As we count down to the 2018 draft, the hopeful and eager college and high school prospects anticipating the call to a Bull League organization, we can take a glance at the draft Class of ’08 to help us analyse what a draft class might look like ten years later.
The 2008 draft produced an important core of some of the top names in the Bull League today, despite being one of the shortest drafts in history — running just three rounds.
Three teams in particular came out big in that draft, Seattle, Calgary and St. Petersburg. Those teams ended up with the lion’s share of the top players out of that draft, and in some cases, they had not even been the original drafting team.
SECTION ATTACK, 2B, SEATTLE (Round 1, Pick 9)
With over 700 hits in closing on 600 games since being drafted with Seattle’s second first round pick in 2008, the unusually-named Section Attack is hands down the top player to come out of the 2008 class, in terms of wins above replacement, which sits at 16.3 currently.
He has the highest career batting average for the 2008 cohort, at .320, and has worked to bring it up even higher since a 2016 trade to San Diego (now the St. Petersburg Admirals). Attack also broke into the top level early in his career, making his Bull League debut in 2010 as a 22-year-old second baseman for the Salts.
As a fielder, he was par excellence crafting a +5.1 zone rating and surpassing many of his fellow second basemen with his range. His bat was more than helpful to the Salts, with a .258 average placing him 5th on the team amongst regulars.
He would continue to improve as a contact hitter and was voted onto the AEL’s All-Star team two seasons in a row, in 2011 and 2012. At the end of 2012, he signed his first big contract with the Salts at $5.1 million, avoiding arbitration.
Seattle improved with him on the roster, making the playoffs in four of his six major level seasons with the franchise. In his last year with the Salts, 2015, he won the AEL Gold Crown at 2B, impressing the league with a slash line of .318/.353/.429, tying his career high of 4 homers, driving in a career best 55 runs, and hitting safely 107 times through 82 games.
After signing a 3-year free agent deal with the San Diego Seagulls (later to become the St. Petersburg Admirals), the Salts felt the impact, sinking to a 3rd place finish in 2016. Meanwhile, Attack showed no signs of slowing down, and hit .328 for his second best batting season in his career.
In 2017, he would have another career year, tying his career best season total for homers at 4 again, scoring a career high 61 runs, and swatting 138 hits to set a personal single season record.
In just ten years since being drafted, he is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career, and he has established himself near the top of the single-season record lists for almost every batting category amongst second basemen.
LOGANS RUN, 1B, BOSTON (ROUND 1, PICK 1)
The first overall pick in the 2008 draft was the improbably-named Logans Run, drafted out of Wilfrid Laurier University. The TIllbury, Ontario, native was just 21 when the Boston Brawlers grabbed him up. The Brawlers had just crashed to a 28-52 finish the previous year, with the second-worst offense in the Lake League.
But Run struggled to make any near-term impact, despite high expectations. Many would say the club tried to bring him up too soon, as he saw 30 games at the top level in his draft year, but hit just .188.The following year, he batted .215 over 17 games, and looked like he would fizzle as the #2 prospect in the league.
But 2010 had him showing signs of improvement, breaking the .700 mark with his OPS and scoring 21 runs n 42 games. But he would only have a bench role over the next several seasons, until he finally had a breakout year in 2015, blasting double-digit home runs for his first time, with 17, and getting career best numbers in runs (54), hits (79) and RBIs (57).
But Boston would decide to do without Run from then on, and he went to free agency, where the Calgary Inferno picked him up prior to 2016 and never looked back. The Inferno had just won the 2015 Bull Cup, and were looking to repeat. Flush with playoff cash, they paid the Canadian kid $21.9 million over three years. He did not disappoint.
In his first year with Calgary, he set a career best in doubles (15), nearly tied his career high in home runs, stopping short by just 2, at 15, and nailed 64 hits, good for his second best year. The following season, as a 30-year-old, he exploded with 31 home runs, good enough for 4th best on the club’s single-season leader board.
Logans Run now has the top home run total of the 2008 draft class, with 92 career dingers and 255 RBIs. He was a huge factor in Calgary’s 2017 Bull Cup championship run and earned the Bull Cup MVP award that year, along with a second All-Star Game trip, and a first AEL Gold Crown at 1B.
BUBBLES SMITH, SS, SEATTLE (Round 1, Pick 8)
The Seattle Salts used their first pick in Round 1 to take Bubbles Smith, an unlikely, bespectacled shortstop with great defensive capabilities, but of uncertain offensive prowess. It took him 4 years to finally break into the top level, but since then the Salts have been quietly pleased with his solid contributions.
The workhorse from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, has rarely missed a game, tallying up over 450 since 2012. His career average sits at around .266, with over 200 RBIs and 227 runs scored. Season after season he puts up reliable, consistent numbers that have him in the top 5 of most of the team’s career hitting leader boards.
The speedster does hold the team’s career best for doubles, with 129, surpassing Joe Burch’s 127 back on May 21.
Seattle held on to Bubbles since drafting him, and though they are struggling somewhat this year, they have been a frequent playoff fixture since Smith was called up to the Salts in 2012, making 4 postseason appearances.
- RICKY JALAPENO (Taken 6th overall by San Diego/St. Petersburg). Jalapeno was a solid offensive star for years with the Seagulls/Aces/Admirals until he missed out on almost all of 2017 with an injury, appearing just for one at-bat late in the season. But that at-bat was a double, blasted on his second pitch seen in the season. Seattle saw value in him still, despite his injury, and snatched him up in the offseason. His career WAR since being drafted in 2008 is 13.9, second highest among the 2008 draft class.
- JIM LAHEY (Taken 5th overall by California). The California Tidals locked on to first baseman Lahey as they sailed to back-to-back Bull Cups in 2012 and 2013. He blossomed into a high contact hitter in subsequent seasons, and has tried but failed to keep the team in playoff contention. But among the 2008 draft class, his 78 homers put him 3rd in the cohort, and his OPS of .859 tops all of them.
- JAN CONCH (Taken 4th overall by Hamilton). The Hamilton Crusaders enjoyed a lot of great seasons with Conch on the roster, as he turned into a consistent .277 hitter over 7 seasons. Calgary lured him away in 2017 and took the Curaçaon to a Bull Cup championship. Among the 2008 draft cohort, he ranks 2nd in home runs, with 80.
- BILL SARAUER (Taken 38th overall by Ohio). The Ohio Oxen grabbed Sarauer with their 22nd pick in the Supplemental round, but ditched him almost immediately. After a brief spell with Seattle, he was traded to the expansion Arizona Cowboys in July 2012. He seemed to really hit his stride there, hitting above .300 in most years with Arizona, and setting team records for career games (419), hits (442), and home runs (49) before leaving the club for free agency after 2017. Montreal now has him on a two year deal, though he seems to be struggling back in the Lake League.
- CHARLES LING (Taken 7th overall by Calgary). The top pitcher to come out of the 2008 draft, one marked by a shallow pitching pool but a fairly deep hitting pool, was Charles Ling, who is well on his way to 500 K’sand 50 wins in ten seasons. He broke into the Bull League with his draft team, Calgary, in 2010, but fizzled largely. In 2013 he was placed on waivers, and grabbed by the Norfolk Sharks. With the Sharks, he has been a godsend, as they narrowly missed out on their first playoff last season after reaching a team record 52 wins.