Monday, April 21, 2014

S14 Previews

Anaheim Angels
Angels are hoping that a year if added maturity will help them become a playoff team. Key newcomers are Howard Coghlan and Vic Simas. Alex Alomar leads the same rotation as last year's. IF is Mays, Astacio, Dong and Candelaria. OF is Coghlan, Benett and Little. Houston starts behind the dish and Alex Guerrero is the DH. Stults, Blanco and Tony Guerrero are all key contributors against lefties. The bullpen is also the same except Simas replaces Phillips in the closer role. Injuries killed the offense last year. If Coghlan can effectively replace Theo Matthews, then the Angels could be in for a good year. Lots of great talent in the pipeline, especially Dummy Wagner and Augie Suh.

Baltimore Orioles
Our goal is to repeat as AL East champs and go for a playoff bye. We retooled the roster slightly from last season. A huge loss for us was RP standout Elmer Kozlowski who we always believed was opening to signing another extension and then demanded free agency at the last second. We also shipped out Pauley Hogan (bullpen arm) and Calvin Knight (solid hitter). We imported Vicente Rincon to take over Elmer's role in the bullpen and brought in Edwin Mitchell who we have tried to trade for several times throughout his career.

Another big change for this season will be implementing some strategic platoon lineups where we can. Ed Gold needs to see the field against lefties and Evan King has had a lot of success against righties so there will be a lot of mix and matching this season.

We have three rookies we're excited about, 1B/DH Felipe Maduro who we think will have a killer OPS. Former first rounder Shayne Weaver will make his debut on the ML pitching staff. Alex Chavez also might see some time in the bullpen.

Boston Red Sox
Unlike last off season where Boston made an incredible amount of trades/ moves, this offseason was relatively quiet. Boston turned in a really good second half performance last year and almost snuck in to the playoffs, but a horrible last 8 games where they lost all of them killed the playoff run as well as a .500 finish. This year will hopefully be different. Cal Rogers is back, Chris Parker will be getting his long awaited call up. Boston is also hoping a full season of Texeira and Murphy at 1b/DH will keep this offense rolling. The bullpen is still one of the best in the league anchored by White and Misch, so it’s really going to come down to the starting pitching. If they can give Boston league average production they should vie for a Wild Card spot. If the pitching tanks I can see a 75-82 win season.

Cincinnati Reds
After an 82-80 finish that saw the Reds miss the playoffs for the 3rd straight season, wholesale changes were in order (who are we kidding, wholesale changes are always in order). A late trade saw the Reds ship out top prospect Todd Rusch, SP prospect Rock Nickle, and recently acquired SS Sherm Creek for SP2 Fritz Gray, 2B Benj Fox, and SS Miguel Ramirez. Running out a starting lineup of 1B Alex Hart (.295/.394/.522), LF Brendan Buford (.299/.355/.422; 51 SB), CF Travis Evans (.299/.386/.527; 3th straight 25HR+/40+SB season), 2B Benj Fox (.231/.311/.361; career avg (.274/.347/.472)), RF Larry Browning (.294/.369/.504), C Burt Washington (.293/.400/.487), 3B Quinton Valdes (.261/.353/.365), and SS Miguel Ramirez (career - .234/.304/.375; .982 SS Fldg % w/30 plus plays). This starting lineup should really give some pitchers nightmares. The bench boasts some power with Calvin Knight (39 HR), David Davis (19 HR), and Jerome Norton (20 HR) while having some speed Collin Meyers (69/75 SB in AAA). Pitching-wise sees 3 new starters and 2 returning, Julian Porter looks to rebound from a career worst year in S13. Fritz Gray holds down the 2nd spot in the rotation and is coming off of a solid season. Rex Howard is the 3rd starter, even though he is in decline he looks to produce a S12 instead of a S13. Al Flores has the talent to be a top of the rotation starter for some teams, but produces a solid #4, and Dale Tresh returns to be the 5th starter coming off of a seriously solid season. The bullpen is strong as it boasts several guys who have the talent to be starters but don’t quite meet the talent of the other guys in the rotation. The exciting part of this season is defense…2 weak spots exist as opposed to the usual 4 that we trot out. This season looks to bring the excitement back to the Queen City.

Cleveland Indians
Well, as I write this the Indians have just lost their season opener to the Orioles in what should prove to be a regular occurrence this season. While The Indians do not think we can challenge for the division we do hope to improve off of a rather dismal 72 win season last year. To accomplish this improvement, the Indians will employ the 1969 NY Mets strategy of platooning almost everywhere while throwing some solid stating pitching on the hill every day and hoping for some surprises out of the bullpen and some timely hitting from emerging stars. The starting rotation was rounded out with the free agent signing of veteran Stan Foster. Last year’s weak bullpen was strengthened by the FA signings of J.D brock and Ruben Villalona as well as the trade for setup man Hector Ozuna. The starting 8 will be subject to a great deal of lefty/righty platooning and hopefully there will be more pleasant surprises than nightmares. The early season should see the call-ups of 2 potential key players in Kevin Stoops and Juan Pascual. Both should be solid major leaguers. With some luck, Cleveland could contend for a wild card.

Detroit Tigers
The song remains the same in Detroit: another Series, another loss and another year older. It has come down now to having enough fingers to fill the increasing number of holes in the ****. Out is Julio Guillen who just became too much of a liability in RF, but the bat will be sorely missed. Also leaving will be C Eduardo Ayala SS Stretch Thompson RP Elvis Janssen and RP Andrew Alexander. Newly signed FAs Carlos Ordaz will play LF, John Jung will compete at 3B and Fonzie Upshaw will share time at SS. Juan Aguilera will move back to RF. The pitchers will be replaced by AAA callups or maybe a future bargain pile FA signing. The new Motto in Motown is one more time and we will surely get lucky.

New Orleans Jazz
After a disappointing playoff exit last season, the front office in New Orleans decided to shake things up a bit. Former All Star/Gold Glover Donzell Holmes was traded to Chicago for a young, promising catcher in Phillip DiMaggio. We were very excited to land speedy, veteran Gold Glover Jerome Lanier at a very reasonable price to replace Holmes at 2B. In a cost cutting move, Jesus Bonilla was traded to Philadelphia for reliever prospect Elis Venable. Derrick Coco, after back-to-back All Star seasons in CF at AAA, will get his chance to man that spot at the ML level. His stick is a bit of a question mark, but he should be one of the top defenders at his position. The rest of the incumbent positional starters from last season, will return for this season. On the bench, former 5x All Star and World Series champion Jeremy Shumaker was signed as a super-sub/pinch hitter extraordinaire/insurance policy. While he is 35, and not in his prime, he can play the COF and 1B to give the regulars a rest and fill in very capably in the event of an injury. He is still a very dangerous hitter. The Jazz are especially excited about the pitching rotation, which should be one of the deepest in the AL. All Star potential at the top with Hideki Ni and Felipe Sanchez should be able to match up with any other squad's aces. Rookie Maikel Castillo will get the call up this season. The front office was very happy that the saavy veteran Larry Leach decided to return on a reasonable to year offer to give the bottom of the rotation stability. The bullpen, other than Ned Gold, is a big question mark. It was this area that let the team down during the playoffs last season, and its here that the team is likely to make a move during the season if a move it to be made. All and all though, I'm very happy with the offseason. The team managed to lower payroll, and improve the team which is hard to do. I expect this team to challenge for the division, make the playoffs and, hopefully, win another AL Pennant.

Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are coming off a 110 win season but a disappointing exit in the playoffs. Almost the exact same team will be returning with hopes of a deeper playoff run. 1B Alex Hart decided to leave via free agency, but Rich Coco should be able to fill the void. Former number 2 overall pick 2B Paco Lee will be making his debut this season and should add some offensive production.

Key Losses: 1B Alex Hart, 2B John Jung
Key Additions: 1B/RF Rich Coco, 2B Paco Lee (prospect), RP Willie Pulido

Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates look like a .500 team at best, as they don't have enough offense surrounding sluggers Nick Helms and Willie Mota. The rotation looks good at the top, but a lack of plus back end starters will likely lead to another disappointing season. The Pirates are the classic example of a team on the rebuild fence, and management's lack of commitment either way has probably set the organization back several seasons.

San Diego Padres
San Diego ownership did the heavy lifting last season and feel that the Padres are ready to contend for a deeper playoff run this season. The team features a stellar starting rotation anchored by Phil Lowery and Hipolito Ramirez. Seth Wall, Gabe Fisher and Rubby Benitez are solid starters and the bullpen returns pretty much intact featuring Mack Lankford, Al Campos, Hipolito Tatis and Yusmeiro Sosa. The core offense of Neftali Barrios, Gerrit Gipson, and Wes Sheehan will be joined by full seasons from Donnie McInerney and Trumbo O’Toole. Carlos Rivera returns from an injury plagued Season 13 and will be joined by FA acquisitions Benjamin Nunnally, Curtis Shelley and Paul Walker in an effort to restore some punch to the offense. There’s not much left in the minor leagues after the in-season pickups last year, but there are some solid prospects at HA that could help out on the ML level if needed. All-in-all, the Padres are looking forward to the challenge of unseating the defending champion Giants from atop the division.

St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals, hapless wonders of the National League, lost in the standings dungeons for too many years, are looking to rise from the ashes. Alas, ahem, and huh uh, it won't happen this year. The bad news is that new ownership inherited a bare cupboard. The good news is that prior ownership did not hamstringing with the budget. So, though the upcoming season does not project to any improvement, budget flexibility bodes well for making some in- season moves that might lead to long term improvement.

Washington Nationals
Last season the Nationals finally ended up with a winning season, albeit not by much. Another off-season of more or less lateral moves, leaves you to believe you can expect right around the same.

Offensively, the team remains largely intact. Which may end up being their downfall if they have playoff aspirations. Domingo Velez and Pepe Nieto had sub-par years last season, and if they can increase their productivity even slightly, that may bode well. Jonathan Nix struggled mightily in his first season in Washington, and if spring training is any indication of what is to come, it will be a struggle again this season.

The rotation will have a slightly different look this year, as Ed Bragg will get his first shot in the bigs. Bernard Hollins tested free agency without success, and came back for less money. He will be relegated to a long relief role. If Bragg ends up being as good as some believe, this rotation could be good enough to get them to the playoffs.

In the pen' after a ragtag bunch of guys held things together for Cookie Alfonzo to close things out, there seems to be improvement. Most notably Justin Mientkiewicz. If he can be a consistent set up man for Alfonzo, this bullpen will be tough on opposing hitters.

Probably looking at a .500 team here once again. They have not been able to make a big splash in free agency and any real impactful prospects other than Bragg are at least a season away.

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