Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Season 34 NL East Preview

Jacksonville Men of a Certain Age
Season 33: 69-93

Season 33 In A Nutshell

A colorful rebuilding campaign that saw the trades of longtime stars Rick Branson, Yovani Guzman and Diory Diaz.
Big seasons by Vinny Catalanotto (.311/33/80) and 2nd-year first baseman Yoervis Barrios (.261/23/77) kept them competitive.

Biggest Offseason Moves
Dealt Catalanotto to Indy; signed CF Stan Hackman and SP Lew Ellis; re-signed relievers Orlando Fernandez and Benji Ramirez.

Season 34 Preview
More of the same, but probably a dip lower toward the mwr, as the talent is looking pretty thin.  Barrios is solid at first, as is Tex Cromer at 3B, and LF Arthur Wells is a major-league player.  Let's hope Arthur Bryant (RF) can dig deep and find one more ML-caliber season.

Just guessing at the rotation:  Lew Ellis, Russell Montgomery, Alex Martin and...???  On the bright side, looking forward to seeing what Chaz Ross (Season 30 #17 can do.  Wish he had a little more stamina/durability, but he still looks like a lights-out 1-inning stopper.

Prognosis: 4th

Trade I'd Like To See:  I think the trading's done.  Find-and-develop-talent time.

Columbus Ohioans
Season 33: 61-101

Season 33 In A Nutshell
It was just 3 Springs ago (in HBD time) that kdfan, coming off a surprise East title and trip to the WS (losing 4-1 to Las Vegas), went for broke and assembled what looked at the time like a super-team: starters Santos Eovaldi and Louis Wilson, 2B Bartolo Cela, COF's Reagan and Hasegawa, plus what looked to be a strong supporting cast.  Result:  the team scored nearly 200 fewer runs, runs allowed went up, and they belly-flopped their way to 76 wins.  Seasons 32 and 33 were all about undoing the super-team.

Biggest Offseason Moves
Traded Louis Wilson, acquired a load of defense (Enrique Lugo, Bernard Christiansen, Oswaldo Seguignol), made judicious use of the waiver wire (Jerome Hollingsworth, Fritz Sinclair et al.), and signed a slew of bargain-bin free agents (including Laynce Jay and Benito Alvarez).

Season 34 Preview
Well, they're going to play some defense, with Earl Huckaby and Yangervis Vega on the roster in addition to Lugo, Christiansen and Seguignol.  Probably a good way to at least minimize damage to the pitching staff.

There are some pretty good holdover pitchers here, at least for the time being (namely, Derrin Duncan and Jose Palacios).  There are a couple more who have yet to prove themselves (Aurelio Borbon and Alfredo Osoria), and then we get into the bargain-bin free agents (although I liked the guys they signed there...and the prices).  All-in-all, I think the staff will hold its own keep things competitive.

This lineup will have trouble scoring much.  Reagan and Trenidad Butler, and occasionally C Carlos Martinez, are about it for run production.

Prognosis:  3rd

Trade I'd Like To See:  Duncan and Palacios for prospects at the deadline.  There are at least a few teams that will wait until the deadline to see where they stand, and then try to add 1 more good reliever for the playoffs.

Trenton Thrashers
Season 33:  63-99

Season 33 In A Nutshell
A rebuilder.  Scored big in the draft with IF Bud Robbins at #5 and RP Kurt Menses at #47, and in the IFA market with OF Yoslan Nunez.

Biggest Offseason Moves
Traded for SP Ernie Gaudin, SP Cy Knepper, SP Emmett Hogan, RP Antonio Brea, and SS Wiki Guerrero.  Made 3 nice budget FA signings with  Louie Iglesias, Jim Rogers, and Vic Correa.

Season 34 Outlook 
3 rebuilding teams in one division, although Trenton may have enough run-scoring potential to post a good win #.  1B Dellin Samuel (.268/31/101) and RF Jose Tavarez (.255/26/80) offer some pretty good pop; Season 30 #13 overall Kory Atkins offers more, assuming they decide to call him up after his 20-day minor-league assignment.

The entire pitching staff - except maybe Ernie Gaudin - is a big question mark.  The other guys they traded for - Knepper, Brea, and Hogan, didn't exactly distinguish them selves with their previous clubs.  Al Lorenzo went 4-16 with a 5.45 ERA as a rookie (and an awe-inspiring, in one sense, .512 Slugging % against).  I'm sure we'll see some good performances from this group...just no way to tell who will provide them.

Prognosis: 2nd.  I think they'll score more runs than either J'ville or Columbus, enough to propel them solidly into 2nd place.

Trade I'd Like To See:  For Trenton, not a trade but a move. Promote that prospect Atkins and let's see what he can do. And while they're at it, promote Brisker too, and give him all the backup AB's at 1B, LF, and RF.

Syracuse Lake Monsters  

Season 33:  78-84, Won Division, advanced to NLCS and lost to Buffalo

Season 33 In A Nutshell
Facing massive FA defections, won 13 fewer games but still took the Division and made an inspiring playoff run all the way to the NLCS.  Rick Black had his best season - .332, 78 extra base-hits, 103 - and Stan Nash won 15.

Biggest Offseason Moves
Re-signed Stan Nash (SP) and signed free agents Jamey Brewington (2B), Rob Phelps (RP) and Hugh Pierre (RF) - all for pretty modest budget #'s (Brewington is the highest-paid at $6.275MM per year).

Season 34 Preview
Adding Brewington and Pierre to a lineup with Black and 1B Doug Duncan (41 HR's, 124 RBI as a rookie) makes this the most potent offense in the division, and will run them up the NL runs scored chart (735 runs last year -right at league average).  They now have solid lumber at just about every spot - even defensive SS deluxe Evan Crosby can handle the bat some (10 HR, .682 OPS), especially against lefties.

Phelps is the only addition to a staff that was right at league-average ERA (4.24).  There are no stars on this staff (well, maybe Charlie Crudale is a semi-star), but it seems to be the kind of group that can produce a few surprisingly productive seasons: last year it was Alejandro Sosa (10-9, 3.23 in 173 IP)...who will it be this year.

More importantly, who will get hot for the playoffs?
Prognosis:  1st

Trade I'd Like To See:  Despite their deep playoff run last year, I think they need more pitching to consistently get that far and beyond.  They have a couple of pretty big prospects in the low minors - Lawrence Morey and Ivan Cedeno.  Let's say D.C. falls out of the AL East race by the deadline:  1 of those guys for Shane Phillips and Louis Wilson?
Division Outlook
1.  Syracuse
2.  Trenton
3.  Columbus
4.  Jacksonville

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