Saturday, January 12, 2013

NL SOUTH - Season #24 Preview

Jackson Jayhawks

The Jayhawk fans must really be hoping for some improvement this season after disappointing returns of 60-102 and 47-115 under the first two years of their English owner, loosecc. The glimmer of a brighter future at the major league level comes from last year's AAA group who went the distance in the playoffs only to come off sceond best in the world series.

The owner seems to stake his reputation on loyalty and for the third season has Bingo Harris as BC and Steve Haney as HC. Making his debut at the top level as pitching coach is Benji Womack.

It hasn't been all quiet during the pre-season and spring training period. The pitching rotation has been boosted by the arrival of Willie Harville from New Orleans albeit at the expense of two very promising prospects (Richard Tatum and Alvin White) and closing this year will be Tim Dodd who has moved over from north of the border Vancouver.

Run scoring has been a problem and the owner readily admits that going-long will be rare; however, getting men on base has been the area of work and the acquistion of Ron Pinto from AAA-Las Vegas is designed to over come this issue; it needs to as his deal involved Jackson favourite and hitting prospect Louie Thomas going the other way. With Pinto leading-off the middle of the line-up is with Ruby Clemens brought over from Anaheim. For what home runs may be despatched that will depend on Rob Steenstra's bat (his 23 led the team in S23).

With efforts to improve the ML performance the minor team rosters have been striped of their best talent and it may be a year of rebuilding. However, with decent coaches in place, funds being spent on training and medical, there is at least a platform to build on.

"My aim is to bring success and a World Series title to the wonderful city of Jackson and I thank the many supporters of the franchise for their continued belief in this goal. I celebrate each victory with you and I take responsibility for every defeat. I'm not giving up and if it isn't S24 then I'll be fighting for better in S25 and beyond." said owner loosecc at a press conference in his home town of Maidstone just prior to opening day.

Kansas City Googly Mooglies

After winning 93 games in Season 23, the Atlanta franchise relocated to Kansas City and was renamed the Googly Mooglies. With no previous dynasty experience, the team’s new ownership chose not to shake things up during the off-season, instead bringing back nearly everyone from what was a veteran-laden squad.

The two most significant signings were of No. 1 starter Harry Matthews (two years, $14 million) and reliever Earle Ripken (one year, $4.4 million). Both players are longstanding members of the organization. If all goes well, the Googly Mooglies could finish above .500 again, however, they could have trouble overcoming an early spring injury to Matthews.

Mexico City Hombres Azul

Mexico City will be looking to win the NL South for 6th year running, and then see how it goes in the playoffs .

After several years of stability there were a fair few changes in Mexico City this offseason as three key pitchers filed for free agency including the Cy Young award winners from the past two seasons (Danys Ayala and Milt Gagne) and top class closer Philip Norton. All three of these pitchers were 35 years old and had cost over $41m in season 23, so the opportunity was taken to get a little younger and add a bat.

The Hombres Azul made three trades over the summer, each garnering a pitcher to replace the triumvirate of Ayala, Gagne & Norton. Firstly, dependable RP Joseph Lee joined from Washington for the price of a mid-level prospect, and then trades with Anaheim and Baltimore (what a trade involving Baltimore!?!) added starting pitchers Drew Ducey and Jimmie Veras. Leaving Mexico in these deals were RF Edwin Dixon, 2B/LF Mickey Reid, RP Theo Standridge, and a pitching prospect.

Giving up Standridge had not been part of the plan so Mexico turned to free agency for a replacement – welcoming back RP Miguel Gonzales.

Conscious that two-time MVP Esteban Montero is nearing the end of his career, and with a net saving of $35m on the pitching staff burning a hole in their pocket - Mexico City decided to add a premium bat, eventually inking RF Vincenzo Strickland to a max contract.

The Hombres Azul will unveil two rookies this season: 2B/LF Horacio Mujica will back up the aging Charlie Jefferies at 2B and pinch-run now and again, and Rule 5 draft pick-up Raymond Gardner will join the bullpen.

Mexico have had success in previous years based on speed and pitching, but the approach will be more balanced this year as Jefferies and Alan Graham lose a bit of their footspeed, but Strickland adds some power.

New Orleans 'Aints

Last season was an unmitigated mess for the 'Aints, the new owner, GM, and manager had to deal with a ton of overpriced mediocre talent, and unmotivated personnel. This season does't look any better as the team has nearly no chance to compete this season. Spring cleaning began in earnest towards the end of last season and into the offseason as players such former All Star Delino Silva were traded for young players.

The key trade of the offseason was the trading of the 'Aints best pitcher, Willie Harville to the Jackson Jayhawks for Richard Tatum a prospect with quite a bit of upside who will be the key to the future 3 or 4 years down the road. While things are looking rough for the 'Aints this season, the owner, GM, and manager have all made major commitments to this team and in a few years huge things are expected in New Orleans.

The key person to look out for though is international signee Antonio Choi who is currently assigned at the Low A level. This future superstar will be the key to the rebuilding process 3 to 5 years down the road.. While this season will not be good for the 'Aints, the season long Mardi Gras half price beer promotion will keep the fans preoccupied until the young talent is ready for prime time!