Tuesday, February 4, 2014

AL EAST - Season #28 Preview

Baltimore Renegades -
The more things change...the more they stay the same.  Countless trades have made the cast change, but the Baltimore Renegades have continued their winning ways...at least when it comes to the REGULAR SEASON.  Despite making the playoffs nine straight seasons, the Baltimore Renegades still have not won a World Series Championship. This off-season, Baltimore made  another batch of trades to try and get younger, add speed at the top of the batting order, and revamp their  bullpen.  When the dust had settled, the Renegades had turned over half of their Major League roster...again.

Baltimore won 109 games last season but lost in the ALCS to the Columbus Cheese and Rice in an Epic 17-inning game 7.  The loss took a lot out of the organization and the front office "Voweled to do whatever it takes" to win this season.  The Renegades have never liked having players making more than $15M annually, but they made a big trade to bring back 3B-Derek Henderson this off-season.  

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 C-Al Matos, 1B-Craig Cook, 2B-Terry Ramirez, 3B-Derek Henderson, SS-Peter Carlson, LF-Cory Thomas, CF- Mark Lee , RF-Wiki Rivas, and DH-Emmitt Collins.   The five-man bench is flexible with C-Bernie Rosado, UT- Flip Riske, UT-Jose Guzman, 1B-OF-Scot Simontacchi, and 1B/DH-Nolan Krivda.  

Baltimore's strong rotation is anchored by RHP-Octavio Valezuela and LHP-Ben Bolton. RHP's Walt Osborne, Rashun Gonzalez, and  lefty Tim Leiter round out the rotation.

The bullpen will again be anchored by left-handed closer Darrin Roth. He briefly lost his closer role last season to Coco Reagan but regained it with Reagan's trade. The set up men are righties Fram Maurer and JT LeCure along with lefties Hal Alexander and D.J. Webster.  Lastly, the team will go with RHP-Milt Gagne.  The future Hall Of Famer was acquired an emergency starter and swing man  until LHP-Johan Heredia is ready to join the ML pitching rotation. 

Top Rookie- LHP-Johan Heredia (AAA)
Key Players Lost- RHP-Herb Leary (trade), RHP-Wandy Urbina (trade), RHP-Jimmie Veras (trade), LHP-CoCo Reagan (trade), 2B-Larry Kennedy (trade), 3B-Wilson Wise (trade), and SS-Danys Sanchez (trade).

Key Players Acquired- RHP-JT LeCure (trade), RHP-Milt Gagne (trade), LHP-Hal Alexander (trade), LHP- Johan Heredia (trade), LHP- Tim Leiter (trade), 3B-Derek Henderson (trade), OF-Wiki Rivas (trade), and DH/1B-Nolan Krivda (trade).

Key Off-Season Transaction- Re-acquiring (for the fourth time) 3B-Derek Henderson.  Henderson's speed and power combination was missing atop Baltimore's line-up last season.  His $20M per year price tag is expensive, but it shows the fans of Baltimore that the Renegades want to win at all cost.


Charlotte Knights -

Columbus Cheese N' Rice -

Dover Dingbats -

AL NORTH - Season #28 Preview

Milwaukee Blue Ribbons -
Outlook: The fans were growing restless with losing, so weary with heinous drubbings of the local nine, a front-office overwhelmed by the preview regime’s largess and its pleas of “wait ‘til next year” that even the mid-game sausage races felt monotonous. When adults racing around the warning track in cartoon costumes of chorizo and bratwurst fail to excite the masses, then change is needed -- and fast.

The Blue Ribbons, sensing the waning fan interest and wanting to capitalize on an ebbing division, rapidly accelerated their rebuilding plan. They cashed in money and prospects to make four major upgrades to the roster—two veteran starting pitchers, a franchise shortstop and a star reliever—to catalyze a more incremental growth toward contention.

Milwaukee returns a dynamic offense headlined by former No. 1 overall pick and AL Rookie of the Year Nap Slaughter and now should have the pitching to make a run at its first AL North title since Season 22, back when money was lavished on free agents like it grew on trees. Out from under those colossally bad contracts and starting to reap the rewards of its revamped farm system, the Blue Ribbons are expecting to play meaningful games in September once again.

Best returning players: CF Nap Slaughter, LF Julian Aquino, RF Jason Kydd, 3B Dennis Herzog DH Carlos DeRojas, SP Roosevelt Montana, SP J.D. Randall, RP Shannon Springer

Key Players Lost: RP Marvin Brown (trade), SS Chico Lind (Trade) and prospects SP Johan Heredia (trade), SP Vinny Hasegawa

Key Players Acquired: SS Pedro Espinosa (trade), SP Willie Harville (FA), SP Jimmie Veras (trade), RP Alex Mangual (FA)

Top Rookie: 2B Hank Brown

Best off season move: The whole slew of acquisitions, taken in tandem, were necessary to turn this franchise around.

Buffalo Ice Dogs -

Detroit Wolverines -

Syracuse Snow Blowers -

AL SOUTH - Season #28 Preview

Houston Wranglers -

Little Rock Rockabillies -

Montgomery Cornbread On The Brain -

New Orleans VooDo -

AL WEST - Season #28 Preview

Anaheim Aardvarks -

Las Vegas Gamblers -

Salem Slayers -

Salt Lake City Movers & Shakers -

NL EAST - Season #28 Preview

Durham Natty Knights -

Richmond Spiders -

San Juan Sea Turtles -

Washington D.C. Whalers -

NL NORTH - Season #28 Preview

Montreal Bloody Sox -
Coming off the worst collective season in franchise history, the bloody sox have spent the past 5 seasons rebuilding the minor leagues. Our ml team stuck with most of the same squad from last year adding 2 pitchers with bright futures from the minors erubiel Mendoza and magglio sardinha, a young second baseman from the rule 5 draft Neil chatwood, and a fan favorite blast from the past jeremi Hernandez. Jeremi is at the tail end of a great career and happy to be home to enter the 600 home run club.

Over the next 3 seasons there will be at least 8 prospects being brought up through the minor league system. The Montreal bloody sox has gone back to the basics of the original owner of the team focusing on drafting and international free agents to consistently reload a winning program looking to be back in the playoff hunt with in 2 seasons.

Cleveland Rockers-

Scranton Yeoman Warders -

Trenton Waves -

NL SOUTH - Season #28 Preview

Jackson Jayhawks -

After six disappointing seasons the Jayhawks start the 28th year of Mike Squires World with real optimism. The owner has spent the off-season watching 'Moneyball' and implemented the first shoots of that frugal $ budget...oh, player salaries up $3m but there was a reason. Maybe it will work or the Jackson fans will probably think it was 'Major League' that had been viewed.

A shake-up in the coaching department. The Bench Coach position has been transferred to Jesus Duran who has spent five seasons with the franchise but all in the minors and no higher than AA.

The extra dollars mentioned above were needed to secure the services of a big hitting guy to steady the offense: 2nd Baseman Kane Riviera (ML ave . 283) signed FA papers and will be the regular bat at the clean-up position. The rest of the line-up...just hope they can put a few hits together!

The Jayhawks' pitching department is experienced: well, most have played through many of the disappointing seasons. D'Angelo Cruz is due a breakout year and is the #1 SP. Micky Simms the #2 is in for his fifth campaign in Jackson whilst #3 R A Moss is in for this fourth. Mark Nakano takes the #4 slot. With so many tight games the closer will be Albert Ramirez (only 26/35 success rate in S27).

It's time for the basement to be vacated. This is the start of the future.

Kansas City Googly Mooglies -
The Googly Mooglies took a step back in Season 27, done in by a subpar offense and a disastrous bullpen en route to a 93-loss season. But with a few additions to the relief corps plus a handful of anticipated promotions from the minor leagues, hopes were high that Kansas City would again contend in the National League South. Lefty Joseph Martin leads a revamped bullpen that also includes newcomers Billy Sherman and Tim Dodd. The lineup was expected to be bolstered by the additions of prospects Darby Sherman and Jim Rodgers. Top prospect Jordan George, a left-handed pitcher, was also expected to graduate to the majors sometime early in the season.

Mexico City Hombres Azul -
Last year, the Hombres Azul had their lowest win total, and missed the playoffs for the first time since season 16. Management still believe the roster is talented enough to go back to the post-season without the need for a prolonged rebuild.

The focus this offseason was to replace SS Danys Sanchez who was traded away at the S27 trade deadline. The initial target was free agent Esteban Guerrero, but at the same time it became clear that other teams were offering more than MC thought he was worth – the agent for SS Tomas Marin pointed out that his client could be signed for a competitive front-loaded contract, allowing the club to also offer terms to RF Marcus Carter, Carter isn’t really needed this year, but is the long-term replacement for Ronnie Romero.

The Hombres Azul then sent Milt Gagne – the Squires all-time leader in wins - back to Baltimore along with RP Hal Alexander for 2B/OF Mickey Reid and RP Coco Reagan. The acquisition of Reid was fortuitous as his expected playing time has increased considerably after injury to CF/2B Jake Mills.
The team will miss franchise leader in hits, runs, RBI and lots of other things: Delino Manzanillo, and we wish him well in Richmond.
There’s not a great deal of talent waiting in the wings, but SP Anthony Bohanon looks like he’ll see the ML roster sooner rather than later.

Monterrey Border Jumpers -

NL WEST - Season #28 Preview

Honolulu Rainbow Warriors -

Another year, another finish behind the Fres-uggernaut. Honolulu management might be said to have an obsession with beating the league's premier team. Knowing it won't be easy, and with ace Harry Palacios in decline, the Rainbow Warriors elected to let him walk in free agency -- where he received a shocking five year deal -- and get their ace a different way.

Fan favorite Wiki Rivas, a consistent .900 OPS left fielder, was swapped for Raul Batista, a 30-year-old ace who should head the Honolulu staff for years.
Beyond that, management is trusting in the formula -- left handed pitching, league-best speed, and switch-hitting prowess to take advantage of Aloha Stadium and finally bring that elusive title to the shores of Waikiki.

Seattle Somethings -

 Optimism is in the air for Season 2 of Seattle Somethings. Reflecting upon Season 1, mistakes were made early on, but given the roster shake-ups and overall lack of pitching talent, finishing with only 59 wins (compared to 65 in season 26 under previous management) does not seem to be an unjust result. The preseason goal was 70 wins, but management misunderstood the game engine regarding pitch counts and call bullpen settings, and the starting pitchers were thrown to the wolves early on. At about 60 games in the Somethings win % was about .250, which was abysmal, but over the last 100 we recovered and finished at .364 (7th from the bottom!), which was admirable improvement.

The club is looking to build on their 2nd-half progress. The Somethings pitching staff unexpectedly managed to finish near the middle of the pack in quality starts. However, the club may face a setback, as management followed through with the pre-season plan to allow starters Sal Stratton (type A) and Jaret Serafini (type B) to hit free agency. They are being replaced by Emil Tatis (S27 AAA ace) and journeyman Albert Mondesi (S27 ML long relief). Given the home ballpark, talent at pitching coach, and season 27 production, the replacements are being counted on to at least be mediocre placeholders.

The team’s season 28 outlook is definitely still rebuilding, but we do intend on competing for victories wherever possible. Hitting depth and bullpen depth are (slightly) improved. A ML-calibre SS/3B and two ML-calibre relievers were added via rule 5. However, the majority of organizational optimism resides in the minors. Season 25 1st-round SS Ringo Bradley is on schedule for a mid-season call-up into a full-time role that can utilize his versatility, fielding ability, contact, and doubles-power. Season 26 1st-round LF/1B Marc Oswalt managed an impressive 10-point-overall year-over-year improvement and starts in AA. The hope is to overlap him into AAA at some point in mid-season. Oswalt hit 27 homers and stole 20 bases as a 19-year old. Pre-season acquisition C Rodrigo Campos has a great makeup, a plus arm, and outstanding plate discipline but needs to improve his ability to manage a pitching staff. Campos moves to AAA despite his ripe age of 21. Season 27 1st-round RF Lenny Parkers moves up to AA despite only being 20 years old. In 83 minor-league games, Parkers had an OPS of .900 and 46 stolen bases. Management is also excited about mid-season IFA 3B/SS Mateo Nunez, who batted .300/.385/.540 with 19 HR in 83 minor league appearances, and 1st-round 2B (projecting to 1B) Jhoulys Velazquez, who managed a ridiculous .375/.465/.675 (OPS 1.140!) in half-a-season of low minors experience. Additionally, the franchise is scheduled to draft 5 times in the first 68 picks, so the minor league system shall continue to grow. The present may be dim, but the future is definitely looking bright.

For now, the roster’s composition does not match the ballpark or the preferred in-game strategy, but the club wisely has not invested in many long-term contracts to allow for maximum flexibility. The contracts of CF Ted van Hekken and 2B Vin Ellsbury are scheduled to expire, and management is undecided whether or not to trade, extend, or let those contracts expire in exchange for draft picks. The catching platoon of Osuna and Darwin are both on 1-year deals with the intention to let those expire to make room for Campos and/or another 1-year rental. The team may not have made any big personnel splashes in the off-season, but the club has put itself into a position to time future moves for when its top prospects reach the majors , especially if an opportunity to acquire quality starting pitching becomes presented. Its best off-season moves were the ones they didn’t make: trading prospects for players, signing type-A free agents, acquiring long-term veterans, etc. Instead, the club continues to focus on enhancing its minor league depth and coaching staffs. Goal-70-75 wins. Realistic prediction- 65-97. Minor league goal- finish .500+ at every level.

Fresno Maize 'N Blue -

Vancouver Big Blue Dogs -