Saturday, February 28, 2009

5 Million Plus Bonus IFA Babies – Season 1

As we start Season 5, I was wondering about high priced IFAs from season 1. Where are they now? Have they made it to the ML level yet? Will they? Were they worth the price the owner paid?

As we all know the bidding for some IFAs can get rather ‘intense’ and expensive. Was he the worth the price the winner of the sweepstakes paid to get him? For the most part it’s their potential we’re bidding on. Again as we all know, they may not reach those lofty ratings. You have injuries, makeup ratings, playing time, training budgets, coaches etc all go into determining whether or not he reaches what you paid for.

So going down in order of price tag (highest to lowest), I’m going to look that IFAs that cost their owners at least 5 million in bonus money to get. My value rating (out of 10) is based on the cost to sign him and kind of return the franchise has got so far, as well what they can expect.

Vic James (COF) Bonus 16.2
Signed by Los Angeles and still with franchise (Now Salt Lake City)

Vic’s major drawback is his health, it’s marginal and his stamina is a little low. But SLC has been able to keep him off the DL so far. In season 4 Vic started in AA, then after only 16 games he was promoted to the ML Squad!! A risky move, but seems to have paid off. In 137 games he hit 20 long flies, hit for a .319 average and brought in 82 RBIs. He lost out to Trever Russell for the ROY award. Vic has A/S written all over him and I think we’ll see him playing in the mid-summer classic a fair number times. If he can stay away serious injuries, he should be major cog in the SLC offence for a long time

Value: 9

Alex Javier (RP) Bonus 15.0
Signed by Fargo and still with franchise

From the owner:
“.i think his ratings/stats speak for themselves...although 15 mil and a 5 yr ML deal is a bit high, i think one could argue he was underpaid as there's no doubt he's one of the world's best closers at 22 yrs old (LOOK OUT ALL-TIME SAVES RECORD!)”

Well… I don’t think I could possibly disagree with that (even if I tried!). What else is there to say? His ratings are pretty much EXACTLY what you’d want from closer. Like Vic, Alex also made the jump from AA to ML level in season 4. He saved 25 in 31 chances, not exactly a stellar performance to say the least. BUT, I don’t expect the SV % to stay that low. This is too good of closer. I expect we’ll see Alex win his share of the Fireman Awards in the seasons to come. As I mentioned in my original review, CY Young ain’t out of the question for this guy.

Value 10

Richardo Gabriel (SP) Bonus 14.3
Signed by Norfolk and still with franchise

This is the one I got! I’ve taken the slow road to develop this one. He spent all of Season 2 in AA and the last 2 seasons in AAA. Now in season 5, I feel he’s ready for the big times. As of this report, he’s 0-1 in 3 starts; but it’s not his performance that has been the reason for not winning (no offensive support). 2 of the 3 starts have been quality starts (6 or more innings, with 3 or fewer runs allowed). While his splits are a little low AND he doesn’t really have an ‘out’ pitch; I think he will make a fine #2 or #3 man in the rotation. Apparently there are owners out there that are taking guys like Richardo (with high durability for a SP) and pitching him as soon as he’s at 100 again. Therefore they end up starting an insane number of games during the season (70-80). If Richardo’s durability does reach it’s potential… I may try it. Either way, he should be a solid and dependable starter for seasons to come.

Value 9.0

Alex Saenz (COF) Bonus 12.1
Signed by Chicago Cubs and has been traded a few times. Now with Buffalo

Maybe instead of referring to Alex as an IFA, we should call him a NFA (no fixed address). Still after all that moving around, he has still yet to see any ML action. He spent 2 whole seasons in AA. Keeping a player at the same level for 2 seasons (except AAA), seriously hinders his develop! Anyway, he’s now starting his 2nd season in AAA. His first was split between 2 clubs and his overall performance was not exactly anything worth writing home about. When I reviewed Alex back in season 1, I saw solid 2B with leadoff potential; now… well he’s a COF and still may make a decent leadoff guy. The thing is that his splits are marginal. It’s possible all this being traded has hindered his development.

Value 8

Miguel Reyes (SP) Bonus 11.9
Signed by Vancouver and was traded to Cheyenne in Season 4.

When traded to Cheyenne, Miguel had been in AAA. He was promoted right away to the ML squad. In 17 games (starting 13) he posted a 2-10 record with a WHiP of 1.49 and ERA of 4.82. Again not exactly what one would call an impressive debut? Though this season has definitely started better for Miguel. He should make for a solid addition to the Cheyenne rotation. He has the ratings for it, no doubt. As well he’s still pretty young and therefore still developing. Whatever they gave up for Miguel, I’m sure it will be worth it, because this looks to be a solid player for seasons to come.

Value 9.5

Tony Delgado (CF) Bonus 11.3
Signed by Toronto and still with franchise (now Washington)

Tony has great glove and range ratings, which is perfect for a major league CF. His contact and speed ratings seem to indicate a possible leadoff hitter and this still might be the case. He, like two others above, made the jump from AA to the ML level last season. He played the last half of the season with the big club. His performance wasn’t what you’d want from a lead off guy; a batting average of only .268 (OBP of .319) and walking only 18 times while striking out 42. His split v LH is very low, though not unusual for his type of player. I think what hurts him is his batting eye and split vs RH, but I could be wrong. I guess time will time of course. Still even if he doesn’t make it as a leadoff guy, he’ll contribute some with his bat. More importantly, a glove of this quality is always welcome in the CF position.

Value 7.5

Julio Mendoza (3B) Bonus 11.0
Signed by Memphis and still with franchise (now Austin))

This one has taken the slow route actually spending his first two season in Low-A. A fact I’m sure has hurt his development. This season sees him start his first season in AAA and not exactly a great start. While Julio defensive skills will be ML calibre (maybe gold glove stuff); his offensive skills aren’t quite what you’d want from your ML 3B. His contact & batting eye are marginal and couple this with a low vs R split… means he’ll struggle against ML pitching. Thing here is, will his skill at defence make up for his marginal bat?? Time will tell I guess, if he makes it to the ML level. 11 Million is a lot to pay for what looks to be a 3B defensive specialist.

Value 6.0

Damaso Ramirez (P) Bonus 10.9
Signed by Boise, traded to Houston in season 3

Here is one that seemed to have all the tools to be solid ML SP when signed. The key, with his marginal health rating, keep him from getting a serious injury if possible. Well, last season it happened (Shoulder, labarum tear) and he was put on the 60 day DL. After being signed Damaso went straight to Hi A and next season to AAA. He’s been used in the out of the pen as Closer and Set Up roles. Last season was injured early and never came back; this season sees him still working from the pen. His stamina has been hurt to a point that really he no longer can be a ML starter. But if Houston can keep him healthy (will be tough now as his health is below 50), he should make a solid bullpen pitcher (Long or closer).

Value 6.5

Daisuke Chang (C) Bonus 10.3
Signed by Fargo, traded to Louisville in season 3

This is pretty close to what I call a pseudo-catcher. His PC rating and defensive skills are very marginal for the ML level but his offensive ratings are solid. The things hurting him are his marginal contact & batting eye. But they are not terrible for the ML level. He’ll be a bigger asset at the DH or 1B positions; at C his defensive liabilities will be just offset by his offensive skills. Overall this is a decent signing but not a great one and I’m not really sure Daisuke is worth a bonus this high.

Value 7.0

Junior Tabaka (C) Bonus 8.5
Signed by San Juan and still with franchise

Here is a pseudo-catcher but San Juan has been playing him at the catching position on their ML squad. Junior was called up about half way into last season and in 60 games his numbers weren’t exactly stellar at the plate. This season, has started out much better. With his weakness as a defensive catcher, he’d better put up some great numbers at the plate to be an overall asset to the team. Though, this is a definite possibility in his case. Being in the NL and the fact they already have a solid 1B, I’d say at present catcher is the only place for this youngster. Looks like the ‘Stiff Hares’ are hoping his offence strengths over shadow his defensive & PC liabilities.

Value 8.0

Damaso Brogna (RF/1B) Bonus 7.6
Signed by Pawtucket, traded to Colorado Springs (now Boise) in season 2

Damaso is starting his second season at the AAA level. So far he’s put up solid offensive number at all level. The only major bump in his journey was a long stint on the DL for a hamstring tear in season 3 and missed the bulk of the season. His glove is really that of a 1B, in the outfield Damaso will be a liability at the ML level. Still, I think we can expect this one to be playing for the Shadow Wolves ML squad maybe later this year but definitely next season. Where he should be big part of their batting lineup.

Value 8.0

Hector Javier (P) Bonus 7.5
Signed by Ottawa, picked up in Rule V Draft by Jackson

Hector did okay in the lower levels of minors as a starter, but as soon as he hit AAA he struggled. Didn’t matter whether he was a starter or a long man out of the pen, WHiP of 1.60 and ERAs of around 6. So, I guess it was no surprise that his franchise left him unprotected in the Rule V draft. His performance out of the pen for Jackson hasn’t exactly been any better than his AAA numbers. I don’t Hector will ever be anything more than a marginal long relief pitcher at the ML level. Though he still has some developing to do, still what he is now is all he’ll ever be.

Value 4.0

Bartolo Barcelo (CF) Bonus 6.6
Signed by New Orleans, traded to Atlanta last season

Bartolo is without doubt has some very unique ratings. He should have fantastic Contact and Batting Eye ratings, but the rest….. While his split VS RH is very marginal, he split VS LH doesn’t exist. He also has some great speed and base running skill BUT that only has value if he can get on base. I’m sad to say will not happen often at the ML level with those splits. Bartolo is still only in AA, he spent his first 2 seasons Low A & started his 3rd there too!!!! This no doubt hurt his development, maybe he been promoted properly and with a good training budget… he might have a decent MLer; now that is highly doubtful. At very best, he’ll be a bench player and pinch runner at the ML lever but no more.

Value 3.5

Luis Wilfredo (P) Bonus 6.5
Signed by San Juan and still with franchise

Luis has taken the slow route to a possible ML career. He spent all of seasons 3 & 4 at the AA level, again no doubt hurting his development. He starts this season at the AAA level in a set up role for the farm team and so far done ok (not great). Ratings wise, Luis should be able to make it to the ML level and perform not too badly. His splits are marginal but pitch quality is decent for a setup guy. He will not be a #1 setup guy at the ML level however. In my view, this price tag for a setup B guy is a little high.

Value 5.5

Donaldo Lopez (P) Bonus 6.0
Signed by Atlanta, traded in Season 3 to Toronto

Donaldo starts this season with the big club, after spending the last 2 seasons in Hi-A (again I seem to be repeating this often!!! Not a good thing). So far he has been a very effective for the club so far. His ratings make him a good fit for the set up role but not the closer role. His quality of pitches, aren’t what you need from a closer. Still he should be a solid arm from the pen for years to come for Toronto.

Value 7.0

Alfredo Tatis (P) Bonus 5.9
Signed by Huntington and still with franchise (now Boston)

This make for the 3rd short bullpen guy in a row here. Alfredo has spent his entire pro career at the AA level (again????) Though he has put up decent #s he is still there. Boston is lucky Alfredo didn’t retire at the start of this season. If they don’t promote him to at least AAA this season…there is a real good likelihood of him saying GOOD BYE! That would be a shame, because he should make a decent setup guy at the ML level. The neglecting of the prospects is one the biggest sins HBD and here is a prime example.

Value 7.0

Victor Gonzales (CF) Bonus 5.0
Signed by Baltimore, traded to Colorado Springs (now Boise) in season 3

Victor is the last of the group and while not a bad pick up, his potential is marginal for the ML level. At best I see Victor as ML bench material. Though I feel he could be of some value in that role. Other than SS/3B (& of course C) he can play all the positions. Which means he could spell-off the starters from time to time and not be a liability in the field? And while his offensive ratings are not great, he’ll not be an ‘auto-out’ at the plate. Still, is this worth the 5 million bonus…?

Value 5.5

Well that’s it. As a side note, it’s mentioned quite a few times how one of these guys has repeated a level. Except for AAA, a guy you feel has shot at playing for your ML squad should NEVER be left in the same level for a 2nd full season. Even AAA, after 2-3 seasons there it’s a matter of promote him or trade; because improvement will slow down.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where Are They Now?

Remember last years Firesign awards? For those of you who are new, you can find them in the older posts. I thought it would be fun to find out where they are today.

Homer Ashby - Poor guy, Salem management didn't like his hitting style either and sent him packing to AAA, where he is actually doing somewhat worse at the plate.

Alex Vazquez - Still at the ML level enjoying the last year of his contract before forced retirement (we hope).

Max Clifton - Remember him, long ball chick magnet? He is enjoying another great season of long ball hitting but his average is way up so far this season. Must be trying to excite management into a long term deal at seasons end.

Julian Nichols - Not so with with Julian as he grew a 'stach to impress the chicks but that dismal average may make arbitration go horribly wrong.

Trever Russell - So far, no steal attempts, maybe the 1B coach got wise.

Bill Daneker - Someone stole his job as he is working at Lowes this season.

Scot Hutton - The Fielding Instructor finally gave up and found a position that he doesn't mess up so much, they hope.

Marty James - He cried all off-season about winning the award. We are not sure the embarrassment helped as of yet.

Ronald Spurgeon - He decided the simplest way to solve the problem was not to try as hard.

Cody Lincoln - Smart management moved his clumsiness to another position, one so far, so much better.

Alex Li - Management had enough of his antics and sent him packing. He got a job at McD's but they fired him as his burger flipping technique didn't impress co-workers or customers.

Ron Lewis - His lack of pitching ability landed him in the unemployment line. Although he is keeping his shoulder iced down just in case.

Keith Klesko - New ownership didn't like what they saw and sent him to AAA. His first outing there was a huge success, going 4 innings, 50 pitches with 5 strike outs and no hits. Everybody is scratching their heads.

Charlie White - Management decided to hold him back a little this year, so far, he is 2-2, still getting lit up but the two wins he got to the 8th inning.

Victor Hamill - Management decided he was too young and needed a little seasoning at AAA. A little BBQ sauce maybe.

Steve Sweeney and Achilles Parris - Both could be headed for another Iron-Manless award in the NL. Joining them could be Alex Vazquez again.

Patrick Clifton, Perry Herman and Jimmy Cole could be headed to another work-horse season with nothing to show for it.

Chris Barrett - Management bought him a bigger glove which didn't help. To solve the problem, decided to use him as a backup only or is that backstop only.

Jason Mann - Management came up with an ingenious idea and moved him to RF. Will have to wait and see on this one.

Rob Hentgen - Management felt his problems wasn't theirs and turned their backs on him. Then so did the rest of the world, even the glass company he went to work for.

Luis Martinez - Okay already, no one told management that a 2B couldn't be left handed. Luis has set up a luxury condo in CF this season.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Who's Hot, Who's Not

Season 5 has hit the 20 game mark, so it's time for the first installment. Here's what's been going on around the league.

National League

WHO'S HOT: Salem Sacrifices

Record: The Sacrifices are off to a NL best 16-4 record

Big Series Wins: Sweeping Vancouver, Cheyenne, and Trenton all in a row to start the season 10-0 fueled the hot start.

How: The pitching has been spectacular, but the offense is actually the story. Kareem Ortiz is off to a huge start, driving in 21 runs. All 5 guys who have logged at least 70 at-bats are hitting above .300.

Also Hot:

Houston's bid for 5 division titles in a row is off to a good start with a 15-5 record

Fargo is riding a huge start by stud pitcher Javier Henriquez to a 15-5 record.

Chicago won't let Fargo run away early, keeping close with a 13-7 start.

Norfolk leads the NL East at 12-8.

WHO'S NOT: Vancouver Golden Otters

Record: The defending NL champs are off to a 5-15 start, sitting in the NL West basement.

Key Series Losses: A 4-game sweep by Salem to start the season hurt, but losing 3 in a row at Philadelphia is probably worse.

How: Pitching. Jesse Bridges is the only starter with an ERA under 4.90, and the relievers who have logged the most innings thus far (Rey Wells and Jackson Hayes) have ERAs of 5.11 and 7.94, respectively.

Also Not Hot:

Toronto has given up the most runs in the NL on their way to a 6-14 start.

Fellow NL North denizen Philadelphia scores the fewest with a matching 6-14 record.

Austin's struggles from last season continue with a 7-13 start.

Washington D.C. assumes its normal status as NL East bottom dweller at 7-13.

Trenton's supposedly strong offense has struggled out of the gate, as the Traffic are 8-12.

American League

WHO'S HOT: Monterrey Sultans

Record: The Sultans are absolutely on fire as they've started 17-3.

Key Series Wins: Taking 2 out of 3 from Milwaukee is probably more impressive than sweeping some of the other teams they've played.

How: Offense/soft schedule. Especially since it's early in the season, it's hard to determine if the Sultans generated so much offense because the opposition has been bad or if all those teams' records are bad because Monterrey is so good. At any rate, they're scoring a full run more a game than any AL team, but they've played 3 out of the 4 basement teams in the AL.

Who else is hot:

Louisville finds a way to win the close games as the lead the AL East at 15-5.

New York keeps pace at 14-6 as their pitching has been spectacular.

Las Vegas continues to beat up on the AL West, leading the division at 12-8.

Nashville continues to score and give up runs at an alarming rate, starting off 12-8.

Buffalo gives up about half a run more than it scores each game, but somehow (for now) they lead the NL North at 11-9.

WHO'S NOT: Anaheim Chiles

Record: The Chiles are in last in the AL West at 5-15

Key Series Losses: Losing 3 out of 4 to Seattle to start the season and following with losing 2 out of 3 to Boise got them off to a bad start, and then the schedule got tougher.

How: Deadweight. The lineup has guys like Alex Estrada, James Dixon, and George Spencer who are carrying the lineup, but Deacon Archer, Pedro Candelaria, Daryle Van Poppel, and Alex Vazquez all have more than 60 at-bats- none are hitting above .218 and they've combined for 16 RBIs.

Also Not Hot:

Apparently, when I picked Boston to win the east, I put the kiss of death on them. They've started 6-14.

Jackson's young starting pitchers are going to have nightmares of Monterrey and Nashville hitters. They've given up the most runs in the AL, starting 6-14.

Scranton outscores its opponents and yet is 8-12.

Seattle has trouble scoring in Safeco and has started 8-12.

Boise can't keep their opponents off the board and matches Seatt;e's 8-12.

Milwaukee, the defending champs, are scoring less than they give up and are in last place in the AL North at 8-12.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blockbuster Deal Sees NL MVP Traded

Atlanta and New Orleans completed a deal that could alter the NL landscape.

Atlanta gets: 3B Albie Torres, RP Cristian Lyons
New Orleans gets: 1B Matty Matos, IF Freddie Orie, SP Cory Schneider

Analysis: Atlanta gets a talented player in Torres and a good solid reliever in Lyons, but the biggest name here by far is Matos, the reigning National League MVP. He will provide extra thump in the New Orleans lineup and his addition could make New Orleans a playoff threat. Orie is a utility infielder who won't hit enough to be a regular and Schneider is a veteran swingman. The key to this seal is a guy who wasn't involved- Atlanta 1B Stan Starr. If his offensive numbers can approach Matos last season, then this could be a good deal for Atlanta- if not, then they've possibly hurt themselves quite a bit.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Take 5

Today's question comes courtesy of Boston owner tj01536:

Who are the top 5 rookies in the majors this season?

Note: I'll use the MLB standard of never having a season with 130 ABs or more or 50 innings or more.

1. Lonny Gates, Houston (SP)

This ground ball specialist figures to log a lot of innings behind Jerome Oliver in the Houston rotation. He doesn't throw hard, but places his fastball well and figures to win a lot of games for the Riverdogs.

2. Jacque Puffer, Seattle (LF)

He's a rare combination of speed and power. The Season 3 overall number 1 pick has rocketed through the Seattle minor league system to become the starting left fielder for the Killer Whales and is one of the odds-on favorites to be the AL Rookie of the Year.

3. Rico Guevara, St. Louis (2B)

With the exception of his arm, he's a 5-tool player. The first season's #2 overall pick figures to be a fixture in the St. Louis lineup for years to come, as he is only 22.

4. Daniel Koch, Boston (SS)

Making his major league debut for Boston after coming over from Trenton last season, Koch has a load of talent. He may not be a true shortstop, but he'll be good at any other position. He gets knocked down the list a little as he has had some health issues in the minors.

5. Rick Anderson, Monterrey (C)

The Sultans add a very good two-way catcher to their roster this season. He can handle the pitching staff and add to the already deep offense. A Monterrey sandwich pick from season 1, he's steadily worked through the minor league system to start at catcher this season.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The other half of the league opens

16 teams opened this afternoon. Tonight was opening day for the rest of the league.

We'll start in the AL this time with the defending champion Manic Maulers. They found themselves not in a New York state of mind, as Syracuse spoiled the first day of what they hope is another title season. Howard Hunter and Ray Buchanan each hit solo shots for Milwaukee, but the star was Syracuse 3B William Nomo, who hit two homers himself in a 3-2 Syracuse victory. Louie Bolivar went 7 strong innings for the Simpletons, yielding only two runs on the aforementioned solo shots.

In Louisville, Legends C Cy Hughes hit 2 home runs and Boston Bambinos starter Stephen Tucker gave up 5 runs while only getting 5 outs as Louisville won a 12-3 laugher. Wilt Gardner drove in 4 runs to earn player of the game honors.

The Gamblers left the neon lights of Las Vegas for the... whatever they have in Boise and came out on top of the Shadow Wolves, 5-0. Wally Lawton pitched 6 innings of 2-hit ball for the Gamblers; Wally Harvey and Clarence Hartman chipped in on offense, each hitting a 2-run homer.

The Oklahoma Sneaky Finger Puppet Mafia ventured southeast to Jackson and beat the Vipers, 3-1. Heath Caufield earned the win, going 5 innings, and Oklahoma City used 5 relievers to piece the rest together, as the bullpen twirled four scoreless innings.

In the National League, the defending NL champion Vancouver Golden Otters lost an 8-7 decision at Salem. Nate Cox drove in 3 and Dave Dunwoody went 7 innings, giving up only 1 run before the bullpen almost gave it away- Salem led 7-0 after the 6th inning but Juan Mendoza had to strike out Mike Henderson with the tying run on 3rd to finally end the game.

In Fargo, Javier Henriquez pitched 7 scoreless inning as the Dirtbags beat the Chicago Snake Tamers 3-0. Alex Lim had 2 hits in his Fargo debut- Chicago had only 4 hits in total.

The Riverdogs were over and out in Houston, losing 10-4 to in-state rival Austin. Houston starter Jerome Oliver gave up 7 runs, 4 due to his own throwing error in the first. Gerald "Pops" Stargell went 4 for 5 for the City Limits, finishing a triple short of the cycle.

In the nation's capital, Washington managed 11 hits (10 against Trenton starter Johnnie Reagan) but only managed to get 2 runs out of it. Trenton used a 4-run 5th to fuel a 6-2 win over the Blue Coats. New Trenton LF Rico Valdes failed to get a hit, but he walked 3 times and scored twice.

Opening Day of Season 5 in The Bigs

To paraphrase my fellow owner cantarski, today, Feb. 14, is a very important day... because we open Season 5 of The Bigs.

Two NL division winners from last season have opened already, and they've gone 0-2. The defending NL West champion Salt Lake City Shakers lost an 11-inning game to the retooled Cheyenne Nation in what was possibly the game of the day. Bud Klein paid immediate dividends, erasing a Shaker 3-2 lead in the 8th with his first homer as a member of the Nation. The game winner in the 11th was a pinch-hit single by Diego Rivera.

In a great game in Atlanta, the defending NL champion Bandits fell to division rival Norfolk 3-2. Fred Carter was outdone by Norfolk Destroyers ace Babe Broadhurst, who threw a 1-hitter over 8 innings. Norfolk closer Ariel Lee made it interesting by giving up 2 in the 9th, but got reigning NL MVP Matty Matos to fly out to close the game.

In Toronto, Toros starter Hipolito Santana was sharp over 6 innings and the offense pounded out 15 hits as they beat the Philadelphia Phantoms 7-0. 1B Bob Owens, a Rule 5 pick this season, launched 2 home runs against the Phantoms bullpen.

In New Orleans, the offensive star for San Juan wasn't one of the superstars but SS Earl Hall, who drove in 3 as the Dead Bunnies knocked off the Voodoo 7-5. His 2-run homer in the 8th helped to put the game out of reach.

The American League saw the renewal of the Monterrey-Nashville rivalry, as Monterrey again gets the better of the Sounds. Sultans starter Luther Brush was a little shaky, allowing 5 runs in 6 2/3 innings, but DH Tony Escuela drove in 5 to lift Monterrey to an 8-5 win. For Nashville, King Winn drove in 182 last season, and is looking to put up similar numbers- he drove in 3 today.

Seattle opens their Season 5 campaign with a 3-2 win over Anaheim. The Chiles led 2-1 in the 7th, but SS James Dixon made errors in consecutive innings, each leading to a Killer Whales run. Quilvio Sanchez pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning for the save.

It took New York and Scranton 12 innings to put up a run, but New York finally did and won a
1-0 decision at the Stadium. R.J. Figureoa's 2-out RBI double in the 12th was the only run. The stars in this game were the pitchers- Scranton starter J.R. Guerrero was oustanding, allowing only 1 hit and 1 walk in 7 innings, and New York long reliever Jerome Graham pitched 6 scoreless innings, striking out 10.

Buffalo had a disappointing season 4 campaign, but opened season 5 in a big way. 1B Julio Diaz's first inning 3-run home run set the tone for the game, as the Blue Cheese easily handled the St. Louis Silly Nannies 9-1. Chris Lowry pitched 6 innings, allowing only 1 run in his major league debut after being taken in the Rule 5 draft this offseason.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Take 5

Today's Take 5 question is:

Who are the 5 best players in the league 25 years old or younger?

1. Javier Henriquez, P, Fargo (25)

Already has a Cy Young Award and 53 wins to his name. He's among the all-time leaders in most of the important pitching categories: ERA, WHIP, batting average against, etc. He's arguably the best pitcher in the entire league right now.

2. Sean Simpson LF, Chicago (23)

As Cal Ripken Jr. did in real life, Simpson won the Rookie of the Year Award his first season in the majors and followed it up with an MVP in his sophomore season. He's already been to 3 All-Star games. He's a career .324 hitter and leads the Chicago franchise in practically every major offensive category, from homers and RBIs to steals and triples.

3. James Dixon, IF, Anaheim (24)

Probably out of position when he plays at short, but is solid anywhere else and is a dangerous hitter. In 3 full seasons in Anaheim, he's managed to average .286-33-109. He's got 2 30-30 seasons under his belt.

4. Tony Stieb, C, Nashville (25)

Is one of the best offensive catchers in the game after only 2 seasons. He's been to 2 All-Star games in 2 seasons, earning the game's MVP last season. He won the ROY his first season along with a Silver Slugger award. He's not great defensively, but Nashville is counting on his bat to make up for it.

5. Monte Duvall, IF, Houston (24)

Followed up his ROY campaign in season 3 with an All-Star appearance and a 52 HR, 149 RBI season. He's not just a power hitter- he has a batting average of .299 in his first two seasons and has stolen 33 bases in his career so far.

Firesigns Pre-Season Guess

Don't ya just love people that has to put their two cents worth in? I do, besides it is entertaining. 32 teams, 32 owners, 32 opinions, any mathematicians here that can figure the odds of getting it totally right? Especially when anything can and probably will happen during the season. So an educated guess makes a prognostication. These ones can change on a day by day basis though and may have to be updated a couple times during the season. One thing for sure, the AL gets to go first.

AL North
Milwaukee Manic Maulers
Syracuse Simpletons
Buffalo Blue Cheese
St. Louis Silly Nannies

The Maulers hands down at the moment in the Northland, the other three will duke it out all season long to see who will finish where.

AL East
New York new york
Louisville Legends
Boston Bambinos
Scranton Janitors

The last day of the season it could be New York or Louisville or both. Boston and Scranton will play for third.

AL South
Monterrey Sultans
Nashville Sounds
Jackson Vipers
Oklahoma City Sneaky Finger Puppet Mafia

Who can deny Monterrey, Nashville that's who. The Cotton-Eyed Joe will be in the harem all year long. OKC will have the longest name in last place.

AL West
Las Vegas Gamblers
Seattle Killer Whales
Anaheim Chiles
Boise Shadow Wolves

The West could be closer than most think this year. The Gamblers have the same offense, maybe just a tad better, but the pitching staff is about the same. Seattle and Anaheim could both vie for first, the first 20 games could decide things early.

#1 Monterrey Sultans
#2 Milwaukee Manic Maulers
#3 New York new york
#4 Las Vegas Gamblers
#5 Nashville Sounds
#6 Louisville Legends

NL North
Chicago Snake Tamers
Fargo Dirtbags
Toronto Toros
Philadelphia Phantoms

The unfortunate part here is three very good teams may be home watching the playoffs.

NL East
Norfolk Destroyers
Trenton Traffic
Atlanta Bandits
Washington D.C. Blue Coats

A three way battle for first, can't draw it up any better.

NL South
San Juan Dead Bunnies
New Orleans Voodoo
Houston Riverdogs
Austin City Limits

San Juan, who would have guessed, with the Voodoo second and Houston third. What kind of education did I get?

NL West
Vancouver Golden Otters
Salt Lake City Shakers
Cheyenne Nation
Salem Sacrifices

Another heated battle brews in the West, looks like another gunfight at the OK Corral.

#1 Chicago Snake Tamers
#2 Vancouver Golden Otters
#3 San Juan Dead Bunnies
#4 Norfolk Destroyers
#5 Salt Lake City Shakers
#6 Cheyenne Nation

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Take 5- HOF

I'm adding a new, semi-regular column to the blog called Take 5. Each edition will highlight a subjective question with 5 answers, and then I'll answer it the way I see it. For instance, something like:

If you were starting The Bigs Hall of Fame, based on the first 4 seasons of the league, which 5 players would you induct?

1. Gregg Black, 2B, Nashville

Black has been the best all-around hitter in the league since day 1. He holds the all-time records for both single-season and career in the following categories: Batting average, on-base percentage (3 of his seasons are in the top 5), runs, and slugging (only hitter ever to slug .800 for a season). He's second all-time in RBIs. He's won 3 AL MVPs (splitting one with his teammate, King Winn), is a 4-time All-Star, and has won 4 Silver Slugger Awards. The only blemish on his record is his career .259 average in the playoffs.

2. Vin Solano, P, Milwaukee

Has a career 76-15 record, which is the most wins in The Bigs. He's won 2 Cy Young Awards and has been to 3 All-Star games. He's just as tough in the playoffs, where he has an 8-2 record and went 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA in last season's playoffs on his way to a World Series ring.

3. Osvaldo Johnson, LF/1B, Arizona and San Juan

He and Black are the only guys to win multiple MVP awards. He's 3rd all-time in homers and 5th in RBIs, holding the NL record in both categories. He has 3 50-home run seasons and over 500 RBIs. He's been to 4 All-Star games, has won the HR Derby twice, and owns 3 Silver Slugger Awards to go with his 2 MVPs.

4. Dave Dunwoody, P, Salem

He has a cereer 70-32 record- the 70 wins is tops all-time in the NL and he has twice won 20 games. He's won a Cy Young award (split with his teammate, Dwight Salmon) and is the only pitcher in either league to rack up 1,000 career strikeouts. His 2.52 ERA is third all-time as is career batting average against of .209. He has a career 3.59 ERA with a 5-3 record in the playoffs, but earned himself a World Series ring in season 1.

5. Javier Henriquez, P, Fargo

He's a career 53-26 pitcher and has the best ERA of all-time with a 2.17 mark and the second best average against (.204). He earned a Cy Young in his first full season in the majors, going 22-6 with a 1.79 ERA in what could be argued was the greatest season by any pitcher. He is only 5-4 in the playoffs, but that is due to his team- all his other numbers are better (1.94 ERA, .165 BAA, 0.85 WHIP).

Monday, February 9, 2009

Playoff Predictions

As usual, sure to go wrong.

National League

1. Fargo Dirtbags
2. Atlanta Bandits
3. Houston Riverdogs
4. Salt Lake City Shakers
5. San Juan Dead Bunnies
6. Trenton Traffic

Wild Card

Houston over Trenton
San Juan over Salt Lake City

Divisional Round

Atlanta over Houston
Fargo over San Juan


Fargo over Atlanta

American League

1. Milwaukee Manic Maulers
2. Monterrey Sultans
3. Las Vegas Gamblers
4. Boston Bambinos
5. Louisville Legends
6. New York New York

Wild Card

Louisville over Boston
Las Vegas over New York

Divisional Round

Las Vegas over Monterrey
Milwaukee over Louisville


Milwaukee over Las Vegas

World Series: Milwaukee over Fargo

Season 5 AL West Preview

Last season Las Vegas made it 2 division titles in a row and 3 out of 4 out in the AL West, leaving Anaheim, Colorado Springs (now Boise), and Seattle to battle for second- Anaheim took it at an underwhelming 71-91. Does Las Vegas make it 3 of a kind, or can one of last season's also-rans trump the Gamblers?


- Las Vegas appears to be, once again, the best offense in the division by a fairly wide margin. LF Wally Harvey, DH Clarence Hartman, RF Al Carrasco, and 2B Jeremy Glover are all big-time run producers. They could use a leadoff guy to get on base ahead of these guys.

- Anaheim is led by all-around star SS James Dixon and RF Kerry Kydd, but they may be the only consistent threats. 3B Alex Vazquez hit 39 HRs and drove in 101, but only hit .213 with an anemic .262 OBP- his production is slowing down at an alarming rate. 1B Darryle Van Poppel (formerly of Buffalo) could help, and it remains to be seen what IF Marino Coronado will do in a full season.

- Seattle has young talent in IF Jacque Puffer, 2B Jack Hunt, and DH Kris Olson. Unfortunately, Puffer and Hunt both play the same position and are maybe not quite ready, and there is little around the three. All-or-nothing RF Flip Chapman and inconsistent LF Richard Takahashi are the most notable names outside of the young talent.

- Boise's offense could be historically bad. They will return only one player who drove in more than 67 runs last season in DH Jung Zheng (OF Alex Lim was dealt to Fargo and LF J.D. Wingo was not re-signed) and have lost their top 4 run scorers- 2B Javier Tavarez (signed as a FA by Louisville), Lim, Wingo, and RF Vicente Palacios (not re-signed). Their replacements, such as 2B Chip Loiselle, RF Abdullah Dillon, and LF Chief Pearson, aren't all that impressive.


- Las Vegas doesn't have a dominant ace, but they have depth at starter. Steve Elster is maybe the most talented, and Buster Charles, Billy Nation, Louie Martin, and Wally Lawton are all solid options. In the bullpen, Dave Stewart deservedly won the Fireman Award last season by saving 47 out of 51 chances and posting a 1.73 ERA- he'll be back. Coco Hines is a workhorse as the main setup guy.

- Anaheim will be led by decent, veteran starting pitching. Andy Ramsey led the team with 12 wins last season, and Maceo Batista had a 3.52 ERA. Tom Griffith, Cookie Rijo, and Einar Peron all struggled last season. B.J. Wallace and Felipe Cela were good setting up Vince Perez, who needs to lower his ERA.

- Seattle's staff, like its offense, has some highly talented youngsters that have yet to come around and play at a high level. Miguel Benitez and Kane Grahe do not fall into that category- they are proven veterans and will occupy the top two slots. Starter Junior Bennett and closer Quilvio Sanchez have huge upsides, but they are only 21. Sanchez struggled last season as the closer- they have 22-year-old setup guy Larry Carasone and 24-year-old Ken Baez alongside veteran Trent Bollea.

- Boise has made plenty of changes to its rotation; whether they help or not remains to be seen. Pete Rubel and York Watson were brought in from Chicago- I wouldn't count heavily on them, although it seems the Shadow Wolves will. Ivan Castilla is the best of the rest in the rotation. In the bullpen, Dude Huskey leaves for Chicago, so Alex Cornejo inherits the role. Max Delgado signed a big free-agent deal to leave Trenton for Boise to set up Cornejo.


1. Not going out on a limb on this one this season. Las Vegas again.
2. I like Anaheim to finish second, although I've overestimated this team before.
3. I'll take Seattle to beat out Boise this season. Give that team a few seasons for their young talent to develop and they may be able to make some noise.
4. Boise's owner has stated publicly he doesn't want a top-5 pick next season. I don't think he gets his wish.
5. Not sure if I see a guy sure to leave town- Jung Zheng would make sense if he wasn't a DH, which limits who can pick him up.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Season 5 AL South Preview

Our whirlwind trip around the league takes us to the AL South, where Monterrey has won 4 straight division titles. Little Rock (now Oklahoma City) got the last wild-card slot, finishing one game ahead of Nashville, while Jackson began to rebuild their team . So what does this season hold for these four teams?


- Monterrey's depth is surpassed probably only by Milwaukee in the entire AL. They still have veteran hitters in 2B Del Lopez, 1B Haywood MacDonald, and LF Marcus Reboulet hitting at a fairly high level, but last season the torch was passed to two young hitters; RF Ryan Snyder (.284-45-129) and DH Tony Escuela (.308-42-118). Those two will be the fulcrum of the Monterrey offense for seasons to come.

- Nashville doesn't have Monterrey's depth, but has arguably the best two hitters in the majors. DH King Winn (.316-62-182) had a season for the ages and 2B Gregg Black posted his normally exceptional numbers (.342-49-146); the two ended up splitting the AL MVP award. Outside of the two monsters they also have CF Tyler Post, 1B Midre Santiago, and C Tony Stieb as legitimate offensive threats.

- Oklahoma City has made plenty of changes to its roster, but its offense revolves around holdover DH Keith Buckley. New acquisitions LF Vladimir Rodriguez and 1B Charles Tomko hope to help RF Hideki Nakano protect Buckley in the lineup. This lineup may not be as good as last season, however, losing 3 of their top 5 RBI leaders (including leader Leo Miller).

- Jackson's young players experienced some growing pains. 3B Brook Teut and 1B Esteban Vega put up decent numbers, but they need more from their talented LF Dennis Tamura. Rookie RF Herman Millard should add some more pop.


- Monterrey is far and away the best staff in the division. Ace starter Ajax Drabek is not what he once was, but he's still pretty good. He's backed by youth in Luther Brush and Jocko Keats, with Albert Gonzalez providing a veteran arm. Pablo Rijo is a solid closer, and Ted Reese and Tony Merced provide good setup work.

- Oklahoma City isn't nearly as deep. Joey Hubbard and Paul Saarloos would be solid in the middle of a rotation, but they are the top two. The #3 and #4 pitchers, Heath Caufield and Lenny Durham, were taken off the scrap heap. The bullpen will be headed by Glen Kelly, Luis Garces, and J.D. Wilkinson- I don't really see a lights-out closer in that group.

- Jackson's pitching was a lot like its offense- not quite performing up to its potential. They have the makings of a solid rotation in Alex Samuel, Ivan Webster, Jimmy Cole, and Daniel Jones- Samuel was the only one above .500 (11-10). Garry Wright, on the other hand, had a fine season as the closer, and Vic Molina and Dennys Miceli were solid as the main setup guys.

- Nashville has plenty of question marks. Ham Bruske has always been the ace, but he's 37 years old and not as dominant as he once was. Veterans Vin Bautista and Larry Cole are the best of the rest. In the bullpen, Enrique Chartres is still a bit of a question mark but did improve his numbers from season 3 to season 4. Setting up could be a major issue.


1. Make it 5 in a row. Monterrey wins yet again.
2. I don't like a lot of Oklahoma City's changes, so I'll take Winn, Black, and co. to slug their way to second place. I think their pitching keeps them home in October again.
3. I think the Sneaky Finger Puppet Mafia of OKC holds off Jackson for 3rd.
4. The best bet to be dealt is probably one of the Sounds veteran bats if Nashville falls out of contention early.

Season 5 AL North Preview

The AL North is the home of the defending World Series champions, the Milwaukee Manic Maulers. They've won the division all four seasons, and their win total of 103 last season was actually their lowest in history. So does anyone in this division have the talent to upset what is arguably the premier franchise in this league?


- Milwaukee still has what is probably the deepest lineup in the league. CF Luis Martinez starts it at the top, and the heavy hitters like LF Burt Stevenson, 2B Bob Malone, 1B Andre Eckenstahler, and RF Harold Lewis follow up- Stevenson, Eck, and Lewis all drove in 110 last season. SS Eric Speier only hit .224 but still drove in 91. There really isn't an easy out in this lineup.

- St. Louis's offense will revolve around big-time hitter RF Benito Valdez- he finished 1 run short of driving in 100 and scoring 100. Besides Valdez, 1B Nick Hernandez is a speedy leadoff hitter and LF Pepe Martin can also drive in runs.

- Syracuse has no big-time hitter, but they have three solid middle of the order guys in DH Peter Sosa, 3B William Nomo, and LF Bret King, who is probably the best of the three. After that there is a pretty big dropoff in production, with (mostly) singles hitter C Galahad Paul being the best of the rest.

- Buffalo scored the fewest runs in the AL and it could very well happen again. OF Daryle Van Poppel, their leading run producer last season, will take his swings for Anaheim this season. CF Victor Gonzalez and 2B Jordan Ball will have to lead the attack- Ball in particular disappointed last season.


-Milwaukee has plenty of arms for this division. Vin Solano is coming off his 2nd Cy Young award, and he has stalwart arms in James Morton and Woody Hiller behind him. Alex Calvo was solid in his first season and figures to get better. The bullpen is just as stacked, with ace relievers King Burns, Buddy Titan, and Quinton Hughes shortening the game.

- St. Louis will likely go with Antonio Perez, Keith Cortes, and Benito Martin as the top 3 starters- all won at least 10 games last season (but none more than 13). In the bullpen, Carlos Carrasco had an All-Star season, saving 38 out of 40 with a 1.22 ERA. Frankie Lightenberg and Lloyd Freel will be counted on heavily to set him up.

- Syracuse doesn't have an ace, but they do have depth at starter. Tony Rowan, Louie Bolivar, Russell Newson, and Charlie Miller are all decent starters. The bullpen is questionable, however, with Jared McMahon's inconsistency as the closer and few options in the setup roles.

- Buffalo has a mix of journeyman veterans (Claude Jacquez, Hi Nolan) and relatively young, "AAAA" type guys (Chris Lowry, Steve Clay) in the rotation. Billy Spencer is probably the most talented of the group, but he won't be an all-star and his numbers will suffer on this team. Wesley Cora will likely be the closer- hard to believe he's still only 26.


1. Can anyone take down Milwaukee? In a word, no. Manic Maulers make it a 5-peat with ease.
2. St. Louis finishes ahead of Syracuse for 2nd- don't think either team can stay in the playoff hunt without making a move.
3. Buffalo's number 1 overall draft pick this season will be joined with a top 3 draft pick next season. Obviously, they finish last.
4. Bret King could be the biggest name dealt, but the guy you can pretty much count on leaving town is Victor Gonzalez of Buffalo.
5. Remember the name Yogi Anderson. Expect him to get a few starts for St. Louis at the end of the season and for him to be around in the league for a long time after that.

Season 5 AL East Preview

16 down, 16 to go. The AL East gets spotlighted next, with little drama in the 4 seasons of the league. Louisville is the 4-time defending champs, with the Scranton team (formerly Charlotte) nabbing a wild-card bid two straight seasons. So what will happen this season?


- I think I'm going to start in Boston, narrowly over Louisville. They've made a lot of changes in the offseason, dealing Hideki Martin and star Bob Koplove to Houston in what was one of the biggest trades in the offseason. As part of that trade they get RF Brian Saitou, who drove in 100 runs for four straight seasons in Houston. They also acquired slugging LF Trever Russell from Chicago- Russell hit 48 HRs last season. If he can approach that in Boston, he and Saitou should combine with 1B Wilson Petrick (.261-47-111) to form a huge middle of the order. The fate of this team, however, could fall on the rest of the infield- they could very well start 3 rookies in SS Daniel Koch, 2B Tommy Jordan, and 3B Frank Campbell.

- Louisville has a talented middle of the order as well. Holdovers include the big-time slugging DH Ernest Montgomery, C Cy Hughes, 1B Ismael Polanco, and RF Pete Mercedes- all drove in at least 88 runs last season. LF Wilt Gardner moves over from Vancouver- if he can fill the leadoff role these guys would be even more dangerous.

- New York comes next, led by DH Pete Duvall (.279-38-109). 2B Orlando Franco puts up decent numbers, but I don't think his .794 OPS is good enough for a player with his talent. CF R.J. Figueroa had an off year last season and LF DeWayne Castillo also needs to return to his prior form for this team to compete.

- Scranton will hinge quite a bit on stolen base machine CF Justin Hernandez. He steals bases and scores runs, but his on-base percentage has gone down each of the last two seasons. RF Randall Fisher took a big step up in his second season and looks to be the big cog in the middle of the lineup this season. He'll have 3B Greg Whitaker behind him, but he won't have departing free-agent Moose Coleman or 1B Lyle Barber, who left via trade.


- Louisville may or may not have the best starter in this division in ace Lance Stevens, but it's hard to argue that they don't have the most depth. Carlton Fleming is a solid option, although he took a big step back last season (and Louisville still has $48.3 million due on his contract over the next three seasons). The depth comes from young starters Danny Little and Hipolito Maradona at the #3 and #4 spots. The bullpen is in good hands with closer Tom Beltran and setup men Dave Peterman and Mac Sung.

- Boston added to their rotation with the Houston deal as well, adding the well-travelled Stephen Tucker to the top of the rotation. He should help solidify a rotation that also welcomes back Darryl Cashman from a knee injury last season- they'll be the top 2, bumping top winner from last season Christy Castillo to the #3 spot. Buzz Linden (acquired from Washington) is nothing special, but should eat innings. Davey Guzman was solid as the closer, and will be set up by Billy Ray Ennis

- Scranton's pitching staff will be led by J.R. Guerrero, who was 14-10 last season. Dennys Fox was solid as the number 2 guy, and Clarence Forsch was great in 20 starts, going 10-2. Norm Edwards struggled in his first full season as a starter. The Janitors can go with Vic Trevino or last year's closer, Andres Rivera, at the end. Larry Stokes won 10 games in relief.

- The best New York player last season, hitter or pitcher, easily was starter Jason Sprauge (18-5, 3.28)- he'll return. There are some question marks behind him, as Perry Herman went 9-16 last season and Max Jacquez is 38. Young, talented close Eduardo Moya was inconsistent at times. Dan Daley and Freddie Hampton are probably the best options out of the bullpen.


1. I don't like picking the favorites all the time, so I'll call for a bit of an upset and take Boston to win the division.
2. Louisville hasn't lost all that much- I'll pencil them in for a wild-card slot.
3. New York could be in the hunt. Unless they make a deal or two, I don't see them in the playoffs, though.
4. I don't see Scranton winning 90 games or even making 3rd place here.
5. I'd say the big-time name most likely to be dealt is Justin Hernandez. Jason Sprague may be the most sought after, but I think New York resists the urge to trade him.
6. Scranton SS Al Rodriguez does not test positive for a banned substance.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Season 5 NL West Preview

Last season was a wild one in the NL West, with Salt Lake City pulling a bit of an upset by winning 94 games and the division. Vancouver got in as the last wild card team and proceeded to make the World Series. So what does the division hold this season? Is this the beginning of Salt Lake City or Vancouver putting their stamp on this division? Or do the old powerhouses, Salem and Cheyenne, return to form?


- Salt Lake City learned last season how to manufacture runs. 1B Ruben Hernandez (.299-50-137) and 3B Vin Foulke (.296-31-100) are the only two power threats, but they had 5 guys steal at least 20 bases. Vic James was not one of them, but the right fielder will be a key cog in the offense, getting on base for Hernandez and Foulke and driving in some runs himself.

- Vancouver was a bit behind the Shakers last season. RF Cap Herrera had a big year and LF Travis Ryan and 1B Cody Lincoln chipped in, but SS Miguel Cerveza had a down season. So did 3B Brace Kroeger, but he had his bad season for Anaheim; he moves to the NL this season.

- Cheyenne felt they had to make a splash in free-agency, and they did. They landed former Nashville RF Bud Klein (probably overpaying) to help holdovers 3B Wendell Durrington and LF Steve Sweeney, who needs to cut down on his strikeouts. They could use a leadoff hitter now that Justin Hernandez is gone.

- Salem will again struggle to score. 3B Max Clifton and CF Nate Cox are the only two consistent threats; RF Mo Damon (formerly of Austin) just isn't that much of an upgrade in the lineup.


- This is where Salem excels. Former Cy Young Award winners Dave Dunwoody and Dwight Salmon return, and former Monterrey ace Philip Allensworth joins the rotation. Carlos Bennett adds depth. The bullpen is not as settled, with Greg Timmons and Juan Mendoza the best arms in the relief corps.

-Salt Lake City got some good seasons out of their starters. Rene Alexander, Rob Cepeda, Gary Jackson, and Albert Valdez all pitched well last season. Felipe Calles saved 35 out of 43 last season; Bruce Phillips may get a chance to close this season.

- Cheyenne returns Mendy Blackley and Patrick Billingsley, two solid starters. Youngsters Miguel Reyes and Mark Bong will try to round out the rotation. The big difference is in the bullpen, as Cheyenne picked up former closers Willie Nunez and Wily Mo Owens in free-agency. Their presence will allow the other quality arms ( Paul Schwartz, Kenneth Schalk, and Alfredo Canseco) to slide to more natural roles and provide the Nation with a lot of good options out of the pen.

- Vancouver has stalwarts Kelly Downs and Jesse Bridges at the top of the rotation. Footsie Lewis is a good depth starter, and look for Oswaldo Astacio to win a rotation spot. The bullpen is pretty solid, with closer Chris Jennings coming off a very good year and some good arms in front of him in Yuniesky Bennett and Tony Frank.


1. This is maybe the only division where any team can win. Salt Lake City is the defending champs, Vancouver went to the World Series, Salem has the best pitching in the division, and Cheyenne is much improved. This is going to be wild.
2. I guess Salt Lake City is the slight favorite.
3. Don't be surprised if Cheyenne wins this thing- I like them for second for some reason.
4. Can't put the NL champs last- I'll give them 3rd.
5. Hard to give Dunwoody, Salmon, and company last, but they still need offense.

Season 5 NL South Preview

The NL South is the only NL division that has a 4-time division winner (Houston). Last season they took the division by the slightest of margins over San Juan by one game. Is this the season that the mighty Riverdogs finally fall?


- At the plate, San Juan has the talent to keep up with anybody in the NL. RF Calvin Chang and 1B Osvaldo Johnson are perennial all-stars and CF John Baldwin is a speedy outfielder with pop. Their complementary pieces, like LF Jackie Wheeler, are pretty good, but they could use a defensive catcher.

- Houston made waves across the league by landing big-time power threat IF Bob Koplove from Boston. He'll join RF Hideki Martin and 2B Monte Duvall in the middle of the order. CF Scott Diaz will play a huge role as the leadoff hitter this season.

- New Orleans is next, as CF Albie Torres, LF Don Jefferson, and 2B Ray Cepicky are good run producers. 3B Kareem Raines comes over from Louisville to protect the aforementioned three in the lineup. They could use some more production at first base, as Tim Radlosky needs to step up at what is normally a power position.

- Austin's offense was one of the worst in the league last season. This season they will go with a lot of young players, like 3B Gerald Stargell, SS Ralph Phillips, LF William Farr, and 1B Tony Percival (who needs to stay healthy). As none of these guys have any major league track record, it's a bit of a mystery what exactly this offense will do.


- Houston doesn't have the big-time ace that they have had in the past, but their starting pitching has good depth. Jerome Oliver leads the staff, with rookie Lonny Gates, Damon Thompson, and Jose Merced behind him. The bullpen sees the return of Matt Skinner to close, with talented Cristian Price and Tom Cummings to set him up.

- New Orleans still has Carlos Matos and Tony Marquez at the top of the rotation- they're solid, if not spectacular. If the Voodoo can get 30 starts out of Cristian Lyons, it should help the depth. Tom Hernandez saved 40 games last season and has Vance D'Amico and Billy Ray Hooper to set him up.

- San Juan made a few changes to their staff, but they don't have the talent or depth that Houston has. Jerry Terry comes over from Seattle, but neither he nor incumbents Joey Adcock, Bum Brea, or Shooter Mahoney is an ace or even a solid #2. The bullpen is just as questionable, if not more so; with Willie Nunez gone, Toby Sisler could be the best option to close.

- If you want to why Austin will have the #2 overall pick in the draft this season, look no further than the pitching staff. Olmedo James, at 7-9, was the top winner on the staff. Their current roster includes guys like Terry Pierre and Delino Montanez, who just wouldn't cut it on a playoff-contending team. The bullpen has a dearth of talent as well.


1. I really want to pick San Juan to win this, but I don't see it with their pitching. I'll pick Houston conditionally. If San Juan can manage to pick up some pitching help during the season, they could overtake the Riverdogs.
2. Houston and San Juan both make the playoffs.
3. New Orleans will be respectable and could be in the running for the last wild-card spot.
4. Austin gets another top 3 draft pick in next season's Amateur Draft.
5. Calvin Chang finally gets MVP notice.

Season 5 NL North Preview

Next up on our journey is the NL North, where Fargo has taken the last 3 division titles after Toronto (nee Montreal) won the first season. Can Fargo make it 4 in a row? Does the commish's Chicago team finally break through? Can Toronto or Philadelphia make a surprise run?


- In the Windy City, the winds of change have definitely been blowing this offseason. The lineup will see four new starters this season in 1B Bernie Soriano, SS Andres Calderon, CF Derrin Hernandez, and 3B Jay Walker. They all have talent and, if they mesh and adjust to their new home, should combine with superstar LF Sean Simpson (.313-38-106) to form a dynamic offense. The downside is, with all the new additions, someone has to leave. They lose Trever Russell (traded to Boston) and Paxton Coleridge (left via free-agency), who combined for 98 HRs and 225 RBI. The question is can the new guys make up for that missing production?

- Fargo made a few significant changes of their own. Gone is speedy LF Rico Valdes (traded to Trenton), but they brought in Alex Lim from Boise to fill the position. Lim is a great addition to the middle of the order, but they lose Valdes at the leadoff spot, so CF Stan Peterson (.269-8-39) probably has more pressure on him to be a leadoff/table setter. The other major addition is 3B Leo Miller. Those two will combine with incumbent RF William Bolling (.299-46-134) to form the core of the offense.

- Toronto took a step back offensively last season, and that was a big part of their poor season. RF Vicente Romero (.287-25-75) saw his production decline quite a bit, which was bad news for a lineup that depends a lot on him. CF Dewey Greenwood (.313-34-107) was a bright spot, finally displaying the consistency to go along with his talent. LF Kevin Yamakazi had a solid rookie season and big things are expected from him by fans north of the border.

- Philadelphia had its worst offensive production in season 4, and it probably won't get much better. 2B Reid Colbert (.275-26-77) and 1B Don Meng (.279-46-105) are the only consistent offensive threats. LF Anthony Spencer (.290-15-75) had a solid second season.


- Shouldn't be any surprise we start in Fargo. The biggest reason for their success in the past 3 seasons has been the starting pitching. The Big 3 (Javier Henriquez, Sammy Pierce, Jim Arnold) return for another season, and they added veteran arm Manny Christians to the staff. Their top 4 pitchers rivals Atlanta's. Their bullpen has lots of talent as well, as Alex Javier had a good season at the closer's position, and they still have Bert Price, Christopher Siddall, and Kevin Li (who had an off year) to set him up.

- Chicago has made plenty of changes to their rotation as well, but it still looks a bit iffy. Marty Lane came over from Colorado Springs (now Boise) last season, but he's not a true ace. They also picked up Orber Marin from Buffalo and traded for Hipolito Pujols this offseason. They will be the top 3, but they can't compete with Fargo's rotation (then again, few teams can). Their bullpen has talent, as free-agent pickup Tony Matos joins incumbents Dude Huskey, Achilles Hume, Clay Bell, Benito Chavez, and Bernie Corino. The roles are still undefined, but they should be able to sort it out. Former closer Wily Mo Owens packed his bags for Cheyenne.

- Toronto doesn't have a starter of Robinson's quality, but they probably have more depth than Philly. Hipolito Santana, Harry Lee, Jeremi Gant, and Patrick Clifton are the top 4- all are fairly solid, but none are close to being an ace. Clifton went from 17-7 in season 3 to 8-16 last season, but all his other numbers were pretty much the same. The bullpen is a potential mess- Mark Ott is probably the best option as the closer, but getting to him could prove difficult.

- Philadelphia has ace Bernard Robinson, who is the best starting pitcher in this division outside of North Dakota. Other than that, who knows? They have a few innings-eaters in guys like Victor Aybar, but nothing spectacular. The big question (besides whether or not to deal Bernie) is what to do with starter Turner Darr. He was rushed up to the majors too soon by the old management team, but he's still got talent and he's only 21. Jamey Dwyer is highly questionable as the closer; Kid Johnstone and Arthur Gates both had fine seasons setting up.


1. Fargo takes 4 in a row with little trouble.
2. Chicago takes second by default.
3. I think Toronto is not as bad as their 69 wins last season- I'll give them 3rd.
4. Philadelphia may be hard-pressed to improve on their win total and should finish last again.
5. Chicago stays in contention for the wild card, but I don't think they have enough right now. If they made a big-time deal for an arm, they could sneak in. As of right now, rumors are swirling in Chicago that a deal for an arm might happen soon.
6. It's possible that Robinson gets dealt, but I don't count on it. This will, however, be his last season in Philadelphia.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Season 5 NL East Prevew

It's time for Spring Training again, so for the 5th season in a row I provide previews for all 32 teams. We start, as always, in a division near and dear to my heart- the NL East.

The NL East has been a competitive division since day 1- last season it was decided by 2 games for the 2nd time in 3 seasons. 3 out of the 4 teams own division titles. So who comes out of the division this season?


- Trenton led the division last season in runs, and could very well do it again. RF Denny Moss grabs most of the headlines and most of the league has known about 1B Steven Mills for a while, but 3B Enrique Park (.274-40-123) put up the biggest numbers on the team. The big news is the acqusition of speedster LF Rico Valdes from Fargo- if he can be a force at the top of the lineup the RBI totals could go up for the middle of that order. The unknown in the lineup is rookie C Vasco Lopez- he's a switch hitter and should turn out to be a good two-way catcher, but can he produce this year at the plate? Their defense could be a bit questionable at times with their projected lineup.

- Atlanta wasn't far behind Trenton last season. None of the Trenton boys could claim the title as best hitter in the division last season- 1B Matty Matos took a big leap up to superstar level(.315-55-134); can he replicate those numbers this season? 3B Hal Brinkley provides support for Matos in the lineup and, like Trenton, they have good complementary parts like CF Lynn Abernathy, LF Albert Martin, and RF Stan Starr. Trenton's star power probably gets them a little higher but this should be a solid lineup.

- Norfolk took a bit of a step back last season. The core of the lineup is still there with speedy 1B Melvin Nakano, 2B Ignacio Diaz, and RF Justin Gordon. But CF Carlos Cervantes and 3B Tony Mays both had off years- they'll need more production from those guys to keep up with Atlanta and Trenton. Gordon moves to right to make room for Juan Chavez- he probably won't be a star but should provide some depth in the lineup.

- Washington D.C. is in full rebuilding mode. 3B David Rushford and 1B Jimmie Williams would get far more attention playing anywhere else- they both had outstanding seasons for a 63-win team. The problem is it's not going to get much better immediately, as these guys have no help in the lineup. Expect current AAA denizen IF Willis Biddle to get a shot at the majors at some point this season.


-Atlanta won the division based on their starting pitching and could do it again. They pulled off two megadeals; one for Matty Eusebio, and one for Steven Michaels. One could argue they have the best rotation in baseball, with Fred Carter and Orber Halter following the big two, so they should get a quality outing almost every night. The bullpen could be an issue- they have Tex Howell, Trevor Watson, and Alex Sanchez as potential closers.

- Trenton doesn't match up with Atlanta's rotation, but this could be their best starting staff in their history. Johnnie Reagan returns (Trenton needs to get more innings out of him), and last season's deals for Damion Mays and R.J. Toca solidified the #2 and #3 slots. Enrique Rijo will return as the #4. The bullpen returns 40-save man Rob Gilmore and rookies Pablo Rojas and Mitch Clark will take most of the setup duties. Bo Hatfield was signed to help set up from the left side.

- Norfolk and Trenton finished almost in a dead heat in runs allowed last season. The Destroyers will return ace Babe Broadhurst, who couldn't match his near Cy-Young form of season 3, but was still very good. Malcolm Lawrence and Rod Walters are solid veterans in back of Broadhurst. Ricardo Gabriel and Dan Young will get the first cracks at the last two spots in all likliness; they both have talent but may not be ready for the big time quite yet. In the bullpen, Ariel Lee has completely turned his career around; he went from a 6.18 ERA in season 2 (his first as the closer) to winning the NL Fireman of the Year Award last season. Veteran Jae Brea willl again log innings setting Lee up.

- Washington is in dire need of pitching help. They don't return anyone who won more than 8 games last season. Matty Grimsley and Steven Greenberg headline the starting staff; they'd have trouble cracking the rotation of the majority of teams in the league. Rico Mangual and Andruw Little combined for 33 saves but both had ERAs over 6.


1. The division comes down to Atlanta and Trenton. Atlanta's advantage in pitching is probably better than Trenton's advantage at the plate, so I'll go with the Bandits.
2. Trenton again is in the wild card fight for the last spot with about 3-5 other teams.
3. Norfolk, if things break right on offense, could be back in contention. They may still need to add a pitcher.
4. Vasco Lopez, whether or not he is a Rookie of the Year contender, will have a lot to do with Trenton making or missing the playoffs.
5. Jimmie Williams and/or David Rushford will be traded out of Washington D.C. as the Blue Coats fail to crack the 70 win mark for the 4th straight season. Most calls to D.C. area sports talk radio shows will be to ask when Carter Leonard is arriving.

Rule 5 Draft Prospects

Ever wonder about the GM's and the Rule 5 draft? Why a certain player is drafted and others are not? Is it advanced scouting? Lack of taking the time to rank the top 10 players? Is it need? I am not drafting a player this time around, not because I don't have any open slots either, I have one. It is not because there isn't a player I want and he might be available even with me drafting near the end. The reason I am not drafting a player is because I have no where to put him if I do.

I know there are probably some GM's that are drooling over a couple players that draft in the first few slots. But are they worth it? So I am going to break it down by position on players that should be drafted by position and maybe why they won't. I will limit it to two players at each to make it easy for me. The number available of course does not include my own and some could be counted twice.

C: 66 available
Pedro Garces - A defensive PC catcher that doesn't hit well but would make a great backup and is ready for the ML.
David Mendez - The best hitting PC catcher available, defense is lacking a little though and could only be a backup with his durability.

1B: 48 available
Marc Schmidt - Should he have been protected? Not the monster HR hitter but pretty good all the same.
Howie Flaherty - Can hit but defense is a little weak.

2B: 118 available
Damaso Pascual - WIS in their infinite wisdom lists him as a 2B, but the best he could be is a 1B, but can hit and maybe play LF.
There are several that could win Gold Gloves at 2B or CF but none hit very well.

3B: 78 avaiable
None listed that can actually play the position or hit mainly because they are probably listed as SS.

SS: 93 available
Several listed that can be Gold Glovers but few that can hit a lick and yes 3B pool is here and many can play CF also.
Hal Bando SS ready for a backup role.
Miguel Baez - another that is ML ready as a backup role.

LF: 80 available
Kevin Kendall - The best hitting one in the list. No one else really stands out

CF: 25 available
Peter Brower - Has Gold Glove capability but can't hit all that well.
Adrian Jensen - Has the ability but could be tough to get his last few ratings points and not all the strong with a bat.

RF: 55 available
Bob Owens - The best hitter available but can't play RF.
Rico Johnson - The second best hitter but RF is a stretch.

DH: 80 available
Nothing here to get real excited about.

P: undetermined how many there actually are but well over 250
Several are listed with very high overalls but not necessarily quality.
Chris Lowry - This guy probably comes up #1 on every ones board. I list him as decent at best and well overrated by at least 10 points. Probably will be the #1 pick but I disagree with this choice.
Dixie Reynolds - I deem him the best potential pitcher in the draft, will someone else? May not be a starter but can sure fill out a pen spot in my books and possible number 4 or 5 starter in the future.

So how did my prognostication work out?

C - David Mendez was taken by Salem Sacrifices though C.J. Mathews was taken right before him by the Seattle Killer Whales. Mathews is a big question mark.

1B - none taken

2B - Kiki Solano taken by the Norfolk Destroyers who could be good but was listed as a SS on my board.

3B - none taken, wonder why...

SS - Hal Bando and Miguel Baez was both taken by the Syracuse Simpletons.
Buddy Anderson was taken by the Austin City Limits who could play 2B in the future.
Shooter Barber was taken by Oklahoma City who can play 2B now and IF/OF in the future and has some power with the bat.

LF - Damaso Pascual was taken by the Austin City Limits, instead of 2B...

CF - Hal Ball by the Boise Shadow Wolves. Manuel Bautista taken by the Philadelphia Phantoms who could play CF/2B in the future.

RF - Bob Owens was taken by the Toronto Toros.

DH - Marc Schmidt was taken by the Washington D.C. Blue Coats.

P - As expected Chris Lowry was taken 1st by the Buffalo Blue Cheese.
Dixie Reynolds was taken 3rd by the Washington D.C. Blue Coats.
Macbeth Price taken by the Anaheim Chiles shows great potential but his GB/FB could be trouble.

8 were drafted out of my 14 that I scouted, not bad with only 24 being drafted. Will some of them 24 hit the waiver wire? Maybe 3 or 4 is my answer.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Contract Fix

The Reason for the IFA and Amateur Draft MLB contract change. It was noted by the MLB Players Union that many blue chip prospect players were being signed to long term MLB minimum deals short-changing their arbitration payoff in years 4 and 5 of their contract. After long labor intensive negotiations it was decided that a player could be offered a minimum MLB contract for 3 years but for a longer contract, it must be initiated by the player or his agent. It was determined that compensation for years 4 and 5 of a long term contract would be commensurate with that of a ML FA.

In simple terms, year 4 and 5 of a long term contract would be a minimum of $5M and not exceed the $20M cap. In retrospect an error occurred where all 5 years of a long term contract had to meet the $5M minimum without the players consent, though the intent was about as clear as mud. Supposedly this is fixed and now works as planned. I have tested and you can offer a 3 year MLB deal at the ML minimums. I have no way of testing for years 4 and 5 as of yet and whether only years 4 and 5 require the $5M minimum or in fact all 5 years.

After thinking about the change and its intent, someone at the Players Union needs to go back to college IMHO. As it stands, if a blue chip prospect player is signed to a MLB contract and put onto the ML roster immediately and before the 23 game deadline then yes he could be short-changed by two years. In most cases however, he would only be short-changed by possibly 1 year at the most. Currently this change would possibly affect maybe one or two players per year at the most. The chances of seeing a player requesting a long term contract will only be slight if at all.

Although I do see the intent if a blue chip prospect is 22+ years old but there are few of those also as most are 18 to 20. A younger players 5 year MLB contract would expire and he would be Rule 5 eligible but not a 6 year minor league FA and not arbitration eligible either if he doesn't have the ML service time under the old rules. A 22+ year old would be 27 or older and probably have the ML service time before the contract expired, but possibly by only 1 year.

Now a blue chip prospect player would only have a 3 year contract and probably gains nothing or maybe even less. So a wise GM will actually beat them at their own game in the end and the players will still go home empty handed.

Is it possible there are plans that more International prospect players may be older and ML ready? Very few players are currently scouted that are over 20 years old where a 5 year MLB contract could have actually hurt a player. If this is the case then we need to watch and see what happens.