Monday, October 21, 2013

S12 Previews

Anaheim Angels
The Angels are hoping that Candelaria and McKnight finally give them a credible offense to go with their strong starting pitching. The staff features Martinez, Rogers, Crawford and Hennesey with Trammell setting up Phillips in the bullpen. Astacio will try to crack the starting lineup at 2B with Mathews, Guerrero, Bennett and Mays as strong offensive holdovers. I am not sure how good we are, but I think we may finally be good!

Atlanta Braves
The Braves unloaded several higher salary veterans during last season, culminating with the departure of defensive stalwart Dario York (2B) late in the season. The Braves' starting rotation, relatively young and short on experience, struggled mightily last season. Fausto Martin is the staff ace, and though his fiest three ML seasons were solid, will need to step his game up another notch to flourish in that role. Lefties Evan Van Hatten and Vincenzo Parker and righty Harry Ordonez also return, while lefty Wesley Lawrence, who made his debut as a late season call up last year, is expected to fill the 5th slot. The Braves look to veteran Harold Daily to once again anchor the bullpen and continue his remarkably consistent run as one of the game's top closers. Reynoso, Cheng and 3B Alex Tarraga are expected to once again provide most of the Braves' offensive punch. Another key for Atlanta is that C Ricardo Jose bounce back from a sub-par season, and if that doesn't happen defensive wizard Melky Morales may see his role expand beyond platooning against LHP and late inning defensive replacement. LF Boots Vaughn put together a fine effort last season and is now entering his prime. Ezdra Aviles is as good defensively as any SS in the game, nothing remarkable on the offensive side, and will pair with newcomer Joe Watson (obtained in the York trade from the Mariners) and Skeeter Williams, expected to platoon at 2B. Jhonny Mercedes brings solid defense in CF, though his offensive inconsistencies have led the Braves to platoon him with Virgil Montero, whose range is a bit better than Mercedes', though his glove and arm are not quite as good. If all goes according to plan, the Braves may creep back toward the break even mark, and could conceivably even contend for a wild card slot. More than likely though, they're still a season or two away from regaining their once familiar position at the top of the NL South.

Baltimore Orioles
Our goal is to build on last season's surprise AL East title and win it again, but with a better record. We entered last season expecting another rebuilding campaign, but surprisingly were very competitive while our AL East division mates all took a step back allowing us to sneak in and win it on the last day of the season.

Most of our starters are young and all got better over the offseason. Kordell Stanley was brought in to bat leadoff with his huge OBP numbers. We're bringing in several rookies who should all contirbute heavily. Ed Gold will be in at 2B which will allow Rodrigo Felix to be a jack of all trades type player.Henderson Cooke will make his debut and hopefully cement the best bullpen in the world. We traded for John Jung who will slot in at the top of the order as well. He is excited to be back in Baltimore. Jake Mayne will also be promoted to provide depth and eventually take over at 3B.

Our goal is the playoffs which is remarkable since we only took one rebuilding season after winning the World Series.

Boston Red Sox
After coming off a disappointing season the Red Sox are hoping to rebound and reclaim the division. With a weak AL East the Red Sox are hoping their new additions will elevate them above the heap. Those new additions include Haywood Throneberry at 3b, Melky Diaz (SP), and a pair of RP's (Lew Bridges, Delanor Prince). 3b was a blackhole last year so Haywood is an upgrade, and the bullpen was lacking last year as well so the new guys should help in that regard. With Diaz and bringing back Yonder Silva to go along with Omar Mercado the rotation should be fine. Rich Coco and Jermoe Norman will be in the heart of the batting order so the Sox are expecting the offense to be a positive. The expectations are a return to first place, but its such a fine line that if they should not meet expectations trades will happen and management will have to start the rebuild since the minors are in shambles with no legit prospects.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are in that awkward period between rebuilding and starting to compete. Gone are many of the veterans, called up is ROY prospect 3b Alredo Terrero, the first of a sweeping youth movement that will take place this season. FA signed to hold the fort are SS Nipsey Baez and SP Stan Foster. Expect to see top prospect Mike Reese be called up as the first starter falters.

Management knows that the playoffs are still out of reach--a .500 season would meet or exceed expectations.

Cincinnati Reds
3 straight winning seasons, 2 straight second-place finishes in the division…one playoff appearance to show for it. That’s where the Reds are today. The #4 offense in the NL last season saw minimal changes…Quinton Valdes comes back to the Reds franchise for his 3rd tour of duty and first time in a ML Reds uniform. New CF Yusmeiro Johnson looks to provide more offense from that position after Phil Gonzales departing via FA. S11 NL MVP Travis Evans looks to continue a great offensive run at 2B, while the middle of the order returns…1B Larry Browning, LF Greg Monroe, C Burt Washington, and RF Yovani Rijo should provide plenty of firepower. SS Goose Howard is the best option of a bad bunch. On the bench, C Frank Hunter, 1B Royce Thomas, 3B Howard Goghlan, SS Alan Throneberry, and OF David Davis provide a combined 1,151 career HRs off the bench…power should not be an issue for this team.
The pitching staff has, once again, seen a near complete retooling. The 14th ranked staff (by WHIP & ERA), the pitchers did not give the offense much help at all. LHP & Ace Delino Guerrero returns at a considerable discount after an All-Star S11. He is joined by RHP Rex Howard, RHP Akinori Zhang, LHP Emil Cabrera, and RHP Julio Blanco in the rotation. None of these guys had any sort of success last season, but the hope is that the ratings carry the day this season. In the bullpen are Raymond Trout, Aurelio Uribe, and Carlos Almonte as the long-men…LHP Alex Hernandez and RHP Danys Ontiveros make up the set-up crew and RHP Kris Morton looks to get his feet wet as SuB in his rookie season. This has all the makings of another terrible pitching staff, but the hope is that we can get lucky and they be a respectable staff.

Cleveland Indians
Cleveland suffered through a disappointing season last year primarily due to down offensive years from 3 key positions (3B, LF & RF) as well as a critical injury at SS that wiped out any offensive production at that position as well. This season, the Indians expect rebound offensive seasons at all 4 of those positions from the veterans that remain in place. In an effort to help jump start the offense, CF Pat Howard was added by way of trade. Howard should be a fixture at CF for many years and gives us the great speed and contact we need at the top of the order along with Bartolo Moreno. The pitching should remain solid with Serrano, Maurer and Drabek anchoring the staff. IF we stay injury free, Cleveland should compete for the Division once again.

Detroit Tigers
The bad news for the Detroit Tigers? We cannot seem to win the last game of the year. The good news? We still have been to the World Series 3 of the last 4 seasons. The really good news is that last season looked like it would probably mark the zenith of this team, but thanks to unexpectedly low spending on FAs this year, we actually should be better this season. This season looked like the beginning of losing players to decline and payroll constraints. The two obvious guys we were losing were David Davis due to decline and an option that was too steep to accept, and Danny Lee who despite a career year, had lost too much range to be an adequate CF. Both will be missed, but we were able to find suitable FA replacements for much less than anticipated. Julio Guillen takes over in RF, moving Juan Aguilera to LF. Guillen also will serve as our new leadoff hitter. He doesn't walk enough to be considered the ideal leadoff man, but otherwise does everything you could want. He will get a chance to run more than he received in Montreal, and his durability should allow him to play nearly every game. The only downside to the move will be a downgrade in defense in LF, and generally weak defense at both corners of the OF. Hopefully new CF Rudy Pavlov will help with that, as he is a major upgrade defensively from anyone who has gotten playing time in center the last few years. His bat is unlikely to match the departed Lee's but he is likely going to be just the platoon mate to John Revere and shouldn't play as much of a utility role. The best news is that we were able to sign those guys cheap enough that there was enough money to make an offer to a SP, and to our great surprise, we were able to sign Ismael Pascual to strengthen our rotation. He should slot in behind Pulido, Andrews and Quall to make as good a foursome as any in the league. The fifth slot will be filled by either Edgard Rojas or Andrew Alexander, leaving the other to bolster the bullpen. If we keep making it to the playoffs, one of these years we will have to be the last team standing.

Milwaukee Brewers
Season 12 figures to be another rebuiling year for the Brewers. The Goal is to be no worse than season 11, the Hope is to show some improvement. The fact is barring injuries the Goal should be achieved and the Hope should be realized.

Some moves were made this off season which should improve the team's defence, which will help a truly put upon pitching staff that had and ERA-FIP of well over .5 last season. In addition the pitching staff has a bunch of new pitchers waiting to boil up from the minors not just this season but for next few seasons.

Key depature:
Alex Gomez, we wish him luck in Philly, it'll be interesting to see if our former catcher can hold off decline enough this season to be brought back next year to make a run at 500 career home runs. He'll be replaced by a platoon consisiting of last year's defensive catcher Matt Murton and rookie masher Ed Moran.

Key Addition:
Trent Rivera. He was brought with the hopes of improving both offensive and denfensive production at the hot corner. The front office is a little nervous about the 4 year commitment to a 33 year old who has already shown some small hints of decline. However, the contract is front loaded, with a mutual option on the 4th year, so hopefully, he'll give us enough this season and next to excuse the 3rd year and the buyout fee.

Key Rookies:
Ed Moran of course, Also look for Darrell Allen to get a chance at some point this season. Big things are expected of Ozzie Greenwood in the bullpen. And Hopefully at least one of Mark Anderson, Pat Lord, Rob Olsen and Alex Magee will become a contributor to the Rotation, Anderson get's the first shot.

Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies retooled a bit in the offseason by trading for some younger talent and more notably well known veteran player Phil Gao. Philly will rely heavily on two corner outfield youngsters Garland Mailman and Ruben Aguilar to boost their lineup with Gao and newly signed veteran catcher Alex Gomez. The offense should produce, but the question is will the pitching hold up enough to capture a 3rd straight division title?

San Diego Padres
The core of the Padres has remained in tact this season after back-to-back division titiles. For a 3-Peat to occur, much more is needed out of mid-season acquisitions Carl Clayton and Carlos Rivera than they produced last season. Gerrit Gipson, Neftali Barrios, Wes Sheehan and Bob Daniels are expected to continue to provide offense while FA Edgar Merced is expected to play a GG CF. The pitching staff is again anchored by Phil Lowery and Hipolito Ramirez. Al Flores, Samuel Root, Jamie Kent and Tito Peters are fighting for the other 3 rotation spots. The bullpen remains solid with the only addition being Vic Velazquez. Role players Yonder Melendez, Gary Pose, Bill Griffiths and John Edwards are ready to step in from AAA if needed. The Padres pitching staff has aged but is the key to the success of the big league team.

Washington Nationals
The Nationals look to build off of a strong finish last season. After starting the season 36-66, a change of ownership and a flurry of moves helped the team finish with 70 wins and a little hope for the future.

No real big moves were made this off-season, as management looks to see what they really have to work with. Walter Gray and the last minute signing of Bernard Hollins will hopefully help fans forget about Raymond Small, who was traded at the deadline because of his unwillingness to sign a long term contract. Both Hollins and Gray are lefties who can potentially eat up innings. Bernard Reid, who was stuck in the bullpen until new management arrived, got an extension and hopes to pitch as well as he did down the stretch. Same can be said about the youngster Heinie Kinkade.

Vic Velazquez had a career year as the closer last season, but it was a contract year and management did not want to spend too much money on a closer at this point. Some late season additions and wily veterans look to keep the pen stable.

Daryl Crosby was signed to fill the need at the hot corner, where Pepper Cromer filled in admirably late last season, but is not seen as a long term fix. Domingo Velez will once again be the table setter for a team who lacks pop, but has no shortage of speed offensively. Catcher Rubby Gomez is the only real long ball threat, but he does not handle the staff well and will see his at-bats come against righty starters.

Small ball will be the name of the game in Washington, and how well they do going forward will dictate what new ownership will decide to do with this team.

Houston Astros
Key additions: Kid Roling (2B), Emil Roque (COF), Norm Helms (RP), Don Plant (RP), Justin Mientkiewicz (RP)

Key losses: JR Fulmer (RP), Philip Jackson (CF), Milt Flynn (COF), Jose Viriato (COF)

Outlook: The only thing harder than winning a World Series is winning two in a row and that will be the goal of the Houston Astros in season 12. The Astros did not make any significant offseason moves, but will be relying on the same core of players that lead them to the promise land in season 11. Bernie Spier is back from the season ending injury he suffered in the playoffs, but there are significant question marks about whether or not the future Hall of Famer will ever be the same pitcher he was as recently as last season. In addition, NL rookie of the year Pat Hickman is moving to CF to make room for the newly acquired Kid Roling to take over at 2B. All and all the Astros should be good enough to make the playoffs again in season 12, but will be hard pressed to duplicate the magic that lead them to World Series glory.

New Orleans Jazz
The Jazz made a number of offseason moves to hopefully take the next step forward, a trip to the Fall Classic. With a winning formula finally in place after many seasons of ineptitude, the Jazz went to the playoffs for back-to-back seasons. Now, the goal is to win the division, and the AL Pennant. The lineup had some tweaks in the offseason. Speedy 2B Kid Rolling was moved to allow Donzell Holmes to move from SS to 2B. Rookie SS Arthur Mayer was acquired from Baltimore to take over up the middle. Mayer is already a solid defensive SS and will only develop further into hopefully a Gold Glover. Holmes, while suspect at SS at times, will be an outstanding defensive 2B giving the Jazz a great double play combo up the middle. Rookie 1B Samuel Richard has the promise to hit 50+ home runs in a season, though he is still raw and his swing could use more polishing. The pitching rotation is largely unchanged. Cy Young candidate Hideki Ni and savvy veteran Larry Leach (both All Stars last season) will provide a very good 1-2 punch at the top, while veteran Pat Palmer was signed to give the bottom of the rotation more depth and stability. The are of most drastic change was in the bullpen. This was the Achilles' heal of the team last season, and was a priority in the off season. Lance Misch had too much pressure on him last season as a rookie, and did not respond well. Ned Gold was acquired from the Phillies to anchor the bullpen with Misch and give a righty-lefty combination out of the back of the pen. Veteran, and proven, relievers JR Fullmer (a solid contributor in the Atros title run last season) and Joaquin Nunez were also brought in to further solidify the team's vulnerable relief corps. With a solid, all around team this season, hopes are the highest they've ever been in New Orleans. And this year, fans think we can contend.

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