Thursday, May 27, 2010
- The best team in the National League thus far hasn't been the defending champion Austin City Limits or the Fargo Dirtbags, who just ran off 10 straight wins. No, the best team thus far has been Washington at 19-7. They're an astounding 14-2 at home and former MVP Luis Martinez is off to a torrid start. In addition, they're getting help from AAA in the form of Andrew Clayton and Matty Pena. Yikes.
- Fargo is 17-9, but Kansas City is only one game back at 16-10. They might be for real.
- The East is already shaping up to be a good 3 team race. Washington doesn't look like it's going anywhere, and Atlanta is always right there at the end. But Trenton is a force as well (and they'd be even more dangerous with something vaguely resembling a bullpen)- they have a solid lineup and 5 legitimate starters.
- Does anyone want to win the West? Salt Lake City and Salem are tied at 11-15, although I have to think Salt Lake City will turn it on at some point.
- The South has some early contenders, but it's too early to tell. We know Austin at 16-10 is a real contender, but New Orleans is right there at 15-11 and Huntington is close at 13-13. Questions remain about both teams' pitching staffs (Huntington only due to Gates's injury), so it remains to be seen if either or both will be mentioned as a contender 100 games from now.
- Vancouver's offense didn't hear about the rollover to season 10. They're averaging 3.8 runs a game (only Pittsburgh and Norfolk are worse in the NL) and are 10-16.
- In addition to Martinez (.395-9-28), New Orleans's Ray Cepicky (.434-12-28) and Huntington's Willie Scott (.362-8-29 are off to very hot starts.
- In a division with Carter Leonard, David Dunwoody, Dwight Salmon, Fred Carter, Kaz Whang, and Santiago Perez, the two best starters in the NL East have been Trenton's Jason Sprague (4-0, 1.84) and Washington's John Balfour (2-0, 1.86). Can you say depth, ladies and gentlemen?
- Monterrey (21-5) is the class of the league thus far. They're a balanced team- they have 11 guys with at least 10 RBI. They don't lose at home (10-3) or on the road (11-2).
- Jackson (16-11) and Montgomery (15-11) could make the AL South as competitive as the NL East.
- On the down side, one might think that Charlotte (4-22) could win more than 4 by accident.
- Cincinnati (16-10) and Milwaukee (13-13) are both ahead of AL North favorite St. Louis (12-14), although Cincinnati started hot last season and faded fast. We'll see if they have some staying power this season.
- Ditto New York (15-11), currently leading Louisville by one game.
- The West is a jumble. Seattle (14-12), Anaheim (13-13), Cheyenne (12-14), and Boise (10-16) all look pretty much the same right now- decent teams with serious flaws.
- Buffalo's A.J. Leonard (.352-11-27), Scranton's Victor Mercado (.300-11-34), Seattle's Osvaldo Johnson (.255-10-30), and Monterrey's Sean Simpson (.405-9-26) are hot to start the season.
- Cincinnati's Louie Bolivar (6-0, 2.02) and Monterrey's Luther Brush (5-0, 2.54) are leading their teams to division leads right now.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Our old nemesis St Louis is in town for a three game set. By odd choice an off day is thrown in during the series as we eked out a win in the first game after giving up 4 runs in the first inning but shut down their offense after that and used the long ball to get back in it.
Gumby is right about the team this year. I have no clue how this team will finish but I do like Cheyenne much better than Las Vegas or Helena. The team itself has not changed much from last year in all reality, so I am really optimistic. Juan Chavez was gotten cheap in the FA market and has provided us with a good lead-off hitter. Paul Ingram was actually a miss-click on my part as he was someone I really didn't want as there was a better choice available. Chuck Reed was traded for because I favor good defensive catchers over power hitting ones with inadequate defensive stats. Chuck was actually an upgrade hitting wise also, not much but hopefully significant. Johnny Guerrero and Edwin Corey are both rookies more or less and neither are not hitting like I expected so far.
It may be early in the season, but already examining the prospects in AAA. Zeke McDonald is showing signs that Paul Ingram may have been a huge mistake on my part. Dave Cosby says that Edwin Corey might have been the wrong choice also. The trade for Wade Hayes may have been a great pickup, though the jury is still out waiting to see if he makes some strides early this season. John Cho, Andrew Hermanson, Victor Valenzuela and Carlos Nunez are also pitching well. All four may not be all that great but will have to do in a pinch at the ML level. We have our eyes on a couple other potential MLers further down the line in the minors also.
Our attention will soon turn toward the draft this year as will everyones. We have three picks in the top 100. We spent more on scouting this year to more or less take some of the strenuous guess work out, hopefully. We have future holes to fill so the first pick has to be somewhat of a star for a change in some shape, way or form.
A question from the Bipster, "If things go south this season, will the vets be up for auction before or after the deadline?" The answer to that question is a wait and see, several of the contracts are in the final season for a couple players that could find their way onto a contender for the right price. Some have short contracts that could also be very attractive to a contender. His following question threw us for a loop though, "Is it time to dismantle and start over?" That was probably the most thought provoking question of the day that I couldn't really answer.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The team has started 6-5, losing the first game of our 3 game set with Norfolk (a bit of a disappointing game), but I think the fans have to be encouraged by going 6-4 against Atlanta, Washington, and Salt Lake City- a tough way to open the season. After finishing with Norfolk, the Traffic will embark on a 6 game road trip to San Juan and Helena, who are both 3-8 at this point.
While the offense isn't clicking on all cylinders, a few hitters are off to blistering starts. Stephen Mills is hitting .375 with 5 homers and 12 RBI in 11 games, and Vasco Lopez has driven in 10. 5 guys (Mills, Lopez, Watty Miller, Cap Herrera, and Dewey Greenwood) are hitting above .300. On the cold side, Ryan Snyder is hitting .208 and Bret King is hitting .255.
The pitching is a tale of two units. The starting staff is having the best of times, with David Dunwoody (1-0, 4.91) the only starter with an ERA over 2 thus far. The bullpen has seen the worst of times, with no reliever who has pitched more than 3 innings being able to hold the league to under .300.
Anaheim is coming to town and they look monstrous on offense! Pitching looks a bit homer happy though which may be our best ally.
Edwin Corey had a great spring but is barely hitting his weight so far. Then again Wally Harvey and Will Weston are in slumps also.
No Traffic Jam report yet?
Thursday, May 20, 2010
New York is 6-1 after a surprising start to their season beating up on Boston and Scranton. The box scores indicate they pick on the opponents pens late in the game taking victory out of the jaws of defeat. Keys to victory is to beat up on their starters early and often putting the game out of reach and deny their late inning heroics. I get to find out if Charlie White is as good as I think he will be in game 1 of the series. He had a great game against Seattle giving up 1 hit in 7 innings so expectations are high.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Now we traipse off to Boise before heading home and an off day. Boise started the season with 4 1-run losses, odds of that are astronomical if you ask me. So they will be out for blood. Again we face another tough bunch and it just isn't a trio, try the entire lineup. Our pitching staff will have to be on their toes. The starting pitching is young and looks somewhat vulnerable. The pen was very unhelpful for support. The keys to beating Boise, keep the offense off the base paths and from going deeeeeep then take advantage of the pitching.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
In San Juan, the Dead Bunnies welcomed in the reigning champion City Limits. Louis Feliz gave up only one run in six innings for Austin and Ken Keagle added three hits and 2 RBI to help pace the City Limits to a comfortable 5-1 victory.
In Salt Lake City, the Vancouver Golden Otters batted around in the first inning and held a 5-0 lead before the dangerous Shaker offense ever got to the plate. SLC starter Gary Jackson gave up 7 runs while getting only 3 outs in a 8-3 loss to the Golden Otters.
In Atlanta, a revamped Trenton Traffic offense pounded out 16 hits as they knocked off the hometown Bandits 9-4. Stephen Mills homered and drove in 4 runs, while newly reacquired Bret King drove in 3 and scored twice.
In Kansas City, Ozzie Acker gave up only 2 runs in 7 2/3 innings for the Scouts and the offense pounded out 15 hits to beat the Minnesota North Stars 9-2. Ricky Carpenter finished a triple short of the cycle and Fernando Ibanez finished a homer short of the cycle.
In St. Louis, River City Rage ace Yogi Anderson was throwing a 1-hitter and had a 1-0 lead going into the ninth, when he and three relievers yielded 6 runs to the Cincinnati Simpletons. St. Louis couldn't score in the bottom of the ninth, and Cincinnati got a 6-1 decision.
In Monterrey, 1B Reagan Aldred was the offensive star, as his 2-run homer in the second held up. Albert Gonzalez and two relievers combined to limit archvial Jackson to 2 hits as the Sultans beat the Vipers 2-0.
In Seattle, Cheyenne starter Louie Martin was pulled after 6 innings and 82 pitches despite throwing a no-hitter at the time. Coco Briggs broke up the combined no-no in the eighth, but the outcome had been decided long before that; Wally Harvey's 3rd inning grand slam saw to that. Seattle managed only one run on one hit and fell to Cheyenne 6-1.
In New York, the Knickerbockers surprised some experts by starting Dixie Reynolds on Opening Day- he surprised most of everyone by holding Boston to 1 run on 3 hits over 8 innings. Karim Vega had 4 hits and scored twice to help lead New York to a 5-1 win.
- In Fargo, Dirtbags ace Javier Henriquez came unravelled in the 5th inning, as his own throwing error led to 5 unearned runs- he yielded 8 in the inning. That was enough for visiting Philadelphia to earn a 9-4 win over the defending NL North champs.
- In New Orleans, Huntington starter Kenneth Graves did his best Lonny Gates impersonation, allowing only 1 run over 7 strong innings. But Cristian Price gave up a 2-1 lead in the 8th by surrendering 4 runs, allowing the hometown Voodoo to pull out a 5-2 victory. Jerome Oliver gave up only an unearned run in 7 innings, and rookie Miguel Estalella earned the win in relief.
- In Washington, the Blue Coats used the longball and a former Cy Young winner to fend off the visiting Norfolk Destroyers. Peter Guerrero had two solo homers and Willis Biddle added a 2-run shot to provide all the offense Carter Leonard would need, as he pitched 7 innings in a 4-2 victory.
- In Salem, the Sacrifices welcomed the Helena Straw Hat Pirates to the league. The SHPs opened their existence in smashing fashion, as Steve Sweeney led off the game with a solo home run, but that was where the highlights ended for them. Salem starter Sammy Garrido settled down after that and gave up only 3 runs in 8 innings, earning the win. C Luis Sanchez went 3 for 3 and drove in 4 to key a 7-3 victory.
- In Louisville, the defending AL champion Legends couldn't solve the six Scranton pitchers that combined for a 3-2 victory. Fred Ripken earned the win, pitching 1 2/3 of scoreless ball and Stan Peterson added a home run for the Janitors.
- In Charlotte, the Montgomery Alibamu reaped immediate dividends from their huge preseason trade. Newly acquired Stone Curtis threw 8 shutout innings and they still had enough offense (with Vladimir Rodriguez hitting two homers) to easily beat the Lions 8-0.
-In Boise, the Shadow Wolves slugged 4 homers (2 each by Damaso Brogna and the recently acquired David Rushford), but the biggest homer of the game came off the bat of Anaheim Chiles' star Dweezil Milligan- his 3 run shot in the sixth inning broke a 4-4 tie and cued the Chiles to a 7-6 win.
- In Milwaukee, Brandon Rhodes led off the season with a homer and Alex Calvo pitched seven good innings, yielding only one run, to lead the hometown Manic Maulers over the Buffalo Blue Cheese by a score of 3-2.
Last season: 79-83 (3rd in AL West)
Offense: 10th in AL
Pitching: 7th in AL
Summary: 3B James Dixon may be the most well-known name to the casual fan, but the offense doesn't revolve around him anymore. He's still quite good and plays an important role, but the middle of the lineup now consists of thumpers RF Dweezil Milligan, 2B Bob Stewart, and LF Pedro Candelaria. Dixon, Milligan, and CF Kyle Ramirez are all threats to steal. If they can get contributions from SS Vic Mercado and IF Gerald Stargell, this could be a dangerous lineup.
The rotation is pretty good, especially at the top. Former Cy Young winner Mateo Batista is the real deal, and young pitchers Peaches Thompson, Gaylord Masterson, and Victor DeLeon have the potential to be pretty good. 21-year-old Mike Lowery may have potentially the best stuff out of everyone on the staff, but he's injured. L.J. Jordan is shaky as the closer- Greg Neiman could take over for him if he continues to struggle. The bullpen was already somewhat thin before losing Steve Clay for the entire season with an aneurysm.
Outlook: This is a good team, but I'm not sure if they're deep enough in the lineup or bullpen to be able to keep up and contend for a playoff spot. If they make a deal or two to get some help, that could change.
BOISE SHADOW WOLVES
Last season: 75-87 (Last in AL West)
Offense: T-6th in AL
Defense: 12th in AL
Summary: The offense will be fine. They have LF Barry McEnroe, who will be an MVP candidate for the next 5-8 seasons or so. McEnroe, RF Damaso Brogna, IF Ryan Hamill, and 1B Michael Lee all hit at least 30 homers, so they'll slug their way to wins at times- they and DH Santiago Martin are threats to go deep at any time in any park. They added veteran 3B David Rushford from Fargo to add even more power. They're hoping rookie INF Dennis Huang can add some speed and get on base.
The pitching staff was, and still is, a mess. They're going to go with a rotation of youngsters in Victor Soto, Pedro Limon, Hector Manto, Mitch Foster, and Bruce Stairs. Limon, Manto, and Stairs in particular have some talent, but they're a season or two away from being good. Word is AAA Einar Crespo could join the big league squad later in the season, but I don't see that tipping the scales all that much. Alex Cornejo was outstanding as the closer last season, and Don Wang is a very good setup guy for the money he's being paid.
Outlook: If they had more pitching I would like this squad a lot. As it stands, I'm not sure I can pick them to beat out anyone in the division, which for the second straight season would make them the most talented basement dweller.
CHEYENNE WAR CATS
Last season: 91-71 (1st in AL West, 4th in AL)
Offense: 13th in AL
Pitching: 1st in AL
Summary: It's tough to win a division by being in the bottom fourth in the league in offense, but that's just what Cheyenne did. They do have some talent, in particular the "Four W's" (CF Will Weston, DH Willie Sierra, RF Wally Harvey, and LF William Bolling) and IF Kevin Kim. They could use some depth after that.
They had the best pitching staff by the numbers last season. Louie Martin and Wilfredo Redondo were outstanding (Redondo will at least start the season in the pen), and Anthony Hall and Glen Bush both pitched to an ERA under 4. Felipe Cela won 10 games. They added veteran Charlie White from San Juan in the offseason. Closer Coco Hines had a season for the ages (59 of 61 saves) and Adrian Hendrickson and Octavio Calles aren't bad setting up.
Outlook: They've contended with this crew before, so I won't necessarily count them out. However, I don't think they can repeat. The offense is just OK and pretty much all of their pitchers had career seasons, leading me to believe that at least some of them should come back down to earth a little this season. If that happens, I'm not sure they grab a playoff spot this season.
SEATTLE KILLER WHALES
Last season: 89-73 (2nd in AL West, 5th in AL)
Offense: 11th in AL
Pitching: 2nd in AL
Summary: This is not quite the offense it once was. They still have the star power in LF Jacque Puffer, 2B Jack Hunt, and 1B Osvaldo Johnson. But the supporting cast isn't nearly as good as it used to be. The Orcas are still waiting for RF Candy Kreuter to come around and are hoping that C Kris Olson trend of hitting well in even-numbered seasons continues.
The pitching staff is still quite good. They have Marty Lane, Junior Bennett, Kane Grahe, and Slash Ruffin as the top 4. Former ace Miguel Benitez isn't what he once was as the #5 starter. The bullpen is headlined by Quilvio Sanchez, and Larry Carasone and converted starter Rico Mangual lead a pretty solid middle relief corps.
Outlook: They could end up winning the division by default. While all 4 teams in the division are good, all have warts. This could be a wide-open race- I'd install Seattle as a slight favorite right now.
Last season: 67-95 (4th in AL South)
Offense: 12th in AL
Pitching: 14th in AL
Summary: On paper, this isn't a bad offense. They have plenty of veteran bats in C Tony Stieb, DH Mel Messner, LF Andre Eckenstahler, 3B Alex Lugo, OF Luis Melo, and IF Albert Reith. They're not outstanding but there is some depth to the lineup.
I can't say I'm terribly high on their pitching staff. The starting staff is cobbled together with journeymen veterans in Lawrence Carver, Jerry Terry, Ryan Martin, Alfredo Veras, and Felix Comer. They signed longtime starter Manny Christians to be the closer in the twilight of his career and I don't see where the setup help will come from.
Outlook: Not good. Even in the best-case scenario (where their offense is clicking and around average in the AL) they can't pitch anywhere well enough to be even a decent team, nevermind a contender. Look for another last place finish.
Last season: 83-79 (2nd in AL South, 6th in AL)
Offense: 4th in AL
Pitching: 5th in AL
Summary: This is a deep and potentially scary lineup, complete with power and speed. They had 4 guys (2B Tony Johnson, LF Dennis Tamura, 1B Kevin Nakano, DH Esteban Vega, and RF Neifi James) who drove in at least 80 runs and 4 guys (Tamura, James, CF Raul Vallarta, and 3B Steve Lofton) who stole at least 30 bases. Collectively, they could hit for a higher average and get on base more, but they've got the individual talent.
Last season saw the homegrown staff further define itself, good and bad. Fausto Almanza won 20 games and earned a Cy Young Award last season. Ivan Webster and Jimmy Cole both won 11 games, but Cole did it with an ERA over 5. The most talented of the group, Alex Samuel, cemented his reputation as a guy who can't throw much more than 150 innings and won only 8 games. In the bullpen, Garry "Dreamweaver" Wright is still one of the best closers in the game and he'll have Vic Molina to set him up.
Outlook: They should be in contention again, possibly having enough to take down Monterrey. Getting Samuel back healthy (currently on the 15-day DL) would be a good start.
Last season: 98-64 (1st in AL South, 2nd in AL)
Offense: 5th in AL
Pitching: 4th in AL
Summary: Last season's massive deal to bring in superstar LF Sean Simpson had a huge impact. Simpson had, if not for Buffalo's A.J. Leonard, what easily could have been an MVP season. With Simpson, DH Tony Escuela, CF Del Lopez, C Vin Logan, RF Trot Turner, 2B Nate Cox, and newly acquired OF Magglio Perez (from Trenton), they've got a star-studded lineup that can slug with anybody.
The pitching staff is loaded with solid veterans. Longtime Sultans Luther Brush, Albert Gonzalez, Johnnie Reagan, Patrick Clifton, and Jocko Keats form the rotation. Closer Pablo Rijo still notches saves but blows more than he used to, which is a bit worrisome at age 37. Tony Merced could conceivably take over if necessary- as it stands, he's a good 8th inning guy.
Outlook: They should be in the playoff mix again. They've got two good teams in their division, so another division title isn't a lock. But they'd have to be the early favorites.
Last season: 82-80 (3rd in AL South)
Offense: 3rd in AL
Pitching: Last in AL
Summary: The one position player Montgomery fans are talking about right now is the one who isn't on their team: Mitch Sobkowiak. The star 3B was dealt to Atlanta in the offseason, all but ensuring the offense won't be as good this season as it was last season: it's hard to replace 43 homers and 113 RBI. As it is, they aren't bereft of talent; LF Alex Suarez, RF Felipe Valdes, DH Vladimir Rodriguez, CF Matty Clemens, and OF Thurman Allen still remain. The loss of Sobkowiak puts them closer talent-wise to Charlotte's offense (although I'd rather have Montgomery's) than Monterrey's or Jackson's.
The reason Sobkowiak was dealt was because the pitching was so bad, and Montgomery knew they needed a change here. So Mitch was dealt for two top pitchers in Stone Curtis and Neifi Gonzalez. Sadie Witt, Russell Newson, and Mark Bong should not be your top 3 starters, but they are acceptable as the last three starters, which is what the acquisition of Curtis and Gonzalez has done. The rotation goes from terrible to somewhere from acceptable to good- it's hard to say exactly where. It still remains to be seen if anyone in the bullpen can get hitters out consistently.
Outlook: At first look, I'd have to put them a step behind Monterrey and Jackson in this division. But they only finished a game back of Jackson with no pitching whatsoever, and now they have some. I still think they need work on the bullpen, however.
BUFFALO BLUE CHEESE
Last season: 76-86 (3rd in AL North)
Offense: 6th in AL
Pitching: 10th in AL
Summary: This is a solid lineup with depth. LF A.J. Leonard is arguably the best player in the game, and he's not alone in the lineup- 1B Julio Diaz is still a threat to go deep every single at-bat, and 2B Alex Saenz, IF Tito Martin, and C Dean Buerhle are all solid bats.
The pitching staff still has a way to go to be good. Miguel Hernandez and Chris Lowry both lost 14 games last season. In the bullpen, rookie George Danks may not be ready to take the closer's role, and Archie LeCroy and Al Root are shaky. On the plus side, D'Angelo Martin and George Hurst (I've been critical of him in this spot before) both had very nice seasons last year.
Outlook: They have some nice pieces (especially on offense), but I don't think the puzzle is complete enough to contend.
Last season: 79-83 (2nd in AL North)
Offense: 9th in AL
Pitching: 11th in AL
Summary: Rather than go out and add through free-agency, Cincinnati has chosen to develop its young offensive players through its own system. RF P.T. Lee is one of the most dynamic players in the league; he came through the Cincinnati system along with 2B Bob Hauser, IF Louis Wunsch, and CF Alex Jose. These four will form the crux of the offense, but they may miss veteran C Willis Petrov, who signed with Philadelphia.
Their pitching staff may very well be better than last season. They may not have a true ace, but they're pretty solid 1 through 5 with Louie Bolivar, Lucas Worthington, veteran Stephen Michaels, Lonny Hernandez, and rookie Andres DeLeon. The questions come with the middle of the rotation: can Michaels (at age 37) hold up and how many quality innings can Worthington and Hernanez provide? DeLeon has the look of a future #1 or #2 starter. They have a lot of money tied up in the bullpen, as Bert Price, Dave Stewart, or Achilles Hume could all conceivably close.
Outlook: This is a team on the brink. If their pitching holds up and they add some more offense, this could be a contending team. If not, expect maybe a few more wins but probably not enough to get in the playoffs.
MILWAUKEE MANIC MAULERS
Last season: 71-91 (4th in AL North)
Offense: 15th in AL
Pitching: 9th in AL
Summary: They knew they had to make changes in order to contend, and they most certainly tried. Last season's RBI leader, Morris Sierra, will start the season in AAA. Young infielders Lorenzo Santana and Max Javier become the focal point of the offense. They raided Trenton's left side of the infield from last season, grabbing both 3B/OF Brook Teut and SS Ignacio Diaz.
But the biggest move came on the other side of the ball. They signed the biggest free-agent pitcher, Oswaldo Astacio, to a massive contract to be the ace. That moves Barry Rader back to #2 (they're waiting patiently on Rader, as he was the major piece of the Martinez/Stevenson trade). The other three starters are Alex Calvo, Joe Gleason, and Japanese import Kenta Martin- on paper, this isn't a bad rotation at all. A major question should be how Alexander Richardson handles the closer's role. I'm not sure about the rest of the bullpen.
Outlook: It's hard to say. I'm not sure they can contend, but they definitely added some better pieces. The impact of the Astacio signing down the line remains to be seen.
ST. LOUIS RIVER CITY RAGE
Last season: 91-71 (1st in AL North, 3rd in AL)
Offense: 8th in AL
Pitching: 3rd in AL
Summary: The lineup is deeper than their ranking might imply. DH Rex Kent, RF Placido Sanchez, IF Rico Guevara, and IF Pepe Martin are all good solid run producers. They've also got the table setters in 1B Nick Hernandez and CF Gary Nelson, and SS Alex Silva could break into stardom at any time. This season they added another solid bat in 1B/DH Burt Stevenson.
The pitching staff should be fine, especially at the top. Yogi Anderson is a legitmate ace when he's on, and Billy Nation is a solid #2. Vernone Taubensee, Antonio Perez, and Tomas Ontiveros are solid at the back of the rotation. Can closer Carlos Carrasco recapture his past magic?
Outlook: They'd have to be viewed as the favorites to repeat as division champs, but I think it will be closer than most experts seem to think it will be.
Last season: 81-81 (2nd in AL East)
Offense: 2nd in AL
Pitching: 13th in AL
Summary: They have offensive talent in a hitter's park, which leads to plenty of runs. SS Daniel Koch, 1B Wilton Petrick, RF Ryan Snyder, and 2B Tommy Jordan all drove in at least 100 runs- only Snyder (free agent signing with Trenton) won't be back. They'll also return C Rick Anderson, CF Butch Swift, 3B Frank Campbell, and RF Harold Lewis and they added LF Bernie Soriano (Pittsburgh), so they can hit with anyone in the AL.
They lack pitching talent in a hitter's park, which leads to plenty of runs. Longtime ace Daryl Cashman may be in the bullpen now, but I predict he'll be back in the rotation in short order. They dealt for James Morton last season (Milwaukee) to be the ace, but he struggled in 10 starts in Boston. They're going with 4 young starters after that (B.C. Santiago, David James, Pascual Beltre, Victor Sierra) who may or may not pan out- I'd give James the best shot out of the three. Beltre should be solid eventually, but I'm not sold on Santiago or Sierra- at best they're innings eaters. Larry Driskill looks like a good young closer, and he's got veteran former starters in Cashman and Christy Castillo to help in the pen.
Outlook: The offense is good enough to compete this season. But I'm not sure even the most optimistic of Boston fans would have enough faith in this young starting staff to carry them past Louisville or even to a wild card spot.
Last season: 105-57 (1st in AL East, 1st in AL, AL Champions)
Offense: 1st in AL
Pitching: 6th in AL
Summary: The offense will look a little different, but it's mostly the same crew that blew away AL pitching staffs last season. All-Star SS Amp Palmer, LF Albert Martin, C/DH Ernest Montgomery, RF Stubby Byrne, C Steven O'Malley, and 3B Orlando Franco are all dangerous hitters. They're expecting 1B Ismael Polanco to return healthy this season and provide yet another bat in the middle of this lineup. They expect big things from CF Trever Pierre, a young speedster. This lineup may not be quite as good as last season's, but they're still awfully good.
As with the offense, the pitching staff lost a little depth but should still be solid. Their top 3 is in tact with Danny Little, Hipolito Maradona, and Lance Stevens- all are good veteran arms. They may miss Claude Jacquez (signed with Atlanta) at the end of the rotation- I'm not sure how much they can count on longtime minor leaguer Dennis Knorr to contribute. Buddy Titan struggled at times as the closer but he's a reliable veteran.
Outlook: They lost some pieces but they're still better than anyone else in this division. They might not win 105 again, but they'll be among the best in the AL yet again.
NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS
Last season: 60-102 (Last in AL East)
Offense: Last in AL
Pitching: 8th in AL
Summary: Changes had to be made to this offense. 1B Mule Mulholland led the team with 80 RBI, but that doesn't even begin to tell the story. They had 7 regulars hit double digit totals in strikeouts, led by SS Mateo James's sickening 202. So the New York front office handed out some major contracts this offseason, making big splashes in signing 3B Denny Moss from Seattle and C Cy Hughes from Huntington. Those two will be expected to lead the offense, joining Mulholland and young infielders Marcus Goldman and Albert Dale. LF Karl Benes is a solid, if unspectacular, bat.
Surprisingly, their offense may be the better part of their team. Their starting pitchers are Dixie Reynolds, Vin Espinosa, Marv Starr, Benito Maduro, and Jackie Page; can't say I'd have a lot of faith in any one of those guys. Jason Franco took a step back last season as the closer, and there are question marks outside of Tom Cummings in the steup roles.
Outlook: Their offense will unquestionably be better, but I don't see the pitching staff holding up over 162 games. They could challenge Scranton for third, but don't look beyond that.
Last season: 70-92 (3rd in AL East)
Offense: 13th in AL
Pitching: 15th in AL
Summary: At least CF Turner Dolan doesn't feel like a 1-man crew anymore. He at least had nominal support with RF slugger Victor Mercado and C Odalis James having nice offensive seasons around him. To provide further depth, they added veteran IF Stan Peterson (Monterrey), formerly highly touted 3B Jay Hegan (Cheyenne), and speedy IF Tony Delgado (Milwaukee). This could be the deepest lineup they've had since the back-to-back wild card teams.
The pitching staff is where they may have trouble. Of their top 4 winners from last season, three are gone (Dennys Fox, Steve Elster, Jesus Estrada) and Bing Brow has been demoted to the pen. This season they'll try to piece it together with a starting staff of Kelly Downs (who may or may not have anything left at age 36), Tito Mercedes (free-agent signing after washing out with Salem), Rule-5 draftee Junior Guillen, rookie Luke Stein (who I think has a nice future but he may struggle a bit this season), and Michael Giambi (who the organization is still waiting for to turn the corner). Arthur Gates is the closer-for now. It could very well be someone else at the end of the season.
Outlook: They'll be battling with New York again to stay out of the basement. But they won't pitch nearly enough to be anywhere close to Boston, never mind Louisville.
HELENA STRAW HAT PIRATES
Last season: 70-92 (as Los Angeles Poseidons, 3rd in NL West)
Offense: 13th in NL
Pitching: 8th in NL
Summary: This is still a team in need of offense. 3B William Nomo and 1B Rick Forster were the only consistent run producers last season. They need help from the supporting cast like RF Steve Sweeney. I'm not sure how much 2B Lynn Abernathy or CF DeWayne Castillo have left.
Their pitching staff could use some depth. Enrique Gutierrez and Miguel Reyes are solid at the top, but they need help after. Hi Fox is an ultratalented rookie with control problems- his future remains to be seen. The bullpen has some talent with closer Paul Schwartz and setup man Kenneth Schalk.
Outlook: I don't see this team contending. They should be right around last season's win total, give or take a few.
Last season: 59-103 (Last in NL West)
Offense: 14th in NL
Pitching: 13th in NL
Summary: Their young players didn't perform well last season, but they do have some talent. RF Melvin Taylor is the offensive star on this team, but he'll have some help with the young contact and speed guys, like 2B Albert Nunez and IF Danny Wilson as well as IF Pascual Alonso. On the other hand, OF Juan Valdes still drives in runs but has precipitously declined since his big-time season two years ago.
They will go with primarily the same starting staff as last season, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Sammy Garrido is a future star but hasn't put it together yet. Benjo Stewart and Nerio Branson are OK starters, but nothing more. They signed former Fargo reliever Kevin Li to close for this team.
Outlook: Can't help but think they'll be better this season. I like the young offense and Garrido. They won't contend but I don't think they'll lose 100, either.
SALT LAKE CITY SHAKERS
Last season: 95-67 (1st in NL West, 4th in NL)
Offense: 1st in NL
Pitching: 14th in NL
Summary: This is a lineup that, without the benefit of a DH, scored 960 runs and outscored every AL team except Louisville (965). RF Vic James is a perrenial MVP candidate and 1B Ruben Hernandez should be. The supporting cast is dangerous in IF Jordan Newfield, IF Che Bong, IF Jordan Newfield, CF George Lowe, and OF Philip McCartin- all 5 guys hit for a good average and can run. C Nick Robertson added 30 homers, so this lineup runs 8 men deep.
The pitching staff needs work. They tend to go to the bullpen earlier than most teams by design, but they still need quality innings from the starters, which Alex Sanchez, Cliff Miller, Rob Cepeda, and Gary Jackson can't necessarily be counted on to provide. The relief corps wasn't any better; Sam Lesher led the team in wins but had an ERA over 6 and closer Felipe Calles had an ERA of 5.22.
Outlook: This team can slug its way to another division title, but I think the pitching is going to have to improve before they can seriously contend for a World Series championship.
VANCOUVER GOLDEN OTTERS
Last season: 92-70 (2nd in NL West, 6th in NL)
Offense: 6th in NL
Pitching: 9th in NL
Summary: Offensively, the strength of the Golden Otters may be their balance. Nobody drove in 100 runs, but five guys drove in 80: 2B Jerry Strickland (97), 3B Wendell Durrington (93), IF Steve Bako (83), CF Roscoe Rigby (81), and C Clarence Hartman (80); all except Bako will be back. Expect IF Jim Gibson to step up and do more than he did last season.
The Golden Otters won't be able to outslug the Shakers; they'll hope to outpitch them. Oswaldo Astacio parlayed a big season into a massive contract with Milwaukee, so the Golden Otters signed former Fargo starter Orber Marin to take his spot and J.R. Guerrero to solidify the back of the rotation. In between will be stalwart veterans Jose Merced, York Burnett, and Glenallen Wehner. Ted Reese had an excellent season as the closer.
Outlook: Not sure if they win the division- I think Salt Lake City's offensive talent may outweigh Vancouver's pitching advantage. But this is a balanced team and should be at least in the wild card mix again.
Monday, May 17, 2010
AUSTIN CITY LIMITS
Last season: 117-45 (1st in NL South, 1st in NL, World Series Champions)
Offense: 4th in NL
Pitching: 1st in NL
Summary: They were not only 1st in the NL in pitching, they led everyone by over half a run per game. In other words, they were absolutely dominant. Their top 4 starters (Dan Bernard, Miguel Castilla, Vladimir Bibby, and Louie Feliz) won 19, 17, 17, and 13 games respectively and none had an ERA more than 3. What has the NL worried is the fact that Feliz, at age 25, is the oldest of the four. Matt Skinner was stellar as the closer, and Eduard Moya and Delino Colon was quite good setting up. All 7 guys will be back this season.
The offense was overshadowed by the pitchers but was also formidable. RF Ken Keagle, CF Rich Porter, 3B Justin Gordon, and IF Mariano Terrero all have both speed and power. SS William Satou is a major stolen base threat, and thumpers LF David Cortez and 1B Jimmie Williams are there to drive in runs. This is a balanced lineup.
Outlook: Don't pick against them to repeat- they should cruise to a division title, as good as Huntington is. Their balance makes them dangerous and this could be the makings of a dynasty.
Last season: 94-68 (2nd in NL South, 5th in NL)
Offense: 7th in NL
Pitching: 3rd in NL
Summary: Their biggest strength took a big hit in spring training. Longtime ace Lonny Gates has a labrum tear in his shoulder and will be out for about half the season. Couple that loss with the signing of 18-game winner Ivan Castilla with Atlanta and suddenly the 3rd best staff from last season doesn't look so formidable. They will have Juan Cabrerea and Kenneth Graves, so at least their top two is ok for now. They need more than 1 win from Perry Herman. On the plus side, closer Cristian Price finally had the breakout season most scouts had been predicting for a long time.
The offense should be in fairly good shape. They will again revolve around MVP candidate 3B Monte Duvall, but they also have RF Butch Russell and 2B Willie Scott to help. The organization is really high on LF Yorvit Terrero, enabling them to trade Bret King back to Trenton. And OF Abdullah Dillon is still a big-time stolen base threat.
Outlook: Gates's injury changes things in a major way. They had to win 94 games to hold off both Trenton and Vancouver by 2 games. I didn't see them catching Austin with a healthy Gates, but this may keep them out of the playoffs. If they can tread water for the first half of the season and stay close with the other wild-card contenders (i.e. Vancouver, Trenton, maybe Washington or Philadelphia), they could be ok.
NEW ORLEANS VOODOO
Last season: 64-98 (3rd in NL South)
Offense: 10th in NL
Defense: 15th in NL
Summary: This team is proof that stolen bases doesn't always translate into runs. They finished 2nd in the NL in steals but only 10th in runs. 1B Bryan Christiansen and IF Kent Fischer both stole 41, but someone needs to drive them in. They do have C Ted Robertson and 1B Matty Matos, both of whom had good seasons. On the other end was 2B Ray Cepicky (the face of the franchise and a borderline future Hall-of-Famer), who had the worst season of his 8 year career. They are taking a gamble on LF Bob Koplove, dumped by 3 teams in a span of less than two years, to provide some of the pop they need.
The pitching is in worse shape. Jerome Oliver was the only double-digit winner, and his ERA was over four and a half. Kevin Pong won 7 fewer games and had an ERA two full runs higher than the season before and earned himself a one-way ticket to St. Louis. The rest of the rotation is a huge question mark. Tom Hernandez is the closer for now- he was awful last season and it was a toss-up between Joe Forrest as for who was worse. My prediction is that rookie reliever Miguel Estalella takes the closer's job before season's end.
Outlook: I don't see this team being much better than last season. 70 wins might be a stretch.
SAN JUAN DEAD BUNNIES
Last season: 58-104 (Last in NL South)
Offense: 11th in NL
Pitching: Last in NL
Summary: They're not as dangerous as they were back in the early days of the franchise when Calvin Chang wore a Dead Bunnies uniform, but it's hard to imagine this team not being at least in the middle of the pack offensively. They've got talent in IF Derrin Hernandez, LF John Baldwin, C Junior Tabaka, and CF Shane Fletcher. The problem was they had a lot of guys with low OBP and a propensity to strike out. In addition, Fletcher had a down season and 3B Tony Kwon was downright awful.
The pitching staff is a mess. Hipolito Pujols was the only double digit winner (right at 10 wins). Bert Pierre went from solid in season 8 to horrible last season. The rest of the options (Earl Biddle, Joey Adcock, Willie Williams) are retreads, although Williams has had some success elsewhere. Jim Clyburn is an ok closer.
Outlook: I think their offense may be better than last season, but I don't see the pitching staff rounding into form. They could challenge New Orleans for third if things fall right, but anything beyond that would be an outright miracle.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
The pitching staff as a whole was working the bugs out of their system and for the most part actually performed better than usual for the spring debacle. The stats may not indicate it but it wasn't all that bad. A concerned look from the pitching coaches showed their angst at the gopher balls surrendered however.
The hitting coaches were somewhat bewildered as Edwin Corey led the way on offense. However his low stamina causes lots of concern in a long season.
The trade of Richard Gabriel opened a much needed roster spot. Coaches are happy with what the scouts saw in Wade Hayes who we got in the deal. The chances of Hayes making the ML roster this year is very remote however.
Management wasn't happy with Zeke McDonald and resigned veteran Paul Ingram. The coaches aren't very happy with either one from an offensive perspective. It was hoped that Ingram could take over the lead-off spot but didn't have a good spring in that position. So management being what it is brought in Juan Chavez to capture that role. He had a good spring from the coaches perspective in limited action in the lead-off spot. However, to move him into the lineup, Wally Harvey must be moved to a corner OF position. With the spring that Dave Cosby had, has put a very big crimp in who to fill the last roster spot with.
With one spot open and three possible players to fill the position makes it really rough, I know several managers would like to have that delima. Management is not exactly inclined to trade anybody at this point which makes the decision that much harder. Both Ingram and Chavez have options where Cosby doesn't. So Cosby will probably be one of the odd men out. In my mind Chavez is the the most likely candidate but most of the coaches are against the idea as they like Ingram much better. William Bolling could be put on the trade block but it is doubtful that anyone would want to absorb his contract for the season at this time. His wants for an extension, though cheaper, is still more than his actual skill and will be offered FA status next year for sure. Depending on how the season goes, Bolling could wind up in AAA or on the Waiver Wire with Cosby taking his place before it is all said and done.
Many of the problems have resulted in the fact that we faced more than the usual left-handed pitchers during the spring. It seemed like a steady stream even though the stats showed an even keel. The stats show we didn't hit lefties well, but still knocked them around pretty hard.
The pitching coaches have yet to decide on a pitching rotation either. Neither have I for that matter. #1 and #2 may be decided but the remaining three are still very much up in the air and could be a last minute decision.
I expect about the same results as last year though I am being very optimistic in that assessment. Really the team composition hasn't changed, just the stadium. We didn't play long ball last season in Vegas and this stadium isn't going to change or improve that fact all that much if any. Pitching is actually stronger and the expectation is fewer gopher balls given up in all reality. For the most part last year, a strong defense, pitching and a tough small ball park was our ally. This year is a bit opposite as we are hoping to play to our best strengths, small ball power hitting with the defense and pitching at home. On the road, I imagine things aren't going to change all that much. But with every season other teams change, how they changed will determine how good our season will be. Many of those other teams are getting better, hopefully we got better also.
The opening bell puts us in Seattle once again. I can't remember the last time we didn't open there. Last year it was a split because of a stupid move on my part, still think I should have won three of the four. Keys to victory is simple, got to shut down that power lineup. Jacque Puffer and Candy Kreuter have been Cat killers in the past. Jack Hunt has never done much damage to us but is ever present and dangerous in the trio. Their pitching staff is strong but very beatable with the Cats on the War path. Winning in Safeco is not an easy task, best chances is a small ball power offense (sound familiar?) and luck.
Last season: 97-65 (1st in NL North, 3rd in NL)
Offense: 2nd in NL
Pitching: 4th in NL
Summary: This was a very good team last season, but I think they've lost some of their depth in certain areas. Fargo has always been known for its starting pitching, and rightly so- Javier Henriquez (always a Cy Young candidate) and Sammy Pierce are both future Hall of Famers. But they lost Orber Marin in free-agency and will be without York Watson for about two months. They did grab the other Orber (Orber Halter) from Minnesota to be the third or fourth starter. In the bullpen, they lost closer Bert Price (free agent- Cincinnati) and setup man Kevin Li (free agent- Salem), leaving Chris Jennings as the likely closer.
On offense, they still have plenty of talent in 3B Calvin Chang, RF Alex Lim, IF Jeremy Glover, and slugging 1B Ricardo Martinez. But OF David Rushford was dealt, and that's one less bat in the lineup.
Outlook: I don't think this team is as good as recent editions. I'd say they may fall short of the division title this season, but I can't see a team in their division that has the talent to knock them off.
KANSAS CITY SCOUTS
Last season: 83-79 (2nd in NL North)
Offense: 9th in NL
Pitching: 7th in NL
Summary: Their offense was decent last season but they lost their biggest offensive cog. LF Albert Castro hit .340 and drove in 100 runs- he bolted for division rival Philadelphia in the offseason. They will return speedy RF Ricky Carpenter, LF Fernando Ibanez, 3B Orlando Diaz, and 1B Fritz Wilkerson, but none of those guys are great and there's little after them. They could struggle to score runs.
Kansas City is proud of its homegrown arms. Ozzie Acker and Rob Cather combined for 35 wins last season, and they're solid at the top- not sure they are aces on a title team, but they are good starters. Jeremi Gant is an innings-eater type pitcher, which was needed on a young team like this last season. They'll need more from Hipolito Santana this season. In the bullpen, Heath Rollins had a nice season with 35 saves, and former closer Mark Ott returns for another season.
Outlook: I think they need some more pieces before they can contend. They may take a step back this season- I think they overachieved last season and losing Castro doesn't help.
MINNESOTA NORTH STARS
Last season: 53-109 (as Pittsburgh)
Offense: Last in NL
Pitching: 12th in NL
Summary: This once-proud franchise is going to struggle on offense again this season. They are not returning anyone who scored over 70 runs or drove in more than 57. Slugger OF Bernie Soriano jumped to Boston in the offseason and 1B Tony Percival wasn't brought back, leaving very little. CF Cody Smart and 3B Orlando Lee don't scare anyone, but they are the returning leaders in RBI and runs, respectively. They picked up OFs Chief Pearson and Randall Fisher from Scranton and they're OK. Minnesota fans are excited about Rule 5 pickup Zach Leary; if he can hit righties he could be a dangerous player.
Willie Williams, Emil Blanco, and Orber Halter were the top three in wins for this squad last season- all are gone. Jesus Estrada also comes over from Scranton to help with depth, but they will rely on guys who struggled last season: Don Chong, Murray Crane, and Daniel Jones (who pitched in AAA last season for Jackson after pitching poorly in the majors in season 8).
Outlook: Not good. I think they should win more than last season's 53, but I'd be surprised if they can reach 65 wins.
Last season: 79-83 (3rd in NL North)
Offense: 11th in NL
Pitching: 5th in NL
Summary: They finally put together a support staff for longtime ace Bernard Robinson. They got Harry Lee to be the number 2 starter and then picked up Albert Herzog. That slides Turner Darr to the 4th spot, which better fits him. This is a sold starting staff. Kid Johnstone was fairly good as the closer last season.
The question with this team is the offense. They needed more than young double play combo SS Doc Bowen and 2B Brian Sweeney, so they got LF Albert Castro from Kansas City. I'm not sure they can count on the other guys like RF Sam Graham and C Juan Francisco.
Outlook: If they had some more offense, I'd tab them as a possible threat to Fargo. As it stands, I think they will finish second but out of the playoff race.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
The Fargo Dirtbags received the news that no team wants to ever hear, let alone hear during Spring Training. Fargo starter York Watson strained his elbow during a recent Spring Training contest and team trainers estimate the Dirtbags' #4 starter will miss 2-3 months of action.
Watson, in the second year of a 4-year deal he signed with the team before last season, went 11-12 for Fargo with a 4.38 ERA during season 9. It will be interesting to see if he can regain any of the ratings he lost due to the injury with a makeup of 90 but, at age 32, regaining the 3 points on he lost off of his OVR seems unlikely.
The Dirtbags signed former starter Jorge Guzman, who played for Boston last season, to a 1-year deal worth $1.445 million to replace Watson in the rotation. Guzman went 5-11 with a 4.67 ERA for Fargo in season 8, his only one with the team.
OK, on to business. We'll start with the NL East, which was the talk of the league in season 8 but stumbled a bit in season 9. Atlanta was just as good as they've always been in the regular season (winning 98 games and a sixth straight division title), but season 8 wild card winner Washington dropped from 95 wins to 83 last season and Trenton fans were highly frustrated after their team won 92 games and still managed to miss the playoffs. On the other end, Norfolk won a franchise-low 61 games. So what happens in season 10? Let's take a look at all 4 teams. (Note: for all 32 teams, rankings for offense are based on runs scored. Pitching rankings are based on ERA).
Last season: 98-64 (1st in NL East, 2nd in NL)
Offense: 8th in NL
Pitching: 2nd in NL
Summary: The strength of this team has always been starting pitching, but this season could be different. Their top 3 are quite good in Fred Carter, Santiago Perez, and Kazuhrio Whang. They've lost some of their trademark depth with the trade of Neifi Gonzalez and Stone Curtis (sent to Montgomery)- how they deal with that could have a big determination of how their season goes. With Tex Howell, Emmanuel Nunez, and Graham Rivera in the bullpen, they appear to have enough depth there.
They made only one change to the offense, but it was a massive one. They went out and got young star 3B Mitch Sobkowiak from Montgomery- he'll help the offense greatly. 1B Stan Starr and OF Pete Duvall are the other main cogs in the middle of the lineup. They have speed in CF Paul Turnbow and 2B Jason Walker, but both need to get on base more. Between those two, C Odalis Lopez, and LF Trever Russell (who spent most of last season on the DL), they have plenty of talent that failed to produce last season. There offense should be better than average, which they were last season.
Outlook: I see no reason why these guys can't be in contention again. They are the odds-on favorite to repeat.
Last season: 61-101 (4th in NL East)
Offense: 15th in NL
Pitching: 11th in NL
Summary: The offense may be a little better than last season, but probably not by much. Last season they relied heavily on RF Melvin Nakano getting on base and running and 1B Al Cruz driving in runs; Cruz was the only reliable run producer. Other than those two and CF Dave Hodges, I don't see much in the way of offensive threats here.
The pitching somehow managed to finish ahead of 5 NL teams. Bobby Davenport, Rod Walters, and Malcolm Lawrence are all decent pitchers and innings eaters, but they're in the same division as Atlanta and Trenton; can you see any of those guys being even a #5 in either of those rotations? Del Aquino is a solid (if not spectacular) closer and Nick Sierra had a great season in relief.
Outlook: This is likely to be another tough season. They are light on talent and in what is always a tough division. Destroyer fans are going to have to be patient
Last season: 92-70 (2nd in NL East)
Offense: 5th in NL
Pitching: 6th in NL
Summary: This could be a watershed season for the Traffic. They've got a lot of new pieces (they'll start a completely different outfield from last season) and they'll need production from them. They got LF Bret King from Houston to bat leadoff and steal some bases. They picked up RF Ryan Snyder and CF Dewey Greenwood (who will move Watty Miller to his more natural second base position) in free agency. Between those three, Miller, 3B Cap Herrera, 1B Stephen Mills, and C Vasco Lopez, they form a theoretically dangerous top seven in the lineup.
The pitching staff is solid but not without questions. David Dunwoody and Dwight Salmon are not what they once were, but they both pitched at or close to star level last season. But can Jason Sprague come back from his injury and can Steve Elster (another free-agent pick up) be the lefty they need in the rotation? In the bulpen, Bernie Corino was very good as the closer; the rest of the bullpen was iffy.
Outlook: They should be back in the mix this season. If things break right, they could challenge Atlanta. But if they miss the playoffs again, it'll be a bitter disappointment.
WASHINGTON D.C. BLUE COATS
Last season: 83-79 (3rd in NL East)
Offense: 3rd in NL
Pitching: 10th in NL
Summary: They're solid on offense, but I think they'll be hard pressed to finish 3rd in runs again. They lost leading run producer Burt Stevenson to free agency (went to St. Louis) and will go with Peter Guerrero in left field instead. (I'm not saying the move didn't make sense; Stevenson was never gifted defensively in his prime and now that he's older he can't really play left field anymore and they like Eddie Peters at 1B, so there was no spot for him. I'm just saying they'll miss his bat in the lineup.) They will not be barren on offense, as they still have Peters, Guerrero, CF Luis Martinez, and 3B Ewell Elster. If they get bouncebacks performance from IFs Willis Biddle and Neifi McBride, they should be dangerous.
Like their offense, I think their pitching will come back to the pack a little, but that means an improvement. Ace Carter Leonard just couldn't repeat his stellar rookie season but I think he's closer to his 20-2, 2.00 ERA season than to last season's 14-12, 3.75 effort. A full season of John Balfour should help, and Graham Costello is a very good #3 pitcher. They also have the division's best (and maybe the NL's best) closer in Alex Javier.
Outlook: Hard to tell. I don't see them being able to take down Atlanta, but they could threaten Trenton in a best-case scenario. This may be one of those teams that is a nice team, but may not have enough to claim a playoff spot.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Anyway, I was looking at the pretty impressive list of career saves leaders and wondered how high those records might go. Pablo Rijo and Carlos Carrasco both could top 400 before being forced into retirement but not many more than that. Rijo is already 37 and Carrasco is 35. Third on the list is Dave Stewart and at 38 doesn't have much left, but enough to make 350. Are all three Hall of Fame Material? I would think so.
Who has a chance to break their all-time records? I wondered how the easiest way to find them. It didn't take long, I just looked at the Fireman of the Year candidates the last two seasons. In my estimate, Coco doesn't stand a chance btw but could easily surpass the current record holders to be. My findings suggest that Alex Javier could easily top 500 and maybe even 600 before his career is over. At the tender age of 27, he has many seasons yet to play and has accumulated 204 saves already. Then Quilvio Sanchez popped into view. MY Oh My!! At 26 and has 235 saves to his credit already. Averaging 47 saves a season it is likely that he could top 600 and possibly 700 before his career is over. These are two Hall of Fame careers to watch for sure!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
First player was taken in the draft was Zach Leary by the Minnesota North Stars. Weak range in RF but could be a nice hitter.
Zachs' cousin, Jeremi Leary, was the second pick by the San Juan Dead Bunnies. Although a pitcher with good control and somewhat decent splits for a lefty, the pitches just might not be good enough for a GB power pitcher.
Nigel Acosta was drafted third by the Norfolk Destroyers. A good defensive player that could play just about anywhere. Not the greatest hitter but does have a good eye and some pop.
Ossie Miller was drafted fourth by the New Orleans Voodoo. I think he was the best short reliever available but not sure he is ready for the Bigs.
Next was Junior Guillen drafted by the Scranton Janitors. Has some great control, splits aren't much to look at and the pitches are out of whack which makes him an iffy pick. He could get better but Rule V players rarely get much better during their first season at the ML level.
Larry Tyner was drafted by the Helena Straw Hat Pirates. Listed as a primary 2B, but doesn't have the qualifications or even close. RF is a maybe at the most and his hitting probably won't light up the scoreboard much.
The Boston Bambinos selected Eric Edwards next. His pitches are good but mediocre elsewhere. Another that could mature and maybe too soon for the Bigs.
Lonny Rivera was selected eighth by the Montgomery Alibamu. Doesn't have the great splits but a good spring might help his cause. He has a good minor league resume and could be the sleeper of the draft.
Russ Ramsey was drafted by the Washington D.C. Blue Coats. Another good reliever in the making? Not sure he was ready for prime-time or not myself but has put together a good resume and has the stuff.
The Seattle Killer Whales selected Doug Dunham. Seattle liked what they saw, a wild throwing reliever with good stuff, could very well keep hitters off balance.
Edwin Brinkley was drafted by the Vancouver Golden Otters. Listed as a 2B but very very weak at that position but has the possibility of playing in RF. Hitting is not exactly a strong suit but could be helpful off the bench.
The last first round pick is Josias Espada drafted by the Monterrey Sultans. If I had drafted, this is the player I would have chosen. Should make a solid 1 inning reliever late in the pen. Has the control, pretty decent splits and two good pitches, everything you look for plus the fact he could get better.
Making the Rule V joke of day on the airwaves in Helena was Scooter Watson. Although he could be a good defensive player at 2B or CF, the talk shows in a farming community was having a hay-day with a name like that.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Nonetheless, an air of paranoia pervades the home office, with team management perpetually huddled in tense meetings.
An unnamed team source told this reporter that concerns about the team centered on three areas:
1. 5th Starter/Bullpen: Carlton Fleming handled the #5 starter job admirably the last 2 years, getting 42 starts. But he left for free agency and at 39, may not have much left. Right now it appears the job will go to a Delino Colon, Marc Bates and Ed Allen committee, although Bates has been surprisingly (inexplicably?) good the last 3 seasons and could win the job outright.
The pen was a huge strength last year and the team was sorely tempted to re-sign Manny Christians, who was lights-out as Matt Skinner's primary setup guy. You have to make way for youth at some point, though - Joshua Franklin is ready for prime time and Rey Jung has nothing left to prove at AAA - so management said "thanks" to Manny and moved on.
2. The Lineup: or more specifically, the leadoff slot. 2 years ago, SS William Satou stunned The Bigs by stealing 142 bases hitting leadoff. 2-3-4 batters Rosa, Keagle and Williams all had 100+ RBI - even though Satou has shaky on-base skills, when he did reach first he almost always stole his way to second or third. With the shift to a more traditional power-oriented offense last year, Satou dropped to 9th in the order - with fewer plate appearances and more runners on in front of him, his steals dropped to 45 and he became the forgotten man of the offense. The problem is that the team has no prototypical leadoff hitter - rookie CF Rich Porter had the job most of last year, but with 30 HR's and a .328 OBP he looks more like a middle-of-the-lineup guy. Ken Keagle is the team's best on-base guy and has the requisite wheels, but he's also the obvious choice for the #3 hole.
3. Bench Production: Mariano Terrero was heroic as a utility man last year, posting an .887 OPS while filling in at 6 positions, but he's a DL trip waiting to happen and the other backups were total busts. Management dipped into the free agent waters to address this shortcoming, landing veterans Marcus Reboulet and Jay Walker for backup OF, DH and pinch-hitting duty. The last roster spot is still up in the air - the choices seem to be Season 6 2nd-rounder Benny Bennett, Season 7 1st-rounder Clayton Olson, or another elderly free agent.
One thing's for sure: it'll be no easy task to even get into position to repeat. But if management paranoia is any measure, the team is poised for another great season.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Denny Moss has made his decision. The 32-year-old 5-time All-Star third baseman signed a 3-year, $55 million deal with the New York Knickerbockers today. The deal will pay Moss $16 million annually throughout the contract in addition to a $7 million bonus this season.
Moss had an off season last year, hitting .228 with 37 homeruns and 97 RBI for Seattle. The Killer Whales will receive the 57th overall pick in this season's draft and an additional compensation pick for losing Moss, who was a Type A free agent.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Fargo lost two major pieces of their bullpen. Longtime closer Bert Price left for Cincinnati, signing a 2-year, $11.2 million deal, while dynamite setup man Kevin Li got 3 years at $16.7 million to bolt for Salem.
Cincinnati also re-signed Dave Stewart, last season's closer. The 38-year-old reliever will earn $9.2 million over the next 2 seasons. More interesting than the contract is the question of whether Price or Stewart starts the season as the closer in the Queen City.
St. Louis didn't stand idly by while a division rival improved. They signed veteran 1B/DH Burt Stevenson to a 2 year, $9.7 million contract.
New York felt it needed an upgrade to its woeful offense, so they plucked longtime Huntington catcher Cy Hughes off the market for 1 year at $3.6 million. Meanwhile, division rival Boston signed former New York outfielder Bernie Soriano (most recently of Pittsburgh) to a 2-year, $9.2 million deal.
Trenton is rebuilding their outfield. They snagged former Boston RF Ryan Snyder with a 2-year, $11 million deal and also signed veteran CF Dewey Greenwood to 2 years at $9.2 million. The Greenwood signing would seem to indicate that 3-time All-Star Watty Miller will likely be playing the infield this season.
Coming off a successful year for both himself and his team, 3B Wendell Durrington and Vancouver agreed on a 2-year contract for $8.4 million.
Friday, May 7, 2010
We were at Walmart the other day picking up a bike for our grandsons B-Day when he said "That was a dumb trade offer." Then I had to listen to him talk to himself for 15 minutes whether or not to do the trade the next morning. For crying out loud this is only a game for fun isn't it?
He showed me how Free Agency worked and the coach hiring business. Damn this might be too complicated for me to understand. He was very happy this am though when his two Free Agents signed. He said he was almost done except for coaches which will start accepting positions late tonight. That is until I heard some words that I won't repeat, I had to come running to find out what was up. Thought maybe one of the cats might have upset his coffee cup again.
He said the roster was pretty much set and the only thing he was gonna do is find some players as minor league fillers, that part I do know. So I will do a West and team preview from his perspective as he showed me the rest of the teams in the division and what he thought about them.
Anaheim is going to very dangerous though their defense may keep them out of the playoffs. He is expecting them to finish no worse than second place.
Boise is good but lacks a couple pieces, though Free Agency is not over yet.
Seattle looks good as always but may have lost too much but again Free Agency is not over.
As for Cheyenne, he is hoping pitching, defense and timely hitting to win as usual.
In the West, he thinks all four teams could win it and is very noncommittal. He really likes Anaheim though. Overall he is expecting Louisville to win it all again in the AL and the East. St Louis in the North once more. Monterrey or Jackson in the South. Biggest Wild Card contender is Boston. That doesn't leave much working space as he thinks as many as 12 teams could be in it till the end. It is very early and many teams don't have their final rosters in place so it is only a guess.
Cheyenne's roster is set more or less he said as Spring Training will weed out a couple things. So here are the season 10 War Cats.
C - Preston Weathers and Patsy Hegan and a big maybe from Chuck Reed.
1B - Wally Harvey
2B - Zeke McDonald and/or Johnny Guerrero and/or Boomer Robinson
3B - Boomer Robinson and/or Johnny Guerrero and/or Edwin Corey
SS - Kevin Kim
RF - Richard Gabriel and/or Edwin Corey
CF - Will Weston
LF - William Bolling
DH - Willie Sierra
His exact words about the offense "Wish I had another big bat." Think that is why he didn't want to make the trade.
Pitching is not set in stone for the starting rotation
Louie Martin probably the #1 starter as usual.
Charlie White - Free Agent acquisition he hopes will be great in Cheyenne.
Rich Gibson - another Free Agent acquisition that hopes will work out.
Closer - Coco Hines
He thinks the pitching staff is the cornerstone of the team and I have to agree.