Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who's Hot, Who's Not

Hard to believe another 20 games has passed since the first installment. So at the 40 game mark (about the quarter pole) we look again at who's been hot and who's off their game.


Who's Hot: The NL South

Houston has asserted itself as the best team in the NL, following up their hot 15-5 start with a 14-6 stretch, for a ML-best 29 wins. New Orleans and San Juan, however, refuse to be left completely in the dust; New Orleans matched Houston's 14 wins over this stretch and San Juan won 13.

How: Houston gave up 3 runs or less in 15 of their last 20. When New Orleans scores, they win; they averaged 7.5 runs in their 14 wins and 1.8 in their 6 losses. San Juan likes to keep it close; they played 11 1-run games out of those 20 and went 8-3.

Who else is hot:

Vancouver went 13-7, highlighted by a 7-game winning streak, to maintain a lead over Salem in the west.

Atlanta won 12 out of 17 games before losing their last 3; their 12-8 stretch puts them right back into the NL East race.

Salt Lake City rode an 8-game winning streak to a 12-8 record.

Salem also went 12-8 to stay within a game of Vancouver. Like Atlanta, they've lost their last 3.

Who's Not: The NL North

I know it's early, but it's hard to believe the division that has arguably been the most competitve division in the entire league for 3 seasons has all 4 teams below .500.

How: Fargo went 8-12. They weren't helped by playing 7 straight against Houston, but they still need to do better than 2-5 to claim itself as a legitimate title contender. Getting swept in 3 straight by Salt Lake City also didn't help.

Toronto, with a chance to gain ground, went 4-16, including an 11 game losing streak. Atlanta is no pushover, but if Toronto doesn't make the playoffs, they will probably lament going 0-7 against the Bandits here.

Chicago was hurt by its slow start and actually did well to play to a 10-10 record with series against Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Houston, Salem, Norfolk, and Vancouver.

This division is so bad that Philadelphia is only 5 games out of first and would own next season's #2 draft pick if the season ended today. They went 8-12 in this stretch.

Who else is not hot:

Washington came out of the gate pretty well, but has fallen back to last place in the East with a 6-14 stretch.

Norfolk went 7-13 to fall behind the Trenton Traffic in the NL East.


Who's Hot: Las Vegas Gamblers

The Gamblers restored some order in the AL West with a blistering 15-5 record.

How: The Gamblers had 6 series (Boston, Little Rock, Nashville, Louisville, Jackson, Syracuse) and won them all. It seemed like when they didn't score runs, the pitching was good. When the pitching had an off night, the offense bailed them out.

Who else is hot:

Monterrey went 13-7 to take a 2-game lead in the South.

Milwaukee, seemingly always hot, went 13-7 and have a 5 game lead in the North.

Charlotte, Nashville, and St. Louis all went 12-8. Charlotte leads the East by 2; the other two teams are currently in the wild-card hunt.

Who's Not: Colorado Springs Chickens

The Chickens only managed 3 wins in the last 20. They are already 15 games out of first.

How: Inconsistency. They scored 4 runs a game and gave up 6 a game during this stretch, but that doesn't tell the whole story. They seemed to be the exact opposite of Las Vegas; when they scored they gave up more runs, and they didn't score any runs on the nights when their pitching was solid.

Who else is not hot:

Fellow division mate Seattle lost 13 of 20, although Colorado Springs would gladly switch places.

Buffalo lost 11 of its last 14 on its way to a 7-13 stretch.

Jackson's starting to experience some growing pains, falling to last place in the South due to an 8-12 stretch.

And Yet Another IFA Joins

The Atlanta Bandits signed Odalis Lopez with another cache of cash. A sandlot catcher with a fantastic hitting style garnered from playing neighborhood stick ball. Chances of winning a gold glove is remote but very possible to win the batting average title.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The International Front

There has been a few signings in the International market that might be note worthy. Though, while following up on potential leads of ML caliber players in Mexico the other day, I kind of got side tracked by a cute 2B on the ladies softball team. Three days and a bottle of aspirin later I was able to make my reluctant escape. My boss made me because I got to tell ya about all those transactions that has taken place and I am not in the mood to be kind.

The Buffalo Blue Cheese spent a wad of cash on Miguel Hernandez. 20M for a so called pitcher with great control and some good power pitches to fool the bat boy with. He would be great if he only pitched to left-handed hitters. He will induce a lot of ground balls but someone had better be there to chase them.

The Fargo Dirtbags found some enormity signing Victor Neruda. SS might be a stretch, just like his hitting style.

The Boston Bambinos happened to spot Pepe Gomez and Diego Martin playing catch at an orphanage game. Ok, so one would throw the ball and the other would go chase it. They later found out they could actually hit the ball. As luck would have it that day, the visiting team had a SS they took a shine to in Al Valentin. They went gaga for this kid as he just kept playing all day long, it was a tournament and was involved in three games that day. Little did they know at the time, he doesn't like playing SS and really wants to play RF.

The Monterrey Sultans found them a CF in Carlos Ordaz. He might play RF in a pinch. A pretty dubious hitter in his own right though. He was in the weight room the other day doing his daily workout. He was having a rough go of it as the sweat was just pouring off of him. It seems putting 10lb dumbbells on a cart are just a tad much for him.

The Colorado Springs Chickens signed Rodrigo Carrasco. Why? No one else knows either.

The Atlanta Bandits stole Jose Lee. Maybe the Bandits should watch what they are stealing, as teams are lining up at the launching pad to harass this kid. Ding Ding Ding

The Trenton Traffic was looking for a new directional finder in CF and settled on Albert Duran. He actually looks pretty good roaming CF and fights the pitchers at the plate. He is a little lazy though, as he has every other day off according to his contract.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Top 101 Prospects in The Bigs - Season 4

THE BIGS TOP 100 List Season 4

The level of overall talent in the Bigs minor leagues has increased every year and this year looks to provide the toughest competition as far as getting your prospect a slot on the list. So you may have had a player that made the list last season but was knocked off the list this year. This year it's the City Limits of Austin that lays claim as the team with the most spots on the list with nine, followed closely by the Shakers out of SLC and the Killer Whales of Seattle both with eight. Seattle was first last year with nine. Starting pitching once again won out as the most popular postition with 30 SP's on the list down 3 from last year. Shortstop was next with 20 down 4 from 16 last year. Although we figure some of those shortstops will be converted to 3B down the road. Hence there is only one 3B on the list ATM. Both Seattle and Jackson have 2 players in the top 10. Jacque Puffer is this season's No. 1 prospect, ending Amp Palmer's two year reign on the throne. There were many good players left out so any player on this list should have good value.



splitsvL / vR splits
++++> 87 pitch rating
+++70-86 pitch rating
++50-69 pitch rating
+0-49 pitch rating
gloveoverall defense

1.Jacque Puffer2BLOA9.65SEAC+ con, A pwr, A--/B++ splits, A-- eye, C+ def, A br
2.Amp PalmerSSAA9.65LOUB con, B-- pwr, B+/B-- splits, B-- eye, A- def, GM
3.Jordan NewfieldSSLOA9.6SLCA-- con, B+ pwr, C++/B++ splits, D++ eye, A def
4.D'Angelo MartinSPHIA9.6ATLA++ sta, A++ control, C/B splits, 1+++4++
5.Quilvio SanchezCPAA9.5SEAA++ sta A control, 1++++1++
6.Alex JavierCPAA9.45FARB++ sta, A control, 1++++1+++
7.Turner DolanCFAA9.2CHAA++ con, C-- pwr, B/B+ splits, B eye, A-- def
8.Alex SamuelSPAAA9.1JAKD+ sta, A- control, A/A++ splits, 3+++1+
9.Garry WrightCPAAA9.05JAKA-- sta, A++ control, 2++++, gm
10.Carlos BatistaSSLOA9.05SLCB- con, C- pwr, B++/C++ splits, C+ eye, A-- def, gm
11.Thurman AllenCFLOA9.05L.R.C+ con, B- pwr, B-/A++ splits, C eye, B++ def
12.John BalfourSPHIA9.0D.C.D++ sta, A control, A/B splits, 1++++1+++1++1+
13.Rico Guevara2BAAA9.0STLD++ con, B+ pwr, A++/C+ splits, A++ eye, B+ def, A br, gm
14.Barry McEnroeOFLOA8.95CSPA+ con, B- pwr, B+/B- splits, B++ eye, D def
15.Paul TurnbowCFAAA8.95CHID- con, C-- pwr, A/A+ splits, D+ eye, A- def
16.Ryan HamillSSAA8.95CSPC con, A-- pwr, C++/C++ splits, C= eye, A-- def
17.Doc BowenSSLOA8.9PHIB con, B-- pwr, B/F splits, A++ eye, A+ def
18.Jack Hunt2BAAA8.8SEAB con, B++ pwr, B--/B splits, B++ eye, C def, gm
19.Willis Biddle2BAAA8.8D.C.A-- con, B+ pwr, B--/C- splits, C++ eye, B- def, B br
20.Lonny GatesSPAAA8.8HOUC++ sta, A control, B-/A splits, 1++++2+++1+, gm
21.Ed AllenSPAA8.75AUSC- sta, A- control, C--/A- splits, 3+++
22.Vin LoganDHLOA8.7MNTB/B++ pwr, A++/A++ splits, D- eye, D++ def
23.Che BongSSAA8.7SLCB con, C pwr, C+/A- splits, B- eye, A br
24.Felipe CalleSPAAA8.7SLCC- sta, A++ control, C++/A-- splits, 1++++1+++1++
25.Julio RosaSSHIA8.7AUSB con, D++ pwr, D++/B splits, B eye, B++ def
26.Vic JamesOFAA8.65SLCA++ con, B-- pwr, C++/A splits, B- eye, G def
27.Tony Johnson2BLOA8.65JAKC con, B- pwr, B--/B splits, B-- eye, B def, B br
28.Shane FletcherOFLOA8.65SJA-- con, D++ pwr, A++/C+ splits, A-- eye, B+ def
29.Dennis HuangSSLOA8.65CSPD con, D pwr, A--/C splits, D++ eye, B+ def
30.Kevin PongspLOA8.65N.O.A sta, B-- control, B--,C++ splits, 2+++2++1+
31.Mariano TerreroSSLOA8.65AUSD con, A++ pwr, C--/C-- splits, F eye, B+ def, B br
32.Daniel KochSSAAA8.6BOSB con, B pwr, B-/C- splits, C+ eye, B+ def
33.Bobby DavenportSPAAA8.55NFKB sta, A++ control,C++/C++ splits, 2+++2++1+
34.Pedro LimonSPLOA8.5ATLA sta, A++ control, B/B+ splits, 2++2+
35.Jason WalkerSSAA8.5ATLB++ con, B- pwr, B-/C++ splits, B-- eye, B def, gm
36.Allie FielderSPAAA8.5LOUD++ sta, D-- control,, B/B+ splits, 3+++2++ gm
37.Dennis TamuraOFAAA8.5JAKA con, B pwr, B++,C+ splits, C+ eye, D- def, A br
38.William SatouSSAAA8.5AUSD con, F pwr, C++/C++ splits, D- eye, A++ def
39.Yogi AndersonSPAAA8.45STLC+ sta, B+ control, B-,B splits, 3+++2+ gm
40.Phillip McCartinCFLOA8.45SEAA con, D+ pwr, D+/B splits, B eye, B- def, B br
41.George LoweCFHIA8.45SLCB+ con, D+ pwr, C+/A- splits, B++ eye, B def
42.Pablo RojasCPAAA8.45TREB sta, A++ control, B,B+ splits, 1++++1+++
43.Peaches ThompsonSPLOA8.4ANAC- sta, B- control, B--/C++ splits, 1++++1+++2++1+
44.Neifi McBrideSSAAA8.4CHIB+ con, D pwr, B-/C splits, B eye, A def
45.Slash RuffinSPLOA8.4MILC sta, B- control, C+/B+ splits, 3+++1+
46.Ewell ElsterOFLOA8.4AUSD con, B pwr, B+/B++ splits, D+ eye, C++ def
47.Kevin KimSSAAA8.35L.V.C+ con, D-- pwr, B/D+ splits, C+ eye, A def
48.Brandon MartinSSLOA8.35MNTB con, D pwr, C/C++ splits, F eye, A def
49.Mateo GuerreroSPAAA8.3CHIA++ sta, A-- control, B--/B-- splits, 2+++2++1+
50.Lonny HernandezSPHIA8.3SYRD++ sta, A++ control, B-/B splits, 1++++1+++1++
51.J.C. GreenSPAAA8.3S.J.B-- sta, C-- control, B-/B splits, 1++++1+++1++1+
52.Ken KeaglePFLOA8.3VANB-, B pwr, C+/B-- splits, B++ eye, D++ def, B br
53.Greg NiemanSPAAA8.25ANAF sta, A- control, B-/B++ splits, 1++++1+++1++2+
54.Marc DeJeanCAAA8.25TORB con, D++ pwr, A+/B-- splits, A+ eye, B-- def
55.George Stargell3BAAA8.25AUSB-- con, C++ pwr, C/C- splits, D++ eye, B- def, gm
56.Pedro Candelaria2BAAA8.2ANAA- con, B pwr, D++/C-- splits, C++ eye, C-- def
57.Tom ZimmerRPAAA8.2BUFB sta, C++ control, A--/B-- splits, 1++++1+++1+
58.Mitch ClarkCPAAA8.2TREC sta, A++ control, C/C++ splits, 2+++
59.Lucas WorthingtonSPAA8.2SYRB-- sta, A++ control, B++/C+ splits, 1+++3++1+
60.B.C. StoneSSAA8.2CHIC con, C-- pwr, B-/D+ splits, D++ eye, B++ def B br
61.Albert DaleSSLOA8.15CHYD-- con, D++ pwr, B--/D++ splits, D+ eye, A+ def
62.Turner DarrSPAAA8.15PHIA+ sta, A- control, C++/D splits, 3+++1++
63.Evan Smith2BAA8.15CHIC+ con, D pwr, A--/B splits, B eye, C++ def, gm
64.Vasco LopezCAAA8.15TREC- con, C++ pwr, C++/A splits, B- eye, B- def
65.Kevin Yamakazi2BAAAA8.15TORB+ con, C++ pwr, C/C splits, C-- eye, C def
66.Albert CastroCFAAA8.15TORC- con, C++ pwr, C--/C- splits, A- def
67.Steven O'MalleyCHI8.1LOUB-- con, B+ pwr, A--/C++ splits, B++ eye, C- def
68.Dixie ReynoldsSPAA8.1AUSD++ sta, A control, C--/B splits, 2+++1++2+
69.Sam BrumfieldCAA8.1AUSC con, B- pwr, C+/D splits, B- eye, B+ def, gm
70.Magglio PerezOFAA8.05TREC con, A-- pwr, B++/B-- splits, C- eye, D+ def
71.Don WangCPAAA8.05N.O.D sta, C++ control, C+/B- splits, 1++++1+++, gm
72.Red RoseSSLOA8.05LOUC con, D-- pwr, B--/D++ splits, F eye, A def, gm
73.Julio Silvilla1BHIA8MILB con, A pwr, C-/B splits, B eye, D-- def, LHealth
74.Miguel ReyesSPHIA7.95SEAA sta, A control, B+/C splits, 1++++1+++1++1+
75.Jim ClyburnCPAA7.95SJB+ sta, A- control, B+/C- splits, 2+++1+, gm
76.Larry CarasoneRPAAA7.9SEAD sta, A+ control, B-/B++ splits, 3+++
77.Tony BurnitzSSAA7.85SEAD+ con, B-- pwr, B-/A-- splits, D eye, B-- def
78.Tito Martin2BAAA7.85BUFC++ con, D pwr, B++/B+ splits, B++ eye, C++ def
79.Eddie Peters1BHIA7.85D.C.B+ con, B pwr, C++/D++ splits, B- eye, D- def
80.Mark BongSPAAA7.85SALA-- sta, B control, C/C++ splits, 1+++2++3+
81.Cliff MillerCPHIA7.85SLCB sta, B+ control, A--/C+ splits, 1+++1+
82.Alex SuhSSAA7.85CSPC-- con, D-- pwr, B/D++ splits, F eye, A-- def
83.Hiram SpooneybargerCAAA7.85CSPC- con, B++ pwr, A++/D splits, B+ eye, C- def
84.Delino ColonSPAAA7.85AUSB++ sta, D- control, B+/B+ splits, 1++++3++1+
85.Alexander RichardsonRPLOA7.85MILD sta, C+ control, C/B+ splits, 2+++1++1+
86.Billy SpencerSPAAA7.85BUFA-- sta, D++ control, C+/C+ splits, 2+++2++
87.Enrique GutierrezSPAA7.85FARA- sta, D++ control, D++/B+ splits, 2+++1++2+
88.Glenn Allen WehnerSPAA7.85VANC- sta, B-- control, B+/C+ splits, 1+++1++2+
89.Luis MeloOFAA7.8NASC-- con, D-- pwr, B+/B+ splits, B++ eye, D++ def
90.Victor Flores2BHIA7.75CHIB+ con, C+ pwr, A--/C splits, C++ eye, C++def
91.Vic MolinaRPAA7.75JAKB sta, B+ control, B+/C+ splits, 1+++1++
92.Rick AndersonCAAA7.7MNTC con, B- pwr, B-/B-- splits, C++ eye, C+ def
93.Murray CraneSPLOA7.7SEAB sta, D control, B+/C- splits, 2+++2++1+
94.Thomas BennettSPLOA7.7SEAB sta, D control, D-/D++ splits, 1++++1+++3++
95.Tommy Jordan2BAA7.7BOSB-- con, D pwr, B/D++ splits, B- eye, B def
96.Kevin StewartCAAA7.7D.C.B-- con, B- pwr, C+/D- splits, A-- eye, C- def
97.Pedro MedranoSPAAA7.7N.O.B- sta, B++ control, C-/D++ splits,2+++2++1+
98.Bryan ChristiansenOFAA7.7N.O.B- con, A- pwr, D-/D splits, B-- eye, D+ def, A br
99.Dan CallawayRPAA7.7CHAF sta, A++ control, C--/C++ splits, 2+++2++
100.Rex KentDHHIA7.7STLC-- con, A pwr, C++/A splits, A-- eye, F def
101.Will WestonCFLOA7.6LVC con, B++ pwr, B--/F splits, B+ eye, A+ def

Who's Hot, Who's Not

After 20 games, it's time to quickly examine who's hot and who's not.

National League

Who's Hot: Houston Riverdogs
Record: 15-5

How: They've scored the most runs in the NL and given up the fewest. This usually leads to winning baseball. More specifically, Monte Duvall is having a monster season so far, with 27 RBIs in 20 games. Brian Saitou and Alex McClain have also reached the 20 RBI plateau. The pitching is even better- the starter with the highest ERA is Stephen Tucker with a 3.47 ERA. Matt Skinner has been lights out in the closer's role and Cristian Price has been possibly better in the setup role.

Upcoming: Their schedule gets a little tougher. They've got three with NL West leading Vancouver and then 7 in a row against the always dangerous Fargo Dirtbags.

Who else is hot:

Vancouver and Salem are tied for second in the NL with matching 13-7 records.

Norfolk also starts the season at 13-7 to lead the NL East.

Washington, who lost 109 games last season, is off to an 11-9 start.

Who's Not: Atlanta Bandits
Record: 6-14

How: Their strength was supposed to be their young pitching, but they yield 6 runs a game; their offense can't keep up. Fred Carter is 0-4 with an ERA of 7.83 and Alex Sanchez has an ERA over 10 in a combined 8 starts.

Upcoming: They don't face any team in the next 20 games with a record better than 11-9, but Toronto and Fargo are quality teams. Austin and Philadelphia could give them chances to win some games.

Who else is not hot:

Philadelphia is tied for an NL worst 6-14.

Cheyenne isn't used to looking up at everyone in the NL West, but at 8-12, that's just what they are doing.

San Juan, a chic pick to make the playoffs, is also 8-12.

Trenton makes this list not for their record (a respectable 11-9), but for waiving 40% of their starting staff already (both starters passed).


Who's Hot: Milwaukee Manic Maulers
Record: 14-6

How: Offense, mostly. Their 130 runs (6.5 a game) is second best in the AL. Andre Eckenstahler has 20 RBIs, but the catalyst has been Burt Stevenson; he's hitting .398 with 9 HRs and 19 RBIs while scoring 20 times. Harold Lewis (.341) and Luis Martinez (.362) are also red hot to start the season.

Who else is hot:

Monterrey takes their accustomary position atop the AL South at 12-8

Nashville has scored a ML-best 140 runs (7 a game) during their 11-9 start.

Seattle has rebounded from an awful season 3 to start 11-9 and lead the AL West.

Perhaps the only team more surprising than Seattle is Jackson: the cardiac kids have already played seven 1-run games (4-3) and are tied for second at 11-9.

Who's Not: Louisville
Record: 8-12

How: Are they the worst team in the AL? No, as Colorado Springs is 6-14. But it's odd to see a 3-time division winner in last place, even though it's early. The stats seem to indicate they should be a little better than they are. No hitter has been outstanding and they strike out a lot, but their pitching has been solid.

Upcoming: They do have Milwaukee coming up, but there are no other dominant AL teams outside of Wisconsin, so they could get back in it.

Also not hot:

Colorado is a league worst 6-14.

Buffalo occupies last place in the north at 8-12.

AL West rivals Anaheim and Las Vegas are 9-11 to start.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More major trades

Breaking down some of the bigger deals that have occurred after the free-agent period:

Cheyenne Nation and San Juan Dead Bunnies

Cheyenne gets: LF Steve Sweeney, RP Kenneth Schalk

San Juan gets: LF Osvaldo Johnson, RP Jim Clyburn (AA)

Analysis: Obviously the huge name here is multiple-MVP winner Johnson. He's put up Hall of Fame-type numbers for the first 3 seasons of this league and he's only 29. San Juan gets a middle of the order hitter. Jim Clyburn is a very talented reliever- he's a future closer. Sweeney has the talent to put up numbers close to Johnson's but he's yet to prove himself on the ML level. Schalk is a solid setup guy who is on the ML roster but could use another season in the minors. A bit of a head-scratching move on the Cheyenne end- not necessarily for the trading of Johnson- but for the inclusion of Clyburn if the Nation is trying to get younger.

New York New York and Milwaukee Manic Maulers

New York gets: SP Vic Chavez
Milwaukee gets: 2B Benji Bartolo, SP Fred Keats (AAA)

Analysis: The key to this deal is a guy who was not included in it- Lawrence Carver. Milwaukee GM gydk wanted to give AAA star Carver a shot inthe ML rotation, making Chavez expendable. If Carver succeeds, this is a great deal for Milwaukee; if not, it's a complete head-scratcher. Bartolo and Keats are both quality players- neither have superstar ability but both should be quality contributors for seasons to come. New York gets a quality #2 or #3 starter with a good track record. The key to this dea

Houston Riverdogs and Little Rock Raiders

Houston gets: RP Matt Skinner
Little Rock gets: 3B Leo Miller

Analysis: Little Rock gets a 3-time All Star in Miller, who immediately fills in nicely in the middle of the Little Rock order, but does Miller launch them into the playoff discussion? If not, then this deal makes little sense for the Raiders. Skinner has the potential to be a big-time closer- I predict that at some point in his career he will win a Fireman of the Year award.

Trenton Traffic and Boston Bambinos

Trenton gets: SP Damion Mays
Boston gets: IF Daniel Koch (AAA)

Analysis: An interesting deal of two young players, both of whom have very good upside. Mays is a hard-throwing, 23 year old lefty with three good pitches. He's struggled his first two seasons but may be on the verge of figuring it out. Koch is an all-around highly talented player with big-time power; his biggest issue is his health. If he can stay on the field, he'll love aiming balls at Fenway's Green Monster.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Opening Day for the Champs (and half the league)

16 teams have already opened their seasons. Tonight the rest of the league got underway.

National League

In New Orleans, the defending champion Houston Riverdogs dropped a 7-6 decision to the Voodoo to start the season. Aces Stephen Tucker (Houston) and Carlos Matos (New Orleans) started; neither was very effective. The battle of the bullpens went to the 10th, when pinch-hitter Morgan Cain hit a solo shot off Houston reliever Matt Skinner to send the New Orleans crowd home happy.

In Philadelphia, two of the NL's best starters locked up in a pitcher's duel as the Phantom's Bernard Robinson went toe-to-toe with Fargo's superstar pitcher Javier Henriquez. The offense gave Henriquez a 3-1 lead, but the vaunted Fargo bullpen couldn't hold it, and the Dirtbags dropped a 4-3 decision. This one was also decided in the 10th, when Philadelphia RF Anthony Spencer doubled home 3B Juan Rodriguez.

Norfolk had an easier time than the aforementioned defending division champs, pounding out a 12-2 decision over Washington. Babe Broadhurts went 7 strong innings, allowing only 1 run on 4 hits and a walk. Justin Gordon was the hitting star, going 3 for 5 with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs.

In Cheyenne, Salem Sacrifices ace Dave Dunwoody was excellent, while Nation ace Kane Grahe was not. The Salem offense touched Grahe up for 7 runs in 6 innings and cruised to a 9-3 decision. Dunwoody pitched 7 scoreless innings, yielding only 2 hits and 2 walks to the Nation.

American League

The defending American League champs, like the National League champs, find themselves at 0-1 after opening night. They dropped a 3-2 game to the Blue Cheese up in Buffalo. James Morton got the ball on Opening Night and went 8 innings, but was outdueled by Buffalo's Steven Michaels, who ended up with a no-decision to show for his 7 strong innings. The game was tied in the 8th when Buffalo's RF Jordan Ball hit a wall-scraping home run to provide the winning margin.

Louisville went to Charlotte and pounded out 17 hits in a 7-4 win. Carlton Fleming gave up 1 run in 5 2/3 innings and 1B Ismael Polanco hit a 3-run home run in the 1st to give the Legends a lead they would never relinquish.

Little Rock outhit Nashville but the Sounds still managed to win 4-1. In what could be something the Nashville fans may need to get used to, all 4 runs for the Sounds came on home runs (a 2-run shot and a solo blast by Midre Santiago and a solo homer from King Winn). Joey Hubbard went the distance for the Raiders but just couldn't keep the ball in the park.

Anaheim only managed 6 hits against Matty Eusebio and 6 Colorado Springs Chickens relievers, but managed to win 2-0. Andy Ramsey was the star for the Chiles, going 7 shoutout innings and turning the lead over to B.J. Wallace and closer Vince Perez, who got the save.

Around the league on Opening Day

Some highlights from Opening Day in the Bigs:

National League

All four division champions from last season begin tonight, but the two wild card teams took the field on Opening Day.

Chicago was a legitimate title contender last season, but on this day it was Toronto's Davey Pena who was the story. Pena, who was nearly demoted to AAA in spring training, hit 2 HRs and drove in 5 as the Toros won in Chicago 12-3.

Trenton, the other wild card team from last season, fared better. Carlton MacDougal set the tone with a first-inning grand slam off Fred Carter to spark a 11-6 win over the Atlanta Bandits.

San Juan was excited about the recent addition of superstar LF Osvaldo Johnson, and the fans were not disappointed. He led off the 8th inning with a solo home run to provide the final margin of a 4-1 Dead Bunnies victory over the Austin City Limits.

Out west, the Golden Otters made their first game north of the border a successful one. Kerry Barber pitched 6 strong innings, yielding 1 run on 4 hits in a 3-1 victory over the Salt Lake City Shakers.

American League

3 out of the 6 playoff teams from a season ago have already opened their seasons. Neither defending division titlist won.

Perennial contender Monterrey couldn't beat up-and-coming Jackson on Opening Day. Marty James, Jackson's 2nd year shortstop, had a monster game. He went 5 for 5 with 2 HRs and 7 RBIs as the Vipers slugged their way past the Sultans 14-7. Del Lopez, Ryan Snyder, and Felipe Ortiz all homered in a losing cause.

In Las Vegas, Seattle Killer Whales pitcher Miguel Benitez threw a 7-hit shutout and Zeke Sellers hit a 3-run home run to propel thte Whales to a 5-0 win over the Gamblers.

St. Louis follows up their wild-card berth from last season with an opening day win over the Syracuse Simpletons. Benito Martin and 2 relievers held Syracuse to 8 hits and no runs in a 4-0 victory. Louie Bolivar was the hard-luck loser, going 6 innings and giving up 10 hits but only 1 run.

In the east, our own version of the New York-Boston rivalry begins, with game 1 going to the boys from Gotham by a 2-1 margin. It was a pitcher's duel, with Boston's Daryl Cashman almost matching New York's Max Jacquez pitch for pitch, but Jacquez was just a little better. Marvin Bailey and Bob Koplove traded solo shots, but it was Cashman's first inning wild pitch that gave New York the extra run.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Season 4 Playoff Predictions

Playoff predictions bound to go wrong:

National League

1. Fargo Dirtbags
2. Houston Riverdogs
3. Norfolk Destroyers
4. Vancouver Golden Otters
5. Toronto Toros
6. San Juan Dead Bunnies

Round 1:
San Juan over Norfolk
Toronto over Vancouver

Round 2:
San Juan over Houston
Fargo over Toronto

NLCS: Fargo over San Juan

American League

1. Milwaukee
2. Monterrey
3. Louisville
4. Anaheim
5. Las Vegas
6. Nashville

Round 1:
Louisville over Nashville
Anaheim over Las Vegas

Round 2:
Milwaukee over Anaheim
Monterrey over Louisville

ALCS: Milwaukee over Monterrey

World Series: Milwaukee over Fargo

AL West Season 4 Preview

7 divisions down, 1 to go. The only division that has had multiple teams win a division title (Las Vegas in seasons 1 and 3, Anaheim in season 2), the West seemed to have an upstart Anaheim Chile team ready to challenge the Gamblers to form a rivalry, but the Chiles fell flat last season. Can they do it this season? Can either division doormat (Colorado Springs and Seattle) rise up?


The Anaheim offense and Las Vegas offense are very close- I'll take Anaheim based on star power. 3B Alex Vazquez is the Bigs all-time leader in home runs and RBIs, and SS James Dixon is a rising superstar. This isn't where the offense ends, as IF Brace Kroger, DH Alex Estrada, and CF Butch Swift will contribute.

Las Vegas doesn't have the name recognition of the Chiles but they do have some firepower. DH Clarence Hartman had a big-time season, and he'll be backed by LF Wally Harvey, CF Emmitt Yearwood, 2B Jeremy Glover, and speedy 1B Carlos Aguilar.

Colorado Springs has a few nice pieces but also has holes to fill. 1B Jung Zheng and LF Alex Lim would get much more attention if they were playing on a better team; they are both very talented. After that, 2B Javier Tavarez is really the only threat, and the SS and CF positions are in flux.

Seattle's offense was downright offensive last season. 3B Eddie Linton was the only player with more than 500 at-bats to have an OBP over .330. He will help 2B Richard Takahashi and slugging RF/DH Richard Little in trying to sustain an offense. They strike out way too often, most notably LF Pep Osborn (160 times).


Wow. Not much star power here. I'll start in Colorado Springs due to the new arrival of ace Matty Eusebio, who immediately becomes by far the best starting pitcher in the division. He'll be backed by Marty Lane, who's pretty solid. Ivan Castilla was better, but still has room for improvement. Dude Huskey should close for the Chickens.

Las Vegas is probably just ahead of Anaheim. Buster Charles had a nice season, and he'll be backed by Billy Nation and Anthony Hall (not from the Brat Pack). Louie Martin will be expected to eat innings when he comes back from injury. Dave Stewart is solid as the closer and Coco Hines will set up; he's pretty good.

Anaheim isn't bad, but they lack an ace of Eusebio's quality. Andy Ramsey is the top starter and rookie Maceo Batista will be counted on for quality innings. If they get something from enigmatic veterans Tom Griffith and Cookie Rijo, they could be a solid staff. Vince Perez likely will close.

Seattle has a lot of holes. Jerry Terry is their best option, and even he struggled in the new stadium. Joe Gleason is a decent looking young starter- he'll fit in behind Terry. King Burns should earn the closer's job, but the setup positions could be had by just about anyone (even fans).


1. Haven't really called for any big-time upset yet, so why not here at the end? Call it a hunch, but I'll take the Anaheim Chiles to get past the Gamblers for the division title.
2. Las Vegas should play well enough to be in the wild-card mix.
3. Colorado Springs should clear Seattle for third by a decent margin if they get any sort of shortstop and center fielder.
4. Seattle could finish dead last in the AL again.
5. Breakout star: Jung Zheng. If you're not familiar with the Chickens, just watch his numbers at the end of the season.
6. Star most likely to be traded: Don't think Matty Eusebio should get too comfortable in his new place in Colorado. He could be dealt if the Chickens fall out of it, as teams will need starting pitching.

AL South Season 4 Preview

Like the first two previewed AL divisions, this one has been dominated by one team since opening day of the opening season. Monterrey has taken 3 straight division titles and took a World Series trophy south of the border. Will they be a team that ends up with a 4-peat? Or does rival Nashville finally step up past the Sultans? And what of Little Rock and Jackson?


Even with Cody Lincoln leaving town, this is still the deepest lineup in the division. They have so many weapons: IFs Haywood McDonald, Howard Murray, and Del Lopez remain along with budding star DH Tony Escuela and another big-time hitter, RF Ryan Snyder, comes over from Milwaukee. This lineup's only problem may be finding at-bats for guys like free-agent pickup Eli Jacquez.

Nashville has the two best hitters in this division, but depth is an issue. 2-time MVP and future sure-fire Hall of Famer 2B Gregg Black is back to terrorize AL pitching and DH King Winn had a monster year back in the American League. After those two, there's not much- C Tony Stieb is a good hitter (although he can be shaky behind the plate) and 1B Midre Santiago drives in runs but doesn't get on base enough and strikes out too much. I think Kris Clinton's days as a productive hitter may be reaching an end.

In Little Rock, the departure of IF Wendell Durrington (Cheyenne) leaves a big hole in the middle of the lineup, so they've brought in 1B Bernie Soriano (New York) to fill the gap. He'll join SS Jay Walker (signed to a huge contract from Colorado Springs) and LF Pete McGowan, who can drive in runs but needs the first base coach to put a giant stop sign in front of him at first base (4 for 27 in stolen bases). OF Abdullah Dillon is ultra-fast, but can get on base more.

Jackson is a team in the midst of a rebuilding process. They have veteran DH Ricky Beech who, at 30 years old, is the oldest player currently on the roster. The lineup's future is in the hands of the likes of 3B Brook Teut and LF Dennis Tamura.


I have to start down Mexico way again. The Sultans got recognition for their offense, but their pitching was a key components of all that success in the first three seasons of this league. Stalwarts Albert Gonzalez and Philip Allensworth are now joined by veteran ace Ajax Drabek and future star pitcher Luther Brush in the rotation. The bullpen is well-stocked as well, with Ted Reese and Tony Merced the most talented of the bunch.

Nashville comes in next. Ham Bruske is the only dependable starter- Vin Bautista struggled in his first season in Nashville and Miguel Gonzalez is decent as a #3. Josh Gant and Larry Cole need to step up their games. Nashville fans can only take so much of the roller coaster ride that is Enrique Chantres at the end of the game.

Jackson's top four starting pitchers are all under the age of 24. Alex Samuel may be the best of the bunch, and Jimmy Cole can be almost as good if he can find his control. Ivan Webster should have a nice career, but I don't think Carlos Martinez can cut it as a top-flight starter; he may find a spot at the bottom of a rotation. 5th starter Ralph Wilkins may be the most important man on the staff not because of his talent (he's maybe a #5 starter), but because he's 26- nobody else on the pitching staff can rent a car on road trips. Josh Drese and Garry Wright should get opportunities at the back of the bullpen. Wright is 23 and Drese is 24.

Little Rock realized that Marc Dubose, Wilfredo Colome, and Brent Holmes weren't going to cut it as a top three in a rotation, so they went out and addressed the staff in the offseason. Unfortunately, I don't think it helps. Hipolito Pujols hasn't ever been the same since his elbow injury and may never be, and I've never been a fan of Joey Hubbard- his reputation is better than his production (he's never had an ERA under 5 for any season). If Bo Hatfield is the best option you have in the bullpen, it's a mess.


1. Monterrey makes it 4 in a row. Nashville might be able to slug with them but no one can pitch with them.
2. Since Black and Winn couldn't slug Nashville to a wild-card spot last season, their season hinges on three players- Vin Bautista, Daryl Lyons, and Albert Reith. If the former can help Bruske and the latter two can help the mashers, the Sounds could find themselves back in the playoff mix.
3. Jackson takes third. They won't be near the playoffs, but Viper fans should be pleased as they start to see the future taking shape. I don't forsee a Tampa Bay Rays-type turnaround (but then again, who saw that one coming?), but there will be signs that this franchise is on the way up.
4. Little Rock can't pitch, so they get to sleep in the basement.
5. Breakout star: Dennis Tamura. I'm telling you now- remember the name.
6. Star most likely to be traded: probably one of Little Rock's position players. Jay Walker would be a good candidate if his contract wasn't enormous, so I'll say Pete McGowan.

AL North Season 4 Preview

The Milwaukee franchise has been true to its name, manically mauling all comers in the division since day one of this league. Last season St. Louis finished 20 games back of the Bashing Bratwursts and still managed to snag a wild card spot. Can they do it again or even upset the Maulers? Can either team from the Upstate NY connection (Buffalo and Syracuse) break through?


A preview of the entire major leagues, never mind this division, would start in Milwaukee. They're loaded yet again, with big time stars up and down the lineup. 1B Andre Eckenstahler, IF Bob Malone, LF Burt Stevenson, CF Luis Martinez, and RF Harold Lewis are all big-time hitters. A scary thought is that it's possible that this offense, which has set the league record for runs two straight seasons, could score even more this season if SS Ray Buchanan reverts back to his season 2 form.

There's a big drop off from Milwaukee; I'll take Buffalo next. The Orlando Franco deal could hurt them at shortstop, but they do get Vladimir Rodriguez out of the deal. He'll join slugging 1B Daryle Van Poppel, CF Walker Guerrero, and C/DH Marc Strange in the middle of the lineup. 2B Jordan Ball and LF Jeffrey Evans could step up to provide RBI opportunities for the aforementioned 4; if not, they may struggle.

Syracuse won't be too far behind their upstate brothers. C/DH Emmanuel Guzman made his first season along I-90 a very successful one- he'll lead the offensive charge. LF Peter Suzuki, IF/OF Bret King, and free-agent import 3B William Nomo should drive in runs. OF Harry Silva was great in part-time duty getting on base and in the running game, but the question becomes if he can do it over 500-600 at bats.

St. Louis may struggle at times to put runs on the board. Young 1B Nick Hernandez appears to be the real deal, but he'll need help from the outfield duo of Pepe Martin and Benito Valdez to make this lineup viable at all.


Milwaukee still has the stars and the depth to match its hitting prowress. Vin Solano and Woody Hiller are bonafide aces, and Vic Chavez, Graham Costello, and James Morton are very good depth for the starting staff; they'll run out a solid ML pitcher every night. The bullpen is not neglected here, as Quinton Hughes is arguably the best closer in the league and Buddy Titan should have a better year setting up.

Now the question becomes; do I take the staff with one superstar and little depth, or the staff with depth and no star? Dealer, give me an ace. So Buffalo comes next, pretty much solely on the basis of Steven Michaels. The former Cy Young winner has been highly consistent in his three seasons. It's quite iffy after that; Orber Marin took a gigantic step back last season (although he is capable of bouncing back) and Pete Rubel has been terrible. On the upside, Steve Clay has a chance to become a good starter, and Pablo Rijo should be solid at the end.

Syracuse has a ton of starters and most of them are anywhere from serviceable to solid, but none I would consider to be really good. Louie Bolivar and Russell Newson are probably the best of the bunch, and you have your pick of Tony Rowan, Ryan Martin, Hayes Hill, Lefty Little, and Charlie Miller for the other 3 spots (I'd be tempted to go with Rowan and Martin just for the Laugh-In jokes that would inevitably follow). Jared McMahon will be the closer.

St. Louis got in the playoffs mostly on their arms last season. Based on their current roster, I just don't see it. They had 4 guys win in double figures last season, but 3 are gone (amazingly, they all went to Syracuse). Benito Martin led the way with 14 wins and is the only solid returning starter. The only other good news is Carlos Carrasco, who was lights out as the closer and Craig Hughes was almost untouchable as the setup guy.


1. As for who wins this, I offer only 2 words: Milwaukee. Landslide.
2. St. Louis goes from last playoff spot to last in the AL North.
3. Syracuse takes second- Buffalo is trying to build for the future. Neither gets anywhere near the playoffs.
4. Breakout star: Jordan Ball.
5. Star most likely to be traded: SP Steven Michaels. He's already rumored to be on the block, and the trade of Franco indicates that Buffalo sees itself as a seller, not a buyer.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

AL East Season 4 Preview

The AL East has been great to baseball fans in the state of Kentucky and lousy to everyone else. Louisville has won 3 straight division titles, although the Blue Devils from Charlotte put together a nice run at the Legends and managed to snag a wild-card spot, advancing to the 2nd round. What does season 4 hold for this division?


Louisville has been one of the best offensive teams three straight seasons and I don't see much changing. 2B Bernard Young is gone, but they still have plenty of firepower, led by DH Ernest Montgomery. LF Yank Lohse came over from Boise (Vancouver from 2 city changes ago) in season 3 and had by far the best season of his career, becoming an RBI threat as well as providing some speed. Cy Hughes is a good two-way catcher and 1B Ismael Polanco had a season's worth of numbers in less than 100 games- expect big things from him as he probably gets a full-time spot.

Boston checks in next. They have plenty of heavy hitters in the likes of LF Bob Koplove, 1B Wilton Petrick, and sophomore 3B Julian Nichols. CF Steven Leonard and 2B Justin Hernandez need to set the table for the big boppers in the middle.

New York has seen quite a bit of change in the offseason. Bernie Soriano and Vladimir Rodriguez find themselves shipped out of town, but the New York squad welcomes SS Orlando Franco from Buffalo (deal pending). He'll join a middle of the order also containing RF Pete Duvall and 3B Melvin Bailey. CF R.J. Figureoa can score runs, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts.

I'm unsure what to expect from Charlotte this season. They are expecting a healthy IF/DH Moose Coleman this season, which would help a lot. CF Justin Hernandez is a stolen base artist par excellence; if 1B Lyle Barber and SS Alex Li have something left (both had big dropoffs last season with their former teams), this could be a viable offense. They really are relying on these three guys, none of whom produced last season and 3B Greg Whitaker, who has big potential but severely underachieved last season.


We start again in Louisville. They have an ace in Carlton Fleming, but there is also good depth behind him in Lance Stevens and Danny Little. Hipolito Maradona may never be as good as touted in the minors, but he's still got the stuff to be a solid starter, which is all Louisville needs right now. This rotation only gets deeper when Albert Herzog returns from injury. Tom Beltran is pretty solid in the closer's role; they could use a quality setup guy.

New York brought in 37-year-old Max Jacquez to lead the staff. He's got quality youngsters in Jason Sprague and Kenneth Graces. Perry Herman is solid in the #4 spot but is capable of doing more- he's got a lot of talent. Eduardo Moya will close- he was just OK last season. Setup man Wesley Cora was dealt to Buffalo, so the setup position will be given to talented but unproven rookie Dan Daley and sophomore Freddie Hampton.

Charlotte was able to get a playoff position based mostly on their pitching. Clarence Forsch and Tony Howell pitched better than their records; their ERAs were both right around 3.50. Norm Edwards should get a starter's spot this season- he's got good potential. Dennys Fox and Ivan Quinn may be hard-pressed to repeat what they did last season, but they both provide depth. Vic Trevino gave up a few too many runs in the closer's role; Andres Rivera was very good setting him up.

Boston may struggle, as Fenway is not considered to be a pitcher-friendly park. On the upside, they still have Daryl Cashman, who turned in his best season last year. Sadie Witt and Damion Mays need to help Cashman out more. Russell Watson is signed for a total of $10.4 million for the next two seasons- this doesn't appear to be a good investment right now. Davey Guzman saw his ERA spike to over 6 last season- this will not cut it in Boston. Billy Ray Ennis and Lefty Hahn are solid in setup.


1. The Legends have already played tic-tac-toe by scoring three in a row. Make it 4 straight division titles.
2. The AL wild card race could be about as wide open as the NL for once. Any one of the other three teams could find themselves in the thick of the race. If you told me that one of them would make it and made me pick which one, I'd say New York even though it remains to be seen how all the new pieces fit together.
3. I see Charlotte taking a step back. I think they did it last season mostly with smoke and mirrors, and that magic trick rarely works two seasons in a row.
4. Expect a whole lot of 11-9 and 13-12 games up in Boston, and not just because of the park.
5. Breakout star: Ismael Polanco.
6. Big-time name most likely to change addresses: don't really see one. I think just about everyone will stay in it and the team I like the least, Boston, has a fairly young core. I'd say either a guy like Barber or Li if Charlotte falls out quickly or if it's Boston, it may not be a big name like, say, Cashman or Koplove, but more likely a guy like Hahn.

NL West Season 4 Preview

It may not be the same division it was in seasons 1 and 2 (Salem winning a title and the Salem/Arizona rivalry coming down to the last days of the season in season 2), but it's still an interesting division. Salem and Arizona (now Cheyenne) have come back to the pack a little bit. Interestingly enough, the only team in the division to score more runs than it gave up last season (Scottsdale, now Vancouver) finished 3rd. What should we expect from this division in season 4?


It's not going to be like the versions that threatened 1000 runs in seasons 1 and 2, but Cheyenne has the best offense in this division on paper. 2-time MVP Osvaldo Johnson fell off a little bit in his RBI total, but he's still a complete hitter. He will have support in the lineup from recently acquired IF/OF Wendell Durrington and holdovers C Willis Petrov and 1B Eddie Greer. If young players 2B Willie Scott and RF Orlando Diaz can step up (and that's a big if), this could be one of the better offenses in the National League.

Vancouver comes next, although it remains to be seen how the switch to Vancouver will affect the offensive numbers. While they don't have a hitter of the caliber of OJ, they have some depth in the lineup. Newly acquired CF Cody Lincoln will head the offense, along with IFs Miguel Cerveza and Tony Kwon, and RF Cap Herrera. 1B Thomas Keisler took a step back in his first year with the franchise- he'll need to revert back to the form he showed in Montreal/Toronto at the top of the lineup to really make this a potent squad.

Salt Lake City has a superstar in 1B Ruben Hernandez and not much else. The best hitter in the division not named Johnson has 3B Vin Foulke to protect him in the lineup and LF Charles Tomko as the leadoff hitter. 2B Paul Ingram is the most likely to step up here.

Salem will struggle again to score runs. CF Nate Cox is the superstar here, but the rest of the lineup is filled with young, unproven players like LF Reggie Ducati and 2B Derrek Bedard or one-dimensional players like RF Richard Little.


Salem, as it has been since season 1, has one of the best staffs in the NL. Dave Dunwoody and Dwight Salmon are as dominant as ever, and there is some depthbehind them in Dan Pederson and Carlos Bennett. Benjo Stewart could be the 5th starter or a swing man. Tony Matos is a solid closer.

Vancouver is next, a slight favorite over Salt Lake City. They don't have anyone near the caliber of Dunwoody or Salmon, but Kelly Downs had a very nice season last year. Downs, Jesse Bridges and Footsie Lewis form a decent trio, but the last two spots are a mystery- I don't expect much from John Gibson. In the bullpen, Chris Jennings is decent out of the pen (don't like blowing 15 saves, but he did nail down 39), but he'll need help. One thing they can do to help is moving Cerveza out of the shortstop position- he plays it as if he has a few beers before taking the field.

Salt Lake City checks in next. Rob Cepeda, Rene Alexander, and Albert Valdez form a fairly solid top 3 (not to mention young- the first two are under 26). They have the potential to pass Vancouver if they get one of their current AAA starters to step into the #4 role, but as of right now those spots as well as the bullpen is in flux, so I can't elevate them past the Golden Otters yet.

Cheyenne's starting staff features Kane Grahe and... ummm... did I mention Kane Grahe? Lariel Perez could make Rick Ankiel look like a control artist, and both Tim Gonzalez and Hideki Tanaka haven't had success at the ML level yet; I just don't see it coming. Manny Christians becomes the highest-paid closer and Paul Schwartz and Alfredo Canseco are pretty good setup guys, but they may not get many leads to protect.


1. There was only a 6 game difference from first to last in this division last season, so it's hard to say any team is a clear cut favorite. It should be almost as bunched up again this season.
2. Took out my dartboard and assigned each team a quarter of the board. First one hit the wall (my landlord is going to be pissed). Second one hit Vancouver, so that's my pick.
3. I'll take Salem second just because of the pitching.
4. Can't wrap my brain around deacon's team (whatever they're named) finishing last, so I'll say their offense carries them to third.
5. I'll take Willie Scott as the breakout star.
6. I don't really forsee any big name here getting traded, but if I had to take one it'd be either Kane Grahe or Nate Cox.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

NL South Season 4 Preview

Houston pulled off a little bit of an upset by taking out Fargo and Milwaukee en route to the World Series title. Can they repeat? Can someone else in the division take them out?


One might think we'd start with the champs, but I'd take San Juan's offense slightly over Houston, based mostly on depth. They have the big names in superstar RF Calvin Chang and power hitting 3B Julio Castro, but there's more to this offense than just those two. SS Mike Henderson and CF John Baldwin provide a mixture of power and speed, and LF Jackie Wheeler drove in 99 runs. 2B Felix Pryce is a young player who should improve this season, and IF Ronald Spurgeon was brought over from Washington to add depth- 1B Frankie Brooks could end up being the odd man out of this lineup.

Houston isn't far behind, as they have some name recognition of their own in 3B Leo Miller and RF Brian Saitou. With these two along with LF Placido Sanchez and 1B Monte Duvall, they have four guys who are threats to steal bases and hit home runs. If recent pickup CF Scott Diaz (from Chicago) can get on base, this lineup could be downright scary.

New Orleans also has run-scoring capability. 2B Ray Cepicky is the big-time all around hitter, but he's backed by SS Albie Torres and CF Don Jefferson, who is also a stolen base threat. Russ Blank had a nice season at 3B- he'll need to repeat that and LF Mark Jung needs to step up. Former MVP candidate Lyle Barber left via free-agency, so 1B Tim Radlosky will get more at-bats.

Austin has some talent, but has yet to put it all together. They have some nice players like CF Lee Kennedy 3B Karim Ortiz, and 2B Jerry Strickland, but there's no superstar, no huge power threat, and they strike out way too much to sustain innings.


Houston was good last season and gets even better with the addition of SP Stephen Tucker. He'll anchor a staff that also includes Jerome Oliver, Jose Merced, and Damon Thompson. The bullpen has Tex Howell still at the back, and watch for Cristian Price to have a big year setting up Howell.

San Juan has a few stalwart starters in Wally Lawton and Buzz Linden. I don't like the rest of the staff, as Joey Adcock has struggled and I'm not as high on Charlie White as some of the scouts seem to be. Willie Nunez had 48 saves but needs to lower his ERA under 4. Kenneth Schalk had a good season setting up in Season 3. Joaquin Cordero could be valuable as the "swing man".

The addition of R.J. Toca puts Austin ahead of New Orleans in my book. They may regret overpaying for him, but for now he's their best starter and will team with Oswaldo Astacio to form a good 1-2 punch. If Brandon Small and Olmedo James pitch to their potential, this could potentially be a solid, if unspectacular, staff. The bullpen needs help, as Joel King couldn't cut it as the closer and there's no clear cut solution if King falters again.

New Orleans is thankful Washington was in the league; if not, they would have given up the most runs in the NL last season. Carlos Matos is a good starter, but he's the only decent one. Tony Marquez and Jayson Hennesey are (maybe) #5 starters and I'm not a big fan of Jim Brown. Tom Hernandez only blew 5 saves out of 36, but needs to lower his ERA. Bobby Ray Hooper struggled last season but would be the most likely setup man to step up his game this season.


1. Houston wins. Too much balance.
2. San Juan should be right there at the end again (they lost the tiebreaker to Trenton for the last spot) in a bunch of about 3-6 different teams for the wild card. It could be their year to break through and get in.
3. Austin finished 2 games back of New Orleans for third- I'll take them to pass the Voodoo for third this season in what amounts to a "pick 'em" situation.
4. New Orleans drafts a starting pitcher in the first round.
5. Tim Radlosky will make New Orleans fans pine for the Lyle Barber era.

NL North Season 4 Preview

This has been a highly competitive division the past few seasons. Last season, Fargo followed up its World Series appearance with a second straight division title, but couldn't get past eventual champion Houston in the NLCS. Chicago grabbed a wild card spot and knocked off the best in the west (Salem) before succumbing to Fargo. Toronto failed to make the playoffs despite winning 86 games. So what does the division hold this season?


The top 3 teams are fairly close offensively. We start in Fargo, where for the second straight season the Dirtbags take a key offensive component from a division rival. Last season they plucked 1B Rico Valdes from Toronto and he stole 100 bases. This season they acquired 3B Bud Klein from Chicago. He'll join RF William Bolling, CF Stan Peterson, C Arnold Hunter, and 2B Greg Burkhart as the key ingredients here. LF Guy Ford is hit-or-miss, and SS Shawn Butler isn't an offensive threat.

We'll look at Chicago next, which was easily the best offense in the NL last season. The losses of Denny Moss (Trenton) and Bud Klein (Fargo) bring them right back to the pack. As long as they have league MVP Sean Simpson, they will score runs. CF Dewayne Castillo and LF Trever Russell will help Simpson to drive in runs. The infield could be a bit of an unknown quantity, and it's unsure who the leadoff hitter or table setters are here.

Toronto can score with Fargo and Chicago if their players play up to their potential. CF Dewey Greenwood is one of the league's biggest enigmas, as he stayed healthy for the first time but put up basically the same numbers as he did in season 2 (which was shortened to 88 games). RF Vicente Romero is the only truly known quantity here- he's a quiet star. LF Roland James was solid, but 3B Oswaldo Armas was a huge disappointment last season. Look for Rule 5 guy Achilles Parris to contribute this season.

Philadelphia has a lot of contracts and little talent to show for it. 1B Lynn Stewart is basically on his own here. There are a lot of underachieving, overpaid players here, led by CF Paul Lamb. They outscored Fargo last season- don't expect that to happen again.


Any surprise we start in Fargo? If you've been paying attention the last few seasons, you shouldn't be. This team is built on starting pitching, and this edition is no different. They still have the big 3 of Javier Henriquez, Sammy Pierce, and Jimmy Arnold. Willy Williams provides depth, and their bullpen is dynamic behind closer Bert Price and setup men extraordinaire Chris Siddall and Kevin Li. If Hunter catches the vast majority of games his pitch calling may drag the staff down a bit, but not enough- they should still be dominant most of the time.

I'll take Toronto's staff next (barely) over Chicago and Philly. They have potential in starters Jeremi Gant and Russ Dawkins, but the staff will be led by Harry Lee and Patrick Clifton. Hipolito Santana is a good depth guy to have. One of only 5 guys to have over 100 saves, Jackson Hayes continues to get it done, which is good because Daryl McKinley can be very iffy. Mark Ott should be good setting up Hayes.

Chicago takes a step back in this department too, as they lose Matty Eusebio and Ajax Drabek off last season's team. They have decent starters in York Watson, Jorge Guzman, and Claude Jacquez. If Chicago's front office expects anything out of Graham Stark I think they're delusional. Wily Mo Owens and Graham Rivera form a good 1-2 punch at the end, although Owens has been rumored to be leaving town.

Philadelphia has an ace in Bernard Robinson and a possible #2/#3 guy in Victor Aybar (8-15, but a 1.20 WHIP and 3.57 ERA), but little else. They'll need Stan Thompson, Jacob Gilbert and/or (preferably "and") Alex Valdez to step up. Donaldo Sierra is not a big league pitcher. Closer Jamey Dwyer had a terrible season- Kid Johnstone may take his job.


1. Fargo takes the division. Even if their offense doesn't pan out, there's still more than enough pitching to cover up their weaknesses at the plate.
2. Call it a hunch, but I think Toronto passes Chicago this season. Not sure if that's enough to get them back into the playoffs. The wild-card race will likely be jumbled, as basically any team that won't win its division will have a flaw that could be fatal.
3. Chicago has enough to stay in contention- I think they come up short, however.
4. Philadelphia is likely to stay right where it is- not awful/unwatchable, but likely to have another high draft pick.
5. Expect Wily Mo Owens to be traded close to the deadline.

Friday, November 7, 2008

NL East Season 4 Preview

Season 4 is upon us: spring training begins tomorrow. So it's time to take a look around the league and visit each team before the regular season takes off. We start, as always, in the National League East. This has been a hard to predict division since day 1 of the league, but this much we know: unless Washington can rise from the ashes, we will not have a first time winner of the division for the first time ever. Who will win division crown number 2?


We'll start in Trenton. Norfolk scored 19 more runs last season, but I think the addition of RF Denny Moss makes them the best offense in the division when he's on the field. He should help drive in the speedsters (LF Ken Davis, 2B Carlton MacDougal, and SS Scot Hutton, all of whom also have power) and take some pressure off of the two young sluggers (1B Stephen Mills and 3B Enrique Park- over 100 RBI each). Add CF Phil Nakajima (.378 OBP) and this is a lineup that's 7 deep with only defensive catcher Deivi Sierra the only non-RBI threat.

Norfolk is not far behind. While LF Justin Gordon, 3B Tony Mays, 2B Ignacio Diaz, and CF Carlos Cervantes all drove in more than 85 (although none hit 100), the key to this offense is leadoff hitter 1B Melvin Nakano. If he gets on at a .394 clip as he did last season, this offense will score plenty of runs. They could also use some help from guys like SS Joel Crosby and RF Donne Meacham- Crosby will likely get a shot to start for the first time while Meacham had a solid rookie season in season 2 and took a big step back last season. I'd take Trenton's middle of the order over this offense, but Nakano is better than anybody Trenton can throw in the leadoff spot.

Washington checks in next. Last season they were not too far behind the big boys in offense. They should be led again by one of the biggest stars in this league that no one knows about in 3B David Rushford (.249-48-100). Their big hitters (Rushford, RF Irv McCallum, LF Harry Belliard) strike out too often to really sustain long rallies and they lack a true leadoff hitter or table setter.

Atlanta struggled mightily last season to score runs. They have some speed in OF Matt Rivera and talented 2B Johnny Holt, but 1B Manny Matos and LF Albert Martin are the only true HR and RBI threats. They lack the depth of Trenton and Norfolk


Atlanta probably has the most raw talent, particularly in the rotation. The young trio of Fred Carter, Orber Halter, and Alex Sanchez makes them a team that could easily win big if the offense could support them. Cory Schneider and Cristian Lyons will help eat innings and provide depth in this rotation. 23-year-old Nate MacNamara could get the closer's role, although Trevor Watson is still there in case McNamara falters.

Norfolk isn't far off the pace. They don't have the young studs Atlanta has, but they have veteran stalwarts Babe Broadhurst (who had an excellent season last season), Malcolm Lawrence, and Jesus Estrada. Rod Walters is the young guy on the staff and Larry Springer, Zephyr Palmer, and Dan Young all could step in and do a decent job at the back end of the rotation. The bullpen can be iffy; Ariel Lee saved 40 games but had an ERA of 4.46.

Trenton's rotation will be held together very similarly to the way it was the first three seasons: with bubble gum and Scotch tape. Johnnie Reagan is the young stud, but there's little around him. Duffy Parnell provides quality innings but isn't great, and after that it's some combination of Tony Satou (yikes) and either call up guys like Will Piper and/or Vic Rincon from AAA, find someone still unemployed, or make a trade. The bullpen could be solid, with Rob Gilmore taking the closer's role from Justin Beverlin; Beverlin and Harry Candelaria are solid in the setup role. The question is can the starting staff give these guys a lead.

Washington's pitching was brutal last season, providing 1001 reasons to cringe (one reason for every run they gave up). It could be better, but not by much. Buzz Linden was brought in from San Juan to be the ace- he's not an ace, but he is better than what else the Blue Coats have. Is he worth $32.7 million over 4 years? That remains to be seen. Terrence Gryboski and Matty Grimsley are very average pitchers. Lance Rodgers will be solid, but he's possibly a year away. The bullpen is iffy as well: closer Andruw Little blew 1/3 of his save opportunities. There are some decent setup pieces in Duke Nielsen and Mule James.


1. I'll have to take a Norfolk repeat. Trenton may be a step ahead in offense and Atlanta may be a step ahead in pitching, but they're by far the most balanced team in this division.
2. Trenton (conditionally) finishes second again. Unless they get a legitimate starter to help Reagan, they don't sneak into the playoffs as they did last season.
3. Atlanta will finish third unless they make a deal for a bat or two. If they do, they could pass Trenton.
4. Washington will make little strides toward improvement. They won't approach the other three but won't be as bad as last season.
5. Albert Martin is a name everyone will know around this league at the end of the year after he has a breakout season.

Free-agent signings: Old faces in new places

Some of the key free-agent signings (player, old team, new team, contract)

IF Eli Jacquez Syracuse Monterrey 2 years, $7.2 million
1B Orel MacFarlane New York Syracuse 2 years, $5.2 million
1B Lyle Barber St. Louis Charlotte 3 years, $15 million
SS Alex Li Syracuse Charlotte 2 years, $8.2 millon
P Shooter Mahoney Toronto San Juan 4 years, $20 million
CF Cody Lincoln Monterrey Vancouver 2 years, $10.2 million
P R. J. Toca Monterrey Austin 3 years, $21.6 million

Based on this list, I think there are a few conclusions we can draw. First of all, the free-agent market wasn't exactly star-studded. It also illustrates the lack of pitching-in my opinion, Toca may be overpaid and Mahoney is definitely overpaid (not Pete Rubel overpaid, but overpaid by a big margin). On the other hand, position players seem to be at a discount; Jacquez, MacFarlane, Li, and Lincoln all have past performances beyond their current contracts, although they are veterans and it remains to be seen if they've lost a step or can't do what they used to do. Barber probably can't do what he used to, but rarely does a recently past MVP candidate come for such a small price tag.

Wheeling and Dealing at the Winter Meetings

Houston, as a result of winning the World Series last season, got to host the winter meetings (could someone get us a Honolulu team, please?). It was an appropriate setting, as the trade winds blew more like the hurricanes that occasionally touch down off the gulf. Some teams decided there was a major piece that they needed and got it; a few teams decided to quite a few changes, and one team (Chicago) underwent an overhaul. Here's a rundown of the major deals:


Chicago gets: SS B.C.Stone (AA), RP Juan Martin (AAA)

Houston gets: CF Scott Diaz

Analysis: Diaz is a speedy centerfielder who basically matched his season 2 numbers last season. He's not a prototypical leadoff hitter, as he strikes out a bit too much, but he can hit well and adds yet antoher stolen base threat to Houston's lineup. Stone is a decent hitter, but his glove will be what keeps him in a ML starting lineup someday. Martin is an iffy prospect, as his lack of control could end up short-circuiting his ML career. If he can find the plate, he could contribute out of the bullpen- he has decent stuff.

New York New York and Cheyenne Nation

New York gets: CF R.J. Figueroa

Cheyenne gets: SP Manny Christians

Analysis: Aren't too many big-time 1 for 1 deals, but this could be judged as one of those. Figueroa does a little bit of everything at the plate (good average, decent power, can steal some bases) and is still very reliable in center field. Christians, amazingly, will now pitch for his 4th team in 4 seasons since signing a huge 5 year, $68 million contract before season 1. For all the hoopla surrounding him (often in this blog) and with his great stuff, he's yet to win more than 12 games in a season. Cheyenne is taking a bit of a gamble here, although quality starting pitching has been awfully hard to find.


Norfolk gets: SP/RP Ching-Lung Feng (Hi-A)

Toronto gets: SS Victor May

Analysis: Last season May split time as SS with Joel Crosby, so Norfolk sends May north of the border. May is a better defender, but Crosby can hit better. Toronto gets a defensive specialist in May who can play any position. Feng needs to harness his control- if he can, he'll be tough on righties with a big-time curveball.


Chicago gets: SP Mateo Guerrero (AAA), RF Butch Russell (Lo-A)

Houston gets: SP Stephen Tucker, 2B/IF Alex McClain

Analysis: Tucker may never regain the Cy Young form he had in season 2 prior to his injury, but he's arguably still an ace. McClain adds more depth to an already deep lineup. Houston is not standing pat; they're looking to repeat and win now. Chicago is rebuilding and they get two more pieces in Guerrero, a guy who's not an ace but should be an inning-eater type of pitcher. McClain is a good hitter with blinding speed- he could be a leadoff hitter.


Fargo gets: 3B Bud Klein
Chicago gets: 2B Victor Flores (Hi-A), SP/RP Santos Romero, 3B Paxton Coleridge

Chicago was looking to shed salary. Fargo has needed a hitter ever since season 2. So this seemed to be a good fit for both teams. Klein drove in 100 runs while hitting 34 home runs and he can hit for average (.321), so he'll fit in nicely in the middle of Fargo's lineup. The key to the deal for Chicago was the only non-ML player, Flores. He's a highly touted infielder who's pretty good defensively and should be a good all-around hitter with speed. Romero is a fireballing lefty with control issues and Coleridge is an all-or-nothing slugger; watch both the home runs and strikeouts pile up.


Little Rock gets: IF/OF Bernie Soriano, SP Joey Hubbard
New York gets: LF Placido Tejada , IF/OF Benji Barcelo (AAA), 2B Karl Benes (AAA)

Analysis: Little Rock gets a big-time hitter in Soriano, who bounced back from a sub-par season in Season 2 to hit 56 home runs and drive in 136. Hubbard has yet to fulfill his potential, as he's a career below .500 pitcher and has yet to post an ERA below 5. New York gets three young players in return. Tejada is a LF who'd be great as a platoon player but may not hit lefties enough to play every day. Barcelo isn't a star but should be a solid contributor on the ML level. Benes may be the best of the bunch, as he's a well-rounded player with decent speed and good power.


Colorado Springs gets: SP Matty Eusebio
Chicago gets: IF Evan Smith (AA), SP Graham Stark

Analysis: Colorado Springs gets one of the best pitchers in the league in the three seasons. The only question is this: does Eusebio make a 68-win team from last season a potential contender? If not, was it worth giving up Smith and Stark? Smith ripped up Hi-A pitching last season and has the look of a .300 hitter in the majors. Stark is yet another fireballing pitcher with control issues. Chicago seems to be stockpiling them.


Chicago gets: CF Paul Turnbow (AAA), 2B Alex Saenz (AAA)
Trenton gets: IF/OF Denny Moss

Analysis: Trenton gets one of the more dynamic players in the entire league in Moss, who is a rare combination of immense power and speed; health and durability are his issues. When healthy, he is maybe the most talented player in the league. He's now playing for his third team, however. Chicago didn't just give Moss away, as they get two big-time prospects in return. Turnbow is a speedy CF who can run anything down and adds some pop at the plate. Saenz is a speedy 2B with good power- they should both crack Chicago's starting lineup soon.


Chicago gets: LF Trever Russell, RP Guy Moore
Monterrey gets: SP Ajax Drabek

Analysis: Drabek is still a very good pitcher- for some reason the pitcher's park in Seattle didn't sit well with him and pitched much better after being dealt to Chicago. Now he gets sent south of the border to Monterrey to join a starting staff that already has Philip Allensworth and others. Russell could start the season in LF- he has big time power. Moore is a "tweener"- not enough stamina to start and not enough durability to pitch every other day. Chicago has a good arm on their hands, but need to pick his role carefully.


Monterrey gets: DH Vin Logan (Lo-A)
New York gets: SP Max Jacquez

Analysis: The most shocking thing here isn't that Monterrey traded a pitcher who has won 36 games in the last two seasons for a minor league DH or that a 37-year-old gets traded for a 19-year-old, but that Chicago wasn't involved in this trade. Jacquez is an aging starter who doesn't appear to be done yet. I don't think he'll win 36 over the next two seasons, but he'll win games and eat innings for New York. Logan is a guy without a position- he's got very average pitch calling and can't really play anywhere but catcher. He will eventually wear out big league pitching no matter what his position.


Cheyenne gets: 3B Wendell Durrington
Little Rock gets: SP Hipolito Pujols

Analysis: Halfway through season 1, Pujols was one of the best pitchers in the NL and a runaway candidate for ROY. Who could have imagined he would be dealt just 2 1/2 seasons later? He hasn't been the same since that night against Chicago when he blew out his elbow. He'll try to rehabilitate his career in Arkansas with the Raiders. The Nation will welcome Durrington in return, one of the best all-around players in the game.


Toronto gets: SP Earl Cedeno (AA)
Salem gets: IF Travis Bush

Analysis: Salem has to hope it's getting the season 2 Travis Bush (.292-8-70) and not the season 3 version (.247-6-48). He's good defensively, but not good enough to play SS- he'd be very good at 2B or 3B. Cedeno has a live arm but can't go very deep into games- if monitored he could be a solid starter.


Austin gets: LF Tony Percival
New York gets: RP Dan Daley

Analysis: Another bat-for-an-arm deal. Percival is a power hitter; Austin is looking for everyday players. New York gets a good arm out of the pen- Daley is a young reliever who should be around for a long time and is tough on righties.


Syracuse gets: SP Ryan Martin, SP Charlie Miller, SP Tony Rowan
St. Louis gets: 2B Rico Guevara (AAA), DH Rex Kent (Hi-A), RP Tino Okajima (Hi-A)

Analysis: Syracuse apparently wanted St. Louis's entire starting staff, so the Silly Nannies just shipped them en masse. Martin and Miller are solid #2-#4 type starters- not great, but guys needed to fill a rotation spot and eat innings. Rowan may be a season or so away but he's a potential ace. In return, St. Louis gets Guevara, a potential star second baseman- he'll hit for power, run, and make plays in the field. Kent is a big-time potential hitter who just doesn't fit in defensively. Okajima should become a solid reliever who can get out hitters on both side of the plate.


Monterrey gets: RF Ryan Snyder
Milwaukee gets: SP Slash Ruffin (minors)

Analysis: Two of the titans of the AL since the birth of the league pulled off a major deal here. Snyder hit 40 home runs last season, so Monterrey improves its offense with yet another big-time power hitter. Ruffin helps add depth to Milwaukee's pitching staff down the line- he's a few seasons away but should easily be a #2 starter, possibly a #1 on some staffs. He's got all the tools to be a very good starter.