Monday, August 31, 2009
The Fargo Dirtbags were set to cut ties with slugging catcher/first baseman Arnold Hunter after last season. Hunter was to become a Type A free agent and the plan from Fargo's standpoint was to let him go, collect compensation picks from the team that signs him, and hope that guys like 30-year-old rookie Ricardo Martinez could at least be competent in his absence. But things didn't quite work out that way.
Seeking a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract, Hunter remained unsigned throughout the offseason and into the regular season. Fargo thought for sure once Hunter's demands dropped below a one-year, $1 million deal that a team would scoop him up, but it never happened. Teams were just unwilling to part with a draft pick for a 31-year-old with a 49 health rating and a 62 durability rating. So the Dirtbags, knowing a bargain when they see one, decided to re-sign Hunter to a one year contract worth just under $731,000.
Martinez has been far more than the Dirtbags could have ever hoped for and isn't likely to lose much playing time to Hunter anytime soon. Hunter looks like he'll only face left-handed pitchers and may likely only see those at bats as a starter during inter-league games as a DH. He'll probably get a few at bats at catcher as well, as the Dirtbags grow weary of Wiki Mateo's lack of a bat, but Juan Flores is the starter there and will take all of the at bats his shaky durability allows.
The signing comes down to the fact that the Fargo didn't want to lose Hunter for nothing. With the amateur draft in less than a week, the Dirtbags would have lost Hunter with no compensation should a team have signed him after the draft, which was highly likely to happen. Now, Fargo can claim one of the best benches in the National League and a monster bat that could very well make a difference down the stretch.
Who were aginor's 5 least favorite 1st round picks and how have they done?
1. Tomas Sierra, P, Cincinnati (now Philadelphia), #21
Aginor's take: Here is a pick that…. well frankly put, ain’t 1st rnd material IMO. He definitely will not be a starter (Stamina is below starter level & only 2 good pitches). Possible Long Relief, but I think he’ll be most useful in a set up role. He’s got the tools for that, if you keep his pitch count to a “set up” pitcher level. I don’t see him as a closer. So a setup guy in the first round? I’m not saying he will not be a ML pitcher, I think he can be; but a first round pick… nope.
So far: He's been at AAA for two full seasons and parts of two others that just about add up to a full season. So essentially he's been at AAA for three straight seasons. He's 26 and has yet to see Citizen's Bank Park without a ticket; he's yet to throw a big league pitch. Time is definitely running out on his career.
2. Dwayne Malloy, P, Fargo, #18
Aginor's take: If the Dirtbags can sign Dwayne, they’ll have a solid potential ML pitcher. Just what kind is a question. While, he should develop great splits, good control etc; but he has only 3 pitches and one is well below average in potential. The other two are average at best for ML starter (as his #2 & #3 pitches) but he doesn’t have a “go to” pitch. I see bullpen in the future here, both long & short are definite possibilities here. Unless it’s a closer, I don’t feel bullpen material is worthy of a 1st rounder.
So far: Dwayne was dealt to Louisville in season 3, where he currently plays. He's on the big league staff as a middling long relief guy. I doubt this is what his college coaches had in mind for him coming out of school.
3. Benny McDonald, SS, Milwaukee, #30
Aginor's take: Benny is not shortstop material, glove just wouldn’t cut it at the ML level. Even 2b is marginal, though his range could make up for it; 3B however is a possibility for sure. Though his bat isn’t quite what you’d want there. Sure he’ll have decent power but his splits are “average”, eye is only slightly above “average” and his contact rating is below “average”. I may be wrong on this one but I see him as future bench material, ML for sure but a utility guy.
So far: Has yet to make his major league debut, failing to crack what has been a stacked lineup in Milwaukee. To help make aginor's first point, he's put up the following error totals in his last three full minor league seasons: 77, 57, 62. Milwaukee has to find another position for him. In conclusion, it's very hard to say how this pick has turned out, because it really hasn't turned out yet.
4. Red Rose, SS, Louisville, #31
Aginor's take: With this one, I’d be repeating what I said with Benny above. Though Red should be a better overall defensive player than Benny; his bat will not be as good. He’ll develop decent splits and OK power; what hurts is his contact will be average at best and his eye will be well below that average mark. Again, I see ML Utility material here. I didn’t say this above; bench guys aren’t quite what you’re looking for with your 1st round pick.
So far: Exactly as aginor predicted. He's a role player on the Legends, coming in as a defensive replacement or a pinch runner, but not seeing full-time duty. I'd have to agree with aginor that you probably expect a little more than a utility-type player with a first round pick.
There's a choice for the last spot, so let's do aginor a favor:
5. Bryan Christiansen, LF, New Orleans, #22
Aginor's take: This is a pick I’d like to follow (if signed) and see what kind of hitter he becomes. Bryan’s defensive abilities will be the proto-typical COF. He’ll have great contact rating, hit for power and has an above average eye. BUT his splits will be well below the average. So can a guy with splits this low hit ML pitching?? I don’t know to tell the truth, so it will be interesting to see. MY guess…. A Fred McGriff type hitter – Feast or Famine. Though, his speed and base running ability might make him a candidate for the 40/40 club. Either way, I’m curious to see if he can be ML hitter.
So far: Hard to say. This is going to be his first full season in the majors- he got held up at AAA. He's already 26, so he's not going to improve by leaps and bounds anymore. He hit .256 in almost 400 ABs last season, with 22 HRs and 26 steals, so he does obviously has the talent. He's off to a brutal start so far, hitting just .196 with 2 homers.
Who were aginor's 5 favorite picks from the Season 2 draft and how have they turned out so far?
1. Sam Brumfield, C, Memphis (now Austin), #15
Aginor's take: Here is the BEST of a deep crop of solid all around catchers that were available in this draft (see rest in the supplement). Sam should become perennial ALL STAR. He’s got the potential to hit for a good average (.280s maybe better) and with decent power. ALSO, he will have a solid arm and pitch calling ability (70+). But what puts this guy over the top…his durability AND health, two areas catchers are usually a little weak. Sam could play over 150 games a season! That is unheard of in HBD. So IMO, while the first 3 picks are great, this is the pick of the draft. Oh …. you want a drawback; OK… he has slightly below average speed on the bases for a catcher! YEA RIGHT, AS IF THAT REALLY MATTERS.
So far: Had a phenominal minor league career and had a nice, if not All-Star caliber, rookie season in the majors. Aginor thought he could hit .280- that's still possible, although he only hit .247 his rookie season. But he's still got room to grow. I don't think Austin fans regret the choice one bit.
2. Jim Clyburn, RP, Arizona (now Cheyenne), #17
Aginor's take: Jim is the third potential closer taken in the 1st round. While a little unusual to see this many top quality potential closers in a draft, not really all that rare. And yep Jim has the potential to be a shutdown guy, no doubt about that in the least. Now, it may take him a while to get there but once ready, the D-Backs will have themselves an All Star closer on their hands.
So far: Agnor was right that it would take Jim awhile to get to the majors- this is now his rookie season. As far as being a shutdown closer, it hasn't happened right away (like, say, 13th pick in the same draft Garry Wright). He's already blown 4 of his first 10 save opportunities and at press time has an ERA over 12. Of course, the first quarter of a guy's rookie season is not nearly enough to judge a career. Let's say the jury is still out.
3. Paul Schwartz, P, Vancouver (now Seattle), #8
Aginor's take: The second pitcher taken in the draft isn’t an Ace Starter, hmmmm... BUT he’s got the potential to be a “Lights Out” closer. One of the three that were taken in the first round. Finding a solid closer is one of the holy grails of HBD. Is Schwartz IT? Time will tell, but I’d say he’s got a REALLY good chance to be IT.
So far: Traded twice his first full season in the minors, he eventually found his way to Cheyenne's system, and he's been in the majors 3 full seasons already. He had a dynamite season setting up last season, pitching a whopping 143 innings at a 3.27 ERA and striking out almost a batter per inning. This season he was made the closer and has been a little shaky, with an ER A over 5 and blowing 5 of 21 opportunities.
(OK, I'm going to cheat a little. Since aginor had 6 guys rated 9.5 or higher and these next two were compared to each other, I'm going to lump them together).
4. Jordan Newfield, SS, Salt Lake City, #2 and Neifi McBride, SS, Chicago, #3
Aginor's take: Well the Shakers got a real solid SS in Jordan. He should be .300 hitter and should hit 30-40 long flies once he hits his potential. Only two small knocks here, Batting Eye and Range (you’d like 80+ as SS); still again in overall scheme… neither are big deals with this kids other potential ratings. I think teams in the NL are going be sorry Jordan is in Salt Lake.
Neifi and Jordan were definitely the 2 best Shortstops available in the draft (though Hamill & Cook are nothing to sneeze at for sure). McBride is the slightly better fielder of the two and is slightly less the hitter but…realistically that’s splitting hairs. Once signed, the Cubs will have a possible Gold Glove SS for the future. A word caution with Neifi, even though his overall rating is 70+, start him no higher than A Ball. Cubs should give this kid time to develop into the player he should be, otherwise….. A look into the crystal ball sees Neifi & Jordan both playing SS for NL All Star team.
So far: I'd have to agree with aginor's assessment of Newfield. He's already shown he can hit .300 with around 30 homers, and the rest of the NL is sorry he's in Salt Lake City. He's had 3 full seasons in the majors and has indeed been to an All-Star game. McBride has been a little different. He ended up moving over to 2B for the Tamers, so perhaps the perception coming out of school that he was the better defender hasn't held up. In his best season he hit .311, so he's a valuable member of the Chicago squad. He's yet to be invited to the Mid-Summer Classic.
5. Turner Dolan, CF, Kansas City (now Scranton)Aginor's take: In Turner (if signed) the Comets will have themselves a potential solid all-around CF. His defensive potential is solid, even could content(sic) for a Gold Glove or two. He should be a .320+ hitter, with 20+ HR and 30+ SBs. A downside (this is being picky) Arm Strength is below what you want ML CF; that’s why this one isn’t a 10/10. Other than that… a great first overall pick goes to the Comets.
So far: In this, his rookie season, he appears to be having the type of season aginor predicted, minus the stolen bases. He's been a little shaky at times in the field, but if you can get a good CF and leadoff-type guy, it's always good to have.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
- Who's been the best team so far? Hard to say. Seattle, St. Louis, and Jackson all lead their division at 26-15. If I had to pick one so far, I'd take Seattle, with the other two not far behind. All three are playing quality ball and I don't see any reason they can't keep it up.
- Quite a few surprise teams in the AL thus far; Syracuse, Oklahoma City, Buffalo, and New York are all above .500 and the last three would make the playoffs if they started today. I'm not sure these teams can keep it up, but if Jay Guiel and Heath Caufield continue to pitch at a Cy-Young candidate level, maybe OKC can stay in the race until the end.
- Monterrey would have to be the biggest disappointment. They're 16-25, ten games back of Jackson. Just let me throw some starters' ERAs at you: Albert Gonzalez, 5.75; Johnnie Reagan, 5.70; Jocko Keats, 6.89; Luther Brush, 7.33. Need I say more?
- Boston is on pace to score 988 runs, so if they keep this pace up, they could threaten 1000 runs. Unfortunately, they're on pace to give up over 1000 (1027, to be exact).
- Louisville is below .500, but I still think they're the best team in that division and they'll be on top when it's all said and done.
- Milwaukee has been much better as of late, winning 12 of their last 18 to get back above .500. They're still a threat to win another AL North title.
- From the "Who would have picked it before the season started?" department, the top three teams in terms of team ERA: Oklahoma City, Seattle, Anaheim. If I had to predict before the season, I'd probably get 1 out of 3.
- Charlotte is the worst team in the league so far at 13-28, or a winning percentage of .317. Their expected winning percentage based on runs scored and allowed: .316.
- Luis Martinez of Milwaukee is the first quarter MVP, although it doesn't look like he's a threat to go 40-40 again, as he hasn't stolen a base in his last 17 games.
- Graham Costello of Milwaukee would get the Cy Young if it was handed out today, although he'd have fairly good competition. He's 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. But the most impressive stat- 56 strikeouts and only 5 walks: a ratio of 11.2 to 1. By comparison, the two guys behind him in ERA (the aforementioned Caufield and Anaheim's Andy Ramsey) both have K/BB ratios of less than 2 to 1.
- New York's Mateo James has struck out 56 times already, which puts him on pace for 221 for the season (which would beat the ML record of 191 by a wide margin). What's more impressive about this is that he's done it in only 139 ABs, which means that for every 5 at-bats, he strikes out twice. Scranton's Chief Pearson has struck out 49 times, which also puts him on pace for more than 191.
- After 20 games it looked like it was Atlanta and Fargo in one category, and then there was everyone else. Atlanta has maintained that level; Fargo's been solid but not at that spectacular level they were playing at in the last 20 games. Atlanta is clearly the best team in this league right now.
- Fargo is probably #2 right now, although Salt Lake City and Trenton have the same record and are looking pretty good so far. Interesting difference in styles; Fargo has the best ERA in the NL outside of Atlanta, while Salt Lake City and Trenton are 1-2 in runs scored.
- The surprise of the first 40 games has to be Austin. They're 17-8 in their last 25 games and are currently sitting atop the NL South, one game better than Houston. Jimmie Williams has made a huge difference in their lineup and Ed Allen is pitching way over his head right now. Allen's greatness may not continue and the bullpen is shaky, but Austin fans are still enjoying life right now.
- Trenton has to hate playing in the NL East. They have little chance of catching Atlanta, but would be in a good fight in any other division. They're a NL best 9-1 in one run games and they're the only team to have 3 guys who've scored more than 30 runs (Watty Miller, Cap Herrera, Bret King).
- Chicago has too many key players struggling right now. Bernie Soriano is hitting .194, Ryan Snyder is hitting .218, and Neifi McBride is hitting .232. As for their starters, they're not much better; Marty Lane is 1-4 with a 5.23 ERA and no starter has an ERA under 4.
- Why does San Juan have the 2nd highest payroll in baseball and the worst record in the NL? 3/5 of their rotation (Jerry Terry, Charlie White, Benny Alarcon) combine to pitch at a 6.26 ERA. Which is a shame, as Hipolito Pujols is pitching a lot like he did before that catastrophic elbow injury in Season 1- this is the closest he's been to his old self since the surgery.
- After 20 games, it looked like Fargo LF Ricardo Martinez would run away with the Rookie of the Year Award. But Salem 3B Juan Valdes and Atlanta C Odalis Lopez are both right on his heels now.
- From the "Why did I sign up for this?" category, Harry Lee of Philadelphia is pitching to a 3.31 ERA, has a WHIP under 1, and an OBP of less than .200. He's outpitched fellow ace Bernie Robinson thus far. His reward: a 1-6 record.
- I've still got Houston's Monte Duvall as the front-runner for the MVP. Of course, it's only 1/4 of the way through, so it's too early to tell what's going to happen. But Duvall has a track record; it's possible he can keep up a pace at least close to this. By the way, he's on pace to hit 88 homers, which would break teammate Bob Koplove's single-season record of 69 homers.
- If I had to give out the Cy Young award right now, I'd take Fargo's Sammy Pierce just over Salem's Dave Dunwoody. Where would Salem be without Dunwoody?
- It probably won't keep up, but it should still be noted: Austin's William Saitou is on pace for 152 stolen bases this season. If he keeps getting on base, he could threaten Justin Hernandez's 134 steals in Season 3, The Bigs record.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Fargo Dirtbags' setup man Christopher Siddall injured his shoulder during a game against the Houston Riverdogs this afternoon and is expected to miss the next month. The injury occurred while Siddall was pitching to Houston's Charles Takada in the bottom of the seventh inning. Siddall gave up a single to Takada and immediately grabbed his shoulder.
Siddall has been the best setup man in the history of The Bigs for his career though he's been a bit off by his standards this season. The injury caused a slight ratings drop for the 36-year-old free agent to be, who otherwise has held up extremely well over the years. He was placed on the 15-day DL for the second time in his career prior to today's pm2 game.
Siddall's absence leaves a huge hole in the Fargo bullpen. With no minor league arms ready enough for the majors, it's likely that Fargo will try to push through the next 25 days with what the team currently has left in the pen.
Trenton gets: SP Damion Mays, RP Chris Jennings
Vancouver gets: CF Roscoe Rigby (AAA), 3B Edwin Corey (AAA), P Pedro Hernanez, OF Hal Brinkley
Analysis: Trenton felt that its weakness was in its pitching staff, so the Traffic went out and got a starter and a reliever. Mays makes his return to Trenton (he was 28-27 in about 2 full seasons before being dealt in the trade that brought Cap Herrera to NJ) to solidify the middle of the rotation. Jennings has a good track record as a closer before faltering this season; he'll set up Bernie Corino for now.
Vancouver gets a pretty decent haul here. Rigby is a good defensive CF with a world of speed. Corey has very good speed for a 3B and should hit well-both he and Rigby should be full-time starters soon. Hernandez projects as a middle-to-bottom of the rotation type. Brinkley was included in the deal to make the salaries work, but he's got talent; Vancouver looks like they're going to give him a shot at the RF position.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Chicago gets: RP Eduardo Moya
New York gets: CF Gerald Duran (Hi-A), LF Ivan Gil (Hi-A), RP Benito Chavez
Skinny: In the short term, this move helps Chicago- they get an established closer, which adds to the depth of the bullpen. Kenneth Graves will move to the setup role, and everyone who was behind him slides back a spot. The downside is it further straps them financially for this season and next- they already have by far the biggest payroll in the league and with the addition of Moya, they now have over $77 million committed next season to 11 guys.
As for New York, all 3 guys they get in return have question marks. Duran should be a very good defensive CF with world-class speed, but it remains to be seen whether he'll hit enough to be a force in the majors. He does have a good eye, which may work tremendously in his favor. Gil has good speed and very good power, but he may be an all-or-nothing guy (struck out 143 times in 144 games in Low-A last season). Chavez is a 31-year-old reliever who's been riding the shuttle between the bigs and AAA the last few seasons- he's got a decent arm.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
- Seattle looks like they're for real. Yeah, pitching at Safeco helps the staff, but that's not the only reason they're giving up the fewest runs in the AL- they've got the arms as well. Scary part is, Denny Moss hasn't hit at all (.180) yet- just wait until he gets it going.
- I know teams go up and down, but even still, I didn't think at the time of this report I'd wake up and see Milwaukee and Monterrey both in last place in the standings. Monterrey's offense is letting them down right now- they have an OBP of .321 as a team.
- As for Milwaukee, their pitching has failed them- they're 15th in runs given up in the AL (only Boise is worse). Lawrence Carver has been particular egregious- he's lost all 5 of his starts with an ERA of 9 even. Perhaps needless to say, he's been demoted to bullpen duty. Now the Milwaukee press can turn their attention to James Morton and his 5.79 ERA.
- The pleasant surprise this season has been Oklahoma City, coming out of the gate at 16-8. I don't think they can sustain it, however. Heath Caufield, Jay Guiel, and Patrick Hughes all have ERAs under 2 right now, but none of the 3 have a track record. Caufield and Hughes both have career ERAs over 4.5, and this is Guiel's first big league season. So unless Guiel is far better than the scouts expected and Hughes and Caufield (at age 32) have somehow figured it out, don't expect this hot start to continue.
- Syracuse is pretty much in the same boat as OKC, as they are riding arms (Louie Bolivar, Tony Rowan, and rule-5 guy Dan Callaway) who either have no track record or a track record of mediocrity. Congrats to them on starting 15-9, though. How you go 6-1 in one-run games while your closer has a 6.75 ERA is beyond me.
- You have to feel bad for Louisville. On paper, it looked like this might be the year where Milwaukee and Monterrey maybe weren't as loaded as in the past and you thought maybe this could finally be their year. Then they lose Albert Herzog for the season in his third start.
- St. Louis leads the North at 16-8. 3B Osvaldo Armas is on pace to reach career highs in homers and RBI by the All-Star break.
- Two familiar names, Luis Martinez and Julio Diaz, are the early MVP favorites. Diaz still hits homers with the best of them but is also hitting for average so far this season, and Martinez looks like his old self, with 10 HRs and 4 steals.
- I know he's never been a great average hitter, but it's hard to believe James Dixon is hitting only .189.
- I know Boston's tied for first. But I just can't see a team giving up almost 6 runs a game staying in a race.
- How on earth does Andy Ramsey have a 1.53 ERA and a 2-3 record?
- OKC's Heath Caufield is in contention to pull off a highly rare double so far: He's second in the AL in ERA and in walks.
Monday, August 24, 2009
- It may be early, but Fargo and Atlanta seem to be separating themselves from everyone else. They're both scoring 5.8 runs a game, and everyone knows they can pitch.
- Trenton and Salt Lake City are both 14-9 for the same reason: they win close games (5-1 and 7-2, respectively, in one-run games).
- I'm not worried about Chicago-yet. I'd look at the schedule as a big reason for the tough start they had- they went 2-7 in their first 9, but 6 of those losses were to Fargo and Houston.
- Interesting that Houston is 8-2 in the division and yet hasn't managed to separate themselves- New Orleans (who handed them those 2 losses) is only 1 back.
- Cheyenne has given up the most runs in the NL and somehow is 13-10.
- The biggest disappointment has been Salem. They can't win if their pitching is in the middle of the pack, because their offense is near the bottom of the league. Dwight Salmon going 0-4 with a 4.15 ERA might be a big reason. Philip Allensworth doesn't look the same coming off the injury.
-Philadelphia was looking halfway decent until losing 11 in a row. I can understand losing to Chicago and getting swept by Fargo, but getting swept at home by Vancouver is not a good sign.
-Gregg Black looks like his old self in New Orleans- he's hitting .424 with 7 HRs and 29 RBI in 23 games.
- Add Atlanta's 24-year-old 2B Jason Walker to the list of guys in this league to watch. He's one of 4 guys in the NL with an OPS of over 1.100 right now, joining established stars Black (1.241), Houston's Monte Duvall (leading right now at 1.312), and Trenton's Cap Herrera (1.114). Teammate Stan Starr and Fargo's 30-year-old rookie Ricardo Martinez (!) are knocking at the door.
-Speaking of Martinez, he's 4th in the NL in homers right now. Right ahead of him are 2 teammates (David Rushford and Tomas DeJesus). Duvall leads right now- he's probably an early front-runner for MVP.
- As for Herrera, he's loving life in Trenton. The top 3 in the Traffic lineup of Watty Miller, Bret King, and Herrera are hitting a combined .350 with 14 HRs and 42 RBI so far. All three have on-base averages of at least .400 and they have one more thing in common- none of them were on Trenton's Opening Day roster last season.
- Raymond Lamb of Toronto has to be my Least Valuable Player so far. He's making 5.4 million and has an OPS of .381 (.211 OBP, .170 SLG). At least 25 NL hitters have on-base percentages higher than Lamb OPS (on-base + slugging).
- Javier Henriquez is putting up typical Henriquez-type numbers, but his teammate has started out just as hot. Henriquez is 5-0 and his ERA is an other-worldly 1.12 (maybe I'll just call him Bob Gibson from now on), but Sammy Pierce is also 5-0 and while his ERA is a more human 2.05, his WHIP (0.68) cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Vancouver fans have to be frustrated when the manager takes the starting pitcher out. Golden Otter starters have an ERA of 3.10 this season. The bullpen ERA is 6.11 and has blown 7 of a possible 11 saves. Closer Chris Jennings has already blown 4 of 8 saves and has an ERA of 11.25.
What are the top 5 franchises that have yet to win a title?
1. Louisville Legends
They've won 6 straight AL East titles, winning at least 93 games each season with a high of 105 games in season 1. They made two consecutive ALCS appearances (seasons 3 and 4), but could not get past Milwaukee either season (they took the Maulers to 7 games in season 3).
2. Chicago Snake Tamers
A wild card entry 4 out of the last 5 seasons, they've won 98 games the past two seasons. They got to the NLCS in season 2, losing in 4 straight to arch-rival Fargo.
3. Helena Grotto Gottos
Between Helena and their former incarnation in Las Vegas, they've averaged almost 90 wins a season and have claimed 5 AL West titles. Like Louisville, they've yet to make it through to a World Series.
4. Scranton Janitors
Playing in the same division as Louisville isn't conducive to winning division titles, but they were good enough to be a wild-card team 3 seasons in a row. They played Las Vegas (now Helena) three playoffs in a row, winning twice to earn the right to be fodder for #1 seeds in the next round.
5. Cheyenne Nation
They've made the playoffs 3 out of six seasons, with two division titles. They've yet to win a playoff series.
4. Salt Lake City
Wild Card Round
#3 Houston over #6 Cheyenne
#5 Chicago over #4 Salt Lake City
# 1 Atlanta over #5 Chicago
#2 Fargo over #3 Houston
#1 Atlanta over #2 Fargo
4. St. Louis
#6 Jackson over #3 Monterrey
# 5 Milwaukee over #4 St. Louis
#1 Louisville over #5 Milwaukee
#2 Seattle over #6 Jackson
#2 Seattle over #1 Louisville (note: had I done this before the Albert Herzog injury I probably would have had this go the other way)
WORLD SERIES: Atlanta over Seattle
Seattle: The Killer Whales (6th in AL last season) added some pieces at the end of last season and their young players have one more season of experience, so I like them slightly more than the team that was statistically better last season in Helena. LF Jacque Puffer and 2B Jack Hunt are young, talented, all-around hitters that set up the big hitters in DH King Winn, RF Pete Duvall, 1B/C Kris Olson, and 3B Denny Moss. This is a lineup that could potentially be 7-8 hitters deep.
Helena: The Grotto Gottos (2nd in AL last season) shed themselves of a few members of their offense, but return most of the core. DH Clarence Hartman is the main cog, and he has support in RF Wally Harvey, CF Wil Weston, and LF Jeremy Glover. They'll need the infield, specifically 3B Jay Hegan and 2B Paul Ingram to provide depth to keep up with Seattle.
Boise: The Shadow Wolves (8th in AL last season) are not bad on this side of the ball. They've got some ML talent in C Hiram Spooneybarger, RF Abdullah Dillon, and SS Ryan Hammill. The Wolves expect big things from young 2B Victor Flores and DH Santiago Martin; there's plenty more offensive talent in AAA. Before they called up those two, their AAA team might have been able to beat the big club in a Home Run Derby match.
Anaheim: The Chiles (10th in AL last season) don't have a star (you could argue 3B James Dixon and LF Pedro Candelaria have some clout), but they had 6 guys hit 20 HRs last season. They're not in the top half of offense (too low OBP, too many strikeouts), but they're not inept, either.
Seattle: They leapt up to 3rd in the AL last season, which was a big part of their success. Cy Young winner Miguel Benitez was most certainly deserving of the honor, and Kane Grahe and Junior Bennett also had fine seasons. This season they add 22-year-old Hawaiian Slash Ruffin, who I think will wind up a top 2 guy in the rotation eventually- he's got the talent. Quilvio Sanchez gets better each season, and Larry Carasone is a good 8th inning option for the Orcas.
Anaheim: The Chiles finished right behind Seattle, 4th last season. They've got good depth in the rotation, although their starters aren't as good as the Orcas. Maceo Batista, Peaches Thompson, Andy Ramsey, and Zephyr Palmer are all good starters, although none is an ace. They'll try Vic Trevino (brought over from Scranton) in the closer's role, moving Valerio Almanzar to the 8th inning.
Helena: At 7th in the AL last season, they were good enough to win the division. I'm not sure Billy Nation, Louie Martin, and York Burnett are good enough a top 3 to get it done again. Dave Stewart and Coco Hines are the back end of a solid bullpen.
Boise: They were 13th in the AL last season and, like most young teams, this is what separates the contenders from the pretenders. Joey Hubbard, Ivan Castilla and the no longer overpaid Pete Rubel would be a good back end of a rotation for a contending team- here they're the top 3. Alex Cornejo saved a lot of games last season, but needs to lower his ERA a bit. The setup roles could be questionable.
1. I like Seattle this season, especially with their pitching staff in a pitchers' park.
2. I think Helena will be in contention- they always find a way to stay in it.
3. Should be Anaheim for 3rd- their pitching trumps whatever Boise can throw out there.
4. Boise will be interesting in a few seasons, especially if they can find a way (either through their minors or FA/trades) to add to the pitching in their system.
5. Helena may look to add pitching- their offense is good enough to keep them in long enough for them to be a buyer.
6. Most likely to be dealt: is it time for Dixon to get a change of scenery? Not sure of the answer to that.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Jackson: The Vipers (3rd in AL last season) took the mantle from Monterrey as far as being the best offense in this division. LF Dennis Tamura, CF Brook Teut, and 1B Esteban Vega are a top-notch middle of the order. Tamura (36 HR, 47 SB last season) could be the next 40-40 guy in this league. C Chan Suh provides depth in the order and 2B Tony Johnson (25 HRs, 106 runs in his rookie season) appears to be a star on the way up.
Monterrey: The Sultans (5th in AL last season) were a top-5 offense despite missing one of their key cogs for the entire season. DH Tony Escuela did not take a swing last season- he'll be welcomed back into the middle of the order. On the plus side, C Rick Anderson basically duplicated his big rookie season, and SS Sammy Castro had his best season. 1B Timo Carter and talented 2B Del Lopez had nice seasons as well. They will miss RF Ryan Snyder, traded to Chicago in the offseason- he was their biggest run producer last season.
Oklahoma City: The Obese Supermodels (?!?) were 7th in the AL last season- whether they can duplicate that is in question. They've got some talent in the outfield, led by slugger RF Vladimir Rodriguez, speedster LF Brant Belle, and young multitalented CF Thurman Allen. DH Wille Sierra will be counted on to drive in those three.
Charlotte: The Princesses (OK, this has to be the worst division in baseball judging by team names) finished 12th in the AL last season and are a long way from the days when they had sluggers like Gregg Black and King Winn. The lone bonafide slugger is C Tony Stieb, and speedy LF Luis Melo is possibly the only real help he'll have in the lineup.
Monterrey: The Sultans (2nd in AL last season) won this division on the mound last season. Ace Albert Gonzalez wasn't as good as in his Cy Young season, but he was still good. The rotation has great depth, with talented Luther Brush and Johnnie Reagan as well as innings-eaters Jocko Keats and Patrick Clifton. Pablo Rijo is a good closer, and the setup crew is deep with Tony Merced, Vern Baez, and Stan Andrews.
Jackson: It's time for the young Vipers (10th in AL last season) pitchers to step up if this team is going to take the next step and supplant Monterrey atop the division. A large part of the success or failure of this season will rest on the right arms of Alex Samuel and Fausto Almanza. Carlos Martinez, Jimmy Cole, and Ivan Webster are decent depth guys in the rotation. The best pitcher on the staff may be in the bullpen- closer Garry Wright (26 years old) has already established himself as one of the best. Vic Molina and Joe Street will be counted on to get to Wright.
Oklahoma City: The OKC pitching staff (11th in AL last season) was a surprise last season, if only because they weren't worse. Lenny Durham came out of nowhere to go 13-3; that earned him a contract with Cheyenne. Remaining in the rotation are Heath "Wild Thing" Caufield and Wayne Wilson to lead the way- both would be #4 or #5 starters on contending teams. Jay Guiel is way overpaid. J.D. Wilkinson is intriguing as the closer; the setup roles are in flux.
Charlotte: The Princesses (15th in AL last season) pitched as if they actually were girls wearing dresses. Josh Gant, the big winner at 13-12, had a 4.98 ERA. Former ace Ham Bruske sure looked like he was near the end of his career after posting a 5-20 record. Starter Larry Cole had an ERA over 5 and Felix Comer pitched almost 175 innings at a 6.96 clip. Enrique Chantres finally lost his closer's role and setup Luis Piedra, who was worse (14 blown saves, 7.33 ERA).
1. I want to go with the trendy pick and take up-and-coming Jackson to finally take out Monterrey. But I just don't like their starting staff enough to do it. I'll take Monterrey again.
2. Jackson, as they have been the past two seasons, will be a serious wild-card contender again.
3. I'll take OKC over Charlotte for third, neither team anywhere near the playoff race.
4. I'd expect Monterrey to add another power bat in a trade.
5. It's possible that Tony Stieb could be dealt, but I wouldn't count on it- he's still 27 and just signed a new 5-year contract.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
This occurred in the Helena vs Seattle game. H.Lee fields the groundball but makes a bad throw to 1B. K.Batista reaches on the throwing error. I consider Hector Lee to be an elite defensive SS so I was a bit taken aback when this error happened so I delved a little deeper. Kris Olson was playing 1B (7 range, 19 glove), less than stellar at the position, well appalling is more the word I would use, no offense Rock as I know why. Batista doesn't have blazing speed so I doubt the throw was hurried. However, the runners did not advance on the error so that tells me that the throw probably pulled the foot of the 1B off the bag and with Olsen's range I can believe that. Chances are, in my mind, that a recommended defensive 1B would have probably made the play. My question is: Do they always charge the error to the thrower in all cases like this, when it seems pretty clear that the error is actually caused by an ineffective receiver? And if so, why isn't a minus play issued to 1B since it is probably a play that a recommended 1B would have made?
I know this probably seems a bit trivial, but should a good player be hung out to dry because of another player's inability who gets charged nothing? In the real world, the official scorer determines whether it is an error and on whom. Not always does the thrower get charged, sometimes the 1B gets charged because he pulled his foot too soon, could this have been the case? And sometimes a pitcher gets the ball and fails to tag the bag or fails to cover 1B in time and that is even charged as a throwing error here.
In Fargo, Dirtbags 1B Rolando James went 3 for 4 with a home run and Javier Henriquez pitched 6 scoreless innings to lead Fargo to a 5-0 win over division rival Chicago.
In Houston, Riverdogs Matt Skinner yielded 2 solo homers in the ninth (one to Julio Mendoza and one to pinch hitter Cy Brunson) to the visiting Austin City Limits, but an Eddie Smith sacrifice fly in the 11th provided Houston with a 6-5 win.
In Salem, the Sacrifices could not figure out Vancouver Golden Otters ace Oswaldo Astacio, getting only 1 hit in 6 innings. Chris Jennings pitched a scoreless ninth to give Vancouver a 3-2 decision.
In Washington, Marino Coronado hit two homers and Eddie Greer drove in 4 for the Blue Coats as they smacked around Trenton ace Alex Sanchez en route to an easy 9-1 victory.
The defending AL champions from Milwaukee were down 10 runs before scoring their first run of the season. The visiting Syracuse Simpletons got 2 homers from Max Rivera as they held off a furious charge from the Manic Maulers to win 10-6.
In Boise, Shadow Wolves ace Joey Hubbard outdueled Helena's Billy Nation, giving up just one run over 7 innings. Damaso Brogna's 6th inning homer erased a 1-0 deficit and gave the Wolves a 2-1 win.
In Louisville, Legends ace Carlton Fleming got shelled, giving up 7 runs in 3 2/3 innings. Boston Bambinos 1B Wilton Petrick hit 3 homers and drove in 6 to lead Boston to a 10-8 win.
In Oklahoma City, Jackson Vipers starter Fausto Almanza was very good, giving up only 2 runs (1 earned) in eight innings. But OKC starter Heath Caufield was better, pitching 8 shutout innings as the Obese Supermodels won 2-0.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The defending World Series champion Atlanta Bandits opened their season with a win over divsion rival Norfolk by a score of 6-4. A three-run 8th inning capped by a 2-run homer by Eric Baker broke a 3-3 tie.
Out west, Cheyenne opened with an 8-4 victory in Salt Lake City. Steve Bako finished a triple short of the cycle, driving in 3 and Tomas Beltran hit a 3-run pinch hit homer to fuel the Nation's attack.
San Juan came right out of the gate scoring 4 runs in the 1st and holding on for a 6-4 win in New Orleans. Frankie Brooks drove in 3 for the Dead Bunnies.
Philadelphia won an exciting 10 inning 5-3 decision in Toronto. Juan Nunez and Juan Rodriguez both had RBI hits in the 10th to provide the difference for the Phantoms.
In the north, Buffalo scored 3 in the first to knock off St. Louis, 3-2. Alex Saenz drove in the first run and Tito Martin's single in the first drove in 2 to provide all the Blue Cheese runs.
In Seattle, reigning Cy Young Award winner Miguel Benitez twirled a 3-hit shutout as the Killer Whales beat the visiting Anaheim Chiles 4-0.
In Charlotte, Dick Howard drove in 3 on a second inning homer for the Princesses as they knocked off the Monterrey Sultans 6-3. The home run gave them a 4-0 lead, which was more than enough.
In New York, 8 pitchers gave up 13 hits and 5 runs as the Scranton Janitors knocked off the New York New York 5-3. Graeme Walker needed just 5 pitches for a one inning save.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Milwaukee: The Manic Maulers led the AL in runs last season. This season's version may not be a vintage Milwaukee offense, but they've still got the best offensive outfield in the game with MVP LF Burt Stevenson, CF Luis Martinez, and RF Harold Lewis. The infield still has 1B Andre Eckenstahler, but loses 3B Brian Dunham (107 RBI) and 2B Bob Malone (78 RBI) to free-agency. Expect 1B/DH Julio Sivilla to be asked to do more this season.
St. Louis: The Silly Nannies (13th in AL last season) lack a bat like Buffalo's Julio Diaz in the middle of the lineup, but may have a little more depth. Chris Newson (.241-41-108) is the major power threat, and C Pep Woo, LF Pepe Martin, and 2B Rico Guevara are all solid contributors. 1B Nick Hernandez is not a prototypical 1B, stealing 55 bases and scoring 99 runs.
Buffalo: The Blue Cheese finished 11th in the AL last season, largely on the monster numbers of 1B Julio Diaz (.257-60-143). After Diaz and LF Henry Rogers (.239-54-113), there's a big drop-off. 1B/OF Tito Martin has a world of talent but has yet to put it together. CF Victor Gonzalez has the speed to be a good leadoff hitter but doesn't get on base enough.
Syracuse: The Simpleton offense was pretty simple last season, finishing last in the AL in runs. 3B William Nomo (.255-52-116) had a good year and C Peter Sosa played a nice second fiddle, but they lose their leading hitter and run scorer LF Bret King to Trenton- King was the only Simpleton hitter besides Nomo to drive in 90 runs. OF Alfredo Hogan stole 60 bases- imagine if he got on at more than a .274 clip (that's OBP, not batting average).
St. Louis: St. Louis gave up the fewest runs in the entire AL last season. They'll be led by young ace Yogi Anderson, but there's plenty of depth here. Russell Newson and Antonio Perez each won 16 games, and Lloyd Freel, Benito Martin, and free-agent pickup (from Helena) Buster Charles are all capable starters. In the bullpen, Carlos Carrasco had arguably the best season ever from a closer and nearly won a Cy Young Award, saving 51 of 52 games with a 1.80 ERA- right now he's as good as it gets. Julio Navarro had a very good season in the setup role.
Milwaukee: The 5th best staff last season will be led by old stalwarts. Graham Costello and James Morton led the way last season. James Calvo won 14 games but with a 5.15 ERA. They're hoping Woody Hiller, who was off to a great start before elbow surgery cut his season short. In the bullpen, Quinton Hughes and King Burns are maybe the best 1-2 combo out of the pen, but it remains to be seen if the loss of Buddy Titan will be felt.
Buffalo: The Blue Cheese (12th in AL last season) could struggle again. Claude Jacquez was the big winner at 13-12. Chris Lowry was the only other double-digit winner, but he was 11-16. Hi Nolan and Billy Spencer both had ERAs over 5. Archie Lecroy had an up and down rookie season, saving 35 but blowing 9 saves. Someone has to inherit setup man Wesley Cora's spot, as he followed Bret King to Trenton.
Syracuse: They hold the distinction of being the worst staff in all the majors (not just the AL) last season, being the only team to yield over 1000 runs in the process. Louie Bolivar (4-24, 6.99 ERA) and Charlie Miller (3-20, 5.92 ERA) competed for the Cy Yuk award- Miller was not brought back by the team, but Bolivar remains. Last season's biggest winner was Chris Langston out of the bullpen at 10-10; he may get a starter's gig this season. Tony Rowan (5-4, 4.29 in 20 starts) and Ryan Martin (8-10, 4.50 ERA in 26 starts) weren't terrible. The bullpen was awful. Closer Jared McMahon only had 7 saves, and had a 7.01 ERA. No reliever had an ERA under 5.
1. I'm going to go out on a limb and call for the upset here. I'll take St. Louis to win the division.
2. The second place team (Milwaukee or St. Louis) should be in wild-card contention.
3. I like Buffalo over Syracuse in the New York Thruway battle for 3rd.
4. Look for the two contenders (Milwaukee especially) to look to add a bat near the deadline.
5. I'd say Nomo would be the most likely to be dealt, although his contract ($10 million next season) might scare some people off. Diaz from Buffalo is only 27, has a reasonable contract ($4 million this season, arbitration-eligible next season), and the Blue Cheese seem to think they can build around him. Therefore, I wouldn't necessarily count on him going anywhere, although I'm sure the Buffalo front office would listen to offers.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Louisville: The Legends had the 4th best offense in the AL last season and have fairly good depth. They'll be led by IF Amp Palmer, DH Ernest Montgomery, 1B Ismael Polanco, RF Pete Mercedes, and 2B Javier Taverez. Palmer's 127 runs led the AL last season; the aforementioned 5 combined for 194 HRs.
Boston: They finished in the middle of the pack (9th) last season and have some pieces. IF Daniel Koch, LF Trever Russell, and 1B Wilton Petrick are all a threat to go deep at any time. RF Brian Saitou had a big drop-off from his big seasons of the past- he needs to step up for Boston to have any hope of respectability.
Scranton: This offense (15th in AL last season) is short on depth and big-time talent. 1B Randall Fisher and OF Kevin Hyun were the only Janitors to drive in more than 70 runs last season. They added LF Chief Pearson from Boise, but he's the only change and he's not enough.
New York: The offense (last in AL last season) was anemic and lost their only run producer (Greg Whitaker) to Houston. 1B Orel MacFarlane hit over .300, but only rove in 52 runs; he's by far the best hitter on this team. This team will struggle mightily to score runs again; I just don't see where the production will come from.
Louisville: The Legends (last season-4th in AL) have very good starting pitching depth, particularly in the rotation. Lance Stevens, Hipolito Maradona, and Carlton Fleming are all top of the rotation-type guys. Albert Herzog and Danny Little do a good job rounding out the rotation. In the bullpen, Milwaukee import Buddy Titan appears to be ready to take over for the departed closer Rob Gilmore. Tyler Wilson is probably the best setup option.
Scranton: The Janitors (last season- tied for 6th in AL) lost their biggest winner from last season, Dennys Fox, to free agency. They'll return solid pitchers Tony Howell, J.R. Guerrero, and Norm Edwards, and they imported Steve Elster from Helena. The rotation would be even better if Michael Giambi wasn't out for most of the season with an aneurysm. Tony Matos comes over from Chicago to be the closer, and Larry Stokes is dependable in the setup role.
New York: New York finished 9th in the AL in runs allowed last season, which kept them out of the AL East cellar. The top of their rotation is getting on in years, however, in Kelly Downs (33), Damon Thompson (37), Vic Chavez (35), and Max Jacquez (40). The solid, if unspectacular, Eduardo Moya returns in the closer's role; setting him up could be the tricky part.
Boston: Fenway yielded a lot of runs for the opposition, as the Bambinos finished 14th in runs allowed last season. Part of it may have been the park, but a lot of blame has to go to the pitchers. The staff was in a constant state of flux, as only 3 starters gave the Bambinos more than 20 starts. Ace Daryl Cashman (12-6, 3.01) was outstanding, but there was a drop-off after that, as Christy Castillo and Davey DaSilva each lost 13 games and rookie Ivan Hernandez struggled mightily, going 0-7 with a 6.37 ERA in 11 starts. In the bullpen, Davey Guzman saved 24 of 30 but had an era over 6 and a half. The setup pitchers often came in to put out the fire well-equipped with gasoline cans.
1. Can't see how Louisville doesn't win this. They should cruise to a 7th straight title.
2. Scranton should be able to claim second in this division. Not sure they'll have enough for a playoff spot.
3. That leaves Boston and New York for 3rd and last. I'll take Boston for third- I think they just have a little more than the boys from the Big Apple.
4. Louisville's come up short against the big boys of the AL in the playoffs, so they may very well make a move or two with competing with Milwaukee and Monterrey in mind. They may look for bullpen help or another bat at the right spot.
5. Most likely star to be traded: Not sure if I'd call Kelly Downs a star, but rumor has it New York has been shopping him. Daryl Cashman could be a name to watch.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
And speaking of making the jump, power hitting DH Santiago Martin (37 HRs 130 RBIs in AAA last season) and solid 2B Victor Flores (19 HRs 106 RBIs with 59 SBs) will be making a one-way trip to The Bigs early in the season. We feel this will raise our bats to a level to compete with some of the top teams in the league. Not to mention that the player the Shadow Wolves fans are affectionately calling The Monster, Barry McEnroe will be trying out his bat at AAA this year. Barry suffered a minor setback last year with an injury, only making it into 96 games, but he still picked up 27 HRs and 90 RBIs in those 351 ABs, and he's now healthy and better than ever. Depending on how the season is going, he could even make a jump to the ML club near the end of the season if the Shadow Wolves have a chance at a playoff spot. Otherwise, fans will have to wait one more year before they get to see his career take off. This kid's a future superstar and has all the makings of a franchise player.
We feel we have a good team this year, but we are aware that our pitching could still use some improvement. Delgado and Wilkins had great years for us in the bullpen, and Rubel did a great job as a starter. Medrano and Cornejo were adequate, as was rookie Armando Lopez. The rest of the staff could use some improvement if they want to hang on to their jobs next season.
We're not going to predict a playoff berth this season, but we also know that anything can happen once that first ball is thrown out. Either way, it's gonna be an exciting year for the Shadow Wolves and their fans, and the future looks even brighter. Thank you for your time from Wolf Industries and the Shadow Wolves Management Team.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Salt Lake City: Would it surprise you if I told you that the NL's best offense last season played 81 home games in the state of Utah? While they don't necessarily have guys who are known around the league as superstars, their depth is second to none. They have RF Vic James, 1B Ruben Hernandez, 3B Jordan Newfield, and SS Che Bong leading the way, but they get contributions from every position. C Chris Barrett, 2B Carlos Batista, OF George Lowe, OF Ken Davis, and CF Jordan Black all made significant offensive contributions. This team had 9 hitters hit at least 10 HRs and at least 8 guys steal 10 bases.
Cheyenne: The third best offense in the NL last season returns plenty of firepower. Like Salt Lake City, no one person will be expected to carry the load. 3B Wendell Durrington, CF Dewey Greenwood, RF Bud Klein, LF Steve Sweeney, SS Willie Scott, C Yeico Solano, and 2B Steve Bako are all solid contributors. All 7 hit between 22 and 29 home runs last season.
Salem: They had the 7th best offense in the NL- not sure they can do that again. RF Melvin Taylor (.316-31-106) announced himself as a force in this league and Nate Cox had another good year, but there's little behind him. 3B Juan Valdez will be asked to provide some power to a lineup that has enough singles-type hitters like IF Reggie Ducati and Travis Bush.
Vancouver: They're grateful for Philadelphia in the NL, or else they would have finished last in this category as well as in pitching (see below). 2B Jerry Strickland has taken the torch from SS Brace Kroeger and 3B Tony Kwon as the best hitter on the team. Kwon in particular had a down year last season. Long-time LF Cody Lincoln is out the door and 36-year-old Tyler Post may not be far behind.
Salem: The big guns in the west pushed them to 4th in runs allowed last season. David Dunwoody and Dwight Salmon are still two of the best pitchers in the entire league. Philip Allensworth's return from elbow surgery could be a big factor in determining who wins the west this season. They have adequate back-end starters to choose from in guys like Carlos Bennett and Benji Stewart. Arthur Gates had a good season as the closer; he'll have Philadelphia import Jamey Dwyer and Chicago free-agent signee Clay Bell to set him up.
Cheyenne: The Nation gave up the 7th fewest runs in the NL last season, a respectable finish. There are some question marks, however. The ace is Mendy Blackley, but he pitched only 151 innings last season. The team leader in wins, Enrique Gutierrez, led the team despite a 5.51 ERA. Miguel Reyes and Mark Bong were solid in the middle of the rotation. The Nation is loaded with solid bullpen arms, with Wily Mo Owens, Paul Schwartz, Kenneth Schalk, and Willie Nunez.
Salt Lake City: If they had more pitching, they could have won the division. Instead, they finished 12th in the NL in this department. Gary Jackson, Albert Valdez, and Rene Alexander are average starters whose mediocrity is amplified in the four-man rotation. On the plus side, Rob Cepeda looks like a top flight starter. The bullpen is led by Bruce Phillips and Cliff Miller.
Vancouver: This was the worst staff in the NL by a mile last season. Damion Mays struggled after heading back to his native land from Trenton and will be out for the first two weeks of the regular season. The only pitcher to win in double digits, Oswaldo Astacio, had an ERA over 5. In fact, Glenallen Wehner was the only pitcher to make more than 20 starts and have an ERA under 5; he went 5-12. In the bullpen, Chris Jennings had another solid season as the closer
and Ted Reese (another setup man paid like a closer) is pretty good as well.
1. You could put the top 3 in a hat and pick. I think Salt Lake City gets it done this season. Although I'd be tempted to take Salem if they could find a bat or two, which is probably easier to trade for than a starter, which the other two could use.
2. The 2nd and 3rd place teams will be in the wild-card hunt.
3. Vancouver will be awful.
4. All 3 teams in the race will be looking for a starter, and I think Salem will trade for offense.
5. Most likely to be dealt near the deadline: Chris Jennings. There will be teams looking for bullpen help.
San Juan: The best offense in the division, and maybe the NL (2nd last season), is in Puerto Rico. 3B Calvin Chang is the catalyst and is a perennial MVP candidate, but he's got plenty of help. C Junior Tabaka (.311-60-143) vaulted himself into stardom with his season despite the fact that he can't outrun a cardboard box. Those two along with RF Julio Castro all drove in at least 100 runs. 2B Derrin Hernandez is a young, talented player and 1B Frankie Brooks, CF John Baldwin, and SS Earl Hall can all hit (although Hall's fielding can be questioned). Rookie Shane Fletcher will get a shot in left and should fit right in the lineup- he's got speed.
Houston: The 6-time division champs checked in at 8th last season- they have a dynamite middle of the order but lack San Juan's depth. LF Bob Koplove is one of the league's premier power hitters, and C Cy Hughes, RF Orlando Franco, and 3B Monte Duvall all drive in runs- Duvall and Koplove combined for 127 HRs last season. CF Scott Diaz is the speedster who will be asked to score 100 runs or so.
New Orleans: They finished 9th in the NL, just behind the Riverdogs. 1B Matty Matos and 2B Ray Cepicky both drove in 100 runs, and they'll be joined by surefire future Hall of Famer LF Gregg Black. They need guys hitting in front of those 3, however; CF Dustan Cohen didn't get on enough for their liking, so they signed Hideki Tanaka as insurance. They could use some depth in the lineup.
Austin: The City Limits finished 10th in the NL, and added a huge bat in 1B Jimmie Williams. They'll need him, as this lineup possibly overachieved last season. 3B Julio Mendoza had arguably the worst 30-30 season in history (.237-34-84, .299 OBP, 149K)- he was one of 5 Austin hitters to strike out 100 times. He's got CF Ralph Phillips, C Sam Brumfield, and LF Gerald (not Willie) Stargell as the talented players in the lineup. They're not terrible, but they may struggle at times if they hit for low averages and strike out as often as they did last season.
Houston: One of the best staffs since the inception of the league, Houston finished only behind Atlanta and Fargo in runs allowed last season. The 1-2 punch of Lonny Gates and Jason Sprague at the top of the rotation is one of the best in the NL. Perry Herman seems to have things figured out and is a nice #3 option. Juan Cabrera has won double-digit games 3 seasons running. It will be interesting to see if the offseason loss of Jerome Oliver(see below) affects the 'Dogs in any way. In the bullpen, Matt Skinner is a top-notch closer, and Cristian Price is a good (if probably overpaid) setup man.
New Orleans: The Voodoo may have got Black and C Chuck Reed in the offseason, but the most important move may have been the signing of Jerome Oliver from Houston. He'll be counted on to boost a staff that finished 15th in the NL last season. Oliver will lead a rotation that also has Carlos Matos, and free-agent signing Felipe Cela. Kevin Pong had a tough rookie season, going 5-11 with an ERA over 6. The bullpen is in decent hands with Tom Hernandez, Billy Ray Hooper, and Vance D'Amico.
San Juan: They finished 14th in runs allowed last season, and will have the same major players in the rotation. Hipolito Pujols was 10-8 but pitched to a 5.02 ERA last season. Jerry Terry was 11-14 with a 5.84 ERA. Charlie White, the team leader in wins (13), had an ERA just under 5. Shooter Mahoney had a good season, but really isn't any better than these guys. The closer role may well go to a rookie, Jim Clyburn. The setup role could be shaky.
Austin: They somehow finished 10th in runs allowed last season, but I see them taking a step back. I have doubts about all of their top 4- Terry Pierre, Marc Bates, Ed Allen, and Endy Hasegawa. Rookie Delino Colon could get a shot at the rotation if he can find the plate. Nerio Little was shaky in the closer's role- there's no guarantee he'll get the job again this season.
1. Pitching wins. Gotta take Houston again, although it is getting monotonous.
2. I think San Juan can slug its way to a 2nd place finish.
3. New Orleans could be right there with San Juan. Atlanta, Fargo, Houston, and Chicago are the class of the NL. I'd put San Juan and New Orleans in the next tier along with Trenton, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, and Salem.
4. Austin took a big leap (54 wins to 74 wins) last season and should be commended. I think they'll take a minor step back, but I say they're closer to 74 wins than they are to 54- they're not that bad.
5. I'd look for Houston to maybe get another bat at a middle infield position, optimally.
6. Most likely to be dealt- depends on who stays in. Jimmie Williams is a strong candidate, but Black could go if New Orleans falls out of the race (along possibly with Cepicky) and teams will call about Chang if San Juan were to drop out of the race early.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Chicago: This was the 4th best offense in the NL last season and I don't see it going any lower than that this season. They are loaded with talent, led by reigning MVP 1B Osvaldo Johnson, perrenial MVP candidate 3B Sean Simpson, and 2B Neifi McBride. The major addition this season will be outfielder Ryan Snyder, who will complement CF Paul Turnbow and Bernie Soriano in the outfield. They could lead the league in runs this season; they should be in the top 3.
Fargo: Their pitching staff tends to get all the ink, but their offense isn't bad either, finishing 6th in the NL last season. They lack the depth that Chicago has, but they have a very dangerous middle of the order in 3B David Rushford, OF Alex Lim, 2B William Bolling, and 1B Rolando James. CF Stan Peterson did a nice job getting on base for these guys; he'll be counted on to do it again.
Toronto: They came in 11th last season in offense. They have some decent pieces in LF Kevin Yamakazi and 3B Orlando Diaz, but they lack a top-of-the-order type guy who can get on base and score runs. They'll likely struggle again.
Philadelphia: The NL's worst offense will not be returning its top home run hitter and run producer from last season. RF Bob Post is the best returning hitter, and he has little help. Philadelphia is expecting big things from IF Doc Bowen, but he needs to find a position (probably not shortstop, at least this season) and prove he can produce. I don't see where the runs are going to come from here.
Fargo: They've relinquished the title of the league's best pitching staff to Atlanta (finishing second to the World champs), but they're still loaded. The trio of Javier Henriquez, Sammy Pierce, and Manny Christians are still dominant. They lose Jimmie Arnold, however; it remains to be seen if the free-agent can come back from major injury (his career may be done). The bullpen is good on paper, but seems to blow a lot of saves for Henriquez in particular. Bert Price, Christopher Siddall, and Kevin Li are likely the three guys at the end of the pen.
Chicago: This was where they needed to improve coming into last season, and they did just that, finishing 5th. Marty Lane and Babe Broadhurst solidified the starting staff, and they have Orber Marin as well. The bullpen is in flux, as the top two save-getters (Kenneth Graves and Mateo Guerrero) both started games as well.
Toronto: They managed to finish 8th in the NL, which kept them in the race for a while. They lack the stars of Fargo and Chicago (even Philadelphia has Bernard Robinson and Harry Lee), but they had enough quality SP to get through. Jeremi Gant, Willis Casey, and Hipolito Santana al won 12 games to tie for the team high. In the bullpen, Mark Ott eats innings out of the bullpen, but is overpaid for a setup guy- he may or may not be able to handle the closer job. With Daryl McKinley not currently on the team (rumor has it his agent and the team may be close to an agreement), the role is up for grabs.
Philadelphia: The 13th best staff in the NL should be a little better this season. They added big-time free-agent Harry Lee to team up with longtime ace Bernard Robinson. Problem is, they have little else. Turner Darr lost 20 games last season and Yuniesky Bennett lost 18; neither is a good starting option. The bullpen is worse. There's no closer: Alex Soto might get the job because there's nobody better, but he's not that good.
1. I'll take Chicago in a close race of Fargo this season. Call it a hunch.
2. The second place team in this division will make the playoffs again.
3. Gotta take Toronto over Philly for third. Lee was a good pickup but doesn't make up the talent difference by himself.
4. If Alex Soto gets the closer's job, he'll blow at least 10 saves.
5. Most likely to get traded out of the division: Toronto's Franco, closely followed by Yamakazi.
6. Look for Fargo to try and add another bat, while Chicago probably will look for a starter, a reliever, or maybe both (although both teams probably won't be looking to take on much more payroll).
We'll start with the NL East, which houses the World Series Champion Atlanta Bandits. Can they repeat? Will Trenton make a move this season? Can Norfolk contend? How is the rebuilding process going down in Washington?
Atlanta: The Bandits had the 4th best offense in the NL last season and while mid-season acquistion Gregg Black has been dealt, many of the same faces return. 1B Stan Starr and 3B Albie Torres are the major power threats, but they have help; RF Calrton MacDougal, 2B Jason Walker, and CF Lynn Abernathy all hit over 25 HRs. 21-year-old Odalis Lopez inherits the catcher's job- expect a good rookie season from him; Trenton's Vasco may have to compete to be the best catcher in this division named Lopez.
Trenton: The Traffic's front office knew that having the 13th best offense in the NL again wouldn't get them a playoff spot, so they made some changes. Mid-season acquisition 2B Cap Herrera re-inked with the team, then they went out and got former Syracuse LF Bret King. The other major change is a full season from highly-touted prospect CF Watty Miller- they could very well be the top 3 in the lineup. Behind them are solid contributors C Vasco Lopez, 3B Enrique Park, and 1B Stephen Mills.
Norfolk: Norfolk finished 12th in offense last season, due in large part to a lack of support for star CF Justin Gordon. Gordon (.288-45-121) had a monster season, but only 2 other guys (C Tony Gutierrez and SS Ignacio Diaz) had more than 60 RBI. 3B Jay Walker had a solid season, but more was expected of him after coming over in the Babe Broadhurst deal last season. Longtime OF Carlos Cervantes struggled yet again-he's a free-agent. Destroyer fans are hoping RF Juan Chavez can take Cervantes's spot.
Washington: The 14th best offense ran on the bats of two guys- 1B Jimmie Williams and 2B Willis Biddle. This season could be even tougher: Williams has been traded to Austin. He'll need help from guys like rookie LF Matt Pall and RF Mark Schmidt. Schmidt and CF Tony Delgado both have blinding speed, but don't get on base enough to use it.
Atlanta: This was by far the best staff in the NL and it doesn't appear this season will be much different. Stephen Michaels, Fred Carter, Matty Eusebio, and Orber Halter are all top starters. The only question in those top 4 might be Eusebio's age (37). Talented rookie Stone Curtis looks to get a shot at the 5th starter's role. The bullpen is in capable hands with closer Tex Howell, free-agent pickup Rob Gilmore, and young gun Emmanuel Nunez.
Trenton: As the 6th best staff in the NL last season, this was a respectable unit. Former Bandit Alex Sanchez is the ace, and they just picked up former Shadow Wolves starter York Watson as a veteran arm. After that, they have talent which is a bit unpredictable in guys like Vic Rincon, Will Piper, and Tito Mercedes. Bernie Corino did a nice job as the closer, and guys like Mitch Clark and newly-signed former Blue Cheese Wesley Cora should form a good bridge.
Norfolk: They finished middle of the pack at 9th in the NL, even without Broadhurst. Malcolm Lawrence and Rod Walters are solid starters. After that, it gets shaky with guys like Eddie Marquis and Edgar Martinez. Del Acquino is a good closer, but the middle relief is a bit of a question. Dan Young was probably the best setup guy last season, but he may be a natural starter.
Washington: They finished 11th in the NL last season. Their best starter last season was Jesus Estrada, but he's now in Toronto. That leaves Bip Brock as the likely Opening-Day starter. He's solid- the rest of the starting staff (Stephen Greenberg, Dixie Reynolds, etc.) appears to be a mess. On the good side, they have young closer Alex Javier, who may already be the best closer in the NL.
1. Atlanta should win the division again. I'd say by at least 10 games.
2. Trenton's not going to catch Atlanta, but they should be right in the race for one of the wild-card spots.
3. Norfolk won't be in contention this season. They may not lose 92 again, but they won't be in the playoff race.
4. Washington won't take a step forward this season- they'll probably be about a 93 loss team again, if not a little worse. They'll be dangerous in a few seasons once their minor league talent develops.
5. Trenton will be looking to add another top starter at some point. Availability may be the only snag- they have the cash and they have young talent to trade.
6. Most likely star to be traded- I'd say Justin Gordon. Norfolk isn't likely to stay in the race. His contract (this season and next at $7.25 million) isn't cheap, but for his production, it isn't outrageous, either.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
To start things off, the trade of Tito Harris for Paul Ingram was not exactly a wanted deal but became a high priority necessity with the departure of Emmett Yearwood to Free Agency. It was decided that Emmett was not the man to play 2B long term. Buster Charles was let go to greener pastures along with the oft injured Steve Elster. To fill these holes in the pitching staff, York Burnett and Randy Stull were acquired more cheaply. It is thought they provide better stability than the two departures.
The offense as it stands going into Spring Training looks like this:
1B - Karim Batista who finally showed why the organization didn't give up on him.
2B - Paul Ingram who brings a better defense to the table at 2B and hopefully a great lead off hitting.
3B - Jay Hegan returns hoping to better last years performance.
SS - Kevin Kim has worked on his defense in the off season and we are hoping that it pays dividends.
LF - Jeremy Glover hopes to change his hitting attitude a bit with a probable move in the batting order.
CF - Will Weston proved he could play even with a weak glove in a pivotal position and hopes to improve upon that.
RF - Wally Harvey returns as the man that the team looks up to for guidance.
C - Joaquin Valentin still is the stalwart defense PC backstop.
C - Patsy Hegan has been given the chance to learn the position this year as Joaquin's backup.
DH - Clarence Hartman has had management puzzled for a couple seasons. There is a new plan in place, if it doesn't pan out expect Clarence on the chopping block early.
Util - Aurelio Prieto and Al Carrasco.
The pitching staff is an a bit of a flux at the moment and will probably be decided by the end of spring training. In the end it will be very capable of handling its opponents once again.
The Pen will actually designate a closer this year beyond popular belief from last year.
and Closer - Dave Stewart
As a side note, the pitching was strong enough last year that Thompson and Ortiz only had 40 innings between them but that will definitely change this season. Although Ortiz may be more than forgotten by seasons end.
Management has yet to identify their bubble player for the season as of yet. A good spring by one of six players could yet land them on the Big League roster.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Austin City Limits and Washington D.C. Blue Coats
Austin gets: 1B Jimmie Williams
Washington gets: 3B Ewell Elster (AAA), SP Oleg Clay (AAA)
Analysis: Interesting deal from Austin's perspective, but the way I see it, they can't lose. They feel they are ready to contend with a huge influx of talent from their minor league system and, in their eyes, needed one big bat. So they went out and got a huge bat at the 1B position. Moreover, he's inexpensive this season ($1.3 million). If Austin falls out of contention, there will probably be suitors for him, or they could hang on to him (he's arbitration-eligible starting next season). Williams solidified his reputation as one of the best left-handed power bats in the game last season, not having a drop-off in production after the David Rushford trade.
In return, Washington gets a good 3B prospect in the process and a bit of a wild-card at the starting pitching position. Elster looks like a good all-around hitter who should be a decent-to-good defensive third baseman. Clay has talent- his only drawback is his durability. It remains to be seen how many innings he'll be able to throw in the big leagues.
Trenton continues to be a big-time player in the free-agent market. A day after re-signing Cap Herrera, they added to their outfield by inking former Syracuse LF Bret King. The 31- year old left fielder hit .279 last season with 38 HRs and 95 RBI. He received a 5-year, $38 million contract to switch teams.
While King heads south, former Shakers 3B Vin Foulke will head north, as he signed a 3-year, $16.2 million contract. Foulke saw part-time duty last season, as he couldn't crack a talented Salt Lake City team. He'll go play for the division rival Wild this season.
The biggest name pitcher to sign thus far is former Sultans pitcher York Burnett. He went 12-2 as the swingman for Monterrey last season. He signed with Helena for 3 years and $18 milion.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Jerome Oliver, arguably the best free-agent starter on the market, has signed a 4-year, $33.25 million contract with the New Orleans Voodoo. This continues a busy off-season for the Lousiana franchise, as they picked up Gregg Black in a trade. It appears they feel they can catch the 6-time division champion Houston Riverdogs- taking one of their best starters might be a good way to go do just that. The Voodoo have scheduled a press conference tomorrow to announce the signing and to introduce Oliver to the media.
Meanwhile, one of the big hitters on the market has decided to stay right where he is. Cap Herrera, after joining Trenton in a mid-season deal with Vancouver, declined his option and became a free-agent. But after Trenton offered him 4-years and $30.6 million to stay with the team, he decided New Jersey would be a good place to live. GM gumbercules told TBDN, "This was a deal we wanted to get done quickly. We felt he was one of the top 2 or 3 hitters out there on the market. His agent told us that although he was opting out, he was still confident that we could get something done to keep him here with the Traffic. We are pleased with the outcome."
Monday, August 3, 2009
New Orleans Voodoo and Atlanta Bandits
New Orleans gets: 2B Gregg Black, C Chuck Reed
Atlanta gets: SP Santiago Perez (AAA)
Analysis: The rich get richer. The Bandits trade an aging (although still potent) Black and a catcher who never did find his stroke in Atlanta for a top of the rotation-type guy in Perez. Perez may not be the hardest thrower, but righties just can't seem to find the ball against him. He's not a big injury risk and the guy's a horse. He'll fit right into Atlanta's already talented starting staff soon. Black represents a risk for the Voodoo. He's still a dangerous hitter, but he put up the lowest numbers of his career. Atlanta picked him up figuring (perhaps rightly) that he was the missing piece in a championship puzzle. I don't see New Orleans, which has missed the playoffs for 5 straight seasons, suddenly being vaulted into contention for the title with this move. Reed, although he may never hit, is a talented defensive catcher who was a large part of the Bandits' title team with his handling of the pitching staff and his leadership. He's still only 25.
Chicago Snake Tamers and Monterrey Sultans
Chicago gets: RF Ryan Snyder
Monterrey gets: SP Shane Simms (Low-A)
Analysis: Chicago gets perennial 40-40 candidate Snyder to boost the offense, as they are still trying to catch the Dirtbags in the Central. Usually Fargo and Chicago make offseason moves to counteract each other, and this was quite a good pickup as an opening salvo. I think Chicago gets the better end of the deal, although not by much. Simms, in my estimation, will never be a star, but he appears to be a solid contributor type- a #3 starter on a good team. Simms was Chicago's 1st roun pick last season.