Wednesday, October 30, 2013

AL EAST - Season #27 Preview

Baltimore Renegades -
Despite making the playoffs eight straight seasons, the Baltimore Renegades still have not won a World Series Championship. This off-season, Baltimore talked to nearly every team in the league and left no stone unturn in their quest to add ML talent to the roster. Baltimore was extremly busy, as they pulled off FIVE trades and signed FIFTEEN free agents (six of which were assigned to AAA). Baltimore even signed and traded two players (Wayne Ohman and Mickey Reid). When the dust had settled, the Renegades had turned over half of their Major League roster.

The team tried to sign the top five free agents on the market, but the cost for Pedro Espinosa Humberto Samuel, Wilson Rolls, and former Renegades Derek Henderson and Rickey Atchley soared above what the team was willing to pay. All five players received 5-year packages between $75 and $110 million dollars each. Instead, Baltimore settled on adding roll playing hitters and added arms to compete for rotation spots and also fortify their bullpen, which collapsed in the playoffs (again) last season.
The signing fifteen free agents added depth and allowed Baltimore to trade off last season's bullpen and add sorely-needed QUALTY starting pitching. They did use some of the unused free agency money to lock up glove glove CF- Mark Lee for another five seasons.
Baltimore was in first place from wire-to-wire last season but they again fell apart at crunch time in the playoffs. After two years of making trades to get younger, this off-season saw the roster get older and more experienced. The team led the league in almost every offensive catagory last season, but traded away four of those key young players to improve the starting pitching and bullpen.
The Renegades still have a decent core of productive ballplayers and Owner/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 Renegades line-up is still the strength of the team. The line-up includes returning players C-Al Matos, 1B-Craig Cook, SS-Craig Jackson, CF-Mark Lee, amd former 3B turned RF-Peter Carlson. Joining those five are former Renegades 1B/DH-Emmett Collins, 3B-Wilson Wise, and LF-Cory Thomas. Rounding out the offense will be newly acquired 2B and lead-off hitter Larry Kennedy.  The four-man bench is deep with C-Bernie Rosado, UT- Junior Estrada, 2B/CF-Terry Ramirez, C/1B/DH-Anthony Hiatt.
Baltimore will go with a 4-man rotation for much of the season. The starting rotation is balanced and deep. The rotation includes returning veteran right hander Lou Hendrickson and young lefty Tim Leiter and it includes newly acquired RHP- Jimmie Veras (another former Renegade) and LHP- Ben Bolton.

The bullpen will again be anchored by left-handed closer Darrin Roth, but the supporting cast has changed. The set up men are righties Louie Abreu and Pepe Flores along with lefties D.J. Webster (the only remaining jold over from last years team), Delino Guillon, and recently acquired Coco Reagan. Lastly, the team will go with two long men this season, as RHP-Bob Brand and LHP-Gordon Wilkinson will be spot starters when needed throughout the season. 

Top Rookie- C-Al Rijo (AAA)
Key Players Lost- RHP-Angel Estrella (trade), RHP-Nolan Everrett (trade), RHP-Calvin Forbes (trade), RHP-Miguel Matos (trade), RHP-Julian Ortiz (trade), LHP-Albert Rendondo (trade), 1B- Nate DeJean (trade), 1B-Oswaldo Padilla (trade), 2B- Pablo Durazo (trade), 3B/OF-Alan Graham (trade), LF-Benji Aguilera (trade), 1B/OF- Russell Collins (FA), and DH- Jim Morris (retired).
Key Players Acquired- RHP-Louie Abreu (FA), RHP- Bob Brand (FA), RHP- Pepe Flores (FA), RHP- Jimmie Veras (trade), LHP- Ben Bolton (trade), LHP- Delino Guillon (FA), LHP- Coco Reagan (trade), C/1B/DH- Anthony Hiatt (FA), 1B/DH- Emmett Collins (trade), 2B- Larry Kennedy (FA), 3B-Wilson Wise (trade), LF-Cory Thomas (trade).
Key Off-Season Transaction- Acquiring LHP-Ben Bolton and RHP-Jimmie Veras to bolster Baltimore's starting rotation. It took a lot of manuevering with free agent signings and trades, but the Renegades were able to acquire two stud starting pitchers in a free agent market heavy on only hitters and relievers.

Columbus Cheese N' Rice -


Dover Dingbats -

Indianapolis Arrows -


AL NORTH - Season #27 Preview

Buffalo Ice Dogs -

Detroit Wolverines -

Milwaukee Blue Ribbons -

Syracuse Snow Blowers -

AL SOUTH - Season #27 Preview

Houston Wranglers -

Little Rock Rockabillies -

Montgomery Cornbread On The Brain -

New Orleans VooDoo -

AL WEST - Season #27 Preview

Anaheim Aardvarks -

Las Vegas Gamblers -

Salem Slayers -

Salt Lake City Movers & Shakers -

NL EAST - Season #27 Preview

Richmond Spiders -
Richmond’s first playoff appearance in 13 seasons was something to celebrate last year. It’s only the third time in the league’s history that this has happened. We are looking to build upon that season and made a big trade to help us achieve our goal. We were unable to sign any high priced “Type A” FA’s and kept all of our draft picks to help build the farm team for the future.

The biggest news of the off-season was the trade that brought Walt Harnish to the Richmond franchise. Catcher was a position of great need and we gave up 2 MLB arb guys who got cut, and a good prospect in David Vargas. Harnish’s salary brings some concern to the Richmond front office, but we’re hoping that with the young core that we have the initial impact will not be a burden to the team’s payroll or future development.

The Spiders line-up is very solid and consists of 5 guys who are very strong hitters: Almanza, Harnish, Watkins, Funaki, and Manto. Defensively Avery, Valdes, and Siqueiros will rotate between the SS and 3B positions.

The starting rotation is SUPER good. Abraham Booker is one of the best starters in the league and he is followed by a mix of veterans and “up and comers”. Estrada, Benningson, McFeely, and Seay round out the rotation. The bullpen will again be anchored by closer Aurelio Montanez. The key set up man is newly promoted Douglas Durbin. Virgil Stewart will help fill in the long innings between the older starters and Durbin.

Top Rookie- SS – Max Cerveza (AA) & SS - Fautino Escobar (RL)

Key Players Lost- SS – Rob Whitfield (Trade), SP Howie Anderson (Trade), LF -Thomas Andujar (FA)

Key Players Acquired- C-Walt Harnish (Trade) SS - Davey Jimenez (Rule 5) SS- Kendry Benitez (FA) SS – Tony Siqueiros (FA) SP Anthony McFeely (FA).

Key Off-Season Transaction- Acquiring C Walt Harnish. He will cost the team $54M over the next four seasons, but it will be worth it as his bat and ability to catch behind the plate make him one of the best at his position in the league.

Rochester Rodents Of Unusual Size -
The focus of our season at Rochester is to develop our ability to compete long term by attempting to deflate our current payroll commitments and concentrate on the future. In a salary cap league, hard decisions need to be made regarding fund allocations & the Tanner trade was a prime example of that reality. We will still field a competitive team so that the integrity of the season isn’t questioned but our focus is on the next few seasons prospect acquisitions & development.

Durham Natty Knights -

Washington D.C. Whalers -

NL NORTH - Season #27 Preview

Cleveland Rockers -
The Rockers enter season 27 looking for their 6th straight division title.  After winning the World Series in season 23 the Rockers haven’t been able to get past the Division Championship Series. This season again brings the expectations that anything short of a World Series title will be considered a disappointment. 

The biggest offseason acquisition was the free agent signing of CF Wilson Rolls. With the Rolls acquisition, management had to the make tough decision to trade lifetime Rocker CF Luis Osuna.  The Rockers received 3 pitchers in return for Osuna headlined by RP Miguel Matos who figure to be a fixture in the Rocker bullpen for seasons to come. 

Top prospects and players who expect to receive the call this season are SP’s Jae-Kuk Nomo, Henry Stohr, Julian Scott and Don Hogan. You may also see the arrival of Jair Acosta to the bullpen this season after his breakpoint season in AAA last year.

Montreal Bloody Sox -

Scranton Yeoman Warders -

Trenton Waves -

NL SOUTH - Season #27 Preview

Jackson Jayhawks -
Following back-to-back 52-110 records the Jayhawk's owner decided to make a change at the helm and appointed Britt Garcia as BC. His support team are a group of veteran coaches who have all shared in the disappointing achievements of the past five seasons; maybe S27 will be the start of something more like what the loyal fans in Jackson expect.

Hitting and run production will fall on three long serving stalwarts: Tony Gonzales (3B), Rob Steenstra (2B) and Martin Hujimoto (CF). Failure to put runs on the board has been a constant problem so more consistency in the short-ball hitting game is being sought; the long-ball is always welcome but no longer the team's priority.

The starters will be led by D'Angelo Cruz and Mark Nakano who in S26 at least stemmed the opponents run supply. The biggest surprise is the manager's choice to put a Rule 5 draftee in at the closer position: Albert Ramirez (age 24) recorded good stats up to HiA level but hasn't taken to the mound in either AA or AAA to date; now he's in the bigs.

The owner's challenge is to get the franchise out of the cellar and up to at least a .500 win-loss record. Concentrating on the ML roster has meant that the minors may suffer a slight drop in performance this campaign but they will still be competitive

Mexico City Hombres Azul -
The Hombres Azul are an aging team who looked to hold back father-time by adding a quality free agent to the mix. Primary targets Rickey Atchley and Wilson Rolls both garnered more than Mexico City were willing/able to afford, and by that time most of the secondary targets like Pedro Espinosa had signed elsewhere.


So, the ballclub went the trade route, making two of the biggest deals of the winter: Mexico City’s strength has been starting pitching, with at least 7 players capable of starting, this enable the club to send excellent SP Jimmie Veras to Baltimore along with 3B Cory Thomas and a prospect for 1B Oswaldo Padilla and RP Julian Ortiz. Padilla is the key as he’s young (27) and under team control for several years.


The exit of Thomas has allowed Benito Espinosa to return to 3B, but left the franchise a little weak at 2B/CF so a trade was made with Detroit for 2B Roland Street who was originally drafted (#1 in S16) by this franchise.

El Paso Banditos -

Kansas City Googly Mooglies -

NL WEST - Season #27 Preview

Fresno Maize 'N Blue -
Season 27 Outlook - It's "World Series or Bust" for Fresno who will once again be led by Superstar Tomas Cairo. Cairo unprecedentedly led every offensive category in the NL last season while taking home his 4th straight MVP award. Young offensive stars Julio Osoria, Benny Uribe, Louie Ibanez and the newly acquired Cesar Molina will provide more than enough offensive support. Future HOF Stephen Rivera returns desperate for his first World Series ring coming off another monster season that saw him finish 2nd in the MVP voting.
The reigning Cy Young winner Octavio Valenzuela leads a stellar pitching staff that also features last season's Rookie of the Year - Hee Sop Higashioka and young stud James Lamb coming off a season that saw him go 16-2 with a miniscule 2.18 ERA. Former ROY Kurt Giambi makes a solid #4. The #5 spot is currently under construction with phenoms in the minors coming quick.

Key Additions : Blockbuster offseason trade which saw Raul Batista leave Fresno by bringing in young star Cesar Molina who will fill a much needed role in the lead-off spot creating runs with his bat and speed at a high OBP rate.
Our bullpen has been an Achilles' heel for this franchise for many seasons, but hopefully bringing in dominating closer Frank Maurer will pay immediate dividends.
We also jumped in heavily in the FA market signing All-star Shortstop Pedro Espinosa away from the reigning Champs Columbus to a massive 100m contract.
Added another nice bat in Javier Hernandez via trade so we feel collectively the additions this year far outweigh the losses.

Key Losses - Adding Molina at the expense of stud SP Raul Batista wasn't any easy decision at all, Nor was losing young prospect pitchers Tito Jodie and Domingo Iglesias in the Maurer/Hernandez trade.
Last year's big FA signing Walt Harnisch's time in Fresno was brief.. Coming off a sub-par season it was an easy decision to cut our losses now even if the return was minimal.

Top Prospects - Juan Tabata (OF) is ready for the ML right now, but having a loaded roster already should afford us the luxury of giving him a full season in AAA with his eagerly anticipated ML debut coming in early Season 28.
Chun Lim Tateyama (OF) and Buddy Williamson (1B) will see the big leagues one day, but more than likely it will be with another franchise.
One of the best pitching prospects in this world is Yuniesky Delgado and while he could win the ROY this year we will be patient and let him develop another year or two in the minors. We also have jumped into the IFA market already this year bringing in another future SP in Rio Maduro who appears to be on the fast track to the majors.. Other top prospects with ML futures would include pitchers Fernando Alomar, Damaso Mangual, Julio Ambroles and Ozzie Hasegawa.

In Summary - Fear The Maize 'N Blue !!!!!!

Honolulu Rainbow Warriors -
After yet another demoralizing playoff loss, the Rainbow Warriors set out to revamp their squad via free agency, hoping to finally get past the dual humps of Fresno and Mexico City. Alas, the owners of this world open their wallets with the ease of a cheap Tijuana floozy, and Honolulu struck out in its efforts to bring in marquee players to replace departed star Rickey Atchley.

Undaunted, Warrior management pulled off a trade for a young franchise cornerstone, 3B Derek Connor, while eating salary on a pair of disgruntled vets. The fan base is skeptical, but in the final year of the great Harry Palacios' time in Honolulu, the Rainbow Warriors are hoping for one final push to bring a title to the shores of Waikiki.

Seattle Somethings -
Season 27 marks the beginning of brand-new-everything for the perenially-last-place AL West franchise. New ownership has initiated one of the the most drastic relocations that can possiblly be done from a strategic standpoint, moving from maximum-hitter-friendly Coors in Colorado to the cavernous, pitcher-friendly, Safeco in Seattle

Upon taking over a franchise that has never won a single division title, ever, in the most competitive Mike Squires division, it is obvious that a dramatic strategic overhaul is necessary.

This franchise's predecessors did not seem to have any understanding of organizational consistency or vision of how they wanted to operate their franchise from top to bottom. They did not know whether they wanted to be a team that had great hitters or good pitching, focusing on young players or assembling a roster or overpaid veterans, emphasizing scouting but not investing budget on actually signing any prospects. The previous management also had glaring failures in the draft, as history shows that three out of four consecutive drafts five-eight seasons ago (and 4 of the first 5 picks in one of the drafts) targeted players that never signed. Those players would have been in their primes now, and the absence of high-end prime-age talent is Seattle's biggest problem heading in to seasons 27-29.

The minor league system that new ownership has inherited is a mess. Overall, the system does have a fair amount of decent prospects, but none of them are developing correctly. The previous owner did not pay any attention to assigning draft picks to the correct levels after being drafted, promoting youngsters to higher levels, assigning players to their correct roles, etc.

Additionally, the predecessors had by far the worst coaching staff from top to bottom, which stunted the development of every single player in the entire farm system. This was a result of misunderstanding how to assign the budget totals correctly. In seasons 25 and 26 Seattle had the lowest amount alotted to coaching, and ended up getting stuck with the worst fielding coach, bad minor league HCs and PCs, etc.

As a result, the Seattle Somethings are definitely a rebuilding franchise. HOWEVER, the ML level does have a fair amount of talent that is capable of mediocrity during the rebuild. The MLB roster that has been inherited is capable of winning 75-80 games, as long as the pitching staff settings (pitch counts and call bullpen) are configured properly.

The Somethings have one of the best hitting-catchers in the majors in Osuna, who also thankfully happens to be above average in pitch-calling. Van Hekken is a quality, plus-fielding 28-year old shortstop/ leadoff hitter who is signed thru season 28. 26-year-old Josh Wingo is impressive offensively and on the bases but lacks defensive acumen and may get moved to 1B in the future, as he is signed thru season 30+. Vin Ellsbury is a gold-glove-level 27-year old 3B who unluckily has a weak arm but luckily has multi-positional versatility. Because of this, Ellsbury is actually slated to play first base instead of the horrific-fielding DeRojas. With Ellsbury's outstanding glove, plus range, and good mobility, Seattle expects to have a productive infield defense to support its pitching staff.

The rotation has potential to be servicable, perhaps even quite good within the confines of Safeco. Womack, Clark, and Itou have exceptional stamina, and Almonte and Stratton (converted from bullpen) have the ability and the makeup to contribute quality totals in the range of 160-180 innings pitched. The bullpen is a work-in-progress and shapes up to be one of the youngest units in all of the ML. Seattle is searching hard to acquire power arms with effective stuff that can contribute high K/9 rates. 23-year-old rookie Cookie Nakamura is penciled in as the closer despite never having pitched above AA, thanks to the previous owner's mismanagement. Two relievers were added via rule 5, two were added via 1-year-deals in free agency, and two others were acquired in a trade with Baltimore.

On the downside, there is a large number of older players that need to be moved. 31-year-old DH/1B Emmett Collins was moved to Baltimore for pitching prospects. Legendary 36-year-old 2B Charlie Hull and 33-year-old CF Bruce Blasingame still have something to offer on the field for the club, especially with the unfortunate long-term spring training neck injury to CF Leon, who was projected to start. On the other hand, 33-year-old SP Jaret Sarafini has absolutely nothing left in the tank and his $5.8M salary is utterly unmovable. Seattle will regretfully have to eat the final year of his contract in AAA; luckily season 27 is the final season for him in the Seattle organization.

These multitude of poor signings demonstrate why free agency is the worst way to build/supplement a franchise. Seattle plans to shift its philosophy towards never signing a single high-profile free agent, ever, as it is the worst money that can possibly be spent. Seattle plans to build thru the draft, through IFA, and through rule 5. Regretfully, it will probably take 4-6 seasons for the club to start blossoming under the newly-implemented changes, and growing pains are expected. Once they take effect, however, Seattle has the ambition and competitive fire to mount a serious long-term challenge to perennial division/NL powerhouse Maize'N'Blue, as well as any others that may stand in its path to World Series titles.

Vancouver Big Blue Dogs -