Predicting Tokyo: SwimSwam 2020 US Olympians Draft

The following is a lightly edited transcript of a Slack chat that took place over the last three weeks. This is part 1 of 2. The last 4 rounds will be published in part 2. People’s opinions expressed below are their own. I’m certain some of you will disagree with some of them. Feel free to comment why our picks were so unwise or why my team is better than Jared’s. 

andrew Hello and welcome to the first ever SwimSwam mid cycle US Olympic draft. 8 SwimSwam contributors will attempt to defeat each other by drafting the best possible 2020 Olympic rosters. The goal is to determine where people’s expectations are at the mid point of the Olympic cycle. Which swimmers do we expect to dominate in Tokyo? How do we value up and coming swimmer’s chances? Do we expect aging stars to make one more team?

Points system: Individual events: Gold: 12, Silver: 8, Bronze: 4

Relay Events Finals Swimmer: Gold: 6, Silver: 4, Bronze: 2

Relay Events Prelims only swimmer: Gold 3, Silver: 2, Bronze: 1

6 points for each individual event a swimmer qualifies

Only US Swimmers competing for the US at the Olympics. Open water events not included.

Participating in the draft are myself (Andrew Mering), Braden Keith, Jared Anderson, Lauren Neidigh, Loretta Race, Reid Carlson, Robert Gibbs, and Morgan Priestley. There will be 8 rounds for a total of 64 swimmers drafted.

The draft will be conducted in a snake format (the draft order will be reversed every round).

By random draw the order of the first round will be:


Good luck to everyone. I’ll try not to defeat you all too badly.

Retta Retta picks the one & only Katie Ledecky. #sorrynotsorry

Jared Shocking!

Retta Don’t be a hater, Jared! 🙂 🙂

Reid Reid drafts number 1 recruit in the class of 2020 Regan Smith. #getatme

Jared Whoa! I knew Reid would be high on Regan, but didn’t expect this early. Very high upside pick IMO

Retta Solid

Jared Then I’m grabbing Caeleb Dressel! #1 on my draft board (yes, I made a draft board)

Reid Oh yeah, Dressel is pretty good. Solid choice. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Retta [Darn] it, Jared

andrew I had him at #1 as well. Really surprised two people passed on him.
I’ll take Simone Manuel. So many relay points.

Retta We need to do a foreign draft….I’d stomp you guys

Jared Lol I believe it
Manuel’s a nice pick. Mixed medley relay gives her another likely gold. Only question is which world record-holder she’ll be upsetting for the 100 free by Tokyo

Robert Gibbs I haven’t really crunched the numbers, but my gut says that having Ledecky and Dressel will give Retta and Jared a clear advantage over everyone else, unless some of their later picks are just complete busts.

Morgan P Yeah, without mincing words, since this is US-only, I think we’re all totally screwed lol

andrew Reid doesn’t seem to believe he needs one of those two to win

Retta Andrew – can we do a foreign draft at some point?

andrew I think a foreign draft would be worthwhile. We would probably need to modify the scoring system. Just making an Olympic roster isn’t as difficult in other countries

Lauren Half points for swimmers who aren’t human

Robert Gibbs I guess I’m up, right? I’m going with Ryan Murphy, banking on him defending his backstroke titles.

Lauren [Darn] it Robert

Morgan P Gah. Smart.

Jared I agree on Ledecky and Dressel. I was mad to draw the 3rd pick 🙂 But I think Regan Smith was maybe the only other swimmer with the ceiling to be in that points ballpark. Just more unknown right now because she’s younger

Robert Gibbs Sorry, Lauren. If you really want a Bolles guy, you can always take a flier on Santo, hoping he’ll change his sporting nationality again. 🙂

Retta Santo’s too busy giving the model pout in emo black turtlenecks

Morgan P I’ll never understand his insta lol

Lauren Whose turn is it
BrAdEn WhErE u At?

Robert Gibbs No rush.

Lauren But I’m last so I’m impatient

Morgan P Lol

Jared I heard Braden is strongly considering drafting Gold Medal Mel at #6 #comeback

Morgan P Love the idea of a combined US/rest-of-world draft.. deep enough to make things suuuuuper interesting

Braden Keith I can’t believe Jared got Caeleb Dressel at #3.
I’ll take Mallory Comerford. Her and King are the next two logical choices, but Comerford now with 4 relay potential, and could make the team in 3 or 4 individuals.

Retta BK – 4 individs for Comerford? I like the girl,
but not happening

Morgan P Good call, Braden. Gimme King.

Robert Gibbs It’ll be interesting to see what King can do in the 200 by Tokyo, and how the Team USA chooses to construct its mixed medley relay team. King could very well end up with four medals.

Lauren [Darn] it

Braden Keith Yeah, Lauren’s almost definitely going to lose this.
Unless Reid continues to lose on purpose

Lauren I pick Haas for first round

Robert Gibbs Ah. Was hoping he’d slide to the next round.


Round Summary:

Retta Katie Ledecky
Reid Regan Smith
Jared Caeleb Dressel
Andrew Simone Manuel
Robert Ryan Murphy
Braden Mallory Comerford
Morgan Lilly King
Lauren Townley Haas


Lauren Since I’m going to lose anyways I’m going to go with some unlikely options from now on to see what happens lmao
Well no. This round I’ll go Adrian. Next round I’ll do wildcards

Jared Adrian is the quintessential safe pick. Kind of insane that a guy who will be 32 by Tokyo is still such a frontrunner. But he’s just a consistent presence. He’s the guy you’d start in fantasy football every week. I think he’s got a pretty big point ceiling with relays in the mix (especially assuming Dressel swims fly on the medleys)

andrew Adrian will still be 3 years younger than Ervin was in Rio. Sprinters age well.

Retta Ervin is an exception…16 yrs apart???

Morgan P Man.
What now?
Screw it, Leah Smith. Gimme those silver medals.
Plus the all-but-automatic 4×2 Gold

Braden Keith Adrian will be 3 years older than Cielo was in Rio, watching from the stands. Not all sprinters age well.

Chase Kalisz. No relay swims limits his ceiling, but 24 points from two individual golds in the IMs are the safest bet left

Jared I think Kalisz sees himself as a Phelps-type. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to add 200 FL/200 BR to show off his versatility. Not sure he makes the team in them, but there’s some points upside there

Morgan P Kalisz was who I was debating with

andrew Smith has a higher ceiling, but there’s more risk than with Kalisz. She might be fast enough to win those silvers, but Claire Tuggle could keep improving and knock her off the team in some of those distance events.

Morgan P Ooooh good call on Tuggle
But if Smith is getting beat by anyone, it’s someone puttin up an all-time great performance, so I’ll live with it

Robert Gibbs I think I’ve got to go with Kelsi (Worrell) Dahlia here. Could end up on 3 relays, and will still have a chance at an individual medal as well.

Jared Good call. I had her as the last blue-chip swimmer left on the board. Nobody else is really the clear front runner for both their individual stroke 100 and the medley relay. Plus if that sprint free keeps coming around, big relay possibilities

andrew Ella Eastin. This is a risky pick, but her yards times are too fast to pass on. She lacks a long course pedigree, but she has two years to figure it out. I think her ceiling is Maya DiRado in Rio.

Jared Boy, this is tougher than round 1.

Morgan P Yeah buddy

Jared Give me Kathleen Baker. This is tough for me because I’m a big believer that Regan Smith will take over the top backstroke spot. But that’s still speculation. And Baker did win three medals last summer and is still improving

Retta [Darn], both Dahlia & Kalisz were on my board!

2020 is too early for Tuggle

Morgan P Going way back here, is santo as… interesting as his insta is?

Lauren Yes.

Morgan P Lol perfect

Reid I’ll take Kevin Cordes this round.

Braden Keith Bold. For an extra 2 points, where will Kevin Cordes be training in 2020?
(I don’t have the authority to give out extra points)

Jared Cordes has been fast everywhere he’s trained: Arizona, Singapore, Canada (wasn’t he in Canada with Nagy at one point?), Auburn. I think he’ll be ok wherever he goes.
Though on the flip side, I’m staying away from male breaststrokers because there are about 8 different guys I could see being the top dog by 2020 and I have no clue which one it’s gonna be

Braden Keith Breaking News: Jared says he’s NOT picking Michael Andrew in the draft.

Robert Gibbs Or it could be stategery on his part…

Jared The game’s afoot…

Robert Gibbs Lauren needs to take MA and Dean Farris in the next 2 rounds as part of her wildcard strategy…

Lauren Hahahaha

Retta Retta takes Jack Conger
2fly and at least 4×2 relay for Jacko
I believe I’m up again straight away

Robert Gibbs He was going to be my next pick if available. He should be a lock for a medal on the 4×200 at a minimum, and might currently be the favorite for the number 2 spot in the 100 fly behind Dressel, which would give him a near-automatic gold on the medley relay.
And that’s not even mentioning the 200 fly or individual 200 free.


Round 2 Summary:

Lauren Nathan Adrian
Morgan Leah Smith
Braden Chase Kalisz
Robert Kelsi Dahlia
Andrew Ella Eastin
Jared Kathleen Baker
Reid Kevin Cordes
Retta Jack Conger


Retta I *should* take Margalis as next pick…..but I’m taking a chance w/ Michael Andrew….gotta good feeling on his 50 free & possibly 1breast.

Robert Gibbs Go big or go home. 🙂

Retta Can I get a round of applause for the haters?

Reid Zane Grothe, I choose you!

Robert Gibbs Gotta catch ‘em all

Jared That’s a good pick. I wonder what Grothe is gonna go LCM after his killer short course season
Then I’m gonna take Blake Pieroni

Robert Gibbs Grothe and Pieroni were the two at the top of my list. Guess we’re thinking about the same.

Retta Save Grothe, US men’s distance is a big question mark at present.

Robert Gibbs Have to think some young gun is going to step up in the next two years.

Retta Pieroni is a solid, solid pick. Dude could rack up relay points
Abbruzzo is brewing…needs to boil soon

andrew I’ll take Melanie Margalis.

Retta She was my tossup w/ MA…went with the kid

andrew Margalis was the conservative pick. She’s a relatively safe bet for the 800 FR and has a chance at an individual medal in the 2IM. Lacks the upside of MA.

Robert Gibbs Been debating all day, but I’m going to go with Clark Smith here.

Retta If you get him on a good day…..

Robert Gibbs Braden’s up next, right?

Braden Keith What are the odds that Zach Apple training with Coley Stickels knocks off Adrian for the #2 spot in either the 50 or the 100, or both?

Robert Gibbs He’s definitely one of about 5 or 6 guys I see in the mix for the 2nd spot in the 100 free. Adrian, Apple, Haas, Held, Pieroni.

Braden Keith Olivia Smoliga is my choice, tho

Robert Gibbs I nearly picked her instead of Smith.

andrew She might miss the team in her best event, but if she makes it she’s a medal contender.

Robert Gibbs Yeah, in the end I liked Smith’s chances of making the team just a bit more, thanks to the addition of the 800 free.
(Clark Smith)

Retta There’s probably 1 other sprinter I’ll take pre-Apple

Morgan P Jeeeeez we’re running thin here…

Braden Keith I think what that tells us is that there are about 22 or 23 really good bets to make the team right now. So, about half of the slots on the team seem to be wide-open 2 years out.

andrew Agreed. That’s why I’m more interested in the results of the second half of this draft than the first half. We all know Ledecky is going to be great, but there is room for a lot of different opinions on who will make up the bottom half of the team.

Morgan P K, have pressure-tested a few wacky ideas, but gonna go with Grevers
One-trick pony, so I may bust here. Buuuut old man on fire, has a nice gap over everyone not named Murphy, and individual qualifications/medals are worth a lot

Jared I like Grevers as a pick. If he makes the team, I think he gets prelims relay swims just on legacy. More medals

Robert Gibbs Was just thinking about him as one of the veterans that I wouldn’t yet count out.

Morgan P Just went 53.7 two weeks ago, and only has one focus, so fingers crossed

Robert Gibbs I’d say Ress looks like his main competition for that 2nd spot.

Morgan P Yeahhhh… He was one of the ones who I was debating between, but peak Grevers has a decent over peak Ress

Lauren Okay. My 3rd round pick is Missy Franklin
I have to think about my 4th

Morgan P Ahh yes

andrew You did promise to pick wildcards

Morgan P Very strong wildcard pick


Round 3 Summary

Retta Michael Andrew
Reid Zane Grothe
Jared Blake Pieroni
Andrew Melanie Margalis
Robert Clark Smith
Braden Olivia Smoliga
Morgan Matt Grevers
Lauren Missy Franklin


Lauren Okay I’m doing it. My 4th round pick is Dean Farris

Retta Lauren- I wondered when Franklin would be chosen. Brave choice.

Jared Whoa! Didn’t see either of those choices coming… we’re kind of entering Hail Mary territory though

Braden Keith It feels like only about half of the participants in this draft actually want to win the contest….

Retta Reminder Tokyo is still 2 yrs away!

Morgan P There’s a pick I wanna make so, so badly right now in the same vein haha

Lauren I knew I couldn’t win before my first pick haha. I just wanna see if I don’t get last with my wildcards

Braden Keith Phelps?

Jared I do think we’re going to look back on this draft and see a handful of picks we think look great who fall off the face of the earth. And probably one or two that look crazy but end up making you look like a genius.

Braden Keith Pick Phelps

Jared If it takes some gutsy picks for a shot at genius status in two years, I get the gamble

Lauren I thought about Phelps but nah

Morgan P Gimme Pebley

Braden Keith That’s probably among the safest picks left.
I didn’t want to make this pick this early, but I think she might be gone by the time it comes back around: Gretchen Walsh.

Morgan P Yeah, good call on Walsh, Braden

Braden Keith Only choosing her over her older sister because the backstrokes are so crowded.

Morgan P She could be 2020’s Weitzeil

Robert Gibbs Yes and no. Pebley has a sizable lead on the next few guys, but there are some young guns who are rising fast.
I notice we’re light on male breaststroke and IM right now.

Jared Tells you something, doesn’t it?

Braden Keith But everyone at this point has someone on their tail. There’s no sure bets left.

Morgan P True @Robert Gibbs , but Pebley is literally doing nothing but training for the 200 back in LCM the next 2 years. I like that.

Robert Gibbs Exactly. So we are the stage where you have to guess between veterans who could make it (e.g., Pebley) and the rising stars.

Morgan P No NCAA distraction, no school, no other events besides the 100 back…

Jared I scared everyone off of breaststrokers earlier
All part of my master plan

Retta The real question is who’s gonna take Lochte

Morgan P I was about to, Retta

Braden Keith Ahhhh the #TeamLezak strategy.

Morgan P Or at least was reeeeeally thinking about it

Robert Gibbs Can a swimmer red shirt after delaying when they start college?
Either way, I’m going to go with Abbey Weitzeil here.

andrew Yes. Your 5 year clock doesn’t start until you enroll full time.

Braden Keith ^^^

andrew My pick: Bethany Galat. Brilliant track record at big meets. Even beat Lilly King in a breaststroke race at world championships.

Braden Keith Good pick! 3 event ceiling too (100 is the longest shot I’d say, 200 breast/IM more likely).
Good value there this deep in the draft.

Jared Then I believe it’s back to me
I’ll go with Zach Apple, as part of my quest to draft both the whole IU roster and the whole men’s 4×1

Robert Gibbs Wonder if he can improve his 200 free in LCM and challenge for a spot on both free relays.
Currently at 1:48

Jared That’s my thought. He’s dropping time fast in all three
But now if the men’s 4×1 DQs in Tokyo, I will be very upset

Retta Haha!!

Braden Keith Someone make a pick. Who’s up?

Robert Gibbs I think it’s Reid.

Retta Going back & forth on 2 picks….FYI there’s still at least 10 Rio Olympic medalists available.

andrew And multiple 2017 worlds individual medalists

Reid Reid is deciding.
Reid has been on the road, but has finally arrived in Morgan P’s hometown.

Lauren Reid is slow

Reid Reid IS slow. Katie Meili is not. That’s my pick.

Jared I wonder if Meili doesn’t take two light years to do the law school thing, then take sort of a gap year from school to train hard for 2020 again. If she does, she’s a huge factor I think. Unless she likes “retired” life enough that she decides not to come back

Reid I thought she was still training while at law school? Maybe not as intensely as the past couple years, but after what she did last summer, it would be a shame to retire before Tokyo.

Jared That’s true, I guess “retirement” isn’t the right word. She was pretty fast in Austin. But I think her training and competition schedule will be pretty light, and she’ll have to make a call on that by about the fall of 2019 if she wants to make a big run at Tokyo

Reid Can’t be any riskier than Missy Franklin!

Retta I’m picking Cody Miller


Round 4 summary

Lauren Dean Farris
Morgan Jacob Pebley
Braden Gretchen Walsh
Robert Abbey Weitzeil
Andrew Bethany Galat
Jared Zach Apple
Reid Katie Meili
Retta Cody Miller

The next 4 rounds will be published later. Here is a quick summary of the draft so far.

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
Retta Katie Ledecky Jack Conger Michael Andrew Cody Miller
Reid Regan Smith Kevin Cordes Zane Grothe Katie Meili
Jared Caeleb Dressel Kathleen Baker Blake Pieroni Zach Apple
Andrew Simone Manuel Ella Eastin Melanie Margalis Bethany Galat
Robert Ryan Murphy Kelsi Dahlia Clark Smith Abbey Weitzeil
Braden Mallory Comerford Chase Kalisz Olivia Smoliga Gretchen Walsh
Morgan Lilly King Leah Smith Matt Grevers Jacob Pebley
Lauren Townley Haas Nathan Adrian Missy Franklin Dean Farris

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