Friday, March 10, 2017

Season 34 NL West Preview

Scottsdale Cardinals
Season 33: 82-80

Season 33 In A Nutshell
Finnski seems to have uncovered the secret to a perennial winner.  Since his first season, he has had winning seasons every year and in the playoffs four of those seven years.  Season 33 was a low water mark, as he finished just a game over .500, but he made some good moves, and has the team to rebound.

Big Offseason Moves
Two major trades were made sending 3B Carlos Polonia (27/80/.327) and LF Tim Young (22/63/.271) to New Orleans for LF Tony Mullen (34/79/.272), 3B Wally Glover 17/47/.292 and Albert Gonzalez (13-4/4/3.65) in one deal.  The other sent RP Emmett Hogan (7-3/5.54) and SS prospect Wiki Guerrero to Trenton for SP Clyde Service (11-5/3.89) and RP prospect Javier Perez.  If Service can duplicate last season's numbers, count those as two good deals for Scottsdale. Polonia was probably the best player in the NO trade, but getting Mullen's power and a very good RP tilts the deal towards the Cardinals.

Season 34 Outlook
Bright indeed.  This is a much better team than what they showed last year.  They have a lot of good players and their best ones are largely in their primes.  CF and possible future HOFer Dwight Herzog (27/62/.299) has won Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers.  He is flanked by Mullen who had a run of four straight 50+ HR seasons snapped by an injury last year, and RF Lou Trammel (60/147/.281) to make arguably the best outfield in Hobbs.  

In the IF, Glover at third joins  Armando Encarnacion (40/108/.299), Carlos Avilan (15/54/.235 as a rookie, with the promise of a lot more power) and rookie SS Vinny Leary who is not an overall great hitter and just adequate as a fielder, but again has big power potential.  Ted Stokes (6/23/.252) is an outstanding defensive catcher who looks to finally get his turn to start.  

Service joins a rotation headed by  Ivan Beltre (10-10/4.27) and Calvin Ratliff (10-8/3.34).  Danry Valdes (14-11/3.78) and Juan Lind (10-10/4.53) round it out.  Gonzalez is going to be a major factor in an already good pen.  He joins Marcos Presley (6-2/2/2.78), Louis Grim (7-2/4.58), Todd Kapler (1-1/4.75) and Howie Iannnone (0-5/40/3.72) as the main contibutors.

While the pitching is good, and Gonzalez and Marcos are better than good, this is clearly a team built on hitting.  And they define hitting as participating in the Home Run Derby! The chicks will most definitely dig this team.

Honolulu Brewed Kona in a Mug
Season 33:  80-82

Season 33 In A Nutshell
After spending his first 2 years loitering around .500 and grooming a nice group of young players, Kona looks to be ready to make a move.  

Big Offseason Moves
There was only one player of note that was acquired,   FA signee Rubby Franco (14-6/3.83) slots in the number two spot in the rotation for some stability.  1B Trenidad Cruz (28/69/.274) will almost feel like a new player as he was injured much of last season.  He should provide a big lift for the middle of the lineup, if he recovers as expected.  

Season 34 Outlook
Cruz will be welcomed back to an above average lineup. CF Gabby Beckett (18/64/.250) is better than those numbers show and is joined in the OF by LF Jeckssen Bailey (17/63/.267) who draws walks better than about anyone else in the league, and BJ Dunwoody (34/107/.261).  Dunwoody suffered a serious forearm injury in ST and will miss most of the season.  He is replaced by rookie Javier Valenzuela, who may struggle early but has a nice bat.  

Another rookie, Tuck Howard looks to have won the starting 2B job, and should be a good hitter, but like Valenzuela jumped all the way from High A ball and may take time to adjust.  SS Hamish Durbin (15/57/.279) has a nice bat but questionable glove.  He might be better served manning 3B and opening up short for Bernie Guerrero, only a 4/20/.178 bat last year, but a much better hitter his first 2 seasons and a fine glove.  Javier Lopez (6/48/.208) is the starting C, mostly due to his glove and pitch calling.

Franco joins a rotation of Zachary McLaughlin (9-12/4.34), Earl Carraway (11-10/4.23), JC Piscotty (8-11/4.21) and Eduardo Johnson (11-14/5.13).  The main guys in the pen are  Polin Araujo (9-4/1/2.04), Del Guapo (5-4/4/4.68), Diego Romo (7-6/40/4.36), Chuck Everidge (1-10/2/3.48) and Alberto Henriquez (7-9/3.89).

While Honolulu is a rapidly improving team and should better last season's record, some of their younger players may not be ready and the pitching looks too mediocre to compete in a surging division.

Salem Witch Hunters
Season 33:  96-66, Won Division, advanced to Division Series and lost to Buffalo

Season 33 In A Nutshell
Another great season for Salem in season 33.  Tk has averaged over 93 wins per season since taking over the franchise and made the playoffs each season.  Will the string continue for season 34?

Big Offseason Moves
Sadly, more talent left than they could afford to replace. The big hit was 2B Jamie Brewington (32/89/.265) who set sail to Syracuse via FA.  Also leaving were pitchers Yank Stein (10-9/6/3.87), Sadie Miller (8-3/3.10) and Alexie Gardel (7-3/12/5.01).  Barry Tobin (1-1/3/7.60) and Talmadge Dillard (0-1/1/4.58 were brought in as replacements for the depleted pitching staff.

Season 34 Outlook
Any analysis of the Witch Hunters has to start with reigning MVP Ike Allen (51/136/.362) in LF.  He is supported by 3B Tito Cooper (29/99/.252), 1B Miguel Matos (35/105/.262) and C Saul Pinzon (33/79/.293).  

To see why Brewington will be missed so much, the best of the rest are 2B Raul Armas (7/33/.275), RF Albert McDowell (25/66/.247) and 2B Carlton Nieve (6/40/.225).  They do have a nice platoon at SS in Donald Moore and Miguel Mejias. Both have a little pop and are plus defenders.  Rookie CF Dolf Grissom has promise both with the bat and the glove.

Unlike the lineup, the pitching rotation is very strong one through five, with Yean Carlos Posada (7-3/1.61), Khalil McKenry (17-12/3.68), Derrek Finley (16-8/3.38), Geofferey Carter (12-10/4.05) and either Davey Rogers (10-6/3.32) or Diory Diaz (8-9/4.10).  I would be pretty tempted to use both Diaz and Rogers in the rotation and try out Posada as a super reliever, but admittedly it will be easier to get more innings out of him as a SP.

The rest of the pen consists of Guy Velarde (2-5/5/3.65), Japhet Buchholz (5-6/7/5.60), Jeanmar Ozuna (6-4/5/4.54), Pasqual Chavez (3-3/7/4.41), Dillard and Tobin.  Other than Velarde, a fairly subpar group.

All in all, a very mixed bag.  A great rotation balance by a weak bullpen.  A very good half of the lineup propping up a suspect bottom half.  I could see them being an 80 win team or a 100 win team, but best guess is a slight dropoff from last season.

San Francisco Fog
Season 33:  80-82

Season 33 In A Nutshell
From a 94 win playoff team to an 80 win also ran.  The Fog's fall was a head scratcher.  There didn't seem to be any one thing that was out of whack, just a little bit down across the board, both hitting and pitching.  Just goes to show what a tiny margin there is between winning and losing.

Big Offseason Moves
Departing were RPs Rio Molina (6-9/33/4.50) and Sean Collins (4-6/5.43) and RF Arthur Bryant (7/36/.258).  The new faces are RP Happy Brock (2-3/4/3.59), LF Kenny Wolf (16/53/.294) and SS Harry Mercado (4/19/.288).  Pfontaine made incremental improvement, but clearly expects a return to form from the holdovers.

Season 34 Outlook
The strength of this team is its rotation.  While they have no clear cut ace, they have quality in all five slots.  Nolan Duffy (9-11/3.68) is probably the most talented and certainly the most expensive, while Chili Baker (14-12/3.68) and Mariano Mendez (11-10/3.34) were the most effective.  Randy Krause (10-11/3.88) and Scott Atchley (8-12/4.65) are the fourth and fifth starters.

The pen is a different story.  Brock needs to provide a lot of help to incumbents Rondell Thomas (5-5/4/3.39), Mark Holmes (6-1/1/4.15) and Aurelio Fernandez (4-3/5/3.41) as the rest of the pen look like BP pitchers.  It is funny how the bullpens in this world seem to all be either very good or pretty poor, with little in between.  Clearly pens, like defense, is an area of team building that polarizes owners and some believe in spending lots of resources on it while others don't.

But on to the hitting.  Mercado will bring a fine glove to SS, but not so much bat.  The other members of the infield will make up for him though.  2B Jack Hayes (33/93/.247), Harvey Tracy (33/127/.325) and Mike Monroe (26/76/.243) can all hit the ball deep.

The OF is a little weak.  A lineup with Wolf (16/53/.294) or Keith Kohn (15/56/.271) at a corner spot would probably be a good OF with good production at the other spots.  The two of them together are a little shaky, especially given the poor production of CF Ronnie Wickman (4/40/.225).  Wickman is a good candidate for a bounce back season though.  C Vance Harris (13/58/.280) is adequate behind the plate and improving at it.

My gut tells me that this team will rebound to season 32 levels, but that still makes it hard to predict where they finish in a potentially very even division.  My best guess: Division Prediction
1. Scottsdale.  big time hitting and good enough pitching
  make this the one slot I am fairly confident about.
2. Salem.  Maybe the best rotation along with star hitters      
 should cover some of the holes.
3. San Francisco.  Actually, very similar to Salem.  The        rotation is just not quite as good, and the hitting stars are    just a little dimmer. 
4. Honolulu.  Just not quite there yet.  In a weaker division      they might shine, but too many question marks.

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