Free agency is set to begin as soon the clock strikes midnight on February 1. The anticipation is high, the rumor mill is robust and time has seemed to slow to a crawl as we count down the minutes until February.
In case you've been living under a rock for the past 2 months, Circle City Wiffle is moving forward with 6 franchises - the 8 Balls, Hounds, Moonshots, Pork Pistols, Short Shorts and Yakkers. The committee then appointed a manager/coach to each franchise - Mike Speek, Dylan Jones, Will Smithey, Thomas Hopkins, Brendan Dudas and Rudy Lyon.
The managers were tasked with drafting their franchise duo partner in reverse order of their player value. The results of that draft are below:
Hounds: Dylan Jones, Jake Sprinkle
Pork Pistols: Thomas Hopkins, Reid Werner
8 Balls: Mike Speek, Taylor DeHart
Short Shorts: Brendan Dudas, Aidan Palmer
Yakkers: Rudy Lyon, Cade Luker
Moonshots: Will Smithey, Tyler Gregory
Instead of daydreaming about the unknown potential of next month, let's take a step back and analyze what we're taking for granted: these incredibly exciting 2022 Franchise Duos.
The tools we have at our disposal are previous years' raw stats, hitting/pitching values and the good ol' fashioned Mike Speek Sr. Eye Test (patent pending). Let's do what any good statistician would do and MASH 'EM TOGETHER! Here we go.
#1) 8 Balls: Speek/DeHart
Duo value: 92.8 (5th)
I love love LOVE this duo, and I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment. Mike Speek is as steady and dependable as they come, and he's the PERFECT coach for a volatile player like Taylor DeHart. This duo is balanced, it's (ridiculously) good looking and it's going to win a LOT of games in 2022. DeHart had an outside shot at MVP in 2021, and I think Speek helps him reach new heights this summer. The biggest question mark here is Speek's health and commitment level with retirement on the horizon, but I'm confident he'll counter those concerns with a great performance in free agency. Not many people can recruit quite like Mike Sr.
#2) Pork Pistols: Hopkins/Werner
Duo value: 109.6 (2nd)
Thomas Hopkins was one of the bigger surprises in 2021 and a massive reason the Pistols were just a few plays away from knocking off the Shorts in the semis. Regression is a definite possibility here, but Thomas will no longer have to be his team's best player with Reid Werner in the fold. That's a scary thought. There are only a few guys I would rank above both Thomas and Reid when it comes to guys who really THINK their way through games. They'll be level-headed, well-prepared and nicely positioned to make a run at the Dirtyard Classic title... as long as Thomas doesn't throw his back out trying to put a base in.
#3) Moonshots: Smithey/Gregory
Duo value: 127.1 (1st)
I need to preface this analysis by saying that I mean absolutely ZERO disrespect toward Tyler Gregory, one of CCW's premier fielders and clutch hitters... BUT! This ranking is largely based on Will Smithey's dominance. His cap hit is 100... 1-0-0! The next closest? Reid Werner at 66.7. This is AFTER I manipulated the data to close that gap between Will and the rest of the field. He's an absolute beast and could lead a group of traffic cones to a solid season. You add in a player like T-Greg and ShEeEeEeSh!
#4) Yakkers: Lyon/Luker
Duo value: 104.6 (3rd)
Rudy Lyon shocked most of us by selecting Cade Luker in the duo draft, but upon further review, I love the pick. Rudy comes in at #3 in CCW's total value metric (7th in hitting and 8th in pitching). His #3 overall ranking shows you just how rare GOOD 2-way players are in CCW. Rudy brings consistent two-way value. Cade Luker brings thump, ceiling and good looks to this duo. The sophomore slump hasn't really existed up to this point in CCW, so (knock on wood) we should see Cade continue to improve as a hitter. He spent the entire season tucked between approximately 726 Hacker hitters, so don't be surprised to see him jump into the Silver Slugger conversation this year. He's sneaky good and that sneaky label won't last long.
#5) Hounds: Jones/Sprinkle
Duo value: 90.4 (6th)
This duo's ceiling concerns me. They lack speed and fielding, and both players accumulate ALL of their value from a single skill - Dylan Jones's from hitting and Jake Sprinkle's from pitching. When you combine them, you get a sum that's average at hitting and pitching, yet still doesn't offer any speed, base running or fielding. Free agency will be VERY important for these two, and they must be calculated with each signing. One thing that can't be quantified is the relationship between Jones and Sprinkle. While many of these duos are inviting new players into their circle, these two have been competing together at a high level dating back to their days at UIndy. One thing is certain: this team will absolutely find itself at the top of the beer drinking standings.
#6) Short Shorts: Dudas/Palmer
Duo value: 101.6 (4th)
The definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. Welp... Brendan Dudas and Aidan Palmer are RUNNIN' IT BACK, PEOPLE! Grab your popcorn, snag a can of Bud Light from the brand new Dirtyard mini-fridge (thanks, Drake!) and enjoy the (sh*t) show! If you want actual analysis, here it is: Dudas' turned in the best offensive season in CCW history in 2021 and Palmer has shown flashes of being an elite level arm. Think of this duo like an 8-leg parlay. If everything hits, it's time to celebrate, but... don't hold your breath on the +10,000 odds.
As I got to the end of this piece, I realized I was actually just writing a sales pitch for each team's potential free agents. Hear that? That's the sound of the Short Shorts' stock price slamming into the floor.
I want to note that I believe the actual standings are going to be REALLY tight. Yes, I ranked the Hounds and Shorts as 5th and 6th, but I think we'll see a ton of flip-flopping in the standings this season. There are still 4 spots to fill on each team, which will change things significantly.
PLEASE leave your thoughts! I'm excited to hear them.