'm going to show Sports Illustrated (SI) & The Sporting News (SN) picks, along with mine (SB)...

A.L. East
SI: Boston, Toronto, New York (A), Tampa Bay & Baltimore.
SN: Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, New York (A) & Tampa Bay.
SB: Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, New York (A) & Tampa Bay.

Kimbrel comes with warning labels.
Universal choice at top in A.L. East with the Boston Red Sox, they have amazing depth, excellent rotation, with bullpen bringing up the most question marks -- starting with Craig Kimbrel, whose numbers dictate that he's not the same Kimbrel we experienced from 2010-2014. It came off as a shock in Baseball when Atlanta right at the start of the 2015 season traded Kimbrel to San Diego, then (especially after slow start in 2015) Kimbrel was pitching unlike his usual self, makes you wonder if Atlanta knew something no one else did.
  • 2010-2014: 186 Saves, 1.43 ERA, 14.8 SO9, 3.4 BB9, 0.903 WHIP & 266 ERA+
  • 2015-2016: 70 Saves, 2.96 ERA, 13.6 SO9, 4.2 BB9, 1.068 WHIP & 139 ERA+
His control has been a bigger problem, while his ERA & ERA+ shows that his era of dominance is over, he might have fallen out as one of the elite closers... numbers have definitely declined.

Back to the picks, I completely disagree with Sports Illustrated's choice of the Baltimore Orioles as a last place team. This team, year-in & year-out, still doesn't get enough respect, they seem to be knocking on the door of the playoffs (or making the playoffs) every year since they landed Buck Showalter as the skipper... I see them as 3rd place, at worst 4th place, after Edwin Encarnacion departed Toronto for Cleveland, for a moment, I even questioned if they are capable of 2nd place. 

Toronto should still be a second place team, and a team on the wild card bubble.

For Boston there has to be a lot to go wrong for them not to make the playoffs, the bullpen has a lot of upgraded pieces & pieces that showed much improvement in 2nd half of last season to show it has the potential to be a solid bullpen, but don't be surprised to see them get a few arms during the All-Star break to beef the pen up.

A.L. Central
SI: Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota & Chicago (A).
SN: Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota, Detroit & Chicago (A).
SB: Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago (A) & Minnesota.

Andrew Miller redefining the reliever with his mean slider.
Another no-brainer at the top of this division choice with the Cleveland Indians, who have great depth with their starting pitching, they found out they have other options at starting if any of their starters go down (like last season; Cleveland is hoping for no repeat in the starting pitching situation when it comes to 2017. Corey Kluber, once again, will be a Cy Young candidate, while anchoring a rotation with a solid #2 in Danny Salazar. The team also has maybe the deepest bullpen in baseball led by Andrew Miller, who may have the nastiest stuff -- I'm really curious to see how he is used for an encore of last season, he could have a chance to holster the Cy Young at the end of the season, himself.

Overall, the Detroit Tigers' long run of dominance & Championship window from 2011-2014 is over... There is still plenty to be optimistic about for 2017, they missed the playoffs barely, while they dealt with plenty of injuries that came up at the worst times possible. 

2017, is it for Detroit, any last shot for this group happens this year... but with that would come ridiculous luck, breakout seasons from Daniel Norris & Matt Boyd, a comeback season for Jordan Zimmermann, a full season of 2nd-half caliber Justin Upton, a repeat season of Micheal Fulmer (who I feel may suffer a sophomore slump), a fully healthy J.D. Martinez & Nick Castellanos, while Justin Verlander & Miguel Cabrera have solid seasons.... 

All of the above has to happen for Detroit to become Cinderella, crashing the ball... I feel that, not all of that will happen & that they will be a wild card at best. Of course, I will be cheering my lungs out for my Tigers, but I just don't want my Tiger fan friends to get overly-excited, that championship run is over. If all goes bad... we may see many familiar faces elsewhere.

Duffy had a breakout 2016 for the Royals.
All the teams in this division for the most part can be inter-changeable, I do not agree with SN's choice of Tigers at 4th though. I think Kansas City is a hard one to peg, taking a chance on Ian Kennedy paid dividends, while Danny Duffy has emerged as a rising star (finally); I think they will have a hard time dealing with the passing of Yordana Ventura, then again, maybe they will get sick of all the disrespect, come together & make another run. I do like their bullpen pieces actually, despite trading off Wade Davis. I think Brian Flynn & Matt Strahm will be pleasant breakouts for this season.

A.L. West
SI: Houston, Texas, Seattle, Los Angeles (A) & Oakland.
SN: Houston, Texas, Seattle, Los Angeles (A) & Oakland.
SB: Houston, Texas, Seattle, Oakland & Los Angeles (A).

When you first glance at the division, while thinking of the history of the division, the first thought is ...what a boring division.. but when you start looking deeper into the teams, there is plenty of reason to believe there will be plenty of excitement coming from the division.

Just like many of the divisions, I feel it has consensus 1st place team as well, and I'm going with the Houston Astros as well. They made a good run last season, and that's after a slow start out of the gate, and some down years -- I expect them to only be better, while they made some strong additions to their lineup as well.
Astros' Jose Altuve will make MVP run, leading Houston.

There was a big part of me, wanting to buy into the changes that the Seattle Mariners, but for some reason they always fall short, so third place is where I have them slotted. The Texas Rangers have an unheralded bullpen that could be among the very best, in 2017... they'll need the pen to be top notch, while the back end of that rotation will have some huge question marks.

I think the Oakland Athletics will only improve, while the Los Angeles Angels continue to be one of the most bland teams out there. They just seem to get worse & worse for poor Mike Trout, who you have to think may jump ship when he hits the free agent market -- Sure, the Angels will throw tons of cash his way, but so will the New York Yankees, New York Mets & Los Angeles Dodgers, all teams going in the right direction & have shown to make great choices of late.... Angels' upper management is piss-pour at best; Also their scouts just don't seem to know how to find any talent.

N.L. East
SI: Washington, New York (N), Atlanta, Miami & Philadelphia.
SN: Washington, New York (N), Miami, Atlanta & Philadephia.
SB: Washington, New York (N), Atlanta, Miami & Philadelphia.

Not much argument with the above placements, I think Atlanta Braves have the least pressure on them, which means they could over-achieve and reach 3rd at least, there is no way they reach 2nd... unless, the floor falls out beneath the New York Mets' rotation & they are dealing with more injuries than usual to that rotation. That Mets' rotation has the potential to be the very best in all of baseball, if they were to stay healthy... noting their track record, not all their pieces will deliver. The Miami Marlins will still be thinking of that over-sized shadow darkening the clubhouse with the absence of Jose Fernandez.

Braves' New World: Dansby Swanson leading new batch of Braves youngsters to new territory.
The Philadelphia Phillies are heading in the right direction, unfortunately the rest of the division for the most part (except maybe the Marlins) have improved.

N.L. Central
SI: Chicago (N), St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee & Cincinnati.
SN: Chicago (N), St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee & Cincinnati.
SB: Chicago (N), Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Milwaukee & Cincinnati.

The Chicago Cubs own this division -- Simple as that! Cardinals & Pirates fans, you are in some deep denial or taking some impressive drugs if you think (even in the slightest bit) that you are going to win this division. The Chicago Cubs ARE the NEXT dynasty, first since the New York Yankees that made an impressive run between 1996-2003.

The St. Louis Cardinals are an overrated bunch that may have a hard time making it to the post-season for 2017. Their lineup is not strong one bit, while their rotation is banged up, they always seem to have a bunch of depth, but the starters don't look much better than the ones projected to be on the bench. I see a team of average stars, with Matt Carpenter being the biggest star on that club.

Chad Kuhl & Jameson Taillon will be part of bright rotation for Bucs.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are my N.L. dark horse, with their up & coming rotation with the likes of Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow & Chad Kuhl to go along with excellent defense, that star-studded outfield, which will be led by a bounce-back Andrew McCutchen (who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder), along with stars Starling Marte & Gregory Polanco -- There could be plenty to be excited about in the Steel City.

I do want to pick Cincinnati Reds over Milwaukee Brewers, I feel they have more to offer with their pitching, but their lineup looks fringy. I do like the Reds' bullpen with Micheal Lorenzen & Raisel Iglesias at the top. 

N.L. West
SI: Los Angeles (N), San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona & San Diego.
SN: Los Angeles (N), San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona & San Diego.
SB: Los Angeles (N), San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona & San Diego.

Only division that there is total agreement to... That said, I think this will be the weakest contending team that the San Francisco Giants have had since 2009, a year before they have made this incredible run. The Colorado Rockies made many improvements, and I would like to think they could leap San Fran, but with all the injuries & bad luck this spring, plus the fact that they never seem to have a pitching staff, makes it very difficult to make such a bold prediction. The Arizona Diamondbacks seem to make a surprise effort every so often, and this could be one of those years, if their potential ever gets there.

The San Diego Padres will be a fun, young bunch to watch, but will lose many games in the process.

Before jumping to the playoffs, here is my prediction on the Award Winners...

Most Valuable Player - Jose Altuve (Houston)
Cy Young Award -  Justin Verlander (Detroit)
Rookie of the Year - Andrew Benintendi (Boston)
Manager of the Year - Terry Francona (Cleveland)

Safe bets would be more on Mike Trout (Angels) or Mookie Betts (Red Sox) for MVP, Altuve will win the MVP as he helps Houston reach new astronomical heights. For some of my readers, picking Justin Verlander may feel like a homer pick for the Cy, but just from his one outing, he looks like a man on a mission -- he knows just like many of us, he got screwed out of last year's award. I was really going to pick Corey Kluber, than I saw J.V. come out with a vengeance. I had a tough time picking the ROY, so I went along with what I feel will have a Boston theme, and will go with Andrew Benintendi. Ex-Red Sox skipper Terry Francona will win the Manager of the Year, hard to go against a winner.

Justin Verlander will show why he still among the very best in 2017.

Most Valuable Player - Nolan Arenado (Colorado)
Cy Young Award - Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles)
Rookie of the Year - Dansby Swanson (Atlanta)
Manager of the Year - Dusty Baker (Washington)

I really wanted to go against the norm & go against Clayton Kershaw, but if he remains healthy, he will be a lock for the N.L. Cy Young Award. Dansby Swanson seems to be the guy to beat for top rookie. Nolan Arenado is only getting better, it's his time to hold the MVP hardware, as he may lead a surprising Rockies team.

A.L. PLAYOFF TEAMS (* Wildcards):
SI: Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Texas* & Seattle*
SN: Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Texas* & Seattle*
SB: Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Texas* & Detroit*

I wanted to pick Toronto over Detroit, but the loss of Edwin Encarnacion may hurt the Jays in the long run... I don't expect Tigers to go any further though. Other teams that will likely be in the mix: Baltimore, Kansas City & Seattle.

Trea Turner & Bryce Harper will give plenty of title hopes for those in Washington.

N.L. PLAYOFF TEAMS (* Wildcards):
SI: Chicago (N), Los Angeles (N), Washington, New York (N)* & San Francisco*.
SN: Chicago (N), Los Angeles (N), Washington, St. Louis* & San Francisco*
SB: Chicago (N), Los Angeles (N), Washington, New York (N)* & Pittsburgh*

ALDS Results
SI: Cleveland over Seattle, Boston over Houston.
SN: Boston over Seattle, Cleveland over Houston.
SB: Boston over Texas, Cleveland over Houston.

We all agree that Houston will not get past the LDS one way or another.

NLDS Results
SI: Chicago (N) over New York (N), Los Angeles (N) over Washington.
SN: Chicago (N) over St. Louis, Washington over Los Angeles.
SB: Chicago (N) over New York (N), Washington over Los Angeles.

I believe heavily that the Washington Nationals has a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing this season, I just feel their bench lacks something, but at the same time would not be surprised if they win it all.

LCS Results
SI: Cleveland over Boston, Los Angeles (N) over Chicago (N).
SN: Boston over Cleveland, Chicago (N) over Washington.
SB: Boston over Cleveland, Chicago (N) over Washington.

I was in such agreement with Sporting News, that they ended up picking who I believed all winter & early spring-long that the Chicago Cubs will defeat Washington & then will repeat as World Champions... so at the last second, I went with the below...

SI: Los Angeles (N) over Cleveland.
SN: Chicago (N) over Boston.
SB: Boston over Chicago (N).

I really like Boston's rotation a little better, and I believe the Cubs will have a bulls eye on their backs, a little hesitant on their back end of rotation & bullpen... There is a lot of scouts & rumblings saying Wade Davis' arm is not in good shape, if he's out -- the Cubs bullpen may end up spoiling the repeat.

It was like a 51-49 decision for me, I want to back what is clearly the best team in the Chicago Cubs, that lineup is beyond sick, I would hate to be the opposing pitcher that has to face them.... but something's got to give. I am confident that the Chicago Cubs are in solid shape to be the next dynasty, but I'm going with Boston sneaking a title out.

We'll find out mid-season if I am still backing the horse out of "Beantown"

Flexing Some Muscle (L-to-R): Benintendi, Bradley Jr & Betts.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Smitten with APBA in the Mitten

Shawn Baier (left, myself) with Pastor Rich Zawadzki (GMABT Host)

There was so much going on in Jackson, Michigan this past weekend... that I had to pack some of the action into separate blogs. Last month's success was just the beginning, while next year's 4th Annual Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament had already signed up 42 participants, within 5 days of the last tournament!

It's hard to believe that just under 4 years ago, is when I made the trip to Chicago with Rich, which would be the 1st APBA Tournaments for both of us, in November 2013; It was at that tournament we got to meet our friend Doug Schuyler (who was running the Chicagoland Tournament) face-to-face for the first time. Rich would eventually make the decision to host an APBA Tournament of his own in Jackson, Michigan -- with the 1st Annual Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament debuting in March 2015.

November 2013 (L to R): Schuyler, Zawadzki & Baier.
With the GMABT & Chicagoland taking off, it led to other tournaments in Pittsburgh, Toledo, Illinois (Praireland), Wisconsin & Virginia. There has also been talks of New York & Florida getting in on the action, while the GMABT & Chicagoland also helped the existing Twin Cities tourney grow as larger. There will also be a tournament taking place this summer at the APBA birthplace of Lancaster, Pennsylvania as well.

GMABT III Action - Facing Ron Emch (right) for 3rd year straight.
The hunger for these tournaments have spread like wildfire across the country, and for good reason, they are tons of fun while you get to meet new friends that love the game of baseball & love the game we all grew up in APBA Baseball. There is nothing like this community, nothing close, this is really my family away from family.

The more and more of these events that you go to, the more you get to know them through the years. I have been friends with Eric Berg (above) now for a few years, we first met at the first GMABT in 2015, he had the privilege of playing my brother Chris in their opening bracket; Chris would go on to the GMABT Championship Game against John Roels. I have been to 5 APBA Baseball Tournaments & Eric was present for 4 of them; He was not present for the 2013 Winter-Edition of the Chicagoland World Series. Like myself, Eric has had the privilege of winning an APBA Tournament, he won the 2016 Wisconsin ABPA Baseball Tournament.

You can also catch information of the up-coming Praireland APBA Baseball Tournament on his blog...

I've also had the joy of meeting Ken Schulz, through the years even before we officially met, he has sold & given me free APBA Baseball Cards. We would have many conversations online & finally got to meet at the 1st Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament; He has followed Rich Zawadzki down two paths, one in hosting a tournament -- The Linda B. Schulz Memorial Tournament (Pittsburgh) & another path with a future in the Church.

Ron Emch got a bit of redemption on me during this year's Greater Michigan tourney. Coming into the tournament, we have played each other in the two previous tourneys, and I owned a 3-1 career record; This year, he defeated my 1901 Pirates with his 1909 Detroit Tigers by the scores of 5-0 & 5-2 -- he was off to a great start (but ended 3-5), while I started out in a 0-3 hole with a -11 scoring differential (but ended up 4-4).

His Tigers that caused havoc for me: Sam Crawford (3-for-7, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI & steal), Donie Bush (3-for-8, 3 RBI & 3 steals) & Ty Cobb (3-for-6, 2 RBI & 3 steals).

My friend Ron hosts the Glass City APBA Baseball Tournament in the Toledo area, this September it will be his 3rd event.

Sleep-deprived me on left, buddy Rob Spatz on right.

Had the joy to hang out with my friends Rob Spatz and Kurt Bergland at the Baymont Inn, the night before the tournament, played an exhibition against Kurt's 1919 Cleveland Indians (which I lost). Both Rob & Kurt also run tournaments, Kurt runs the newly made Wisconsin APBA Baseball Tournament, while Rob took over for Schuyler, by running the Chicagoland Tournaments.

My friend Allen Shock almost made the playoffs after a solid start, but he ran out of luck in a very tough division.

My friend Dave Rueck was unfortunately not able to attend the tournament, due to family matters... which opened up the door for Kate Silvis to fill in nicely, playing his 1913 New York Giants in our Walter Johnson division; Kate came here with her husband Brian & their son Phillip. It was a pleasure to roll against her, even if that meant her closing the doors on my 1901 Pirates' wildcard hopes that last game of the opening bracket.... she crushed me, 8-1.

Last, but certainly not least, I finally got a picture with the Watkins brothers as well, David and Wendell Watkins. For the Jackson tournaments, it really started with these two for me, their joy and exuberance from the get-go of the 1st Annual GMABT sticks in my mind. Wendell and I, had a chance to play against each other in the first tournament (shown above), while David battled my brother Chris Baier in his division that year.

(Left to right) Korreck, Wendell, myself & David.
I also got to know G.F. Korreck more, which I really didn't get the chance to talk to him at the prior tournaments, he is from the Grand Rapids area & usually plays from time-to-time with locals John Roels & Dick Butler, two APBA friends & GMABT regulars. I was not so kind to G.F's 1905 New York Giants unfortunately, as I outscored them in two games, 17-6.

All of these things, combined above, plus all not mentioned is many of the reasons that I keep coming back to the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament. Sure, it's close by, on the local side for me, but it's always great to be reunited with my APBA family, and I was so glad that my wife got to experience the fun-filled event with me as well.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Remainder of the Big Day (2017 BoS Draft - Part II)

For the last few days, I have been posting about the 2017 BoS Annual Draft; The lead-up to the draft that took place March 26th & have been blogging about the draft results as well.
Yoan Moncada during the 2016 Futures Game.

We left off with the Top 6 picks of the draft. For those who are joining us late & are asking why the top six picks? I will answer by saying "read the two previous posts", but if you want to skip ahead, then here it goes...

The Portland Microbrewers and the Traverse City Panthers made a swap in picks, with Portland acquiring my #6 & #16 overall picks from Round 1, while T.C. acquired the #2 Overall Pick & #28 (2nd Round Pick). So the first part of the article, was to see if their gamble of a trade paid off, which it did, the Panthers got OF-Andrew Benintendi & Portland got SS-Dansby Swanson. Turns out the decision for Brad was not as easy as mine, he knew entering the draft he wanted Swanson, but did not expect to see Yoan Moncada (who he had as the top pick in mock draft) still sitting there at #6. He did some frantic thinking for 60 seconds & still went with Swanson; I believe it's the right move, I feel Moncada has some holes (or at least at this point).

As a recap, the top 6 picks, went as follows...
  1. SP - Michael Fulmer (DET) - King Road
  2. OF - Andrew Benintendi (BOS) - Traverse City
  3. SP - Julio Urias (LAD) - Spring Branch
  4. SP - Jameson Taillon (PIT) - Swatara
  5. SS - Trevor Story (COL) - Buffalo
  6. SS - Dansby Swanson (ATL) - Portland
Which leads us to the 7th Overall pick for Spring Branch, who have two other picks at #11 & #13 overall in the 1st Round. How did this happen, four 1st Round picks in the 1st Round, the 3 new Dispersal Teams had the first 2 rounds of draft slots for the 3 teams thrown into the Dispersal Draft pool, and Spring Branch happened to draft all three of 1st Round draft slot positions available, while the team (as the Louisville Sluggers) acquired a 1st Round pick (with Doug Fister) in a transaction with the Micatin Destroyers, in which the Destroyers acquired pitcher Sonny Gray for last year's pennant race.

The 7th Overall pick would be Yoan Moncada, who was 2016's Top Prospect according to; The Chicago White Sox, as we all know now, acquired Moncada along with Michael KopechLuis Alexander Basabe & Victor Diaz in exchange for Chris Sale. This is a great pick to fall to #7, because who would have ever guessed Moncada falling to 7th?!

By the way, the three new Dispersal Teams are...
  • Spring Branch Duffers - formerly Louisville Sluggers (N.L. East)
  • Vancouver Storm - formerly Brooklyn Mets (A.L. West)
  • Watersmeet Nimrods - formerly Chicago Nine (A.L. West)
Those three new owners being Neil Leininger (Spring Branch), Brian Hamilton (Vancouver) and Rob Spatz (Watersmeet), who you all may know from running the Chicagoland APBA Baseball Tournaments; While Neil & Brian are league members along with Brad Stark (Portland) in the Lame Duck Baseball Association (LDBA)

Top Catching Prospect - Willson Contreras.
The Urbana Locomotives would go on select C-Willson Contreras with the 8th Overall Pick; The choice was off their draft list that was sent in, their other two choices, were already off the draft board. Contreras going in the 1st Round is not a stretch given the fact that there is only 3 catchers that are big prospects in this draft with the other two being Pedro Severino (Watersmeet / 3rd Round, 45th overall) & Jorge Alfaro (Traverse City / 7th Round, 112th overall). 

As if the Chicago Cubs don't have enough talent, they have players like Contreras to go along with Albert Almora Jr, Carl Edwards Jr & Jeimer Candelario-- plus a full season of Kyle Schwarber & a future phenom in Ian Happ (who will probably debut in late 2017).

Traverse City's late draft pickup of Alfaro allowed T.C. to trade Rockies Tom Murphy to the Holland Hitchhikers for an 8th Rd Draft Pick that landed Washington reliever Koda Glover, allowing the Panthers to collect another pick in which they would use on sleeper Rio Ruiz of the Atlanta Braves. The Panthers went from a lousy catching situation in 2016 to a much better situation when they landed Jonathan Lucroy from the Seattle Rainiers; Add Lucroy to roster stay-over Travis d'Arnaud & late pick Alfaro... they now look solid at the position. 

The South Side Spartans have been a team steadily climbing since their 2015 franchise inauguration, led by owner Matt Hoeppner; They would draft Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda (11-XZ) at 9th overall, adding him to a rotation that is already anchored by two Grade 'A' starters in Jon Lester and Rick Porcello, plus Jake Odorizzi. The Spartans would add a closer in Seung-Hwan Oh (Cardinals) with a 2nd Rd selection (while Andrew Miller is the setup specialist) & add another starter in Ian Kennedy (3rd Rd pick) as his career has been resurrected of late. The Spartans have a pretty good offense, and if they struggle more than expected, expect them to trade draft picks to get more offense as the season progresses; They already added a big bat in DH-Victor Martinez in a trade with the San Diego Heroes during the draft, costing them a 4th Rd Draft Pick (SP-Jose De Leon).

Another surprise late pick would come in the form of the Houston Astros' bright young third baseman star, Alex Bregman -- who was selected by the Corktown Tamales at 10th Overall. 

Spring Branch Duffers would take Rangers' outfielder Nomar Mazara and Oakland starting pitcher Sean Manaea at 11th & 13th Overall to add to their previous two picks.

The Duffers' 1st Round Haul
  • #3 Overall - Julio Urias - SP
  • #7 Overall - Yoan Moncada - OF
  • #11 Overall - Nomar Mazara - OF
  • #13 Overall - Sean Manaea - SP
Their additions of Julio Urias & Sean Manaea makes a very strong young rotation to go along with Jacob deGrom, Aaron Sanchez & Carlos Martinez; The Duffers also have Matt Wisler in the wings, while they added vets Ivan Nova and Nathan Karns -- all while Yoan Moncada & Nomar Mazara join Maikel Franco & Carlos Correa in the lineup.

The Portland Microbrewers took starting pitcher Blake Snell of the Rays at #12, solid upside, but must work on his career, while they drafted ready-to-go Zach Davies of the Brewers to end the 1st Round.

Shelved Prize: Alex Reyes hurt his arm in Spring 2017, will miss entire MLB Season.
My younger brother Chris Baier drafted OF-David Dahl of the Colorado Rockies to add some power back into the Heroes' lineup, while Holland's Steve Ruder drafted Alex Reyes, whose 1st Round stock may have slipped a few spots due to his recent arm injury that will require Tommy John Surgery. If for some reason, Reyes slipped down to my Traverse City ballclub, I would have taken him at #22 overall, but honestly even with the arm injury, it would have been a shocker if he fell that low... which doesn't mean that I still didn't get a steal or two or three in the 2nd Round.

My Panthers would get 3 big picks in the 2nd Round...
  • #22 Overall - Tyler Glasnow - SP
  • #26 Overall - Carson Fulmer - SP
  • #28 Overall - Hunter Renfroe - OF
My strategy paid off, trading up to get Benintendi (#6 to #2), while trading down #16 to #28 -- and I still got what I consider two 1st Round-caliber talent in Glasnow & Renfroe... but to also land Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer as well? Sure, I could have took the chance of waiting on Fulmer, since on APBA paper, he is a 1*-W (D*-W), but if anyone has seen video on him, would know he's a beast on the mound. There is much more to be excited about the Panthers' draft results & I would have to post about that sometime in the near future. 

Andrew Toles of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Other Later Draft Steals?
  • OF- Tyler Naquin (Swatara) - 3rd Rd / #36 Overall.
  • SP - Reynaldo Lopez (Traverse City) - 3rd Rd / #38 Overall.
  • C - Pedro Severino (Watersmeet) - 3rd Rd / #45 Overall.
  • RP - Matt Bush (Seattle) - 3rd Rd / #46 Overall.
  • RP - Blake Treinen (Spring Branch) - 4th Rd / #55 Overall.
  • OF - Andrew Toles (Urbana) - 4th Rd / #56 Overall.
  • SP - Jose De Leon (San Diego) - 4th Rd / #57 Overall.
  • RP - Brad Hand (King Road) - 5th Rd / #65 Overall.
  • RP - Yohander Mendez (Corktown) - 5th Rd / #74 Overall.
  • 3B/1B - Travis Shaw (Micatin) - 5th Rd / #75 Overall.
  • RP - Carl Edwards Jr (Urbana) - 6th Rd / #88 Overall.
  • OF - Aaron Judge (Holland) - 6th Rd / #95 Overall.
  • SP - Chad Kuhl (Traverse City) - 7th Rd / #101 Overall.
  • RP - Dan Altavilla (Traverse City) - 7th Rd / #103 Overall.
  • P - Brian Flynn (Spring Branch) - 7th Rd / #104 Overall.
  • 3B - Yuniesky Gurriel (Micatin) - 7th Rd / #107 Overall.
  • C - Jorge Alfaro (Traverse City) - 7th Rd / #112 Overall.
  • 3B - Hernan Perez (South Side) - 8th Rd / #121 Overall.
  • RP - Hansel Robles (Swatara) - 9th Rd / #132 Overall.
  • SP - Ivan Nova (Spring Branch) - 9th Rd / #135 Overall.
  • P - Alex Wood (Micatin) - 9th Rd / #139 Overall.
  • RP - Jake Barrett (San Diego) - 9th Rd / #142 Overall.
  • 3B/IF - Wilmer Difo (Spring Branch) - 10th Rd / #151 Overall.
  • C - Omar Narvaez (Portland) - 10th Rd / #156 Overall.
  • RP - Matt Strahm (San Diego) - 11th Rd / #174 Overall.
  • 3B - Pablo Sandoval (Seattle) - 12th Rd / #178 Overall.
  • OF- Raimel Tapia (San Diego) - 13th Rd CP / #197 Overall.
Corktown Burglary: Big Texas prospect Yohander Mendez, drafted 74th Overall.

There is plenty that could be surprises & plenty that could be duds, only the 2017 MLB Season can tell. Every season brings excitement & mystery in the draft, only the future knows how it all will play out for these clubs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Top Six (2017 BoS Annual Draft - Part I)

This year marked our 5th Season's Annual Draft. The league is 16 teams & owners strong, and there seems to be even more excitement than ever before. While Sports Illustrated is calling today's MLB the start of a new era, it seems to be the same deal in the Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League as well. As the league's commissioner, this seems to be a new beginning with many great things to come, never been more excited!

My last blog post was about the guessing game that goes on before a draft, who's getting who? When do I draft so-and-so? Who's going when? Who needs what? Plus there is nothing more important than the first round pick.
Swanson: 1st Overall Pick in 2015 MLB Draft.

This year, is unlike many 1st Rounds in the past, in our 5 years, I don't believe there was ever this much talent in one round or in the entire draft; For example... the 9th & 10th Round picks still had some good picks, compared to previous drafts where it seemed after 6 rounds it was a crap shoot.

Before the draft, our teams cut down to 28 players, and we draft 12 rounds, to make the overall roster to 40 players. Due to trades, we have some teams with more picks, which would lead to them making some roster cuts after the draft.... Some would get compensation picks at the end.

My team had 16 draft picks due to many trades, I originally had two 1st Round draft picks & two 2nd Round draft picks. Then, as you all know (that read my last blog piece) I traded my #6 & #16 overall picks (both 1st rounders) to the Portland Microbrewers for their #2 pick (that the acquired from the Seattle Rainiers) & #28th overall (2nd Round). Portland already has their own #12 pick, which will make a nice #6, #12 & #16 picks in the first round for him, while I get the #2 overall, and a nice cluster of picks in the 2nd Round at #22, #24 & #28.

Through discussion, Brad Stark (Portland's owner) and I would make the deal, in an attempt to get the guys we wanted. My Traverse City Panthers had OF-Andrew Benintendi on their radar, while the Brewers had their eyes on Dansby Swanson.

Benny Baseball: The consensus #1 Prospect in all of Baseball.

The 2015 MLB 1st Round Draft Pick by Boston, Benintendi, 22, is the consensus #1 Top Prospect in all of Baseball according to all the major outlets such as Baseball America,, The Sporting News & the MLB Network. The Ohio native won the Golden Spikes Award (Baseball's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) as a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Swanson, 23, a college star himself (Vanderbilt University) was the #1 Overall Draft Pick, selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2015 MLB Draft. Swanson, a Georgia native, would return home in a trade, along with OF-Ender Inciarte, in exchange for pitchers Shelby Miller, Aaron Blair and Gabe Speier. Personally, I think that the Diamondbacks really screwed up on that trade, but I'm sure that will become common knowledge once Swanson breaks out.

Both Benintendi & Swanson cruised through the minors, both 2015 Draft Picks, Golden Spikes Finalists & college stars -- It appears that this will be one of many links once people look back at the 2015 MLB Draft & many 2017 APBA League Drafts; It will certainly be a link for both me & Brad, and this very important draft. 

So the question remained at the end of my last blog piece, did we get our guys? or did one of us, unfortunately lose out?

The #1 Overall Pick in the 2017 BoS Annual Draft belonged to the King Road Kings, who had the league's worst record last season at 61-101; Although the Kings had a long year last season, the future looks much better as their rotation will be solid this season after strong 2016 MLB seasons by Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon, Ervin Santana & J.A. Happ to go along with Rich Hill & Clayton Kershaw who had great years, but some time on the disabled list.

Their APBA Grades play out as this....
  • Clayton Kershaw (17-XYZ) (613 MBF)
  • Rich Hill (17-XY)
  • J.A. Happ (16-Y)
  • Chris Sale (13-XZ)
  • Ervin Santana (12-Y)
Chris Rodon (7-X) & Miguel Gonzalez (8-Z) will serve as potential spot starters. When the Kings' top three starting pitchers are healthy, that will give them 3 A's at the top of their 5-man rotation. The Kings did end up drafting Dan Otero (22*-YZ) & David Phelps (14/17*-XY with 397 MBF - Maximum Batters Faced) in later rounds, which is a nice addition to closer Aroldis Chapman (23*-XY / A&C*-XY), giving the Kings three A relievers. 

Three 'A' Starters is definitely to have in any sized league, especially one with only 16 teams, their pitching situation is pretty set... So it came as a bit of a surprise that the Kings took the Detroit Tigers' 2016 A.L. Rookie-of-the-Year, Michael Fulmer as the top overall pick in the 2017 Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League Draft. The team has lacked offense throughout the years, and although they have more pop than usual with good seasons from Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy & decent offensive years from Yunel Escobar & Eduardo Nunez to go along with that -- that's not a lot when you compare the offense to other teams, in a league where everyone has plenty of 'B' starting pitchers at least. 

King of the Hill: Michael Fulmer was selected as the top overall pick in the 2017 BoS Annual Draft.
The one obvious hole appeared from my vantage point, was at shortstop, Ian Desmond, who Charles (King Road) owner, acquired during the 2016 BoS Annual Draft at SS, moved to the outfield for the Texas Rangers, entering the 2016 MLB Season -- Then signed a big contract with the Colorado Rockies to play first base for the 2017 MLB Season. So I had him pegged to draft Trevor Story, not Fulmer.

Was Michael Fulmer an awful choice for 1st Overall pick? 

No, I can see what the Kings were thinking, make that rotation solid as cement... but you want to make the team pretty balanced all around, and I felt they missed a beautiful opportunity to take Story, have a solid shortstop for years to come with a powerful bat. 

Is Micheal Fulmer a 1st Round Pick? 

Most definitely, his upside may not compete with many that are in this 1st Round, but you take a look at many keeper/APBA leagues, especially APBA card leagues, he has been a consensus 1st Round pick; For him to fall to the 2nd Round would be a rarity for sure.

The Kings do have options & plenty of starting pitching to unload during the season, in case (and they will) they need offense. There is plenty of teams this season with more holes in their rotations, than in previous years... 2016 overall was a offensive year, and it shows on the back ends of the rotations. 

'C' Starting Pitchers will be in more need in the BoS than in previous seasons, I believe this is a big reason that the defending World Champion Fairgrove Tigers, reacquired Yordana Ventura from the Traverse City Panthers (even knowing that Ventura died); Ventura is a C starter with plenty of MBF's (917 maximum batters faced), all in exchange for a 6th Round pick. 

So knowing that there may be need for some teams that need 'C' starters, it would make plenty of sense for the Kings to trade those pitchers, like Miguel Gonzalez & even Carlos Rodon, maybe even along with some draft pieces to get bigger offensive hitters for that lineup.. especially due to the fact that they have this window of opportunity lined up for them with their rotation, it would be a shame not to take advantage of that. The team will be much improved by 20+ games, and do have a chance to really make a championship run if they play their cards right. I actually already tried to acquire Rodon in a deal, that involved SP-Corey Kluber

They would add veteran pieces (from the draft) in Adam Lind, Jayson Werth, Leonys Martin & Sandy Leon for more offense, while Darwin Barney helps with shortstop depth to go with likely starter Eduardo Nunez.

So with Michael Fulmer taken with the #1 Overall Pick, it was my time to draft at the #2 Overall Selection, I took without flinching the pick that I wanted the entire time, in outfielder Andrew Benintendi. I can't say enough about the kid, which (because of that) will lead to a future blog piece... 

Now up was the 3rd Overall pick by the Spring Branch Duffers, and like clockwork (especially with Benintendi off the board), the Duffers took Dodgers' young phenom Julio Urias... like he did in the Lame Duck Baseball Association (LBDA). 

Duffer Zone: Spring Branch takes a familiar guy at #3 overall in Julio Urias.
4th Overall pick went to the Swatara Eliminators, a team that I originally thought may take Benintendi, if I didn't trade up... but might also go for much-needed starting pitching -- would do just that, go for starting pitching by taking the Pittsburgh Pirates' Jameson Taillon. For my draft analysis, it was really hard for me to peg where Taillon would fall; Overall I had him not selected in the top 6 at least. 

My Top 6 by Talent Projected
  1. Julio Urias - SP
  2. Andrew Benintendi - OF
  3. Dansby Swanson - SS
  4. Yoan Moncada - OF
  5. Alex Bregman - 3B
  6. Trevor Story - SS
My Top 6 by Projection for the draft
  1. Trevor Story - SS
  2. Andrew Benintendi - OF
  3. Julio Urias - SP
  4. Yoan Moncada - OF
  5. Tyler Glasnow - SP
  6. Dansby Swanson - SS

So far....
  1.  Michael Fulmer - SP
  2. Andrew Benintendi - OF
  3. Julio Urias - SP
  4. Jameson Taillon - SP
Which brings us to #5....

The Buffalo Yankees would draft Trevor Story, I believe Buffalo did not expect to have Story gift-wrapped for him at #5, although I'm sure he didn't think he would have a chance to either draft Yoan Moncada & Dansby Swanson possibly at 5th as well, which all could have been solid picks as well at 5th overall. 

I knew that I would get a solid guy at #6 regardless, but the fact was I wanted Andrew Benintendi, and that's why I traded up, if I still had the #6 pick & Benintendi was gone, my choice would have been the same choice as Portland was at #6, and that was Dansby Swanson, who he would have taken at #2 overall if he kept it. 

I was so relieved that Brad got his guy, I was on the edge of my seat & worried that he would not get him, which I would have felt awful about. Instead, he did get his guy, plus he now has great picks in #12 & #16 to finish out the 1st Round... So our gamble paid off!

Topping the list on many 2017 lists for Top pitching prospect, is Bucs' Tyler Glasnow.
There was never a draft that I can recall where 6-to-7 guys could be the #1 overall pick, and there would be no thoughts about it, many of these other guys like Tyler Glasnow, Alex Reyes, Nomar Mazara, probably could have been taken at #1 overall as well, depending on perspective & that owner's belief in their upside. For me, it was the top 6 (above) that I have listed for Talent -- with Glasnow (actually edging Story), so that's a mix of projection with Story at #6 on that list. Glasnow has been leading many 2017 lists as the top pitching prospect.

With me trading the #16 pick away, it took me out of that 'tough decision bubble', which made it easier for me to take picks at #22, #26 & #28... and those picks could not have happened more beautifully!

*** Can't wait to share my results & more results in Part II of this blog piece. ***

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