The National Pro Fastpitch 2014 Amateur Draft is less than two weeks away, and as your resident draft "guru", it seems like high time to release my Mock Draft. This differs from last year, when we had a fan-interactive, live "draft" of our own, with different people representing each team and "drafting" players. While it was fun for all involved, I decided to go a different route this year.
Please keep in mind that the players selected in this "mock draft" are not necessarily my predictions for each team's actual selections on the 31st, but instead are the players who I think will most greatly benefit the drafting team at this point in time.
#1 - Ellen Renfroe, P, Tennessee
>>> Even with the acquisition of veteran Sarah Pauly, the "new kids on the block" still lack significant pitching depth and with the first overall pick at their disposal, they should use it to help bolster their pitching corps. Renfroe may or may not be the best pitcher in the country, but she is certainly one of them and she has shown durability, as well as the ability to get out of tough situations. Many Team USA & professional players have come out from under the tutelage of the Weeklys and gone on to great post-college careers, and Ellen should be no exception.
#2 - Destinee Martinez, OF, Oklahoma
>>> A speedster & quality outfielder from Norman, although Martinez will be in Team USA camp, she could be another Jessica Shults & Chelsea Thomas and forgo the national team for a chance to play in the pros. Defensively sharp and a speedster on the base paths, her addition to the Pride would reunite three of the best Sooners in recent memory and would give the Pride depth at their weakest position, the outfield. Caitlin Lowe and Kelly Kretschman have their starting spots locked down, but with the trade of Nikia Williams, Kelsey Bruder is left as the only other outfielder on the Pride roster. The addition of Martinez would not only give the Pride another incredibly-talented name to add to their already-star-studded roster, but also shore up arguably their weakest position.
#3 - Jenny Gilbert, OF, Ball State
>>> Again taking the opportunity to shore up their team's only real weak spot, the Pride would have to pry Gilbert away from Team Canada before they could get her on the field in an NPF uniform. If they managed to do that, I think she could earn herself a starting spot immediately. A great hitter, a sharp defender, and an all-around-great softball mind, she has impressed in both college and on an international level. Even if the Canadian national team remains her top priority, just the option to have her on their team at some point should encourage the Pride to take her this early.
#4 - Kaitlin Inglesby, P/DP, Washington
>>> I think of Inglesby in the mold of Mel Dumezich - a stellar pitcher who can more than carry her weight in the batter's box. Without diminishing Dumezich's abilities and gifts, I believe the difference between the two is that Inglesby is more of an overpowering pitcher and a purer slugger. Nikki Nemitz needs to be replaced in the Bandits' rotation, and an extra bat off the bench on her non-pitching days would be a valuable asset for first-year head coach Shane Winkler. Inglesby has shown a great work ethic throughout her career as a Husky, which is always a good trait to take to the pros with you.
#5 - Courtney Ceo, IF, Oregon
>>> With the retirement of Vicky Galindo, the Bandits have a gaping hole in the middle of their infield. Tammy Williams has the shortstop position locked down, at least for the time being, but second base is up in the air going into the season. Drafting an experienced middle infielder is likely in Bill Sokolis' plans, and Ceo seems like one of the better options. Although a shortstop with the Ducks, conversion to a new position from college to the pros is far from a rare thing (see Cervantes, Brittany and Hooks, Amy) and it could be a winning strategy for Ceo and the Bandits. She is a talented, gifted player in every piece of her game, and although a change of position could be tough at first, her hitting and speed could easily make up for a few early defensive miscues.
#6 - Hannah Rogers, P, Florida
>>> After the first two picks helped fill their biggest gaping hole, the Pride can afford to their already-impressive surplus of talent with this pick. Although a huge list of pitching greats fills the USSSA roster already, drafting Rogers would be a two-fold win for the team - not only do they bring a "local" player into the fold, but they also keep their pitching-hungry opponents from adding the former first-team All-American to their own squads. Rogers may or may not suit up for the Pride, but with room to spare on their roster and draft picks practically to waste, it's a more-than-worthy investment for Don D's franchise.
#7 - Hannah Campbell, P, South Alabama
>>> Thanks to a 2013 trade, the Racers won't select a player until pick #7. That's almost a curse for a team as needy as Joey Arrieta's Racers, but this a deep draft class when it comes to pitching and Hannah Campbell seems like a good fit for the squad. She's wowed national audiences over the last couple of years, and with experience and victories over top-tier opponents under her belt, I could see her as an immediate starter in 2014. The Racers desperately need pitching help, and Campbell is a workhorse who can mow 'em down in short order. That kind of success rarely fully transfers to the pros, but I see Campbell as a solid #2 or #3 starter even past this season. With the Racers' low roster and need for pitching help, I think she's worth the high selection.
#8 - Nicole Morgan, C/1B, Texas A&M
>>> A hard-hitting, pure slugger, Morgan anchors Jo Evans' lineup in College Station and would make a useful addition to the Rebellion. Not only a home-run-hitting slugger, she's also versatile defensively. She can back up Courtney Liddle at first base and share (in some way) the catching duties with somebody like Amy Hooks, whose resigning is still up in the air. Either way, with the versatility she possesses, I doubt she'll be spending much time on the bench, a good thing for a second-round pick.
#9 - Madison Shipman, SS, Tennessee
>>> It will be a surprise to some if Shipman actually does fall this far, but if she does, the Rebellion cannot let a player of her caliber pass by without being selected. She brings an incredibly-powerful bat, as well as a smooth swing and an excellent defensive range. She's developed into the numero uno team leader for the Lady Vols this season, and one does not lose qualities like that just overnight. The Rebellion have a wide-open hole at shortstop and with a drafting of the Lady Vols' All-American infielder, they could plug that hole immediately and be able to concentrate on other, weaker-depth positions like their pitching.
#10 - Taylor Edwards, C, Nebraska
>>> Sometimes overshadowed by her twin, pitching sensation Tatum, Taylor is a stupendous hitter in her own right and would help fill the Racers' need at catcher, as well as their desire for a power bat in the middle of the lineup. Some rookie struggles are to be expected, but they desperately need some power threats to surround Charlotte Morgan and Nerissa Myers and Edwards could provide that. Although Jessica Garcia is already signed to the Racers, there is no way she'll handle all of the catching duties for the club, so Edwards would already have a foot in the door just upon being drafted. If the Racers are able to snag her sister as well, the Edwards duo could be the rookie highlight(s) of 2014.
#11 - Cheyenne Coyle, IF, Arizona State
>>> After transferring from Florida, Coyle has become one of the biggest power threats in the country. Playing for Clint Myers and now Craig Nicholson in Tempe, she has clubbed twenty-six home runs in 2013 and so far this year combined... defensively, there's a bit of a problem, as she has almost as many errors as she does home runs over the same time period. The Pride have a low surplus on the middle infield, and Coyle could help shore that up once and for all. If new Pride coach Gerry Glasco is willing to take on a little bit of a "project" in his own rookie season, Coyle would be a nice final selection for the Pride.
#12 - Brooke Foster, IF, North Texas
>>> A sleeper pick from Denton, Foster is a great hitter, solid speedster on the base paths, albeit a slightly below-average fielder. Similar to the Ceo selection, she'd give the Bandits depth in the middle infield, as well as a dependable bat off the bench.
#13 - Sara Moulton, P, Minnesota
>>> Moulton is a hurler who has impressed me for a while now. She would make a great back-end starter for Sokolis' Bandits and seems to have the love for the game to both get the job done when she needs to, as well as to stick around more than the almost-automatic one-and-done season. Her addition would fill out the Bandits' rotation and leave their last pick free, as well as give them the ability to concentrate their free-agency-search solely on offensive players.
#14 - Tatum Edwards, P, Nebraska
>>> Admittedly, this choice may be slightly influenced by hoping that the Edwards' girls do end up on the same team once-again in the pros, but Tatum is a solid pitcher and an excellent hitter in her own right, and would make a good dual-weapon for Brian Levin's club. She may not fall this far down the board on the 31st, but if she does and the Racers are smart, they'll snatch her up and again put the Edwards sisters together to make up the dynamic battery that made their Huskers excellent during their college years.
#15 - Laura Winter, P, Notre Dame
>>> The "Irish Ginger" continues to set record upon record for the Fightin' Irish and wow audiences nationwide. With the Racers still in dire need of pitching help, even with this being their third pitcher chosen, she'll move straight into the rotation and I expect her to do fairly well as she faces pro hitters. She'll probably be a #3 or #4 starter.
#16 - Kayla Cox, P, Tampa
>>> Albeit against lesser competition, Cox's career numbers are nonetheless greatly impressive. A sub-1.00 ERA in more than 330 innings and a better than 6/1 SO/BB ratio are two of the more impressive statistics in her career line. Cox is not necessarily a big name on the national stage for college softball fans, but I think she has the potential to become just that for NPF fans. A middle-of-the-rotation starter or perhaps a regular reliever and spot-starter, Cox could fill a lot of roles for the Rebellion and I believe she would do them all well.
#17 - Dallas Escobedo, P, Arizona State
>>> Two years ago, Escobedo probably would have been a first-round selection. She has slid a bit since then, but her fall to the final round here can mainly be attributed to being outshined by several other fine, quality players over those same couple of years. She's had a workhorse mentality through her four years in Tempe, and she could eat a good number of innings for the Rebellion while also providing them with some good-quality starts.
#18 - Melissa Davin, 1B/OF, Tennessee
>>> The third Lady Vol selected, it really came down to Davin or Cassie Tysarczyk in this spot. Both could help the Racers, but I liked Davin's power numbers a little more. She has recovered fairly well from her 2013 injuries and looks like she's back to full health. Another power hitter with some defensive versatility, Davin could give the Racers depth at first base while possibly even winning over a starting spot in the outfield. The outfield has been more of her "regular" position in school these last few years, so I'm sure that's where she is most comfortable by now. If the Racers select her and follow my pick, I believe they'll do so to give themselves a power bat in the daily lineup, another that can help support Morgan and Myers in the heart of the order.
#19 - Randi Rea, 3B, Mercer
>>> Having battled a few injuries recently, Rea may seem like a very odd selection at this point. Sure, she could just as easily be signed as an undrafted free agent, but I think the Rebellion would be well-advised not to let her go into free agency and go ahead and get the rights to her here. She can help their ball club tremendously, even in a mentoring role as a rookie.
#20 - Cassie Tysarczyk, 1B/OF, Texas A&M
>>> Tysarczyk may have been passed up a couple of spots earlier by the Racers, but if the Bandits can snatch her off the board, they should do so. Her bat is a steady and powerful one, she's defensively capable and versatile and can play both the outfield and infield. Her arm is strong (just last week, she threw out a runner at third base from the warning track in right field) and is another player who holds strong leadership qualities. Importantly for the NPF, she also is very fan-friendly and is instrumental in the Aggie S.D.R. movement that I wrote about last week. She connects well with fans and is much-loved by them, which is almost a requirement in the NPF.
Also Note: I'm going to go ahead and name North Texas' Ashley Kirk as the 2014 "Andi Williamson". Someone who has a great college career, overlooked by the majority of the masses, but comes into the pros and wows all. Kirk has the tools and capabilities; all she needs is a team to give her a shot and I believe she can do that.