Friday, November 25, 2016

Season 33 NL East Preview

Jacksonville Men of a Certain Age
Season 32: 77-85

Season 32 In A Nutshell

After finally winning it all in Season 31, J'Ville started tearing down its old and expensive, but still talented roster.  Albert McDowell (36 HR, 88 RBI) and Vinny Catalanotto (33 HR, 102 RBI) were very good, as were old hands Rick Branson (3.59 ERA) and Orlando Fernandez (8 wins, 18 saves).  Plus, they got a second consecutive unexpected boost from T.J. Maybin (14-10, 3.55 in 207 IP) as they stayed competitive in year 1 of the demolition.

Season 33 Preview

Year 2 of demolition.  They got a couple of good prospects for McDowell and Branson in the off-season, and said good bye to Jair Gonzalez.  Otherwise, it's one more roundup for 10 players aged 35 or more.  They do have the beginnings of a youth movement starting with 1B Yoervis Barrios (32 HR, 84 RBI as a rookie), 3B Tex Cromer (pick #32 in the Season 28 draft) and RP Tomas Adames (rough intro to the Bigs with a 5.00 ERA in 63 innings.  But the bulk of production will come from Catalanotto, Guzman, Hardy, Diaz, Fernandez, etc.

In this division this year, I'm tempted to say anyone could win it...anything can happen if you make the playoffs, right? But I think the odds of this roster making a deep playoff run are so astronomical that they should stick to their guns, land another prospect or 2, and start putting it back together next year.

Dover Rabid Dogs
Season 32:  78-84

Season 32 In A Nutshell
The pitching improved dramatically (kind of an across-the-board improvement that more than made up for an off year from Louis Wilson).  But despite a typical Woody Reagan effort (.314/34/111), Cela and Hasegawa slumped and the offense never got going (680 runs).

Season 33 Preview
Santos Eovaldi has taken his considerable skills to the AL. One would think it would be the beginning of a teardown/rebuild cycle for the Dogs, but GM kdfan35 has never been predictable, and in a strange year for the East, the winner may be the team that just decides to go win 80.

Dover has the best base talent in the division.  They still have one of the best OF's in the game - Woody Reagan, still in his prime at 29.  Cela at 30 and Hasegawa at 32 still have All-Star seasons in them.  3.47, 3.01, 3.03, 3.21, 3.69 - those are the best ERA's in the last 4 seasons of each of their likely starting pitchers (Xaio, Wilson, MacFarlane, Gaudin, Cedeno).  A 6th candidate, 3rd-year man Aurelio Borbon, cold easily post a 3.50 ERA in 200 innings (the mystery of why he hasn't yet has been part of their undoing the last 2 years).  The talented bullpen - Palacios 3.11 ERA, Duncan 3.73 ERA, Johnson 4.36 ERA but 2.98 the year before - would greatly benefit form the emergence of another disappointing young hurler, Alfredo Osoria.  Osoria notched 35 saves last year despite getting shelled - 6.12 ERA, 16 losses and 13 blown saves.  If there's a leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year in the NL, he's it.

I look at this team as completely different from J'Ville...if they could get into the playoffs, they could get hot and make a good run (sure there are a lot of "if's" involved, but it's plausible).  Watch Dover's start.  If they come out of the gate strong, look for kdfan to make moves to bolster the offense. The NL East might be the easiest route to the playoffs in all of Hobbs this year.

Trenton Thrashers
Season 32:  65-97

Season 32 In A Nutshell
Trenton (as the Boston Basilisks) gamely tried to win with a pitching-and-defense approach, but 655 runs is just not enough to get wins.  The best OPS they got out of any player with over 400 AB's was rookie Delin Samuel's .774. Sensing defeat, they traded ace Joe Johnson and OF Alex Diaz mid-season for prospects.

Season 33 Preview  
The team brought in turnaround specialist wrecks to try to right the ship.  In their first big move they (like so many before them) gave up on Harry Johnson and sent him to Charlotte for a pair of decent pitching prospects.

The lineup will feature all-youth-all-the-time for awhile. They'll see if Esmil Despaigne's .779 OPS (374 AB's) last year was the real deal.  It looks like they'll turn over CF to Bernard Christiansen, their light-hit, good-glove #1 from the Season 28 draft.  They'll expect Samuel to improve on his pretty-good rookie year.  And they have 3 OF/1B types knocking on the door in AAA:  Glen Brisker (Season 30's #29 overall), Dwight Hee (Season 29's #20), and Kory Atkins (Season 30's #13).  It's a work in progress, but the Thrashers should field a more competitive offense this year.

The pitching crystal ball is murkier, to say the least.  They have 2 Grade A lefties, Don Bagley and Ramiro Lira, at the top of the rotation.  Both are imminently tradable, and you have to think both will be elsewhere by the trade deadline. The rest of the staff literally has yet to take shape; GM wrecks seems to be content to build a staff from the detritus of the free agent bargain bin.

It won't be a big win year in Trenton, but you'll see a turnaround get started.

Syracuse Lake Monsters  

Season 32:  91-71, Won Division, lost in Round 2 to San Francisco

Season 32 In A Nutshell
As Dover and Jacksonville started rebuilds and Trenton (as Boston) gave up on its pitching/defense plan, Syracuse jumped up and won the Division.  They cobbled together a pretty good offense (768 runs - 7th in NL) behind guys like OF John Harper (.324/21/62), OF Angel Cruz (.296/25/85), C Alejandro Molina (.281/21/91) and OF Rick Black (.270/29/88).  The pitching, of course, was better than "pretty good" with Lawrence Hannity winning the Cy Young (20-4, 3.11), Bucky Champion doing his usual in late relief (34 saves, 3.11), and Derrick Dawkins firing aspirins when he wasn't hurt (9-3.1.84 in 112 IP).

Season 33 Preview
After suffering epic free agent losses (Hannity, Champion, Harper, Cruz and many others), the Lake Monsters decided to regroup this year.  They got a nice return for Dawkins from Austin (switch-hitting power prospect Doug Duncan and last year's #9 pick Lawrence Morey) and added 3B Chi-Chi Figueroa in a deal with Montreal.  They also made a nice trade with Burlington, bringing in CF Storm Mays to hold down CF for a season or 2.

After all the FA losses, the Lake Monsters will trot out a surprisingly competent lineup.  Assuming they promote Duncan at Game 20 (and there's no reason not to...he's in his 5th pro season now, so he's not going to improve more than a point or 2 here and there), they'll have pretty good pop with him at 1B, Molina catching, and Black and Kenny Wolf at the COF's.  The other positions will feature excellent defense with adequate hitting.  These position players will hit reasonably well while backing up the pitchers superbly.

And the pitchers will need it.  Face it, that pitching staff is going to be rough.  To build this staff, colton_72 added some budget FA signings to the back end of last year's staff plus holdover star Charley Crudale, and wisely kept adding until he got to 13.

It's not impossible that this team could see a few pitchers get hot and start well.  In that case, who knows?  I think it's more likely the pitchers get shelled and the lineup is good enough to keep them respectable...and they pick up another prospect for Crudale.  That wouldn't be a terrible outcome given the starting point.

Division Outlook

A lot of interesting things happening, but they just don't add up to a lot of wins this year.  All 4 teams seem pretty committed to rebuilding this year; barring some big moves, Dover probably wins this division by default.  

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