Friday, May 27, 2016

Season 31 AL North Preview

Kansas  City Jayhawks
Season 30: 92-70, won Division, reached ALDS & lost to Huntington

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  Slow start, then the charge, then the disheartening injury to Ortiz, then the close playoff loss to Huntington

Who's Out?
FA:  SS Stan Judd, SS Bob Fogg, C Del Camacho, SP Jason Haywood, OF Jorge Lunar, P Eliezer Rodriguez, P Edgardo Diaz
Trade:  OF P.T. Feliz, SP Louis Wilson, SP Santos Eovaldi, CF Miguel Frieri, RP Bud Waner

Who's In?
Trade:  RP Andrew Lane, SS Raul Machi, 1B Adys Bethancourt, P Ernest Carey, P Khalil McKenry,  P Willam Mather, 2B/CF Matt Buddie, P Dave Waters
FA:  OF Ubaldo Reyes, P Danny Edwards, SS Nathan Sierra
Promoted:  LF Fernando Bonilla (Sea 27 IFA), P Damion Helms (Sea 27, Round 18, DITR...note to C: don't call those last 3 pitches very often), P Pascual Cordero (Sea 27 #33)
Rule V: P F.P. Clayton (Sea 26, 3rd Round)

Season 31 Preview
Well, here's your most-changed team during the offseason.  dakar got a little lax about re-signing some free agents last season, and this year they all bolted on him, starting an epic exodus.  The thing is, it's not unimaginable that they could contend THIS year.  The front 3 of the rotation are Mather (2.98 ERA in 187 innings last year), Carey (2.74 ERA in 124 innings) and McKenry (3.66 ERA in 179 innings).  Not a ton of innings, but lots of quality. They'll absolutely need some surprise help from the rest of the staff.  If they do there just MIGHT be enough oomph from what's left of the lineup to keep things interesting:  C Jackson Parris OPS'd .780, 1B Gary Torres got to .800, 3B Miguel Ramirez .837, DH Hugh Pierre .890.  They'll score a decent number of runs.

Do I really think they'll beat Philadelphia?  No.  But they just might flirt with a Wild Card.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"Breakthrough" Means:  Winning it all.  Anything less is just another great but underachieving season.  Unfortunately for the 'Hawks, that window is now closing rather than opening.  Still, plenty of teams have done it on the downside of the curve of opportunity, and there is still plenty of talent here.

To Do That They Have To:  Stop imploding in the playoffs.  Year after year, KC makes the playoffs as a top seed, and then gets sent home by a lower ranked opponent.

This Team Is Built On:  Starting pitching primarily,  but really on balance.  In terms of offense, the team was in the top 4 in the AL in most important categories, and basically the second best offense (Runs scored and OBP) to the hitting machine that is Las Vegas.  Led by solid power hitters DH Hugh Pierre,  OF P.T. Feliz, LF/1B Jorge Lunar and C Del Camacho  bolstered by newcomers Ramirez and Guerrero, this team should at least duplicate their 864 runs scored.

Defensively, the team led the AL with a .990 fielding percentage and was plus 44 on +/- plays, but did rank last in SB prevention.  With the trade of Rosado, outstanding fielding catcher Jackson Parris is likely to be brought up from AAA sooner rather than later.

Pitching is sort of a mixed bag.  The starting rotation is still excellent, despite the loss of FA Juan Veras.  Santos EovaldiLouis WilsonJason Haywood and Carlos Tavarez anchor the rotation with Hairston and Rodriguez competing for the 5th spot.  Relief may be a sore spot for KC though.  Closer Diaz was retained and was very good last year, but at 39 will be on a short leash.  If he falters, Hipolito Alvarado or Bud Waner would be the likely replacements.  Still the staff combined to have the best ERA and was just edged by SD for best WHIP, so this is a real strength overall.

Player to Watch: Several players could be mentioned here, but the obvious one is Eovaldi. He needs to bounce back from a mediocre season and pitch more like a four time Cy Young winner.  

traded ML C Pablo RosadoMiL 2B/CF Matt Buddie, and MiL 1B Bruce Klingenbeck for MiL IF Miguel Ramirez

Free Agent Signings
SP Eliezer Rodriguez, SP Walt Hairston, 3B Wilkin Guerrero,  RP Edgardo Diaz

Vancouver Voodoo
Season 30:  79-83

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  Not a lot different than Season 29, but the dip below .500 has to be considered disappointing.  The big seasons from Carlos Tatis (.301/21/72) and Olmedo Lee (.276/25/86) ended up being their sendoffs from Vancouver.

Who's Out?
FA:  SP Jay Denham
Released:  P Charley Zeile
Traded: 2B Olmedo Lee, SP Sadie Miller, RP Rob Phelps, DH Carlos Tatis

Who's In?
FA: DH Geronimo Marquez, RP Alvin Timlin, RP Dillon Donatello
Trade: C Alcides Santana, P Oswaldo Puig, SS Thomas Hemingway, 2B Stan Marquis, P Ruben Martinez, RP Gene Gibson, P Josmil Romero, P Trey Reid
Promoted:  SP Matty Ordonez (Sea 27 IFA)

Season 31 Preview 
And we go straight to GM hatesong for the Vancouver preview:
I had two choices this offseason: 1) One last season to go for it all because all my SP will be too old and free agents next season or 2) try to aquire some young SP's.  I decided to throw in the towel and start the rebuilding process. Then the Jayhawks started to do the same thing and I wish I would of tried for one last push. I did not get the big prospect I was looking for but I was able to get to trim some payroll and replenish some of the depleted farm system. It's going to be some time until the Voodoo will be a playoff contender again.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"Breakthrough" Means:  Winning the division.  They have been bridesmaids 4 of the last 5 seasons winning the wildcard.  Oh, and A World Series ring would be a nice perk as well.

To Do That They Have To:  Just improve a little bit at most everything.  This team could almost be KC Lite, in that they are above average in almost every phase of the game, yet just behind the Jayhawks in most areas.

This Team Is Built On:  Their all around game.  Offensively, they have big bats in 2B Olmedo Lee, C Jung-Lee Wang and DH Carlos Tatis.  They could have really used a big bat at 1B, but chose to spend their FA budget on the bullpen.  Still, Doyle Evans is serviceable there.  One other thing in their favor: last year they were very unlucky in scoring runs relative to their overall offensive production.  Expect that to balance out a bit this season. 

Anchored by Vicente Prieto and Sadie Miller, the rotation is solid 1 through 5.  The bullpen, led by closer Kurt Esposito, was otherwise underwhelming, but should be bolstered greatly by the signings of Phelps and Robertson.

Defensively, they were near the top in all the important categories, and no one has aged enough to expect that to fall off much.

Player to Watch:  There were no clear players to expect big improvements from, but several key players such as Lee and Prieto still have room to improve over last year.

Free Agent Signings
RP Rob Phelps, RP Fritz Robertson

Philadelphia Erffdogs
Season 30:  87-75         

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  A half-point a run per game improvement in their team ERA and 100 more runs scored sparked an 18-win improvement.  1B Scott Barnes bounced back from a disastrous Season 29 OPS of .698 to post an .882, and DH Dario Stults improved from .731 to .902.  Starters Cunningham and Bako had huge improvements from Season 29 and won 28 games between them.

Who's Out?
FA:  RP Dillon Donatello
Trade:  OF Benji Almanzar

Who's In?
FA:  SS Josias Ozuna, RP Tony Escobar
Trade: 3 prospects of mild significance from the Almanzar trade

Season 31 Preview
The Erffdoggs had one of the most dominant runs in Hobbs history from Seasons 16-21, winning 100+ games every year and a World Championship in Season 17.  Then then went into a mild but steady decline, and embarked on a "competitive rebuild" from Seasons 25-29.  They started accumulating draft picks in those years, and those picks got them 87 wins last year.  Season 24's first-rounders Dario Stults and Conor Webber are the starting DH and a backup OF.  Season 25 first-rounder Glenn Bako is one of their top SP's.  Season 26 first-rounders Lefty Simon and Esmerling Tabaka are the LF and C.  Their Season 27 and 28 first-rounders are in AAA and ML-ready.  Season 29 and 30's first-rounders are in the lower minors and looking good.  1B Barnes was a Season 23 supplemental pick; 3B Alan Hill was their first-rounder that year.  That has to be one of the best draft records anywhere.

With KC and Vancouver starting rebuilds and Boise continuing one, Philly is the odds-on choice to win the North.  I don't know if they'll have another dramatic improvement...their starters all seem like the kind of pitchers who have up-and-down careers.  But anything can happen in the playoffs, and right now they seem almost certain to be in.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"Breakthrough" Means:   A winning season.  Philadelphia has been below .500 for 5 straight seasons and that means the fans are getting restless.  Check that.  In Philly, that means they are getting violent.  

To Do That They Have To:  Hope some of the kids are ready to contribute.  This is a very young team that has a nice ceiling but right now is closer to the floor.  While some FAs were signed to plug some holes, management obviously was willing to get by with bargain priced players, so it is all about developing the kids.  

This Team Is Built On:  So far, power hitting and good defense.  There are some good bats in the lineup such as LF Lefty Simon, DH Dario Stults and 1B Scott Barnes, who fell off dramatically last season after a breakthrough year in '28.   Charles Powell is a great fielding power hitting SS who will never threaten for a batting title, but makes a great lower order hitter. Oddly, or perhaps by design, much of the Erffdoggs lineup is made up of very high stamina players, so very few lineup changes should be necessary.

Unfortunately, the pitchers allowed even more homers than the hitters could hit.  The pitching was near the bottom of the AL in most categories.  Perhaps Richmond and Roberts and a year's experience will help.  Among the holdover pitchers, SP Glenn Bako looks to be the staff ace, while Dicky Wang has the best stuff in the pen, despite pitching his way out of the closer's role last year.

Defensively, they are one of the league's better teams.  SS Powell, especially standing out as a future gold glover.

Player to Watch:  Barnes looks poised to bounce back to his better self, and Bako seems the best bet for upside among pitchers.   Also, keep an eye on C Esmerling Tabaka.  He should get promoted at some point this year and add a lot of offense.

Free Agent Signings
RF Benji Almanzar, SP Andy Richmond, RP Rick Roberts

Boise Spuds
Season 30:  66-96

Season 30 In A Nutshell: So far so good in Year 1 of the akresser  rebuild...solid 1st-Round picks with P Johnny Gardner, Glenn Brisker and Jolbert Cairo...and a very nice IFA in Dallas Sever.

Who's Out?
FA:  SP Enrique Quixote, 1B Corey Drew, SS Josias Ozuna, SP James Huang, C Jerry Nicholson
Released:  3B Harold Parker, CF Chris Holmes, OF Tony Torrealba

Who's In?
FA:  P Alex Gabriel, SP Gorkys Rondon, SP Alex Chisenhall, SP Javier Beltre, 2B/CF Trace Federowicz, C Del Camacho, OF Terry Sears, 1B Terrell Young
Rule V:  IF Chi Chi Figureoa

Season 31 Preview
Lots of turnover in Boise as they move into Year 2 of the new regime.  Another rebuilding year, but with a different flavor at the ML level.  Trace Federowicz was the big FA signing - he'll be a defensive stalwart and an average-or-better hitter for a CF'er.  C Del Camacho brings a much-needed 2nd power hitter to the attack (after Jordany Ontiveros' 57 HR's last year, #2 on the team had 17. Another way of illustrating the problem is: Ontiveros hit 33% of Boise's HR's last year).  Is Ontiveros a productive ML player?  He was 6th (among players with more than 200 AB's) on his team (a team that scored 618 runs) last year in rc/27.  So the answer is, "In a poor lineup, he's minimally productive if he hits 57 HR's.  In a good lineup, no."  The lineup will be better, but not by a hue amount.

Hard to say who the rotation will be.  Christian Nakamura (4.03 ERA in 219 IP) and Albert Johnson (3.95, 195 IP) were pretty good last year, so they're probably #1 and #2.  They'll probably use the early season to sort out the rest of the rotation among the other 9 SP/LR's currently on the roster.  Tommy Grey was solid as the closer as a rookie...fingers crossed on a repeat.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"Breakthrough" Means:  Approaching .500 this year, but realistically this is the start of a rebuild.

To Do That They Have To:  Upgrade the pitching if the goal is anything other than a rebuild.  Their offense was good, coming in 6th in OPS at .757 and 7th in runs at 771.  They don't have a ton of power, C Carlos Polanco is the  returning home run leader with just 18, as they lost their top 2 home run hitters in FA.  They do however, have good team speed.  1B Corey Drew, SS Alex Duran and 2B Emmanuel Lee can all run, and several other guys such as their FA SS Ozuna are capable of 20+ steals given the playing time.  Their pitching is led by holdovers Christian NakamuraVin GonzalezJames Huang and Padden.  Felipe Gonzalez and Vin Gonzalez led the bullpen last year, but Vin would be of more value starting.  (Strange fact: Boise has 3 pitchers named 'Gonzalez')  Defensively, this was an above average team in all aspects. 

This Team Is Built On:  To be brutally honest, this team is best described as being built to be competitive while they start working on the future of baseball in Boise.

Player to Watch:  Drew is a good bet to bounce back from his big drop in home runs last year, but the most interesting player is Lefty Hubbard, a DH who would make an interesting leadoff hitter

Free Agent Signings
SS Josias Ozuna, SP Lawrence Padden, SP Albert Johnson, SP Albert Gonzalez, SP Vin Castilla

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