Thursday, October 11, 2012

NL SOUTH - Season #23 Preview

Atlanta Alpa Chinos

The mainstays of the middle of the line-up return in Charlie Hull, former MVP Scot Simontachi, Ivan Batista, and Thom Christenson, who is looking to bounce back from a horrendous second half after making the All-Star team last season. More is expected from second year players 2B Patrick Boyle and CF Buck Hutchinson, as they are expected to gain from last year's pennant chase.

Four of last year's starters won 12 games or more last season, and they all return, led by ace Rex Andrews and vet Harry Mathews. We expect closer Andrew Ratliff to bounce back from a sub-par season (by his standards!) and return to his lights-out status. Super-set-up men Ripken and McEnroe return to try protect the late inning leads.

Newcomers Javier Lopez and Al James join the club as free agents to try to shore up the catching and shortstop positions that were a cause for concern the past few seasons.

The organization is expecting their shortstop of the future to emerge from the minors in either Banjo Wiltse or Lawrence Hernandez, but both are a couple seasons away. Pitching prospect Jack Browning may get a call-up this season if a need arises.

Jackson Jayhawks

After a very disappointing 60-102 ML record last season the management felt that some progress had been made and decided to retain Bingo Harris as the bench coach.

The return of Rob Steenstra (2B) after spending the whole of season 22 on the IR list gives the line-up a boost in terms of potential clutch hitting situations. The roster lacks power and it will be hoped that Newman and Quevedo can both up their 35-HR achievements. There were no major releases to FA but the owner is looking to gradually bring down the $100m+ player-payroll. To avoid so many nagging injuries medical cover has been increased, and will be so again over each of the next few seasons. Likewise, training is seen as a good investment and will benefit from extra funds.

The pitching has been strengthened with three new starters claimed from free agency: Gordon Wilkinson will get the opening day start; Ricky Simms and Juan Lee will follow and all will be expected to post better than .500 w/l records.

The AAA-club got to the playoffs last time and will look to two outstanding guys to repeat this success. Brandon Howard (CF) is a run producing machine and Amp Stone a starting pitcher who hates any opponent from getting on base. Of course, if the ML falls apart then their call up is almost certain.

The owner would be pleased to see the ML record at least get to an even won-loss level whilst at least three of the junior levels to reach their respective play-offs.

Mexico City Hombres Azul

Not a lot has changed for the Hombres Azul, in fact 22 of the 25 man roster from last year return. The big departure is long-serving C Alex Tavarez who is replaced by rookie Ignacio Rondon. The other players lost to free agency were both relievers, one replaced by rookie RP Jim Baxter, and the other replaced by a 6th bench player in Sherman Kent as Mexico shifts to a 6-man bullpen for the first time.  This is probably the last hurrah for this incarnation of the franchise,the core aren’t getting any younger and are starting to lose the footspeed that is key to their aggressive playing style. The minors only really have a couple of mid-level prospects in 2B Horacio Mujica and CF/2B Jake Fox. 

New Orleans 'Aints

Things got off to a rocky start in New Orleans when the new Manager and GM celebrated Mardi Gras instead of preparing for the Rule 5 draft and it ended up biting them in the ass when they lost multiple prospects. Things do not look good in New Orleans, but with Silva leading the charge, they may be able to provide a few fireworks this year as they build towards the future.