Monday, November 17, 2014

S19 Preview

Arizona Firebirds
Arizona is bringing back most of last year's 97 win team, and hoping to contend again, while trying to integrate some younger players. We let 39 yo SP Sid Richard go in FA, and traded 35 yo CF Trenidad Cervelli away, to be replaced by younger players SP Ruben Castilla and 2B/CF Jeff Mota, who will be called up soon. Also traded for LF/1B Jim Carroll to lead off.

Atlanta Crackers
Atlanta Crackers Season 19 After taking over the team near the end of last season, management was looking to make some changes to the roster. Craig Benson , Sergei Mullin , Glen Swan , Victor Lunar were added to the pitching staff. Carlos Perez , Victor Vargas , Cesar Olivo , Danys Ordonez , Donnie Mattheus , Lance Sheehan , Yoshinori Wang were added to the roster. So all in all quite a turnover from last seasons squad. If the team stays healthy for the most part, we should contend for the division. Once in the playoffs it's a crapshoot.

Charleston River Dogs
The River Dogs contemplated tearing the team down and then went immediately in the opposite direction as the offseason unfolded. We are looking to contend for the NL East division title again.

We decided to go big and get Bruce Casanova to re-sign with us as he tested free agency. He was a little pricier than we thought we were going to spend, but we also never planned on re-signing him. We thought he was going to go for much bigger money so we're happy to have the perennial MVP candidate back in Charleston.

We made three major trades and a couple of them involved the same players. We ended up shipping out SP Nathan May and a host of solid prospects and got back superstar SP Ronnie Willits who will pitching in Charleston for a long, long time and a couple of other nice prospects.

Well have rookies Yuniesky Rosado ($1.5 INTL) and Ramiro Cortes ($6 mil INTL) playing significant roles this season.

Cheyenne Gunslingers
Cheyenne has been mired in mediocrity since the league's inception. Except for a brief period of respectability in season 9 & 10, with a world series appearance, it has been a struggle for the Gunslingers. The reason is not a mystery--the hitting has never matched the high quality staff and bullpen that have been around from nearly the beginning.

The time is now. Former CY winner Shep Blanks signed on for two more seasons. Les Gunderson, who never gets any run support, brings his 3.49 ERA back for another try. They will be joined by Angel Kirk, who should be a CY candidate THIS year, along with several other candidates to fill the rotation. Closer Russell Tomlinson is a fireman candidate every year and will anchor a solid bullpen.

This season's attempt to fix the offense: Mike Shaw is up to take over 2b and let Roger Jensen move to LF. Alex Posada was signed as a FA to help at SS. Benny Olmeda is a nice Rule 5 pick to fill in at a variety of positions. RF Sonny Wilkins has this season to show if he really wants to be here.

Prediction---90 wins and a possible playoff run.

Jackson Mallards
Looking to add some punch with Michel Miro & Pedro Espinosa in the lineup. We'll see what happens...

Louisville Steamboats
After hitting 195 HRs last season, the Steamboats added 102 HRs to the squad this season with new starting LF Michael Rice and rookie 3B Emmett Harris. Hopefully C Alex James can return to his normal form this season, although he won’t get quite the rope he got last season with Marty Walker in AAA. 2B Bey Perez, SS Randy Dawkins, and CF Jorge Garces form a strong core up the middle. RF Eric Beckett & 1B Logan Coulter return as well. This is a team that is going to strike out quite a bit, but should hit a ton of HRs and be exciting to watch. Kevin Yoon, Hector Nunez, and Milton Kramer provide a very strong bench.

The rotation has been remade as we only return 2 SP (42 GS) from last season’s team. We look to improve on the 14th ranked pitching staff in S18. The new staff should contribute to at least keep this team from drowning. The bullpen is improved as well, but remains to be seen just how improved.

New Britain Rock Cats
New Britain changed management if the second half of the season and were invigorated by the changed environment. The team went on a tear and went from 60-67 to end the year at 87-75, going 27-8 down the stretch under the new regime. While they narrowly missed the playoffs, that has raised expectations in New Britain – probably to a level that cannot be attained.

Most of the team returns from last year except for a few key veteran starters. On offense, veteran C/DH Donaldo Rodrigo led the team with a .343 average, but will move to slightly more reduced role to save his legs for the playoff stretch. Young Seth O’Brien will bear most of the burden at C and DH Quinton Rowe was signed to provide a veteran bat when Rodrigo is out of the lineup to hit for average. 1B Ahmad Wagner decided to resign and anchor the middle of the order, while Cesar Cruz spent the offseason making the move from SS to 3B where he will be an asset defensively rather than a liability. SS Keith Mcpherson was signed to take Cruz’s place at SS and with those moves alone, the defense has immediately taken a leap in the right direction.

In the outfield, sluggers David Chavez and Jhonny Manzanillo still anchor the lineup and the corner spots while Mitchell Franco was signed to take over centerfield. Franco was brought in to add range to the outfield defense and the management expects that his bat will only be average. There is still a fight for one roster spot and a veteran free agent may be signed to fill a key backup role. AAA 1B Pepe Padilla and AAA 2B Jair Aybar are also fighting to make the squad and both have the chance to be called up and make an impact early in the season.

From the mound, New Britain will look close to identical to the end of last season though they are still searching for a 5th starter. The rotation will again boast the veterans lineup of Buck Stark (13-9/3.74/1.19), Victor Dasilva (12-17/5.44/1.45), Santo Solano (8-15/3.61/1.26), and Diego Santiago(18-10/4.00/1.25). Dean Wasdin (3-4, 4.88) was called up due to injuries and may hang on as a long reliever. Carlos Salinas was moved to closer late in the season (8 saves/5.71) and had his ups and downs and could get an early hook from the role. Harry Tejada (17 saves/3.51) was moved from closer to be the focus of a revamped bullpen so he could impact a lot more games and throw more innings, so look for him to throw more than 100 innings this season and be the veteran focal point of the bullpen. The rest of the bullpen is made up of youngsters who are looking for a role and a veteran or two could be brought in along the way and push them out. There is one more spot open for a starter/long reliever and no one has stepped up in spring training so currently the team is exploring options outside of the organization.

With a more watchful eye and improved defense, New Britain is hoping it added a few wins and expects to contend for a division title and wild card spot this season.

New Orleans Zydeco
The New Orleans Zydeco were surprise NL pennant winners last season. Although they have won four straight division titles, their last three teams have faded as the regular season progressed, finishing with 78, 83, and 87 wins after torrid starts in each season. The Zydeco will continue to build around their core of 1B Steve Boyer, 2B Bernie Shermann, SP Shannon Williams, and SP Lance Gardner. They added significant quality depth this off-season, signing seven good free agents. They will probably again be an above-average all-around team. But with no real top-shelf talent, it would be a stretch to predict much more than that.

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