Thursday, April 24, 2014

AL EAST - Season #29 Preview

Baltimore Renegades -
The AL East gets tougher and tougher every year.  Last season, the Baltimore Renegades finished second in the AL East with 92 wins and barely clinched the last AL Wild Card spot.  The Renegades have made the playoffs TEN straight seasons, but despite that REGULAR SEASON success, they still have not won a World Series Championship. This off-season, Baltimore made an effort to bolster their starting rotation and upgrade an aging line-up that was unproductive and "flat" in the playoffs. 

The Renegades have a decent core of productive ballplayers, but their window of opportunity is quickly closing.  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 many seasons to come, but with no minor league talent in the pipeline, this team has three seasons maximum to win a World Series.

The revamped Renegades line-up is still the strength of the team. The line-up projects as followed...
(1) Rickey Atchley LF
(2) Wiki Rivas        RF
(3) Peter Carlson    3B
(4) Artie Bukvich   DH
(5) Emmitt Collins  1B
(6) Al Matos            C 
(7) Mark Lee          CF 
(8) Vin Ellsbury     2B
(9) Sean Waters      SS
The five-man bench is flexible with C-Bernie Rosado, 1B-Craig Cook, 1B/LF-Cory Thomas, 2B/CF-Terry Ramirez, and UT-Jose Guzman.  

Baltimore's strong rotation is anchored by 4 potential Hall Of Famers.  RHP- Octavio Valezuela and LHP-Ben Bolton return to anchor the Baltimore rotaion along with newly acquired LHP's- Niko Kirby and Willie Estrada to give the Renegades the best starting rotation they have ever had.  Rounding out the last spot of the rotation is RHP-Rashun Gonzalez.  Unfortunately, LHP- Johan Heredia will be lost for the entire season after having Tommy John Surgery today.  The 24 year old showed great promise last season and this will be a major blow. 

Darrin Roth lost his closer role last season and will set-up fellow lefty Hal Alexander this season.  The other set up men are righties Frank Maurer, Charles Okajima, and Herb Leary.  Roth and rookie Ozzie Hasegawa are the lefties in the pen this season. 

Top Rookie- None
Key Players Lost- RHP-Hector Carroll (FA), RHP-Milt Gagne (FA), RHP-JT LeCure (trade), LHP-Tim Leiter (trade), LHP- DJ Webster (trade), 1B-Scott Simontacchi (FA), AND 3B/OF-Derrek Henderson (trade).
Key Players Acquired- RHP-Herb Leary (FA), LHP-Willie Estrada (FA), LHP-Ozzie Hasegawa (trade), LHP- Niko Kirby (trade), 2B- Vin Ellsbury (FA),  SS-Sean Waters (FA), 2B/LF-Ricky Atchley (trade), and DH-Artie Bukvich.
Key Off-Season Transaction- Acquiring Niko Kirby and Ricky Atchley adds the veteran leadership that has been sorely lacking these last few seasons.  Ricky Atchlety's $20M per year price tag may look horrible in a season or two, but the goal in Baltimore is to win now.

Hartford #Team Cutters  -

The outlook for the Hartford #TeamCutters is somewhere between bad and poor. After finishing out the season 51-11 with a GM coaching change during the middle of last season, the team is hoping to best that record because it can’t get much worse.  Or could it? 

With key acquisitions numbering zero, the team has not put forward much effort at the major league level. There are still some starting pitching signings that need to happen before the end of spring training.  Luckily, there was not much to lose from last year and the only contributor lost was Otis Reese, who will get to apply his craft in Cincinnati while Hartford added a couple of prospects for their trouble.

The minor leagues are brimming with talent and that talent should be making the move to the majors next season. SS Brad Craig and SP Paul Brow lead a star-studded AAA team that is looking to repeat their regular season division win from a season ago. So, at the end of the day, the short term future is not looking that bright, but starting next year, the team should be able to put together a very competitive team with eyes towards a division championship, if not more, at the major league level.

Charlotte Knights -

Huntington Hitmen -