Thursday, April 4, 2013

AL South Season 23 Preview

Taking the division title in the South last season was Tampa Bay. It had been since season 11 that they won the division and they finally got back on top of a division they once dominated. They also made it back to the ALCS for the first time since season 11 as well. That is where the run ended as they lost to Durham in 6 games. San Juan continued to make improvements and moved up from a 4th place season 21 finish to a 2nd place season 22 finish. It was the first time that the franchise produced a winning record since season 8. This season they will aim for the second playoff appearance in franchise history. New Orleans had to find a replacement owner last season after the previous long time owner vanished from the league. The new ownership came in and got the ship right, but was only able to get them to a .500 finish. They haven't been to the post season since season 9 and will be looking to end that drought soon. Nashville seen their win total decline for a fourth straight season and appear in full rebuild mode. Last season was the first time they didn't win the division since season 11 as they ended a 10 season division title run.

Tampa Bay Thunder
Average.2775Fielding %.98012ERA4.718
Home Runs2842Double Plays4166Opp. Avg..2706
Ops..8202+ Plays3914Strike Outs11353
Runs9032- Plays6115Saves449

Season 20 Record- 88-74(AL South Champ)
Last 5 Seasons- 431-379

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for RP Tony Zapata
Traded for SP Curtis Bannister
Promoted RP Joaquin Gallardo
Signed SP Bo Carter to extension

Offense-The Thunder had one of the better offenses in the AL last season. They hit a lot of homers and scored a lot of runs. Looking through the lineup for this season, and they should be really good again. Pepper Sanders is getting pretty old, but the guy can still hit with the best of them. Christian Lee, Junior Yang, Robert Wallace, and Einar Gil will provide the power for this offense. Tampa Bay has a pretty stacked lineup and will end up among the best when this season is in the books.

Defense-Tampa Bay had a real weakness defensively last season. They ranked near the bottom of the league. Elroy Epstein is a solid centerfielder, but his range is a bit on the low side and his glove is slightly below average. He makes up for that with one of the stronger arms in the league at the position. Junior Yang plays a really good thirbase. This teams issue is that Hector Urbina is the shortstop. He is a below average shortstop. He lacks good range and glove and his arm accuracy is cause for concern. Overall this defense does lack depth and a good shortstop. I think they'll be a below average group again.

Pitching-The pitching was pretty average last season in Tampa. The additions of Bannister and Zapata will help them get better. I really think that part of the pitching being as low as it was is due to the defense. The rotation features Claude Collins and Oscar Osterbrock at the top. Those are 2 legit aces. Heinie Hutton, and Bo Carter are a couple of starters that could fit in near the top of a rotation as well. This team features one of the better rotations in the AL. The bullpen isn't too far off. Zapata, Frank Murphy, Tony Perez, and Joaquin Gallardo are really good relievers. From top to bottom, this pitching staff looks like a top 5 staff. I really think that the defense is what holds them back.

Projection-The offense in Tampa is good enough to carry a team. Throw in a really good pitching staff and I think the defense can be overlooked. This team should win north of 90 games this season and be tough to knock from the top of the division. The defense will really stick out though when it comes to the post season.

Owner Interview-
Me-Well after a 7 season post season drought, Tampa Bay has made it back to the playoffs in 3 of the past 4 seasons. The team won the division for the first time since season 11 last season also. What is behind this success? I mean, you rebuilt this team, but it wasn't a typical rebuild. How do you avoid the typical rebuild?

rxw1-I have had the pleasure of playing with a lot of great owners over the years and watched a much of different methods of rebuilding. Build a team for your park. Figure out what attributes work well in your park and don’t deviate. To avoid those 100 loss years you have to keep a good mix of youth and veterans. I’ve always favored International Free Agents over the draft. Trade your vets at the right time and try to avoid tying up huge chunks of your roster on Free Agents. And having 2 of the 12 guys in the Hall are wearing Thunders hats doesn’t hurt a team either

Me-Last season was your 7th ALCS appearance. You've been in the league since season one. Tell us a little about how you build your teams for success. What is the most important piece needed to have a successful team in the regular and post season? What can we expect from the Thunder this season?

rxw1-I’m looking forward to Season 23. We added depth in the bullpen by bringing up Gallardo and adding Zapata. The core of the offense is young and improving each year. Hopefully we can make back to the playoffs and take another run at it.

San Juan Pollos Hermanos
Average.2813Fielding %.97516ERA4.8111
Home Runs2219Double Plays4157Opp. Avg..27613
Ops..8054+ Plays5410Strike Outs104910
Runs1635- Plays6014Saves503

Season 20 Record- 83-79
Last 5 seasons- 395-415

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for SP Anibal Chacin
Traded for RP Mike Franklin
Traded for SP Giovanni Magnuson
Traded for U Allen Gruber
Signed SP Gerardo Morales
Promoted P Vasco Tejeda
Promoted RP Willie Fisher

Offense-San Juan had a pretty good offense last season. They ranked as a top 5 team. They have some good young hitters in Charles Yoshii, Masao Saitou, and Ralph Hatcher. They have some good veteran hitters in Colby Rogers, Dennis Kirk, Harvey Merrick, Allen Gruber, and Desi Vasquez. This team is really good offensively. They have good hitting, power and some speed mixed in. San Juan should rank around top 5 again this season.

Defense-This team was pretty bad defensively in season 22. I don't think that will change much this season. Colby Rogers is a great glove at secondbase and Desi Vasquez is great in leftfield, but the shortstop position is really weak. As is centerfield. I think those positions are what brings this team down to the bottom of the league.

Pitching-The pitching last season ranked below average. This was a big focus for the team in the off season. The addition of Gerardo Morales will help out the top of the rotation. Shane Osik is the ace and the team should expect big things from him. The addition of Magnuson will also be an upgrade to the rotation. This rotation isn't great, but it's a top 5 rotation in the AL. The bullpen features Felipe Lee, Willie Fisher and Stretch Campbell. They are 3 good pitchers. The bullpen is not as strong as the rotation, but it is still solid. The pitching staff as a group looks pretty good though.

Projection-San Juan features a good offense and pitching staff, but they are in need of defensive help. I'm not sure the strengths out weigh the weakness enough to make them a legit contender in this division. I think they can stick around in the title race, but I don't think they are quite on the level of Tampa Bay yet. It's a really young team though that is getting better and they aren't very far off from that.

Owner Interview-
Me-You're team has been making small moves up the ladder since you took over. Every season they improve, but they've never had a bad season to get a top pick. How have you gone about building this team? What pieces do you still need in order to put them on top? Are there any future all stars coming through the system that we should be aware of? What style team is your ideal team? What can we expect this season from San Juan?

soxfan_9-The team I started with in S17 is very different than the team I have now. It was a very mediocre team and although we haven’t proved anything yet, I don’t see mediocrity in our future for much longer. As for not having top picks, yeah it has been tough. The only thing that has saved me in the draft has been my quantity of picks within the top 100, especially in S19 and S22. It has allowed me to stockpile youth. That youth has given me the ability to trade for other players who can help me win now. Another thing I’ve done was always trying to flip my good players for better ones in trades. Sometimes it doesn’t always turn out that way and sometimes you got to trade for what you need at the time but the intent is still there. A few trades that I think has changed San Juan forever was when I traded away Valbuena. That trade (although got Seattle a ring) allowed me to really stockpile players and then trade for others. Because I did that Valbuena trade, it allowed me to trade Graves away for pitching. There’s always a plan but sometimes plans take longer than expected. As for this current season, trading for Chacin, Magnus, and Franklin, while signing Morales,I think my team finally has the pitching to compete in Pine Tar. As for the offensive players I’ve lost, I still think we have enough power to make a difference. I prefer a pitching minded team and we haven’t really seen that in San Juan.  Hopefully this season, I will be going back to my roots and get some success. As for what to expect, HBD is a weird finicky simulator but I hope with the ability that my players have, things will fall into place.

New Orleans Zephyrs
Average.25413Fielding %.9829ERA4.577
Home Runs2355Double Plays4279Opp. Avg..27511
Ops..75610+ Plays892Strike Outs99914
Runs78310- Plays222Saves476

Season 20 Record- 81-81
Last 5 seasons- 374-436

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for 3B Bernard Charleston
Signed CF Ismael Morales
Promoted C Evan Brooks
Promoted SP Orlando Sanchez
Promoted SP Daniel Hull

Offense-New Orleans ranked below average offensively last season, but they did hit for some good power. With the likes of Sam Slotnick in the order, a team is going to see a lot of home runs. Henry Siddall is 36 now, but he is still a great hitter. Braden Fussell is a player that can hit for power and steal some bases. I think this team is better offensively than how they performed last season. At worst they are an average offense, even though I think they are above average.

Defense-The defense was about average last season, but they had really good range. 2 time Gold Glove shortstop Vin Hernandez is one of the best in the league. He'll likely challenge for another this season. Morales is a 2 time Gold Glove centerfielder. While he's lost some range, he still has a great glove. They even have a really good back up shortstop in Eduardo Tabata. This team should have one of the top defenses in the AL this season.

Pitching-The Zephyrs were an average pitching team in season 22. Everth Benitez is the ace and he lived up to that title last season. Besides him, the rotation is filled with guys more suited for the back end. The bullpen features a great closer in Jesus Amezaga. The rest of the staff is not very good though. The pitching staff in New Orleans is not very good, but they do have a couple really good anchors.

Projection-New Orleans will have a good offense, a really good defense and below average pitching this season. I don't think that is going to keep them in the division title picture, but they should be a decent team. I think an improvement by a couple games can be expected this season, but the playoffs are going to be tough to get to.

Owner Interview-
Me-You took over a team that needed an owner in the middle of last season. What was the toughest part of getting the team straightened out after the last owner disappeared? Do you feel like this was a pretty good team that you took over? What pieces do you still need to make them a top team or do you fell like they are already there? What can we expect this season and what are your goals?

Fantasy Frea-It really wasn't to dificult to straighten the team out. There were plenty of minor leaguers which is usually not the case so that was good. It was an okay team not as good defensively as I would like but I think this year for the most part I have fixed it. I need pitching, I ended trading my #3 sp for a 3rd baseman. So I am hoping my 3-5 guys can just give me 35 wins and I will be happy with that. I do have some contracts that end this year so hoping for some decent free agents so that is my thing I will be working next year since my farm system seems to be bare. I was .500 last year so my goal is for 85-90 wins this year. P.S. The blog is awesome that is one of the reasons I came back. I have a lot of teams and I would have to say you guys are probably in my top 5. Keep up with the good work.

Nashville Nalas
Average.26810Fielding %.9837ERA4.8010
Home Runs18811Double Plays33415Opp. Avg..27010
Ops..74911+ Plays744Strike Outs11412
Runs77211- Plays305Saves468

Season 20 record- 76-86
Last 5 seasons- 486-324

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for C David Lind
Traded for 3B Rafael Unamuno
Signed SS Chris Young to an extension
Signed RF Juan Latos
Selected 2B Geraldo Moya in Rule V Draft

Offense-Nashville finished in the bottom half of the league offensively last season. This was unexpected since they have been a top offensive team for quite some time now. The team still has 2 time MVP Heinie Rice who is still capable of putting up great numbers. Brian Sveum is a great hitter as well although he has stamina issues. They brought back Juan Latos through free agency and he's a great hitter as well. They also have quite a few players that are slightly above average. This is not a bad offense. I'm not sure what happened last season, but this offense should come nowhere close to that. This is still a top offense in the AL and should rebound this season unless they start trading them away.

Defense-The defense in Nashville was above average last season. They lack a real shortstop. Chris Young just doesn't have the range and he only has a decent glove and arm. They also lack a real centerfielder. This team will likely end up worse defensively this season and I wouldn't be surprised to see them near the bottom of the league.

Pitching-The pitching was slightly below average in season 22. In the off season, they traded away some good arms. I'm not sure how they were that bad last season, because they had the arms. Now though, they do not. Harry Munson looks like he is their ace. That's not very good for them because he's better suited for the back end of a rotation. The bullpen is slightly better, but not by a lot. Closer Apollo Fletcher is pretty good, but they don't have much else in the pen. This pitching staff will likely end up near the bottom of the AL this season.

Projection-This team made some promotions in the off season, but they were more to fill roster spots than to take roster spots. The trades they made brought in a lot of young talent for the future, but not much that will help right now. This team is clearly rebuilding and have many holes to fill now. They got a jump on the rebuild with the trades though and should be back in the race in no time. As for this season, they will likely finish last in this division.

Owner Interview-
Me-Well, after quite a while of having one of the most dominating teams in the AL it looks like you are rebuilding. What led you to this decision? You've done it before, are you ready for it again? What are the key pieces you'd like to add? Looking back, are there any things you'd like to have done different while you were on that great run? What can we expect from Nashville this season?

bnags-Thought I would be competitive last season and wasn't. With a lot of my players getting older I thought it might be time to see what I could get before I couldn't get anything. Also my minors were totally depleted. It was a great run and I really don't think I would have done much differently, not that it was a perfect run or anything. Do wish Tino House would have signed a second longterm contract, but he wouldn't and that was out of my control. I'm really looking forward to this rebuild as I feel I set the standard in Nashville pretty high. If I had to guess I would say this current ML club will finish at about a .475% clip.

Tampa Bay is the reigning champ in this division and they look like the team to beat. Their defense will hold them back from greatness though and will keep the door slightly open for a challenge from other teams. The strengths for San Juan aren't as great as Tampa's, but their weakness isn't as bad. They still have holes to fill, but should improve from last season and put up a tough fight in the division race. New Orleans should improve upon last season as well, but I don't think they'll be able to take the division title. In a tough AL, the wild card is likely out of reach as well. Nashville is a team in rebuild mode, but they shouldn't be overlooked. They have a great offense and could make things tough for opponents.

1. Tampa Bay Thunder
2. San Juan Pollos Hermanos
3. New Orlens Zephyrs
4. Nashville Nalas

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