Monday, February 18, 2013

S12 Previews

Charleston River Dogs
The River Dogs are officially deep into the rebuilding cycle. This team is going to stink. Some bright spots with be stalwarts Enrique Canseco and Milton Kramer and young gun Bruce Casanova. Thats about it. The rest of the team is filled with cast offs and hangers on. Stephen Risley is going to retire a River Dog. Our lone bright spot will be our bullpen. If we can get a lead to the last three innings, we should be in decent shape.

We picked up an extra first round pick from Florida after they signed Dean Matthews so we'll be hoping for a deep draft and sign one or two really good internationals.

Cheyenne Gunslingers
The Gunslingers stand at a crossroads. Two seasons ago, a world series appearance. Last season, no playoffs. This season will determine which direction the franchise is headed. In salary cutting moves, the Gunslingers let C Peter Chong and closer Clem Cameron become free agents. C Mel Mays was traded for bullpen helper Charles Janish. On the bright side, rule 5 acquisition 2b Paul Sanders will get significant playing time, as will RF/1b Dusty Redmond, the only free agent the club spent any money on. SP Fred Cecil waits in AAA to replace the first starter to falter. If Cheyenne can promote a closer to replace Cameron, then expect Cheyenne to compete for the division title in the always competitive AL West.

Colorado Springs Sky Sox
Key Additions: Felipe Crespo, Shawn Bergesen

Key Loses: None

Prospects to Watch: Rafael Escuela

Outlook: Last year we finished six games above .500, and we expect with the minor improvements to play for a play-off spot. Management feels we are a year or two away from returning back to the WS.

We also have two first round draft picks. We hope to capitalize on them.

Having Escuela man CF for us is exciting. He was acquired in Season 9 via trade with the Rebels. His contact and speed should add up to exciting play especially in our ballpark.

El Paso Diablos
Well last year everyone thought we were a contender, but in fact we were a pretender. This year we broke it down and tried to finish what we started in the rebuilding before. The ML team will be a patchwork of sorts, but we hope the minor league prospects we got in return continue to mature and we land a pretty good draft during the season.

Jackson Mallards
Virtually the same line up as last season, so we should get virtually identical results... :)

Jacksonville Gators
The Jags are in full on rebuilding mode and signed 22 free agents to 1 year deals in an offseason that reminds you of the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League. The team has the ultimate flexibility in season 13 with $0 payroll. For season 12, surviving will be the name of the game. Most of the players signed have solid skills and should be able to keep the team competitive.

Las Vegas Bookies
Once again the Bookies took the NL South but we failed to make it out of the 1st Round of the playoffs once again. In the offseason we had a lot of cash to play around with and ended up adding both Willie Olivia and Zachery Hogan to our pitching staff. With Sogard Hoffman, Juan Astacio and Tyler Betancourt with feel like we have the best pitching staff in the majors this season. It might be an older pitching staff but these guys give us a chance to win not only the division but playoff series. We also aquired Shawn Grieve in a trade who will upgrade us at 2B. Houston Reese is coming off back to back 40+ HR, 100+ RBI seasons and Carlos Beaz is coming off 25+ HR, 100+ RBI seasons. We're expecting them once again to carry our offense. Instead of continuing with getting younger like we have the last couple seasons, we saw an opportunity to put together an A+ pitching staff although we only have a 3 year window to see if it was worth it.

Little Rock Rollers

Still in the middle of a rebuild.
Since our division was won with a sub .500 record last season we picked up a few veteran free agents to fill some holes as we're shooting to improve by perhaps +5 to 10 games, but not breaking the bank to accomplish those goals, we at least want to put a competitive team on the field.

Los Angeles Capitalists
The Capitalists will look to keep GM paladn24's head out of the guillotine and come up with their first 70 win season under the new management team. Hopes are high in LA though with after a busy offseason which yielded a revamped offense led by two new veteran additions, including the owner of the world's 4th highest hit total for his career in Canseco. The Caps also added two veteran starting pitchers to solidify the rotation in the hopes of shoring up what was a worn down, defeated unit at the end of last season. Whispers of some young talent from the farm system making it to the show by the end of the season may add some extra kick to an already zesty team. Paladn24 and the rest of La La land are hoping all this adds up to a 70 win season, and dare we say a playoff push.

Louisville Steamboats
This season began with a goal of repeating as NL East champions after a long stretch of relative futility. The way to do this, I thought, was to improve my 5th ranked pitching staff…and just ride out my 4th ranked offense while I did this…long story short, plans change. A couple trades made it almost impossible to make any free agent additions.

The pitching staff is virtually unchanged, the only new names being a return of Curtis Roberts to the bullpen, and rule 5 pickup Nick Sveum. Ace #1 Al Castro (19-12, 262.0 IP, 3.81 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) and Ace #2 Hiram Sanders (205.1 IP, 14-6, 3.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) anchor a very good staff as J.D. Dixon (184.2 IP, 12-5, 3.75 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) and Willie Carlyle (162.0 IP, 8-12, 4.72 ERA, 1.34 WHIP). Management is unsure whether Jake O’Leary or Alfredo Izquierdo will be the 5th starter, but when that is your only real concern, that’s not much of a concern.

Offensively, this team should be much much improved. 2B Chris Torres (.307/.361/.494; 22HR 78RBI) had one great season, but will give way to Marino Bautista (.265/.345/.450; 26 HR, 93 RBI). Dan Mercedes returns as the starting C, but will split time with Clem Charleston. 1B should be strong as Ron Milner and Bret Maas compete for playing time there. Jorge Marichal and Matt McKnight will compete at 3B. Future HOF Domingo Soto (.307/.364/.550; 39HR, 113RBI) will push to hit his 500th HR in a Steamboat uniform while at the other COF slot, Steamboat for life Kevin Zhang (.285/.356/.551; 32HR, 85RBI) looks to increase his consecutive season streak of 25+ HRs to 6. SS Brian Painter takes over for Alexei Bonifacio who will slide to the backup IF slot. Ismael Lopez looks to spell Zhang and Soto in the OF. The only real question mark offensively is CF where rookie Al Baez makes his debut. He brings outstanding defense and solid contact and eye and should be a good addition to the bottom of the order.

Montgomery Hornets
The message in Montgomery is simple this season. “Win or get out”. The Hornet’s ownership group has made it clear to GM Kelly McCann, that he’s had 3 full seasons to turn things around, and if he doesn’t win at least 70 games this season, he will be replaced. 2-time All Star at 3B Bey Perez was acquired in an off season trade, and McCann is hoping that escaping the pitching friendly Colorado Springs park and coming to the Hornet’s Nest will help Perez reach his potential as a hitter. Veteran Hal Thompson could approach 500 career HRs this season, surprising Hod Morgan is coming off his second straight 40 HR season, and with former #6 overall pick Darrin Rossy coming off his best season as a big leaguer, the outfield appears to be set in Montgomery. Former #1 overall pick Dennis Bohanon appears to be ready for a big league call up at any time. For the 2nd time in 2 straight off seasons, the Hornets spent big on a free agent pitcher, signing veteran knuckle-baller Todd Scmidt to a 5 year, $53 million deal. Montgomery fans can only hope that Scmidt fares better than last year’s big money free agent acquisition, Darrell Taylor, who won only nine games, while getting lit up for a 5.23 ERA in his first season in the Nest. Veteran reliever, Jay Kinney was also brought in to solidify a shaky bullpen. The Hornets have a pretty good offensive team, but the pitching absolutely killed them last year. In order for McCann to keep his job, and perhaps keep the Hornets franchise alive, the pitching staff will have to so marked improvement, and show it quickly.

New Orleans Zydeco
The Zydeco is still suffering the effects of the "win now" strategy of seasons past. After winning five straight division titles and six straight playoff appearances, the Zydeco have been at or near the bottom of the division for three straight seasons. Expect this season to make it four. There is some reason for hope, though. There is some talent in the system, including a bevy of young role players. The Zydeco has too many needs, though, to seriously contend this season. It's still 2-3 seasons away.

New York Highlanders
The Highlanders are hoping to improve off of a very solid season last year. A very solid pitching staff has been strengthened by the addition of FA RP Ethan Rocker and a full year with starter Carlton Nelson. Other retuning veterans such as Carlson Coggin and Feldman should make our staff a team strength. Tommy Or has been promoted from AAA to share the catching duties and we’ve added CF Kent Moseley thru Rule 5 and utility guys Ronnie Jefferson and Brad Fitzgerald to provide depth and flexibility up the middle. Babe Swann, also added thru Rule 5 will get a chance at 1B, probably as part of a platoon with Fausto Guzman. Finally, Matt Reynolds, with one more year of experience in LF, should provide on half of a very solid corner OF duo with Enrigue Ordonez in RF. The Highlanders should compete for the top spot in the NL East.

Ottawa Outlaws
Even after winning the WS last season, we were pretty restless this off-season in trying to maintain a very good ML team while lining up some future pieces to continue the success over the long-term. Our big changes on offense was losing Clarence Canseco, after we declined his $18M option, and trading away Farmer Brand . These two departures could result in our offense taking a slight step back this season. However, we used the money saved on Canseco to lock up studs like Arthur Davenport and flipped Brand along with two prospects for future ace Al Owen so overall we feel good about the moves long-term. Offensively, we hope to make up some of that loss with the call-ups of super-stud prospect Alex Blanco and solid backup catcher Billy Gates. To replace Brand in the OF, we will use a platoon of speedy Vic Chavez and power bats Lenny Elliott and Malik Richard. Of course, the lineup will continue to be anchored by back-to-back MVP Terry West and OBP machine Don Cintron. In terms of pitching, we used the off-season to shore up an already solid bullpen with the additions of stud setup guy Skip Hatteberg and a potential one-inning closer type in Terry McConnell . We will return everyone from one of the finest rotations in the league last season. In terms of our future, we did lose some depth in the off-season trades but will still anxiously await the arrivals of the aforementioned Al Owen as well as future CF Darren Simmons and power bat COF Alex Zhang . Overall, we hope to compete for the title this year and remain a threat to win it all for the foreseeable future. However, given the overall competition in the NL North, I also wouldn't be surprised to win 90 games and finish in 4th place in the division and out of the playoffs.

Philadelphia Freedom
After a horrific owner mistake with the first pick in the draft in Season 10, my first in this world, the rebuilding process is underway, albeit set back by one season. (By the way, that’s the first and only time in my HBD experience I have ever had a draft pick who “probably won’t sign” actually sign the initial offer without raising demands or outright rejecting).With no star talent on the roster or in the minors when I took over, with the possible exception of former top-5 draft pick Sherm Larson, it looks to be a long road to recovery. Kory Matthews, the first pick in Season 11’s draft looks like a future true ace and IFA pickup from Season 11, Del Kondou looks to be a solid SS – probably not quite an all-star caliber player, but certainly will help when his time comes. For Season 12, the Freedom picked up some veterans to keep the ship afloat – no stars, but adequate major league players. I’m expecting anywhere from 75-85 wins. If we top out, there’s a chance we can sneak into the playoffs. Since I’m not a big believer in hoarding top-10 draft picks, the Freedom stand a good chance to spend the next few seasons in that general area while the rebuild continues.

Richmond Rebels

Season 12 should be another competitive one for Richmond, though we are starting to show are age and rebuilding may soon be on the horizon.

Recent history has shown this team to be almost good enough, but not quite. 7 straight playoff appearances, five of those resulting in ALCS bids, and three WS appearances. Yet the title still eludes us. They (and I'm including me in "they") always say the playoffs are a crapshoot and once you get there anyone can win. So far, that hasn't proved true for Richmond; here's hoping that season 12 reverses that trend.

Last year saw my #1, #2, and #4 SP go down with significant injuries; all missed time in the playoffs. Two of them are back, and the third should return after about 40 more games. At that point, I'm hoping to be at full strength and ready to make a run. Most of last year's core returns and we did only a little tweaking to the back end of the roster, so assuming nothing catastrophic occurs, we should be competitive again this year.

Rochester Redbirds
Additions: Josh Singleton, Mark Rando,

Departures: Not enough to improve our win total

Preview: Not a lot of optamism here in Rochester as we start season 12. Valerio Nunez and Jamie Pierre are still sucking us dry for $28 million this season with about $5 million worth of production combined. We resigned Lewis Spence! Some will ask why that is such a bright spot for the organization. Well it isn't. We had no choice once we got beat out in Free Agency for better pitchers because of cap concerns with money being tied up in two players. Speaking of being sucked dry, our farm system is dry as a martini, but we hope to turn that around in the coming drafts. That is if we don't continue to screw those up like last season. One of the few players in the system that was actually worth something is Duke Hernandez who will make his ML debut this season. Maybe he will be the spark to keep us under the 200 loss limit!

Seattle Redhooks
We're hoping for the best, expecting the worst in Seattle this season. Five rookies will make their debut, including top prospects Robert Miller and Carl Ripken. Coupled with free agent signings of SP Jesus Alarcon and RP Bob Howard, we're thinking we can win around 80-85 games and possibly make a run at the division title. But we have a lot riding on rookies, so we'll see what happens.

Syracuse Orange
As usual, MVP candidate Gill Williams Jr. staying healthy is a big key for me offensively. I love my team: extremely deep bullpen with the offseason additions of Javier Herrera, Caleb Duran , and Nick Offerman. Will add rookie Raul Espinosa to the rotation after day 21. Might be a starter short but counting on the bullpen to shorten games for me. Offensively I have a very fast team that plays good defense, might be a quality hitter short but could add that later in season if need be. Looking forward to getting back to the ALCS and beyond.

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