Saturday, July 20, 2013

AL EAST - Season #26 Preview

Baltimore Renegades -
Despite making the playoffs seven straight seasons, the Baltimore Renegades still have not won a World Series Championship. This off-season, Baltimore pulled off ONLY two trades and did NOT sign any "Type A" free agents that would have cost the club draft picks. This will be the second time in the Renegades 10-season history that they will have a first round pick.

The team did try to sign former catcher Walt Harnisch in the off season but they decided the cost was too great once his annual salary hit $13.5M dollars. Upper Management did not feel there was another "impact" free agent on the market, so they choose to lock up several core players (Craig Jackson, Pablo Durazo, Brian Jacobs, Al Matos, Alan Graham, and Olmedo Ramirez) to long-term deals.

Baltimore has been making lots of trades the last two seasons in an attempt to get younger. They made these improvements, while still maintaining one of the most potent line-ups in the league. The team has all of the ingredients needed to make a run at that illusive World Series championship which Baltimore has been missing from it's mantle.

In the way of that dream, is Baltimore's arch-rival, the Columbus Cheese N' Rice.  Last season, they beat Baltimore on Opening day and never looked back, as they went wire-to-wire, ultimately winning the World Series in six games. The Renegades are hoping the outcome will be different this season. Baltimore has an equally powerful line-up and are far superior defensively, but Columbus has one of the best two rotations in the entire league. So the AL East should again be a 2-team race to the finish line.

The good news is that Baltimore already has a great core of young ballplayers who are battle-tested in the playoffs. The Renegades have begun to shift their focus towards college scouting. The team still has no minor league talent to brag about, but the is that first round draft picks will become more of the "norm" for this club as they start growing minor league talent for the future.

GM Terry Swayne has done an excellent job of front-loading many of the team's long-term contracts. Financially, Baltimore is in great shape for the next five seasons and has the ability to sign just about anyone they want (or need). Many of the contending teams have over-spent in recent seasons and are (or will be) paying the price soon.

The biggest news of the off-season was the trade that brought the "original Baltimore Renegade" Craig Cook back to the team. Cook who signed a 3-year deal with Columbus last off-season was claimed off waivers by Buffalo during last year's ALDS. Cook, was furious as he missed the opportunity to play in another World Series. He was quoted that he "hates Columbus" and he has arrived to camp with a "chip on his shoulder".

The Renegades line-up is still the strength of the team. The line-up includes returning players C-Al Matos, 1B/DH-Oswaldo Padilla, 2B-Pablo Durazo, 3B-Alan Graham, SS-Craig Jackson, RF-Benji Aquilera, and LF-Jose Velez. The team re-acquired 1B/OF-Craig Cook and CF-Mark Lee in separate deals to round out the offense.

The bench is deep with C-Bernie Rosado, UT- Junior Estrada, 2B/CF-Terry Ramirez, 1B/OF-Jessie Stein, and 1B/3B-Russell Collins returns to Baltimore, this time in a backup capacity.

The starting rotation is very good. Veteran right handers Lou Hendrickson, Angel Estrella, and Calvin Forbes are joined by RHP-Brian Jacobs and LHP-Tim Leiter.

The bullpen will again be anchored by left closer Darrin Roth. The set up men are righties Migual Matos and Julian Ortiz and lefties D.J. Webster and Olmedo Ramirez and the long man and spot starter will be LHP-Gordon Wilkinson.

Top Rookie- 1B-Nate DeJean (AAA)

Key Players Lost- RHP-Rigo Almonte (trade), C-Javier Lopez (retired), 1B/DH- Carlos DeRojas (trade).

Key Players Acquired- C-Bernie Rosado (trade), 1B/OF- Craig Cook (trade), 1B/3B-Russell Collins (FA) and CF-Mark Lee (trade).

Key Off-Season Transaction- Re-acquiring 1B/RF-Craig Cook. He will cost the team $18M over the next two seasons, but it will be worth it as his leadership and fiery personality were sorely missed last season

Columbus Cheese N' Rice -

The Cheese n’ Rice are looking to repeat in season 26 as WS champs led by Cy Young candidates Niko Kirby and Bret Clayton and big hitters Artie Bukvich and Cody Eischen.

We don’t plan on calling upon any rookies as the core of the team remains intact, having lost nobody of major significance in the offseason.

Derek Cunningham was this off-season’s biggest acquisition, hopefully solidifying the pitching staff as one of the best in the league

Dover Dingbats -
Well it’s going to be a bit of a rebuilding season for the Dingbats. I was able to pick up some Rule 5 draftees that will definitely be able to contribute to the ML team. It will be nice having the #1 and #4 picks in the draft to stock up the lousy farm system.

Next year I will shed my team of many multi-million dollar minor league contracts that the previous owner inexplicably took on, so hopefully the International market will be good to me. Unfortunately, my best players are pretty league average right now, but at least I have an elite defensive catcher in Emilio Roque! Basically, I’m just focused on developing the little talent I have while maximizing the ML quality prospects I can get out of this rebuilding process.

Philadelphia Balboas -