Thursday, November 10, 2011

Team Previews - NL

NL North

Detroit Wolverines

Season 14 went just like we had planned here in Detroit, with the Wolverines hoisting up the trophy at the end of the year. Some owners called us cocky for claiming the title during the offseason but we like to call it being confident. Those same owners might have their revenge this season as Detroit's chances of repeating are about as unlikely as the Colts football team is this year of winning the Super Bowl. We lost three major players that helped bring the title home in Mitch Carter, Erik Haynes, and Nunez. All three decided to take their talents elsewhere after a great run in Detroit which definately changes this team.

3B Chico Melo will get the call up from AAA to take over Haynes spot which was going to happen regardless of Haynes' decision this offseason. However we struck out in bringing in quality players to offset the departure of Carter and Nunez. Gaylord Bonds, Morris Morgan and Don Holt will all be asked to step up and help out the pitching staff that still features Quilvio Lima and Ching-Lung Komatsu.

We've enjoyed 5 consecutive NL North divison champ titles, along with 8 straight trips to the playoffs before capturing our first ever WS title and will try and keep this team together for another season or two to continue those streaks. However if this team starts off slowly you could see the likes of Komatsu, Lima, and Bernie Ortiz on the trade block as the rebuilding begins. Either way management is not declaring anything this season, just enjoying that shiny new trophy.

Dover Fightin' Blue Hens

Speed and Defense. This will be the first team I've constructed in HBD that will try to make a go without much in the way of big bats. Dover signed the following FA's: gold glove SS Jacob Belle, SS/CF Ken Holder, and former ROY Hamlet Darwin, all still younger than 30. Gone are LF Max Peterson, RF Rob Weathers, 1B Mark Starr, and SS Braden Sager, all who showed promising bats but were defensive liabilities.

2nd all-time saves leader Nicky Drew is back to anchor the bullpen. Most of the season 14 pitching staff returns.

Infielders Earl Cradle, Luis Martin, and Javier Mendoza will be the first prospects to get a call in the event of injuries or poor performance by the big leaguers.

Dover still seems to be stuck between total rebuilding and being competitve. Probably around a .500 team once again.

NL East

Charlotte Tar Heels

Key Players Acquired via FA: No one yet

Key Players Lost via FA: Merv Witt, Larry Dixon, Juan Melendez, Buster Wiggins, Philip Larson

Witt is the biggest lost there. He was a very solid bullpen piece that we decided to let go and get a draft pick out of instead of investing in him long term. The other four guys were decent pieces of the puzzle but are all inherently replaceable.

Key Players Acquired via Trade: Haywood Bryant, Luis Cortes (top prospect)

We think Haywood looks phenomenal in Carolina Blue and expect big things out of him this season. 1B was a bit of a hole last season after losing all time Tar Heel HR leader Vin Horton. We have also signed Bryant to a long term deal and look forward to a prosperous relationship. We were also excited to add Cortes to the mix who immediately becomes our top prospect in the farm system.

Key Players Lost via Trade: John Kramer and several prospects.

Kramer was a tough person to move. He has been a rock in the rotation for several seasons. Since we have pretty good depth at SP and some prospects in the minors, we decided to make the move and received Cortes in exchange to bolster our feeder system. It hurt to move several prospects in the deal for Bryant, but also felt it was the right move to make.

Rookies Called up: Timothy Daly P, Juan Aguilera CF, Torey Goya 2B, Gerardo Rijo were all promoted to fill situational roles with the Heels. In the past we have allocated budget to signing "savvy vets" to fill these roles, but decided it was time to supplement our roster with cheaper talent and use that money elsewhere.

Prognosis: Our goal is definitely to win the NL East and compete for a World Championship. I won't say "anything less" will be a disappointment because the playoffs are such a crapshoot. I will say that I hope if we do lose in the playoffs it won't be to our nemesis, the Syracuse Orange.

Syracuse Orange

Key Losses: Luis Villafuerte (rp), Joaquin Ortiz(cf) , Al Cortez (rp), Emmanuel Colome (3b)

Key Additions: Ben Brown(3b, cof), Theo Franco (cf), Matthew Davis (inf, cof)

Call Ups Close: Vicente Berroa(ss) , Matt Aspromonte (cf), Ozzie Lange(rp)

All those losses should actually be referred to as “players departing,” the Orange Administration do not really feel that any of them are key.

The school is happy with the two players that brought in. Theo Franco will be a nice upgrade over Ortiz in center, but the hidden upgrade will be in depth. Last season there was a huge drop off when resting the starters. Brown and especially Matthew Davis will be a very nice upgrade. Phil Yoshi should be mentioned as an upgrade in depth also, he was acquired late last season.

They don’t have any studs coming up soon but they do have some more players that will add to the depth as well. Berroa will probably get the most action based on his strong defensive play. Ozzie Lange is the closer of the future. He heads to AAA and is expected to be on the squad this season.

Much of the Orange’s success will depend on their aging starting staff. If it pitches well they could put some pressure on the Tar heels. I’m guessing about a 95 win season, with a good shot at a wild card but probably not a division title. They also expect good completion from Buffalo and Louisville.

NL South

Texas Red Raiders

When the new ownership group took over the Texas franchise, it took over a team ready to make the step to Championship contender. The team has two bonafide Aces in SP Michael Shumpert and SP Andres Rosario. The lineup was deep, with many players who are base stealing threats. But there was one thing that was needed to make sure everything fell into place: resign future HOFer 1B Adam Seneca. That was the one and only mission of the offesason, and thankfully for Red Raiders fans, $103M later, the mission was accomplished. Now the managment feels the championship recipe is in place. Solid starting pitchers, great defense, a team that will likely lead the NL in stolen bases and a power house hitter. Expectations are indeed high in Arlington.

Huntington Thundering Herd

Key Losses:
C Ron Montgomery, 2B Ben Jackson, LF Clay Lavarnway, CF Tory Vizquel, SP Jose Aybar, SP Julio Johnson, SP Gaylord Bonds, SP Dusty Johnstone, SP Clayton Brunette, RP David Cox

Key Additions:
SP Clyde Jodie, SP Roger Karnuth, RP Darren Caminiti, RP Roy White, RP Gus Martin, RP Al Lopez, 2B Justin Boyd, 3B Kurt Patrick, CF Jolbert Rosado, RF Jerry Seabol

This is a transitional year for Huntington as we try to go from the team that spent money on free agents to the team that builds through the draft. We’ve already brought in a solid group of young prospects and with several picks in this season’s draft that number should just go higher. We’re not mailing in this season and management is excited about the team they have put together. We’ve got a solid group of relievers to hopefully pick up the slack that a weaker starting pitching group could cause. Although we lost some talent, management feels that this team is better equipped to compete this season. We have a good bullpen, solid offense, and good defense and improving on last year while building towards the future is not out of the question.

NL West

Boise Broncos

The Boise Broncos hope to continue to build off of last season’s success. The key for remains the pitching staff anchored by Jack Daley and solid defense. The addition of a proven vet like Turner Evans gives our staff even greater depth. One other significant addition was catcher Juan Diaz, who I believe will really help to solidify our catching tandem. This year we will bring up 25 year old Einar Chavez who’s good bat and glove work will make him an asset at a couple of positions. Down at AAA we have several players that could get at shot this year, but LF Everth Sanchez might be the most promising. I’d like to give all of our AAA prospects another year at that level and the strength of our ML roster should make that possible. I hope that even with some tough division rivals, the Broncos can win the division again and make it to the Series. Like with all teams, baring significant injuries, I think the Broncos can go all the way.

Arizona Sun Devils

After years of trying to hold onto former glory the Sun Devil management has finally decided to rebuild. Nunez wasn't resigned with that money being reallocated to prospect budget. The ML team is solid at position players but the pitching just isn't there yet. Another season at the bottom of the division is likely, but once Heathcliff Guerrero and Ismael Martinez develop the Devils will be back.

Helena Grizzlies

Acquisitions – SP Julio Johnson (Trade), RP Hulk Vaughn (Trade), RP Bart Pellow (Trade), 2B Jumbo Jimenez (FA), RP Justin Ward (FA)

Losses – 1B Dante Thompson (waived), UT Hamish Reynolds (FA), RP Walt Evans (FA), SP Royce Sexson (FA)

Impact Rookies – Danny Sheffield

Outlook – We are coming off our first winning season since I took over the franchise. After 7 seasons of losing baseball, it felt good to get above .500. Now the goal is to get into the playoffs. Pitching was the downfall of last seasons team and with that in mind I was focused on making significant upgrades in that area. Julio Johnson was brought in to join our young ace Nakano Efrain at the top of the rotation. In addition I acquired Bart Pellow via trade to help bolster our bullpen. Roosevelt Loux, who was acquired via trade near the end of last season will shift to the bullpen where he has spent most of his career to ensure we have quality depth down there.

Offensively we basically return the same team with a few minor additions. Former first round pick Danny Sheffield will come up and play 1B after the 20 game mark and Jumbo Jimenez signed as a free agent to be our utility wiz. I really like our infield with Gold Glover Marino Gomez and Marc Everhart at 2nd and 3rd, but they both have durability limitations, so Jimenez was brought in to ensure we are able to rest our starters as needed throughout the season so that they are fresh if we do end up making the playoffs. As a side note, look out for youngster Yorman Costilla. He was a mid-season call up last season and it took him a while to get a feel for the major league game.

I am looking for a big improvement out of him this season and his ability to set the table at the top of our line up could be the key to our success.

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