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 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.  


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.

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?

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.

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

NL West Season 28 Preview

Albuquerque Komodo Dragons
Owner: Csudak (9th season)
Last Season: 92-70, 2nd Place – Lost in DCS
Payroll: 86.2M out of 93M

Last season, Albuquerque earned their first trip to the playoffs since Season 17 with a wild card berth.  Their offense was outstanding, with National League rankings of 2nd in batting average and homeruns.  They return all-star 1B Bert Heiserman and all-star 2B Terry Holmes (.374 OBP).  Komodo Dragon outfielders Vicente Palmiero and Sam Sanders will also contribute great power and a disciplined eye to the lineup.  Albuquerque lost all-star and gold glove RF Charles Yoshii in the offseason, but found a speedy replacement with Domingo James (35 SB).  I don’t see any dropoff in the Komodo Dragon offense and predict them to finish near the top of the league again.

Albuquerque’s fielding percentage ranked second-to-last in the National League last year, as they committed 111 errors.  Albert DeLeon will hold his own at shortstop.  He has a strong arm, but average range and glove ratings.  Catcher Angel Martinez also has a great arm, but should continue to struggle in his game calling (4.75 ERA last season).  Albuquerque is lacking arm strength/accuracy at 3B and good gloves at 2B, which should contribute to some additional errors.  The Komodo Dragons will be helped defensively by the free-agent signing of Domingo James, who can solve that problem at 3B or be used as an OF with good range and a strong arm.  In my opinion, Albuquerque will continue to struggle in the field and are below-average.

During Season 27, Albuquerque finished second to last in the NL with a 4.76 ERA, but had success in the bullpen (28-15 in 1-run games).  I like their starting rotation, as all five starters have the potential for a great season.  Rey Prior begins his first full season and should be a future star.  Don’t expect surprise Cy-Young finalist Preston Reese (20-3, 3.62 ERA) and 36-year old Diego Valbuena (13-9, 3.07 ERA) to repeat their statistics, but do expect the back-end of rotation starters to improve upon a disappointing year.  The bullpen has a few good arms including free-agent acquisition Timo Lee and closer Tommy Callaway (46 saves).  I don’t see a whole lot else, except for control problems.  Overall, I’d say the Albuquerque pitching is slightly below-average because of the bullpen.

MVP Candidate - Bert Heiserman (1B): .283 BA, 41 HR, 121 RBI, .371 OBP, 23 SB, Season 27 All-Star Selection, 2 Gold Glove Awards.

Colorado Springs Night Watchmen
Owner: Toe64 (28th season)
Last Season: 97-65, 1st Place – World Series Champions
Payroll: 106.6M out of 116M

Colorado Springs has been one of the top teams in Pine Tar over the past 5 years, as they have won 4 NL West titles and appeared in 2 World Series, including winning it last season.  Offensively, they ranked 3rd in batting average, 3rd in homeruns, and 1st in OBP.  The Night Watchmen return their entire lineup from last season, including MVP Keith Williamson.  In addition, RF Pedro Reyes (31 HR) will hit for power, CF King Ashburn (.302 BA) will hit for average, and 2B Juan Perez (.405 OBP) and C Julio Palmiero (.380 OBP) will reach base frequently.  The only weakness is speed, as they ranked near the bottom of the NL in stolen bases.  Regardless, I expect this Colorado Springs offense to rank near the top of the NL again.

Colorado Springs had an NL ranking of 4th in fielding percentage last season, which was deceiving because they ranked near the bottom of the league in both plus and minus plays.  Keith Williamson should be great at third base.  SS Victor Ramsey had a career season by only committing 8 errors in 149 starts, but his ratings suggest that he is average.  Catcher Julio Palmiero will call a great game, but only threw out 23% of base-stealers last year.  The Night Watchmen lack a 2B with a good glove, and their outfield is low on range (besides King Ashburn, who should play well in CF).  They do have a few extra shortstop-like players, who can improve those positions.  Overall, I view Colorado Springs as an average fielding team, due to their depth.

Last year, Colorado Springs was second in the National League with a 3.55 team ERA.  They have a deep starting rotation led by Cy-Young finalist Orlando Nieves (18-6, 2.54 ERA).  Nieves had a career year, but should still be very strong this season.  24-year old youngster Mo Lee (18-8, 3.46 ERA) has stamina and will give the Night Watchmen plenty of quality innings.  Charles Hayashi was an important free-agent pickup and could contribute as a SP or RP.  The bullpen should hold leads, as they have multiple setup guys with ERAs of under 4, along with a decent closer in Alberto Blasco.  I believe that this pitching staff will once again rank above-average.

MVP Candidate Keith Williamson (3B): .283 BA, 50 HR, 135 RBI, .351 OBP, 15+ Plays at 3B, Two-Time All-Star Selection, 2 Silver Slugger Awards, Season 27 MVP Award.

Oklahoma City Prairie Dogs
Owner: Brentcnb (16th season)
Last Season: 82-80, 3rd Place
Payroll: 87M out of 90M

Oklahoma City has gone 17 years without a playoff appearance, but did produce a 15 game win improvement from Season 26.  Offense was the weak aspect of their squad last year.  They ranked near the bottom of the NL with a team batting average of .246, but did have average run production due to their power.  The Prairie Dogs return MVP-finalist Carlos Zorrilla and all-star LF Phil Gonzales (.267, 27 HR, 95 RBI).  One of the most exciting players on Oklahoma City is 23 year old Jin-Chi Yaramoto, who was an MVP-finalist and joined the 30-30 club in his rookie season.  The downside is that he only batted .256, which further explains OKC’s lack of contact hitters.  The Prairie Dogs only made one minor free-agent acquisition of LF Pat Wilhelmsen, which I don’t believe is enough to rank this offense more than average in the National League.

Oklahoma City had an outstanding defensive season, as they finished first in fielding percentage and second in plus-plays.  The infield of SS Jolbert Alomar, 3B John Satou, and Gold Glove 2B Bill Glavine should be outstanding.  They all have great gloves and made a combined 38 plus-plays last year, which shows their range.  The Prairie Dog outfield could use a bit more range, which Rule 5 pick-up Donatello Guerrier can help to improve.  OKC only has 1 catcher on their roster, Darren Urich, who is 34 years old and has weak arm and pitch-call ratings.  That position could be a weakness.  I like this Prairie Dog defense and would rate them above-average.

Last season, the Oklahoma City pitching staff finished third in the NL with a 3.67 team ERA.  The pitchers in the starting rotation, led by Angel Osuna (11-7, 3.48 ERA) and Joel Satin (13-7, 2.88 ERA), have very poor splits.  However, they do utilize their stellar infield by throwing a lot of groundballs.  The Prairie Dog bullpen should be one of the best in the league.  It looks like they will use a closer-by-committee with 4 top-notch setup men who make a combined salary of $23M.  Miguel Rivera is the most impressive as he has great splits, control, and velocity.  I believe that the Oklahoma City pitching staff itself is slightly above-average.  However, they should continue to produce outstanding numbers because of the defense.

MVP Candidate - Carlos Zorrilla (CF): .270 BA, 36 HR, 105 RBI, 104 BB, .382 OBP, 23 SB, 2-Time All-Star Selection, 7 Silver Slugger Awards.

Seattle Strikers
Owner: Ghutton9 (22nd season)
Last Season: 75-87, 4th Place
Payroll: 69.9M out of 74M

Seattle has now gone three seasons without a playoff appearance after winning 6 NL West titles in 7 years.  Last year, the Strikers were the worst offensive team in the National League, ranking last in batting average and runs scored.  They did make a strong effort to improve by signing veterans Raymond Petrov and Houston Graves, who have a combined 8 all-star appearances.  3B Petrov was an American League MVP-finalist and 1B Graves has a career .372 OBP.  Seattle also acquired C Alan Pierce who along with RF Gerardo Valdez, will add a little bit of power to the lineup, but they could use some more to really be successful.  The Strikers will have some great speed on the base-paths with Petrov, Graves, CF Sean King (53 SB), and LF Ruben Garces (20 SB).  I see a big improvement from last in the league to an average offensive team.

Last season, Seattle led the National League in errors (116) and minus-plays (54), which are not good things.  Expect Raymond Petrov to be solid at 3B, and rookie Ozzie Inouoe should be able to play any infield position effectively.  SS Cecil Pratt will look to improve his glove, as he made 29 errors last season.  Gold Glove CF Sean King and Ruben Garces will cover a lot of ground in the outfield.  Seattle has a great group of catchers, led by free-agent signee Alan Pierce.  Besides the catcher position, the Strikers have weak depth and could struggle if any starters get hurt or fatigued.  I believe that this Seattle defense is slightly above-average.

Seattle had an average pitching staff, as they ranked near the middle of the NL with a 3.89 team ERA.  Look for John McNamara (15-9, 3.24 ERA) and Freddy Butcher (7-14, 4.51 ERA) to lead the rotation.  I expect Butcher’s numbers to be better, as he now has an improved defense around him.  The remainder of the starting rotation should see some struggles.  The Strikers will be counting on Fireman of the Year award winner Juan Sierra (46 saves, 1.89 ERA) to close out games.  Marvin Bere will also be effective, especially against righties.  Many of Seattle’s additional relievers lack stamina and will not be able to contribute many innings.  I would rate both the starting staff and the bullpen to be below-average.

MVP Candidate - Raymond Petrov (3B): .324 BA, 23 HR, 108 RBI, .412 OBP, 44 SB, 14+ Plays at 3B, 5-Time All-Star Selection, 2 Gold Glove Awards, 6 Silver Slugger Awards.


The NL West should be a strong division, as I believe all 4 teams have the potential to finish above .500.  I’m not going to pick against the defending World Series champs.  Colorado Springs has one of the top offenses in the NL, along with very solid pitching.  I expect the Night Watchmen to win their 5th division title in 6 years and make another deep playoff run.  Oklahoma City and Albuquerque should finish within a few games of each other.  Oklahoma City has incredible fielding and a strong pitching staff.  Albuquerque has one of the best offenses in the league, along with a decent starting rotation.  Both teams will probably have to improve one of their weaker areas in order to clinch a wildcard berth.  Seattle made some moves to strengthen their offense and defense, but still lack the pitching to contend in this division.  For that reason, I have them in the #4 spot.  

1.  Colorado Springs
2.  Oklahoma City
3.  Albuquerque
4.  Seattle

Thursday, July 3, 2014

AL West Season 28 Preview

St. Louis Arch Angels
Owner: Flucie (14th Season)
Last Season: 96-66, 1st Place – Lost in LCS
Payroll: 89.5M out of 94M budget

St. Louis looks to extend their dominance in the AL West, as they have won seven division titles in the past 11 seasons.  Offensively, it looks as though St. Louis will try to use their power to score runs.  Last season, they ranked 5th in the American League in homeruns, but 12th in batting average.  Bryan Holmes, Paul Wilson, and Willie Oropesa are more than capable of driving-in runs with the long-ball.  DH Calvin Pacina (.323 BA, 31 HR, 84 RBI) is the Arch Angels’ best overall offensive player and LF Miller Hunter (.374 OBP) is looking to follow-up a career year.  Overall, I see St. Louis as an average American League offensive team.

Look for the Arch Angels to improve somewhat on defense.  Last season, they ranked 12th in the AL in fielding percentage and were dead-last in plus plays.  Stephen Salmon has a great arm at SS and made 15 plus-plays last season.  St. Louis has a number of defensive players who are young and should improve this season.  Samuel Johnson (26 years old) in CF and Skeeter Mottola (22 years old) at 3B should impress this year.  Daniel Acosta (24 years old) at C has an outstanding pitch-call rating and an above-average arm.  I predict that the St. Louis defense will end up ranking slightly below-average.

The strength of this St. Louis ballclub has been their pitching.  Last season, they were second in the AL with a 3.72 team ERA.  The Arch Angels have three solid starters in Rock Randall (16-10, Cy-Young candidate), Vinny Napoli (15-4, All-Star), and Sean Shipley (12-4).  Their relief staff took a huge hit with the loss of Carlos Flores, who saved 50 games last season.  Although they signed Justin Gregerson in free-agency, I don’t see this St. Louis team preserving as many close games as they did in season 27 (34-17 record in 1-run games), especially competing in arguably the most challenging division in the AL.  Overall, I see their pitching staff as above-average, but not top of the league as they were last year.
Future Star: At only 24 years old, catcher Daniel Acosta will be starting his fourth full season in the majors.  He has an outstanding pitch-call rating and a decent arm.  Offensively, he has above-average contact and power ratings, and will hit lefties well.  Look for him to rebound from a somewhat disappointing offensive year.

Fresno Regulators
Owner: Bobswagger91 (14th Season)
Last Season: 95-67, 2nd Place – Lost in WC round
Payroll: 107.3M out of 111M budget

Fresno is looking to build upon their first playoff appearance since season 16, where they lost a tough 5-game series to Dover in the wild-card round.  Offense is definitely a strong-point for this Regulators team.  Last season, they ranked 5th in the American League with a .274 team batting average, and just added free-agent all-star Benito Rodriguez (.293 BA, 27 HR, 103 RBI).  Fresno is returning MVP finalist Bo Long (1B), Benny Navarro (2B), and Bret Richardson (C), who can all get on base and drive in runs.  I expect Fresno to rank near the top of the AL in offense this season.

The Regulator defense will depend on how owner bobswagger91 sets his lineup, as their top hitters are not necessarily their best fielders.  Last season, they ranked 6th in the AL in fielding percentage.  Former comedian Bill Cosby is an average SS.  Fresno has four additional 3B/SS-type players, where if used at 3B and all OF positions, could be one of the top defenses in the American League.  But Fresno also has 2 first-basemen and 2 designated hitters on their roster.  Top-hitting catcher Bret Richardson could hurt the team defensively as he has weak arm-strength and pitch-call ratings.  I predict that the Regulators will be an average defensive team, but do have the potential to perform above-average.

I believe that Fresno’s pitching will decline from the 3.91 ERA in season 27, which ranked them 3rd in the American League.  They return Cy-Young finalist Tim Daubach and have a quality young starter in Wilt Sizemore, who at 24 years-old, already has two all-star appearances, 48 wins, and a 3.78 career ML ERA.  The back-end of their rotation, Chico Pineda and Magglio Figueroa, has been inconsistent over the years and might be due for a disappointing season.  The bullpen lost David Ortiz (2.90 career ERA) to free-agency and should consider replacing closer Apollo Fletcher, who blew 12 saves last season.  They had a few minor free-agent acquisitions, but I see this pitching staff dropping from top of the league to above-average, mainly because of their relief staff.

Future Star: Starting pitcher Wilt Sizemore (24 years old) has outstanding stamina, great control, and decent splits.  He is about to begin his fourth year in the majors and has already racked up 48 wins, two all-star appearances, and a 3.78 career ERA.  Sizemore is a workhorse who has thrown 32 career complete games and has averaged 280 innings pitched per season.

Salem Volcanoes
Owner: Jkenned (6th Season)
Last Season: 87-75, 4th Place
Payroll: 48.7M out of 60M budget

Although Salem finished 4th in AL West, they were only a tie-breaker away from their second playoff appearance since Season 13.  While power was the strength of their offense last year (4th in AL - homeruns), it looks as though owner Jkenned would like to improve OBP and speed at the expense of some of that power.  Salem lost four power-hitting free-agents, including all-stars Hank Roling (CF) and Benito Rodriguez (1B), and has brought up a number of promising rookies to replace.  The most-exciting of those rookies is 1B Michel Pena, who should get on base, drive-in runs, and steal bases.  Another rookie, C/DH Harry Gibson, has great power and a good eye.  Combine them with all-star C Giomar Trinidad (.325, 32 HR, 79 RBI), along with super sophomores Rubby Prieto and Avisail Martin, and Salem should be at least above-average on offense this season. 

Fielding is the strength of this Salem team.  Last season, they ranked second in the American League in fielding percentage and fourth in plus-plays.  The Volcanoes added free-agent Ernie Borders, who has great range and an arm in CF.  They also brought up 23-year old rookie Lefty Twitchell, who is a few years away from being one of the best shortstops in the majors.  The only weakness is in the arm accuracy of their catchers, which could lead to a high number of stolen bases against.  Overall, Salem has a surplus of quality fielders, and I predict that they will once again rank near the top of the American League. 

I see Salem’s starting rotation as the weakness of their ballclub.  The top returning starters are Jose Marquez, who encounters control problems, and F.P. Huff, who lacks stamina and will likely be used in a tandem role.  The Volcanoes added free-agent veteran Napoleon Hallman (11-8, 3.71 ERA), which was a necessity.  The bullpen does have a number of quality setup guys, including Todd Blair (2.27 ERA) and Mike Franklin.  On the other hand, Glen Dunston returns to the closer role, where he struggled in Season 27 with 9 blown saves and a 5.59 ERA.  Overall I view Salem’s pitching as below-average, unless they can obtain another starter (or two!).

Future Star: Shortstop Lefty Twitchell (23 years old) will be making his MLB debut this season.  By the time Twitchell reaches his prime, he should have mid-90 ratings for range, glove, and arm.  He also has above-average contact and power ratings for a shortstop.  Look for Twitchell to contribute immediately, especially on defense.

Vancouver Canucks
Owner: Skplayer07 (11th Season)
Last Season: 87-75, 3rd Place – Lost in DCS
Payroll: 86.5M out of 95M

Vancouver has made four straight playoff appearances, including a run to the World Series two years ago.  Last season, they led the majors with 318 homers and will still have a lot of power in the lineup, even after trading Rickie Halama to Iowa.  I like the following three players, who put up solid contact and power numbers: 2B Vicente Feliz (.305, 38 HR, 128 RBI), DH Armando Mota (.305, 40 HR, 102 RBI), and 1B/LF Willie Tarasco (.295, 45 HR, 114 RBI).  Tarasco might have had a career year, and it will be interesting to see if he can reproduce those numbers again.  Speed could be an issue for the Canucks, as they ranked close to last in the majors stealing bases.  Overall, I believe that Vancouver’s offense will have an above-average season.

Last season, Vancouver’s fielding percentage was average, but they were third-to-last in the AL for minus-plays.  Opposing teams should think twice about stealing bases on Gold Glove C Mac Braden, who threw out over 40% of base-runners last year.  The Canucks have low glove ratings at 2B and SS, which could allow for extra base-runners.  SS Nolan Bourn will need to improve on his 34 errors from Season 27.  Vancouver does have 4 shortstops on their roster, which can be used to strengthen some other positions.  I view Vancouver’s fielding as slightly below-average. 

The Canucks look to improve upon a 4.38 ERA, which ranked them fifth in the American League.  Their starting rotation should be very solid.  They made a huge offseason move by trading for two-time Cy-Young winner Sticky Farquhar.  22 year-old Yoshinori Zhou looks to improve upon his rookie year, where he impressed with 14 wins and a 3.93 ERA.  Darren Banks was selected as an all-star and is slotted in a tandem role.  The Vancouver bullpen might be average.  Phil Linton will be an outstanding setup guy.  Raul Santiago was a minor free-agent acquisition, who is a few years past his prime.  Brian Purcell was very average in the closer role last season.  In my opinion, Vancouver has an above-average pitching staff, mainly because of their starting rotation.

Future Star: Starting pitcher Yoshinori Zhou (22 years old) has great control and velocity.  His splits are also very impressive (especially against lefties), and should still improve.  Zhou was 14-12 with a 3.93 ERA during his rookie year.  Opponents did bat .280 against him, but look for that stat to improve in his second season.


The AL West is definitely a stacked division, and these teams aren’t separated by much.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this division produces both wild cards once again.  I predict that Fresno will win their first division title in 13 seasons.  They are the most consistent team in all three areas (offense, fielding, pitching) of the game.  If you look at Fresno’s previous win totals, they have either stayed the same or improved every year since Season 20.  Look for that to continue.  Vancouver has plenty of power and I like their starting rotation with the addition of Farquhar.  Their fielding is a big question mark, so that is why I have them in the #2 slot.  St. Louis will be depending on their pitching, as their offense and fielding are average.  They have three outstanding starting pitchers, but might have trouble keeping the lead in close games.  St. Louis does have the most experienced owner, Flucie with over 9,000 career HBD wins, so don’t be surprised if they pull out another AL West title.  Although they are not a bad team at all, I have Salem in fourth because they lack starting pitching and are depending on a number of first/second year players.  Look for Salem to contend for the AL pennant in a few years.

1.  Fresno
2.  Vancouver
3.  St. Louis
4.  Salem

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

AL East Season 28 Preview

Boston Pilgrims
owner- kjmulli(13 seasons)
Season 27 record- 107-55(AL East Champs)
Payroll- $98.1

I'm not sure if this team over achieved last season offensively, or if they played to the park. They do not look like a team that will hit as good as last season. I'm not saying they are bad, but they look just above average to me. Vinny Hill is the real deal though and his abilities paid off in a big way as he brought home the MVP award last season. Matt Jaha is another great hitter although he doesn't provide much power. Power is really where the weakness is for this offense. They are loaded with high obp guys and then Mateo Nunez, Rafael Avila and Bernard Charleston will swipe quite a few bags. This team ranks in the upper half of the AL, but they don't have the look of a top offense.

Defensively, the Pilgrims are pretty solid. Leading the way is gold glove shortstop Miguel Garces, who is a complete player for the position. He's the kind of shortstop that can make a difference. The addition of Fautino Guerrero gives this team a backup option at short and a player that could make a deadly double play tandem with Garces. While this team isn't among the best in the league, they are still a top 5 defense mainly because of the shortstop.

Pitching is the strength of this team. The rotation has a few pretty good starters in Hipolito Owen, Moises Olmedo, and Dusty Lindsey. Each of them are really good top of the rotation type starters. The bullpen for this staff is even better. Hades Phillips is a great closer and will lock down the 9th. Gerry Redding and Nash Casanova are a couple of the best setup men in the league. This is a complete pitching staff and should be among the best in the AL this season.

Boston is a really good team and should challenge for this division crown again this season, if not run away with it. They have all the tools to win the AL title as well, but the addition of some power could really put them over the top. Even without that, I expect this team to win close to 100 games and make a post season run.

Player to watch- Vinny Hill- The reigning MVP in the AL has to be my pick for this. He is one of the best contact hitters in the league and has some good power as well. Add in the fact that he has a great eye and it's a wonder that he ever strikes out. I'll be watching to see if he matches last seasons numbers and takes aim at another MVP award.

Durham Doormats
owner- alogman1(18 seasons)
Season 27 record- 85-77
Payroll- $111.5

As this team gets older, the offense has started to regress. They aren't the offense that they were a few seasons ago, but this team still has a really good offense. Fred Inge is among the best in the league at getting on base. Eric Lindsey, Billy Haynes, and Bengie Trajano are all pretty good as well. This team has solid power in the lineup, but no real threat. They aren't a fast team either. They just rely on good hitting and the ballpark they play in will help provide some of the homeruns that are needed. Durham has an above average offense that should rank in the upper half of the league.

Defense is a weakness for the Doormats. They are weak up the middle and lack a real shortstop. Defense is going to be a killer for them and could keep them from making a real run at the post season. Tsubasa Mori is a really good option for centerfield, but he'll likely play shortstop. His glove holds him back from being good for that position. Nobody else really stands out to me.

The pitching for Durham is pretty good. Roberto Lopez is a really good pitcher, but his lack of stamina limits what he can do. The same can be said for Orlano Cruz. If those 2 were tandem starters together, then they could shut down opposing offenses. Rick Owens was a really nice free agent addition and should help out the rotation. Victor Maranon, Joe Grace and Enrique Lopez are really good middle rotation starters. In the bullpen, Javy Mendoza and Ruben Molina are good pitchers, but they don't have much else. This is a pretty good pitching staff altogether and should rank in the upper half of the league.

Durham is a pretty good team and should finish better than last season. The defense holds them back though and could kill their chances at doing so. I see them winning anywhere from 80 to 90 wins this season. They could make a push for a wild card, but I don't see them over taking Boston at the top of the division.

Player to watch- Roberto Lopez- I really like Lopez. I hate that his stamina is so low or he could be one of the better pitchers in the league. He still gives the team 120 quality innings though.

Rochester Retards
owner- wylie715(7 seasons)
Season 27 record- 81-81
Payroll- $80.7

This team was pretty good offensively last season. I think they'll take a step back this season though. Wilt Bichette is a good hitter, as is Russell Powell. The team really lacks power though. Brian Lowrie is the top homerun threat, but he isn't a very good hitter. The declining skills of Houston Baptist pretty much sum up why this team will fall off from last season.

I'm not impressed by the defense either. They lack a real shortstop and Tomas Ozuna is the best option for second base or centerfield. His glove and arm accuracy just aren't good enough for shortstop. Dan Johnson is a good centerfielder, but ideally he'd be the second baseman and Ozuna the centerfielder. This defense just looks like they will finish in the bottom half this season.

I may sound like I'm picking on the team now, but I'm not really a fan of the pitching either. None of the starters are better than middle rotation types. The one pitcher I do like is the young reliever, Jed Carter. He is pretty good and stands out on this staff. Esteban Mesa is solid as well, but I prefer Carter as the better of the two. Overall though, this staff isn't very good.

It's hard to imagine that a couple of seasons ago this team won 98 games and took the division title. I think that last seasons 81 victories is going to be tough for them to reach this season. My guess is that they win around 65 games.

Player to watch- Kazuhiro Kuroda- He may actually be the best player on this team. Kuroda has decent power and a great eye. He has a career .420 obp and walked 129 times last season. In my mind, he's the ideal 2 hitter on any team and possibly a leadoff hitter.

Indianapolis Valhalla Varauders
owner- qtip32(15 seasons)
Season 27 record- 57-105
Payroll- $51.0

This offense doesn't look very good to me. Brian Hume and Eddie Tomlin are the standouts, but they likely wouldn't stand out on most teams. The team lacks good contact, power and eye. They do have a lot of speed though. Youngster Patrick Green will make his ML debut after being a rule V draftee and should steal a lot of bases. Ossie Clemens is another burner on the bases. Both of them will need to get on base in order to use their speed and I'm not sure they'll do that enough to make a difference. This offense could very well finish near the bottom of the league this season.

This team is pretty good defensively. Travis Fiore played third last season and makes a really good thirdbaseman. I'd rather see him at shortstop or second base though. His arm accuracy hurts him a bit at short though. Looking through the team, they have good gloves at almost all positions, but they lack a real shortstop. That is the only thing that holds them back from being in the top few defensive teams in the league.

The pitching on this team is below average. The rotation is just really bad. With that said, the bullpen is pretty solid. Tyler White, JJ Brinkley and JR McDonald are above average relievers. Hector Mesa is a tandem starter and I add him to this bullpen due to that. He's a pretty good pitcher as well. I think the bullpen will likely be over used this season and that will hurt them in the long run. I expect this team to finish near the bottom of the league this season.

This is clearly a rebuilding team. They aren't ready to compete for a playoff spot and will continue on the path this season. I think the speed and defense keep this team out of the bottom of the league and they'll finish with around 60 wins.

I have Boston taking this division pretty easily this season. They are a team that could even take the AL title. They are the only team in this division that really looks like they could do that. Durham isn't a bad team, but I don't think they can take on a team as good as Boston. They'll likely challenge for and possibly take a wild card spot. Rochester looks like they'll continue to fall off this season and it might be time for them to think about a rebuild. That is exactly what Indianapolis is doing and will continue to do this season.

1. Boston
2. Durham
3. Rochester
4. Indianapolis