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Major League Pickleball

MLP Challenger Level Teams Take Center Stage and Make Plenty of Waiver Wire Additions

by Erik Tice on

On Thursday, Major League Pickleball Challenger Level teams participated in a waiver wire process, where teams were given the opportunity to change up their rosters.

PPM = Points Per Match

Round 1, Pick 1 - California Black Bears

Last place in Challenger level at 0.57 PPM 

  • Added: Susannah Barr
  • Waived: Emily Cederquist

Cederquist didn’t have a great tournament in MLP Washington D.C. I still think she is at the higher end of the women’s players in the Challenger Level and if she doesn’t get picked up in this waiver period, she for sure will in the next one.

Barr had announced that she was not playing Major League Pickleball in March prior to the MLP Draft, but has since decided to play. Weirdly, she removed the Instagram post announcing she was not playing in MLP, because we cited the post when we covered the draft.

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Round 1, Pick 2 - Chicago Slice

9th at 0.67 PPM

  • Added: Megan Fudge
  • Waived: Kelsey Grambeau

Grambeau struggled in D.C., going 0-6. Once Megan Fudge announced she wanted to play MLP again, it was only a matter of time before she was picked up in the Challenger Level. Fudge is very comfortable on the left, so she will pair well with Jack Munro and Allison Harris. 

Fudge was another player who opted out of the 2024 MLP Season in March, only to recently announce that her “schedule cleared up” and she wanted to play.

TRADE ALERT - The Miami Pickleball Club and SoCal Hard Eights exchanged picks (Miami moves to 3rd and SoCal moves to 5th) – Miami also provided cash compensation

Round 1, Pick 3 - Miami Pickleball Club (from SoCal Hard Eights)

6th at 1.43 PPM

  • Added: Bobbi Oshiro
  • Waived: Rianna Valdez

Miami has struggled to win mixed matches with Roscoe Bellamy and Rianna Valdez, going 0-7 in two events. I thought Miami may drop Bellamy, but with Oshiro back in the mix, they chose to drop Rianna Valdez. 

Oshiro is the third player in a row taken in the Challenger Level waiver wire that had initially opted out of the 2024 MLP Season. She is more consistent than Valdez and is good in singles as well. I would be surprised if Valdez doesn’t get picked up.

Round 1, Pick 4 - Florida Smash

7th at 1.29 PPM

  • Added: Yates Johnson
  • Waived: Pat Smith

I saw this coming in my preview of the waiver wire period. While Yates probably didn’t play as well as he would have hoped in D.C., he played well enough to earn himself a (more) permanent spot on the Florida Smash.

Yates is an upgrade in mixed doubles and in singles over Pat Smith, and they are very similar in men’s doubles. The other big factor here is Yates had to fill in for Smith in D.C. because Smith is dealing with an eye injury.

TRADE ALERT - SoCal trades back again. The Bay Area Breakers move up from 9th to 5th and paid cash to SoCal to move up.

Round 1, Pick 5 - Bay Area Breakers (from the SoCal Hard Eights from Miami Pickleball Club)

2nd at 2 PPM

  • Added: Jillian Braverman
  • Waived: Rachel Rettger

Yet another holdout from the initial MLP Draft, Jill Braverman announced she wasn’t playing in MLP 2024 in March

This one is shocking - Rachel Rettger literally had the best stats of any female in Challenger Level thus far in 2024. Rettger won 83 percent of her matches - 5 of 6 mixed matches and 5 of 6 women’s doubles matches. She also averaged +4.33 pts per match, second only to her former teammate, Vivian Glozman. I definitely think someone will pick Rettger up. This one came out of nowhere.

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Round 1, Pick 6 - Frisco Pandas

5th at 1.71 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

Round 1, Pick 7 - Atlanta Bouncers

T-3rd at 1.88 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

TRADE ALERT - SoCal Hard Eights get the Round 1, Pick 8 from the Brooklyn Aces for Round 2, Pick 3 and presumably cash (although cash was not initially reported).

Round 1, Pick 8 - SoCal Hard Eights (through Brooklyn Aces)

8th at 1 PPM

  • Added: Yana Newell
  • Waived: Christine Maddox

The fifth player taken in that had initially opted out of playing MLP in 2024. Newell played extremely well last year for the ... SoCal Hard Eights, going undefeated in Season 2 of 2023. 

The Hard Eights didn’t play great in their only event of the year thus far in Atlanta. Maddox was picked more for her potential than current level of play. Being from SoCal, Maddox seemed to be a perfect match for the Hard Eights - bringing a lot of positive energy with her wherever she goes. I don’t think Maddox is going to be off an MLP team for long.

Round 1, Pick 9 - SoCal Hard Eights (through Bay Area Breakers and Miami Pickleball Club)

8th at 1 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

As previously stated, today is just bonkers. So SoCal moved up five spots to take Yana and then has back-to-back picks and opts not to take anyone. Don’t get me wrong – Tim Parks and Adam Stone are both much smarter than me – I just have no idea how this made any sense.

Round 1, Pick 10 - Las Vegas Night Owls

1st at 2.2 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

A very good team actually stuck with their already very good team. Good job.

Round 2, Pick 1 - California Black Bears

Last place in Challenger level at 0.57 PPM 

  • Added: Brandon French
  • Waived: DJ Young

This tells me one thing - The DJ Young wrist injury is significant, and he will probably miss at least the next two or three MLP events. Young is arguably the best player in the Challenger Level, so the Black Bears aren’t going to just drop him without cause.

I don’t love the French pick, but if Jimmy Miller is familiar with him and Rafa kind of "signed off" on it, then I don’t know how many better options were out there (because MLP doesn’t give us an available player list). I do know one thing - the chirp game for this men’s doubles team is going to be LOUD.

I think Michael Loyd or Marshall Brown made more sense here. French’s best outing this year in mixed doubles was at the PPA Red Rock Open, where a lot of top-level players didn’t play, and he finished 23rd. His next-best finish was 34th at PPA Austin. He is better in men’s doubles with a couple of top-10 finishes on the year.

Chemistry is super important in MLP and I think if Rafa and/or Susannah Barr wanted French, then this pickup makes sense. And if this waiver period tells us anything - anyone can be dropped.

Round 2, Pick 2 - Chicago Slice

9th at 0.67 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

Round 2, Pick 3 - Brooklyn Aces (through SoCal Hard Eights)

T-3rd at 1.88 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

Round 2, Pick 4 - Florida Smash

7th at 1.29 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

Round 2, Pick 5 - Miami Pickleball Club

6th at 1.43 PPM

  • Added: Noe Khlif
  • Waived: Roscoe Bellamy

I didn’t think Miami would cut two players – they are in 6th place and seemed to be getting better in D.C. Bellamy has a ton of upside, but I predicted Miami may drop him due to his poor stat lines. He is 0-7 in mixed doubles and 3-7 in men’s doubles with Eric Oncins. 

Khlif is for sure a wild card. He has only made it out of the mixed doubles pro qualifiers ONE TIME – in Houston. He then proceeded to lose to Lauren Stratman and Etienne Blaszkewycz, 11-2, 11-4. He does have some really good results in men’s doubles – finishing 5th, 6th, and 12th – in the last three PPA Tour stops.

I would have liked to see Miami give Bellamy one more shot at the Mid-Season Tournament before letting him go.

Round 2, Pick 6 - Frisco Pandas

5th at 1.71 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

Round 2, Pick 7 - Atlanta Bouncers

T-3rd at 1.88 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

Round 2, Pick 8 - Brooklyn Aces

T-3rd at 1.88 PPM

  • Did not make any changes

Round 2, Pick 9 - Bay Area Breakers

2nd at 2 PPM

  • Added: DJ Young
  • Waived: Patrick Kawka

DJ Young was a free agent for approximately two hours before getting picked up again.

Here is the crazy news: On Wednesday morning, the team was: Vivian Glozman, Collin Shick, Patrick Kawka, and Rachel Rettger. They were in 2nd place in the Challenger Level and looking like title contenders.

Here we are two days later and here is the team: Collin Shick, Jill Braverman, Allyce Jones, and DJ Young. If you had that in your predictions you should go buy yourself a lottery ticket ASAP. 

I just can’t imagine Jimmy Miller and the California Black Bears dropping DJ if he was going to be available for the next two MLP events. So now, Bay Area is going to have to put DJ on IR during every event he can’t play, and sign a different substitute at every event.

I don’t know what to make of the craziness that the Breakers went through in the last two days. I don’t understand dropping PK for an injured DJ Young, unless PK himself is also injured. This last pick epitomizes the day for me - I knew today would see some fireworks, but there are storylines here I couldn’t have made up if I tried.

Round 2, Pick 10 - Las Vegas Night Owls

1st at 2.2 PPM

  • Did not make any changes
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Erik Tice

Erik Tice

Erik produces content for The Dink related to pro and collegiate pickleball. He is an avid watcher of pickleball and became passionate about the sport in early 2022.

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