Sturgis Grizzlies: A- The Grizzlies, like the Beavers, are looking to take the division in ’95 while also accumulating a number of young players just entering their prime. Thomas, Gant, and Walker represent a good core offensive group (and they will hit a ton of dingers), while the late round pick up of veteran Gary Gaetti at 3B pushed the team from fringe in ’95 to contender. There have been whispers that Sturgis might send Gant into the outfield in order to start Vina at 2B, but with late round pick LF Mel Hall as a viable starting option we think that would be a mistake. Both Vina and Berry look like significant over-drafts, but made so in part because of the team’s ability to pick up Gaetti and Hall later on (which pushed them into likely back-up roles). The rotation is led by Andy Benes, a good pitcher in his prime, and (in a made for Disney moment) the team picked up his younger brother Alan Benes (below average today but with above average upside) to help anchor the rotation alongside the other good SP picks of Hitchcock, Sele, and Tapani. The overall pitching talent in Sturgis looks to be league average and similar to division rival Portland, while the offense will be a definite strength.
1B Thomas – A
2B Gant – A
SP An. Benes – A-
RF Walker – B+
3B Berry – D+
SP Al. Benes – B-
SP Hitchcock – B
SS Counsell – B
CF Grissom – A-
2B Vina – D
Palo Alto Pranksters: A- The Pranksters focused in the draft on building for the future, and have one of the highest ranks in UBA from our projection model for future prospective talent; however, unlike Kansas City and Coney Island who took similar approaches over in the Ruth Conference (and are the only two teams to rank younger in age than the Pranksters), Palo Alto made enough strategic picks of current talent (in particular Belle, Witt, Lewis, and Baines) to play around .500 in 1995, and to potentially challenge the Grizzlies and Beavers if the dice fall right and some of their younger players are able to make a smooth transition to UBA ball. While some analysts have questioned Jeter’s ability to stick at SS, and both Fonville and Brogna look like significant over-drafts, the future talent of Jeter, Schmidt, and Sweeney will significantly strengthen the team before much time has passed. Beyond the first ten picks, the Pranksters made a few excellent selections of young future SPs, especially Ho Park, Juden, and Rekar, who will pay dividends in the long game.
SS Jeter – B+
LF Belle – A+
SP Schmidt – A-
C Sweeney – B+
SP Witt – A-
RP Wohlers – B
CF Hunter – C+
2B Fonville – D
1B Brogna – D
SS Lewis – B+
Yellowknife Targaryens: C- Up north, first-round pick SP Kevin Appier has a lot riding on this shoulders as the ace of Yellowknife; in the first 25 rounds the Targaryens have yet to identify a second SP to join him in the rotation. The club’s draft strategy was unfolding quite well for the first four rounds, and Appier, Edmonds, Hundley, and DeShields were great picks and should be the stars of this team for years to come. But starting with the fifth round the team’s picks went sideways with back-to-back selections of middling relief pitchers. Conspiracy theorists wonder if one of the team’s software algorithms mixed up a one and a zero somewhere, causing these players to be identified as SPs, but we may never know the truth. While the next four picks were all of useful role players, none of them will change the team’s fortunes in 1995, which makes the selection of veterans at this stage unhelpful for the team’s longer-term development. An anonymous blogger has started a moveon.org petition to rename the team to the “Starks”, apparently because Winter is Coming.
SP Appier – A-
CF Edmonds – A
C Hundley – A-
SS DeShields – A-
RP Williams – D-
RP C. Smith – D-
3B Loretta – C+
LF Cangelosi – C+
RF Coleman – C-
2B Amaral – C-
Interview with the GM of the Beavers:
Q: We at UBA Today! are quite excited to be associated with such a fine organization as the Portland Beavers! Can you tell us how long it will be before you bring home the league trophy?
A: Well, I like our chances in the division this year, but there are at least four other teams out there – you’ll have to guess as to who they are – with better chances at the crown this year than Portland. However, all four of them have older teams than Portland, and so I’m quite happy with our prospects over the next five years. My goal is to bring a Trophy home in that time.
Q: Do you have a favorite pick from the draft so far?
A: I respect all of my players, and I hate to play favorites, but if you’re asking which of my guys I would have taken a lot higher up the draft, I have to say I was happy to find a couple of young talented pitchers in Castillo and Erickson fall to the 6th and 10th rounds. Pitching won’t be our strength, but because of these guys it also won’t be a weakness.
Q: So what is the Beavers’ greatest strength going into this season?
A: If you look at our projected line-up, we’re likely to put up over 20 home runs from every single spot one-through-eight. I have us pegged to lead all of baseball in total home runs this year! We won’t hit for average much, but our OBP will be good enough to make those home runs count.
Q: Some fans are wondering about the glut of infielders caused by the Whitaker and King picks; how is that going to be resolved?
A: In the later rounds, we really focused on identifying a few strong platoons for our core lineup, and there were some veterans left on the board with pretty good track records against opposite handed pitchers. So now we’ve got King to platoon with Tino at 1B, Lou Whitaker to join Boone as our 2B platoon, and Ozzie Timmons to complement Giles in LF. These strong platoons also give us plenty of options against the DH clubs when traveling to the Ruth Conference.
Q: Any weaknesses on the club that you’d still like to address?
A: Every club has some areas they need to improve. For us, while I think we’ll be league average in the rotation and the pen, I’d like to see us develop some younger arms to push that up a bit over the next few years. We also play like molasses on the base paths; don’t expect more than a dozen stolen bases in the whole season from us.
Q: Thanks for your time, GM! Good luck and go get ‘em!