Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Season 31 NL West Preview

Scottsdale Cardinals
Season 30: 83-79

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  Pitching improved, but the offense fell flat and the finished 5 back for the 2nd Wild-Card

Who's Out?

Who's In?
FA:  P Al Carreras

Season 31 Preview
No player symbolizes the Cards more than slugging 1B Bubba Gibson.  When he's hot, like in Season 30 (50 HR's, .332 OBP), they go to the playoffs.  When he's not-so-hot, like last year (32 Hr's, .296 OBP), they don't.  With no new additions to the lineup, they'll be banking on comebacks from Gibson, Carlos Polonia (who "only" OPS'd .930 but it was the worst of his ML seasons so far) and Armando Encarnacion (huge disappointment as a rookie).

Calvin Ratliff finally seems ready to join Corban Chiasson to form a reliable tandem at the top of the rotation.  Ratliff will probably always be homer-prone, but if he can work around the bombs to the tune of a 3.09 ERA (like last year), Scottsdale fans will be happy. Montgomery, Lind and Valdes are the 3,4,5 SP's...all capable of both good years and extreme conflagrations.  Ivan Beltre is capable of starting but has been their best reliever the last 2-3 years.  Marcos Presley is a key figure this year.  If he can step up to his potential, he could give the Cardinals 150+ relief innings and keep the less-talented bullpen staff in the bullpen.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"Breakthrough" Means:  They've taken the West 3 straight years with 86 wins, and gone out of the playoffs in Round 1 each year.  Their breakthrough is cracking 90 wins and advancing at least to the NLCS.

To Do That They Have To:  Spruce up that pitching staff and its 4.48 ERA (12th).  With their offense (a healthy 854 runs - 3rd), they don't have to trot out Koufax & Drysdale...a moderate improvement would go a long way.  Some could certainly come from Calvin Ratliffe (Sea 25 #11), who looks like the real deal but so far has been a huge disappointment (0-11, 6.31 last year...yikes!).  Rookies Marcos Pressley (Sea 27 #12) and Louis Grim (Sea 24 #41) might offer help.

This Team Is Built On:  Chicks dig the long ball, baby.  The Cards led Hobbs in HR's last year with 272.  50 from "Mr. Breeze" Bubba Gibson (yes, he really had 176K's last year and 208 in Season 27).  41 (and a team-leading 134 RBI) from 2B Rodney Stinnett.  39 from old pro Moises Morales. 39 from young phenom CF Carlos Polonia, who combines rare power for an IF/CF type with perhaps the best batting eye in Hobbs.  He's a little short on durability, but that doesn't matter if, as Parcels used to say, "you get to the toonament". 

And rookies Armando Encarnacion (Sea 26 #17) and Lou Trammel (Sea 28 #22) will only add to the power fiesta.  The Cardinals have decided to go for their breakthrough by outscoring opponents by even bigger margins.  Might work, might not, but it's gonna be fun.

Player to Watch:  3B Dwight Herzog - he's coming off a broken leg that cost him nearly 30 games.  He's been an All-Star and Silver Slugger (CF) in each of his last 3 seasons.  With his apparent move to 3B...and the Gold Gloves that will accompany for Herzog to be a fixture on the MVP ballot for the next 7 years.

Free Agent Signings
Rob Counsell

RP Marcos Pressley, RP Louis GrimLF Armando Encarnacion

Salt Lake City Trappers
Season 29:  73-89

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  Rebuild from the start, and hit the MWR right on the nose.  Added Gabby Beckett in the draft.

Who's Out?
FA: OF Eduardo Ruiz, SP Kenshin Masao, SP Nolan Duffy, SP Bonk Maroth
Released: OF Roy Brown, P Andrew Wooten, P Wally Stanton, SP Allan Ray, P Albert Ortiz, P Theo McDonald, P Steven Treanor, OF Esteban Romano, CF Todd Winchester, P Ed Evans

Who's In?
FA:  RP Damaso Sojo, SS Bob Fogg, OF Miguel Franco, P Ivan Belisario, P Jay Denham, OF Quinton Schneider, P Alexei Gardel, P Del Guapo, SS Bernie Guerrero, P Einar Mercedes, C Juan Peguero
RuleV:  P David Petit, P Polin Araujo
Promoted:  SP Zac MacLaughlin (Sea 27 #13), P Eduardo Johnson (Sea 27 IFA), P Alberto Henriquez (Sea 24 IFA)

Season 31 Preview
Certainly rebuilding again, but there are some young difference-makers showing up.  1B Trenidad Cruz will be one of the NL's top hitters for the next 10 years.  MacLaughin and Araujo at the top of the rotation should be an improvement from last year.  There's some good holdover talent with LF B.J. Dunwoody and 3B Hamish Durbin.  Sea28 #7 pick Jecksson Bailey could help in the on-base department, but may get another minors year to work on his glove.

Doesn't look like they're ready to compete yet, but they should be improved over last year's MWR squeaker.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"Breakthrough" Means:  After 5 straight seasons of competitive but uninspired 70-something win seasons, a breakthrough would be .500+.

To Do That They Have To:  Do some serious work on their league-worst pitching staff (5.62 ERA...last in NL by far).  While their best pitchers are pretty good (DuffyMarothPiscotty) or at least can have the occasional good season (Treanor), the rest are, well, sub-ML quality.  For example, anyone see any problems with this guy?

This Team Is Built On:  1) 2 young hitters: 3B B.J. Dunwoody, who has swatted 68 bombs in his first 2 seasons; and serious power prospect Trenidad Cruz, who only hit .321/59/165 in AA and AAA last year (and also has a very cool name).  For the moment, Cruz is waiting out the last year of 1B Hector Cortez' contract.

2)  Speed: they will steal a base on you...224 last year to be exact.  The primary thieves are CF Todd Winchester (46) and 2B Angel Cruz (43)

Player to Watch:  Cortez.  He's only 29 and a top hitter (.408 OBP, 38 HR, 134 RBI), but a free agent after this season.  If he's willing to re-sign they could trade him for a good P, promote T Cruz and better the team immensely.   If he's not willing to re-sign...well, not as exciting.  You get something for him as a half-season rental, or he plays out his contract and you take your chances on a Type A comp pick (and probably end up with a 3rd-rounder).

Salem Witch Hunters
Season 30:  97-65, won Division, reached NLCS and lost to Dover

Season 30 In A Nutshell:   28-win improvement and a trip to the NLCS in tk21775's first season.  .316/42/102 from Ike Allen, 53 HR's from Jamie Brewington, and a 12-3, 2.33 ERA rookie season from Jean Carlos Posada powered the surge.

Who's Out?
FA:  P Trevor Bauley, P Fausto Fernandez, SP Ramiro Lira, P Jerry Wilhelmsen, P Shooter Ward
Released:  OF Estaban Costilla, P Ryan Durham

Who's In?
FA:  P Pete Roundtree, OF Al Ethier, SS Oswaldo DaSilva, RP Clinton Hermanson, RP Vern Stone

Season 31 Preview
It's a long-ball offense with 4 of the top power threats in the NL (1B Matos, 2B Brewington, 3B Cooper and LF Allen); they salt that main dish with a healthy serving of OBP (.334 - 6th last year) and speed (176 SB's - 4th).  Their pitching, led by youngsters Posada and Davey Rogers (13-3, 2.36), and Geoffrey Carter (13-7, 3.54), finished in a dead-heat for the top ERA last year.  It would've been nice to keep Ramiro Lira, but they should be fine with Derrick Finley and Happy Blue in the 4 and 5 starter spots.    The bullpen is a potential trouble relievers Hermansen and Stone might offer some improvement, but odds are the 'pen will give up a few late-inning losses.

Should be another Division Crown for the Salem faithful.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"Breakthrough" Means:  Back in the Glory Days - Seasons 15 and 16 - this franchise won back-to-back World Series titles (under 2 separate GM's).  It's been a rough stretch since but hope is back with a new town and a new GM. tk21775 opened the wallet to bring in new talent...their breakthrough is certainly winning the division.

To Do That They Have To:  Improve where they could, and they did on defense, offense and pitching.  They replaced the comical SS Juan Belliard (77 errors and bad plays) with a pair of competent defenders (Perez and Tejera).  That knocks out a chunk of last year's 83 unearned runs given up.  They added big lumber with Brewington and Person.  And they promoted a couple of promising SP's in Posada and Finley (Finley actually got 21 IP last year but is still a rookie).

This Team Is Built On:  1) Killer righty hitting - in addition to Brewington and Person, the attack features LF Ike Allen (.283/33/119), 1B Miguel Matos (.272/39/101), C Saul Pinzon (.267/26/73) and CF Arthur Bryant (.241/17/72).  3B Tito Cooper (.238/28/88) is the only lefty among the everyday position players.

2) A volume approach to the 4th and 5th starter roles.  PosadaFinley and Happy Blue are probably the 1-3 starters.  Rather than fill out the rest of the staff with 2 starters, a LR or 2 and 4-5 short relievers, tk21775 just went with 8 more SP's (and 1 SR - Ryan Durham). So they're figuring out of 8 guys they're sure to get a couple of hot seasons, and those 2 will complete the rotation.

Player to Watch:  
Posada.  He's not going to be able to give them 220 innings, but he has ace-quality stuff.  If he can go out every 5th game and hold the other guys to 2 runs over 6 innings, they'll have the stabilizing force they've long needed.  **  ROY watch **

Trades traded MiL 1B Nicholas Wilkins for ML SS Bartolo Perez
traded ML 1B Magglio Flores for MiL IF/CF Donald Moore

Free Agent Signings
2B Gary Person, CF/2B Jamey Brewington, SP Jerry Wilhelmsen, SS Pedro Tejera, SP Hugh Roosevelt, SP Trevor Bailey, RP Fausto Fernandez, SP Shooter Ward, SP Bobby Kennedy

SP Yean Carlos Posada (Sea 26 #3), Derrek Finley (Sea 27 #9)

San Francisco Fog
Season 30:  88-74, Wild Card, advanced to Round 2 and lost to Salem

Season 30 In A Nutshell:  26-win improvement and a Wild Card.  Harvey Tracy OPS'd .923 as a rookie, and that SS thing?  They went from 55 errors and bad plays at SS to 9.

Who's Out?
FA:  SP Laynce Nash, IF Tony Cortez, 2B Jordan Faulk, RP Curt Backe

Who's In?
FA:  2B Chris Cromer,  SS Walt Beaulac, RP Marc Homes, SP Nolan Duffy
Promoted:  2B Howie Paronto (Sea 27 #51), 

Season 31 Preview
San Fran was probably the biggest surprise playoff team last year, with new GM pfontaine plotting a(n) (admirable) "win while rebuilding" strategy.  1B Harvey Tracy certainly helps with both winning ad rebuilding - pencil him in for 162 games and 200 hits.  But it was really their pitching that propelled them into the playoffs, and they rolled the dice big-time (5 years, $74MM) that Nolan Duffy will be better in SF than he was in Salt Lake (where he was pretty good but not $74MM-good).  The core of last year's good-performing staff returns (largely SP's Dickie Wingo (13-9, 3.49) and Chili Baker (14-8, 3.03).

I think they're going to have to score more to make a run at Salem, and I don't see that happening with the Opening Day lineup.  But their pitching could certainly keep them in teh race and produce another Wild Card.

Last Year's Preview:______________________________________________________________
"Breakthrough" Means:  I think the basic idea here is "compete while rebuilding".

To Do That They Have To:  Fix shortstop: check.  They looked around and found Ismael Mendez in their own system...he'll stop the 55-errors-and-bad-plays neck wound.  Round up some hitters: in progress.  Rookie 1B Harvey Tracy will be an instant ROY contender, and new COF's Kohn and Purcell will be upgrades.  Totally overhaul the pitching staff: in progress.  They made a big investment in 
Chili Baker , spent almost all their FA $$ on pitching, and made a nice trade for Mariano Mendez.

This Team Is Built On:  With as much turnover as they've had, there's just no theme or personality yet.  The one thing you know for sure is they're going to get a lot of production from 1B for the next decade.

Player to Watch:  
Harvey Tracy.  He's not the biggest power hitter among 1B's, but he's going to light up the batting average and OBP leaderboards.  He won't need to take many days off, so I could see 200 hits and .400+ OBP every year.

Trades traded MiL IF Vic Meulens for ML OF Wolf Purcell and MiL RP Aurelio Fernandez
traded MiL IF Cecil White for ML SP Mariano Mendez

Free Agent Signings
SP Laynce Nash, SP Randy Krause, SP Cole Broome, SP Chili Baker, 3B Esteban Nieves, RP Curt Backe

3B Mike Monroe (Sea 25 #26), 1B Harvey Tracy (Sea 25 #2), SS Ismael Mendez (Sea 21 IFA, Sea 25 RuleV), CF Ronnie Wickman (Sea 25 #35), CF Matt Beck (Sea 26 #44), OF Keith Kohn (Sea 26 #27)

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