Monday, August 18, 2014

S18 Previews

Anaheim Knights
The Anaheim team gets an A; but, only because it is their initial. In every other aspect, the team works hard to earn an F. Dumb moves, aberrant behavior, and decisions that could only be explained if team management were in a constant state of drunken stupor have all been juxtaposed into a hodgepodge of inexplicably dismal talent. The Anaheim team will press their luck to win 50 games this season. The good news is that most of the key players return from last season. The bad news is that most of the key players return from last season. A locust plague has consumed the minors so there is no hope of a Savior Through Promotion. It takes upper management talent to mangle a team so badly and The Anaheim team is currently being directed by Larry, Curly, and Moe. Too bad, too. The teams in their division a collection of low hanging fruit, ripe for easy pickings (just kidding about that).

Arizona Firebirds
Arizona is bringing back most of last year's 106 win team, and hoping to contend again. Added to the bullpen by trading for Bill Bradford and Darby Beirne and resigning Pedro Fuentes. We let Dario Rath go in FA but signed veteran Carlos Jiminez to pick up some of those at bats.

Charleston River Dogs
This was one of the slowest offseasons of the River Dogs existence. We pretty much kept intact the team who won the world series last year. The River Dogs significantly underachieved throughout the season so we are hopeful and confident we'll be able to win the NL East in a more convincing fashion this season.

The only notable change to the ML roster is we brought in Pete Malone to replace Milton Kramer as a backup 1B and pinch hitter off the bench. Cliff Zeile and Enrique Rojo are rookies who will be brought up to the majors this season.

Other than that, nothing too exciting to report!

Cheyenne Gunslingers
This may be the year for the Gunslingers. When Angel Kirk (25-2 with a 1.71 at AA) gets called up, he will join a rotation that may be the best in Billy Beane. Les Gunderson and Shep Blank are already 150+ game winners, and Victor Polonia and Pedro Amaro are up-and-comers. Closer Russell Tomlinson has save 122 games in his first three major league seasons. 2b Roger Jensen stole 50 bases as a rookie and will be joined by Spud Twitchell, taken in the Rule 5. Junior Guerrero has been called up to play 1B and free agent catcher Ralph Sauerbeck was signed for his pitch calling skills to handle the elite pitching staff. Cheyenne has only made one decent run at the world series crown, but this could be the year for another try.

El Paso Diablos
The Diablos were very busy this offseason. After a surprising playoff run, the front office decided to make some changes in hopes of going deep into the playoffs again. The team was upgraded primarily via trade with a few signings to fill holes. The biggest move of the offseason was the Farnsworth deal. It was tough to pull the trigger on trading a young power bat, but the Diablos feel they more than made up for that loss by improving several other positions. Key additions: C Gookie Hennessey, C Mateo Aguilera, 1B/LF Dario Rath, 1B/LF Houston Reese, SS Shawn Roth, 3B Al Chantress, CF BC Balboa, SP Vin Julio, RP Jarrod Dellucci Key losses: LF Gavin Farnsworth, SP Gerald Garcia

Jackson Mallards
Hoping for some productive alchemy from our seasoned vets & younger talent...

Jacksonville Gators
The Gators are in re-build mode and have invested heavily in building out their farm system. Despite that fact, they are being mindful of trying to build a competitive major league team due to their 101 losses in season 17. With the 200 loss rule in mind, the Gators signed a couple of sneaky free agents in the offseason. Lawrence Houston and Boesch Reed were signed to shore up the line up. In addition Matt Scott will be looking to follow up his stellar rookie campaign that saw him slash .317/.380/.449. The pitching staff is a “ho-hum” group of over 30 year old hurlers trying to squeeze a few more years out of their careers. The team will look to put a jolt of youth into the staff by promoting RP Nathan Miles and former 1st round draft pick Dale Bryant at some point in the season. The Gators expect to be competitive, but far from being a playoff team.

Louisville Steamboats
Narrowly avoiding getting new management last season, the Steamboats hope to take a major step forward this season. The Steamboats have tons of power in their lineup. We are looking forward to a major step forward from 1B Logan Coulter (.248/.337/.490; 35 HRs, 77 RBIs). RF Eric Beckett (.302/.359/.578; 33 HR, 88 RBI) had an outstanding rookie season. LF Hector Nunez has some large shoes to fill as he looks to replace Houston Reese (45 HRs). The addition of 3B Alan Lombard, CF Mitchell Franco, and SS Randy Dawkins to go with All-Star Silver Slugger C Alex James and 2B Bey Perez should make this team offensively formidable. Former starting CF Vin Davis provides some defense and speed off the bench while OF Roscoe Kelly and Wilson Durbin look to strengthen the bench offensively.

The rotation is where management feels the most improvement was made. P.T. Mesa, Shawn Bergesen, Gerald Garcia, Pinky Wood, and David Romero replace the overpaid underachieving bunch from last season. Newcomers Chris Lukasiewicz and Alexei Cervantes look to anchor the bullpen this season. Hopefully we’re looking to compete for the division crown this season.

Montgomery Hornets
The Montgomery Hornets are hoping to return to the playoffs for the first time since Season 13, and made only minor changes to the team that finished 83-79 last season, fading down the stretch and giving up the division they led for the majority of the year.
The biggest move Montgomery made was trading 21 year old season 15 INT-FA Julian Tejada, whom they paid an $18 million signing bonus to for 25 year old Alex Zhang, another INT-FA who was bonused $21.5 million by Ottawa back in season 11. While the team felt like Tejada would be an OBP monster, he was still a year or two away and Zhang is in his prime now, with a power bat Tejada didn’t possess.
The Hornets also resigned the quietly effective Buddy Shelley to a very economical deal. Shelley won 11 games with a 1.22 WHIP and 3.19 ERA in 32 starts last season. 12 game winner Billy Griffin was signed as a FA to take Brooks Bush’s spot in the rotation. 20 year old phenom, Jimmy Velarde, who was the 3rd overall pick in season 16, is slotted in as the team’s #3 starter. While Montgomery is concerned with Velarde’s undeveloped pitches, his control, and effectiveness against both right handed & left handed batters was too tempting to pass up. Velarde started 3 games in September last season for the big league club and had an impressive 1.11 WHIP and 1.76 ERA.
The rest of the team remains largely intact from last season. The Hornets believe that both catcher Emmanuel Sanchez, and first baseman Ted Snow could compete for an MVP. 28 year old, Flyin Hawaiian Denny Spencer is coming off his best season with 101 runs scored, 104 RBIs and a .910 OPS.
Hornet management reluctantly brought back both Ceasar Olivio and Alex Marquez in arbitration hearings, but both players understand this very well could be their final year with the team if they don’t perform. Marquez thinks his recent move to second base will increase his value to the club, but it remains to be seen if he can hold up defensively at that spot.
The Hornets look like they may be ready to finish 90-72, and compete for the division title or a wildcard spot this season.

New Britain Rock Cats
Season 18 will likely prove a final hurrah for the old guard. On the pitching side both front line starters, Diego Santiago and Santo Solano return from 60 day season ending elbow injuries. Their ratings have fallen but with full healthy seasons, a lot of luck and a repeat Cy Young season for Buck Stark the pitching could hold up. The Rock Cats bullpen remains top ranked in the league.

Last season the Rock Cats were second in the league in OPS. Gus Governale has moved to Atlanta and his DH spot will be filled by Midre Merced who surprised batting .301 with a .576 OPS last year. Merced had become a defensive liability at catcher and the move creates an opening from AAA for either the veteran minor league defensive stalwart, Vinny Ishikawa who battles the young solid hitting Seth O’Brien, acquired in season 16 from Montgomery.

Three Rule V position players are currently on the roster. They occupy backup positions and all will not stick as young Pete O’Keefe seems ready to move up during the season. O’’Keefe could platoon with Albert Guilen who looks to have the second base job at least to start the season. Rob Eaton returns to his natural position at third while Johnny Manzanillo will be given a try in right field. The team appears to be better defensively and still solid on the hitting side.

The Rock Cats have been amazingly consistent with six consecutive post season appearances and winning between 92 and 99 games each campaign. But there has been no World Series appearance and for this to happen a lot of stars will have to come in to line.

New Orleans Zydeco
The New Orleans Zydeco have won three straight division titles. But in the last two seasons, they've hovered around .500 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Zydeco front office attempted to sign some big name free agents in the off season, but the bidding was too high on their prime targets. Instead, they added quality depth, signing relief pitchers Jesus Rondon and Shane Riske, catcher Roosevelt Campbell, and utility position player Phillip Latham. None of these signings will make a huge impact. Collectively, though, they may help the Zydeco overcome the fatigue problems they've faced in recent seasons.

The Zydeco will continue to build their lineup around MVP runner-up first baseman Steve Boyer, gold glove and power-hitting second baseman Bernie Shermann, and veteran third baseman Kory Sterns. The rotation will be identical to last season's, and will include a good mix of young and veteran hurlers. The Zydeco's greatest strength will continue to be its defense, with gold glove winners at shortstop (Louis Hynes), second base (Shermann), catcher (Cole Robinson), corner outfield (Arthur Davenport), and with solid fielders at many other positions.

The question this season is whether the added depth will help the Zydeco fend off fatigue and take a step forward. If not, they may be headed for a rebuild.

New York Highlanders
The NY Highlanders expect to be very competitive this season despite a quiet offseason. The everyday players will remain basically the same with the exception that budding star, Neifi Azocar will move over to 3B from short, allowing Moises Cortez and Matt Green to battle it out for the starting SS position. The one key FA addition was starting pitcher Tomas Lopez who should fill a major role in a now stacked starting rotation. The Highlanders are counting on the continued positive development of key players in many roles which include Karl Barfield in the rotation, Berroa and Mark Cho to help close out games, Jeanmar Chavez in RF, Tomo Liang in Center, Houston Anderson at 1B and Javier Martinez at 2B. Waiting in the wings at AAA are can’t miss prospects Brandon Asche and Charles Weiss. IF the young players continue to develop, NY should contend this year.

Philadelphia Freedom
The youth movement in Philadelphia continues this season. Youngsters Don Antonelli, Del Kondou, Domingo Prado and Otto Beckham joined key holdovers Sherm Larson, Kory Mathews and Dante Crummack in Season 17. Look for R.J Mendez, Chris Chapman, Julio Belliard and possibly Wandy Armas to make their ML debuts this season. The everyday lineup will remain strong and relievers Skip Hatteberg and Trevor Cox have been brought in to boost the bullpen. Management is expecting a 10-15 game improvement this season with the outside possibility of the squad sneaking into the playoffs.

Richmond Rebels
At the beginning of the preseason I mentioned I wanted to make a lot of deals ('cane style) and I certainly followed through on that promise. Of the 14 trades so far, I've been involved in nearly half (6).

In those deals, I added an on-base threat (Tejada) who will partner in the corner OF spots with Myers who will be called up at the 20 game mark. I also added a 40/40 threat with the Farnsworth mega-deal, though I gave up a ton of young value in that trade. Hopefully Farnsworth can cut it at 3B (or be passable). He's below avg across the board so it might not work out but we are going to try it at the start of the season.

On the pitching side, I picked up a much needed mid-rotation SP and worked out a 2 for 2 RP challenge trade. My starting staff consists of many 65-ish stamina guys and hopefully that won't tax the bullpen too much.

Only 5 of the 25 guys on the roster are homegrown (4 drafted, one international). So I should probably work on trading those 5.

Last season was the first time in 13 seasons that this team failed to win at least 80 games, and we are hoping all the changes will trigger a rebound.

Rochester Redbirds
Rochester is tired of losing. We went out and spent big dollars on Billy Wilkerson to put in the front of the rotation along with youngster Bart Wolcott and rookie former #7 draft pick William Choi. Bill Hatteberg will continue to close out games in front of a rebuilt bullpen. Ugueth Valentin will be counted on to produce a lot of runs. Ollie Byrd needs to have a great season as well for the season to succeed.

Texas Justice
Modest goals this year in Texas. At least that what GM rozellium is trying to sell to a dissatisfied fanbase and ownership. The rebuilding process in Texas took a big hit last year when the Justice failed to land a big-time International Free Agent. The Justice have continued to shed payroll and long-term commitments and only have one player (Rick Burkhart) signed beyond this season.

What might keep fans interested in what will undoubtedly be a tough season? The Justice will have two rookies in the starting line-up, both of whom the organization hopes will be part of the solution once the team is turned around. Chan Ishikawa is a strong-armed 3B whose interesting back-story as a war refugee from Afghanistan should keep people checking in. Peter McGowan will start for the Justice in CF after having played his minor league career at short. The Justice hope he’ll be a fixture in the lead-off slot for years to come. And all eyes will continue to be on Alex Polanco who toiled in AAA for 5 seasons before breaking out with 41 home runs last season--the only bright spot last year in the dismal Justice line-up.

One interesting piece of gossip is that the owner has set a very clear goal for the Justice. They had better win at least 65 games or rozellium will be gone. There have been some reports of a countdown clock in the GM office.

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