The best time of the year is the MLP draft. There is so much more buzz around MLP these days with fans doing all sorts of different mock drafts and having many discussions prior to the draft. It was good that the Dink did a live stream draft reaction. They had over 1,000 people throughout the 2nd half of the Premier draft watching their stream, which is a pretty decent number. Drafts are the best and there is still so much room for MLP to grow to improve all of their draft coverage. Drafts have the potential to create a ton of content and organic discussion amongst fans. It’s good to see that the interest is increasing already but also kind of sad to potentially know we might only have one more true draft left in MLP. America loves its sports drafts. Please live stream that one for 2024, MLP. The fans need it.
One thing we should make clear about our draft grades is that they don’t necessarily equate to how good a team is. The grades are how well a team did relative to their draft position and who was available at each slot. That will often times equate to how well we think a team will do, but we’ll try to clarify that where there might be a discrepancy. You can see in the chart above we have where each player was picked as well as their gender selection. Below, we include where they went overall in the draft
On the whole, we don’t really see clear winners like we did last season. There’s a lot of teams that are flawed but have the ability to be high end. We thought there were opportunities out there for teams to take the bull by the horn in this Premier draft, but they went a different direction. Of course, we could always be wrong as we have many times before. Our first instinct is that there will be more parity in season 2 for Premier.
Chicago Slice – Ben Johns (#1), Jessie Irvine (#24), Lacy Schneemann (#25), Erik Lange (#48)
This one was surprising. The question we have is whether Ben Johns wanted Lacy Schneemann. Jessie Irvine made sense at #24 but we were surprised not to see Jade Kawamoto or Allyce Jones go off the board with #25. Schneemann is more of a left-side player that can move well to help cover some court for Irvine, but we wonder if this was a Ben pick or a Chicago Slice pick. Chicago has a very involved ownership group. Would they override Ben Johns?
We are not in favor of letting players dictate drafts too much but, at this point, you basically have to trust Ben to draft the best team. If we could confirm Ben picked Schneemann, this draft grade is potentially half or a full letter grade higher because we blindly trust Ben at this point. Erik Lange should fit well with Ben, but the mixed, although improving, continues to be a question for Lange. This is potentially the worst singles team in the draft. It sure isn’t the Pioneers but they should still be competitive.
Utah Black Diamonds – Anna Leigh Waters (#2), Irina Tereschenko (#23), Thomas Wilson (#26), AJ Koller (#47)
It is unclear what Utah is doing here contrary to Connor Pardoe self-proclaiming that his team “crushed those picks”. We are going to talk down another Irina Tereschenko selection as there was better value to be had here, particularly Jade Kawamoto. We disagree internally on Wilson’s draft position. The downside of Wilson is his uncertain health situation and not being sure what he is as a lead dog on a team. We just don’t have enough information on his health, but maybe teams have more details on that.
AJ Koller is good value and the chemistry pairing with Wilson works well in theory. But there’s a reason AJ dropped to this spot after being a 2nd rounder in season 1. It is amazing how far Koller has fallen – notably he is missing the Saturday of the first event due to a family wedding. This team should also be in the mix with Anna Leigh Waters, but we don’t think either of the top 2 teams did as well in the draft.
D.C. Pickleball Team – Riley Newman (#3), Jackie Kawamoto (#22), Jade Kawamoto (#27), Christian Alshon (#44)
D.C. are the biggest winners of the draft today. Starting in the #5 slot, they were able to trade their #5 and #20 picks to Orlando for the #3 and #22 picks. A baffling trade by Orlando to move off the #3 pick when it’s clear the top 3 picks are the best slots to draft for Premier. D.C. is gifted Riley Newman at the #3 slot and we have both come around to him being the #2 guy in this draft. It should be mentioned we do have questions as to whether Riley Newman is an MLP player and how motivated he currently is in this MLP format. Having Jackie Kawamoto slip to them in the 2nd round is great value.
How do Jackie and Jade keep ending up together? They are somewhat limited as a women’s team but they are so solid together so nothing will come free for opponents. It’s a super solid foundation for a team. Christian Alshon is a frisky choice. We have internal disagreement on Alshon but the talent is there. How he fits in men’s with Riley Newman as a beta male will be fascinating. There are just questions that linger on the development of the Tweener King’s doubles game.
Brooklyn Aces – Catherine Parenteau (#4), Andrea Koop (#21), Hayden Patriquin (#28), Tyler Loong (#45)
Are we really going to question another Catherine Parenteau situation? Yes. Yes, we are. Internally, we have some disagreement over whether Catherine was proper value at this point in the draft. One of us thinks it is fine, the other not so much. We also disagree on Koop’s value as this spot could be too high for her. What we do agree on is Hayden Patriquin at #28 is too high. He played mixed with ALW and men’s with James Ignatowich in season 1, both 1st round selections for season 2. The public loves Hayden Patriquin, but does that possibly come from wanting to root for a swaggy, small kid who is not scared of the moment? Tyler Loong continues to be good value in MLP drafts and slots in well for this team as a 4th round pick. This team looks fine, but nothing special. Will Parenteau prove us wrong again?
Orlando Squeeze – Anna Bright (#5), Andrei Daescu (#20), Zane Navratil (#34), Rachel Rohrabacher (#39)
Orlando was shaking and moving this draft. They confoundingly traded their #3 and #22 picks with D.C. for their #5 and #20 picks. Then they traded their #27 and #46 picks with Atlanta for #34 and #39. It doesn’t make sense to us to move away from the #3 pick. It is such an advantage as the Premier division currently sits. We like what Orlando did with each of their picks though. Anna Bright is debatably high at #5 as well, but pairing her with Andrei Daescu at that #20 slot is a solid match. We like what Orlando did with their men as Zane is now possibly undervalued at this 3rd round slot.
Rachel Rohrabacher is a huge wild card. We love the talent and were quite high on her as a possible Challenger first round pick. Anna Bright must feel strongly about Rohrabacher as we understand Rohrabacher can’t play the right yet. Rachel’s upside could be as high as anyone in this draft, including Hurricane Tyra Black. This team salvaged a weird move by making some good value picks and we are okay going for broke on a final selection with someone we had as a top 10 overall Challenger player. It might have been a higher draft grade had they not started in the #3 slot. A lot will hinge on Rohrabacher’s development.
Columbus PC – JW Johnson (#6), Meghan Dizon (#19), Maggie Brascia (#30), Collin Johns (#43)
They were dubbed the “all-personality” team facetiously by Jimmy Miller on the Dink’s live draft reaction. We are not huge energy guys for draft strategy, but this team should be better with the value JW provided at #6. The Dizon pick is solid enough in that spot but Maggie Brascia and Collin Johns were not the right picks in those slots for us, especially Collin when Loong and Koller were out there in round 4. This team is built like the season 1 Las Vegas Night Owls. Everyone fits in well theoretically but there’s not a ton of juice. Collin with JW Johnson in men’s is supposed to be good, but can Collin play men’s with someone other than Ben Johns? Can Collin play a good enough mixed with a #2 female? One of JW’s “amigos”, Gabe Tardio, was also sitting there and now drops to Challenger despite his strong performance the past 3 months.
AZ Drive – Julian Arnold (#7), Vivienne David (#18), Dekel Bar (#31), Vivian Glozman (#42)
Poor Vivienne and Dekel. They both seem to be very good people, but people love teaming them together. Their past personal stuff must no longer be a thing if people keep taking them and they likely won’t have to play mixed together on this team, but Vivienne as a #1 female hasn’t worked. People like this team from what we have seen but there is a lot that has to go right. While we wonder if Julian Arnold has gone from undervalued to overvalued as an “MLP Player”, Dekel Bar is good value in the third round of this draft as he finally doesn’t have to be a #1. On the other hand, can Dekel and Julian fit together as a men’s team? Dekel as an idea of a top player has been much better than Dekel actually being a top player in all 3 events over the past year and a half.
The other big question is where Glozman is at in her development. Braverman was here to be a steady left-sider so this is a bet on talent. We do love the talent of Glozman and think she’s going to be a really good player. However, she will see a lot of balls on the left side of the court and has admitted to still being lost on the right in mixed. She will probably be uncomfortable with either Arnold or Bar in mixed, who both love to take a ton of court. We have serious questions but, if Glozman hits, this could be a scary team.
Texas Ranchers – Dylan Frazier (#8), Jorja Johnson (#17), Lauren Stratman (#32), Travis Rettenmaier (#41)
This is another team that we felt got solid value in round 1 as Dylan Frazier could have gone higher in this draft. The fit is natural with Jorja Johnson as Frazier and the Johnson family are so close, but this team has potential holes. Johnson’s talent is there, but the results haven’t been consistent in 2023, especially in women’s doubles. We think Stratman is an end of draft Premier female, but there were others like Allyce Jones that would have made for a better selection. Travis Rettenmaier is fine with this 4th round pick, but we always wonder about the chemistry stuff with Travis Nothing is offensive about the team, and we aren’t saying things can’t go right. However, Rettenmaier hasn’t yet shown he can win consistently in men’s at the highest level. Jorja and Stratman make for a volatile women’s team. The one certainty this team should provide is Travis and Jorja Travis as a 1(a) team in mixed with Frazier once again tasked to try to get it done with his team’s #2 female. This is another team where we could see a wide range of results.
Dallas PC – James Ignatowich (#9), Callie Smith (#16), Allyce Jones (#33), Jay Devilliers (#40)
It is not clear to us if this is a winning team but this team did well considering its draft slot. James Ignatowich or Federico Staksrud was the pick for us at #9. Although Callie Smith went a little higher than where we would have her, she profiles as a #1 female. There were likely better options than Callie here. What makes this draft good is that Jones and Devilliers are both values in our eyes in the 3rd and 4th round. We have talked about Allyce in our other team’s grades, but it feels like her draft stock has fallen for no reason other than she isn’t in the spotlight following the split with Lea Jansen. Jay falling to the 4th round feels like too far. Devilliers brings it in all 3 events and you know you’re getting a guy that will compete as hard as anyone out there. As a #2 guy in this spot, he can basically be a pseudo #1 in the 40th selection. Devilliers could be the Thomas Wilson of the season 2 draft. Again, our grade on this team is not necessarily indicative of how good they will be overall, but we think they did very well with their draft slot.
Atlanta Bouncers – Parris Todd (#10), Simone Jardim (#15), Pablo Tellez (#27), Hunter Johnson (#46)
Zane Navratil questioned half-jokingly whether this team is the Clean Cause of season 2. This APP all-star team does seem to be questionable. Parris went too high at #10 for both of us. Simone probably went around where she should at #15, maybe slightly high. The question, once again, is what does this team get you? Parris and Simone have been undefeated at APP events, but they have been pushed to close matches by players who did not get drafted Premier.
They swapped their 3rd and 4th round picks with Orlando to take Tellez and Hunter Johnson. Tellez is the one sort of “value” slot we feel that Atlanta got. Otherwise, it seems like Hunter Johnson was picked because of how close he is with Parris and Simone. As a borderline Premier player, Hunter will probably played mixed with Parris, but they haven’t been dominant on the APP. If your 1st and 4th round picks can’t dominate on the APP, it is fair to question how it will go at MLP. Tellez and Simone should form a competitive mixed team. Once again, we just aren’t sure what this roster gets you. Great chemistry? With a Premier spot on the line for 2024, Atlanta may have wanted to worry more about pickleball and less about marketing for this draft.
Bay Area Breakers – Lea Jansen (#11), Etta Wright (#14), Rafa Hewett (#35), Connor Garnett (#38)
This is one of the three teams that went female/female to start off this draft, Jansen/Wright should be a scary women’s team, but some of the value you get with one of Jansen or Etta goes away a bit with them having to play the right. Of course, Rithcie Tuazon’s 2nd team takes Rafa Hewett with its 3rd round slot.. Lea and Rafa are familiar with each other from their PNW days, and you have good right/left side pairings with the guys. It was always going to be a question whether you could fit Garnett in with a later pick on the left side. Honestly, we don’t know what a lot of these teams get you and the guys are what we are most concerned with. Apparently, we just question all the MLP players as Rafa is a question mark at this slot in the draft. He’s becoming more properly valued in MLP, but this felt slightly early. If Garnet keeps improving big time, this team may have something. We can’t help ourselves. Doubting Ritchie Tuazon again. We clearly do not think alike!
Miami PC – Federico Staksrud (#12), Tyson McGuffin (#13), Hurricane Tyra Black (#36), Mary Brascia (#37)
Interesting to see Miami do the exact same thing as Frisco in season 1. Will this be déjà vu? We like the Staksrud/McGuffin pairing better than Zane/Matt Wright on paper. Both men are strong in all 3 events and they probably both play an underrated mixed but we don’t like the male-male strategy when there was an expectation of a big run on women from the 2nd round to the early third round.
Mary Brascia is our biggest dislike of the draft. We think she is borderline Premier at best, and likely should have gone down to Challenger. Braverman and Susannah Barr were both here as proven players if the team wanted more proven talent with some upside. Still, Mary B finds herself in a good situation though, where we presume she will play mixed with Federico – they have strong results together. How good is Hurricane? Is the hype real? We are lower than consensus on Tyra even though we really like the talent she possesses. You’re looking for a lot of things to go right here to be a contender. It’s not impossible, but let’s see.
Notable Undrafted Women
Jillian Braverman – Clearly, people hate Braverman even more than we thought. Personality stuff aside, we thought she was too good to stay in Challenger. Not only did she stay in Challenger, she went 5th overall there. At a certain point, can’t players tolerate whatever issues they have with her for 3 events?
Susannah Barr – It’s not shocking Barr didn’t go to Premier. However, we had her in our top 24 women for season 1, and we had her in there again for season 2. You need a team around her that can cover for her sub-par, but now passable, singles game. Barr needed the right situation to get drafted and those were available, but it didn’t happen for whatever reason.
Yana Grechkina – People are really low on Yana and we wonder if that’s because she played on such a bad Frisco team. She has stretches of inconsistent play but she has some very strong PPA results this year.
Notable Undrafted Men
Gabe Tardio – Surprised he dropped after such a good San Clemente MLP event and two PPA semi-finals recently. He’s a Premier player who happens to find himself in Challenger. A good 6 month stretch will put him back in the Premier conversation.
Rob Nunnery – A lot of people thought Nunnery should be Premier, including Nunnery himself, as he should. Commendably, he has been public with his health battles this year and, without any pick-ups in Challenger, that would be scary to lose him and have to take a sub. When you’re a borderline guy to start with, that is enough to keep you out of Premier. Who knows though, maybe it is just politics
Stefan Auvergne – He seems to profile as a Quad-A guy, which is baseball speak meaning too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. He doesn’t seem ready for Premier but he may be able to dominate Challenger.
DJ Young – He was a near lock to go down to Challenger. If he wants to be a Premier player, he’s going to have to show in these next 6 months that he’s not just a talented guy that will never put it together. We’re still waiting.
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