Friday, July 19, 2013

S11 Preview

Anaheim Angels
The Angels made a serious off-season push to compete in a division that is always tough to win. To upgrade the offense, Theo Matthews was brought in to bat third and Davey Martin gives the Halos a top notch base stealer. Greg Hennessy and Bobby Phillips will strengthen the pitching staff. The staff's young core of Crawford, Martinez, Anderson and Rogers is talented and with Bennett, Guerrero and Mays leading a young offensive core that also features Creek and Walters as an exciting double play combo, the Angels could hit this year. The middle infield must play stronger defense this year to support Hewitt's gold glove work behind the plate and Yusmeiro Johnson's fine work in CF. Big questions also remain about power and how well Phillips will perform out of the bullpen. The Angels will definitely be better this year. The only question is will their improvement make any difference in the always tough AL West.

Atlanta Braves
The Braves have evidently become so accustomed to finishing 2nd in their division that they are now content with it. They made absolutely no significant off season moves.
The only player gone from last season's roster is free agent utility man and speedster Felipe Rosario, who is so coveted that he is still awaiting someone to offer him a contract. As for the remaining Braves, veteran mainstays Al Reynoso (1B), Alex Cheng (RF) and Harold Daily (CL) will be looked to for both leadership and production. Alex Tarraga (3B) is now in his prime, coming off a solid season (.279 .340 .474 with 20 HR, 32 SB) and may be the Braves' top offensive threat at this point. He's followed closely by steady Ricardo Jose (C), just beginning to enter his prime years. Jonny Mercedes (CF), Dario York (2B), and Ezdra Alvides join with Jose and platoon battery mate Lawrence Houston for strong defense up the middle, though their offensive contributions deserve no further mention. Emerging switch hitter Boots Vaughn will likely platoon with Cheng in RF, while Robinzon Bournigal and Edgardo Guardado will do the same in LF. Akinori Zhang will once again anchor the starting rotation, coming off a solid 16-9, 2.96 season. LHP Vincenzo Parker should be a solid #2 starter if he continues to progress from a solid rookie season. Fausto Martin, Santiago Owen, Evan Van Hatten and Harry Ordonez will compete for the remaining 3 slots in the rotation. Daily's 40 saves in 42 chances last season added to his illustrious career achievements as one of the game's best closers, and shows no signs of slowing down. The Braves are looking for veterans Al Lange, Carlos Navarre and Rolando Polonia to combine with youngsters Junior Crespo and Patrick Smith to provide quality bullpen support in the middle and set up roles. With enough improvement from the younger players and solid seasons from their veterans, the Braves could relinquish their stranglehold on 2nd place and actually compete for a divison title. Unfortunately, they could also potentially move in the other direction, as both the Marlins and the Cardinals appear to have improved themselves during the off season.

Baltimore Orioles
Nothing too exciting to report. This will be another rebuilding season in the Charm City. Now that the dust has settled, we took some time to look back on the demolition of our World Sereies squad and still believe it was the right thing to do. We may have blown it up a season or two early, but I'd rather do that then a season or two too late. We are excited about the prospects now moving through the system.

We did dabble a bit in FA, putting in bids on some type A guys in the 29-31 year old space, but decided to pull back after fully thinking out our strategy.

Former 3rd pick in the first round, Sonny Ratliff and former IFA, Erubiel Aramboles iare set to make his debut this season.

Other than that, we'll be hoping for a deep draft class, good IFA's, and enjoy watching our prospects develop.

Boston Red Sox
With the addition of Rich Coco Boston is hoping a repeat division title is in their future. The pitching staff is returning minus the loose cannon Mitch Franco and it boasts some decent top of the rotation starters in Yonder Silva and Omar Mercado. The bullpen is a bit weaker this season due to some salary restraints but the offense is going to be dynamic with Coco and Norman in the heart of the order. With the improved offense and weaker bullpen I am predicting a 95 win season, which is hopefully enough to take this tough division.

Chicago Cubs
S10: 65-97 (4th in NL North)

After another disastrous season in season 10, the Cubs are looking to rebound and perhaps be competitive in season 11. Our offense was below average last season but we did finish 10th in home runs thanks to Ariel Mateo, Timo Pinto and Carlos Henriquez. We added CF Hipolito Quintero to the mix and hope that our power hitters can continue slugging them out of the park again this season. Our starting pitching was horrible last season and we concentrated on that area this offseason by adding Denny Matsuzaka, Cameron Lundquist, and Luis Furcal. With younger pitchers Reginald Walker and Yonder Mendoza a year older, we’re hoping to see a significant drop to our team era this season and help us win some more games. We still get the #6 pick in this season’s draft to go along with last year’s #3, Bryan Cook, to help build up our minors. We think that we really added some good pieces to this team this offseason and at reasonably contracts that won’t hurt us down the road.

Chicago White Sox
Last year the White Sox went into full rebuilding mode. Even so, they only managed to lose 87 games, which did not really help their draft position much. As much as management would like to extend it another year, there are too many prospects in the minors to keep them there on the 40 man roster, so the youth movement begins. Expect a better record but not fully competitive yet.

Expected call-ups would be CF Philip Henley, 2B Bob Ledesma, and RF Alex Garces. There is a whole stable of pitchers waiting for their call, and my guess is that they won't have to wait long.

Cincinnati Reds
Management handcuffed themselves in regards to much movement in the offseason by extending cornerstone 2B Travis Evans. Evans has been the offensive leader for the past few seasons and was inked to a front-loaded 5 year extension to keep him in Cincinnati. The Reds return many of their top offensive players, as RF Theo Mathews was traded to bring in some youth. Rookie RF Ed Gold looks to develop into a solid player while improving the OF defense. LF Bert Root and 1B Greg Monroe join Evans and Gold to lead the offense. Phil Gonzalez strengthens CF defensively and provides some pop, while SS Goose Howard looks to improve on the SS defense and offense while keeping the position warm for youngster Rip Stevenson. The bench is strong as Dick Simon, Sherman Thompson, and Larry Browning provide pop off the bench. The only positional battle to keep an eye on is at 3B between Hiram Sierra and Clete provides defense and the other provides power.

Pitching wise, the staff is solid, but not spectacular. Running with an 11-man staff will provide some challenges. There is nothing to predict here, except that the Cincinnati Reds are going to rely on their offense to get them back to the playoffs this season. The minor league system has been strengthened, so it isn't out of the question that the Reds add a SP capable of carrying this team at the deadline.

Cleveland Indians
Last season the Indian bats inexplicably went quiet in the second half of the season and combined with some late inning bullpen collapses, causing the Tribe to go into a second half swoon that they were never able to battle out of. To prove that the silence of the bats was inexplicable, the GM has done virtually nothing to improve the squad’s offense in the off season. The expected offensive rebound will be complemented by a great top starting 3, anchored by ace Bill Serano, who reportedly is still somewhat peeved by being slighted in the voting for rookie of the year (lots of high and inside stuff coming this year). The key additions were made to the pen where Norberto Tavarez and Carmen Key will help to set up the newly extended shut down closer Cookie Alfonso. Finally the addition of long reliever Hulk Roosevelt will seemingly just scare the opposition by way of his immense and intimidating emerald presence. This is a very tough division, but the Indians hope to compete for the top spot.

Colorado Rockies
It's an exciting time in Denver and Coors banquet beer is flowing. The front office went into the off season looking to tear down the walls by shipping out throneberry, badenhop and Flores, instead when free agency opened management switched directions to appease the fans and went on a spending spree.  By bringing in wells with GAO and bringing back the rocks all time leader in saves (coveleski) the good times are looking up in the mile high city. Also word ou of training camp is that rookies Morton, Kelly pineiro and alou will make the big squad to further strengthen the roster for a postseason run. Just remember one thing....chicks dig the ball and there will be plenty flying this year in Colorado.

Detroit Tigers
There is a new sense of quiet determination in Motown this year. After three straight 100 win seasons, and World Series trips 2 of the last 3 years, this team is on a mission to win the trophy in season 11. This is now a team in its prime, and management has added more pieces to push it over the top.  SP Denny Andrews is the biggest offseason acquisition. The one weakness of the team in the postseason was the lack of a second top starter. Also added through FA, was RP Elvis Janssen to add to an already deep pen. The Tigers decided to stand pat on the offensive side of the ball after adding C Marvin Sellers near the trade deadline last year. The only notable players lost were pitchers Pat Palmer and Hughie Perkins.

Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are still in rebuild mold and are trying their hardest to find the happy medium of rebuilding and staying competitive enough to avoid the dreaded 200 loss total. We pretty much have the same team back but with a stronger bullpen, so hopefully there won’t be as many blown leads as last year.

Milwaukee Brewers
Season 11 will be another rebuilding year for the Brewers.

Watch for the team to try to move some veteran start players over the course of the season to clear room for up and comers with in the organization.

Alex Gomez, the world's Home Run Leader will be starting the season on the 60 day DL, so that hurts. Fans are sad, knowing he will pass 500 home runs, but probably won't do it in a Brewers uniform.

Eli Breslow, the 32 year old starting pitcher, who finished third in ROY year voting last year is quickly becoming a fan favorite and has locked down a spot in the starting rotation.

New Orleans Jazz
Season 10 was a pleasant surprise for Jazz fans. The team played well, and looks to be a season or two ahead of schedule with regards to the team rebuild. The team finished with a respectable 86 wins (a franchise record), made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and even managed our first playoff series victory against our division rivals, the Kansas City Royals. We were, of course, eventually trounced by the team that would go on to win the AL Pennant, the Detroit Tigers. All things considered, Season 10 was a very good one in the Big Easy. Season 11 will also be another franchise first. It will be the first season that this team will go into the season with expectations. The Jazz expect to contend for the division, and play well in the postseason. There is no reason that this shouldn't happen, as the team is largely intact from last season, with only upgrades to the roster. Season 10 AL RoY candidates Hideki Ni and Benito Infante look to build upon last season's success as they will now be on the ML team for then entire season. Veteran 1B Jeremy Pettyjohn looks to duplicate what was the best season of his career, while veteran SP Larry Leach looks to not duplicate what was the worst season of a career that boasts 5 All Star selections and 3 no-hitters. This season's rookies could be just as impactful as last seasons'. Slugging Columbian sensation, 1B/DH Deivi Lee, should make an immediate impact once he is added to the ML squad. He will be asked to hit directly in the middle of the order, either 4th or 5th, and drive in a lot of runs. After a dominant career at the University of South Alabama, and two seasons of similar dominance in the minors, former #4 overall pick Lance Misch will be called upon to shore up what was the weakness of last season: the bullpen. He should provide much needed stability at the back end, though he may not have as much help as he needs because the pen is still a bit shaky. Not much was done in the way of free agency, except for the signing of veteran southpaw Max Osoria. He will help round out the rotation and should be slotted as the team's #3 or #4 starter. Osoria should be solid, he was even named to an All Star team a few seasons ago, and help alleviate a bullpen that needs all the help it can get. He's perfectly capable of tossing 200+ innings if healthy and should keep the team in the game and give the potent offense a chance to put up enough runs for a W. A young core with a high ceiling is in place in the New Orleans and things are looking up. If we make the playoffs again like we expect to, maybe we'll get hot at the right time and make a little noise in the playoffs, maybe have our own Mardi Gras. We certainly expect to in the near future.

New York Yankees
Disappointment. The one word that sums up the 10th season of Yankees baseball. Management is hopeful season 11 will unfold differently. Ivan Wise, who started a few ML games last season, will be joined by Jesus Izquirdo from AAA. Those 2 added to Jenson, Sewell and Kim give the Yankees their deepest staff yet. Achilles Dickens and Daryl Woods were brought in to bolster the bullpen. Karl Hamill will start at 1B, Chad York is the new 3B. The lineup should be formidable.

Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are returning almost the same team as last years division champs with a couple tweaks to improve defensively. Moving Thomas Bailey to LF and acquiring Brendan Buford to play CF should reduce some errors and the addition of power hitting 2B Calvin Colangelo should also help. Hopes are high that SPs Jose Viriato and Stubby Easterly can rebound from subpar seasons last year and play to their potential. While still trying to win the division again this year, the front office is focused on building up the farm system with good scouting and an IFA budget. With limited budget room for the ML squad this year, management is hoping that bringing back a very similar team from last year will be good enough to repeat as division champs.

San Diego Padres
It was another eventful off season for the defending World Series Champions. Multiple losses to the lineup and the starting rotation eliminated team depth. The backbone of the lineup remains – Neftali Barrios, Wes Sheehan, Matty Sanchez & Bob Daniels. Same with the rotation – Phil Lowery, Hipolito Ramirez & Samuel Root. The bullpen remains intact with Al Campos, Alexander White, Mack Lankford, Yusmeiro Sosa & Willie Belliard returning. Anthony Terry will step in at 3B and Diego Wilfredo will plug the gap in CF. Al Flores and new addition Jamie Kent will move into the rotation and Chili Bang will move into a long relief role. Iago Blue will get a full season in the majors and is expected to be a contributor as will the other reserves. Can the Padres win enough games to get into the playoffs, ride their starters and repeat?

Key losses – Phil Gao, Ringo Johnson, Phil Gonzales, Frank Hunter, Blake Titan, Eugenio Nunez, Sandy O’Shea, Kerry Charleston

St. Louis Cardinals
Key additions:
C Heathcliff Haney (trade with Philadelphia)
1B Matt Texeira (trade with Seattle)
UT Roy Ojala (free agency)
SP Javier Sanches (free agency)
Mo Watson (free agency)

Key losses:
Brendan Buford (trade with Philadelphia)

Budweiser was the biggest hit the Cardinals had last season. During last season’s 3-24 swoon under a broiling August sun, fans still showed up in droves to drink, root on their beloved red birds and then drown their sorrows in more golden elixir. Fans got to see a grand total of 26 wins at home – two out of three times they went to the park, they left disappointed.

The team faces a lot more heat this season: the general manager’s job is on the line. The rival Astros might as well have been in orbit, winning 45 games more than the Cardinals last season, so winning the division will require a booster rocket to be strapped to the ass of the franchise. And if the franchise is to do so, the Cardinal bats will need to heat up.

Twelve of their losses in that 3-24 stretch were by one run, but they might as well have been ten. The team finished dead last in Slugging and OPS, and 30th in Average and OBP. Those 594 runs they plated were a franchise low. With the losses to the once-robust pitching staff mounting, opposing teams are outscoring the team regularly at home.

The team needed to surround star Bucky Stults (.320/.373/.546) with more talent. The minor leagues were raided and traded for proven veterans and an influx of change. Harry Ortiz (.353/.429/.397 in 17 games) will get his first full season with the team. Light-hitting centerfielder Brendan Buford was traded for catcher Heathcliff Haney, who finally brings a right-handed bat behind the plate. The move will allow Bonk Stein to feast on lefties. Likewise, Claudio Gray will be tandem up with newcomer Matt Texeira (.302/.382/.472) at first base, allowing each to prosper. Roy Ojala was a looked-over talent brought in as a utility player and should fit fine into the Cardinal system. Nicholas Walters should bounce back from an uncharacteristic season (.244/.320/.329) – career lows in every category. While the team still lacks an elite slugger, the offense should be much improved.

On the mound, the team welcomes Javier Sanches to the top of the rotation, taking the pressure off reliable starter Edge Gibbons. While the park itself does a lot to suppress hitting, Sanches will make it tough for opposing offenses to get a free ride to first. Mo Watson arrives from Boston to bolster the bullpen. The team expects the ranging Len Carver to be brought up to take over the duties at shortstop, which should also improve the team defense.

While it remains to be seen if the team was shaken up enough to ensure a 70-win season, you can guarantee either way the beer will be flowing.