Friday, February 28, 2014

Season 9 Team Previews

Charlotte Tar Heels

Its been an exciting off season in Charlotte and big expectations abound for Season 9! The Tar Heels didn't allow a really depressed trade market get them down as they completed several big trades (although many many more conversations were started).

The Tar Heels SP received a decent overhaul. Stern and Breen were locked up long term and will anchor the rotation for many seasons to come. Alston was signed to a long term deal. His future was in doubt, but once we made the decision to trade Zheng, we had to lock him up as a solid middle of the rotation guy. Former IFA bonus baby, Robinzon Bonilla will make a return to the rotation after being a super set up guy the last two seasons. Several deals were discussed to bring in long relievers/spot started, but in the end we are promoting from within.

The lineup should be very similar to the past few seasons. Craig was brought back on a FA deal as he has been an extremely solid 1B for us. We also imported John Uehara and he will be a backup C, RFer, and great pinch hitter. In the same deal where we moved SP Zheng and RP Hines, we also traded longtime 3B Roland Vitiello and were able to get back a big time talented youngster in Ben Collmenter, former #3 pick from last season. This also allows us to move Dion Jones from RF to his original position of 3B.

Our offense looks primed to be extremely strong. It wouldn't be a surprise if our pitching took a step back after losing Ricardo Perez to FA and Oscar Zheng in a trade, but we're exciting about the pieces we got back.

Our goal is to win the division and earn a bye and let the chips fall where they may in the playoffs.

Florida Gators

The Gators finished 7 games out of the lead for the division last season, which surprised us as we didn't figure to be that competitive for another couple seasons. We added Alan Leary to help take over CF and depending on how the season progresses we may see Esmailyn Ortiz and/or Everth Martin called up, although management still seeking to trade a few bats for better pitching

Arizona State Sun Devils

Looking to build off the momentum from last season, we return the same core from last season. In my original plan, this would be season 2 of the Louie Crespo era, however his arm fell off last season and he received zero recovery bonus, so he's basically two seasons behind. He will get the call this year, but I'm far less excited about his long term prospects following injury.

Crespo will join a solid rotation, and despite his ratings hit, should still be the #1 guy. For as long as this franchise has been in existence, the bullpen has been terrible. I attempted to change things with a deal for William Chang, who has sta/dur concerns but should slot in nicely as a closer where high innings aren't needed. I'll address the innings piece by calling up Ezdra Rosado, who should be able to approach 100 innings out of the pen (hopefully 100 good innings). I'm still one arm short but couldn't find the right guy in the trade or FA market, so I'll look for an upgrade midseason. Either way, the pen is in much better shape than previous seasons.

On offense we return all of the same guys from last season and expect a solid performance again. I once again toyed with the idea of dealing Javier Borbon, and once again decided not to. The only changes on offense are to a few bench spots so nothing too impactful. 

Overall, a return to the playoffs is our goal, hopefully with a little more success than last season.

Richmond Cavaliers

The Cavaliers are beginning their rebuild after an early management change last season. More attention has been paid to getting the salary structure under control and to improving the defense this off season. Key acquisition Chick Heilman will sure up the infield D and RP Albert Malone will provide BP stability. The lineup centers around Al Cruz, with several solid contributors, and the pitching staff is solid and centers around Andrew Foster. More acquisitions are set to come and prospect Wascar Ramos may make his debut at some point. The Richmond Cavaliers are in a rebuilding year but feel there is an outside chance of making the playoff tournament.

Baltimore Terrapins

The front office in Baltimore began a rebuild of the organization during the 2nd half of the season.  The Terps treaded into FA but for the most part missed on any big stars. Ron Fitzgerald was signed to play great D in LF and get on base in front of Devin Roth and Apollo McCormick .The bullpen is the strength of the team with Luther Ross and Spud Blank closing out games. Miguel Lira decided he could not go out off his 7-14 5.50 ERA performance and management decided to take the gamble that performance was a fluke. His HOF credentials could use all the stat padding he can still muster. With the #2 pick excitement is about the future here since the ML squad will struggle to compete.

Scranton Nittany Lions

Scranton Nittany Lions hope to win the NL North for the third year in a row and advance further in the playoffs. The Lions signed free agent pitcher Ricardo Perez to help improve a weak starting rotation.Randy Cooper is the top minor league prospect and he is a year or two away from the big club.

Detroit Wolverines

The Wolverines are rebuilding. A lot of young positional players will be relied on, led by Enrique Pineiro and Masao Chang. The front office also took a chance on some overlooked pitchers (probably for good reason) in order to field a competitive team this season. Duane Abbott, Jerrod Mailman, and Sam Hart will all have important roles on the pitching staff this season to support young stud Bruce Ennis. The Wolverines are hoping to be somewhat competitive this season, but the focus will be on current prospects in the farm and capitalizing on the IFA market and draft this season.

Colorado Buffaloes

This will be a transition season for the Colorado Buffaloes. The payroll is still high, but the team is aging and will probably struggle to even contend for a playoff spot. Colorado traded for Yorman Abreu as a defensive specialist and will bring Ernie Weurtz to the bigs to play 2B. The hope for the Buffaloes is the offense can come up huge and overcome a lack of pitching depth and a suspect defense to at least stay in the race until the end.

Montgomery Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide will be looking to rebound this season based on a revamped pitching staff and new 3rd sacker and the continued development of some of their young stars. Pitching was a major disappointment last season so this off season saw Montgomery pick up SP Oscar Zeng and set up man Ben Hines through trade. The Tide also grabbed FA SP Chris Scelfo. All three should be major contributors this season and for seasons to come. Prince Sheehan should continue to shine as the Tide’s closer while now veterans, Hector Zorrilla, Nicholas Greenwood and Dave Stanley should round out the starting rotation. Veterans Roland Vitiello (by trade) at 3b and Derek Howard (thru FA) in RF should provide clutch hitting and solid defense. Behind the plate Glen Myer will continue to be guide the staff and provide a solid bat. The continued growth of stars Darren Bauer at 2B, Warren Dimaggio at SS, Miguel Trevino in LF and Pedro Bennett in CF should only help the flat out great hitting of veteran 1B Kevin Sample. All in all, Montgomery has all the tools needed to compete for a division title….. we hope.

Little Rock Razorbacks

Key adds: C Julio Zapata, RP Tike Everhart, RP Tony Lopez, RP Doug Booker

Key losses: RP Bubbles O’Neil, RP Tim Weathers, C Dolf Sparks

Outlook: The Razorbacks return most of players that played on last season’s NL South division winning team. None of the players lost in the offseason where key to the division championship run and the players brought in to replace them are not significant upgrades. The Razorbacks should be able to contend for the division again in season 9, but are not a World Series contender. They are the classic case of a team that is caught in the middle. To good to get a high draft pick, but not good enough to win it all. 

Atlanta Yellow Jackets

Atlanta was not very active during the offseason, hoping to build upon last season’s playoff run and the continued development of its younger players. The Yellow Jackets will miss the bat of Gerrit Cornelius, who the picked up during the stretch run last year but were unable to keep in free agency. 

Juan Mercado and Jose Matos should continue to carry a large burden for the pitching staff, while the team hopes to see Scott Burns and Aaron Foster continue their development. Reese Waterson, Santiago Toca and Lance Lewis will form the middle of the lineup. Infielder Kevin Wong and pitcher Alejandro Bennett should see the big leagues not long after the start of the season. 

Los Angeles Bruins

The Bruins had a quite and uneventful offseason. After missing out on some of the big FAs, we decided to go into the season with what we have and bring up young guns #p5822086Geronimo Colome#p & #p5635568Brandon Bryant#p. We're going to be really good against lefties agian this year and hope to improve drastically against righties. Hopefully I am surprised, but we'll be missing the playoffs again this year.

Iowa City Hawkeyes

This team is extremely young, of the 12 position players on the major league roster 6 of them are rookies and 4 others are entering their 2nd year in the bigs. The team shouldbe led by 27 year old 2B Alex Lunar who will hopefully rebound from a subpar season that saw him with only 18 HR's and a .242 AVG. Rookie 1B Peter Shigetoshi should hit for a decent AVG and be a compliment to Lunar.

On the pitching side of things this team will struggle, there is no clear cut #1 starter, but we should have a decent pen, espescially in middle relief. Howecver the loss of blossoming middle reliever Omar Javier for the year will hurt. Pitching will be patch work and spotty all year.

Seattle Huskies

Last season the Seattle Huskies showed to be a few season ahead of schedule. Is a season that was planned as being a building season. The team would not stop winning. And we were forced to make a few moves to have a fighting shot on the playoffs. We were able to bring in 1B Darby Bukvich, 2B Vinny Bonds, RP Lariel Bazardo and SP Vance Taschner without jeopardizing the future. 

And that future for the Seattle Huskies is a bright one. With a bunch of young talent that made there debut last season. The group that fans have taken to calling the “Young Guns” includes C/1B Pedro Chavez (a steady everyday player with a strong bat that will dominate left handed pictures), SS Brett Hewitt (Another work horse that will stay on the field and play above average defense. While being a steady 30/30 guy). And lights out closer Earl O'Brien (If any player is to get credit for turning things around its O’Brien. Closing the door on 44 or 46 games. He did not give up an ER the first 100 games of the season.) 

In the end the Huskies fell short not having the SP needed in the playoffs. Entering the mix this season will be SP Cesar Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a hard throwing left hander with the stamina to complete every game. 

With all these young players and a few vets in place. There were not a lot of open spots in the off season. The one thing that was needed was a front line SP. There were really only two options in the FA market. It was a decision that was passed back and forth right up to the last moment. And in the end it was Domingo Melendez. Melendez is another work horse that will be able to jump up spots in the rotation to get more starts. He is a hard throwing ground ball pitcher that should fit in well in Seattle’s extreme pitchers park. 

With all these players leaving the farm the past few season. There is not a lot of depth left in Seattle. But there is still some star quality with two blue chip players. SS Otis James looks like he is going to be very strong at the plate hitting both left and right hands well. And RF Sherm Webster that has elite power and loves to hit right handed pitching. Webster is working hard with his glove to be able to play in the field every day. We make sure not tell him but with that bat he will never have problem finding playing time. The future is bright for these two Huskie pups. 

Wichita Jayhawks

Didn't make any trades this season. We were able to fill our needs through free agency. Went into this offseason targeting a CF and a SP, we were able to hit on both counts, signing Hulk Barnes and Ruben Perez .

We also added Nicholas Morgan , Chris Chatwood , Felipe Prado , and Benny Cortes . We promoted Gustavo Chacin and Hugh Blalock . Waiting in the wings is Freddy Martin who will be called up at some point in the season. Wichita expects at the very least to grab a wildcard spot this season and with a bit of luck win the division.

Oakland Golden Bears

Goals for the season: 

Seasons 5-8 were rebuilding seasons for this franchise. Key injuries in Seasons 1 through 5 to Ace SP's just gutted this franchise and the rebuilding process was initiated. About mid-way through Season 8, the ML team really gelled and pushed Seattle for the Division Title. In the end, the Golden Bears only made it in as a Wild Card, but that was really saying something considering how far below .500 they were for much of the 4 seasons of rebuilding. The next step is to take the Division or, at least, advance in the playoffs. We aren't quite ready for legitimate consideration for the WS Title, but we think we fit the role of "dark horse" pretty well. 

ML team makeup/strategy:

The Golden Bears feature passable SPs, a pretty decent BP, and an offense featuring 6 players with Power over 83 and all but two of the remaining players with Eye over 80. Defense is average. We are here to win the OPS battle, tire out your SP, and have our bullpen defeat your bullpen.


No trades yet, but we RELEASED former first round draft choice Felix Radke ( . Addition by subtraction, sadly.

Free agents:

The Golden Bears bolstered their bullpen by adding two former Arizona players. First is setup man Alex Seanez, respectable Setup B type of player who fits into the Team Strategy. The other guy from Arizona we added will also fit nicely into the Team Strategy. We helped out our offense by signing a SS with excellent plate patience, Lee Perkins. 

But, of course, the BIG signing was former MVP and HR king, Henry Beech. Getting him for $10M a season seems like a bargain to the Golden Bears' brass. Thank you Cleveland.

Rookies bringing up: 

No rookies are coming up to start this season, but there are a couple of gems in the system that fit the above-mentioned Team Strategy. The blue-chippers need a bit more seasoning down in the minors, though, so we are holding our breath that no major injuries force our hand this season.

Pittsburgh Panthers

The Pittsburgh Panthers are coming off a very disappointing season last year as we had high hopes of being a playoff contender. The offseason was fairly quiet with the biggest move was bidding farewell to DH Yamil Rodriguez. We also pulled the trigger on signing some of our younger pitchers to long term contracts before their arbitration years ended. This included Marc Bell and Welington Monlina who were both signed to 4 year deals. We’re still looking to solidify the roster before the season starts but this is the year that could either shape up for good things to come or be the year that we decide a roster direction change may be in order.

Austin Longhorns

The Austin Longhorns had a very quiet off season. Not much doing outside the normal off season activites. Management is still scratching their heads over last season's "first to worst" debacle.

The offense is evident through out the line-up, it just took a few steps backward. Ted Halman leads the offense from the DH spot with help from Enrique Benitez, Ricardo Ramirez (who enters his final year of contract) and slugging 1B Ryan Perez. David Pettite set a career high in HRs with 27 but dropped in average. Gabby Skinner had an average rookie year even though he hit 23 HRs to go with 80 rbi..his struggle with righties is his only flaw.

As for the pitching..another story. Footsie Maxwell has yet to live up to his potential outside of his sophomore season. Management will be monitoring his starts very closely..hoping to snap him out of his funk. George Strange has been the only consistent starter the past couple of seasons..his veteran leadership is key. Bump Harville anchors the bullpen once again..looking to follow up on his 31 saves from last year.

I am not putting lofty expectations on this team...just to do better than last season!

Boston College Eagles

Sad days in Boston as fans have a reason to be upset. Management made failed attempts to acquire some punch in the off season and were a distant second in the Gerrit Cornelius bidding. To compensate 36 year old former College Eagle, Stan Pearce was re-signed. So no changes have been made to increase the teams offence. Young Boots Karros has been promoted and will help shore up the pen.
There are funds available to transfer but little money in IFA budget. The team may explore taking on a high contract player

With no major additions or deletions the Boston team it is unlikely the team will reach the 90 win plateau this year.