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

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