Thursday, April 2, 2015

2015 NPF Draft - Recap & Analysis

The NPF Draft was held last night in Nashville, and as is our custom, Justin's World now brings you our day-after analysis and recaps of all that went on in the Music City last evening.

The draft expanded from twenty to thirty-four picks this season, giving nearly double the amount of college seniors the opportunity to hear their names called. Continue reading for draft grades & full analysis of all of the selections.

Analysis of Draftees
Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley were unsurprising choices at #1 and #2. The sluggers from Oklahoma are arguably the two best players in the country at any given time and both fit the mold of USSSA’s plans.

At #3, Florida State’s Lacey Waldrop was nearly as unsurprising. With Monica Abbott still not a 100% lock to return (though things are looking up in that regard, Bandits fans), the Bandits still need long-term pitching depth. Waldrop fits that bill. You can’t pass up the reigning Player of the Year, especially when it’s at a position where there is a need.

The first – and possibly biggest – surprise of the draft came at #4. With their first-ever draft choice, the Charge selected Danielle Henderson of Cal. I don't think anyone anticipated the pick, and with good reason. Though she's got some pop in her bat, Henderson was certainly not first-round material with some of the players still on the board at that point in time. She'll be reunited with her sister, Jolene, in Dallas.

The Charge picked back-to-back and had the #5 choice as well. With it, they made a much smarter move and selected Kaitlyn Richardson of Minnesota. A corner infielder, Richardson is a two-time All-American; with a career batting average of .394 in her first three seasons, she not only has some pop in her bat, she is a consistent hitter that reaches base often.

To kick off Round #2, the Rebellion selected possibly the year's biggest breakout star in Miranda Kramer of Western Kentucky. One of only two southpaws anywhere near the top of the board, she currently leads the nation in strikeouts per seven innings and has impressed across the board.

The Bandits owned #7 and selected All-SEC outfielder A.J. Andrews. Though I had Andrews several spots lower in my mock draft, it's a pick that I nonetheless like. Her draft stock was surely helped by her team's success this season, but Andrews is a quality player in her own right. She reaches base often and stole thirty-eight bases in forty tries last season, proving her speed is excellent as well.

The first "What were they thinking" pick came from the Rebellion with their #8 pick, where they selected Shelby Davis of Oklahoma State. Her speed is excellent (41 stolen bases last season), but her on-base percentage was just microscopically above her batting average in 2014 and she is just two years removed from a season when she hit .208 with thirty-two hits.

Maddie O'Brien went at #9 overall; the power-hitting Florida State shortstop was a first-team All-American and the conference Player of the Year. She's had a bit of a down year this season, but after the honors and stellar play of her 2014 campaign, she was well-worth the high pick. If she plays, the Rebellion will be a good fit for her and she should perform well for them.

The second round ended with the Charge's selection of Kylee Lahners. The stellar utility player from Washington was another all-American last season, and is hitting over .400 this year. She can play third base and the outfield equally well, and has a consistent bat with some serious pop. The Huskies have a tradition of turning out excellent NPF players, and Lahners should follow that tradition.

The third round featured the selections of Amber Freeman (Pride); Morgan Estell (Racers); Brenna Moss (Bandits); Cheyenne Cordes (Rebellion); and Ashley Burkhardt (Charge).

Freeman was a pick destined for Florida; she will fit in well with the Pride, and will fill their need for a third catcher on the depth chart. Estell is another whose stock was helped by her team's success, but her production this year has, at times, topped the explosive Tigers lineup. With the chance to play, she could do well. Moss is hitting nearly .500 on the year, with fifty-six hits in 116 at-bats. Her slugging percentage and on-base percentage are both above .550, and she leads her team with eighteen stolen bases. She should get a serious look in a nearly-base Bandits outfield race. Cordes was the second Cal Bear selected, though her professional prospects are much clearly defined than her teammate. An accidental omission from my Big Board, she certainly ranks among some of the best infielders available. Burkhardt was another unexpected selection, especially to close off the 3rd round. A first-team all-Big Ten selection last season, she's hitting just over .400 this year with eight home runs; twenty stolen bases; and a slugging percentage over .730.

The 4th round selections were Kahley Novak (Charge); Emilee Koerner (Pride); Sammy Marshall (Bandits); Griffin Joiner (Racers); Devon Wallace (Rebellion); and Lauren Haeger (Charge).

Novak was inexplicably the only UCF Knight selected in the draft, though she has the opportunity to be a solid contributor for the league's newest squad. The top of a very small class of natural second-basemen in this year's draft, several teams had that hole and the Charge selected to fill it early on. Koerner joins a star-studded and already-crowded Pride outfield, and how much chance she'll have to play is in doubt. If she does get the opportunity, she could be a solid contributor. With the Bandits' penchant for picking up star players from their region, Marshall was an odds-on favorite to join the Bandits. She should be a role player in the infield. Joiner joins the Racers as a third-catcher option, providing extra depth behind Jess Garcia and Haley Outon. Wallace wasn't on many radars, including my Big Board, after falling a bit since her stellar freshman season, but consistency through the course of her career made her attractive to the Rebellion. Haeger was the first major name to be selected after falling to a middle round, as she ended up #21 overall. If she plays professionally, she'll likely have to pick either pitching full-time or offense as dual-threat players rarely succeed at the highest level. She won't be the best NPF player out of this draft class, despite being one of the biggest names, but she has a good chance to be a solid contributor and a team leader for the young Charge.

The 5th round selections were Emily Weiman (Rebellion); Shellie Robinson (Racers); Branndi Melero (Bandits); Emma Johnson (Rebellion); and Janie Takeda (Charge).

Weiman may have been the steal of the draft; I think she'll be an excellent contributor and should make a solid starter for the club. I predicted Robinson to the Racers from day one, as I believe she perfectly fits what the team is in need of. Don't be surprised if she has a starting spot in the outfield before mid-season. Despite being an All-American last year, Melero's stock has fallen a bit this season which let the Bandits pick her up in a later round. She also joins Moss in the Bandits' outfield race. Johnson was a somewhat-maligned selection, coming from Kent State, but that criticism is misplaced; she's enjoyed an excellent season thus far and has gotten better as the year has gone on. She represents a low-risk, high-reward pick for the Rebellion, with the reward being another excellent hurler in the rotation. Despite her Team USA commitment, Takeda was taken by the Charge in the last pick of the round. They hope they'll woo her from the national team, if not this year then next. Were she to play, she'd be a great contributor.

The 6th round draft picks were Ally Carda (Charge); Hallie Wilson (Pride); Stephany LaRosa (Bandits); Megan Low (Racers); Amber Parrish (Rebellion); Kaitlyn Thumann (Charge); and Farish Beard (Charge).

Following the Takeda pick, the Charge spent another draft pick on a 2nd Team USA player in Carda. Again, if they are able to woo her before their control over her rights runs out, she will be an excellent contributor. But that may take a great sales pitch at this point in time. Though selected in a late round, Wilson was another pick that makes one wonder... there's not a clear spot for her on the Pride and some of the other players available seemed like better fits. LaRosa fell farther than I expected, but she did eventually wind up in Chicago, where she should fit into the system well and add an extra catcher with some pop behind Taylor Edwards on the depth chart. Low and Parrish were both low on the board for available backstops, though Low has hit forty-three homers in her career thus far, including twenty-two last season that landed her in 3rd place on the leaderboard at season's end. Parrish may not get much playing time in Pennsylvania, but some timely hitting and defense could land her some extra time off the bench. Once Dallas' "Market Choice Selection" pick came about, I had Thumann pegged in that spot, but she ended up joining the Charge as a draft selection. Though she has less name recognition than her fellow Bear Jordan Strickland, Thumann was the one that heard her name called last night. She should have the opportunity to fight for a starting spot, and a solid chance to land one. The 2015 "Miss Irrelevant" was Farish Beard, but that description couldn't be farther off. Though injuries have made for a very slow start to 2015 and caused her stock to fall from what was once a sure-fire top-five selection, if the injury woes are behind her, she has the opportunity to return to her old form and has the talent, potential, and opportunity to shoot to the top of the Charge rotation.

The Picks & Where They're Coming From:
1. Pride – Lauren Chamberlain, 1B, Oklahoma
2. Pride – Shelby Pendley, 3B, Oklahoma
3. Bandits – Lacey Waldrop, P, Florida State
4. Charge – Danielle Henderson, 3B, Cal
5. Charge – Kaitlyn Richardson, UT, Minnesota
6. Rebellion – Miranda Kramer, P, Western Kentucky
7. Bandits – A.J. Andrews, OF, LSU
8. Rebellion – Shelby Davis, OF, Oklahoma State
9. Rebellion – Maddie O’Brien, SS, Florida State
10. Charge – Kylee Lahners, UT, Washington
11. Pride – Amber Freeman, C, Arizona State
12. Racers – Morgan Estell, OF, Auburn
13. Bandits – Brenna Moss, OF, Fresno State
14. Rebellion – Cheyenne Cordes, UT, Cal
15. Charge – Ashley Burkhardt, IF, Purdue
16. Charge – Kahley Novak, 2B, Central Florida
17. Pride – Emilee Koerner, OF, Notre Dame
18. Bandits – Sammy Marshall, SS, Western Illinois
19. Racers – Griffin Joiner, C, Kentucky
20. Rebellion – Devon Wallace, 1B, Arkansas
21. Charge – Lauren Haeger, P, Florida
22. Rebellion – Emily Weiman, P, North Carolina State
23. Racers – Shellie Robinson, OF, USC-Upstate
24. Bandits – Branndi Melero, OF, Auburn
25. Rebellion – Emma Johnson, P, Kent State
26. Charge – Janie Takeda, OF, Oregon
27. Charge – Ally Carda, P, UCLA
28. Pride – Hallie Wilson, UT, Arizona
29. Bandits – Stephany LaRosa, C, UCLA
30. Racers – Megan Low, C, UTSA
31. Rebellion – Amber Parrish, C, North Carolina
32. Charge – Kaitlyn Thumann, OF, Baylor
33. Charge – Farish Beard, P, South Alabama

Draft Grades:
Akron - B-
Pennsylvania - C+
Chicago - B-
Dallas - D

Post-Draft "Awards":
Best Steal: Emily Weiman, North Carolina State
Player Drafted Too High: Danielle Henderson, Cal
Best Player Drafted Too Low: Shellie Robinson, USC-Upstate
Team That Best Filled Their Needs: Pride
Best Player(s) Not Drafted: Mackenzie Audas, UCF; Christina Hamilton, Louisiana-Lafayette; Larissa Franklin, Western Kentucky; Haylie Wagner, Michigan; Chelsea Goodacre, Arizona
Player That Will Have the Biggest Immediate Impact: Lauren Chamberlain (Pride)
Player That Will Have the Biggest Long-Term Impact: Kylee Lahners (Charge)

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