Monday, July 21, 2014

S15 Preview

Atlanta Braves
The Braves are hopeful that their young pitching talent has matured to the point that they can begin their climb out of several years of mediocrity. Entering his 3rd year in the majors at only 23, Geoffrey Ellis' stuff is among the very best in the game. Yieco Castro and Pedro Aguilar are both coming off solid rookie campaigns, and it appears that Kenny Hague has positioned himself to make the big league roster with a solid spring. Veterans Fausto Martin, Vincenzo Parker and Santiago Owen are competing for a spot in the rotation as well, though a couple of them will end up coming out of the pen. Patrick Smith has established himself as a solid set up man, and Wilt Rosen is emerging as one of the premier closers in the game. Lefty Irv Monahan, snagged in the Rule 5 Draft, is still developing but will play a role out of the pen as well. Unfortunately, Braves management has evidently failed to realize that in order to capitalize on this promising pitching talent, they'll have to score some runs as well. That will be a tall order. Veteran mainstay 1B Al Reynoso has been put out to pasture after yielding his starting spot to Nash Jensen last season, and his 401 career home runs are nothing more than a fleeting memory. Jensen appears poised to pick up the slack in the middle of the lineup, but veteran OF Alex Cheng is now in the twilight of his career and no longer capable of putting up the numbers he has in the past. Defensively, the Braves are solid up the middle, starting with Gold Glove catcher Ricardo Jose, who platoons with another defensive stalwart, Melky Morales. Ezdra Aviles is as good as any SS in the game defensively, and Mac Clarke will be making his debut at 2B, providing a defensive upgrade over Joe Watson, though his bat will be the least of worries for opposing pitchers. Coming into spring training, it was thought that switch-hitting CF Daniel Parrish would begin the season at AAA, but he has made the case that he is a better option than veteran speedster, good fielding, seldom hitting Virgil Montero. The lack of offensive firepower will likely relegate the Braves to a battle for 2nd place for another season, but if the pitching continues to develop and some of the new faces come through at the plate, they could surprise.

Baltimore Orioles
Last season was an unmitigated disaster. We had plans to win the division and for whats its worth, we still had that chance at the end of the season, but regardless, we severely underachieved and were monumentally unlucky playing significantly above our record while going 14-29 in one run games.

We felt like there would be a natural return to the mean after such an unlucky season, but still decided to make some changes.

We sent out Shayne Weaver in a deal for Arnold MIller who is a one season rental to shore up RF. Losing Weaver wasn't the plan, but we have a solid number pitchers similar to him and RF was a gaping hole for us last season. We also sent out Bill Miles who got too expensive for our tastes.

Our big blockbuster of the season was shipping out Elroy Brown and Stump Ball. Brown hurt to move, but our big Intl FA signing last season is ready and he is a better defensive catcher while still having a good bat so we want to give him a shot and by moving those guys, we were able to bring back in Chance Malloy who will be a really solid SP in the middle of our rotation and is still pretty young and should be here a long time.

A few rookies will also make their debut this season...

C - Fausto Cerveza - Will slot in as our starting Catcher to take over for the departed Elroy Brown, big shoes to fill.

SP/LR - Former first round pick Wilin Guerrero will be brought up and eventually will have a place in the rotation. he suffered a bad injury in only his second season, but has rebounded nicely.

RP - Alex Chavez - Really nice RP prospect especially for only costing us $2 mil as a bonus

Our goal is to take back the AL East!

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had a huge whiff this offseason. They were all in on stud pitcher David Lester and lost out in the final hours on him, which left their GM scrambling to pick up what was left of free agency at that point....which was basically scraps. So they were forced to pull off some trades, which I think helped the team out. First off they acquired CFer Brendan Buford to replace Gerardo Ortiz in CF. They also traded for Rod Maurer and signed Ken Smith to add to the rotation. Rookie of the year, Chris Parker, will lead the rotation. The offense should be fine, the bullpen is very good, so it really all comes down to the rotation. The Red Sox had 79 wins last year and with the offseason whiff I expect them to finish in the same 78-83 win range which unfortunately means another year of missing the playoffs...

Chicago Cubs
Unfortunately the Cubs will be the same Cubs this season as not many changes were made. We grabbed Sam Moustakas in the rule 5 draft after getting outbid in free agency for a first baseman and he’s ended up hitting .389 in spring training so far. Eswalin Wilfredo will be called up from AAA to take over second base and Tanyon Bere may get called up as well. We shuffled a few players around defensively, moving Ariel Mateo to LF and Hipolito Quintero to RF to get us stronger. We also traded for Mo Brunette to help shore up the shortstop position. Rick Saunders was signed this off-season to help in the long relief and Adam Bowen for the starting rotation. We shopped some pitchers around this off-season but just couldn’t work out a deal but we’re expecting big things from Bryan Cook as the #1 SP this season and Reginald Walker as our #2. The big excitement this season wasn't the additions but that we have the #6 and #8 pick in the draft to help for the future with the likes of Lorenzo Padilla, Heinie Singleton and David Mijares still developing in the minors. We expect to be in the international market as well this season and hopefully more active in the trade market near the deadline.

Cincinnati Reds
Last season was disappointing for the Reds, as we finished 79-83, 11 games out of first. The bullpen was a disaster and the offense was not as good as we had hoped.

This season sees the Reds with an entirely new bullpen, headlined by elite relievers Tomas Fernandez, Sam Hall, Kirk Rolls, and Willie Pulido. Rookie Enny Pineda will provide some length for what is, admittedly a very short bullpen. The rotation has a new look as Willie Parrott and Yorvit Padilla join the team and Akinori Zhang returns from the bullpen to assist holdovers Julian Porter and Al Flores in making this rotation solid.

The lineup is looking like one of the better ones put together in my time in Cincinnati. We’re looking at 6 guys who are no doubt to hit 20 HRs and 2 more who have a shot. We only return 4 starters from last season. Last year’s RF Larry Browning moves into 1B to make room for new RF and leadoff hitter Max Rios. 2B Omar Cordero looks to fill the shoes left by Benj Fox’s FA departure. LF Raymond Harris returns to the scene of some of his greatest seasons to try to help this team take the next step. 3B Edwin Mitchell comes back as well to play 3B. SS Miguel Ramirez, CF Travis Evans, and C Burt Washington round out a really good lineup. The bench play should be spectacular as Alex Hart, Junior Ishida, Kirk Thompson, Nicholas Hughes, Bill Miles and Cy Oliver provide a combination of pop and versatility.

Cleveland Indians
The Indians have redesigned their approach this year and have focused a bit more on run producing hitters while sacrificing some starting pitching. Faced with the career threatening injury to young catcher Al Norton, the tribe went out and acquired through trade, 2 hitting catchers in Elroy Brown and Brutus Anderson (who can also DH). Corner positions were also bolstered by the acquisition of third sacker Quinton Valdes which allows Vinny Day to move over to 1st base where he will share time with another trade acquisition, Calvin Knight. These additions at these 3 key spots will hopefully provide the punch that was absent last season. Middle infield and the outfield remain largely intact and the hope is that 2B Pascual and CF Howard continue to impress and that SS Easley can somehow remain healthy. The pitching staff remains strong anchored by Serrano, Springer and Drabek. The addition of Stump Ball thru trade, should provide some needed depth. Cleveland should be competitive in this always tough division.

Minnesota Twins
After a five year absence, the "old but new" (or new but old, depending on how you look at) management returns to the fold with hopes of getting the Minnesota franchise back on track.

An unproductive off-season had the new management scrambling to fill out the rosters through out the system. The Twins lost five players in the Rule 5 but grabbed three themselves in return. One of those picks, Matt Hartman, will begin the season as the starting 3B.

Adam Parnell and Victor Nance return as they will enter the season as the "1-2 punch" in the starting rotation while Jim Berg will once again anchor the bullpen as the closer.

As for the offense, T.J Payne will have to be the leader for a team that finished 18th in the majors in runs scored. Darby Kaufman will make his big league debut as the Opening Day left fielder while occupying the leadoff spot.

Management is banking on the youngsters to step up and provide a competitive spark on the field. Although some growing pains will be expected, winning 70 games is not out of reach. Doing so would allow the team to consider the season a success and a turning point for future seasons.

New Orleans Jazz
No major moves were made on last season's team. Deivi Lee will have to move to 1B to make room for Jermaine Gorecki at DH. Philip Jackson will be in his 1st full season with the Jazz. The pitching staff will still revolve around Hideki Ni and Felipe Sanchez at the top, with 2nd year man Maikel Castillo, veteran Kiki Aguilar and rookie Bejamin Speier rounding out the rotation. My expectations are for this team to compete for the AL Pennant. We should have an excellent pitching rotation and very good defense supported by an above average offensive team with a bit of speed and power.

New York Yankees
Fresh off a division title the Yankees look to make another run at the playoffs. Gone this season are long time Yankees RF Javier Mercado and DH Jermaine Gorecki. Mendy Delehanty will come up from AA to take the DH spot after a scintillating Spring Training performance. The pitching will continue to rely on workhorse starters Ivan Wise and Dicky Jensen. Terrance Hartman has taken off as the teams closer. If WIlliam Aoki, Randy Washington and Allen Withers produce in the middle of the lineup, the team is poised to make another October run.

Oakland Athletics
This season marks our first foray into rebuilding in Oakland history (season 1 was a bit of a struggle, but its been 13 straight winning years, 12 straight playoff appearances since). That core has aged to the point where we can no longer reload and it is time for an actual rebuild.

Guys like Everett and Rhodes, the heart of our strong years, are still around playing out the twilight of their careers. I fielded a few offers for them but weighed those against the alternative of them retiring playing entire ML careers in Oakland and decided for the latter.

Ramirez (CF) and Christenson (3B) combined for 78 homers last season and they will fill the middle of the order. Both are due for serious regression; especially Ramirez. The offense should be decent even if those guys regress; Everett can still be counted on for a .400 OBP at the top of the lineup and there are some other competent parts throughout.

The pitching should be somewhere between mediocre and awful. The rotation is the mediocre part, the bullpen should handle the awful. I opted against re-signing a few of my mid-30s RPs and waited too long in FA to land solid replacements so there are a few guys in there who could struggle. Fortunately, the always-friendly home stadium should help a bit and RP performance is so unpredictable that we'll see what happens before making any crazy moves.

Philadelphia Phillies
A pretty boring offseason for Philly fans. A very similar squad will be returning in hopes of keeping the division crown for the 6th season in a row. Veteran SP Fritz Gray was added to solidify the rotation and a few minor moves were made to bench and bullpen roles. Hoping to have a strong season in what could be perennial all-star Phil Gao's final season in Philly.

San Diego Padres
This season's San Diego Padres will look very similar to last season's squad as most key contributors return. New faces on offense include Benj Fox and callup Jim Griffey. The pitching staff is expecting a full season out of Rubby Benitez and continued growth from other young pitchers in support of a strong starting staff - Lowery, Ramirez, Wall & Fisher. Depth may be a problem for the Pads' this season as ownership is once again backed up against the salary cap and there is not much in the high minors. Ownership may need to be very creative once again if another trip to the World Series will occur

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