Sunday, December 18, 2011

NL SOUTH - Season #20 Preview

Florida Ocean Blue

The Ocean Blue are looking to take another step forward after their unexpected push into the playoffs last season. A lot will hinge of the progression of starting pitcher Rex Andrews, who finally had the break-out season that had been expected of him for awhile. If he continues to build on last season's success, he forms a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation along with veteran Harry Mathews. The vital pieces of last year's solid bullpen, led by closer Andrew Ratliff, all return.

Lack of depth in the starting rotation may be a concern, as Dante Ledesma left as a free agent. The Blue are banking that talented starter Trenidad Osoria can pick up the slack and finally live up to his potential. If we can't find any consistency in the middle-to-back end of the rotation, top propect Billy Turnbow may get the call to contribute. The Blue is also high on young pitcher Gene Bolden, but the 19 year old is still a few seasons away from getting to the bigs.

Third baseman Ivan Batista was signed in the off-season to get on base in front of sluggers Scot Simontachi, Carlos Sosa, Thom Christenson, and superstar Charlie Hull. Shortstop Don Okajima was resigned, as he attempts to win his fifth consecutive gold-glove.

Florida is also keeping an eye on last season's first round draft pick, Patrick Boyle out of the University of Florida, who is projected to take over at 2B in a few seasons when incumbent Hull makes the move to the outfield.

Spirits are high in Miami, as a return to the playoffs is on the radar; and there is even talk of the team moving into a new stadium with a retractable roof in a year or two!

Mexico City Hombres Azul

Looking to make the playoffs and then we’ll see how it goes from there. I think the team is slightly better than last year – but luck and injuries (or lack of them) will play a part. 

The key players are my 3 SPs Danys Ayala, Phillip Davis & Cecil Holmes. The line-up lacks a major power threat, but that is balanced out by having decent hitters in the key defensive positions.  My best bat is LF Delino Manzanillo who was a 30-30 man last year and is never far away from those figures, and I like the blistering speed 2B Charlie Jefferies brings. I’m expecting big things from sophmore 3B Benito Espinoza.  

My minors are fairly bare. I like LF Mickey Reid & C Ignacio Rondon , plus there are a couple of decent RPs.  We lost 3 decent prospects in the above trade plus lost CF Dick Cunnane. Not a massive loss as I don't think he has the range to play CF anymore.

The key move was our trade with the Vancouver Big Blue Bulldogs as we received 1B Esteban Montero and SS Alving Sanchez for 3 prospects.  Montero was immediately signed to a long-term contract ($21.6m/4yrs) which starts next year; he will play 1B while Rico Pizzaro is on the bench/block.

Sanchez will play SS, pushing Alan Graham to CF thus covering the loss of Cunnane. This will be Graham’s third different position in as many seasons (3B-SS-CF), and he never complains – a real team guy, he’s very popular - both in the locker room and amongst the fans.

Nashville Neurotic Nematodes 

The Nematodes are in rebuild mode and will likely finish in the bottom 3rd of the league this season. Rob Cradle and Jamie Benningson are the only real top quality major league players on the squad, and they won't be enough to carry the team to an over .500 record. A handful of prospects are in the lower levels, highlighted by SP Wandy Rodriguez. The Nematodes have the 4th and 12th picks in the draft and look to add a quality IFA as well.

These will be the key building blocks of the future. The most important off season transaction was letting Miguel Cabeza walk as this has netted the team the 30th pick in the draft as well a sandwich pick between 1 and 2.  While Nashville is unlikely to contend this season, it is anticipated that the new ownership will have the team turned into a contender by next season.

Jackson Goodfellas