Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Drafts, Drafts & More Drafts (Part II)

February 22nd was all marked on my calendar, my first day of official action in drafting in the Mid-West Baseball League (MWBL) For actually a month & half (especially the few weeks leading up to it), I spent so much time in the league's impressive Draft Manager that I couldn't see straight anymore. At times, I thought I had not put enough information into it, and then there is other times that maybe I was over-doing (over-scouting) it in areas. I have always personally believed you can never scout too much, and in the end what you put into it will show. I was excited, in a league of 27 other owners, drafting not only current players, but baseball players who have yet to make their professional baseball debuts in the minors?!

This was exciting stuff, for a few years now, my mouth drooled over my keyboard whenever I ran into this league online, I usually would find it when I am scrolling through the list on APBA.com, with leagues all over the country or I would accidentally fall onto it, and each time I would find myself scrolling through the team pages, and looking up it's history. I wasn't even a member and I was in awe, I thought "Now this is a league I would love to be part of." I have seen other leagues, and have applied to plenty of leagues, but no one ever had openings or so it seemed, so half-the-time I ever applied. To tell you the truth, the whole thing is a blur in how I finally got in touch with Stray, I think I must have turned in a League Application at some point, or maybe I ran into him on the APBA Facebook Group, and he then told me to apply. Just the fact, that I was actually in contact with one of these leagues, made me hopeful that I can be in a APBA BBW (Baseball for Windows) league again.

He got hold of me, asked me to fill another application, another step in the process, and then we got together for a phone interview. I remember thinking it went well, but just like everything, job interviews, or a date, you think it went well at first, but doubt sits in.. "Oh man, sure he told me everything seemed good to go, and that I'm the next guy in line.. but what if, he was actually thinking -- yeah right buddy, good luck making it my league?" I knew I really wanted to get a shot at this league, at the same time, I was also craving being in a league so much that when I found APBA Online, I decided to start a league myself. Plus I wasn't sure If I would actually hear from Stray ever again.

Eventually I did, at first to fill in as a Mid-West Winter League manager (a winter league also ran by Stray, that is playing out the 1988 files in a keeper's league), and then eventually I got the call to run a winter league team in the MWWL & the big league, the MWBL.

Now it's the morning of draft day, the MWBL -- I was excited & nervous, I knew I was playing with the big boys. I do know my stuff, and have done tons of scouting to prepare for this, I think I was nervous about how my picks may come across for my first draft. I was the new kid in the Draft Room, and I knew eyes would be on me, and that people would be curious to see how I draft. Then again, people we're all thinking about their teams... Draft Days are Christmas morning, I'm bouncing off the wall, I'm sure they are, and some of these guys have been in this league for 17 years now, and that feeling never gets old. Their passion for the league was obvious from the get-go. They are also very welcoming as well.

A week before this draft, my league's draft started out a disaster, so we were only able to get so many players drafted, and we finally finished the rest of the draft, the day before this one. Yes, I was exhausted -- not much sleep that week.

So when I joined the Draft Chat room, using Firefox for the first time which does work excellent with the league site & Draft Manager -- I decided to try what was taught to me, on clicking the player in the draft manager and into the chat page, easy as pie! Suddenly I couldn't do it, I know I was doing it right, so I flagged down Stray's wife Stacy, the draft coordinator -- who is awesome by the way, another man with an amazing wife that supports his APBA & Baseball passions (my wife supports me with mine), and she noticed the same problem, it turned out the plug-ins were blocked, so we figured it out. Ta-da, I could do it! Big relief, my heart was racing, because I was thinking "Not Again!" after my draft's problems with it's site.

Before moving on to the draft itself, let me tell you a little about the Draft Manager, this thing let's you plug in players names, any player's name, if you feel like putting Mickey Mouse's name in there, you can. Now for example, when I first joined the league, I would put in names and see if some of the young future stars have been drafted by other MWBL teams. For example, type a name in (last name first): Appel, Mark, and it shows that he's been drafted by the Dallas franchise of the MWBL, P (Houston). If they are not taken, you can add that player to your list. During the draft, the players selected by your team and other teams will disappear off of your lists. It's really cool & a convenient tool to draft & make your draft order top to bottom, with a feature where you can look at the players names in alphabetical order & by position order as well.

Gray goes #1 in the Mid-West Baseball League's 2014 Draft.

So the first pick was on, and the Motor City Muscle (Cool name & logo, like most of the teams in this league) would go on & take SP-Jonathan Gray. Gray was taken #3 overall in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies. Manhattan would land the Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, that all the MLB teams were fighting for, as the #2 overall pick. One of my questions was answered in the first round, how soon would comeback-veteran Scott Kazmir be drafted, he went #15 overall to Detroit. Then I watched in horror to see my pick, 2B-Rougned Odor which I had sitting on my comment bar, taken at #16 overall by the Tijuana Bottle Rockets! So I go to place my pick, and I noticed the plug-ins were knocked out, put them back on, and they got blocked suddenly again, now the other person just selected #17 1B-Jonathan Singleton, it's my pick and my chat room is going ape, so I quickly logged off the Firefox, and went back to my Google to a somewhat-panicked pick, went with my top pitcher on the list -- College guy SP-Jeff Hoffman of East Carolina (below, left) , who is predicted to go #2 overall in this summer's 2014 MLB Draft. Definitely not a horrible pick, originally about a little over a month ago, I had Jose Miguel Fernandez, a 2B that is still in Cuba as my first-round pick, the scouting report had him as an immediate MLB All-Star if he was to escape Cuba & jump right into the MLB -- but I didn't find that much satisfying video on him, so I got a bit spooked and went a different direction with that pick all together. I did think about taking a flyer on Fernandez later, but was pretty thrilled with my picks & ended up filling my 12 non/un-carded slots, but I will admittingly say that I was not thrilled to see Fernandez land late with league powerhouse Tempe Tempers, the "New York Yankees of the MWBL".

T.C. drafts likely Top 5 pick in upcoming MLB Draft at#18.
I had two 2nd Round, two 3rd Round, one 4th Round & 3 5th Round picks coming up -- So I liked my chances for some good potential. I kept with my strategy of going for pretty good ceiling/potential guys who could be up in no time; Certainly Jeff Hoffman doesn't fit that criteria, in fact he might not make in up in time for the three-year window ends. All uncarded drafted players get 3 years to make it to "The Show", if not they are eligible to be drafted again by someone else, you only get 12 of these spots, I already had three spots of my 12 filled up with three guys who are all going to come off that list this season regardless if they make their MLB debuts or not, chances are they all may not -- Hoping Raul A. Mondesi, Jr. makes it up, but he is still so young.

My next pick was coming, the guy on my radar was another second baseman, I failed at getting Odor, and was now banking on Mookie Betts at #49 overall. Once again, it was not to be, Betts would get drafted by the Long Beach Dirt Bags at #44 overall -- So I looked things over in my Draft Manager, and decided to draft my 3rd choice at second base early, I mean he could have fell to the third round or later possibly, but I really need to get stronger there, and I really like this kid -- the kid is Devon Travis of my beloved Detroit Tigers, he had a break-out year in Double-A, and just has great work ethic, hits well, fields excellent, I just love everything I see, and I feel he could get a cup of coffee as early as September 2014 (He is currently impressing MGR Brad Ausmus this spring in fact). Latest, I think September 2015 -- I think it was a safe pick, and I got a player with upside at a position that I need upgrades at.

The cool thing my next pick was just three picks away (my other second round pick) & I took another safe pick, in Nick Kingham who could be fighting for a rotation spot for the Pirates this spring, he will likely get his debut at least by late 2014. So with my 3 falling off, and with my two second round picks maybe clearing the list with 2014 debuts, that gives me 5 spots already for next season. I would take RP-Robbie Ray for my 3rd Round (#74) pick, one of the players acquired by the Tigers in exchange for fan favorite Doug Fister; one of the other players acquired in that deal RP-Ian Krol (who made his 2013 MLB debut) would be drafted by me in the 6th round at #167. No my draft strategy was not to draft Detroit Tigers, I think Ray will be up by the end of the season as well. My last pick in the 3rd round would be the Padres' Burch Smith, who looks like he could be a rotation staple for years in the big leagues, and like Krol has already made his MLB debut.

I'm happy with my fourth-round pick in Mitch Haniger, with the way things are going in Milwaukee, I will see him up before the year's end. He doesn't have the ceiling, nor the tools, as fellow team prospect OF-Tyrone Taylor, plus Taylor was already drafted by division rival Southbend Lynx -- but I like his personal makeup & is considered the Brewer's most advanced hitting prospect.

My first of three 5th round picks in Danny Santana (#122) would get a compliment from MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, who happens to be in the MWBL with the Iron City Yinze. He mentioned something on the lines, "Nice pick", and I went on to say "Thanks, I feel he could be up by the end of the season, and that will get rid of one of my UC/NC spots in no time.", in which he replied "Exactly." Santana has a chance to up Pedro Florimon out of his starting spot for the Twins. Carson Kelly, C/3B, I took with my 5th Rd (#130 pick), he's got plenty of upside, and I think he could get pushed early by the Cardinals -- the Cards seem to excel at that, with it also paying off. I need 3B help, and may need a catcher to go with Yan Gomes -- while I continue to shop Brian McCann. My last pick in the 5th round (#139) will be 2013 MLB debut RP-Ryan Pressly for the Twins, he had an impressive season.

Weaver, one of two Seminoles drafted by Crusaders.
My other 6th Rd pick (Krol was the other) ended up being RP-Jake Barrett, who has the potential to be a closer, he's with Arizona who needs a closer. I also had my eyes on a college kid who has the potential to close as well, but Barrett could be up as early as 2014, in which the other kid could push that three-year window. My 7th pick would be Juan Centeno, who profiles as a career backup catcher with a good arm, who already made his MLB debut as well, I would also pick up another carded catcher with a PR 930 in Brandon Bantz with my last pick (12th Rd/#326). My last real pick was pick #201 in Luke Weaver, college kid out of Florida State (Devon Travis also went to FSU), reminds scouts of Tim Hudson for strength in his small size, body build. I moved up to the pick by swapping 8th Rd pick (#214) & trading additional picks #242 & #270 away. I was worried that he would be picked soon, and plus I was pretty satisfied how my picks went, I didn't have much sleep and saw that it was only 3 pm.

The Draft ran smooth, had trades sprinkled in, while there was even a half-hour lunch break -- Now that's what I'm talking about! So you can't really blame me for cashing in those late picks, especially when I needed to make many cuts anyways. But I like taking in a draft & now know what to expect, there is some competition out there, but there is people also going through the motions, which I plan to keep scouting throughout the year, and eventually keep making my way up to the ultimate prize -- but until then it may be a 100 loss season on it's way for the rebuilding Traverse City Crusaders.

In other words, the whole draft experience might be the most fun the Crusaders have this year -- because on draft day they felt like winners, I'm looking forward to the next couple of drafts particularly. This team is now my baby, and we are breaking down the house, and building a new foundation, hopefully a solid one for years to come.

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