Monday, July 27, 2015

S19 Preview

Atlanta Braves
After finishing just a few games below break even for three consecutive seasons, including consecutive 2nd place finishes the last two seasons in the NL South, Atlanta may finally be poised for post season play. While still fielding MLB's youngest roster, management expects enough improvement across the board to move up despite strong competition within the division. The only notable loss from last season's roster is 1B Nash Jensen, to free agency. Look for a Cesar Sanchez and John Romero to platoon there this season. At the other infield corner, slick fielding Scott Wright returns, looking to deliver the 25-30 home runs that he is capable of. The Braves will once again be solid up the middle defensively, with offensive juggernaut C Al Unamuno being spelled on occasion by Arthur Simmons. Neither SS Felipe Ontiveros nor 2B Buddy Jenkins bring much to the plate, but are among the best at fielding their positions. Veteran Gold Glover Ezdra Aviles will spell them. George Gibbs is solid in CF, backed up by Daniel Parrish, who missed almost half of last season with a herniated disk. Despite making more plus plays than any outfielder in MLB last season, speedster LF Larry Kiermaier failed to receive a Gold Glove. His ability to get on base regularly will be a key to the Braves' fortunes this season. Luis Silva brings a unique blend of speed, power and defense to his position in RF, and will be expected to make more consistent in his third season in the Majors. Utility man Ramiro Contreras brings a solid glove and potent bat, and can play almost any position on the field. RHP Marc Dale, acquired via trade, will share a spot in the bottom of the rotation with LHP Jhonny Osuna, who needs to bounce back from a very inconsistent season. The rest of the rotation is solid, with Pedro Aguilar, Yeico Castro, Chad Sweeney and Geoffery Ellis all capable of 15-20 wins. Kenny Hague and Ismael Alvarez will bridge to veteran closer Wilt Rosen, who has the highest career save percentage of any ML closer to ever play the game.

Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles return a veteran laden team who performed to the best record in the league last season. We made some small moves in trading starting SS Dioner Segui and solid DH Felipe Maduro, but we were trying to find some savings here and there as our payroll is $100+ million and not typically where we are comfortable.

In the trade for Segui, we bought in a great top of the lineup hitter in Charlie Black, but we're trying to figure out where we are going to play him.

We return a very good, if not great pitching staff led by Bill Serrano and Javy Morales and anchored by a great bullpen.

The AL East is ridiculously tough so our goal is to find a way to win it and earn a first round bye.

Cincinnati Reds
After last season’s disappointment, we made some changes to this team. The pitching staff has been improved from top to bottom, while the starting offense was weakened somewhat. The loss of CF Charlie Black has and will be felt and we can only hope that Miguel Ramirez can step up and fill in. The offense continues to be anchored by stalwarts 1B Aaron Winker and LF Travis Evans. SS Dioner Segui and Tomas Tavarez will look to significantly strengthen that position. Marioan Cabrera and Yovani Rijo solidify RF both offensively and defensively. Emmett Berger provides some much needed punch at 3B, while Burt Washington looks to be a PH extradordinaire. Willie Santayana looks to add some punch at C, and Ebenezer Wells cleans up the offensive black hole at 2B.

Pitching-wise, we added Christopher Mays, Carlos Almonte, Jamie Mills, and Derrek Osborne to the rotation, almost completely turning it over. Julian Porter returns from last season’s staff. The bullpen is younger, and overall stronger than last season. Dean Monroe and Daniel Cuddyer will anchor it while Andrew Stone provides some depth. TJ Kemp, Alex Chavez, and Kenny Hull look to earn their stripes, while long reliever Enny Pineda looks to build on last season’s success.

Cleveland Indians
The Indians, coming off an 89 win season, haven’t changed very much and are mainly hoping that a few of their younger players continue to grow into their potential while the veteran’s production remains consistent. Notably, rookie Jordy Ward should at least get a significant amount of playing time at 2B. His speed and contact ability could make him a potent weapon at the top of the order. L.J. Irwin should continue his rise to dominance as the best closer in the league. Young additions to the staff in the persons of Rock Nickle, Del Villano and Duke Hines should give some needed depth to the rotation and long relief roles. With Santos, Reynolds and Frederick anchoring the rotation, the Indians should challenge for the division title in a traditionally very tough division.

Colorado Rockies
Colorado team preview: a year of transition There will be many new faces this season as the Rockies will be passing the torch to a new generation. Leaving the team via free agency was Felix hamels as well as kid rolling, Jerome Morton, Dennis Finley, dolf bixler and Wilfredo tatis via trades. The host of prospects coming back in the trades are Rafael Manuel, Nicholas burkhart, josh Phillips, rodrigo Martinez, Esteban Nunez, CarmenBecker, Jose amaro. Journeyman Marty Martinez and fan favorite tom green will join the big league team will the rest of the prospects will start in the minors. Colorado will welcome some new free agents as well with the likes of melkey morales, frank dong, Ivan Estella, aurullio vega, hipolito tatis. Max Lawton was also brought in via waivers. With all of the change two familiar faces will punch out a couple of milestones as cliff drew will hit his 500th homerun of his career with his first jack of the season and future first ballot hall of famer Dutch badenhop will go for 700 home runs when he gets to number 12 of the campaign. It will be a long couple of seasons but look for Colorado to bounce back quick in the years to come.

Kansas City Royals
Royals Preview: With a major roster overhaul the past two and a half seasons, the Royals are looking to finally take the next step and start competing. With newly acquired veterans Henry Lennon and Walter Gray to go along with prospect callups Austin Finnessey, Einar Escalona, Bernie Lopez, and Marcell Concepcion, the Royals are looking to do some damage. Offensively this should be one of the best Royal teams in some time. The big question is the pitching (isnt it always?). With the rotation looking slightly above average its all going to come down to the bullpen as they are going to be burdened with a heavy load. Luckily, I feel we have the best bullpen in recent memory for this team so hopefully the Royals are set. The goal is the 83-86 win range and a possibly wild card spot.

Oakland Athletics
Fresh off an ALCS defeat last season, we return this year looking to get back into the playoffs and hope luck is on our side. The team has some talent but is still somewhat flawed. The offense will be led by a few strong bats and the pitching is mostly patchwork. Here's a breakdown of what changed and how things line up this season:

Notable Departures:

CF Alfredo Ramirez. Not elite, but was above average. Would not re-sign; at least he returned type A comp.

SS Gary Easley - great defensively and stole a bunch of bags, but was mediocre (at best) with the bat and had zero power. He was aging and losing a step, so we decided to let him walk.

SPs Willie Parrot and Enrique Johnson - Parrot came over in a midseason deal and was excellent, but we let him walk as he approaches senior citizen age. Johnson was one of those "I'll return if the deal is right" guys, which means he wanted about 20% more than his demands. He was inconsistent enough that I wasn't willing to pay that price.

Notable Additions:
Juan Andino will be called up from AA to fill the CF gap. Andino is possibly a SS once his defensive skills mature, but we need him in CF now and he's the best option. I attempted a trade or two but nothing materialized. FA was not pretty for CF options so Andino it is.

Pitching - brought in Rafael Guerrero as a setup guy in FA; should offer 7ish solid innings. Also signed Jose Cornejo in FA, hoping he can eat some innings from the departed guys. Similar skill set to Johnson actually. Neither guy was very pricey but both were fallbacks when plan A became waaaay too expensive in FA.

I suspect the offense will remain strong if everyone can stay healthy. Jimmie Alomar got hurt last year and we really scuffled without him. He's back and will have Ivan Uribe and Tito Huang both improved from last season. Slugger Cesar Cedeno will round out the middle of the lineup. What we are missing is a table setter type, so lineup construction will likely be a work in progress all season. I'd love to trade for a high OBP type at some point.

On the pitching side, we have an entire rotation full of #3 type SPs. Hopefully one or two overachieve and we have some success. The bullpen should be average.

Defensively we have adequate bats in all places, so while we won't lead the league in + plays, there shouldn't be too many embarrassing moments.

Prediction - Depending on how things break, this team is somewhere in the 85-92 win range. Might be enough in the AL West, might not.

San Diego Padres
After finishing 1 game out of the playoffs last season, the San Diego Padres have worked several new players onto the roster this season. The backbone of the squad – Phil Lowery and Seth Wall - return to anchor the pitching staff. New acquisition Miguel Peron will fill out the staff and will have more success than the SP’s that held the 5th spot in the rotation last season. Todd Lee, Wilfredo Mieses and Jerry Duran all wait in the minors for their shot this season.

There are 5 new faces sharing playing time in an improved lineup. Rookies Eduaro Barrios and Ricardo Borges will see time in the OF while FA's Harry Tatis, Kordell Stanley and Rubby Gomez will see time in the infield. The new players will improve the defense while not losing much at the plate. The FA market had plenty of depth -Trumbo O’Toole, Micah Mitchell and Rubby Blanco all wait at AAA if a switch is needed.

A major highlight for the season will be when ace starter Phil Lowery picks up his 300th win. Phil needs 14 wins and – barring injury – should achieve the mark after the All-Star Break.

Padre management expects a return to the playoffs and will be disappointed with anything less.

Toronto Blue Jays
After a solid start to the season, a season-ending injury to top free-agent signing Arnold Miller derailed the Toronto Bluejays' season in 18.

The offseason was a busy one in Toronto, with 11 new faces joining the ML roster. Much of the AAA/AA talent was deemed not (or never) ready to join the ML ranks, so, the Toronto Bluejays made a concerted effort to immediately improve a team that lost 97 games and has faced 85+ losses for 7 straight seasons. Home Run Derby Champion Yasiel Soto returns to anchor an offense replete with new faces, many of whom are veterans brought in on one-year contracts, signed to help bolster a dangerously anemic offense last year.

Doug Rodgers, who signed a $35 million dollar extension over 5 years, will serve as the ace of the pitching rotation, which will also feature top-flight prospect, Scott Ellis. The team also made a trade for Colorado closer and Cy Young nominee Dolf Bixler, who will serve as the team's closer. Many faces return to fill out a bullpen which shined at times last year.

The Bluejays management will not subject their fans to another 85+ loss season. The team expects to immediately take a major step forward and contend for the AL North title.

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