Monday, January 19, 2015

S17 Preview

Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles goal for this season is to win the AL East and earn a bye in the playoffs. We return 8 out of 9 guys in starting lineup, starting rotation, and main bullpen pieces from a 103 win team from last season. We're excited to add Willie Martinez who should provide stellar CFer defense while adding some pop to a position that was a black hole offensively last season. Other than that, we didn't make too many other moves.

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox return a league-average team that was in the hunt for the WC2 until the last week or so of the season. Unfortunately, they were unable to do much to improve the roster, due their inability to find trade partners for some of their redundancies and lack of willingness to dive into the FA market.

However, a couple of aging 1B/DH types (Teixeira and Rivera) weren't resigned, which will allow Rios, Cabrera, and Murphy to get most of the abats at 1B, LF, and DH, without looking over their shoulders. Also, Rafael Olmedo was signed to platoon at C, which will insure that Harry DeHaan doesn't spend any time behind the plate. Finally, the Red Sox bullpen remains a major strength. Even when starters falter, there is plenty of depth to keep the game within reach.

All of this means that the Red Sox will probably be looking at a .500 finish, with an upside of 85-87 wins if everything breaks right and/or they make some moves during the season.

Chicago Cubs
Cubs are still in the process of their rebuild although we hope things start to come together a little more this season. We traded for Omar Campos who is a 23 yr. old power hitter to take over RF since we traded David Mijares who was our best hitter last season. In return for Mijares we received SP Josias Rijo who will take a few seasons to get to the majors but should be a #1/#2 SP when he does. Heinie Singleton is our young 3B for the rest of the offense. SP Bryan Cook, age 25, will be the #1 SP in the rotation this season and we think pitching might be a little better this season as our defense improved. We have the #4 pick in the draft and a little over $20M in prospect to go after an Int'l so if we can add 2 quality players to pair with Rijo, Campos, Singleton and Cook we should be in a lot better position then coming into the season.

Cincinnati Reds
We took a bit of a hit in the starting lineup with some natural aging, but we did improve in the rotation, bullpen, and bench. This team should not strike out much at all this season. The defense should be much improved as All-Star CF Travis Evans transitions to LF for the defense of Keith Hannity. Rip Stevenson and Sparky Lowry will platoon at SS, hoping to increase the offense some there. 1B Aaron Winker hopes to replace the departed Larry Browning and Bert Root and Haywood Robinson will split time in RF. Greg Hennessey will anchor the pitching staff while Julian Porter makes a return to the Reds on a bare bones deal. Zhang, Allen, and Trout round out the rotation. The bullpen recently took a short term hit with Don Plant going down, but this is the best bullpen in the Reds’ history with Gaetti, Shaw, Page, Lira, and Chavez in the set up positions.

Cleveland Indians
Hope springs eternal in Cleveland and this year, there may actually be some reason to be hopeful and the rotation may finally be steady, if not outstanding. Yong vet Tony Santos should be able to establish himself as a staff ace. FA Carlos Almonte provides a solid #2 with the third spot in the rotation assigned to Raymond Reynolds who was acquired via trade. With veterans Ted Frederick and Miguel Romero rounding out the starting staff. Budding stars, Omar Hernandez and Hector Rivers will be in long relief but just waiting for their chance to step into starting roles. The bullpen remains sound, with AAA star L. J. Irwin just waiting for his chance to take over the closer role at the ML level. The perennial problem at 3B was solved by the FA signing of Adam Hannahan who brings solid defense and offense to that spot. If Ben Hernandez continues to develop into a star at SS, the Indians should contend.

Kansas City Royals
With a new GM at the helm for his first full season, KC is trying to change their identity.

Pitching, Defense, and Team Speed are going to be a big priority for the new GM. The first order of business in the offseason was trading away superstar player Jimmie Alomar to Oakland. In return KC solidified our rotation by getting Todd Rusch in return. He will form a great top of the rotation along with Yuniesky Fuentes followed by Mijares, Padilla, and Rogers. The bullpen will be iffy outside of Kirkland but it should be above average.

The offense received a boost by signing Henry Crosby (after much turmoil and a flub up by WIS) to field second base. His speed and ability to get on base will hopefully jump start this offense. Along with him will be callups Luis Rosado and Vic Johnson (also acquired in the Alomar deal) and free agent signing Larry Browning. The offense will not set the world on fire but it should be good enough to win some games.

KC has some good trade pieces should they decide to make a run for the division and trade for another big bat, but that depends on how they are performing and if they can find the right piece to trade for.

Management is expecting to have wins in the 82-85 range, which may put them in a position to battle for the wild card.

Milwaukee Brewers
After a disappointing playoff exit, the Brewers front office was aggressive in the off-season trade market. Expectations are high as Milwaukee is hoping to capture another division title and avoid another early playoff exit.

Milwaukee is expecting big things from the offense. Former MVP 3B Pat Hickman was added to a lineup already including bats like CF Paco Lee and RF Kevin Wang. The pitching staff was also bolstered with two new starting pitchers in Kiki Aguilar and Omar Mercado. With returning vets Sawyer Cross and Larry Wells, the rotation should be in good shape. RP Ricky Carter was also signed in free agency to help out the bullpen.

New Orleans Jazz
We had a pretty mild offseason in the Big Easy, largely sticking with the core of players we had that won 96 games last season. The biggest move was sending solid SP Kiki Aguilar to Milwaukee for young slugging, speedster 1B Lou Byrnes. This move was a combination of money saving, and trading for need. Byrens will take over at 1B, allowing Lee to move to DH and upgrading the defense at that spot. The #4 and #5 spots in the rotation will be filled by rookie prospects in the form of highly touted internationals Eury Rivera and Wilfredo Aguilera. Rivera, in particular, is definitely ready the show, and the franchise has very high expectations for him. Our scouts project him as a multiple time All Star during his career. Aguilera is more raw, and will have some tough times during his rookie campaign. However, he should be good enough as a #5 starter, and is capable of eating close to 200 innings. The ML coaching he'll get exposed to will also further his development. Veteran Max Rios, was an inexpensive FA who will get the 1st chance to start in RF. That spot continues to be the biggest hole for this team and if Rios falters, a farm hand may get a shot, or possibly a player acquired from another team. We expect this squad to make the playoffs with an excellent rotation and bullpen, very good fielding and an average offensive attack. With Ni and Sanchez as one of the best 1-2 pitching tandems in the AL, once in the playoffs, I think this team has an excellent chance at making a deep run.

New York Mets
Brief memo for the NY Mets: I had two goals for first season at the helm of the NY Mets: 1) improve the shameful on-field performance by making some moderate,  cost-friendly but impactful changes, such as improving team defense and pitching, like the acquisition of Gabe Fisher; 2) assess the future potential for the team. I surprised on both counts. First, the improved defense and pitching translated into major on-field improvements. We finished with a .500 and somehow won the division. The improved defense was a major factor in the turnaround. Second, despite this team having many high draft picks due to poor performance before my arrival, the minor league system lacked talent. In fact, I could only identify 2-3 good ML prospects in the entire system. This disappointment along with the improved but middling results in the field has altered my strategy moving forward. This season we should be able to replicate last year's performance as I made few cost-friendly ML additions to our pitching, such as Petey Bennett, Ronald Roosevelt, Dicky Jensen, but also lost only a couple of contributors. I once again expect to finish near .500 this season. The primary focus now is to acquire top-flight minor league talent to build for a brighter future through better drafting and perhaps a good IFA. Right now, we have some good building blocks developing in the minors, such as R.J. Leake, Bum Robertson, Billy Nielsen . Traditionally, my turnarounds take between 3-4 seasons so this year is critical to that time table. While we won't be setting the world on fire (nor will we be a dumpster fire) this season, we will continue to build the foundation for a WS contender in the future.

New York Yankees
Fresh off a deep playoff run, the Yankees look to capture their first title. The C/DH combo of Mendy Delahanty and Randy Washington once again figure to be the keys offensively. Each are looking to 3-peat as Silver Slugger winners.  8 time Silver Slugger SS William Aoki also must play well for the Yankees to return to the playoffs. RF Esmil Cano was picked up in FA and will be relied on for D and OBP. With the injury to 2B Brian Greenwood, look for youngster Michael  to be pivotal for the Bombers as well. SP Johan Springer was a key player in the run to the Series. He and Ivan Wise pose a strong 1 2 punch at the top of the rotation. Danny Buss and Terrance Hartman will be relied on to close out games late.

Oakland Athletics
Big changes this offseason in Oakland. After a dozen straight playoff appearances, we've taken a step back the past two seasons and I decided this was the time to jump back into contention. Made a few large deals, moving mostly young talent and prospects to strengthen the offense, which was pretty terrible last year.

The first deal was for Jimmie Alomar, one of the premier hitters in the league, and young himself. Alomar came at a steep price, as I had to move my emerging ace to land him (Todd Rusch). This was painful, but necessary in my mind. To replace Rusch, I brought back veteran pitcher Julian Molina who has nice ratings but very low stamina and will be used initially as a SP; we'll see if he holds up. I also signed Christopher Mays, to help the rotation.

The second major trade was to land Cesar Cedeno, another elite bat (albeit a DH). Might actually try him at C, as his PC is low but his arm is passable. My other catcher options are equally "meh" behind the plate so he'll probably get some chances.

Cedeno and Alomar, added to developing star Ivan Uribe in my lineup should offer a strong heart of the order for several seasons. The pitching staff has holes, notably the lack of a true #1, but we have plenty of #3 type starters and should be able to hopefully score enough to support them. The target this year is a return to contention and hopefully a playoff spot.

San Diego Padres
The Padres are looking forward to defending their Championship – but the loss of 2 Type A free agents in the infield may be tough to overcome. The good news is that Gerardo Perez, Marino Tavarez and David Hall have been signed, Rod Doyle promoted, and O.T. Crowe selected to fill in the gaps created by the losses of Garret Gibson, Wes Sheehan, Yusmeiro Sosa and Carlos Rivera. The pitching staff – led by Phil Lowery – returns pretty much intact. Seth Wall and Hipolito Ramirez remain solid and Rubby Benitez and Steve Shierholtz continue to grow.. The bullpen, led by Mack Lankford, Al Campos and Hipolito Gonzalez, should be fortified by a full season of production from Elmer Kozlowski. The lineup should be solid offensively as Donnie McInerney, Trumbo O’Toole and Neftali Barrios form the heart of the order.

Padres ownership realizes that the team is aging and there are several expiring contracts - this may be the swan song for this particular core group of players. Ownership will be active in the trade market in order to do what is needed to give this squad the opportunity to repeat.

San Francisco Giants
Coming off a 101 win wild card season, management has elected to stand pat and bring the team back for another run. Expectations in SF are high for another playoff run but fans are skeptical that they can close the gap with arch rival San Diego. The team is well balanced with a rotation lead by career strikeout leader Kelvin Thompson backed by a strong bullpen anchored by closer Alex Jiang. The lineup is anchored by former #1 pick, Jeff Phelps.

St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals, storied, solid, best organization in real baseball. The St Louis Cardinals, in our league, make Alphonse and Gaston look like synchronized swimmers. A bunch of stumbling, bumbling idiots masquerading as a baseball team. Up one season, down the next; except the ups are below mediocre and the downs are below the bottom of the pit. The Cardinals had one all-star caliber player and they traded him for a trio of wannabees. They made no Free Agent acquisitions, are bringing up no rookies, and lost the best half of a poor pitching staff to free agency. They couldn't afford arbitration for key players from last season. The prognosis: a 50 win season would be considered over-achieving.

Texas Rangers
Texas is returning one of season 16's most potent offenses largely intact. I have every reason to believe that MVP Daryle Morton and the rest of the crew will continue to put up gaudy offensive numbers. I look to improve my subpar pitching staff with the additions of Arnold Creek and rookie Cap Jay. If the pitching staff can put up average numbers, the Rangers should find themselves with another Wild Card berth.