Friday, May 29, 2015

Season 14 - Season Previews

Thank you for everyone who participated!

Salem Beavers

C Enrique Nieves, 2B Eddie Donovan, SS Torey Benavente, 1B/DH Pepe Cordero, RF Julian Sosa, RHP Jeurys Gomez, RHP Rolando Ramirez

SPs Ezdra Valdes, Duane Abbott, Jeromy Stern, Eswalin Fernandez (129 GS)
RPs Shep Coleridge, Iago Worthington, Roland George, Patrick Stechschulte, Keith Lankford, Danys Pizzaro, Peter Wang (227 G, 360 IP)
1B Ted Huff (.286/.387/.520), 3B Tito McCallum (.242/.316/.325), CF Buddy Ducey (.275/.350/.404), DH Lance Lewis (.242/.311/.384)

New Players: 
CF Yunesky Megias, RF Alving Lugo, LF Andre Kerr, SS Sherman Ducey, 3B Charlie Lyons, 1B/DH Zeke Snyder, C Ernesto Olivares, SS Humberto Casilla, SP Britt Maurer, SP Louie James, SP Jesus Lee, SP Raymond McKay, RP Bubbles O’Neill, RP Pedro Romero, RP Houston Rose, RP Norman Pierce, RP Virgil Payton, RP Adrian Standridge
After a season of disappointing results, the Beavers look to make some noise this season. Only a few players remain from last season’s disappointment, and those are guys who should be able to contribute. The lineup and pitching staff were a lot of addition by subtraction, as only one starter and one reliever return to the team and only 3 position players will be back in the starting lineup when the season starts. This team that returns has been one of no major acquisitions, but a bunch of under-the-radar signings and trades that hopefully improve the overall team. The least improved part of the team is the rotation, but that saw moving some very good starters for the betterment of the overall team. While the top-end of the rotation is not as strong, the back-end is much better. Nothing less than the playoffs will be acceptable this season.

Iowa City Hawkeyes

Same cast of characters returns this season hoping to return to Season 12 form and get back to the playoffs. The starting rotation, led by Bono Keefe should be solid and much better than last season. The staf has added roonie Sean Spooneybarger, who has had a rough spring, but will hopefully settle down for the regular season. Offense is led by Glendon Roosevelt, who belted 53 Home Runs last yearHe will be assisted by Yogi Harnisch who hit 35 Hr's and Carlos Barrios, who had 33 HR's and 101 RBIs. Table setters Lunar, Kotchman, and Sherman have to do better than their .250 or worse averages. The window for this team is closing fast and they only have a couple more seasons together at best.

Wichita Jayhawks

When season 13 ended it looked like the good ole days of winning division titles and going on deep runs in the playoffs had ended. Players Yadier Ciriaco, Barry Graves, Don Perisho, Ruben Perez, Julio Andujar, and Terry Peterson were going to be free agents. We managed to sign Perisho,Perez and Ciriaco during free agency. We would have liked to resign Andujar for one more season but we ran out of money. Taking his spot in some form at DH or 1B will be Rickey Gaillard. Our pitching after Ruben Perez, Alexander Fitzgerald, Hugh Blalock, Peter Woodson, Jason Roosevelt is not good, but it's been like that way for a few seasons. Staying healthy and getting production at 1B and DH will be key this season. Barring injuries to key players, we expect to win the division. Once in the playoffs who knows what will happen.

Colorado Buffaloes

Notable Departures: 2B/3B Alving Lugo (Type A); RF Patrick Norman (Type B); RP Mike Kelly (Type B)

FA Signings: SP Domingo Melendez (5 yr/$100M); RP Hunter Giambi (2 yr/$10.4M); RP Kris Benson (4 yr/$20.8M)

Trade Additions: SP Jeromy Stern; 2B Troy Malone; RF Hiram Satou; SS Cesar Torcato; RP Miguel Matos

New Faces: 1B Eddie Baxter (promoted); RF/DH Esmerling Sardinha (R5)

COL begins S 14 with several new faces, including a change in management that actually took effect late in S 13. 

While COL had acquired many pitching prospects, it was felt bolder moves were necessary. COL brought in established SP's (and possibly HOF candidates) Domingo Melendez and Jeromy Stern to anchor the top of the rotation. COL committed 5 yrs to Melendez, although the 5th is a M option. Stern will sign a contract extension at some point this season. These 2 addition will the rotation down 2 spots in hopes of increasing its effectiveness. 3 new faces join Bernie Rios (the only BU holdover from S 13) in the BU. All the new pitches have very good GB ratings, and 

COL leveraged its pitching prospects to gain young, salary controllable POS players. While not possessing superior PC, Al Garrido does just enough to be an asset at C. Long time 2B Ernie Wuertz will move to CF, while Troy Malone will make his ML debut at 2B. SS Cesar Torcato brings strong D skills and the RH side of a L-R platoon with veteran SS Yamid Villano. JJ Rose will set up at 3B. The IF is rounded out by power+eye 1B Eddie Baxter. The IF is young with average age of 25, and only Torcato has entered his arb years. The OF will be ably manned with Spud Heiserman in LF, Wuertz moving to CF, and Hiram Satou making his ML debut in RF.

While there is some optimism in COL, it is unreasonable to think anyone will catch ARI in just 1 season. But if COL can play .500 ball and close the gap on the WC, it will be a good season.

Trenton Scarlet Knights

After an unprecedented 20-2 run to end last season and capture the last wild card spot in the playoffs, Trenton's front office has made some significant changes to the Knights roster. Almost a dozen players have departed from last years team with the following message being sent, time to get younger. Of course fresh/younger faces means some growing pains and this year expectations are not high in Trenton. While there are new faces all over the Knights clubhouse, there is still veteran leadership with high expectations. Multiple CY Young award winner Ken Nix leads the Scarlet Knights revamped rotation once again this season. Defending AL MVP winner Jimmie Butler will anchor the teams offense as usual along side Brandon Maroth as both all three players look to add to their Hall of Fame resumes.

Players No Longer with Organization:

Dick Nelson-DH
Nicky Mattes-SS 
Dave Ross-SP
Edgardo Soto-RP
Ervin Bradley-RP
Hector Pena-SP
Hunter Giambi-RP
Joaquim Cabrera-RP
P.J. Bunch-SP
Arthur Nelson-C
Rory McBride-RF

Key Additions on ML Roster:

C-George Leonard: Leonard gets the opportunity to replace Mr. Nelson who's option was declined by management this season. While Leonard lacks experience and brains behind the plate, he swings with a decent stick and hopes to add to the offense.

Infield-Quentin Ford: While Ford lacks pop with his bat, he will work the leather all over the park helping boost our late game defense.

RP-Junior Gimenez: Looks to be the bridge between our starters and relievers out of the bullpen. Should log numerous innings this season and hopefully the wins as well.

RP-Mike Kelly: Seemed to struggle in the high mountain air of Colorado. Hoping the Jersey shores will bring new life into an aging arm.

Arizona State Sun Devils

ASU prepares to defend the title entering season 14. The core of the team is starting to show signs of aging, with top-2 SP Kaline & Glass turning 33 & 34 respectively. Keeping those guys healthy (along with WS superhero Louie Crespo) is going to be the key to the season.

As the team ages, salaries hit very high levels. We've had to make some difficult decisions recently including a trade of reliable SP Francisco Pujols, mostly for salary purposes. The other notable trade brought back a big bat in Daichi Johjima. He's a man without a position and we are going to plug him in RF and hope his bat outproduces the negative plays.

The rest of the lineup should be strong and we expect a top 5 offense this season. The pitching will be good as long as the top of the rotation holds up. On the backend, I wanted to add another good RP but wasn't able to find a fit on the trade market. Perhaps something will materialize in-season.

Oakland Golden Bears

The return to glory continues in Season 14 for the Oakland Golden Bears. The ML roster was enhanced with the addition of two fine catchers, Arthur Nelson and B.J. Neal who possess very good PC abilities and decent bats along. In addition, the Bears signed converted SS Todd Patterson to patrol CF. These additions should add to an already very good defensive squad. 

The pitching staff is anchored by Cam Wilson (17-12) and Alex Seanez (42 Saves). George Westbrook after a 12 win rookie season, and 22 year-old Rule 5 draftee Tony Escalona will be looked upon to add depth to the rotation.

While the Oakland franchise is built around pitching and defense, the Bears will need continued contributions at the plate from returnees Wayne Murphy (24 HR, 69 RBI), Damon Minor (70 RBI, 29 SB), Endy Valentin (19 HR, 63 RBI) and Jhonny Alfonseca (18 HR, 84 RBI) in order to make a postseason appearance in Season 14.

The Golden Bears minor league system is packed with young stars with high ceilings. These include Brett Torres (22, DH), Greg Torres (22, 2B) and Danys Olivares (19, 3B) who could make their presence felt offensively in the majors at some point in Season 14. The Bears also have young pitchers, Georger Simms, Felix Leary and Norberto Delgado who will look to take the next step forward this season.

The playoffs are a realistic goal this year and not achieving this would be a disappointment.

Little Rock Razorbacks

The Little Rock Razorbacks have suffered 3 consecutive seasons of 90+ losses and the time has come to start seeing some of the prospects gathered during that time get called up to pay dividends at the major league level. Look for up to 5 rookies to make their way to the majors either out of spring training or shortly after the season starts. Included in that group are former first round draft picks, Sean Bottalico, Bonk Satin and Kordell O’Brien. These youngsters will join budding superstar Oswaldo Candelario who completed a very successful rooking campaign in season 13 with 31 HR and a .944 OPS. While the infusion of young talent may make the Razorbacks more exciting, it may be a stretch to predict they will be back in contention to win the division. A .500 record seems like a reasonable step forward in season 14.

Charlotte Tar Heels

Last season was a complete tear down of a tar Heels squad who seemed to consistently under perform.  Whats funny is that last years team of cast offs managed to overperform and put together a pretty solid season all things considered.

The good news is that it appears the tear down has resulted in several key pieces added that will hopefully be the cornerstone of the next Tar Heels dynasty.  We did make a couple of trades during the Winter Meetings.  Marc Gilbert was brought in and immediately signed to a long term deal to help anchor our bullpen.  Ezdra Valdes was brought in as an innings eater/middle of the rotation SP on a one season rental.  Typically we wouldn't make a move like this while rebuilding, but we realized that we were going to promote quite a few rookies who we have high hopes for and wanted to hedge our bets on making a wild card run.  If that doesn't work out, we'll cross our fingers he will be a type A/B free agent and can get some draft picks back.

Del De La Vega has already been promoted and will start off in the starting lineup and eventually be relegated to a utility role.  The big time prospects will wait until around game 20 to make their appearance.  Those include Takuya Bang ($24 mil INTL FA) and Nathan Strauss (#14 pick) and will slot in the rotation along with Orlando Mendoza (#2 pick) who will be our leadoff hitter and position TBD, Don Mori ($17 mil INTL FA) to play CF, Terry Murray (#12 pick) for the bullpen, and last but not least, big Stan Hurst, all of 20 years old and former #3 pick to anchor the lineup and play 1B for hopefully a very long time.

If everything breaks well and we can keep our head above water until the reinforcements show up, we're aiming for a wild card berth.

Chicago Blue Demons

The Chicago Blue Demons are under new ownership and in a new stadium, the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. They lost two of their best sluggers to free agency, but will likely call up Cuban phenom Jose Ortiz to fill the gap. They doubled down on pitching in free agency, signing four hurlers, including right-handed SP Virgil Villalona. The Blue Demons hope to continue last season's success, which completed a dramatic turnaround for the franchise. Their new owner has shown a frustrating knack for fielding barely above average teams, however, and is planning to mollify the fan base with lots of give-aways, dancing girls, and nickel beer nights.

Florida Gators

Florida is hoping to contend again in Season 14 after a 97 win season and has added a number of quality veterans. We traded for power hitting C John Damon and solid SP Francisco Pujols. We also signed SP Aneury Lopez and LF Bobby Clayton to FA deals.

Richmond Cavaliers

The lineup for the Richmond Cavaliers remains pretty much in tact. The squad returns all but 3 contributors from last seasons AL Champions. The lineup changes have been filled from within and Joey Whitehead will see more AB’s this season. Two new faces are entering the starting rotation. Albie Puig will be a mainstay and Brad Hundley will fill a spot until Oswaldo Sosa is ready. Rule 5 pick Octavio Olmeda will work in long relief. Management expects the Cavaliers to make the playoffs this season and anything less would be a great disappointment.