Sunday, May 31, 2009

Take 5: Draft edition

With the draft slightly more than a week away, we'll look at some draft info. Today's question:

Which 5 players drafted after the 1st round have contributed the most at the ML level?

1. Kris Olson, DH, Seattle

Drafted in round 5 with the 154th overall pick in season 1, Olson has made a significant impact offensively in his first two seasons with Seattle, hitting 35 HRs in his rookie season and following it up with 100 RBI in his sophomore campaign.

2. Esteban Vega, 1B, Jackson

Another 5th round pick from season 1 (161st overall), Vega hit 34 HRs in his rookie season. He dipped down to 21 HRs and only 53 RBI in his second ML season, but it appears he'll be counted on in Jackson for seasons to come.

3. Chan Suh, C, Jackson

A 3rd round pick from season 1 (97th overall), Suh has driven in 118 runs in his two seasons in Jackson while catching about 120 games per season.

4. Chuck Reed, C, Atlanta

Reed was chosen 61st overall (2nd round) in season 1 and has grabbed the starting catching job for one of the National League's best teams. He drove in 50 runs last season while hitting .243, but defense is his strong suit.

5. Barney Weiss, RF, Jackson

Weiss was picked 48th overall (Round 2) in season 2 by Chicago and later dealt to Jackson. The starting right fielder for Jackson drove in 68 runs last season.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Take 5

Back in the 50's, the classic debate around the New York area centered around... center. This period of time brought 2 of the all-time greats, Mantle and Mays, playing the same position in the same city. Who are the top 5 centerfielders in The Bigs?

1. Luis Martinez, Milwaukee

Mr. 40-40 himself is the reigning AL MVP, so I doubt there's much debate he's the best. Has gone 40-40 twice and hit 61 homers in one of the seasons he didn't- regularly hits around .300 to go with that power and speed. He's not the most gifted defensive CF, but he has improved over time. By the way, he's still only 27 years old.

2. Nate Cox, Salem

Doesn't put up the gaudy numbers that Martinez does, but is a threat to both go deep and steal a base as well. Puts up MVP-type numbers on a team without a lot of big offensive threats. Again, not a gold-glover, but can handle the position.

3. Scott Diaz, Houston

More of your prototypical CF than Martinez and Cox, in that he won't hit many home runs but plays very good defense and steals a lot of bases (70 steals). Has stolen over 50 bases in 5 straight seasons and scored over 100 runs in 4 straight.

4. Lynn Abernathy, Atlanta

2- time All-Star and a former Gold Glove winner. Has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last 5 seasons. Has double-digit plus defensive plays all 5 seasons, so he's a two-way player.

5. Dewey Greenwood, Cheyenne

Slightly better hitter than Abernathy, but not as good defensively. Could easily drive in 100 runs on a good Cheyenne team. Overcame injury problems in seasons 1 and 2 (with Toronto) to become the star of the team.

Honorable mention: Paul Turnbow, Chicago

Formula Builder

Well sports fans, I have just come in from the first use of the new formula builder in the copious draft conflagration. I am here to say that it is not the most ingenious add on in the precarious draft realm. I think the changing of the pitchers OVR did more to fix the draft than the formula builder helped. It may not have worked well for me because I have such a lopsided use in scouting, 20 vs 6 that leans towards College. I didn't use the formula builder as the drafting tool of choice, but did use it to see how it worked.

They split the formula builder into sections: General ratings, Position Player ratings, Pitcher Ratings and College vs High School. Each rating is on a scale of 1 to 10 with a default of 5 except the College vs High School which uses a ladder effect based on 1 by tenths. They also have a tester group so you can see what will happen to the rankings of players as you make the changes which is cool.

The General Ratings uses Durability, Health, Speed and Makeup. Why Patience wasn't in the formula builder is beyond me.

The Position Player Ratings used most of the fielding and hitting ratings of course. However the push/pull tendency was absent, I know, maybe I am the only one that uses that to any relevance.

The Pitching Ratings were all used.

Where it failed for me was pretty simple. There wasn't much to choose from in hitting really. But when the formula was applied it kept putting this defensive SS that couldn't hit in the top 3 along with a pitcher that really could only be used as a closer as the first pick. Ok, so maybe a shutdown closer like him is really worth the first pick, but not when you need starters. The SS was actually a late second round pick at best and the pitcher a mid first rounder. Another thing that I didn't like were pitchers with a good first, second, and fourth pitch with an anemic third pitch couldn't be moved down far enough to suit me. When I tried to fix that, it would move the position players up and all pitchers down. Another problem were catchers, setting the PC caused a myraid of things to happen. You will also need to move the unsignable ones down manually as always as this part didn't change.

For me it didn't work and it did a better job the old way. It took me 30 minutes to set the draft up the old way where I was still fiddling with the formula builder for an hour or so and couldn't get it right.

Where it might be a joy to work with is if you have an even split or close to it in scouting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Around the American League after 20 games

Our American League reporter is Hugo First. He's authored some critically acclaimed books, namely Into the Woods and Over the Cliff. Here's his report on the AL:

- Milwaukee looks like they may have to slug their way to another title, as their offense looks as dangerous as ever but their pitching looks a little suspect. Costello hasn't been himself and Carver looks awful. Morton has walked way too many. But boy, can Burt Stevenson hit.

-Helena's hitters absloutely love playing in their new park. The pitchers, less so.

- Times are not good in Charlotte. Larry Cole is the only consistent starter, Ham Bruske has been bad, Albert Reith isn't hitting his weight, and Gregg Black is on the trade block. Don't think this team will look the same at this point next season.

- New York is in bad shape, too. Their offense was anemic before Castillo went down- what's less than anemic?

-Anaheim is 12-8 and doing it with smoke and mirrors.

-Boise's GM said publicly his goal is 75 wins. If they keep giving up 6 runs a game, they won't get there.

-Yes, that's Christy Castillo leading the AL in ERA. He's a big reason why Boston is one game back.

-Speaking of great starting pitching, how about Albert Gonzalez? Looks like he wants to go back-to-back in Cy Young Awards.

Is Jacque Puffer having a good season (driving in 21 runs) or a bad season (hitting .208)?

Except for being a strikeout machine, Timo Carter has been a good fill-in for Tony Escuela.

Around the National League after 20 games

Here at the Trenton office of TBDN, we've assigned one reporter per league to keep up with the happenings and file periodic reports with us. At the 20 game mark, here's what we got from our roving National League reporter, Seymour Duless:

- Gotta say the team that has impressed me the most is San Juan. Junior Tabaka is ripping it up and the pitching staff is holding together for now. I doubt they'll keep playing .750 ball, but if the starting staff can keep pitching like this, they could be printing playoff tickets.

- The most disappointing team so far is probably Fargo at 9-11. They thought Rushford had solved their offensive problems- they're only one run better than last in the NL. Rushford's 3 HRs and 10 RBI aren't bad, but he's hitting .211, as is Bolling. Henriquez still gets no support and Christians, Arnold, and Pierce have all looked very human thus far.

-Gotta praise what Toronto has done at 12-8. The Greenwood trade looks great now, as Albert Castro is hitting .422. with power. Lee, Gant, and Casey have been lights out in the rotation. I don't know if they can stay in it, but I think Toronto fans may be starting to see the picture.

-I'm not sure the Philip Allensworth is as big a loss as Sacrifices fans think. Salmon and Dunwoody are just as good as ever.

-Houston is way too talented to be 10-10. Two big reasons- Bob Koplove is hitting .184 and Jason Sprague has an ERA over 8. This would kill most teams, but Houston can stay afloat.

-Miguel Cerveza is on the DL for Trenton- I wonder if secretly the front office is happy. They get to take a look at stud prospect Watty Miller for 2 weeks. Speaking of Trenton prospects, it may only be 20 games into his rookie season, but Magglio Perez looks pretty good so far.

-Osvaldo Johnson looks like he was a good pickup for the Snake Tamers- he looks like his MVP self.

-The league has yet to figure out Norfolk rookie Bobby Davenport- he's 3-0.

-4 of the 6 guys with WHIPs under 1 are Bernard Robinson, Steven Michaels, Dwight Salmon, and Carlos Matos. The other two are surprises: Charlie White and Vic Rincon.

-Matty Eusebio may be 36, but he still has it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Costly win for New York

New York saw its AL East title hopes take a big hit last night in Buffalo. New York scored 6 runs in the top of the 8th to take a 8-1 lead, and Blue Cheese star Julio Diaz hit a lazy fly ball to left center. New York CF Dewayne Castillo never made it, falling about halfway. LF Justin Hernandez made the catch, but Castillo had to be carted off the field. X-rays later revealed a hamstring tear, so one of the main cogs in the New York lineup is expected to be out for the entire season.

Big International Signings in the NL East

There have already been 9 international signings this season, but two of them stand out in particular.

Max Javier, SS (Lo-A), Washington D.C. Blue Coats

Javier, an 18-year old from Venezuela, will be a well-rounded player. The word on him is that his speed and arm are already ML level. His bat and fielding will take time, but his hitting, power, and glove should be well above ML average when he's ready. Scouts aren't sure if he'd be an elite defensive shortstop, but he'd be adequate and would be outstanding defensively at any other position. Has a good eye to go with his natural hitting ability. Considering Washington spent $20 million to sign him, he'd better be good.

Neifi Gonzalez, P (Lo-A), Atlanta Bandits

Gonzalez, a Dominican 18-year-old lefty, definitely seems to be on track to be a future ML starter. Fastball, slider, and change-up all will be ML quality, although none will be really dominant. Should be tough on righties and almost impossible for lefties to hit. Good durability- will take the ball every 5 days. Only concerns scouts seem to have are his health and stamina- he did seem to get tired late in games for the Dominican national team. Atlanta spent $18 million to grab Gonzalez.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Regular season's first major injury

The Salem Sacrifices will be without the services of one of their top starters for most of the season. Philip Allensworth, who won 14 games for Salem last season, had to leave last night's start against Trenton in the 2nd inning with elbow pain. X-rays later revealed a torn ligament that will require surgery later this week. Allensworth could be out about 3-4 months; he is scheduled to fly down to Alabama to meet with noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Boise Shadow Wolves Press Conference

Well, the new season is under way, and while Pete Rubel is still reeling from his $14M dollar pay cut and drop to third starter, the management teem wanted to take a few minutes to talk about the franchise and the season ahead. First, in regards to Rubel, we still think he's a good pitcher. We were willing to negotiate with him in the offseason, but he was unwilling to reciprocate, so we looked at other options. Unfortunately for him, there was very little movement this year in FA, and eventually he was forced to take a contract for half of what we would have negotiated during the winter. With his huge contract now gone, and not having the pressure of carrying the team, we hope he can maybe put up some career numbers for us. We brought in Hubbard late in the FA period and gave him the starting spot, and bumped Castilla up to number two. Rookie of the Year candidate Pedro Medrano was moved from a starter into a long relief position. We feel this is an important role for him and that he's better suited to the position. The rest of our pitching staff didn't change much, we're expecting better performances out of the staff as a whole, as last year's runs against will not be tolerated a second time.

On the positional front, we had to let Zheng, Fuentes, and Butler go. We have a lot of young guys coming up through the system that will change the face of the team. Filipe Ortiz, whom was picked up mid season last year from Monterrey was traded to Oklahoma for Hideo Nakano. We were happy with what Ortiz brought to the team, but we were offered the deal for Nakano and liked the extra speed he'll bring to the club, so we had to take it. Derrek Bedard was our other offseason signing. He'll help to replace some of Ortiz's power, and hopefully help Ryan Hamill and Chief Pearson put a few long balls over the fence. We also picked up Terrel Austin in the rule five draft to add some more contact and speed to the bench. And last, but certainly not least, we called up SS Alex Suh to start the season. He's got great defense and a decent bat. We expect good things from him this season. We'll likely be calling up fellow rookie shortstop B.C. Stone part way through the season. Currently we don't have enough bats to keep everyone rested through the grueling season.

So what does all this mean for your Shadow Wolves? It means we are improving the team. We are getting better every year. We have a number of young stars rising up through the system that will be seeing time in the Bigs very soon. Future hall-of-famers like Santiago Martin and Barry McEnroe. Future aces like Victor Soto and Hector Manto. Solid pitchers in Limon, Foster, Lopez, and Molina. Solid bats like Lee, Brogna, Neruda, and Flores. And that's just the tip of the snout, so to speak. Your Boise Shadow Wolves aren't going to win the World Series this season. In fact, we probably won't win next season either, though anything can happen. In three years, though, we will become a team that can compete with the top teams in the league. We will do our best to make this team better year after year until we are the best. Our target for this season is 75 wins. Next season we expect to be able to play at or above five hundred. The future of the Shadow Wolves is, ironically bright. We appreciate the enthusiasm and commitment to the team by the great fans of Boise, and we promise you that your commitment will be rewarded in the years to come. Thank you for your time.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The other half of the league opens

Day 2 means the other 16 teams open their seasons. Here are the highlights.

National League

In Fargo, the defending champion Dirtbags were beaten by divsion rival Chicago. Newly acquired Babe Broadhurst outdueled reigning Cy Young winner Javier Henriquez, going 8 innings and giving up only 1 run for the Snake Tamers. Chicago got RBI singles from Neifi McBride and Sean Simpson in the 1st and an RBI double from Cameron BUckley in the 4th.

In Houston, the hometown Riverdogs were limited to 3 hits over 8 innings by Austin City Limits starter Delino Montanez, as Austin won 4-0. Tony Percival's 3-run home run in the 7th was the key hit in the game.

In Salem, Dave Dunwoody gave up 1 run and 4 hits while striking out 10 to win a 2-1 decision. Marvin Mercedes hit a leadoff home run to start the game.

In Washington, Steven Leonard and Jimmie Williams provided all the offense, each hitting a solo shot for the Blue Coats. Jesus Estrada shut out the visiting Trenton Traffic over 8 innings, and new closer Alex Javier shut the door in the 9th, as D.C. won 2-0.

American League

Milwaukee opened yet another AL title defense with a win at Syracuse, 4-1. Brian Dunham's 3-run homer in the 3rd was the difference in the game for the Manic Maulers.

The Boston Bambinos went into Louisville and beat the Legends 3-1 in 11 innings. RBI singles by Butch Swift and Daniel Koch in the 11th provided the margin of victory.

In Oklahoma City, Tony Johnson and Chan Suh each drove in 2 runs in a five run 2nd for the visiting Jackson Vipers. That 2nd innings would be enough for Alex Samuel and 2 Jackson relievers, as they beat the Sneaky Finger Puppet Mafia 7-2.

In Boise, the Helena Grotto Gottos began their history in Montana with a loss. Shadow Wolves 1B Alex Suh hit an RBI single in the 11th to score Hideo Nakano and give Boise a 4-3 win. Shadow Wolves catcher Hiram Spooneybarger achieved a rare feat, throwing out two runners attempting to steal in the same inning.

Opening Day of Season 6 in The Bigs

Half the teams get to play on the first day of the new season. There is excitement in all 32 cities for the dawn of the new season. Here's what happened around the league on Opening Day.

National League

We'll start in Atlanta, where one of the favorites to come out of the NL opened with a win. The Bandits were hosting their division rivals, the Norfolk Destroyers. Norfolk 2B Justin Gordon hit a leadoff triple in the 2nd and later scored, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. Norfolk didn't trail until the 8th, when Bandits 1B Stan Starr turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead with one swing of the bat, a long home run to left field. Norfolk loaded the bases in the 9th, but couldn't push a run across. Atlanta squeaked by with a 3-2 win.

Out west, the Cheyenne Nation opened up in Salt Lake City again the Shakers in a wild one. Shakers 1B Ruben Hernandez wasted no time, hitting a 3-run home run in the first inning. But Cheyenne scored the next 6 runs, as Bud Klein hit a solo shot in the 2nd and followed up with a grand slam in the 3rd. He later added a RBI single in the 7th, and the game looked out of reach. But a Carlos Batista 2-RBI double brought the Shakers to within one run, and then he tied it up with 2 outs in the 9th with a single to right. Pablo Martinez, the next hitter, doubled Batista home, and the Shakers won an exciting 7-6 decision.

Cheyenne wasn't the only team to blow a save opportunity in the 9th with two outs. San Juan had a 8-7 lead with 2 outs and no one on in the ninth in New Orleans against the Voodoo. But Dead Bunnies closer Toby Sisler walked former MVP Matty Matos, and 2B Ray Cepicky made him pay for it by hitting a walk-off 2 run shot to right field. New Orleans won 9-8.

North of the border, Toronto had no such issues with their bullpen, as it was not really needed. Toros starter Harry Lee shut down the Philadelphia Phantoms lineup, going 8 shutout innings to fuel a 5-0 Toronto win.

American League

In Charlotte, the Princesses outhit the Monterrey Sultans, but ran themselves out of a few innings and couldn't get big hits to fall to the Sultans 4-2. Del Lopez had 3 hits for the Sultans.

At The Stadium, Scranton used a 6-run 2nd inning to beat the New York New York 9-5. J.R. Guerrero went 6 strong innings for the Janitors, and Paxton Coleridge hit a homer to start that 2nd inning. New York starter Damon Thompson gave up 5 runs and recorded only 4 outs.

In St. Louis, the Silly Nannies proved that 2 is indeed better than 1. Buffalo managed only a 1st inning solo shot by star 1B Julio Diaz, while St. Louis DH Chris Newson hit two homers- a solo shot in the 4th, and a 2-run bomb in the 6th- to provide all the scoring. The Silly Nannies took a 3-1 decision, with Russell Newson going 7 innings for the win.

In Seattle, the Killer Whales eked out a win over the visiting Anaheim Chiles. Anaheim had a 3-2 lead in the 9th, but closer Vince Perez couldn't get a single out, as Jacque Puffer and Foostie Post both had RBI hits to provide a 4-3 win. Jack Hunt homered for the Killer Whales.

Playoff Predictions- Season 6

Never too early to make wrong playoff predictions.

National League

1. Fargo
2. Atlanta
3. Houston
4. Salem
5. Chicago
6. Cheyenne

1st Round

Chicago over Salem
Cheyenne over Houston


Fargo over Chicago
Atlanta over Cheyenne


Fargo over Atlanta (again)

American League

1. Milwaukee
2. Monterrey
3. Louisville
4. Seattle
5. Charlotte
6. Scranton

1st Round

Charlotte over Seattle
Louisville over Scranton


Milwaukee over Charlotte
Louisville over Monterrey


Milwaukee over Louisville

World Series: Fargo over Milwaukee (again)

AL West Preview- Season 6

And the last division on the docket is the Wild Wild (AL) West, which again should be wide open. Las Vegas won the division last season by winning a whopping 79 games- they'll play as the Helena Grotto Gottos this season. The Anaheim Chiles finished only 5 games back- can they make up the difference? And what should we expect from the young, talented Seattle Killer Whales and the speedy Boise Shadow Wolves?


Seattle (last season- 7th in AL) has several young players who are ready to take the next step in their careers. 2B Jack Hunt and LF Jacque Puffer are both entering their sophomore seasons- they, like 3B Denny Moss, have a rare combination of speed and power- all three can be dynamic forces. DH Kris Olson will be the main cog behind those 3 in the lineup. They will need more from CF Henry Canizaro this season.

Boise (last season- 5th in AL) will rely on its speed again. LF Chief Pearson was the only Shadow Wolf to top 20 homers and the only returning member of the club to top 100 RBI last season. But they return 4 players (IF Mark Jung, RF Abdullah Dillon, IF Hal Ball, and Pearson) who had at least 25 stolen bases, and added CF Melvin Nakano, who stole 37 last season. The Shadow Wolves are hoping he adds a bit of power as well.

Anaheim (last season- 9th in AL) has seen the end of the Alex Vasquez era. Superstar James Dixon moves over from shortstop to 3rd to fill the spot. He'll have LF Pedro Candelaria and 1B Daryle Van Poppel to help him in the middle of the lineup. If SS Mateo Coronado can get on base more, he can use his speed to help the lineup.

Helena (last season- 15th in AL) took a big step back offensively last season. C Clarence Hartman, 1B Jeremy Glover, and RF Wally Harvey are all still dangerous hitters, but they need 2B Emmitt Yearwood to regain his old form and the young hitters like SS Kevin Kim and CF Will Weston to step up to return to the top half of the league.


Helena (last season- 7th in AL) won this division by giving up the fewest runs. They still have what is probably the deepest rotation in the west- Billy Nation, Louie Martin, and Anthony Hall aren't special, but they're all pretty good. Look for good things from Kevin Elster as well. Coco Hines is a good closer, and Dave Stewart is a veteran setup man.

Anaheim (last season- 9th in AL) will be counting on a few young arms to step up this season. Veteran Andy Ramsey will anchor the staff again, but Mateo Batista and Peaches Thompson may really help determine the Chiles' fate this season. Vince Perez made a quantum leap last season from one of the worst closers to one of the best, lowering his ERA by almost 4 runs. Greg Nieman may be the best arm in the bullpen if he doesn't end up in the rotation.

Seattle (last season- 12th in AL) has plenty of question marks. Kane Grahe is maybe the best starter in this division, but he'll need help. Miguel Benitez and Junior Bennett need to be better, and Placido Cela is not the answer. On the plus side, Quilvio Sanchez is soon to be a dominant closer and Larry Carasone is a fairly good setup man.

Boise (last season- 15th in AL) is likely to give up a lot of runs again. Journeyman Joey Hubbard was brough in- he'd be OK as a #5 starter, but he gets the opening day start. Ivan Castilla and Pete Rubel are nothing more than innings eaters, but they're the #2 and #3 options- they don't have a starter who can really get guys out on a consistent basis. Alex Cornejo has been OK as a closer (doesn't blow saves, but ERA a little high), and there's little else in the pen.


1. I always make one prediction that's a little unconventional, and it's usually wrong. So I hereby jinx the Seattle Killer Whales by predicting that they will take the AL West.
2. I feel a lot more confident about this one- 85 wins would easily win this division.
3. The order behind Seattle- I'll take Helena, Anaheim, and then Boise.
4. Most likely to be dealt- Anaheim's Dixon could have a lot of teams calling for him should the Chiles fall out of the race early, but I'm not sure if Anaheim(or any team, for that matter) would deal a 25-year-old as talented as Dixon. So it's probably a complementary piece like, say, a Dave Stewart from Helena if they can't compete.

AL South Preview- Season 6

Next up is the AL South, which was one of the more interesting divisions in baseball last season. The Monterrey Sultans won their 5th straight division title and overtook Milwaukee for the best record in baseball. A young Jackson Vipers team ended up finding its way into the playoffs, and a veteran Nashville Sounds team ended falling one game short in their last season in Tennessee (they'll play this season as the Charlotte Princesses?!?). Oklahoma City was the also-ran. How does this division shape up this season?


Monterrey (last season- 1st in AL) has a deep lineup yet again. 1B Haywood McDonald, 2B Del Lopez, RF Ryan Snyder, and even SS Sammy Castro are all home-run threats. LF Marcus Reboulet is a good average hitter and can hit some home runs, but the biggest news last season was the ROY performance of C Rick Anderson (.344-30-96) to add another big bat to the lineup. They'll be hampered by DH Tony Escuela's season-ending injury, but Timo Carter should fill in nicely- he hit 39 homers in only 367 ABs (which works out to 1HR/9.4AB).

Charlotte (last season- 3rd in AL) has to hope their big bats don't get too old too fast. 2B Gregg Black and DH King Winn are still arguably the two most dangerous hitters in the league, but they are 34 and 33, respectively. That being said, I still think they have a few good seasons left. They'll be buoyed by C Tony Stieb and 1B Midre Santiago in the lineup. LF Luis Melo could be the guy to get on base ahead of all those thumpers and make this an even more dangerous lineup.

Jackson (last season- 11th in AL) probably has to do better than 11th to make it back to the playoffs. 3B Brook Teut and LF Dennis Tamura are both bonafide hitters, but the rest of the lineup has question marks. Rookie 2B Tony Johnson will be counted on to help the T and T brothers. They have plenty of talent, but who else will step up?

Oklahoma City (last season- last in AL) could very well finish last again. They have a few decent pieces, like LF Vladimir Rodriguez and C Rick Buckley, but no stars and little depth. DH Willie Sierra was brought in from Vancouver to help- Sneaky Finger Puppet Mafia fans do seem to have a little sense of excitement over this rookie.


Monterrey (last season- 3rd in AL) has always been deeper in this spot than the rest of the division- this season's edition is no different. Sure, they have Cy Young Award winner Albert Gonzalez, but they also have talented York Burnett, innings eater Luther Brush, and acquired Johnnie Reagan in a trade from Trenton. The bullpen is also deep, with Tony Merced, Vern Baez, and former Louisville closer Tom Beltran setting up veteran closer Pablo Rijo.

Jackson (last season- 8th in AL) would have to be next- they have fewer question marks than Charlotte or OKC. Alex Samuel will start Opening Day- look for him to win a lot more than 5 games this season. He's got talent. Ivan Webster was the big winner last season with 15 wins, and Carlos Martinez chipped in with 14, although their ERAs were a bit high. Daniel Jones had a terrible season. The bullpen may be better off than the starting staff, as Garry Wright saved 51 games and deservingly won the Fireman of the Year award. He has Dennys Miceli and Vic Molina in front of him, who are good arms.

Charlotte (last season- 11th in AL) needs more depth in the rotation. Ham Bruske is still the best starter, but he's 38 and can't pitch forever. Larry Cole and Josh Gant are OK starters. Felix Comer was pretty good after coming up from the minors- it remains to be seen if he can be that good over a full season. Either way, they could use another arm. The bullpen is in flux, as long time closer/roller coaster ride/walking heart attack for managers Enrique Chantres will start the season as the setup guy to Luis Piedra. This is another area where the Princesses could use more depth.

Oklahoma City (last season- last in AL) will likely struggle again. Paul Saarloos is a good starter and Lenny Durham is a middle of the road-type of starter, but that's about all they have. Heath Caufield still walks far too many batters, Earl Biddle (from Nashville) has a career ERA of almost six and a half, and Wilfredo Colomo went 8-23 last season- it's possible that more than half of their starts come from these three guys. Glen Kelly (31 for 33 in saves, 2.43 ERA) was the pitching staff's bright spot, so of course that means he loses his job. Tony Frank was brought in from Vancouver to close- even if he doesn't hold down the job, he's another good arm out of the bullpen.


1. Monterrey has too much talent to not win this division.
2. Something tells me Jackson takes a little step back this season- I'll give Charlotte 2nd place over the Vipers by very little.
3. Oklahoma City should get a top 3 pick in next season's draft- I don't think they'll finish behind Austin.
4. Look for Buckley and Saarloos (OKC) to possibly be dealt.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

AL North Preview- Season 6

Next stop on our AL tour is the AL North. The Milwaukee Manic Maulers have owned this division, winning 5 straight division titles and making 3 straight World Series appearances. Will they win again? Will the Buffalo Blue Cheese, the St. Louis Silly Nannies, or the Syracuse Simpletons upset the Maulers or at least make the playoffs?


We start in Milwaukee (last season- 2nd in AL) with the AL champs yet again. Mr. 40-40, CF Luis Martinez, is coming off an MVP season, and he still has plenty of help. LF Burt Stevenson, 1B Andre Eckenstahler, 2B Bob Malone, and RF Harold Lewis are all dangerous hitters, making it difficult to pitch around Martinez. They're maybe not quite as deep in the lineup as they have been in seasons past, but they will still score more than their fair share of runs.

After Milwaukee, it's pretty much a toss-up. I'll take Syracuse (last season- 12th in AL) barely over fellow upstate NY denizen Buffalo for the 2nd best offense in the division. C Peter Sosa is the best hitter on the team, and he's backed by LF Bret King, DH Ricky Beech and Galahad Paul, who are solid (if unspectacular) hitters. The lineup does have holes and if William Nomo hits .229 again, he might replace Pete Rubel as the most overpaid player in baseball.

I'll take Buffalo (last season- 10th in AL) next, based largely on 1B Julio Diaz's breakout season (.307-56-145) and subsequent passing of drug tests. LF Tito Martin struck out too much in a little more than half a season, but also flashed his hitting ability- his season could determine Buffalo's fate. 2B Jordan Ball is a veteran who needs to step up a little more.

St. Louis (last season- 13th in AL) lost their top run producer, 2B Pepe Martin, to free-agency. They signed LF Vicente Romero to try and help make up for the lost production. 1B Nick Hernandez is not a prototypical first baseman (he only hit 9 HRs), but he makes up for it with a high average (.334 last season) and speed (52 steals). He'll be joined by RF Benito Valdes in the middle of the lineup. 2B Rico Guevara had a nice rookie season, but he needs to raise his average and cut down on his strikeouts.


For all the attention paid to Milwaukee's offense, the Manic Maulers (last season- 1st in AL) have won with their starting pitching. Woody Hiller, Vin Solano, Quinton Hughes, and Graham Costello are right up there with the starting rotations of Atlanta and Fargo in the NL. King Burns and Buddy Titan are excellent out of the pen.

St. Louis (last season- 5th in AL) may have overachived a bit last season and may not finish this high again in the AL, but I'll take them slightly over Buffalo and Syracuse based mainly on two arms- starter Yogi Anderson and closer Carlos Carrasco. Anderson is a future ace who should be a ROY candidate this season. As it is, he'll start 3rd, with the capable Russell Newson getting the opening day start. Kelly Downs was signed as a free-agent and Lloyd Freel is in the rotation for now- he's a solid arm either starting or relieving. One could argue Carrasco is the best reliever in the league- he's saved more than 94% of his chances (160 for 169 for his career) and has a lifetime ERA of 2.22. Getting to him could be a concern- Craig Hughes isn't great, but he seems like the best setup option.

Buffalo (last season- 10th in AL) might have some trouble keeping runs off the board. Claude Jacquez and Steve Clay are two fairly good veteran arms, but it's the young Chris Lowry who will get the opening day start- I'm not crazy about him or the other two starters (Hi Nolan and Billy Spencer). Archie LeCroy may have the closer's role for now- expect Wesley Cora to take it back at some point during the season.

Syracuse (last season- 12th in AL) may have a Rowan (Tony) and a Martin (Ryan) in their rotation, but it won't be a Laugh-In for Simpletons fans. Charlie Miller and Louie Bolivar round out the rotation- none are big-time pitchers. Jared McMahon returns as the closer and was pretty good, saving 39 out of 49 (meaning he blew more saves than Carrasco has in 5 seasons). Steven Martin (no relation to Ryan) will be counted on to set up McMahon.


1. Milwaukee wins again in a runaway.
2. Something tells me Buffalo will take 2nd over Syracuse.
3. Milwaukee is the only playoff team in this division. None of the other 3 teams are ready yet.
4. Syracuse in particular could have some bats (Sosa, King) that could be dealt near the deadline. Hernandez and Valdes from St. Louis could also have some suitors.

AL East Preview- Season 6

We turn our attention to the American League today. We'll start in the East, where Louisville has won the division for each of the five seasons of the league's existence, and Scranton has made the playoffs for the last 3 seasons. Can Louisville make it 6 straight titles? Can Scranton be the first team to take the top spot from the Legends? How about New York and Boston- can they make the playoffs this season?


Louisville (last season- 4th in AL) is likely to be led by two of the most dynamic young players in the entire league. 1B Ismael Polanco had a breakout season (.322-54-125), and expect big things this season from 3B Amp Palmer as well. The Legends also have some good veteran bats in C/DH Ernest Montgomery, 2B Javier Tavarez, and RF Pete Mercedes. Expect good two-way catcher Steven O'Malley to see plenty of time in his rookie season.

Boston (last season- 6th in AL) has to get all their talented bats to perform in order to be playoff-worthy. RF Brian Saitou, LF Trever Russell, and 1B Wilton Petrick all drove in over 100 runs and SS Daniel Koch slugged 30 home runs. If 2B Tommy Jordan is healthy (missed all but 8 games last season with a torn ACL and sustained the same injury in Spring Training), it would be a big boost to the offense. They will also need to replace departed 3B Julian Nichols's 42 homers and 89 RBI somehow.

Scranton (last season- 8th in AL) will likely live and die on their speed. 3B Paxton Coleridge and CF Kevin Hyun were the only Janitors to top 65 RBI, but they had 8 players with at least 10 steals. LF Harold Grimsley, 2B Matt Davies, and RF Randall Fisher are the top speedsters on the roster and will keep AL catchers busy all season.

New York (last season- last in AL) desperately needed to upgrade their offense from last season. They went out and signed perhaps the biggest hitter on the free-agent market in 2B Pepe Martin and also added RF Orel MacFarlane to go with mid-season acquisitions LF Justin Hernandez and IF Greg Whitaker. 1B/DH Pete Duvall was an MVP finalist, but he'll need help from the new guys and holdovers like CF DeWayne Castillo and 3B Placido Sanchez.


Louisville (last season-5th in AL) probably has the deepest starting staff in this division. Lance Stevens, Danny Little, Hipolito Maradona, and Albert Herzog are all solid pitchers. The two big question marks here are the health of top starter Carlton Fleming (limited to 150 innings last season due to a labrum tear, reinjured the same shoulder in spring training and will miss about 2-3 weeks) and the closer position. Former closer Tom Beltran in in Monterrey; if Steve McDonald (7.47 ERA last season) can't cut it, expect former Trenton closer Rob Gilmore to get a shot at it.

Scranton (last season- 3rd in AL) also has a solid 1-4 starting staff. There's no real ace here, but J.R. Guerrero, Clarence Forsch, and Dennys Fox all won 13 games; Norm Edwards pitched a little better than his 8-9 record might indicate. The bullpen is also fairly solid, with Vic Trevino as the closer and Larry Stokes and Tony Howell (17 wins in relief) setting up.

New York (last season- 2nd in AL) falls a little bit on this list with the offseason trade of #1 starter Jason Sprague to Houston. They will return 17-game winner Vic Chavez, Max Jacquez, Jesus Nunez, and Damon Thompson- this is a solid rotation, but not the same without Sprague. New York is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with 5th starter R.J. Toca. Eduardo Moya was just about automatic in the 9th inning last season, and he'll have Achilles Hume (acquired in the Sprague deal) as the primary setup man.

Boston (last season- 14th in AL) has some talent, but was perhaps hurt a bit by both Fenway Park and the defense behind the pitchers. Stephen Tucker led the way at 14-8, but Daryl Cashman, who before last season had been 13 games above .500 for his carrer, limped to a 7-15 finish. Buzz Linden and Christy Castillo will comprise the 3 and 4 spots this season in all probability. Davey Guzman had a good season, saving 42 games. Carl Spezio and Andy Hogan were both good out of the pen last season.


1. I don't think Scranton has enough offense and I don't think New York or Boston has the pitching. So I guess I'll have to pick Louisville to take its 6th straight title.
2. Toss-up for 2nd and 3rd- if I had to pick, I'd take Scranton, Boston, and then New York.
3. Scranton's been to the playoffs 3 straight seasons. They will probably be in the mix again.
4. Not sure who is likely to be traded out of the division, but look for players to be traded into it later in the season. Look for Louisville and Scranton to try to add a bat.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

NL West Preview- Season 6

Last season, the NL West had the odd distinction of being the first division in the history of The Bigs to finish in alphabetical order (according to city). Can the Cheyenne Nation win again? Can their archrivals, the Salem Sacrifices, take another division title? Can Salt Lake City win the division, as it did in season 4? Can Vancouver rebound from its last place finish?


With the addition of CF Dewey Greenwood from Toronto, Cheyenne (last season- 8th in NL) now has a lineup that is solid from top to bottom. Greenwood and 3B Wendell Durrington will lead the charge, but they also have RF Bud Klein, LF Steve Sweeney, 2B Steve Bako, and 1B Eddie Greer for depth. Look for a better season from young catcher Yeico Solano.

Salt Lake City (last season- 5th in NL) has one of the best run producers in the league in 1B Ruben Hernandez (.296-41-150). LF Vic James also drove in 100 while hitting .326, but the rest of the infield- young hitters Che Bong, Jordan Newfield, and Carlos Batista- could be the key to the season. If they take a step up, this lineup could rival Cheyenne's. If not, they'll be back near the middle of the pack in runs.

Salem (last season- 6th in NL) finally found some support for CF Nate Cox, who had an MVP-caliber season (finished 2nd to Osvaldo Johnson). Karim Ortiz, Mo Damon, Max Clifton, and 1B Mateo Redondo all hit over 30 HRs last season, but Damon and Clifton are no longer with the team. SS Reggie Ducati is a pretty good hitter, but could stand to draw more walks. I'm not sure how much IF/OF Eli Jacquez has left.

Vancouver (last season- 9th in NL) has the makings of a good lineup with All-Star RF Cap Herrera, 2B Jerry Strickland, SS Brace Kroeger, and 3B Tony Kwon. They could use some speed, however.


For Salem (last season- tied for 6th in NL), it starts and ends with starting pitching. Dave Dunwoody, Dwight Salmon, and Philip Allensworth are all big-time pitchers. Benji Stewart provides depth in the rotation. The bullpen is a bit of a mystery, with the closer's role a mess last season. Arthur Gates might get a shot at the role.

Cheyenne (last season- 5th in NL) doesn't have the starting pitching that Salem does. Mendy Blackley would be the ace if the Nation could get more innings out of him. Mark Bong and Miguel Reyes are decent-to-good starters. The bullpen is very deep. Willie Nunez was good as the closer, and Wily Mo Owens, Kenneth Schalk, and Paul Schwartz are all quality options for the Nation.

Vancouver (last season- 12th in NL) is another team whose bullpen could be better than its starting staff. Oswaldo Astacio is probably the best starter, with Jesse Bridges a decent choice behind him. Chris Jennings had a good season as the closer, and Ted Reese is one of the better setup men in the league. Cap Herrera had a very good season as a long reliever last season.

Salt Lake City (last season- 13th in NL) is one of the few teams that has gone exclusively with a 4-man rotation. Rob Cepeda is probably the most talented of the quartet, which is rounded out by Rene Alexander, Gary Jackson, and Albert Valdez. Jackson and Alexander both saw their numbers get worse than in season 4- they need to turn it around for the Shakers to compete.


1. I'll take Salem to win the division (much to deacon's chagrin). I think it's easier to add a bat than an arm in a trade. If they win, it probably won't be by much.
2. Cheyenne has too much talent to miss the playoffs- I'll give them the 2nd wild-card spot behind Chicago.
3. Salt Lake City will be in contention, but I think eventually misses out on the playoffs. They should finish ahead of Vancouver.
4. Most likely to be dealt- Brace Kroeger.
5. Most likely to be called up- RF Melvin Taylor (Salem)

NL South Preview- Season 6

We move to the South this evening, where the Houston franchise has won all 5 division titles. Can they make it 6? San Juan, New Orleans, and Austin all finished well below .500- can any of them take a step up to challenge the Riverdogs?


We'll start in Houston (last season- 10th in NL), where sluggers 2B Bob Koplove and 3B Monte Duvall fuel the offense. CF Scott Diaz is responsible for getting on base in front of them and is always a threat to steal (70 SBs last season). Newly acquired C Cy Hughes adds length to a lineup that also includes steady hitter RF Orlando Franco. They won't be anywhere near Chicago's offense, but expect them to move up into the top half of the league in offense this season.

San Juan (last season- 4th in NL) has a giant hole to fill in the lineup with MVP Osvaldo Johnson departed for Chicago. 2B Derrin Hernandez, acquired from Chicago, is young and talented- I don't think he'll put up the numbers Johnson did. He'll join RF Calvin Chang in the middle of the Dead Bunnies lineup. 1B Julio Castro put up the worst numbers of his career- he'll have to bounce back if San Juan hopes to compete this season.

New Orleans (last season- 13th in NL) made a huge deal in the middle of the season to get season 4 MVP 1B Matty Matos from Atlanta. He put up big numbers, but he needs help. 2B Ray Cepicky is maybe the only other consistent force in the Voodoo lineup. LF Don Jefferson is coming back from an injury that cost him all but two games last season- whether he can return to his old form is questionable at this point.

Austin (last season- last in NL) is trying to go the route of Jackson by having an incredibly young team (all 25 guys on the roster have less than 3 years experience) and hoping it can compete. Unlike Jackson, I don't think the City Limits have the talent to pull it off. 1B Tony Percival is the only slugger capable of putting up big RBI numbers, and none of the everyday players can get on base consistently. I'm not sure how much of a difference it would make, but losing CF Lee Kennedy and OF William Farr to free-agency won't help.


Houston (last season-3rd in NL) is likely to be one of the "best of the rest" in the NL again after Fargo and Atlanta, who are in a class by themselves. Rookie of the Year Lonny Gates should be a force for years to come, and Jason Sprague comes over from New York to provide a very good #2 starter. Jerome Oliver is quite good, and Perry Herman, Juan Cabrera, and Jose Merced are good options at the back of the rotation. Matt Skinner and Cristian Price both have the ability to close- whoever wins will be backed by the other and by Victor Vargas to form a nice end of the bullpen.

New Orleans (last season- 14th in NL) and San Juan are a toss-up in pitching- I'll take New Orleans first. Carlos Matos needs to win more than 6 games this season. Bobby Ray Hooper and Cookie Alvarez are decent starters. Tom Hernandez is a capable closer.

San Juan (last season- 15th in NL) realized it needed to address the pitching staff in the offseason, hence grabbing Hipolito Pujols from Chicago in the Johnson trade. I'm not sure he cures what ails the Dead Bunnies pitching staff. Jerry Terry is unlikely to win 12 games again. Joey Adcock and Charles White will likely be counted on again for big innings, but they combine for a career 50-94 record for the Bunnies. The bullpen is in just as much of a state of flux.

Austin (last season- last in NL) is counting on Rule 5 guys to solidify their staff, which is always a tad iffy. The holdover options, Delino Montanez and Endy Hasegawa, are not top-of-the-rotation guys, but were asked to be. Denny Mann and Chet Boehringer are the Rule 5 guys- I don't see either as being anything special. This could be just as bad as last season for the City Limits.


1. Houston wins again in a runaway. The only team in the this division with any semblance of a staff should win by double digit games again.
2. It should be a toss-up between San Juan and New Orleans for second- I'll take New Orleans on a hunch. This will be a division with only one team in the playoffs again.
3. Austin holds the #1 pick in this season's Amateur Draft- don't be surprised if they do it in back-to-back seasons.
4. Chang, Matos, and Cepicky would be the biggest names on possible non-contending teams. If I had to pick one to be dealt, I'd say Matos, although it's no sure thing. All 3 could be on the move; all 3 could stay put.
5. Expect to see C Sam Brumfield and RF Ken Keagle late in the season for Austin. Reliever Jim Clyburn and LF Shane Fletcher might see some action for the ML squad in San Juan.

NL North Preview- Season 6

The Fargo Dirtbags finally broke through and won their first World Series title last season. They look to become the first team to successfully defend the title at the expense of the other three teams in their division. Can fellow playoff team Chicago knock off the champs? What about rebuilding teams Philadelphia and Toronto?


We start in Chicago (last season- 1st in NL), where the NL's best offense improved in the offseason. The big bats of 3B Sean Simpson, 2B Neifi McBride, RF Bernie Soriano, and CF Paul Turnbow return, but they also added 1B Rico Valdes from Trenton (in a deal that had been rumored since last season), then made a huge splash by acquiring reigning MVP LF Osvaldo Johnson from San Juan. If Valdes gets on base and these guys stay healthy, this team could threaten the 1000 runs mark.

Fargo (last season- 7th in NL) also made a major offseason trade to upgrade the offense. 3B David Rushford comes over from Washington to provide some punch to what was a middling offense. He'll join LF Alex Lim and RF William Bolling in the middle of the Fargo order.

Toronto (last season- 12th in NL) is looking to the future, so they dealt a big part of their offense from last season. Dewey Greenwood and Rick Forster are in Cheyenne, so that leaves LF Kevin Yamakazi and 2B Paul Lamb to form a middle of the order with 3B Orlando Diaz, who came over from Cheyenne in the Greenwood deal. It's possible this lineup won't score as much as last season.

Philadelphia (last season- 15th in NL) has some decent pieces but not enough to sustain an attack. 3B Juan Rodriguez and 1B Reid Colbert are nice players, but they're not big-time players and have little around them. They'll be near the bottom again.


Fargo (last season- 1st in NL) won a championship based mainly on their starting pitching, and hopes of a repeat start here. Cy Young Award winner Javier Henriquez is, unarguably, the best starter in the entire league. Sammy Pierce, Jim Arnold, and Manny Christians back Henriquez to form what is probably the best starting rotation in baseball. Closer Alex Javier is gone (traded to Washington for Rushford), but they still have Bert Price, Chris Siddall, Alex Li, and free-agent pickup Ajax Drabek in the bullpen- Price is likely to get first crack at the closer's role. As good as Javier is, I think they have enough to make up for the loss.

Chicago (last season- 4th in NL) got a big-time arm to go with all those bats in Babe Broadhurst (formerly of Norfolk). He'll be the ace, so Marty Lane and Orber Marin can fall in line behind him- neither one of those is an ace, so Broadhurst enables them to fill their proper roles. In the bullpen, Tony Matos and Dude Huskey will be there to take the ball from the starters late in the games.

Philadelphia (last season- 9th in NL) will again be led by star Bernard Robinson, who could very well the best starter in the NL not named Henriquez. He'll have Turner Darr behind him, who is starting to develop, but there's little else in the rotation. Kid Johnstone is a solid option in the bullpen.

Toronto (last season- 10th in NL) could struggle to keep runs off the board. Harry Lee will be the Opening Day starter and look for Willis Casey to have a fairly good season, but, like Philadelphia, the depth just isn't there. Heath Rollins and Daryl McKinley could end up splitting the closer duties again- they did a decent job together, but can one of them grab the role?


1. Fargo won the division by 15 games last season. They'll win again, but it will be by less than 15.
2. It's conceivable that if they were in any other division in the NL, Chicago would be the favorite (it'd be close in the East with Atlanta). As it stands, don't pencil them in for a wild-card spot- you can write that in pen. They'll be in the playoffs.
3. If Bernard Robinson stays in Philadelphia all season, I'll take the Phantoms to nip the Toronto Toros for 3rd. Neither will be in wild-card contention.
4. Don't look for any big-time prospects to be called up from either of the two non-contending teams. Philly and Toronto do have some very good minor leaguers, but they're on the lower level.
5. Expect teams to call Philly about Robinson. I'd say he would be a good candidate to be dealt, but I've said that in the past and he's still a Phantom, so who knows? If Robinson is not available, I'd say that Toronto could be a seller, with Diaz, Yamakazi, and Lee likely to be sought after.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

NL East Preview: Season 6

Free-agency is done and it's almost time for spring training, so it's once again time to take a look at all 32 teams in The Bigs. We start in the NL East, where the Atlanta Bandits took a step into the big time last season, making the NLCS before falling to eventual champion Fargo. Will they win a 3rd straight division title? Can Trenton or Norfolk catch up to the Bandits this season? Will the Washington Blue Coats be heard from?


We start in Atlanta, the defending division champs. They made a bold trade last season, dealing reigning MVP Matty Matos to New Orleans. 1B Stan Starr took Matos's position admirably, falling short of an MVP but posting a .312-46-113 season. He'll be joined by fellow Silver Slugger Jason Walker at 2B, a young rising star. LF Albert Martin and 3B Albie Torres are good RBI guys who will provide depth. The lineup is not without question marks, as CF Lynn Abernathy and RF Hal Brinkley both had down seasons- if they can bounce back this will be a very deep lineup. Atlanta is also hoping C Al O'Shea can adjust to becoming the full-time starting catcher. This offense finished 2nd in the NL last season, behind only Chicago.

Trenton's lineup will have a very different look to it this season. The holdovers are all quality hitters in 2B Enrique Park, SS Carlton MacDougal, 1B Stephen Mills, and C Vasco Lopez- MacDougal and Lopez both won Silver Slugger awards and Lopez started the All-Star Game in his rookie campaign. The outfield is completely reconfigured, as free-agent signee Leo Miller will join rookies LF Magglio Perez and CF Gary Nelson. Miguel Cerveza, signed from Vancouver, will likely man third. Nelson will likely lead off- if he can get on base, this is a very deep lineup. If the rookies don't perform, it's a questionable offense. If the pieces fit, the 3rd best offense in the NL last season could get even better.

Norfolk struggled to score runs last season. They were 12th in the NL in runs scored, and the 4 teams behind them averaged 65 wins, so they felt they needed an upgrade. Enter 3B Jay Walker, who struggled in his only season in Chicago but otherwise has a good track record. Walker replaces the departed Tony Mays at third and joins the holdovers, namely C Tony Gutierrez, CF Carlos Cervantes, 1B Melvin Nakano, and 2B Justin Gordon, the only Destroyer to reach 100 RBI last season. If Cervantes is not what he once was, all three outfield positions could be a question mark offensively.

Washington's offense was 15th in the NL last season, behind only Austin. They finally made the decision to deal their best player, 3B David Rushford, and the offense isn't promising without him. Ozzie Masato replaces Rushford, but he isn't anywhere near the talent Rushford is. 1B Jimmie Williams is now possibly the only real power threat in D.C. SS Nick Ramirez had a nice season.


Here's where Atlanta excels- they finished 2nd in runs allowed last season. They and Fargo were just on another level, and I don't see anything changing. Their starting staff is deep from spots 1-5, as Fred Carter and Stephen Michaels are both arguably aces and Orber Halter, Matty Eusebio, and Alex Sanchez are all very good starters. Tex Howell and Trevor Watson are the two best arms in the bullpen.

Trenton was 8th in runs allowed last season and dealt Johnnie Reagan in the offseason. They will feature Damion Mays as the ace- he'll need to take the next step in his career. The four pitchers behind him- Will Piper, Vic Rincon, Bert Pierre, and Tito Mercedes- are all talented but unproven guys. Their success could determine the fate of this team this season. The bullpen also has young arms; Bernie Corino and Mitch Clark will likely set up Pablo Rojas.

Norfolk figures to take a step back from their finish in the NL pitching department (T-5) after losing ace Babe Broadhurst in the Walker deal. They return Rod Walters and Malcolm Lawrence to the staff- both are solid, neither is an ace. Jonathan MacDougal takes the 3 spot, and the end will be some combination of Ricardo Gabriel (talented, but maybe a year away from being good), Eddie Marquis, and Bobby Davenport. Del Aquino could very well take the closer's job this season from Ariel Lee- Acquino is a fireballing lefty with good stuff. Sal Cole is another good young bullpen arm who will be asked to take a big role this season.

Washington finished 11th in runs allowed last season after finishing dead last in the NL four seasons in a row. That improvement aside, there's not much to this staff. Jesus Estrada and Bip Brock are decent starters, but they're the best D.C. has- the rest is questionable. Their bullpen is a potential bright spot; they do now have the best closer in the division (and in a few seasons possibly all of baseball) in Alex Javier, and Nate McNamara is a solid setup man.


1. Atlanta takes its 3rd straight division title. Trenton should keep it close early, but I see Atlanta eventually pulling away to make it an easy win.
2. I'll give Trenton 2nd in a similar season to last season- right around .500.
3. Norfolk takes 3rd again. Not sure how much they have without Broadhurst anchoring the staff.
4. Washington resides in the cellar again. Just not enough talent.
5. Trenton and Norfolk could be interesting teams to watch around the deadline, particularly if they are out of the race, as they have some pieces that could be sought after by contending teams in both leagues.
6. Expect to see a host of young players come up late in the season for Washington. In particular, watch for 2B Willis Biddle, 1B Eddie Peters, LF Matt Pall, and SP Alex Samuel.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Free Agency in The Bigs

Here are some of the big names who have changed teams this offseason:

Player Old Team New Team Contract
Pepe Martin (OF) St. Louis New York 5 yrs. $33.3 million
Vicente Romero (OF) Atlanta St. Louis 3 yrs. $13.2 million
Tyler Post (CF) Charlotte (Nashville) Vancouver 2 yrs. $10.0 million
Kelly Downs (P) Monterrey St. Louis 5 yrs. $36.0 million
Eli Jacquez (IF) Monterrey Salem 2 yrs. $12.0 million
Miguel Cerveza (IF) Vancouver Trenton 3 yrs. $22.5 million
Leo Miller (IF) Fargo Trenton 3 yrs. $12.8 million
Russell Newson (SP) Syracuse St. Louis 5 yrs. $35.5 million

Offseason deals

First of all, congrats to The Bigs Daily News itself for reaching a milestone- kj's update of his team's offseason moves was the 300th post for TBDN. The best news outlet of its kind is almost a year and a half old now and still going strong.

We didn't see the large quantity of deals come down as we've seen in past seasons, but almost all the deals that were done were of the blockbuster variety. Here's a rundown of some of the biggest trades going into Season 6 of the league (as usual, all players without a level listed are ML players):

Toronto Toros and Cheyenne Nation

Toronto gets: 3B Orlando Diaz, SS Gustavo Contreras (Hi-A), P Sparky Diaz (AAA)
Cheyenne gets: CF Dewey Greenwood, LF Rick Forster (AAA)

Analysis: Cheyenne is looking to take the next step up to compete with teams like Fargo and Atlanta, and they're obviously in a win-now mode. Greenwood is a big-time talent at the CF position, as the injury trouble that plagued him early in his career seems to be behind him. He provides good defense in center and a middle of the order-type bat. Forster had a big-time season at AA, but he's already 25- I wouldn't consider him as good a prospect as his ratings or his AA numbers might indicate. He does, however, have talent and could turn out to be a good ML ballplayer. As for Toronto, Diaz is a nice hitter in right field, but they are rebuilding and Contreras was the key to the deal for the Toros. Only 20 years old, scouts rave about both his defense and his speed. He appears to have enough offensive skill to make him a decent-to-good hitter, which will be good enough. Diaz, a swingman, is a roster filler- he could see ML playing time if injuries occur or there is a general lack of depth. All in all, I'd say this should work out well for both teams. Greenwood helps the Cheyenne offense now, and Contreras is a good piece for Toronto to have in a few seasons.

Fargo Dirtbags and Washington D.C. Blue Coats

Fargo gets: 3B David Rushford
Washington gets: RP Alex Javier

Analysis: Fargo gets a big-time bat to add to the middle of their order. The face of the Blue Coats franchise, Rushford had a career year last season. Fargo has been a bit light on offense in previous seasons- Rushford definitely fills a need. Ordinarily, a reliever would not be enough value for a guy like Rushford, but Javier is no ordinary reliever. Only 23 years old, Javier's fastball and nasty slurve can be unhittable when he's on. He saved 34 games for Fargo last season and will only get better. If Bert Price can handle the closer's role, Fargo should benefit greatly from this deal, but Washington got a dominant closer.

Louisville Legends and Houston Riverdogs

Louisville gets: RP Tom Cummings
Houston gets: C Cy Hughes

Analysis: Houston fills a need at catcher with Hughes, who calls a good game and has a decent arm. His offensive averages for the last 5 seasons have been about 27 HRs and 94 RBI- if Houston gets that out of Hughes, they could consider this a steal. Cummings is a solid middle reliever who will give you innings.

Chicago Snake Tamers and Norfolk Destroyers

Chicago gets: SP Babe Broadhurst
Norfolk gets: 3B Jay Walker

Analysis: Chicago felt the need to respond to Fargo's acquistion of Rushford, so they upgraded their pitching staff with this deal, getting the most recognizable name in Norfolk for the past five seasons in Broadhurst. The 34-year-old Brick, NJ native has his name all over the Destroyer pitching record book and should give Chicago 200+ quality innings this season. Walker has always had talent, but has 2 seasons left at $10 million per, which is a lot for a guy who has never hit more than 20 homers and never driven in 90 runs. The 31-year-old Walker doesn't make the Destroyers much younger, either.

San Juan Dead Bunnies and Chicago Snake Tamers

San Juan gets: 2B Derrin Hernandez, SP Hipolito Pujols
Chicago gets: LF/1B Oswaldo Johnson, LF Ronald Spurgeon

Analysis: After getting an ace pitcher, Chicago grabs arguably the best hitter on the market in the 3-time NL MVP Johnson to face the army of Dirtbag pitchers. Spurgeon is a player whose stats have steadily declined in his 30's. San Juan gets a big-time talent in Hernandez, who never really found his way in Chicago- maybe a change of scenery will help him find his offense. Pujols is joining his 4th team in 4 seasons, but the last 2 would seem to suggest he's found his way after his devstating season 1 injury- he'll never be great, but he's a solid #2 or #3 type guy. Chicago felt they needed another bat to go with Sean Simpson and felt they couldn't wait for Hernandez, so they'll take Johnson and look to catch Fargo. For San Juan, Hernandez was a nice return for Johnson- the acquisition of both him and Pujols indicate San Juan is still trying to win this season.

New York New York and Houston Riverdogs

New York gets: RP Jason Franco (AA), RP Achilles Hume, 2B Mule Mulholland (AA)
Houston gets: SP Jason Sprague

Analysis: Houston gets a pitcher who, if he had won a few more games, could have been in serious Cy Young Award contention. He's now arguably the best starter on a very good team. Apparently New York felt it needed help in the bullpen- Hume is a decent reliever, and Franco should be OK on the major league level as well. The best prospect of the three is Mulholland, a 2B with good speed and good pop. If Mulholland pans out, this could work out for New York; if not, then New York didn't get nearly enough for Sprague in my opinion.

Chicago Snake Tamers and Salem Sacrifices

Chicago gets: RP Julius Holliday (AA)
Salem gets: OF Hideki Martin

Analysis: Salem gets a guy who can hit for a pretty good average (the power seems to have disappeared since the Beach Combers left Huntington for Boston) and has good speed. Chicago gets a marginal reliever prospect- after all the moves they made, they saw Martin as expendable and cleared both a roster space and cap space.

Monterrey Sultans and Trenton Traffic

Monterrey gets: SP Johnnie Reagan
Trenton gets: SS Brandon Martin (AAA)

Analysis: After Broadhurst and Sprague were dealt, there were few viable starting pitching options out on the market. Monterrey gets a talented starter whose career high is 26 starts. Traded to Trenton before season 1 ever started, he'll provide some depth and perhaps he'll be helped by not having to be the ace of the staff, as he was expected to be in New Jersey. Trenton gets a talented SS on both sides of the ball in Martin. Trenton appears to be a season or two away from competing- the keystone combination of Martin and Watty Miller has Trenton fans excited about the future. This is a deal where there are some question marks about both players (durability in particular for both), so we really have to wait to see what happens before judging this deal.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dirtbags' offseason moves

Champs swap star closer Javier for slugging 3B Rushford

The defending world champion Fargo Dirtbags wasted little time in making a big splash this offseason by acquiring one of the premier hitters available on the trade market in 3B David Rushford. Rushford hit .303 with 53 HR and 138 RBI last season for Washington and has 251 HR and a .925 OPS for his 5-year career.

But the acquisition came at a steep price in the form of the Dirtbags' star 23-year-old closer Alex Javier. Javier was 12-3 with 34 saves and a 3.05 ERA last season for Fargo and was a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award in his first full season in the major leagues. The trade of Javier means that 3-time All-Star closer Bert Price, who has served as a setup guy to Javier since season 3, will slide back into the closer role.

The move also means that the club will not re-sign free agent 3B Leo Miller. Miller hit .281 with 26 HR and 98 RBI in his only season with Fargo, helping them to their first World Series title.

The other big move to this point in the offseason saw the Dirtbags deal Willis Petrov to Trenton for relief prospect O.T. Fleming. Petrov was limited to 305 at bats last season and with Rolando James settling into the role as the backup LF/1B, it was apparent that Petrov's time in Fargo was all but over. Dirtbag management has also placed reliever Paul Leon on waivers and should he be claimed, Fleming may start the season with the major league squad. If not, he'll likely begin the year in AAA.

The moves are a clear signal that Fargo has every intention of becoming The Bigs' first repeat world champions. Whether or not they miss Javier's arm at the tail end of ballgames remains to be seen but one thing is certain -- the 2-5 hitters in their lineup, Alex Lim, Arnold Hunter, Rushford and William Bolling, will ensure that this year's team boasts the best lineup in the franchise's history.

David Rushford
Age: 29B/T: R/R
Born: Santa Clara, CA
Position(s): 3B/SS
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Bigs All Time Standings

1.Milwaukee M. Maulers535275.660--382653151
2.Monterey Sultans519291.64116262252152
3.Fargo Dirtbags502308.62033271942143
4.Louisville Legends480330.593552723554
5.Houston Riverdogs474336.58561191951155
6.Las Vegas Gamblers443367.54792914446
7.Trenton Traffic439371.5429646127
8.Salem Sacrifices433377.535102221321149
9.Nashville Sounds431379.532104131328
10.Atlanta Bandits421389.5201141193318
11.Norfolk Destroyers421389.520114351110
12.Cheyenne Nation415395.512120162214
13.New york new york413397.51012235112
13.SJ Dead Bunnies413397.51012203111
15.Toronto Toros407403.502128031113
16.Chicago Snake405405.5001301414319
17.St. Louis Silly Nannies397413.49013813115
18.Boston Bambinos392418.48414316
19.Scranton Janitors380430.469155813325
20.Anaheim Chiles379431.468156231120
21.Vancover G.O's378432.4671571191
22.N.O. Voodoo376434.46415903117
23.S.L.C. Shakers373437.460162131123
24.Philadelphia Phantoms370440.45716523122
25.Buffalo Blue Cheese368442.45416724
26.Jackson Vipers367443.45316823128
27.O.K.C. SFPM359451.44317613126
28.Syracuse Simpletons353457.43618213129
29.Austin City Limits347463.42818827
30.Boise Shadow Wolves334476.41220130
31.Seattle Killer Whales322488.39821331
32.D.C. Blue Coats314496.38822132

Early Trades and Trade Rumors

With the budgets set, Chicago wasted no time in getting two deals done that had been rumored to be in the works.

Chicago Snake Tamers and Houston Riverdogs

Chicago gets: IF Hideki Martin, RP Pablo Santana
Houston gets: 1B Don Walsh, RP Achilles Hume

Skinny: An interesting deal, as Santana is the only player involved who is not arbitration-eligible and all 4 players have upside, but each is a bit of a gamble in some way. Martin's only season in Houston was arguably his best since season 2 back in Huntington. Santana has a decent arm but has yet to put it together at the ML level. Walsh probably should have been dealt a few seasons back- he had a dynamite rookie campaign in season 3 but ended up losing his job the next season. Hume has been a closer, but his ERA was a bit high last season.

Chicago Snake Tamers and Trenton Traffic

Chicago gets: LF/1B Rico Valdes, IF Duffy Brewington
Trenton gets: RP Bernie Corino, RP Darrell Melton (AA)

Skinny: Chicago wants Valdes to get on base so Simpson, Hernandez, and company can drive him in. He could provide a new dimension to the offense. Brewington is a nice complementary player- he'll back up a lot of positions. Trenton was looking to cut payroll and rebuild the bullpen- it looks like they've done both with this deal. Corino is a fairly good arm out of the pen, and their scouts think Melton will be even better than Corino.

These two deals are likely just the tip of the iceberg. Big-time names such as Toronto CF Dewey Greenwood, Norfolk SP Babe Broadhurst, Trenton SP Johnnie Reagan, and Washington 2B David Rushford are all rumored to be on the market. An unnamed source in the Trenton organization (speaking on the condition of anonymity) has stated that at least 2 teams have inquired about Reagan, and similar reports are coming out of Norfolk about Broadhurst. No word in either case as to if any team in particular can be considered a front-runner to land either starter.

Changes for Season 6

Fortunately, we have only one ownership change and one relocation to report for Season 6 of The Bigs. Both switches are in the American League.

In the AL South, the Nashville franchise was bought by mmccann55 and moved to Charlotte. They will play this season as the Charlotte Princesses. Most of the players' reactions to the team nickname cannot be printed in this space, but SP Ham Bruske said, "Well, as long as they don't make us wear dresses or anything out on the field...".

In the AL West, the Gamblers franchise are still held by legendary owner firesign34, but, as Sheryl Crow once sang, they're leaving Las Vegas. They are moving to Helena and will play as the Grotto Gottos. When asked about the team nickname, C Clarence Hartman said, "What's that?".