San Juan Padres
Season 29: 87-75, won Division, reached NL Play-In & lost to Scranton
"Breakthrough" Means: Getting deep into the playoffs. They made a big jump up to 87 wins last year...there's a bunch of young talent on the ML roster and it's time to make more noise.
To Do That They Have To: Get either hitting or pitching above "average". On offense they do everything except hit HR's pretty well (Matty Campos led with 27). They get on base decently well (2B Raul Armas - .387), make contact (Armas .316, RF Hank Fischer .313), and run some (Armas - 25 SB, 3B Edgmer Hechavarria and LF Aaron Rodney, 25 each). This is another team that spreads the pitching workload around (8 P's with more than 100 IP but none over 200)...Nolan Rodgers led in both wins (12) and ERA (3.10).
This Team Is Built On: Lots of players contributing...C Stephen Long (.403 OBP in 225 AB's) and OF Bip Thornton (13 HR, 40 RBI in 232 AB's) are examples of part-time players who made big contributions. The mixing and matching of roles extendd to the pitching staff as well: Magglio Viciedo started 21 games, made 24 relief appearances, won 9 games and saved 6 in 151 innings (3.28 ERA).
Player to Watch: Brandon Clarkson. Season 27's #10 pick won singlehandedly transform the offense, but he will brig some needed pop to an infield slot. ROY WATCH
IF Brandon Clarkson
Santa Fe Fire
Season 29: 83-79
"Breakthrough" Means: Here's a team that led the NL in scoring last year (OK, somewhat park-related), and via trade and draft placed a pair of aces at the top of its rotation this season. Winning the division might have been shooting too low. But the team backed off the gas, went cheap, and elected to keep building for this year. Still, they have some great young talent on the ML roster...maybe enough to win the division.
To Do That They Have To: Get just a few big seasons from unexpected places. You know Juan Martinez is going to throw 220 innings with an ERA of 3 or less, and Willie Tepera looks like he'll be good for 200. Danys Guerrero will hit; Trace Clark will too, with the occasional lapse against righty pitching. It's thin, but with 4-5 more good seasons sprinkled in they could win 85.
This Team Is Built On: Martinez, Tepera, Guerrero, Clark, and maybe Cy Knepper and Richie Carr. Everybody else is just passing through.
Player to Watch: Trace Clark...can he hit righthanders?
Trades traded ML OF Ken Woods for MiL 1B Yoervis Barrios and MiL C Vern Schofield
Free Agent Signings
1B Ron Casey
C Trace Clark (Sea 27 #31), 2B Carlton Nieve (Sea 26 #57), CF R.J. Javier (Sea 23 IFA), SP Willie Tepera (Sea 26 #6)
Season 29: 78-84
"Breakthrough" Means: Winning a fairly winnable division
To Do That They Have To: Surround Kelvim Hasegawa and Yean Carlos Gonzalez with as much talent as they can muster up. That's exactly what they've tried to do with a blast of free agent signings.
This Team Is Built On: Hasegawa and Gonzalez on the offensive side; George Camili and Juan Veras on the staff. Camili tossed 268 innings last year, Veras 156. There's 424 pretty good-quality innings they can count on. They have to survive the other 1000. It's too bad Hasegawa's the only player on the team that can run out of sight in a day...if they had any other runners at all they could turn up their SB setting and Hasegawa might get 80 extra basehits + 80 SB's.
Player to Watch: Hasegawa...whether they challenge for the division or not, he'll be fun. MVP WATCH
Free Agent Signings
1B Tony Jones, SP John Wheat, RP Ivan Belisario, RP Thom Dempster, OF/1B Peter Brumbaugh, IF Jose Fernandez, C Yovani Crespo, SP Juan Veras, C Gary Arnold, SP Rob Morton, CF/2B Madison Clayton, RP Joey Jones, RF Ricky Mercedes, RP Alexei Gardel
Season 29: 76-86
"Breakthrough" Means: 2nd-year GM josepaco faces a dilemma: go all-out to win now (in a division without a dominant team), taking advantage of the prime years of 1B Bob Tucker, or try to build fast enough to contend soon, which might mean trading Tucker. To add to the dilemma, San Juan and Louisville both have more guns in the arsenal this year, and Santa Fe has a big head start on rebuilding. For now, they've turned over about half the roster via free agency and promotions, so their breakthrough has to be winning the division.
To Do That They Have To: get some surprise big seasons. Who knows where they could come from? Maybe Donnie K'aaihue can hit 50 HR's and on-base .325 (his best to date is .302). Maybe Aramis Romo can get you 18 wins and a 3.50 ERA. Maybe someone like Horacio Alou can reach back for 1 more .800+ OPS season. All those things are possible, but unlikely...when 88 wins depends on 8 of them happening, well.
This Team Is Built On: Bob Tucker. Season 21's #1 overall pick has been nothing short of spectacular in his first 6 ML seasons, slamming 301 bombs and getting on base at a .400 clip.
Player to Watch: Tucker. Won his first MVP last year and wouldn't be a bad bet for this year. MVP WATCH
Free Ageny Signings
3B Donnie K'aaihue, RP Irv Porter, SP Max Hill, C Wladimir Vizcaino, SP Wellington Cortes, RP Roy O'Donnell, RP Oswaldo Vizquel, RP Rob Ruebel
SS Adrian Baumann, LF Dave Rowe, RP Albert Chavez, RP Dave Gutierrez
A 4-way scramble isn't out of the question, but ultimately I expect San Juan and Louisville to pull away and tussle for the division. The Fire have some great talent but are too thin, and the Choades are relying on too many great breaks to win a 162-game marathon.
San Juan 85-67
Santa Fe 80-82