Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Season 34 AL West Preview

AL West Previews:

Las Vegas DesperaDOS
Season 33:  91-71, won Division, lost in first round to Durham

Season 33 In A Nutshell
After taking over one of Hobbs most successful franchises, the_wacker actually managed to not only continue the playoff string to 16 straight seasons, he actually won 3 more games than the previous year.  Now the big question: can he do it again with the talented but aging group?

Big Offseason Moves
The DesperaDOS lost a lot of players to age and cost, including fan favorites Al Pujols LF, Fred O'Malley DH and Lew Ellis SP.  Also gone are Juan Martinez C, Willie Butler SP, Don Barfield CF, Michael Kiesler SS and Mariano Delgado RP.  The pitching will be easily replaced by FA signees Nelson Jordan(14-10 4.05), Corey Booker (7-8 5.18) and Steve Davis (12-10 4.04), while P.T. Feliz is an upgrade over Pujols.  Some of the others roster slots may no be so easily filled.

Season 34 Outlook
Offensively, any team would be happy to start building around perennial MVP Jin-Chi Itou (67/155/.345)and Jumbo Sanchez. (27/86/.317) They are ably supported by Dayan Franco (25/79/.262), Cristobal Morales (22/97/.317), Robinzon Beltran (20/56/.306), Jed Davis (22/69/.327) and the aforementioned Feliz (25/86/.271).  Feliz has to wondering why he is being punished by now watching Itou play every day after losing out on so many Silver Sluggers and All Star appearances to him.  Maybe he will get lucky and it will turn out that nightly visits to the Mustang Ranch will elevate his game too.

Shortstop will be handled by Steve Rivera and Gerald Pryce.  Both fine defenders, but weak bats.  Pedro James will be adequate defensively in CF, but not good enough to cover his weak bat.  Still, he can steal a base and his price is right.  The bench is thin, and Davis could really use a solid backup at C.

Booker, Jordan and Davis, along with holdovers Dillon Mays (14-6 4.21) and Duffy Miller (5-6 5.22)make for a very solid rotation, but the pen is full of question marks.  Felipe Gonzalez (16-9 3.41) is the best of the bunch, but may also end up in the rotation if Miller isn't ready.  Diego Gonzalez has pretty good stuff, but it hasn't translated into good performances three of the last four seasons.  None of the rest are even going to make a good staff.  However, when you invest this heavily in star power, something has to give.

Prognosis: One more time in the playoffs and a probably a division title again.  A deep run would be a surprise.

Trades I would like to see: if there is anything of value in the minors, at least one more RP.  Mostly, I would probably be combing the WW and FA lists for pitching and depth at catcher and the rest of the bench.

Cheyenne Huckleberries

Season 33:  70-92

Season 33 In A Nutshell
An eight game improvement is never a bad thing, but I suspect that nicbase was looking for more after retooling his team and bringing in some nice talent.  Given another season together and an influx of some more young talent, I bet this year come closer to what he was expecting.

Big Offseason Moves
Pretty much all small off season moves this year.  Moving on were SS Sherman Dixon whose defense was slipping, pitchers Enny James, Carlos Guerrero, Ezdra Olivares and Pete Roundtree all of who were replacement level players plus Jason Torre who was a useful spare part in RF.  The only additions were RP Juan Veras (9-2 4.69) and defensive C Mariano Silva, who also is valuable against righties to the tune of 4/37/.298.

Season 34 Outlook
The starting pitching is lead by Ramiro Lira (14-6 3.95), Sam Bellinger (11-14 4.44), Jorge Martis (10-12 4.44) and Shawn McIntyre (11-9 4.23) with Lariel Vega (2-3 6.45) the mot likely fifth starter.  Solid, but not a group that is likely to get them to the playoffs without a lot of help.

Luckily, the bullpen has more reasons to be excited.  Sean Kennedy (4-4 0 2.62) and Ehire Quintana (4-4 36 3.25) form the back of the pen, but would probably be more help if neither was designated the closer, allowing them to accumulate more innings.  They are supported by Veras, Pete Allen (0-1 0 4.12), Giomar Aceves (3-4 0 3.48).

Offensively, long time star Nicky Cooke (24/84/.270 0) has some pretty decent support now.  2B Tarrik Stockton hopes to bounce back from serious injury to improve upon his performance last season (8/20/.303).  DH Ernest Palmer (35/99/.265) and 3B Javier Alarcon (30/90/.282) are the other big bats While LF Sam Wright (11/50/.259) shows promise and RF Jedd Giambi looks to bounce back from a subpar season 33 (6/53/.274) to be one of the better led off hitters in Hobbs.  At SS, Buster Munoz (3/24/.254 is the best bet defensively, but will be pushed by 2 rookies, Destin Harang (3/22/.280 in a cup of coffee, and Wayne Langerhans (47/115/.293 in AAA).  Both have fine bats but will be challenged with the glove.  One of these players will possibly be slated to play CF as there are no clear candidates, but all will be challenged by inferior range.  Newcomer Silva will get a lot of the time at C, but will likely split time with KIki Petit (15/46/.221) and Omar Hernandez (14/47/.289).  All 3 are good with the glove and offer some help with the bat.

Prognosis: Look for improvement in Cheyenne, but no big step forward....80-85 wins seems about right.

Trades I would like to see:  Anything that will bring them a legitimate CF.

Vancouver Ravens

Season 33:  78-84

Season 33 In A Nutshell
Yet another AL West team that made a minor improvement (5 games in the win column)and is hoping for a little better this year, while still controlling payroll to keep building.

Big Offseason Moves
Like nicbase in Cheyenne, editor21 is using a minimalist approach to rebuilding.  His only losses were RP Rob Phelps, who had disappointed for 3 straight seasons despite good stuff and 3B Willie Martin, who was also in decline and easily replaced by low cost FA Jim Salazar (20/82/.292).  The other pickup of note was LF Ernest Stynes (9/33/.251)

Season 34 Outlook
The Ravens are betting on some of their home grown players to blossom into stars this year.  LF Greg Ward (33/84/.271) is already a star, he just needs to make the step up to superstar.  He has the skills to do it all: a 45 homer, 120 RBI, .290 average with 100 walks and runs scored and 50 steals while winning a Gold Glove is certainly a possibility.  Vic Guerreri (30/103/.287) is a young bookend in right.  While I his ceiling is not quite as high, he can still be an All-Star.  C Ken Jay 39/105/.302) is a hitting machine, but with questionable arm and pitch calling skills.

The supporting cast includes CF Denny Miller (26/94/.257), 3B Salazar, bounce back candidate 2B Rodney Stinnett (17/57/.222) and defensive wiz SS Stew Rogers (a surprising 12/62/.260). What is missing are a bashing 1B and DH.  Newcomer Stynes may fill part of that need, and Yamil Cairo at AAA has promise, but jumped all the way from Low A and is only 21, so another year in the minors would do him some good. Another good minor league player, SS Jim Pressley is ready, but would be a better fit at second or third.

Pitching is this team's Achilles Heel.  Felipe Lee is the erstwhile ace, but had to endure being sent to the pen last year as he struggled through a 5-10 4.92 season.  Lariel Vasquez (14-10 4.11) was probably their next best starter, while Chone Rivera (8-11 4.65) is another youngster who should improve.  Mark Cloud (2-1 7 4.41) should probably get a look for the rotation and Kevin Hong (9-14 5.92) is better than his record.  Miguel Cedeno (7-11 4.26) may beat out Cloud again for fifth starter duty.

The bullpen is an question mark.  To be kind.  Steve Young (9-3 3 5.86), Tom Perez (6-2 4 4.56), Ramon Lim (3-0 2 4.09), Edgar Gonzalez (2-2 3 4.71), Yoslan Beltre (1-4 6 4.86) and Andrew Merrick (8-11 4.98 are not a good group.  Some of them are still young and could improve, but still not good.  The best news is that there is help down on the farm.  Marcell Calixte is ready and should be better than any of the current ML players and there are others who should be as good for less money for next year.

Prognosis: With a little more money spent on the pitching, this team could have contended with the declining Las Vegas, but I sense that editor sees his opening being another season away and just being in the mix for second as good enough.

Trades I would like to see: Moving a AAAA SP for a defensive C would make a lot of sense. Also signing one, of the FA leftovers for 1B and DH would make a ton of sense.  Finding a good defensive catcher and letting Jay spend a lot of time at DH would be a big boost to help out the pitching.

San Diego Surf Sharks

Season 33:  69-93

Season 33 In A Nutshell
A second straight 69 win season last year with reason to think that more may be possible.

Big Offseason Moves
A lot of FA defections: SP Luther Roosevelt (12-15 4.19), RP Shelley Hull (2-0 1 3.18), RP Laynce Jay (5-8 1 3.65), SS Carlos Ozuna (10/41/.237), 1B Dick Roth (0/34/.281) and DH Alfred Ozuna (42/112/.287).  FA additions were RF Conor Webber (10/30/.269), RP Victor Estrada (10-5 9 4.66) and the big investment was SP Cristian Remlinger (12-10 5.31).

Season 34 Outlook
Starting with the pitching, Remlinger is a bit of a question mark.  Although talented, he can't throw enough innings to justify his price tag, but the move to Petco should be just what the doctor ordered to get his numbers to match his potential.  He joins Bernie Gonzalez (12-12 3.88), Eli Izquierdo (11-19 4.71), Rex Lincoln (13-10 5.22) and Jhonatan Marquez (6-16 5.56) in the rotation.  

The Pen adds Estrada to Emil Ontiveros (3-6 1 4.51), Chris Reagan (3-0 28 0.47 in a 'pitched out of his mind' season), Sal Creek (3-2 0 4.91) and Ed Bowles (2-3 1 4.74) in front of excellent closer Wil Gray (0-1 36 2.33).  There are some good pieces here, but the problem is that the better pitchers struggle to amass many innings.

RF Alex Diaz (33/94/.264) is the star hitter.  Rookie Thumper 'The Bunny' Tucker is slated to play 1B. Moe Morgan (29/77/.266) is the primary catcher who is definitely offense oriented.  CF Hanley Chase (21/84/.261) is a great defender and no slouch with the bat.  Weber should fit neatly into LF, and from there the hitting comes to an abrupt halt.  2B Russ Dye (2/34/.238), 3B D. J. Curtis (13/54/.244) add very little production, while rookies SS Edgar Oliva and DH/1B Beamer Matzek look like below average hitters for their positions.

All is not bleak in perfect weather land however.  The farm has some promise for near-term help.  Former #3 overall pick SP Mark Pettitte should get the call at some point this season and become an instant ace.  Former #8 overall 1B/COF Dillon Mateo is likewise ready, and while not a power hitter, is a great contact hitter.  (I'm thinking a Tony Gwynn clone with a little more power.)  

Prognosis: With Pettitte and Mateo waiting in the wings, SD goes from a distant fourth in this division to another team fighting for second.  There are other AAA players who may prove to be upgrades as well, but none of them are sure bets.

Trades I would like to see: Yet another team that would benefit from a defense oriented catcher to let Morgan DH part time.  Trading a prospect for an upgrade at 2B, 3B or SS would also not hurt, but of course no one likes to trade away their future unless they feel like their time is right now.

Division Prediction
1.Las Vegas.  A major injury to Itou would change everything, but right now he carries them to the top yet again.
2. The other three spots could easily fall in any order as I feel these teams might all end up within 2-3 wins of one another.  Nonetheless, I will take a shot and call Vancouver the number two team based on hitting.
3.Cheyenne gets the nod at number three.
4.San Diego finishes last with the caveat that this is the team I could be most wrong about due to the 2 talented rookies.

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