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

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