The American Association of Independent Professional Baseball held their player dispersal draft yesterday afternoon, allowing the six clubs that will be participating in the shortened, hub-based 2020 regular season — the Milwaukee Milkmen, Chicago Dogs, Winnipeg Goldeyes, St. Paul Saints, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, and Sioux Falls Canaries — to select players from the rosters of non-participating clubs in order to allow the league’s top talent a chance to compete this summer. Our local Milkmen held the first overall pick in the draft (and the first pick in every subsequent round) and with uncertainty surrounding the status of international players due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, there were plenty of different directions that the south side indy ball nine could have gone with their selections. Milwaukee ended up choosing six new players for the roster — three hitters and three right-handed pitchers.
With the first overall pick in the draft, the Milkmen grabbed switch-hitting third baseman Chase Simpson from the Cleburne Railroaders. A former 14th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014, Simpson has been playing independent baseball for the last three years, including his two most recent seasons in the American Association. He was arguably the top player at the hot corner on the circuit last season, batting .272/.390/.536 across 451 plate appearances with 20 home runs and 8 stolen bases, good for a 144 wRC+.
It's raining in Winnipeg right now, and it's been raining Chase Simpson home runs all season. Here's roughly 108 seconds of @chaser31025 taters to get you ready for tonight.#JumpOnTheTrain pic.twitter.com/8gT4uaJCij— Cleburne Railroaders (@CRRBaseball) June 8, 2019
In the second round, the Milkmen seized the opportunity to grab another one of the league’s top hitters and tabbed outfielder Zach Nehrir, also from Cleburne. A 16th-rounder of the Diamondbacks in 2015, Nehrir has played the last two seasons in the American Association and has become a legitimate power-speed threat as well as one of the league’s top defensive center fielders with a rifle for a right arm. Last season for the Railroaders, the right-handed hitting Nehrir posted a .285/.364/.490 slash line with a 12 long balls and 13 stolen bags, finishing with a 127 wRC+.
In round three, the Milkmen nabbed another switch-hitting infielder in Dylan Tice from the Kansas City T-Bones. A former 36th-round draftee by St. Louis in 2015 who has played in the minors with the Cardinals and Mets, Tice has also previously played in the independent CanAm League (which is now merged with the Frontier League) before coming to the American Association in 2018. A pure hitter who thrives at putting the ball in play (including a mere 12.9% K rate last year), Tice posted a .316/.389/.405 slash line in 2019 (116 wRC+) with four homers in 411 plate appearances. He also stole 20 bases in 21 attempts while grading out as one of the AA’s top defensive players at the keystone.
Switch hitting gamer, former Cards farmhand, Dylan Tice getting dialed in. pic.twitter.com/5tSPJhSPR7— Baseball PDS (@BaseballPds) February 7, 2018
Milwaukee shifted the direction of their draft heading into round 4, focusing on shoring up the pitching staff with their final three picks. That started with the selection of Dylan Baker, a right-handed starter from Kansas City. Formerly a 5th-round pick and top prospect in the Indians’ organization, Baker battled injury during his time in affiliated ball (which included a brief stint on the Brewers’ 40-man roster) before joining the indy ball ranks and the American Assocation in 2019. In 14 starts and 80.1 innings pitched, Baker finished with a 3.36 ERA along with 66 strikeouts, 29 walks, and a 1.282 WHIP. That all added up to a 77 FIP-, which was the 8th-best mark among qualified starters in the league last season.
In the 5th round, the Milkmen chose another right-handed hurler whose name might sound familiar to fans of the Milwaukee Brewers. AJ Schugel pitched in parts of three MLB seasons from 2015-17, including the final two years with the Pirates. He authored a 3.19 ERA and 92 FIP- in 93.0 big league innings before shoulder issues cost him most of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Now fully healthy, Schugel is ready to get back to competing on the mound and prove that he can still get outs against high-level hitters. He had been slated to pitch for the T-Bones.
Lastly, the Milkmen took right-hander Jack Alkire with their sixth and final selection in the dispersal draft. Alkire was an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 before joining the Gary-Southshore RailCats and performing as one of the league’s top rookie pitchers. A swingman in college, Alkire worked 34.0 innings across 22 appearances while posting a 3.71 ERA along with 44 strikeouts. Among all 122 qualified pitchers in the American Association last season, Alkire ranked #7 with a 65 FIP-.
@FlatgroundApp— Jack Alkire (@jackalkire48) February 28, 2020
5’11” 205lbs RHP
2019 @VCUBaseball Grad
Currently w/ @railcats of @AA_Baseball
Offseason highlights below
Looking for an opportunity w/ an affiliated organization
FB: 90-94 (T 95)
Contact: alkirejm@VCU.edu or DM for more info pic.twitter.com/UH0tZLCfGa
The Milkmen passed in the seventh round of the dispersal draft to end their day of selections. Here are the final results of the draft from all teams:
@AA_Baseball draft results, now grid format! Read it left to right, top to bottom. @MKEMilkmen made INF Chase Simpson of @CRRBaseball the first overall selection. Season starts on July 3! #ForLoveoftheGame pic.twitter.com/ES5OppN1gd— American Association (@AA_Baseball) June 16, 2020
An abbreviated training camp for the Milkmen and the rest of the competing American Association clubs will begin on June 25th. Teams are able to bring up to 30 players into camp, up from the typical 28. Opening Day at the Ballpark Commons will be over Independence Day weekend, with the Milkmen facing off against their hub-mate Chicago Dogs on July 3rd. The other hub cities are Sioux Falls, SD (shared by the Canaries and Saints) and Fargo, ND (shared by the RedHawks and Goldeyes). American Association teams will be able to begin the 2020 regular season with an expanded 25-man active roster (including a minimum of 13 pitchers) for the first 10 days of the season before paring down to the usual 23 players by July 12th. Ticket information for games at the Ballpark Commons will be announced in the coming days.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs