The Grades are In
Now that the disc golf offseason is nearing an end, I thought it would be fun to grade some of the major manufacturers moves. I enjoy seeing these for other major sports and I think it makes for enjoyable discussion- let's chat in the comments below!
Before jumping in, I want to clarify that I'm trying to take into account the totality of each company's offseason moves- tournament performance, marketability, etc. That being said, if Uncle Ben taught me anything, it's that...
...and you don't get to escape that just because you're a disc golf manufacturer. So Innova has to do more than Thought Space to impress me and earn that coveted A, for example.
The grading scale will be as follows: A is great, B is solid, C is bad, and F is awful.
We're going to kick things off with Innova Discs, who control the largest piece of disc golf market share, the largest disc golf pro tour team, and a C for an offseason grade. They resigned all of their expiring contracts, most notably Hailey King and Bradley Williams, and they predictably re-upped some legends of the game in Juliana Korver and Philo. Their one addition to the squad this offseason was Emerson Keith, who came over from Lone Star after a one year stint with the upstart Texas brand. Emerson is a solid touring player and took home an Elite Series win at the OTB Open this past season, so this isn't a bad move at all. All that being said, I'm still giving them a C.
I'm tired of Innova leaking top tier talent and not replacing it. They let McBeth walk, they let Wysocki walk, they lost Anthony Barela, James Proctor, and Robert Burridge last year, and they keep missing out on big free agents- Gannon Buhr, Eagle McMahon, Gossage, Handley, Clemons, and on and on. I'm not trying to take away from Emerson, but in the last 2 years he's only had one other podium and 8 other top 10s on tour... he's not a guy that moves the needle for Innova. The addition of Eagle or Gannon to the squad this year would have thrust Innova back to the forefront of competitive play, but for now they'll have to continue to be carried by Calvin. Admittedly, Calvin CAN carry quite a bit himself, but his only other top 20 teammate is Bradley Williams- not where you want to be if you're the biggest manufacturer in the game.
Innova is currently going with a wide net strategy- they make their money on selling disc golf discs to casual players and in sporting goods stores. However, it's only a matter of time until they get hawked in that market as well if they don't make moves that appeal to more dedicated disc golf players. It looks like those of us waiting for them to make a big move will have to just keep waiting.
Next up is Discraft Discs, who I'm giving a B+. Discraft came into the offseason with a pretty stacked roster as-is. This is a different story than Innova, because although Discraft ALSO didn't land one of the big name free agents, they already have a team loaded with top end talent- Paul McBeth, Corey Ellis, Barela, Chris Dickerson, Ezra Aderhold, Adam Hammes, and Aaron Gossage, just on the MPO side. Gossage was their only big MPO resigning target for the offseason and they (finally) managed to lock him down for another 2 years. The FPO side of things is a little murky, because they inked Holyn Handley to 2 more years and I'm pretty sure they extended Valerie Mandujano and Paige Pierce, who are still advertising for Discraft (and vice versa) on socials and Discraft's website, but I haven't seen anything one way or another about their particular contract situations. This was a solid batch of re-signings for them overall.
Add on TOP of that the fact that Discraft went out and grabbed Chris Clemons and Hanna Huynh and that pushes them up to frown-nodding territory. They didn't grab Eagle or Gannon, but it would have been difficult for them to do so for reasons outside of straight cash considerations. I'm giving them a thumbs up and a B+
It's hard for me to imagine giving a better grade than this to a company that lost a top 5 player in terms of BOTH tournament performance and marketability, but Discmania Discs gets an A- after having quite the solid offseason outside of losing Eagle McMahon to MVP Discs.
Gannon Buhr is a fantastic addition to any squad, and we all expect him to continue his winning ways for quite some time. In addition to winning tournaments, there's something about having a fresh elite player on the squad that invigorates interest into some of the molds that we've had available to us for years- Simon and Eagle are great marketers and got us all pumped up for DD3s, FD3s, and the like, but there's something refreshing about hearing that recommendation from a new elite player. Gannon (and Alden too, for that matter) particularly have me intrigued about Discmania's fairways, and I'm excited to see them throwing them this year.
Discmania's name was in the middle of pretty much every offseason speculation, including turning the resigning of Niklas into a big event instead of just a casual extension. Add the extension of Gavin Babcock and the addition of Alden Harris, and they've got a lot of solid momentum going into 2024
In the last two offseasons, Discmania has LOST two of the best and most marketable players in the sport, which is obviously a big blow. But at the same time, they're recovering from it as well as they conceivably could. Discmania now has the two most recent US champions, 3 1040+ rated, top 10 players, AND probably the biggest name in European disc golf. All in all, they did good.
Latitude 64 B
Lat 64 spent its offseason bolstering their European presence. They let Tristan Tanner and Jake Hebenheimer walk, which I don't think will affect their sales or popularity much at all, they extended their guys Jakub Semerad and Lauri Lehtinen, alongside Rebecca Cox and Keiti Tatte. They added a several other European players and seem to be pushing to be preeminent in that space. For the general disc golf population that focuses on the Pro Tour though, there are no big moves here. Latitude 64 didn't make the big splash with Niklas or other top free agents, but they held the line and further solidified themselves on their home turf.
MVP Discs A+
MVP gets an A+.
Even if you HAVE been living under a rock, I'm sure you're aware of the fact that MVP snagged Eagle McMahon to go alongside James Conrad and Simon Lizotte and they are currently the unquestioned king of disc golf fandom. Not only are they the most hyped brand on the market right now, they also have an elite roster that we're going to be seeing all over leaderboards next year.
In addition to adding Eagle, MVP resigned their first big pro and top 10 player Sarah Hokom and added rookie of the year Silva Saarinen on the FPO side. They also signed Simon's protégé Paul Krans to the squad, who was the MPO Rookie of the Year and an ascending talent that we expect to see a lot more of on Pro Tour coverage this year.
MVP continues to impress with their growth, their moves on the pro scene, their marketability on the social media side of things, AND the overall quality of their product. I'm much like Simon- before last offseason, I didn't really HAVE an opinion on MVP Discs- they just kind of existed and I knew the Envy was a respectable disc. But after adding Simon and with the slam dunk offseason that they've had with signing Eagle, releasing the Axiom Discs Pixel, and other complementary pro signings, I'm full on the MVP Discs bandwagon. I've got multiple of their discs in my bag and multiple of their pros that I'm going to be cheering for each weekend.
Dynamic Discs F
For several years, Dynamic Discs was up there with Innova as a top dog manufacturer in terms of social media relevance and tour performance, but now after losing Chris Clemons to Discraft, Gavin Rathbun to injury, Danny Lindahl to Kansas State University (um...), and Macie Velediaz, whose whole situation got them some really bad press, Dynamic only has 1 top 100 player and no real momentum going into the season. Granted, that one top 100 player IS Ricky Wysocki, but in terms of this offseason alone, DD just seemed to lose across the board.
Westside Discs secured their guy MattyO to a 4 year deal, which was the absolute #1 priority for them this offseason. He's a fan favorite and top 10 player on tour, this is great for them on both accounts.
Their other notable moves were on the FPO side- they resigned Sai Ananda and lost Hanna Huynh to Discraft, which is more or less a wash. As far as I'm concerned, Westside's offseason was "mission accomplished", including that awesome reveal video for Matty O's extension. I'm giving them an A-, they didn't add anything big but they secured their guy and they did so with a multi-year contract.
ThoughtSpace Athletics B+
ThoughtSpace Athletics had a solid offseason with the resigning of James Proctor and the addition of both Ali Smith and Chandler Fry. This isn't the biggest of offseasons, but for a brand like ThoughtSpace, this was a solid move in the right direction. They've got cool stamps, they've got solid molds, and now they're getting seen more on the Tour, especially with the solid year that Proctor had last season and the new additions here.
DGA added Evan Scott, Parker Welck, Sullivan Tipton, Macie Velediaz, Jake Monn, Tristan Tanner, and Eliezra Midtylng. That's extensive list of offseason signings and a very encouraging move for DGA, who is one of the oldest manufacturers in the game yet until recently essentially absent from the pro scene. These are all mid-tier players, but it's a solid group to add to Andrew Marwede, Catrina Allen, and Cole Redalen. This could very reasonably be an A (or even an A+, given their relative size and relevance), but all of these new signings are all 1 year deals for now. If DGA parlays these signings into long term deals for some of these players (particularly Welck and Midtlyng), it would be incredible for them.
The 2023 disc golf offseason saw Prodigy Discs (predictably) losing Gannon Buhr- a generational talent and currently a top 3 player in the game- after their ugly contract dispute at the beginning of last season. They also lost Alden Harris, who finished at 13th on the DGPT last season and Lykke Lorentzen, who is a top ~20 player on the FPO side. The ONLY thing going for them this offseason is that they reupped Aiden Scott, who was the runner up for 2023 rookie of the year and they are HOPEFULLY saving cash for next offseason.
Prodigy fans can hope that Aiden goes to the next level, but the biggest thing facing Prodigy now is securing the Robinson brothers to long term deals when (or hopefully before) their contracts expire at the end of the 2024 season.
What do YOU think?
The disc golf offseason is nearing an end and we're excited to see how all this new talent on all these new teams translates to tournament performance. How did your favorite manufacturer(s) do this offseason and what new pairing are you most excited to see? I'm going to stick with the obvious choice of Eagle to MVP, but beyond that I'm very interested to see if this is the breakout year for Eliezra on DGA. Let me know in the comment section below!
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