MLL Trade Value: Part 2

If you missed the first part of this Trade Value series, you can find it here. Before I get back to it, some thoughts on the LXM “draft”:

Teams started randomly tweeting out their new pickups before the league could make a formal announcement. All of a sudden some draft picks were forfeited unless the Steve Mock trade produces a draft pick for the Lizards in which case a different draft pick is forfeited. It was a madness that rivaled this year’s supplemental draft, but Lacrosse Magazine does a great job clarifying here.

Kyle Harrison went first to the Ohio Machine (who also snagged the crafty finisher Erik Krum). Both these guys bring big-time talent to Ohio. I’ll let that be the story for the Machine–not the overplayed “veteran presence on a young team” narrative. Sure, Harrison has won championships and brings leadership to the Machine; but if that were all he offered, then the Machine would’ve taken Shamel Bratton or Sam Bradman. Let’s not discredit K18 by labeling him a “veteran” when he is still a star.

The Cannons grabbed defensive midfielder Brendan Porter (No. 47 on this list) and former Team USA defenseman Eric Martin. Paul Rabil is happy about his team’s defense getting “beefier.” I’m happy that the only time Porter will be covering Rabil is in practice.

Also, rumors that I included Brandon Corp (No. 46) because I lost a chugging contest to a Colgate grad at Country Fest are only partially true. Corp was undrafted in this “draft.” Whether it was because of talent or commitment, he doesn’t deserve his spot on the list. Can we pretend Marcus Holman was No. 46? I get one mulligan, right? Nobody’s perfect.

40. Mike Sawyer–M–Charlotte Hounds

Step aside, Randy Johnson. Mike Sawyer is a bird’s new worst nightmare. His world record 114 miles-per-hour shot makes him one of the most exciting players in the league. The Loyola product played an instrumental role in Charlotte’s 2013 playoff run. I’ve said that he is the Stephen Curry of lacrosse. Now he has his Klay Thompson in Mike Chanenchuk. I can’t wait to watch them play together. When the Hounds are playing and I’m not in front of a television, I get anxiety. Sawyer is that fun to watch.

39. Joe Fletcher–D–New York Lizards

I’ve seen Fletcher play live three times. Twice at Gillette Stadium in 2012 when his team let up a combined eight goals against Notre Dame and Maryland to win a National Championship. I was too impressed by the team defense and the massive Loyola tailgate/crowd to judge Fletcher’s individual play.

Last spring, I made the trip to Johns Hopkins for their homecoming game. Fletcher absolutely shut down Wells Stanwick. On that day (April 27, 2013), I joined the Fletcher bandwagon. I rode that bandwagon smugly (and eventually, uncomfortably) when he turned heads at the Champion Challenge.

Now, I have a little more legroom. In Loyola’s first two games the Greyhounds allowed 25 points. James Pannell, Mark Cockerton and Shane Sturgis posted hat tricks against them. Some have jumped off the bandwagon. Many are panicking.

Not me, though. I’ve belonged to a lot of bandwagons in my time: the 2004-05 Illinois men’s basketball team, Child Rebel Soldier, Tim Tebow, THE EVƎNT. Each has faced much tougher obstacles along the way: Sean May, egos, 15-yard passes and an easily-distracted audience.*

Fletcher will be fine. He is the only collegiate player on Team USA and the highest 2014 draftee on this Trade Value series. You can’t pull me off the Fletcher bandwagon. I’m here to stay!

(*I belong to that easily-distracted audience. Non-linear storytelling can make or break a show. The Walking Dead doesn’t do it enough; LOST did it just right; THE EVƎNT did it way too much. If I have to rewind more than once per episode because I’m confused, then you need to scale it back.)

38. John Ranagan–M–Rochester Rattlers

Ranagan is the last of a long line of dodging midfielders from Johns Hopkins. Unlike his predecessors (Paul Rabil, Kyle Harrison and Stephen Peyser), Ranagan moves primarily north-and-south. He uses his size and speed to attack the heart of the defense and get high-percentage shots. When the Rattlers’ clear the crease and Ranagan gets a full head of steam, nobody wants to slide adjacent into this:

His shooting statistics (10 games, 18 goals, 62 adjusted shooting percentage) were impressive for a rookie. After sending Ned Crotty and Matt Striebel out of town, the Rattlers seem prepared to hand Ranagan the keys to the car. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in a full season.

37. Peet Poillon–M–Chesapeake Bayhawks

Sawyer’s shot is fun to watch because of pure speed; Poillon’s shot is pure creativity. He has an abundance of release points in his arsenal, he changes planes tremendously well, and his elaborate windup sets up ankle-breaking fakes. Check out this deep two-pointer early in the possession:

Poillon takes a crow hop, drops his stick and releases a side-armed bomb. That’s a beautiful shot. Now look at Poillon dodging from behind the cage. His question mark dodge lands him in a bad shooting area, but he releases overhand to increase his angle. Somehow, he sneaks the ball through the infamous Sweatpants:

This summer, Poillon will try to extend his streak of 20-goal seasons to five. I’m worried that he won’t be able to take as many shots as he did in Charlotte. Ben Rubeor might want to start running to the endline now, because these Bayhawks midfielders are going to let the shots fly…

36. Ben Hunt–M–Chesapeake Bayhawks

The Bayhawks have won three of the last four MLL Championships because of their ability to create mismatches. Every year, their midfield is too deep, too fast and too strong for opponents. So what earns Hunt a spot on this list over his linemates?

Steven Brooks is a phenomenal shooter [and a capable two-way midfielder], but he is turning 30 years old this summer and cannot create offense with the ball in his crosse like Hunt. Kyle Dixon is probably the face of the Bayhawks midfield, but his eight percent shooting this summer made Harry Dunne look like a sniper:

Hunt is a matchup nightmare for defenses. He has the size, speed and shooting of an elite MLL midfielder. Most importantly, Hunt takes his game to the next level in the postseason. He is a career two PPG player in the regular season; in seven career postseason games, he has 21 points. I don’t care if it’s a small sample size. That’s clutch.

35. Brian Karalunas–LSM–New York Lizards

Typically a long stick midfielder, Karalunas was given some quirky assignments this season due to a lack of close defensemen on the Lizards’ roster. The Lizards’ team defense wasn’t pretty this season, but The Camper had some outstanding individual performances. Karalunas has great footwork and an active stick. Watch him deny Steele Stanwick’s every move and eventually take the ball from him:

Here he is against Ryan Boyle. Karalunas dominates on-ball by forcing a bad pass and then off-ball by picking off a feed from Rabil:

With the addition of Fletcher, Luke Duprey, Kyle Hartzell and Brendan Buckley, the Lizards might be able to move Karalunas back to his natural position this summer. Wherever he is on the field, his stick will be in his opponent’s hands annoying the crap out of them.

34. John Galloway–G–Rochester Rattlers

33. Drew Adams–G–New York Lizards

Putting a price tag on a goalie is tough. There are only eight MLL teams; realistically, you could win a title with Jesse Schwartzman, Drew Adams, John Galloway, Kip Turner, Brett Queener, Adam Ghitelman, Brian Phipps or Jordan Burke. Yes, the same Jordan Burke who posted a 14.82 GAA this summer (mainly due to weak defensive midfield). After all, he is just two years removed from being a championship goaltender. Maybe even Cannons draftee Austin Kaut can take you to a championship.

Obviously these goaltenders are not all interchangeable, but for the most part they belong to one or two fairly equal tiers. Because of that, it is tough to rank them. If you are Charlotte, do you trade Sawyer (No. 40) for Adams (No. 33) to upgrade from Ghitelman (unranked)? I don’t think you do. As good as two-time MLL Goaltender of the Year Drew Adams is, he isn’t that much better than Ghitelman.

To be clear, that’s not a knock on Adams. It’s a nod to Ghitelman and the other goalies who missed this list. Turner fell into Chesapeake’s lap in the 2011 MLL Expansion Draft. They’ve won two titles in two years with him. Until the league expands and there are actually teams with bad goalies, nobody will want to trade much for one.

32. Chris Eck–FO–Boston Cannons

Face off specialists are a completely different story than goalies. There aren’t eight guys in the top tier. Take a look at the save percentages of the eight goalies in 2013:

.597, .586, .571, .549, .525, .524, .504, .497

Like I mentioned earlier, you’d be okay with most of these guys on your team. How do you split these guys into tiers? Schwartzman, Queener and Turner are Class A [elite]; Adams, Galloway and Phipps are Class B [really, really good]; Burke and Ghitelman are Class C [mocked for being bad but, in reality, not nearly bad enough to single-handedly lose you a game].

Maybe you split them into two tiers. Or maybe, if you take their entire career’s work, you look at them as one tier of championship-caliber goaltenders. That’s not how you split up the face off guys. Take a look at their percentages from 2013:

.641, .599, .551, .500, .480, .453, .441, .415

That’s a much bigger range with more clear-cut tiers. Greg Gurenlian (.641) is in a class of his own; so is Eck (.599) and so is Kelly (.551). There is some serious value in owning one of those top face off guys. Gurenlian, Eck and Kelly can win you five or six extra possessions in a typical MLL game.

Other than those three, only Mike Poppleton (.500) managed to tread water at the X. The rest of the face off specialists (Adam Rand, Tim Fallon, John Ortolani and Eric O’Brien) really hurt their teams. The gap between O’Brien and The Beast is a lot wider than the gap between Burke and Schwartzman. So, while face offs and goaltending are equally important elements in the game of lacrosse, the value of a dominant face off specialist in today’s MLL is higher than the value of a dominant goaltender.

31. Chris Bocklet–A–Denver Outlaws

The second-highest-rated Bocklet on this list will have a tough time topping his 2013 season. In his first full year as a pro, Chris averaged a hat trick per game. He transitioned from Steele Stanwick’s UVA offense to the Outlaws’ midfield-oriented without a hiccup. If there is a lacrosse Mensa, then Chris attends monthly meetings. His lacrosse IQ is off the charts.

Lacrosse fans have been so busy drooling over Chesapeake’s moves, that we’ve overlooked a major change out west. The Ontario Outlaws of Denver added John Grant Jr. (Peterborough), Cam Flint (Georgetown) and Jeremy Noble (Orangeville) to an offense that already had Zack Greer (Whitby). While preparing for the FIL World Championship this summer, those four should develop decent chemistry. It won’t take long for the seam-seeking Bocklet to gel with his Canadian teammates. I fully expect another 35-goal season and at least 50 comments per YouTube video wondering why the defense always leaves him open.

(Sidenote: Speaking of Canada, what gives them the right to say, “#WeAreWinter”? How come nobody is challenging that claim? If Canada is winter, then what is everyone on Game of Thrones so afraid of? Sure, the Canadian hockey team might be the best sports team I have ever seen. I still don’t buy it. Canada might be hockey, but Russia is winter. They won the most medals in Sochi. Canada is too polite; it is a cup of hot cocoa after a day of sledding, but it is definitely not winter.)

Click here to continue to Part 3.

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