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Friday, December 19, 2014

Season 33 Team Previews

Austin
Last season : 100-62, 1st NL South, Lost NLDS.

Key losses : None

Key additions : COF Iago Padden, 3B/RF Domingo Amaral

Hitting/Fielding : The only change to our lineup will be at the leadoff spot. With the addition of true leadoff hitter and fellow canadian Iago Padden, the Austin lineup will be filled with speed, contact and power at the top. Padden is a perrenial 20/80 threat at the leadoff spot that also hits for average followed by Trevor Parker who is an on-base machine and rarely finished under 25/25 and a .300/.400/.520 line. (915 career OPS). With career .314 hitter and contact machine Miguel Martinez in the 3-hole and Kevin Redmond batting cleanup, opposing pitchers will have a hard time. They won't have much of a break later in a lineup that will include future Hall of famer Luther Martin (3000 hits, 600 HRs) and Bill Stafford who has hit at least 30 home runs and drove in at least 100 runs for 10 seasons in a row. (WOW) At the bottom we'll have our defensive specialists who can hit the ball pretty good as well with all of them capable of hitting double digits home runs with good average and some speed (Morales and Hernandez).

Both our catchers have elite defensive attributes and pitch calling skills. Our bench is diversified with speed, contact and power.

Pitching : Our rotation will feature 3 of the 5 Cy young finalists from last year. Ray Boesch is arguably one of the best pitchers in the league right now and will go down as one of the best ever having already won 2 Cy Youngs before turning 30. Matthew Patterson won the NL Cy Young last year and will continue to build on a strong career so far in Austin. Alberto Osuna and Samuel Menechino will fit in the 3 and 4 spots and can both win 15 games + with an ERA below 3,50. Former Cy Young Finalist and 19 game winner Banana Coles will round up the back of the rotation. All 5 of them can pitch well over 200 innings and maintain a high level of production throughout the season. All 5 SPs are in the prime of their careers right now and will look to improve on a good season 32.

Fun fact : Austin pitchers won 4 of the last 6 NL Cy Youngs. (Paul Gregg, Ray Boesch x2, Matthew Patterson)

Our Bullpen will rely on our 7-8-9 trio of Damaso Rios, Damian Collins and BJ Knotts. With our starters pitching late into games, those three should have no problem preserving leads late in games. The late addition of Eric Estes will surely strenghten our LRPs when needed.

Outlook : With most of our studs under team control for the next 3 seasons, there is still a good window of opportunity for this team to accomplish great things. If we want to do so, we're gonna have to go deeper in the playoffs and start winning playoffs series. We have played for at least .500 for 9 seasons in a row and have won the division for the past 6 years. Now is the time to take this team one step further and win it all !

Prediction : 100-62. 1st NL South. Make it to the NLCS.

Boise
Last Season: 88-74 3rd NL North, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses: RF Angel Romero, HOF Andres Gomez, RP Jayson Phillips

Key Additions: RP Ken Cepricky, DH Rick Bell

Hitting/Fielding: As Angel Romero had already lost his starting spot to cousin Benji, his loss won't shake up the lineup at all. The core of the squad is pretty young and looks to continue near the top of the NL in RS. Couple that with two guys winning SS in just their second seasons in the ML things are looking good. With the addition of Rick Bell as a DH and spot play RF, the Mountain Hawks can sport 4 switch hitters in the lineup. Whether or not that's a good thing is up for debate... The middle of the lineup continues to look solid with a 2-3-4-5 of Hughes. Maduro, Ramero, and Campos.

Defense will again be spotty in Boise. The addition of Pedro Renteria up the middle has somewhat improved the fielding rate, but he has a wild arm and is prone to overthrow 1st base when he gets excited. The most solid fielder on the squad is backstop Polin Campos throwing out roughly one third of stealers.

The bench is full of role players with Bell the quintecential PH in every game for a pitcher. LeCure has a ton of pop for the 4th OF, but tends to K too often. Alfonseca has no real position as he's the 5th OF and a terrible IF, but steals a lot of bases and has a career BA hovering near .300.

Pitching: A new season in Boise, a new pitching staff once again. It looks like the Mountain Hawks are again putting together a staff held together with duct tape. There's no #1 or even #2 pitcher on the staff at this point. It's a staff of #3's. Goldschmidt was the hero of the squad's WSR just a couple years ago, but had a rough year last year. If they can just keep it close, the bullpen should be able to close games out in the 7th-9th innings.

The bullpen has seen a complete overhaul. Three players were released or demoted and another bolted for greener pastures. The GM pulled in a bunch of guys with spotty pasts. Most of them have had both great and terrible seasons. It's hard to know what will come from these guys, but on paper they look like they can do the job. The 9th will still be held down by perennial closer Chavez.

Outlook: The hitting will make every game and series interesting, but the lack of any real threats on the mound will continue to hamstring the Mountain Hawks. They fall just short of the playoffs when their pitching staff decides to give up 10 runs a game for the last two weeks of the season.

Prediction: 85-77, 3rd NL north, Miss Playoffs 

Cincinnati
Last season's record & finish: 78-84, 3rd Place

Key additions: SP Harry Lugo
Key losses: SP Odalis Rodriguez

Hitting & Fielding: The Stingers return their entire cast of position players from last season. The star veteran coming off a career year in LF is Spud Riggs. Riggs practically tore the cover off the ball last season recording 57 HR & 146 RBI. The Stingers will have a big decision to make as the 30 yr old is in the final year of his contract. The other big offensive bats will once again be youngsters 1B Miguel Barrios and DH Reginald Barney who look to build on solid sophomore seasons but know their best seasons are still ahead of them. 2B Trenidad Merced looks like he's finally ready to become one of the elite young players in the league. CF Torey Bradshaw and the platoon of RF's Denny Simpson & Neifi Marrero won't have much expected but the Stingers hope for solid production. Veteran 3B Bob Hart returns for what will likely be his last season in a Stinger uniform. The platoon of catchers Edgardo Johnson & Juan Espinoza will once again bring solid defense and pitch calling to the position and dependable bats. Overall, the Stingers should continue to put up more and more runs then seasons past as their young team develops and the always solid defense should once again be top 10 in the league minimum.

Pitching: Not much has changed in the way of pitching as well for the Stingers. The only loss was SP Odalis Rodriguez who was awful last season and spend most of the season in AAA. They added Rule 5 pick Harry Lugo to hopefully take his spot at the end of the rotation along side ace Donatello Turner and solid #2 Julio Henriquez. Youngster Carl Thomas will hopefully provide solid production at the #3 starter spot in his first full season in the show. Veteran Watty Rossy will spend this season rounding out the rotation until big prospect Benny Aviles is ready to come up next season. The bullpen returns solid set up vets in Al Smith & Anibal Pujols. The question is how long relievers Ernesto Santiago, Ryan Smart, and William Pong fair this season. Pong was the only bright spot among the 3 last season. Closer Trot Frederick returns after solid freshman and sophomore showings but will likely struggle once again with keeping runners off the base paths. Overall, the young staff should continue to improve over the past few seasons.

Outlook & Prediction: The young Stingers team should finally be ready to start contending for the playoffs this season. Whether they make it or not remains to be seen but they should be in the picture up until the very end. Prediction is 84-78, just squeaking in with the final wild card spot.

Durham

Last Season: 81-81 2nd NL South

Key Losses:, RF/1B Vic Osuna, CF Alvin Franco, P Trace Stewart, P Hidecki Dong, and SS/IF Julian Rodriguez

Key Additions: RF/1B Melkey Del Rosario, LF/1B Johnnie Mattes, C/DH Herman Duncan, P Sammy Zorrilla, 2B/OF Santo Duran (Rule V), 3B Hiroki Isshi (Rule V).

Hitting/Fielding: The Hippo lineup will be significantly different than in prior years. Gone is the speedsters in the outfield of CF Alvin Franco, RF Esmil Osoria, and LF Vic Osuna (who combined for over 120 SBs last season). They are replaced with a new and emerging group of younger, more powerful, outfielders in Melkey Del Rosario, Johnnie Mattes, and returning outfielder Kirk Hariston. Rule V draftees, Santo Duran and Hiroki Ishii will be asked to step in and compete for playing time on the left side of the infield, while the right side of the infield is still somewhat up in the air, but with slugger 1B Santiago Chavez looking to get a full season of at bats under his belt for the first time in a while. Catching will feature Vector21’s usual platoon approach to the position, but will only have C Rod Beck available to call a decent game. Recently acquired C Herman Duncan may see some time in the ML lineup soon, but the GM would like to see him stay one more full year at AAA to work on developing his splits.
Depth for this team will be a problem, with very limited role players available to replace any starters who get injured during the season and not much ML-ready help available this year in the minor leagues.

Pitching: The pitching staff will probably be the Achilles heel of this team as the starting rotation is made up of journeyman free agent signings. No starter had a record better than .500 last year or an ERA under 4.50, except for former long-reliever Ajax Sirotka, who managed to vulture his way to a 13-1 record last season as the team’s mopup pitcher (ERA 5.15)
The strength of the pitching staff will be their relief core, anchored by All Star Closer Kevin Hudek. Fans of the Hippos are concerned that getting to the relief pitching with leads for them to hold will be few and far between. FA signing Sammie Zorrilla will be relied upon to close out games in the 8th inning, while a combination of limited endurance Ps Dennis Garland, Cody Thurman, and Alex Guzman will need to work together in the 6th and 7th innings to get to the back of the game pitchers.

Outlook: This team will struggle to maintain their 81-81 record from last year. Expectations of a playoff run are not in the air for the team this year, but nobody is giving up hope just yet, but will be no doubt building for the future.

Prediction: 72-90, 3rd NL South

Fargo Cats 
Last season finish, 74-88, 4th in NL North.
Key Losses: CF Desmond Keller, 1B Julian Fontana, 2B/3B/OF Paul Hoffman, SS/3B Hector Bennett, C Jesus Izturis, SP Michel Lopez, RP Kevin Evans, RP Doc Glass, RP Gerald Ishida.

Key Additions: 1B Hugh Alexander, 3B/RF Julio James, C Brandon Reid, c/1b/dh (via rule 5) Jose Mendoza, CF Dick Rogers, OF/1b Angel Romero, SP Allen Grudzielanek (claimed at end of last regular season via waivers), RP Jayson Phillips, RP Art Biddle, RP Max Hennessey.

Hitting/fielding
Fargo was able to accomplish a key offseason goal, upgrade the offense and the bullpen while hanging on to key foundation pieces obtained through recent drafts and international signings. The lineup will be anchored at the top by free agent Dick Rogers who will man center field. While his career numbers are not eye popping .272/.332/.313, he represents a return to a type of player the Cats always had in the glory years at the top of the order, a high contact player with at least an average batting eye and great speed and base running ability, as Rogers is a true base thief to the tune of 166-16 as a big leaguer. From there, Fargo goes to more of a power look this season. Mac Lin could hit 15-20 homers and this should be a breakout year for the Japanese stud who enters his fifth season at just age 23 with career marks of .271/.333/.426 and a stolen base record of 117-29. He will primarily play in right field, but time will also be spent at first base and in left field if needed. The best offensive player is left fielder Keith Bold who continues a fast assent toward super star status. His defensive profile is just a tick below Lin and thus his primary assignment in left. Bold enters his age 22 season already with 102 homers and a batting line of .308/.369/.547. If recently reacquired first baseman Hugh Alexander gets traded, then Lin would switch to left and Bold to first. Alexander was obtained via trade and he will get a good bit of time at first, but against lefties the rule 5 pick Jose Mendoza who profiles truly speaking as a David Ortiz masher with no real defensive position could see some time there and behind the plate where defensive skills are below average. Think Jesus Montero but with better value. He was the steal of the rule 5 draft and an offensive contribution is expected, though he is immediately a very valuable trade chip. Mendoza hit 32 homers in less than 400 AAAA at bats last season and for his minor league career of less than 1300 at bats, he has a batting line of .312/.395/.583 with 88 homers, 59 in roughly 750 AAA at bats the last two seasons. Alexander mean while needs to prove he can produce with the power his profile says is available. After a 26 homer season with the Cats in season 29, the slugger played a part time roll in seasons 30-31 in Vegas, so it was a letdown to see his homer total of just 18 when he returned to a full time job last year in the desert. Maybe returning back to his original franchise gives him a jolt as the competition for playing time will be considerable.

Free agent Brandon Reid brings a much needed offensive upgrade to the catcher position and he will hit in the 5 or 6 slot in the order on most days depending on the situation. Based on his career numbers, the Cats hope for 20-25 homers with a .290/.360/.480 line and reasonable defense in roughly 400 at bats.

Hanley Latham returns and will be the primary second baseman, his speed and power are attractive, the contact is a bit below what you would want in this slugger. The same is true but even more so for free agent third baseman/right fielder Julio James. He will be part of a defensive replacement system if he is on the bench, which would have him enter in right field, but he will get plenty of starts at third where his defense will be of greater value. Fargo hopes for at least career average performances from both of these players, .250/.360/.450 for Latham and a line of .275/.335/.480 from James. Fargo is also considering trade options with Latham, so if an appropriate deal is struck, it could result in one final roster change, with the new player taking primary time at second or center depending upon the ultimate trade.

Wilbur Mathews who went to free agency was signed to a 4-year team friendly deal and he will continue as the primary option at shortstop, though he will almost always bat 8th in the lineup this season. The bench is much stronger, as corner outfielder and first baseman Angel Romero was signed and he provides a key cog that the team missed last season, a true bat that can spell Alexander, Lin, or bold for fatigue reasons. While it will be hard to find 500 at bats for Angel Romero, he will get a ton of time spot starting for Lin, Bold and Alexander. Fargo will be thrilled if he can produce numbers around his career line of .284/.345/.482. Romero though weaker at third could even see some time their if needed. In addition to Jose Mendoza, the Cats bench features another rule 5 pick in shortstop Tori Webster who is valued for his defense. Similarly, the cats signed minor leaguer Tacahiro Ono as a utility specialist who can play all but short and catcher.

Pitching
The starting rotation is largely a return of what the team had last season in new staff ace Cooper Green, future ace Bucky Simmons, and a young and developing Giomar Diaz. Fargo will swing between a 5 and 6 man rotation, opting to start out with a 6 pack of starters. Sam Karns takes the #4 rotation slot, joined by Allen Grudzielanek who was claimed off waivers at the very end of the previous regular season and Alex Feliz who spent the majority of the previous campaign in AAA. While the offensive improvement should give more latitude to a starting staff that has some questions at the back end, the bullpen that will be called upon to put out fires and save tight games is much stronger. Career minor leaguer Barry Silva was claimed off waivers and he will be the long man when games get out of hand early. Art Biddle can pitch occasionally in long duty if needed, but for now he will be part of a deep core of middle and late inning relief pitchers. Joining him are returning Cat pitchers Felix Jones, Corey Kinney and Tony Park, along with free agent Jayson Phillips and Max Hennessey who was obtained via trade. The bullpen will play a critical role in Fargo’s ultimate performance. Corey Kinney must step up to keep a roll in the back end of the bullpen, his best seasons between seasons 29-32 were ERA’s of 4.00 and 3.93 in seasons 29 and 31, with an opponent batting average in both seasons between .260 and .267. Similarly, it is not clear if fourth year relief pitcher Felix Jones will return as closer, Jones had his best season in terms of ERA in season 30 when he posted a 3.12 mark, though his best mark in terms of opposition batting average was seasons 30 and 32 at .262 and .261 respectably. The lack of improvement from these two prompted the moves to obtain Max Hennessey who had his best season by far one year ago pitching for the first time in a ballpark that favored hurlers, with a .227 OAV and a 2.08 ERA. Jayson Phillips is a pitcher who has had mixed results, with two seasons below a 3.0 ERA and several more with an ERA between 3 and 5. The best comparison that could translate into Fargo success would be his campaign in season 28, a season at Boise with a .251 OAV and a 3.49 ERA. Art Biddle has had his best success as a relief pitcher and the Cats hope that he returns to more of his career marks of a .250 OAV and 3.65 ERA. Tony Park while not blessed with great stuff in terms of velocity or effectiveness does have high command of his top two pitches, which have allowed this relatively low rated and cheaper player to have a positive impact. The Cats will gladly take another season that mirrors his career marks in the big leagues that include a .260 OAV and a 3.88 ERA. Park is also 79-23 in his career at converting saves. Fargo may ultimately go closer by committee, but Park, Jones, Biddle and Hennessey could all at times assume the closer duty.

Outlook
This team is one of the harder teams to forecast. If the offensive production is at or above average based on the combined careers of the players on this squad, this team could hit a ton of homers and hit .275 to .280. but this offensive group has a degree of high risk/high reward and the numbers could be below expectations. Similarly, the top three in the pitching rotation should continue to get better, but the back end no matter if the rotation is at 5 or 6 is questionable at best and this is truly the weak link of this roster that could prevent a return to postseason, a drought that is now at 9 seasons and counting. The bullpen has been upgraded significantly and this could help cover up some of the bad starts from this rotation and it is hoped that with several relief pitchers on board that have had previous success, a couple will step up and help nail down tight ballgames throughout the season in what will be a very competitive division.


Prediction
After being too bold in my assessment last season, I’m calling for a team that goes 84-78 and finishes 4th in a very good NL Northern Division. With a little luck though, this is a team that could win 92 games and slip in as a wild card.
Fargo signed another free agent who has low demands. Albert Garces has been signed and he will take the role assigned to Takahiro Ono, Ono is a piece the organization will hang on too given the low cost four year contract, so Ono is for now in AAA. He is the first callup if anyone gets hurt at a position other than catcher or pitcher.

Jacksonville
Jacksonville enters another season with uncertainty. Their aging bats are and have been consistently slowing down the past several seasons.
Their pitching staff had some gaps due to departures from free agency. Stopgaps helped fill those voids. Not much in the Minors and this will be the reason the Cubbies will be a constant participant in free agent signing the next few seasons.
Thirdbaseman Sherry Howard will continue to be the big stick in town and should contend for the MVP award. Or at the very least be a silver slugger contender. Providing he can stay healthy.
Starting Pitcher Bruce Fister will anchor down a below average pitching staff. The bullpen seemingly will be overworked this season.

Outlook: 70-92

Las Vegas
Last Season: 76-86 2nd NL West

Key Losses: SP Slick Kubenka, SP Placido Gonzales, SP Marc Browne, Rl Al Griffin, RF Jalal Ramirez, 1b Hugh Alexander, C Herman Duncan

Key Additions: 1B Julian Fontana, prospects SP Alton Ryan, SS Alving Navarro, SP Javy Nieves, 3b Marquis Serafini

Hitting/Fielding: The offense will need to carry the load if the Hangovers even want to sniff .500 ball. Veterans Julio Rosado and Todd Magnuson will anchor the lineup. Rosado signed a 3 yr deal in the offseason that should keep him LV for life and his career totals approaching 500 home runs (488), 381 hits shy of 3000. Perennial MVP candidate Magnuson is still manning the hot corner (for now) but trade speculation has been running rampant in Vegas and not many see the potential future HOF finishing his career there. The offense will boast some young bat in C Max Bennett, 2b Charley Quinn and 1b Julian Fontana. Quinn fresh off his 33 hr rookie campaign looks to build on it and in his first full season in the show, 1b Julian Fontana hit 24 hr and drove in 79. Defensively Vinny Shumaker is among one of best defensive CF in the league and Magnuson owns 3 gold gloves. After those two players the rest of the team is average to below average fielders.

Pitching: There is major turnover with 3 of 5 SP from last season no longer there. Hangover lifer Cal Trammel anchors the staff; he enters the season 3 wins shy of 250. There won’t be much more bright spot to if/when Trammel hits win #250. The staff will feature vet David Maduro to go along with Hank Perez (11 career starts) youngsters Harry De La Vega (16 career starts), Jose Cruz and rule 5 pickups Enerio Taveras, David Noesi (0 career starts between the 3 of them) will all be in the mix for a spot in the rotation. The bullpen will once again be a major question mark with a few vets hanging onto the majors and some young guys hoping to prove they belong.

Outlook: After missing the playoffs last season the first time in 16 seasons, this team will be lucky to hit the 70 win mark.

Prediction: 60-102

Memphis
Last Season: 80-82, 3rd in the NL South

Key Losses: All Star RP Jaokim Romano, GG 2B Larry Saunders

Key Additions: SS of the future Miguel Encarnacion,

Hitting/Fielding: The line up will be led off by speedsters Ronald Brinkley and Terry Thomas(moving from right to left field). Ramon Martin will bat 3rd and the All Star will again patrol center field. There is enough variety and depth with the rest of the team to alternate again the favorable righty/lefty matchups. Adding some needed power in RF with the duo of Azocar and Yamakazi. Defense should be good expecially in the late innings with 4 past shortstops able to help out.

Pitching: Vic James becomes the ace of the staff following up his 14 game/ 2.96 ERA from last year. The 24 year old has the potential to be special. Asdrubal Park resigned for less than the free agent was asking for and should be a solid #2, While Patel will work in the #3 and try to stay healthy this year. The bullpen has a new young closer in Abreu, but having Encarnacion back there will help the young kid out.

Outlook: This will be the second season in the Memphis stadium, and we will continue to try to build on the speed, defense, and pitching blueprint we set out last year. Last year with just a little more run support we would have been a playoff contender. Hopefully the moves will bring another 10-15 wins.

Prediction: 88-74, 2nd in NL South, Wild Card contender

Milwaukee
Last Season: 89-73 2nd NL North, Wild Card, Lost NLCS

Key Losses: 1B/LF Shane Peters, 1B/2B/LF John Watson, DH/PH Rick Bell, C/DH Brandon Reid

Key Additions: 1B/LF Andres Nunez, IF Esteban Romero

Hitting/Fielding: The lineup will be slightly different than last year. Gone is C Brandon Reid, who lost playing time last season to the more defensive minded Geoff Stafford. His bat will be sorely missed, but it appears Bobby Ray Carrol will be called up and provide defense as well in a platoon with Stafford. The 1B platoon of Peters and Watson will be replaced by new arrival Andres Nunez, who brings a little more pop with the bat. With Nunez manning first for the foreseeable future, the infield is set in Milwaukee for awhile. SS Branden Payton is now the cornerstone of the franchise, providing solid defense up the middle and possessing a huge bat (.300/.346/.601). Brandon Hudson looks to build upon an impressive rookie campaign (.294/.357/.453) at 2B and Tomas Portillo provides consistency at 3B.

In the outfield, RF Adam Broussard signed a deal that extends his stay in Milwaukee for the next three years. Not a prototypical RF in that he lacks pop (278/.332/.383), but he gets on base and provides good defense. Brett DePaula will try to win an everyday job in CF, last season getting his playing time versus righties in a platoon with utility man Louie Alarcon. DePaula provides great range in CF with a below average glove, hits righties well and can steal bases. If he can't sew up the everyday job, it could be Alarcon vs lefties again or Carlos Bogaerts could earn a spot in the platoon.  Keith Garcia continues his great career in Milwaukee now as s left fielder where he is adequate and his bat is still good (.294/.357/.453, albeit with less power.

The bench will play an integral part in this team and it is headed by Alarcon. Miguel Guerrero will return to provide depth along with recently acquired Esteban Romero. All three can play multiple positions and provide solid defense. 2B/LF Stevie Montgomery secured the final spot with a strong spring.

Pitching: The staff returns pretty much intact from a season ago. However next season could wind up looking entirely different with expiring contracts and player options. Brian Ueno has supplanted himself as the ace of the staff (17-5, 2.97). He has a player option next season, so will be pitching for a bigger payoff down the road. The organization spent big money to reel in Paul Gregg and Tuck Haynes four seasons ago. The hopes were to get the team over the hump and earn a World Series berth.  Unfortunately they weren't able to improve upon two straight NLCS' berths with anything more than a third straight and another three seasons later. They both have expiring contracts and it looks like this will be their last chance to help get them over the hump. Ezdra Valentin was brought in as an innings eater and has done just that, while Benji Pineda appears to be the future ace.

The bullpen returns minus lefty specialist Peter Parnell who saw only limited action a season ago. Anthony McInerney had a down season after being demoted to a setup role with the arrival of closer Domingo Palmeiro. Palmeiro did what he has always done (38 saves, 2.61), ending up as one of the premier closers in the game a season ago. If McInerney can shore up his struggles from a season ago they will be an elite late innings tandem to close games. Benji Nieves, Shaggy Herrera, Vic Ward and Jimmy Lloyd will most likely be the middle innings relievers, while Oswaldo Nunez should once again be the long reliever/spot starter.

Outlook: This team shouldn't have a dramatic falloff just yet, in fact they have a chance to improve a game or two and possibly win an always competitive NL North division. The hope is as always, to remain healthy and get themselves into the playoffs for a World Series run. It could be their last chance for awhile.

Prediction: 90-72, 2nd NL North, Wild Card

New Britain 
Last Season: 94-68 1st NL North

Key Losses: 1B/LF Andres Nunez; 3B Julio James

Key Additions: Jhoulys Aguilar (OF)

Hitting/Fielding: Should be a powerful lineup led by MVP candidate Allen McMichael. Slugging rookie Giomar Owen takes over at 1B while Jhoulys Aguilar provides added power against LHP. 22-year old Esteban Diaz gets a full season in the lineup after 140AB with an OPS >1.000. Juan Franco and Javier Rodriguez round out a lineup that should feature 6 hitters with more than 30 HR. The other 2 spots feature a .370 OBP platoon at catcher and a .350 OBP top fielding SS to set the table.

The pitching staff will now have a full year with ace Albert Delgado in the rotation, followed by 2-time 15-game winner Chan Satou and Malcolm Burns (top-5 in SO last year) for a solid top-3. Closing the door will be Jumbo Cooney set up by Red Jepsen, Tex Kydd, and Benny Franco … all effective late-inning relievers the past few years.

Outlook: The team should remain in the 90+ win range if key players stay healthy.

Prediction: 91-71, 1st NL North

Oklahoma City
New ownership moved the team into a pitchers ballpark with an eye on getting team ERA under control.

Last Season (93-69) lost in division championship series. Prediction for season 33 : (100 wins)

Players of Note who left:
Tony Newsome, Type A / SP
Walker Rose , Type A / RP

Key Additions :
36 yr old SP Marc Browne /5 time all star with a WS ring.
38 yr old Felipe Martinez / 2 WS rings.
30 yr old / season 26 rookie of the year, SP Davey Scutaro.

Philosophy : We took over this team last season and immediately corrected the minor league rosters and then repositioned the big league club to maximize defense. The end result was a world record in fewest errors in a season.
This team is overflowing with defensive prowess and speed. Former ownership did a fine job in collecting positional talent. New ownership cleaned house with the starting rotation. We let go two Type A pitchers and one Type B. This was by choice and we were reward with some excellent late first round draft opportunities. In their place we brought in the type of pitchers we feel can excel in a pitchers ballbark playing in with a world class defense behind them. 36 yr old SP Marc Brown is expected to have career type numbers and lead the team. Work Horse Davey Scutaro, a former R.O.Y., was a slight gamble in that he has't posted good pitching stats in many years but we are giving him exactly what every pitcher needs to excel. We expect to see his true potential this season.

Offensively Kirt O'Malley drew a lot of attention from other clubs trying to trade for him. He is expected to step up this year and contribute after being called up half way thru last season and struggling. O'Malley will be a beastly player... it's just a matter of maturing. We could go on and on about our positional strengths ,but the real focus this season is going to be on pitching. We understand other owners don't see our aging veteran FA signings as being of any particular note, but we think we hit the jackpot with our offseason aquisitions.

Rochester
Last Season: 69-93, 3rd place NL North

Key Losses: SS Dennys Suh, 3B Onan Saitou, 1B Stuart Smart, Stuart's brother, P Sergio Smart, P Francisco Costilla

Key Additions: 10 Rule 5 picks

Outlook: The Orioles have begun a youth movement, with all eligible FA's being let go, and 10 Rule 5 picks being rostered for Season 33. After 7 straight seasons of 70 wins or less, new upper management, has decided to go with the younger players, and hope for an improvement based on youth. This season is unlikely to match last season's 69 wins, but hope by Season 36 to be above .500. The squad still has the rather expensive pitching duo of Garret McRae ($9 mil) and Pedro De La Rosa ($16 mil).


Prediction: 62-100, 4th place NL North


Sacramento
Last Season: 75-87 3rd NL West

Key Losses: 1B #p4839437Santiago Chavez#p, OF #p4448492Albert Garces#p, SP/RP/LEGEND #p1974297Eric Hill#p, 2B #p3365606Sherry Ingram#p, OF #p4243694Anthony Jarvis#p

Key Additions: LF/1B #p5287084Osvaldo Delgado#p, SP #p4449243Slick Kubenka#p, RP #p5480676Al Griffin#p, CF #p4888815Desmond Keller#p, 3B #p4448610Larry Saunders#p, 2B #p4448505Steve Smith#p, OF #p5287080Bud Buckley#p

Hitting/Fielding: The Savages had some success in beefing up the offense by adding several veterans to a very young core. By beefing up the bench and adding some formidable platoon guys, the Savages should now have a much deeper lineup, especially when we call up OFs #p6637722Richard Cousins#p and #p6266588Mo Payton#p after the 20-day mark.

The additions of Saunders (3B), Smith (2B) and Keller (CF) should go a long way to improve team defense and convert some of the close games we lost in season 32 into wins this year.

Pitching: ERIC HILL RETIRED!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

#HILLforHOF

The Savages somewhat filled the void of Eric Hill by adding former Cy Young winner Slick Klubenka and several key bullpen arms which should lead to a more consistent pitching staff. The much improved defense should be a huge benefit to a staff that does not strike out (or walk) many batters.

Outlook: The Savages have improved all faucets of their game coming into season 33, and should have several offensive reinforcements coming from the minor leagues as this season progresses. There is optimism with-in the organization that the Savages could make a nice leap this year which includes a playoff berth.

Prediction: 87-75, 1st NL West

Salt Lake City
Last Season: 103-59, 1st place NL North, WORLD SERIES CHAMPION

Key Losses: Jhoulys Aguilar (1B/COF), Vic Mercedes (RP)
Key Additions: Yunel Gutierrez (RF)

Hitting/Fielding: The Moguls decided to mostly not mess with success and the lineup will be virtually the same. There was talk in the Winter of the team attempting to upgrade at CF but nothing has materialized yet. The big change will be rookie power hitter Yunel Gutierrez forcing his way into the lineup in RF. He should immediately compete for ROY title. Ed Moustakous and Dante Tateyama should platoon in LF with Al Alvarez once again manning CF.

The IF only contains once change as the full-time reigns at SS are officially being handed to Ignacio Gonzalez who possesses a sick glove and A-rod like power and speed. 1B returns last year batting champ Al Soto. Karim Castillo continues to be a rock at 2B and perennial MVP candidate Ismael Bernadina returns to 3B. Victor Pujols impressed enough last year behind the plate to have his option picked up. Blends solid defense with a nice hitting stroke.

The bench also remains mostly unchanged will play an integral part in this team’s success. Bobby Roth is the super utility man while Matt Hiljus is a good glove off the bench. The front office is still looking for one more bench bat to fill it’s final spot as L. Nunez is the backup C.

Pitching: No big changes here although there are some guys at AAA getting mighty restless. Something is going to have to give somewhere at some point this season, probably via trade unless injuries strike. CY Young candidate Albert Maranon returns and forms a great 1-2 punch with Cameron Dobbs. Al Norris, Tom Mota are locks for SP3 and SP4. All four starters have really enjoyed to move to SLC from Madison a few years back. Only question is at SP5 where Dan Armstrong will be given one more change. If he fails one of the young AAA arms will be more than willing to take the reigns.

The bullpen returns without reliever Vic Mercedes, but still boasts a potent 8th/9th punch with Ober Toca and Ton Bigley. Rico Borbon was specatular in middle relief last year so the club made sure to resign him in FA. David Olivia when healthy is extremely effective.

Outlook: This team should retain its place atop the NL North again this season, but it’s the toughest division in Ichiro right now so it won’t happen without a fight. Worst case should still be a wild card bid and anything less than a playoff berth would be considered a massive choke job by the Moguls.

Prediction: 100-62, 1st NL North

San Francisco
Last Season: 80-82 1st AL West, Lost Play-in series 

Key Losses: Miguel Flores 3B

Key Additions: From the farm system

Hitting/Fielding: Hoped-for improvement will come from players promoted from AAA. 2B Raul Guzman hit .341/.411/.611 between AA and AAA last season. DH Mule Woodson was .293/.442/.621 in AA/AAA, and then had an .824 OPS in 19 ML games. Important returnees include CF Ron Powell (6 straight GG and counting).

Pitching: Pedro Santiago and Alan Priddy will once again serve as the top starting pitchers. Wendell Ramirez, a 7th-round draft pick who is the only DITR that ever made my ML squad, continues to improve. Former first-round pick Kent Bolton joins the big club this season. We don't usually make one pitcher the solo closer, but there is no question that Ben Fleming is our best reliever, capable of throwing 100 strong innings.

Outlook: We've won the AL West the last two seasons without managing a winning record. Season 33 depends largely on how well young players Guzman, Bolton, and Woodson do.

Prediction: 85-77, 1st in AL West, out in Division Championship Series. 


Seattle
Key additions: Edgardo Seanez P. Frank Ishida P. Davey Wunsch P.

The Seattle Pilots fans have no idea what to expect from this seasons hometown 9. They have retooled their starting staff by bringing up the big three pitching prospects of Frank Ishida, Davey Wunsch, and future ace Edgardo Seanez. They are counting on Louis Bennett and Rodrigo Friaz to repeat their performances of last season. The bullpen should be solid although closer Jose Olmeda who had 31 saves last season is still a question mark and not a guarantee to keep the job. On offense they are led by veteran catcher Raul Romero who still provides some pop but will be more valuable mentoring and handling such a young staff. With 174 stolen bases last season the strategy is clear that this team looks to manufacture runs. On defense they are led by their gold glove duo of Peter Sano at SS and Todd Ohka who returns to 2B. The formula is pitching and defense. The question is will the inexperience and lack of consistent offense be too much to overcome? Consensus from baseball experts are that that this team is a year or two and a bat or two away from truly contending for the AL West again. But all agree they are on the uptick and worth watching in the future.
Record last season 67-95 Prediction 79-83.

Syracuse

Last Season:91-71
Key Losses: Moises Benavente

Key Additions: Jeremy Crabtree.Lance Polcovich

Hitting/Fielding: strong up the middle
In the outfield,90 hr 282 rbi’s lat year
The bench rule 5 ss 22 year old mitchell villone

Pitching:
The bullpen Ted Thomas 24 all star last year
Outlook: 80 to 90 wins depending on injuries

Prediction: Team gets hot in the playoffs and wins World Series : )

Tacoma
Last Season: 83-79 - Division Title: Lost in the NLDSC to SLC 3-0

Key Losses: Starting pitcher Yadier Gandarillas was not re-signed due to the length and salary demanded at his age. Would have been nice to have him return and give the rotation the 200 innings that he can pitch, but management couldn't justify the terms asked for to keep him around. Good luck in Helena.

Key Additions: SS Orlando Pulido was promoted from AAA due to the injury to SS Omar Tejera; RF Benny Gonzalez was kept on the ML team after his late season call-up. Due to the injury to Freddie Woods. With his just above average attributes, he should make an impact coming in off the bench to give starters a rest during the season; and finally Rule 5 pick up, 2B Ed Carpenter, should be another who comes off the bench to add some defense and a nice bat. In the bullpen, Diory Oliva was called up for now. Depending on his start in the bull-pen, management is hoping he can stay the course and stick around for the year.....if not, back down to AAA he goes and the next in line, Edgard Julio will be back with the big team.

Hitting/Fielding: This team is an anomaly..........they can't seem to hit their way out of a wet paper bag, by finishing 2nd from last overall in hitting with a .247 team average. But they still managed to finish in the top 10 in stolen bases with 165 of them. Sure any and all teams love hitting, but this team is based on its pitching staff and fielding to get them to the promised land. And that is where the bench will be playing a bigger than usual role. What with the base of the ML team staying around for a bit, fielding will not be the problem. They finished 6th overall, by committing only 83 errors and complimenting that is the 78 plus plays by the defense.

Pitching: With an aging rotation, it is gonna be kids gloves used on them this season. There is Tike Mauer and Tris Person waiting in AAA and Clem Walsh in AA still a season or two away. The bullpen, with Bip Hayes and Ramon Murata trying to hold down the fort and keep the opposition at bay. Sure they finished 3rd overall in team ERA with a 3.77 ERA, they should be able to match that by playing at the pitcher friendly Cheney Stadium, but there are still 81 games played on the road that could give this staff and the coaches some fits.

Outlook: The outlook for the Method is looking to three peat as NL West division champs, which at this early stage, is possible. But, they still have to go out there and perform to what the coaching staff dictates. Even if they finish with a Wild Card spot, the season will not be lost to them. Am hoping the team can just do what they are payed to do, and that is play......otherwise the fans in Tacoma will be performing there own method of attack, and running them out of town.

Prediction: If the Method can come up with 85 wins this season, management will be very pleased. 'Cause they know that could be just enough to either win the division once again or at the least, come away with a Wild Card spot and then anything can happen once the playoffs begin.


Trenton
56-106 Last Place

Key additions: No big money additions. Trenton added pieces like John Watson, OF and Milt Nicolson, OF/IF. Although they should provide some depth, neither will be a difference maker.

Key losses: Wilfredo Guzman, SS left via free agency.

Hitting: Trenton is in a complete rebuild and is hoping to use the 3 first round picks to improve a barren farm system. From a hitting perspective, Trenton should be below average this year. The loss of Guzman, without any significant replacement will not help Trenton improve on a team that scored 704 runs last year. Trenton will have to hope for a rebound year from solid hitters like Jeremi Cunningham and rookies like Jarrod Barney.

Pitching: Trenton staff took a blow with the trading of ace Albert Delgado. They did acquire Diego Alomar in the deal, but the 24-year old had an up and down first season. Trenton expects improvement from Alomar and possible future #2. The rest of the staff remains fairly unchanged from the staff that had a ML worst 5.67 ERA, so Trenton is likely to finish in the bottom half of the pitching rankings for another year while the rebuild is ongoing.

Prediction: Last Place – 60-102

Monday, December 8, 2014

World Series by Season

Season: 32

Season: 31
Boise Mountain Hawks       4
Louisville Sluggers                0



Season: 30
Tampa Bay Black Dogs       4
Salt Lake City Moguls           1



\Season: 29
Anaheim Bacteria                4
Boise Mountain Hawks         1



Season: 28
Las Vegas Hangovers         4
Mexico City Borrachos         3



Season: 27
Las Vegas Hangovers         4
Trenton Hazmats                  2



Season: 26
Florida Flame                     4
Tampa Bay Black Dogs       3



Season: 25
Tampa Bay Black Dogs     4
Charlotte Rae's                     1



Season: 24
Charlotte Rae's                  4
Mexico City Borrachos        1



Season: 23
Cincinnati Stingers            4
Sacramento Savages             3



Season: 22
Sacramento Savages          4
Trenton Hazmats                  2



Season: 21
Sacramento Savages          4
Seattle Pilots                         3



Season: 20
Seattle Pilots                        4
Montgomery BoxCars           2



Season: 19
Texas Rangers                       4
Philadelphia Trappers             3



Season: 18
San Francisco Begonias       4
Fargo Cats                               2



Season: 17
Montgomery BoxCars          4
Toronto Badasses                    2



Season: 16
Montgomery BoxCars          4
Tacoma Trappers                     2



Season: 15
New Britain Bombadiers     4
Chicago Chill                          3



Season: 14
Fargo Cats                             4
San Francisco Begonias          3



Season: 13
Montgomery BoxCars          4
San Francisco Begonias          2



Season: 12
Fargo Cats                              4
Toronto BLUE JAYS               3



Season: 11
Anaheim Bacteria                  4
Fargo Cats                                2



Season: 10
Fargo Cats                              4
Anaheim Bacteria                     3



Season: 9
Trenton Hazmats                    4
Nashville Heat                          3



Season: 8
Fargo Cats                                4
Anaheim Bacteria                      0



Season: 7
Anaheim Bacteria                    4
Iowa City Cubbies                     0



Season: 6
New Orleans Purple Devils      4
Anaheim Bacteria                        2



Season: 5
Anaheim Bacteria                     4
New Orleans Purple Devils         2



Season: 4
New Orleans Purple Devils      4
Minnesota Pnuts                          0



Season: 3
Jackson Generals                     4
Anaheim Bacteria                       2



Season: 2
Salem Mariners                       4
Santa Fe New Mexico               2



Season: 1
Anaheim Bacteria                    4
Boise Spikes                               0