Sunday, June 5, 2016

NL South Season 31 Preview

San Juan Padres
Season 30: 82-80, won Division, lost in first round to Jacksonville

Season 30 In A Nutshell:   Led by LF Aaron Rodney (.314/30/78, 30 SB) and rookie sensation Branden Clarkson (.292/39/137), won their 3rd straight NL South crown.

Who's Out?
FA:  CF Robert Brown (not sure how he got away with those ratings in CF, but he did), 2B Raul Armas,  RP Al Carreras, SP Alejandro Sosa
Released:  RP Hector Aquino

Who's In?
FA:  CF Madison Clayton
Promoted:  SP Daniel Howard (Sea 28 #12), RP Edgar Jiminez (Sea 26 IFA)
Season 31 Preview
The Pads go for contact on offense - 3rd-best BA and 3rd-lowest strikeouts.  They're not a big power-hitting team although the aforementioned Rodney and Clarkson can deliver the longball.  They're very solid defensively, especially on the left side of the infield with Clarkson at 3B and Gold-Glover Orlando Mendoza at SS.  

The starting rotation isn't spectacular, but gets the job done...rookie Nolan Rodgers has the potential to add a little more pizzaz.  San Juan got about 170 innings of excellent relief work from the departed Sosa and Carreras, and will have to find those quality innings somewhere.  Maybe Tapies?  Maybe Cummings?  Maybe they don't get those innings again.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"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 30:  69-93

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  Accumulated more talent, watched all those lefty pitching prospects develop, and enjoyed Trace Clark's ROY season.

Who's Out?
nobody important 

Who's In?
inexpensive filler

Season 31 Preview
Another year of bringing the talent along, but next year should start to get interesting.  By then we should see a starting rotation of Juan Martinez, Willie Tepera, Cy Knepper, Willie Matos, and Torey Izquierdo.  Clark, Danys Guerrero and P.T. Feliz will be 25, 26, and 31, respectively.  And they'll probably be able to spend $70MM in free agency if they want to.

I think we'll get a preview this year, with that core group mostly in the majors.  Don't be surprised if they compete this year (and watch for a P.T. Feliz resurgence in his new uber hitter-friendly home park).

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"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 andRichie 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

Trace Clark (Sea 27 #31), 2B Carlton Nieve (Sea 26 #57), CF R.J. Javier (Sea 23 IFA), SPWillie Tepera (Sea 26 #6)

Charlotte Steam
Season 30: 81-81

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  Faded early and traded Kelvim Hasegawa, Lastings Wood and Yovani Crespo to Huntington for Zoltan Keppinger, Rich Kohn and MiL Julian Amaro.

Who's Out?
FA:  1B Tony Jones + 11 others, most of whom didn't sign with anyone
Released:  3B Omer Aviles
Traded:  1B Reynaldo Jose

Who's In?
FA:  9 signees, with P's Ramiro Lira and Jim Hinchliffe carrying the biggest price tags
Trade: RP Richie Carr
Promoted:  3B Enos Garcia (Sea 29 #7)

Season 31 Preview
It's a whole new look for the Steam this year in the aftermath of dealing Hasegawa.  The payoff of that trade - Keppinger and Kohn - are the new starters at SS and C.  The team promoted Season 29's #1, Enos Garcia, a year or 2 early to fill the 3B hole...he may struggle for awhile (both on offense and defense) but will provide some power at minimum cost until he sorts it out.  At the center of the offense, of course, is 1B Yean Carlos Gonzalez, he of last year's MVP and 105 homers in his first 2 seasons.  This should be a pretty prolific offense.

Pitching is the question.  Ramiro Lira (4 different teams since the beginning of Season 30) should steady things at the top of the rotation (with George Camilli), but the rest of the staff is a crap shoot...could be bad, could be good, probably will be some of both.

In a winnable division, Gonzalez & Co could score enough runs for Charlotte to take it.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"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 Camiliand 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

Texas Choades
Season 30:  69-93

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  This franchise won 88+ games 6 of 7 times from Seasons 21 to 27, then entered the (almost) inevitable decline phase following a long run.  They're still in it, having fully committed neither to rebuilding nor winning.

Who's Out?
FA:  SS Nathan Sierra, plus a bunch of older players, most of whom are headed for retirement
Who's In?
FA:  SP Al Servet
Promoted:  3B Andre Matthews (Sea 27 2nd round), SP Paul Masato (SEA 28 IFA)
Trade:  2B/CF Tarrik Stockton
Season 31 Preview
Texas gets credit for trying to institute a youth movement, with 9 players 25 or under on the Big League roster.  The problem is none of them are particularly good (I don't know...maybe Paul Masato surprises, but his control and sub-50 pitches will catch up to him sooner or later).  

Bob Tucker (362 HR's, and 117 in last 2 seasons) remains one of Hobbs' premier sluggers, but the Choades aren't getting close to winning an easy division even when he hits 60 bombs.  I'd love to see them trade Tucker for a couple of prime young MLers (like Charlotte did for Hasegawa) or prospects, and get what they can for Shigetoshi and other vets as well.

Meanwhile, this will be another long season.  Enjoy those long bombs from Tucker...he'll hit enough of them to get them 60-something wins again (and surpass 400 for his career).

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"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

Division Outlook
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.

Louisville        89-63
San Juan        85-67
Santa Fe         80-82
Texas              75-87

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