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Meet the Men's Newcomers in MLP Season 2 Draft

by Guest Author on

MLP Season 1 wrapped up in a Super Finals in San Clemente, California on Monday, June 19th.

On July 12th, the 2023 MLP Season 2 draft will kick off. This article provides a quick glimpse into some men’s players who did not play in the first season of MLP in 2023 that may have a shot at getting drafted in Season 2.

The first five men I want to list are five guys who played in the Challenger Level in Season 1 at some point, but were not on rosters at the end of the season.

These players were dropped either due to injury, or poor performance: Jeff Warnick, Brandon French, Chuck Taylor, Pesa Teoni, and Andreas Siljestrom.

Warnick is hilarious - if you have never seen him play, please go watch some of his videos. He is 40 years old, balding, stands at least 6’2”, wears a headband and glasses, dresses terribly, and talks so much trash, I don’t think he knows what he is saying half the time. Entertaining, but not MLP level.

From this list, I think Pesa and Brandon have the highest likelihood of getting picked up in the Challenger Level again for Season 2. For Brandon, it just depends on when his wrist will be good to go.

Pesa is a very athletic lefty who is coming off a championship in the Arizona Pickleball League with Caden Nemoff, and he is playing solidly on the APP Tour.

He is regularly medaling with Andrei Daescu in Men’s and getting some good results with Shelby Bates in Mixed.

He only got one event in Daytona before being cut by the AZ Drive, who’s strategy in Season 1 was to play musical chairs as much as possible. Spoiler alert - it didn’t work so well for them.

Here are ten names of Men’s players that are on my radar for MLP Season 2. I am only using players who actually applied to get drafted. Lucy and Matt are sitting out Season 2.

Also, sadly, I didn't see Jack Sock on the list of applicants. If you haven't seen it, here is the list.

I have my list of ten players broken up into three categories:

  • Very Intriguing
  • Interesting
  • Long Shots

Very Intriguing

Jordan Kinney

Age: 28 Doubles DUPR: 6.61 Singles DUPR: N/A

When the list of applicants came out, my first reaction to seeing his name at number 18 was, "Who?!?" He's got a very high doubles DUPR score, but DUPR isn't everything. First, the most recent pro event Jordan played was in October of 2022. Second, I couldn't find any mixed doubles matches, just men's doubles. Third, he seems to be a full time financial advisor and may not have the time to put in becoming a touring pro. GMs will have to figure out what his situation is to give him serious consideration for the Challenger Level.

Kento Tamaki

Age: 29 Doubles DUPR: 6.36 Singles DUPR: 5.97

He is a Hawaiian player and has been playing men’s doubles with Jaume Martinez Vich on the PPA Tour lately.. There are two big question marks for Tamaki. First, does he want to commit himself to pro pickleball? Second, I couldn’t find a single rated match he played of mixed doubles. In MLP style play you need to be able to play gender doubles AND mixed doubles at a very high level.

Jake Kusmider

Age: 24 Doubles DUPR: 6.35 Singles DUPR: 7.02

The lefty is a phenomenal singles player - currently ranked the 5th best in the world, according to DUPR. He plays on the APP Tour and has mixed in some PPA Tour events this year as well. He has had a ton of different partners in the last year. He can obviously cover a ton of ground due to his singles prowess. Does he have the offensive firepower needed for mixed doubles in MLP? GMs will have to figure that out.

Interesting

Eric Roddy

Age: 29 Doubles DUPR: 6.39 Singles DUPR: 6.35

Roddy is a fringe player who doesn’t tour full-time. If you look at his LinkedIn profile, it seems like he is pretty much good at everything. He likes data, football, and pickleball. Oh yeah, he is also an AVP at a large bank too - NBD. Roddy has not had the results necessary to get a long look from MLP GMs. He usually loses early in the PPA tour and then does well in the back draw in gender doubles. I haven’t seen him play much mixed doubles at all, so that could obviously hold him back. His commitment to pickleball full time and his lack of mixed doubles experience are two of Roddy’s weaknesses.

Joey Farias

Age: 35 Doubles DUPR: 6.31 Singles DUPR: 6.08

Farias played MLP in 2022, but didn’t get picked up in 2023 Season 1. He was a very good tennis player and then had pretty bad back problems. His athleticism has declined in his mid thirties. Interestingly, he plays straight up with his regular men’s partner in the APP, Andreas Siljestrom. In mixed, he has some fairly good results in the APP with his regular partner, Lee Whitwell. So so results on the APP Tour is not a recipe for success in MLP, but with his previous experience in MLP, maybe an owner/GM would take a risk due to having known him from last year.

Marshall Brown

Age: 27 Doubles DUPR: 6.37 Singles DUPR: 6.32

Marshall Brown and Joey Farias have both played together as well. Brown’s DUPR is slightly higher in both singles and doubles. In mixed doubles, Brown seems to have a new partner every event, which is pretty typical of the lower level men - there are just not as many touring female pros, so he has to find new partners seemingly every week. Brown could be a Challenger Level player with the right partners and chemistry.

Related: Major League Pickleball Names New CEO

Austin Gridley

Age: 27 Doubles DUPR: 6.32 Singles DUPR: 6.02

Gridley is very much in the Roddy, Farias, Brown, type realm. He has played with a bunch of different partners and is finishing well in APP, but not great. If a GM is looking outside MLP Season 1 candidates for Challenger Level they are going to need to watch a lot of tape from the APP Tour and figure out the nuances of each of these above-mentioned players.

Ryan Sherry

Age: 39 Doubles DUPR: 6.36 Singles DUPR: 6.63

The Sherbear is an extremely solid player and could hold down the right side for a Challenger Level team. The former number 1 pickleball player in the world is on the downswing in terms of athleticism at 39, but still has some gas left in the tank. The MLP format is perfect for him, as Sherry is rambunctious, wild, and feeds off energy. He’s got the Rafa (Hewitt) type feel when it comes to energy. Finding him the right partners would be very important if he gets drafted.

Long Shots

Jaume Martinez Vich

Age: 29 Doubles DUPR: 6.02 Singles DUPR: 6.89

Martinez Vich made a name for himself at the PPA Texas Open. He beat the likes of Yates Johnson, Devilliers, Dylan Frazier, and Fed in singles. He also brought Ben Johns to a third game. The Spaniard played college tennis at Hawaii Pacific University and rumor has it he was a practice partner with Rafa (not Hewitt). Jaume has been getting better in men’s doubles with Kento Tamaki. He has played mixed doubles with Glauka (who may make the next article, hint hint) and has not had great results. He is a fun up and comer that seems to have devoted himself to pro pickleball.

For fun, I wanted to see if I could name a player outside of the top 100 men’s players listed on the MLP applicant list to be on the lookout for.

My choice for the longest of long shots is Nico Montoya. He is ranked number 103 on the MLP list and has a doubles DUPR of 5.97 and a singles DUPR of 6.58. He hasn’t been playing very long and played well in the Arizona Pickleball League.

He is a freaky athletic lefty player who has made some crazy videos with his flying around the court. Do I think he gets drafted? No. But with the focus on lefty players to get both forehands in the middle, could he be an up and comer in the future? Absolutely.

The Challenger Level draft is going to be so difficult. I just listed 10 + a bonus, plus 5 other players that didn’t end the season in MLP.

I didn’t mention Steve Deakin, Amrik Donkena, Alex Neumann, Altaf Merchant, Aanik Lohani, or Edin Lica. Finding the right amount of upside, consistency, and partner chemistry is so important. Who else did we miss?

The next article will be covering something similar on the women’s side.


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