My Take: Well I was way off last season as I predicted the Spiders would finish third in the division and they ended up winning it and that Huntington would battle for the wild card and they had a hugely disappointing season which led them to make wholesale changes for the second season in a row. Just to mimic exactly what I wrote last season, I have no idea what is going to happen with this division. Richmond and Texas made minor changes to their Season 11 playoff teams while Huntington made huge changes, but I believe they did a much better job this season than they did last season. I think Huntington will be better this season, but will it be enough to overtake Richmond and Texas? I think this race will go down to the wire with Memphis bringing up the rear as they continue their rebuild job. I do believe that this division will once again produce two wild card teams and both the divisional crown and wild card could come down to tiebreakers.
1. Texas Mustangs
2. Richmond Spiders
3. Huntington Thundering Herd
4. Memphis Tigers
Huntington Thundering Herd
Free Agency: P Mel Reed, P Terry Simmons, P Allen Guerrero, P Pinky Matheson, P David Cox, P Enrique Guzman, 3B Bernie Ortiz, LF Roger Valentin
Trades: CF Felipe Rincon, SS Scot Hunt, 1B Jung-Lee Woo, P Artie Hinch, OF/IF Craig Henley, OF Lonny Offerman, 1B/C Paul Evans, P Billy North,
Free Agency: P Timo Brinkley, P Edgard Melendez, P J.J. Burns, P Haywood Thomson, P Juan Almanza, P Aramis Marichal, 2B Mel Brock, LF Tracy Nen, CF Joshua Becker, 1B Rex Allen
Trades: P Travis Hermansen, IF/OF Derrek Cashman, RF Billy Rivers, LF Marcus Perez, P Nate Forster
The Thundering Herd had budget room to throw around, and throw it around they did. Signing a total of 10 free agents and adding up to 8 big-league players via trade, this management team is out to prove that last season was a fluke. Gone are some key contributors who were shipped out in order to provide an upgrade in talent for the farm system or other positions. The hope is that this team, as it is presently constructed, can provide consistently great offense and allow its pitching staff to be good, but not great. The pitching staff was upgraded significantly, with 3 new starters and 4 new relievers toeing the rubber. This should be the best staff in the history of the franchise.
It was a quiet offseason in Richmond for multiple reasons:
1. We liked our team from last season and didn't see immdeiate areas that needed upgrades. The primary emphasis was keeping the team intact by re-signing our own free agents.
2. We didn't have the prospects available to make impact trades and really need to spend the next few seasons restocking talent rather than dealing it away. As such, we also did not consider any Type A free agents this season.
3. The GM scheduled a vacation during the offseason and time/access was limited.
As such, most of the team remains intact. Pete Young was added to the bullpen to replace a departing Willie Sabathia, which we think is a slight upgrade. The primary upgrades though are a full season from Andrea Nelson (acquired mid-season last year) and the signing of Clinton Carr, who is still recovering from a major injury. When he returns later in the season, he should really upgrade the starting rotation.
I think the offense actually underperformed last season despite decent results, and we should be pretty strong there. The pitching should be solid even though we lack the true stud present on many of the other contenders.
We won the division last season via tie-breaker and made a good run in the playoffs. I expect to compete for the top spot in the division once again.
Key Players Added: Octavio Rivera SP, Gary McBride RP
Key Players Lost: None
Key Transactions: Signed Paul Richard to a 4yr/$35M contract
Rookies to watch for: Phil Rapp SP, Hugh Bell 1B/OF
Outlook: Tigers Management shelled out big bucks this offseason in an effort to upgrade their pitching staff. After missing out on several top pitchers the past few seasons, Memphis signed Octavio Rivera to a hefty 4yr/$57M contract to anchor the rotation. Gary McBride (2yr/$9.6M) joins a bullpen that is arguably the Tigers biggest Achilles heel in effort to help keep late game leads. Rookie Hugh Bell looks to be the opening day leftfielder, while Phil Rapp projects to earn the #2 spot in the rotation.
Expectations in Tiger Town are still modest this season, but they expect to improve on their 69 win season from a year ago. While some around town may feel management overpaid for Rivera’s services, the team feels Rivera along with McBride should be significant upgrades from last years pitching staff. Also, Memphis expects Rapp , competing in his first full season at the major league level, to continue maturing while providing solid innings on the mound. Offensively, the Tigers will count on Richard and rookie Bell to power an offense that often became stagnant in season 11.
The Mustangs did some roster fine tuning this season, but usually try to avoid the complete roster overhauls that are popular at some of the other schools within the division.
This year it will be a couple of promotions (Mariano Cedeno and Vincente Parra) filling the gaps of Vladamir Polonia and Austin Byrne on the mound.
In the field, two big free agent signings will cause some movement around the diamond. Freddie Upshaw was signed to play SS and Chico Tavarez will move into CF. Houston Hart moved on to a new opportunity at another institution. Wes Thomas was also signed to play in LF and should improve OF defense and add more speed on the base paths.