Saturday, July 12, 2014

NL South Season 28 Preview

Houston Roughnecks
Owner: Bagwellbuff (7th Season)
Last Season: 69-93, 4th Place
Payroll: 41.4M out of 89M

Houston has been re-building, and has missed the playoffs for the past two seasons after winning 4 consecutive NL South titles.  Last year on offense, they ranked slightly below average (10th in NL) in batting average and homeruns.  This Roughnecks team is definitely not built for offense, as they are lacking power and the ability to reach base.  Houston’s top offensive threat is 1B Howie Jay, who was voted Rookie of the Year.  Catcher Shouhei Uehara should be counted on to reach base frequently.  I don’t see much else in terms of hitting.  Free-agent acquisitions Alex Alomar (38 SB) and Geraldo Moya will add speed to the lineup.  Keep an eye on rookie RF Napoleon Charles, who has the potential to contribute offensively and defensively.  I expect Houston to rank near the bottom of the league in offense this season. 

Houston had an above-average defensive season, ranking 6th in fielding percentage and 5th in plus-plays.  All-star selection Yusmeiro Julio is a well-rounded shortstop.  Infielders Ernest Blue (3B) and Endy Figueroa (2B) will play their respective positions well.  The Roughnecks made some offseason moves that will strengthen their defense.  They traded for catcher Angel Marin, who has great arm accuracy.  Free-agent pickup Geraldo Moya, along with rookie Deven Huckaby, have great range and will cover plenty of ground in the outfield.  Opposing base-runners should be aware of rookie Napoleon Charles, who has a cannon in RF.  I believe that the Roughnecks have an above-average defense. 

During Season 27, Houston finished dead-last with a team ERA of 4.86, and I don’t see a whole lot of improvement.  The starting rotation will struggle.  Brandon Murphy (11-8, 3.50 ERA) had a nice season, but his ratings suggest that is unlikely to happen again.  Walter Heredia (9-8, 4.39 ERA) held his own, but is near the end of his career at 37 years old.  The remainder of the starting staff had high ERAs last season and lacked control.  Stretch Campbell and free-agent acquisition Frank Buss should be respectable arms out of the bullpen.  I think that waiver pick-up Joaquin Gutierrez could be a surprise and will pitch especially well against lefties.  Closer Lou Riley (35 saves, 3.52 ERA) possesses low splits, but has had two great seasons in a row.  The bullpen shows more promise than the starters, but overall, this Houston pitching staff should rank below-average.

Future Star:  Howie Jay (26 years old) is looking to build on an impressive rookie year where he batted .311 with 35 homeruns and 107 RBIs.  He was recognized for his efforts by being voted Rookie of the Year.  Jay has great ratings in the following areas: contact, power, batting eye, split vs. RHP.  


Jackson Juggernauts
Owner: Bobbyj7 (16th Season)
Last Season: 72-90, 3rd Place
Payroll: 37.6M out of 50M

Jackson has now gone four seasons without a playoff appearance, and are far from the glory years of two consecutive World Series titles (Season 18 and 19).  Offensively, they ranked 4th in the NL in batting average, but were below-average in run production due to a lack of power.  Juan Wilfredo should be their most productive player, as he gets on base frequently (.379 career OBP) and is a threat to steal (48 SB).  Catcher Kenny Fox (.303, 22 HR, 72 RBI) was a nice free-agent pickup, and will help the offense if he stays healthy.  York Messmer has consistent ratings and should be one of the better hitting shortstops in the league.  CF Scott Harvey has put up great numbers in the past, but is near the end of his career.  The only Juggernauts with good power are LF Tom Donatello (21 HR) and 1B Vic Romero.  Jackson’s offense should be similar to last season in that they will make decent contact, but fail to drive in runs.  I rank them slightly below-average. 

Last year, Jackson had an average defensive season, ranking near the middle of the league in fielding percentage and plus-plays.  The infield looks like it will struggle.  They lost gold glove SS Adam McCorley to free-agency and lack a true shortstop.  York Messmer will try to fill the role, but made 21 errors in 63 games at the position last season.  In addition, the Juggernauts lack a glove at 2B and have low range & arm accuracy at 3B.  The current outfield setup should result in a high number of minus-plays, as LF Juan Wilfredo and RF Carlos Pena lack range.  Vince Drew is a solid defensive outfielder, and could help if he earns playing time.  The strength of the Jackson defense is their catchers.  McKay Evers (nailed 43% of base-stealers) and Kenny Fox both have outstanding arms and pitch-call ratings.  Unfortunately, the catchers don't make up for the rest of the defense...so in my opinion, the Jackson defense is below-average.

During Season 27, Jackson’s pitching ranked below-average with a 4.26 team ERA.  I don’t see much potential for improvement, as they lost Bobby Ray Ingram (3.20 ERA) and Bernard Hemmingway (3.40 ERA) in the offseason.  The Juggernaut pitching staff will be a bit wild, as many of their pitchers have low control ratings.  The starting rotation doesn’t have any true #1 or #2 starters.  Howard Tartabull should improve on a horrendous 21-loss season.  Jackson has two exciting young arms in Joakim Alvarez (23 years old) and Ralph Young (25 years old), who could have bright futures.  D.T. Cromer will lead the bullpen, as he is an outstanding relief pitcher with great control and splits.  Trenidad Casilla could also have a strong season, if he keeps his control in order.  The Juggernauts have an average closer in Octavio Canseco (26 for 31 in saves).  The rest of the bullpen should struggle.  Overall, I believe that the Jackson pitching staff is below-average.

Future Star:  D.T. Cromer (25 years-old) is beginning his third season in the majors and should be one of Jackson's top relief pitchers.  Thus far, he has registered a 2.91 career earned-run average and a 1.07 WHIP.  Cromer has only allowed opposing teams to bat .225 against him.   


Louisville ARF ARF ARF ARF’s
Owner: Arfy (13th Season)
Last Season: 73-89, 2nd Place
Payroll: 75M out of 95M

Louisville had a disappointing year, after winning 95 games and the NL South division title in Season 26.  Their offense ranked in the bottom-half of the NL in batting average, runs, and homeruns.  RF Omar Carrasco is the best all-around hitter, and should improve on a disappointing season.  24 year-old Pedro Sanchez will contribute both contact and power.  RF Virgil Hannity will be productive, as he has a career .390 on-base percentage.  The remainder of the lineup will need to be used in the proper situation to be successful.  Julio Silva (22 HR, 86 RBI) and free-agent pickup Rafael Hernandez (26 HR, 84 RBI) will hit for power, but not average.  Ben Tate and Braden Fussell will hit righties, but not lefties.  SS Eduardo Tabata is a beast on the bases (45 SB), but has low contact and splits.  I predict that the ARF ARF ARF ARF's (why so many ARFs?) offense will rank slightly below-average, but could be better with some good situational managing.

Last season, Louisville ranked toward the middle of the NL in fielding percentage, but had very good play from their catchers.  Catching will continue to be the strong-point of the defense with Jonny Lincoln, who threw out 38% of steal attempts and calls a great game.  Louisville also has decent depth at that position in Bartolo Duran.  Shortstop Eduardo Tabata has good range and an outstanding arm, which contributed to 21 plus-plays last season.  However, Tabata could use a slight improvement on his glove.  Rule 5 selection Max Pujols should have a great season at 2B, and Julio Silva (3B) will be okay as he lacks arm strength.  I am a big fan of the ARF ARF’s outfield when Ben Tate (CF) and Braden Fussell (LF) are in the lineup.  Otherwise, it is an average outfield.  Overall, I would rate the Louisville defense to be above-average.  The amount of “above” depends on how many errors are made at shortstop and who is playing the outfield.

Louisville finished Season 27 with a 3.83 team ERA, which ranked them 6th in the NL.  However, they had a tough time holding onto leads as the bullpen only converted 41 saves out of 63 opportunities.  Louisville’s starting rotation has the potential to be successful, as they have depth.  Geronimo Estrada (16-9, 2.54 ERA in Season 26) can be an effective ace if he stays healthy this season.  Ariel Mateo (13-11, 3.71 ERA) is a solid #2, and I believe that Clay Vernon will rebound from a sub-par year.  One criticism is that the rotation has weaker ratings against left-handed hitters.  The ARF ARF’s attempted to improve the bullpen by signing a bunch of old, cheap veteran pitchers in the offseason.  It will be interesting to see if that works out well for them.  Jair Bonilla and Esteban Avila (0.99 WHIP) should perform well in a setup role.  Closer Carlos Flores comes to the NL from St. Louis, where he saved 50 games and won the Fireman of the Year award.  I believe that the bullpen could use more depth.  I expect Louisville’s pitching staff to rank slightly above-average.  

Future Star:  Pedro Sanchez (24 years-old) is entering his third season as a big-league first baseman.  Last season, he made a strong contribution to the Louisville offense by hitting .287 with 22 homeruns and 59 RBIs.  Although his splits are somewhat low, he has outstanding contact, power, and batting eye ratings. 


Texas GalvestonWave
Owner: Erichanville (4th Season)
Last Season: 92-70, 1st Place – Lost in LCS
Payroll: 113.7M out of 114M

Texas broke out of the cellar last season, as they won the division title and were only one game away from making a World Series appearance.  Last season’s offense had a great combination of batting average and power, as their run production ranked 2nd in the NL.  Texas has two offensive studs in all-star Alan Wilson (.351 BA, 25 HR, 89 RBI, .436 OBP) and young slugger Dicky Stanley.  All-stars Bengie Romano (.308 BA, 22 SB) and Jake Ashley (.288 BA, 19 HR) will also contribute to the offense on multiple levels.  Texas released power-hitter Victor Alexander (35 HR, 112 RBI) and will try to replace him with free-agent acquisition Allan Gruber, who is coming off of a disappointing season.  P.T. Rosa has consistent ratings and should help the offense, but I don’t see much else.  Additionally, this GalvestonWave team definitely lacks speed.  I might be missing something, but my prediction is that the Texas offense is just slightly above-average, and that is because they had such great numbers last season.

Texas finished last season with a stellar NL ranking of second in fielding percentage and third in caught-stealing percentage.  They have two outstanding catchers in Nolan McClellan and Sammy Goya, who will throw out base-stealers and call a solid game.  Shortstop Joel Reid has a great arm, but could use better glove skills for this position.  Jake Ashley will be a vacuum at 3B and Bengie Romano (2B) will make multiple plus-plays with his range, but could also use a small improvement on his glove skills.  CF Birdie McNamara should have an exceptional season, as he is in the lineup solely for his defense.  P.T. Rosa will also be expected to have a great season in LF with his range and strong arm.  The Texas defense is almost a carbon-copy of Louisville’s, so I’ll rank them above-average.  Joel Reid’s performance at SS will determine if they are good or great.

The GalvestonWave pitching staff looks to improve on a National League ranking of 4th in team ERA (3.76).  They also finished second in saves with 59.  The Texas starting rotation is loaded with groundball pitchers.  It looks like they will be using a 6-man rotation, as some have low stamina ratings.  Diego Benitez is the ace and has had an ERA in the low 2’s for four consecutive years.  He will not give Texas many innings though.  Billy Lloyd (12 wins, 2.72 ERA) and free-agent pickup Al Manto (12 wins, 2.39 ERA) will also be solid starters.  The bottom-of-rotation pitchers should be good for those roles.  The Texas bullpen got even better with the addition of Davey Diaz (3.65 ERA) and Cozy Lawrence (3.32 ERA).  At 38 years-old, Jesus Amezaga (341 career saves) is still one of the best relievers in baseball.  Brett Rogers also returns after having a great year.  I believe that this Texas pitching staff will rank toward the top of the National League.

Future Star:  Dicky Stanley (26 years-old) finally broke out after a number of sub-par MLB seasons consisting of limited playing time.  He was a huge reason why Texas ranked 2nd in run-production, as he hit .309 with 35 homers and 125 RBIs.  Stanley has one of the best power ratings in the league, draws a good number of walks, and hits especially well versus right-handed pitchers.  


Prediction:


The NL South should be a two-team race between Texas and Louisville this season.  I expect Texas to win their second consecutive division title.  They have outstanding pitching, along with hitting and fielding that is better than average.  Louisville has above-average pitching and fielding.  However, their offense should struggle, which is why I am predicting them to be the runner-up.  Houston and Jackson are both in the middle of a rebuilding plan, and should not be considered contenders.  Houston has a strong defense, which gives them the edge for the #3 spot.  I expect Jackson to struggle in all three areas of the game this season, although they do have some young pitchers who I will be keeping an eye on. 

1.  Texas
2.  Louisville
3.  Houston
4.  Jackson

Friday, July 11, 2014

NL East Season 28 previews

Philadelphia Moneymakers
owner- Phillies26(27 seasons)
Season 27 record- 81-81(NL East Champs)
Payroll- $97.9

The Moneymaker offense is looking pretty good this season. Fausto Gandarilla is a player that will get on base a lot. Rickey Masterson is a good hitter with decent pop and a little speed. Jo-jo Frandsen was a great off season pickup that can hit for power, average and he has some speed and a good eye to go with it. He's one of the better hitters in the league. This team doesn't have a great offense, but they are above average. They lack power, but they can hit and they have some speed.

The Philadelphia defense looks really good this season. Alex Lyons is a great shortstop. Kevin Jenkins lacks great range, but he won't make errors in centerfield. R.J. Melendez is a really good thirdbaseman. The team lacks a good second baseman, but they are average or above at most other positions on the field. This team should be one of the better defensive teams in the NL this season.

Pitching is a weakness. The rotation does not look very good to me. They are a group of average or below average pitchers. The bullpen is a bit better though. Willis Phillips is a pretty solid closer. Yannick Truby is a solid young reliever that should continue to get better. Overall this pitching staff is not very good. The defense will help them, but I think they are near the bottom of the league.

Philadelphia has the offense and defense to take this division again. The pitching staff is not very good though and will likely hold them back from that. I could see them finishing with 81 wins again this season.

Player to watch- Jo-jo Frandsen- At 28 years old, Frandsen has already won 4 silver slugger awards and been to 2 all star games. He's also been in the MVP running a few times. His mix of power and speed make him a dynamic player. I could see him matching or even besting his last season numbers. For the first time in his career, he is not going to be hitting in a pitchers park for his home games. That alone could increase his numbers.



Cincinnati Firestorm
owner- jbburner(27 Seasons)
Season 27 record- 78-84
Payroll- $94.1

The offense for this team is below average. They lack good hitting, they have little speed, and not a lot of power. Alexander Williamson and Rafael Unamuno are the 2 hitters that stand out on this squad. Pedro Martinez has good power, but he's not a great hitter. He's coming off of a great season that he'll struggle to follow up. This team is not very good offensively, but they play in a hitters park. That means they'll likely finish near the middle of the pack.

On defense, Cincinnati is below average as well. Walt Phillips has great range at shortstop and has a pretty good glove as well. Eugenio Frieri is a really good third baseman and won't make many errors. The rest of the defense is not very good though. They lack a good centerfielder and they don't have depth at short. This team will likely finish in the bottom half of the league defensively.

I'm not very impressed with the pitching staff either. Lee Coveleski and Boone Holmes are the only 2 starters that I like on this team. I just think they are better suited for the middle rotation rather than the top. In the bullpen Andres Jacquez, Sammy Verdugo and Manuel Rodriguez are each pretty solid. None are top relievers though and the rest of the bullpen isn't very good. While Cincinnati has some decent pitchers, none are very much above average and the depth beyond them isn't very good.

Cincinnati sure looks like a team that won't be challenging for a playoff spot this season. They have some good players, but no real standouts. Behind those players isn't much talent. I think Cincinnati will struggle to match last seasons record and will likely finish with around 70 wins.

Player to watch- Boone Holmes- I'm picking Holmes because he's only 23 years old and could continue to improve. He has good control and is a groundball pitcher. That should really help him out in Cincinnati. I don't think he's an ace, but I think he would make a really good #3 starter.



Jacksonville Juice
owner- greygoose123(27 Seasons)
Season 27 record- 71-91
Payroll- $62.4

The Juice offense is not looking very good this season. Mack Dawkins should hit well. He has good power and speed, but his contact isn't very good. Hipolito Arredondo is the best hitter on this team. He has good power, hits for average and can get on base with the walk. Sammy Ramirez is a high contact hitter with speed and a great eye. He'll get on base plenty enough for Jacksonville. Outside of these guys there really isn't much offense. The team is looking below average this season.

The defense is not very good. Cookie Zapata is the best option at shortstop, but they use him as a backup. Nobody else on the team is even a decent option at the position. As with most teams that lack a shortstop, players end up getting put at positions they aren't skilled for. The defense could actually be above average if Zapata was the full time shorstop.

The pitching staff isn't very good this season. Ray Henry and Terry Kane are both solid mid to back rotation starters, but they are the best two on this staff. Mike Clinton is a really good reliever, but the bullpen doesn't have a good arm besides him. This pitching staff is a mess this season. I think they'll finish near the bottom of the league.

Jacksonville sure looks like a team that is rebuilding. This is a franchise with a long history of winning, but I just don't think they are going to this season, and maybe not for a few seasons. They have never had back to back losing seasons but this will be a first for them. I think they'll struggle to win 70 games.

Player to watch- Mack Dawkins- He may be the most exciting player on this team. He may strike out a lot, but I love his mix of power and speed. Las season was a breakout seasons for him and I think he'll continue to put up similar numbers. He has a realistic shot at becoming a 30/30 man.



Wichita DwArf'y Mojados
owner- jibe(5 Seasons)
Season 27 record- 62-100
Payroll- $11.8

This team still has some work to do offensively. They are an improving team, but they have a bit to go still. Gorkys Gonzales is an excellent young hitter that should improve quite a bit over last seasons debut. Rule V draftee, Alving Torrealba should be a nice addition to the lineup. Jorge Santana has good speed, but I doubt he'll reach base enough to really be effective. This offense right now is ranked at the bottom of the league, but they have a few prospects that are really close to changing that.

It's pretty bad that the AAA team is better than the ML team in fielding. My guess is that they plan to move those guys up after game 20. When and if they do, then this team will have a solid group on the field. Right now though, Larry Rolen is the best fielder. He has the range and arm for shortstop, but his glove isn't very good. They really don't have much else. Right now this team has the worst defense in the league. That likely won't last long though.

The pitching staff in Wichita isn't very good and doesn't look like there is much help on the way. I really am not a big fan of any of the pitching staff. They have a couple of relievers at AAA that could help, but I don't think that is enough. This pitching staff is likely the worst in the NL.

Wichita is obviously a rebuilding team, but they have some pieces that are real close to helping out. The offense and defense could see a big upgrade soon in the form of some prospects making their way to the majors. I'm not sure those players will be enough to make up for the pitching woes. This is a weak division this season though, and those additions could help them make a run at the division title. The way things stand right now they would be lucky to win 60 games this season.

Player to watch- Pete O'Keefe- Down at AA, O'Keefe would add a nice spark to the offense at the ML level. He has solid contact, good splits, and a good eye. On top of that, he's fast. I could see him hitting a .270, with a .330 obp and stealing around 60 bases. That is my kind of player and I'm not sure the Mojados even plan on bringing him up. If they do though, I'll be keeping an eye on him.



Predictions
This division is not very strong this season. I wouldn't be surprised to see any team take the division title. Philadelphia is the reigning division champ and they are still solid. The pitching is a big weakness though. I don't really think Cincinnati will be a contender in the title race this season. They have too many holes. The same can be said of Jacksonville. Wichita is hard to get a read on. Even if they do make some promotions, it's going to be hard for them to do anything with the pitching staff they have.

1. Philadelphia
2. Wichita
3. Cincinnati
4. Jacksonville

Thursday, July 10, 2014

NL North Season 28 Preview

Iowa City Hawkeyes
owner- tk21775(12 Seasons)
Season 27 record- 94-68(NL North Champs)
Payroll- $92.5

The Hawkeyes have not been known as a very good offensive team, but when taking the park into account, they aren't as bad as the numbers look. I'm not going to say they are anything better than average, but they aren't bad. The trade for Rickie Halama added some serious power to the team. Halama is much more than a power hitter though. He can hit and draw walks pretty well also. Joakim Valbuena has been a good hitter for the Hawkeyes and he has good power and the ability to steal a few bases. Octavio Armas is really good at getting on base and he'll hit for decent power as well. Edwin Reese is the best stolen base threat on the team, but he doesn't get on base enough. This offense is not among the best in the league, but they are close to average. Depth is a real issue that holds them back.

Defensively the team looks pretty good. The loss of Eduardo Ortiz to injury is going to hurt, but Daryl Robertson is a solid backup option. Ruben Manuel is a really good second baseman with solid range and a great glove. Edwin Reese is a former gold glove outfielder and has really good range for centerfield. I really think this team is good defensively, but I'm not sure they rank among the top 5 in the league.

Pitching has been what's carried this team for a while now. The team traded away Sticky Farquhar to acquire some hitting, but the rest of the staff in still intact. Brendan Taylor is a Cy Young reliever and he'll eat up innings. Dennis Coleman isn't far behind him in his abilities.Victor Waner and Rondell Kirwan round out an excellent bullpen that is likely the best in the league. The rotation is solid, but not great. None of the starters really stand out as an ace, but this team can get by with average starters when they have a bullpen this good. This is a good pitching staff and should be among the best in the league at seasons end.

Iowa City should still have a pretty good team this season. I feel like the offense isn't a strength, but it's got some really good pieces. The defense is good and the pitching is looking really good again. Iowa City should be in the running for the division title and if not then at least the running for a wild card spot. I could see them winning 90 games or more.

Player to watch- Rickie Halama- Halama is a great young hitter. He has some great power and will still hit for a good average. I actually think he hasn't performed as well as he should yet in his career. He has the ability to hit 50+ homers and hit for a .280+ average every season. This could be the season he breaks out. If so, then Iowa City will have a real shot at taking home another NL crown.



Helena Copper Kings
owner- pinetaar(2 seasons)
Season 27 record- 90-72(Wild Card)
Payroll- $73.7

On paper, Helena looks like they should be an average offense this season. I really like the hitting abilities of J.A. Stanley. He hits for average, with a good obp and some great power. Vladimir Molina is a player that gets on base and will use his speed to swipe some bags. He also has decent power. Jim Hawpe has a really good mixture of power and speed as he was a 30/30 man last season. Alex Suzuki will hit for power, but he's not very good at getting on base. This offense has good power and some decent speed. They lack the guys that will get on base enough though. With a couple of high obp guys on in front of the power hitters this could easily be a top 3 offense, but right now they are about average.

This team isn't very good defensively. The shortstop position is a hole for them. Jim Hawpe is a below average shortstop, and would be better suited for second or thirdbase. Lyle Tipton has decent range and glove, but his arm isn't good for the position either. He makes for a solid utility player though. The team lacks range in centerfield and they don't have a great glove that makes up for the lack of range. Right now this team looks like they'll rank near the bottom of the league defensively.

The pitching staff is really hard to grade. The bullpen is really good. The rotation is bad. Jose Goya is a great young arm in the pen that should be one of the better closers in the league. Tom Leonard is a great setup man. Victor James, Rigo Jimenez, and Kareem Gold are all solid relievers. The only pitcher in the rotation that I really like is Geraldo Molina, but his stamina will tax the bullpen and cause him to miss out on qualifying for some victories. Overall this staff is below average because the bullpen will be called on way too often to really be effective.

Helena looks like an average team to me. I like the offense, but the defense is bad and the pitching is just below average. I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish 81-81, but I'll put the +/- of that at around 5 either way.

Player to watch- J.A. Stanley- This teams season could go the way that Stanley does. I think he hasn't performed to his abilities and should hit closer to 50 homers, but he hasn't quite come close yet. If he does, then this team could finish better than I anticipate. If he has a down season then things could go much worse for this team.



Fargo Wood Chippers
owner- Starbuckdc(27 seasons)
Season 27 record- 86-76
Payroll- $82.5

Fargo is not a team that will hit for a high average, but they do have an above average offense. Power hitters Tony Caballero and Zip Sullivan are a couple of the better hitters in the NL. Zip Sullivan is the 2 time MVP, but Caballero is the better all around hitter. They can make any offense good. Junior Shigetoshi has a great eye and should hit for a really good average as well. Harlold Munoz is in his second year and should improve. He should be able to get on base enough to be a speed threat once he's there. Olmedo Johnson is an ideal leadoff man. He can get on base and hit for average and then he'll steal a lot of bases. Alexei Marrero has decent power and should get on base a lot. If this team had better depth then I'd think really hard about putting them at the top of the NL offensively, but for now I rank them as one of the top teams.

Defense is not an issue for this team. Adam McCorley and Trent Canizaro are a couple really good shortstops that will split time. Zip Sullivan has one of the better, if not the best, gloves at secondbase in the NL. Olmedo Johnson plays a really good thirdbase. I see the issue as being centerfield. They lack a really good centerfielder. That is the only reason I can't put them near the top of the league in defense. Right now I think they are just above average due to that.

Pitching is pretty solid for the Wood Chippers. The top of the rotation is where they excel. Benny Vilano and Aurelio Ozuna are a great one-two punch at the top. Emil Martin is a really good middle rotation starter as well. Ismael Duran and Harold Dillon are decent back end starters. The rotation together is really good and among the best in the NL. The bullpen is what holds this team back from greatness. It's just not a very good bullpen. I still think that Fargo has a good pitching staff overall.

Fargo is going to be a tough team this season. The offense is good and has the potential to be even better than that. The defense is really solid and is a piece away from being one of the best in the league. The pitching has a bullpen weakness, but the rotation is pretty good. I think Fargo should blow by their last season win total and could win 90+ games this season. Right now, this looks like the team to beat in the NL North.

Player to watch- Tony Caballero- This guy is one of the best hitters in the NL and has the potential to do even better than what he's already done. I'm not just saying this is a guy to watch this season, I'm saying he's a guy to watch throughout his career. When he's done, he could very well hold quite a few league records and end up in the Hall of Fame. For this season, I'd say he has the shot at winning an MVP.



Scranton Red Barons
owner- reggie988(5 seasons)
Season 27 record- 70-92
Payroll- $36.8

Scranton has an average offense this season. I think they have some good players, but they are a low contact team. That usually doesn't hold up well. Youngster David Uribe wasted no time making his mark on the league last season. He has good power and should get on base a lot. His low contact means that he'll strike out quite a bit too though. F.P. Gentry is a solid hitter, but I expect him to hit better than he has up to this point in his career. This team has plenty of depth and some solid power, but they just don't have the look of a top offense. That's why I'll say they are average and let them prove me wrong.

Defense is an area of concern for Scranton. The best option at shortstop is L.J. Stowers, but his glove isn't what you'd like at that position. They don't have a centerfielder either. The lack of players that can play those positions really puts other players on this team out of position. I wouldn't be surprised to see Scranton finish among the worst defensive teams in the league.

The pitching is looking a bit above average. Young starter Julio Valdivia is a great starter and won a Cy Young award in just his second season after signing as an IFA a couple seasons ago. Youngster Gustavo Santos is good for a middle rotation starter. Babe Conroy and Alfonso Puig are a couple of average arms that fit nicely at the back of the rotation. The rotation as a whole is average. The bullpen features closer Mitch Mota, who hasn't pitched very well the past few seasons, but I expect he'll turn it around. Enerio Granados, Augie Kim and Ricardo Johnson are pretty good setup men. The bullpen looks pretty good this season and should be able to hold some leads.

Scranton is an improving and young team. They are on their way up in this division and are real close to putting it together. The defense is a major concern and is going to hold them back from being serious contenders. The pitching and offense are looking good enough to put this team into contention for a post season spot, but the defense will likely keep them out. I could see them winning around 80 games this season.

Player to watch- Julio Valdivia- This guy is a great young starter. If he had better stamina then this guy would be one of the best in all of Pine Tar. After winning the Cy Young last season, I'm interested to see how he follows up that campaign. Can he continue to pitch like a future Hall of Famer or will he come back to the pack some?



Predictions
Iowa City still looks like a good team to me. I'm not sure that they will win the division again though. I think they will put up a fight for it and will likely end up in the wild card. Helena is a solid team, but I don't think they are on the level of the top teams in this division. They could fight for a wild card spot, but I can't see them winning the division. Fargo is the team to watch this season. I think they are the most complete team in this division and have a real shot at the NL title. They are my pick to take the division. Scranton is a team that is getting better and they are really young. I think they'll improve and maybe even fight for a wild card spot, but in the end I think they'll miss out and finish close to .500.

1. Fargo
2. Iowa City
3. Helena
4. Scranton


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

AL South Season 28 Preview

Tampa Bay Thunder
owner- rxw1(27 seasons)
Season 27 record- 90-72(AL South Champs)
Payroll- $89.9

The Thunder look like they have a pretty solid offense going into this season. Jim McCormick has a career .400 obp and is the top on base threat for this team. Junior Yang provides good contact and power and will also steal some bases. Robert Wallace, Albert Rosa, and Alberto Benavente will provide some good power, but none of them will hit for a high average. Rico Tatis sure did get old fast. He'll get on base, but he's lost the power that made him such a threat. Tampa Bay will likely not rank among the best offensive teams this season, but they should rank in the upper half of the league.

I'm not too impressed with the defense. They lack a true shortstop and most other positions lack good gloves as well. Enny Tejera is playing shortstop, but he'd serve the team better as a second baseman. The one spot I really like is third base with Junior Yang. That is the perfect spot for him. Besides that, this team is below average defensively and will finish near the bottom of the league.

The rotation of Claude Collins, Bo Carter, Curtis Bannister and Sammy Johnson are pretty good. Collins is going to be on the DL for a while and that makes the rotation just above average until he returns. With him they are a top 5 rotation in the AL. In the bullpen, Frank Murphy, Joaquin Gallardo, Dioner Jimenez and Tony Perez are really good arms to lean on at the end of games. The bullpen really puts this team near the top of the AL.

Tampa Bay looks pretty good this season with the defense being a weakness. The defense will hurt the pitching staff, which is the strength of this team. My guess is that they finish this season with a little worse record than last season, but still in the upper 80's of victories.

Player to watch- Albert Rosa- Rosa is an interesting player and one that I mistakenly let get away. He has lower contact and eye, but good power, good splits and really good speed. I'm curious to see if he can hit well enough to use that speed and how well his power plays for him. I think a good season for him will be hitting a .250, with 25 homers and 40 steals. I think Tampa would be happy with that as well.



New Orleans Zephyrs
owner- Fantasy Frea(6 seasons)
Season 27 record- 84-78
Payroll- $79.8

The Zephyrs have some solid players offensively, but I'd call them just average as a team. Sam Slotnick is a great power hitter and can get on base. He will also steal a few bases. Vic Ward and Coco Stratton are a couple of high contact players that will hit for average. Christopher Hoffman will make his ML debut this season and has plenty of power. I'm interested to see if he can overcome his low contact and eye to hit enough homeruns. Howie Osborne has really good power and decent speed. These guys are solid players, but the team really lacks depth.

Defensively the Zephyrs look pretty good. I really like Benito Miranda at shortstop and what he can do. He has a solid glove with solid range and a really good arm. His hitting abilities aren't great, but they are good for a player with his fielding ability. Diory Encarnacion is a really good backup for any position on the field. Howie Osborne is the centerfielder, but I don't like his range for the position. Ed Darnell is a great second baseman. I'd really like to see Mark Millwood in center and Osborne on a corner. That would make this a great defensive team.

The pitching here is below average. Everth Benitez is the ace and he'd make a better mid rotation starter. I'm just really not impressed with the rotation. In the bullpen Pat Chen and Pasqual Sosa are solid, but even the bullpen is not very good. The pitching is really a weakness for this team that needs serious upgrading.

I think New Orleans is a solid team, but I can't see them making the post season with what they have on this pitching staff. The offense has some really good pieces and the defense is really good. That is what keeps this team around in the race, but the pitching keeps them from being serious contenders. 84 wins would be a really good and realistic goal for New Orleans.

Player to watch- Vic Ward- I'm going with Ward because he's an interesting player. He can flat out hit and get on base. He also adds some solid power and then thing that surprises me, base stealing. He has 63 steals and 17 caught stealing since coming to the majors a couple of seasons ago. Not bad for a player with a speed rating of 63.



San Juan Pollos Hermanos
owner- soxfan_9
Season 27 record- 79-83
Payroll- $88.5

I really like the offense in San Juan. They have good power, good eyes and good splits filling the lineup. They could use a bit better contact, but that is why I'll stop short of calling them great. Ralph Hatcher is a really good hitter with some great power. Masao Saitou can hit the long ball as well and should hit for a decent average. Harvey Merrick had a really bad season in season 27, but he should rebound and hit closer to his career numbers. John Davidson is another player with solid power and good on base numbers to go with it. He also adds good speed to the team. Brian Berkman is a really good speed threat that should get on base enough to make a difference. San Juan also has some good depth.

Defensively, this team is solid. They lack a really good shortstop, but have solid gloves at most positions. Brian Berkman is a really good centerfielder with excellent range. Gio Valdez is a really good third baseman, but a below average shorstop. The same can be said for Yamid Lee. If this team found a great glove for the shortstop position then they'd be among the top 3 defensive teams in the league.

The pitching is average. I really like Shane Osik, but his stamina stops him short of being elite. Gerardo Morales is good, but also lacks stamina. Giovanni Magnuson is in the same situation. All 3 are good pitchers at the top of the rotation, but they'll need a good bullpen behind them. David Ortiz and Willie Fisher have the ability to be the guys that finish off the opponent, but the depth behind them in the pen isn't very good. If the starters had better stamina this wouldn't be a big issue, but since they do I'm going to drop them to below average.

The Pollos Hermanos have the makings of a playoff team on offense and defense. The pitching staff even has some parts to it that still lead me to believe they are just on the edge of the playoff line. With a few upgrades to the pitching staff and the addition of a true shortstop, this team could find themselves battling for the AL title. For now, I'm going to put them in the mid 80's for victories and a tight battle for the division.

Player to watch- Ralph Hatcher- Hatcher is coming off of back to back 50 homer seasons and seems to have found his groove. He also has a run of 6 straight 100 RBI seasons. Last season was his best overall season after hitting .299 and getting on base at a .404 clip. Season 24 could be argued his best, but I think he's got a good chance of putting up even better numbers this season and making a run at the MVP.



Nashville Nalas
owner- blapo21
Season 27 record- 43-119
Payroll- $27.3

This team is real close to having a good offense, but right now they are below average. Blaine Moore and Phil Yamamoto are a couple of great young hitters that have both won rookie of the year awards. Boone Brow provides some solid hitting and power, but he is a low contact hitter. Wolf Dodd is a good hitter as well and he's coming off a career year. Alex Bazardo has proven to be one of the best players in the league at getting on base.  Bubbles Conger has great power, but low contact and eye keep him from being a great hitter. These are some real good players, but the team doesn't have much after them.

The Nalas defense isn't very good. They lack a real shortstop and don't have anyone that stands out as a center fielder either. This is an area of concern for the Nalas. I think they have a chance to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league this season.

The pitching is below average and another weakness. As long as Al Galvez is in the rotation, this teams pitching isn't very respectable. The guy had one of the worst performances in league history last season. They do have some solid pitchers though. Kevin Leonard has the ability to be a mid rotation starter. He is making his major league debut this season and will be an upgrade.  Ray Collins could be a decent back end of the rotation starter. Felix Nakajima is a solid reliever and Darren Miller is as well. The team at least has the start of a decent pitching staff this season.

Nashville is clearly a rebuilding team. They have some good pieces starting to be in place and now they just need to build around them. The offense isn't as far off as the defense and pitching, but they still have little bit of a ways to go. I can't see how the team could repeat last seasons awful record. With the new ownership in place, the team should make improvements based on that alone. I think they can win 60+ games this season.

Player to watch- Phil Yamamoto- There wasn't many options for this, but this option would make for a great choice on any team. He has great power and a great eye. This guys is one of the best hitters in the league and should only improve. I could see him hitting 50+ homers to go with his .300+ average and .400+ obp. This is a rising star in the league and a real difference maker with the bat.



Predictions
Tampa Bay is the reigning champ in this division and they are still a good team. The top of this division is pretty close though and each team has their own weaknesses and strengths. I'm going to go with Tampa though as they are the team that looks the most complete. San Juan should fight it out with them and will likely end up short of the post season again. I expect New Orleans to take a step back and finish third this season. Nashville is still a rebuilding team and shouldn't make a push at all.

1. Tampa Bay
2. San Juan
3. New Orleans
4. Nashville