Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Season 28 Previews

Thank you to everyone who participated!

NL North

Iowa City Hawkeyes

Well this is it, I have given up the future for the now. I would like to give Justin Crosby another opportunity to win a championship so I made huge trades to make it happen. Coming aboard 1B Tomas Olmedo via waivers and 2B Daryl Litsch, SS Albert Park, and SP Taylor Sellers and Duke Strong. I hope the veteran leadership from years on a great Tar Heals team will help lead this team along with fellow veterans Justin Crosby, Felix Owen,Gene Hobert, Dallas Parrott, Efrain Nakano, Mateo Miro and Benoit Roque to a championship season. Mix in some younger talent in Jimmy Ibarra, Danny Halladay, Lou Jamison and Benito Romero and Also taking a chance on a Rule 5 player Mateo Dominguez and young set-up pitcher Armando Suarez hopefully they will mature this year. I think this could be the year for Iowa.

Detroit Wolverines

The Wolverines were busy in the off season taking the next step into bringing home another championship, trying to match the football teams huge hire of Jim H. Our offense remains in tact, led by last season's NL MVP in Galahad Cox who we lost to injury before the playoffs last season. Most of our offense is just entering their prime years and are being locked into long term deals the last few seasons to keep this core together. Our main focus was pitching this off season and we traded for last season's AL CY Young winner Willie Izturis. David Rodrigues and Lariel Toca were inked to deals when Prado's contract became too expensive for us. These three along with Marino Megias and Hisanori Martin gives us what we believe to be the strongest rotation in NCAA. We have 5 pitchers with 80+ vR and the other 6 that will be on the roster all in the 70s. The pitching staff is old in age so we have a 3 year window to bring home that trophy to Detroit but knowing that we traded for Miguel Santiago to help when it's time for the old guys to hang up their cleats. Our goal is no longer just settling for the playoffs anymore, we are expecting to be competing for NL championship and more.

Dover Fightin' Blue Hens

The Blue Hens are counting on last season being an anomaly. After a 20-win drop from 101 to 81 with essentially the same team, Dover decided to stand pat and pay the veterans. No free agent signings or departures worthy of mention. 3b Andres Salas will be a twenty-game callup, and CF Fernando Eusebio will follow. If management was wrong about the season 27 barometer, then it may signal the sell-off of a couple of high-quality veterans.

NL East

Buffalo Bulls

We are hoping the Buffalo Bulls will turn things around this season. Last season, the Bulls finished 76-86- just another season playing under .500 ball in the land of “lake effect” snowstorms. 
Last year. Pitchers Aurelio Navarro and Clay Williams were a combined 5-25 between them. Since then, Navarro left the team in a fit of rage and Williams will have a diminished role, if any. on the ML squad. 
C Howie Reddick was brought in to add some power to a home run starved lineup and is a major upgrade in skills over Oswaldo Peralta who will be moved to first base in a platoon role. SS Rey Jung was brought in to maintain a strong defense . Andy Stahoviak was signed to replace Navarro in the relief corps.
Quite a few rookies will get their shot at the big time this season including Addie “Joss” Jose OF, Max Pineda 3B, Charles Stuart OF, and Yadier Tejera at 2B and Rule 5 draftee Kaleb Torres P.
We think the Bulls should reach .500 ball this season for only the 7th time in its history and might even compete for first place in the division. 

Charlotte Tar Heels

n The Tar Heels GM fell asleep at the wheel at the end of Season 27 and failed to re-sign guaranteed Type A free agents Ramon Pong, Domingo Prado, and Luis Cortes.  After going on a one week bender and crying himself to sleep every night, the Tar Heels decided to go all in on rebuild mode. The fact is the team was getting old.  No Doubt we could have competed for a few more seasons, but inevitably age was going to catch up to us.  In a flurry of moves that stretched from the winter meetings all the way to right before spring training the following veterans were shipped out of Charlotte:

Players lost via FA: Ramon Pong, Domingo Prado, Luis Cortes, Tony Velez, Fred O'Neill, Dante Itou, Darrell Haywood
Players lost via Trade: Homer Konerko, Daryl Litch, Albert Park, Taylor Sellers, Duke Strong, and Lance Shawler.

For those keeping score at home, there are at least four likely Hall of Famers in that group.  Its been a tough couple of weeks.

The good news is we have severely cut out payroll down while adding some young pieces in Max Romero (SP), Vince Carr (SP), Patrick Rondo (1B), Oleg Anderson (RP), Frank Coscarart (CF), amongst several others.  We hope to be significant players in the IFA game this year and who knows, the NL East does not have a dominant team so maybe we get some lucky breaks and find ourselves in contention.

It is a new era in Charlotte!

Louisville Cardinals

Season 28 will be seeing what we have and deciding which direction the team will be going in Season 29. Some players we added since taking over the last few days were: Jose Ortiz, Peter Tazawa, and Christopher Jenkins. The team lost 104 games last season. That wont happen this year, but at the same time, i think we will be hard pressed to win 70 games this season. You never know, but i see this as a 65 to 75 win team at best this year.

NL South

Huntington Thundering Herd

After a playoff appearance and a winning season for the first time since S20, the Herd made some very questionable moves this offseason. Gone are big boppers 2B Philip Rigby and C Lyle Baptist, as well as 3B "Steady Eddie" Padden. The addition of living legend C Ramon Pong helps to offset those losses, but the fact of the matter is, this team's starting 8 got worse in the offseason. The hope is that new LF Dee Thompson and 2B Esteban Crespo can set the table for Pong, CF Markus Crosby, and 1B Shane Meadows. The RF position is up for grabs...right now the favorite, veteran Stu Bryant is battling the future, JR Pastornicky for that position. Versatile power hitter Gill Mauer returns to 3B and SS Ariel Diaz completes what might be the worst defensive infield in the National League. 

The rotation is revamped, and, fingers crossed, improved. Ace Mark Glover returns as does Ralph Myette. Newcomers Tony Velez, Arthur Johnstone, and Derrick Jerchower round a solid, if unspectacular rotation. The bullpen is where the improvement were really pushed through. Francisco Soto is the anchor and he is supporter by quality SuA's in Daichi Song and Ozzie Lange. SuB will be held by returnees Benjamin Bowker and Steve Donovan. The bullpen should be lights out this season.

Memphis Tigers

Players Added:  Phillip Rigby 2B/3B
Key Players Lost:  Christopher Jenkins SS, Lee Golub OF, Bucky Arnold SP
Key Transactions: None
Rookies to watch for: Carlos Juarez SS, Lance Owens LF

During the offseason, management had hopes of improving the pitching staff, most considerably a lackluster bullpen, but fell out of the running on a couple of the key free-agents, and overall faltered on their pitching goals. The rotation loses SP Bucky Arnold and will depend on free-agents Rex Clontz and / or Hipolito Cora to have above average years, while Tiger rookie Alexei Ordonez could see his way into the rotation as well. The bullpen welcomes Jimmy Gee but otherwise remains the same, and will depend on the returning pitchers to outperform expectations.
The Memphis offense enters season 28 with a slightly different look. After initially considering on trying to retain, gone to free agency are shortstop Christopher Jenkins and Tiger career base stealer, outfielder Lee Golub.  The Tigers instead will begin the season with the debuts of rookies Carlos Juarez (SS) and Lance Owens (LF), respectively. Also, joining the Tiger lineup will be free-agent signee Phillip Rigby to play second, possibly third base and provide a nice bat. Management tried to make a couple last minute pickups as well but couldn’t come to terms.  Look for stud Ralph Barkley to possibly make his ML debut at some point in the season.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Texas Tech Red Raiders were very quiet during the offseason. We made no significant moves to speak of, returning essentially the same team as last season. The only major difference will be the debut of highly touted, former #1 overall pick, SP Norman Lomasney. He should develop into a perennial All Star, and is ML ready. The team will once again boast one of the deepest and best starting rotations in the NL, with a solid bullpen and an excellent defense playing behind them. The Red Raiders should be at, or near, the top of the NL in fewest runs allowed, even playing in a more hitter friendly Texas ballpark. The offense, also like last season, will likely be below average. A couple of key players have aged, and the team lacks speed and doesn't have much power either. It will be very tough to win in the brutal NL South, but the expectation is for this team to make it into the playoffs once more, and hopefully ride the pitching to a deep playoff run. If everything goes right, this should be about an 87 win team, and either a division winner or a Wild Card squad.

NL West

Arizona Lumberjacks

The Lumberjacks came into the offseason with the goal of improving the starting pitching staff. This was accomplished through the trade market in acquiring veteran Homer Konerko from Charlotte and 28 year old Haywood Milledge from Oakland. 

Arizona returns the same lineup from last year minus CF, which will be manned through platoon this season. 

With the acquisition of 2 very good SPs and the return of everyone from the 2nd best offense in the NL last season, the Lumberjacks are hoping to win NL West again and hopefully make a deep run in the playoffs.

Boise Broncos

The Broncos will be looking to continue their upward trend and hopefully make a splash in the playoffs this year. Our young core group has finally come of age and are now young vets. With Brush at SS, Hughes in RF and Martin at 2B the future is now. Led as always by Red Dreifort at 1b, Pedro Rosario at catcher and Einar Lee at third, the offense should pound opposition pitching. The rotation remains anchored by Mendoza, Candelaria, Jose and Pizzaro. The bullpen should be a strength and with the newly acquired SPnPedro Trevino polishing his skills in AAA, Boise is ready for the puck to drop, er season to start.

Kansas City Wildcats

KC Wildcats top hitters this year are Louie Cook, Benny Ingram and Joc Patterson. Top Player's lost to free agency are Arthur Johnstone,Julio Brito and Derrick Jerchower. Free agents signed Denny Long, Evan Randolph, Bret Hutch and Ezdra Velazquez. Rookies to watch are Wes Story, Al Corino, Steven Dempster and Ralph Martin.

AL North

Cincinnati Bearcats

The Cincinnati Bearcats set a torrid pace for the first 100 games last season positioning themselves in the upper echelons of playoff contenders. Something drastic happened on the way to the bank, namely a 15-47 finish that left the 'cats management scratching their heads and sitting on their butts come playoff time.

Though they sat on their butts, they did not sit on their hands in the off season. They let long time 3b, Willard Perez and innings eater Stuart Shrenk go to free agency. They traded closer Oleg Anderson to Charlotte, thereby guaranteeing Charlotte a trip to the World Series.They traded outstanding cf Oswaldo Nieves, dh extraordinaire Al Brandt, and comfortable shirt starter Albert Diaz to Little Rock.

They signed no free agents. Only one of the players acquired in the trades, Don Ishikawa, is likely to be on the ML roster. He is not quite ready; but, the gap created by Perez's departure has no other viable candidate.

Hope for the 'cats future is based upon the following: 1. c Jalal Bowman hit 60 points below avg. last season, he should rebound, 2. The closer's role vacated by Anderson, should be adequately filled by Tarik Price, 3. Last year's promising rookies, Alex Diaz and Emil Fernandez are expected to continue developing into all-star players, 4. Late season call-up Rob Ray proved his mettle on the mound and a full season of the same or better pitching is expected. Rookie, Ross "the hoss" Seneca should add quality to the staff. Rookie Willie Bailey will add bullpen depth. 5. Sometime during the season, expect budding superstars Boone Ellis and Olmedo Alvarez to hit the big time, 6. Trade acquisitions Manuel Vega, Geovany Rivas, Don Ishikawa, Yorman Melian, Albert Stokes, and Gustavo Pena will all make contributions, in varying degrees, to the big club in the not too distant future.

Fargo Bison

Front office at Fargo is still trying to think of ways to overcome the mighty Golden Gophers. Not much turnover in the roster as we hope to get better performance from guys like Jimmie Delgado and Alberto Valentin. Youngster Robb Kelly will be the big call up this year with Rob Boswell eagerly waiting.

AL East

Charleston Cougars

This season will be a rebuilding year for Charleston. Gone are starting pitchers Willie Izturis, David Rodriguez, and Lariel Toca as well as lead off man Miguel Cerda.

The lineup should remain relatively solid with Saul Martin, Craig Parrish and Rene Tobin in the middle. However, starting pitching will likely be below average with no true number 1 or 2 starter in the rotation. Eswalin Sierra is back for likely his last year, seeking to add to his league record 345 wins and attempt to take hold of the career strikeouts record. Prospects Chico Torrealba and Neifi Conseco will likely see their first ML action this year.

New York Red Storm

FA Lost/Signed: #p3759023Victor Diaz#p / #p3210863Shairon Houston#p 

Trade: Gave up #p4007027Donn Rodgers#p for #p6717283Carlos Beltre#p 

Rookies: None

Outlook: The Red Storm look to continue their success and extend their playoff streak to 8 in season 28. While it was a pretty uneventful offseason for the Storm, we did upgrade their bullpen while losing some pop behind the plate. If everyone stays healthy, we should have another playoff run in us.

AL South

New Orleans Bayou Bengals

For this, the 10th anniversary season since the Storm turned time in the Crescent City something that must be demarcated with a Before or After “K” tag, the Bayou Bengals will bring the locals nothing more than the usual brand of losing baseball. But since this is ‘Nawlins, the fans still have a randy good time with their beads, beignets, and baseball: laissez les “eh” times roulez!

In the second season under new ownership, the team return 18 members from last season’s dreadful 58-104 team (2nd worst in the Majors) to the Opening Day roster. The seven faces hope to add at least nine wins to the team’s overall ledger to avoid the dreaded 200 losses in 2 seasons tag. To bolster a pitching staff that posted a league-worst 5.64 ERA last season, the Bengals signed free agents SPs Harvey Ennis and workhorse Rigo Cerda. While both profile as mid- to back- of the rotation starters on good teams, they will be expected to carry the workload on the Bengals for the rest of a beleaguered pitching staff without any potential gems, with the possible exception of closer Bill Wakeland. As a rookie, Wakeland notched 20 of 24 save opportunities and looks to improve upon those marks in his second season.

On offense, the Bengals said good-bye to jack of all trades Esteban Crespo but welcome the 1st round pick they will gain in return. The Bengals will attempt to replace Crespo’s production with the combined production from new DH Victor Urbina and waiver wire pickup Jarred Ausmus, a gem of a defensive catcher with pop to boot from the right side.

Even the Bengals’ most diehard fans will concede that things are a bit dry in the high minors, as their most prized prospects are at least a season away. Hopefully, however, this will be the last season where the fans will have no hope for even a whiff of the .500 mark.

Who dat! Who dat say they gonna beat dem Bengals? For this season at least, it is everybody.

Little Rock Razorbacks

Key FA signings: Domingo Prado, P; Livan Andino, P; Dann Stevens, P; Al Bristow, CF (resigned)

Key trade additions: Shigetoshi Tabaka, P; Lyle Baptist, C; Donn Rodgers, DH; Ivan Caballero, P

Key losses: Frank Coscarart, CF; several prospects

ML Rookies: Carter Lawson, P; Yorman Guerrero, 2B

Overall outlook: Sgmedia took over the team a couple of days into preseason. Sgmedia has never won a playoff series in HBD, and is looking to break that trend with this team. The offense has been built to be a team strength, with four potential 40 homerun hitters in the everyday lineup. Bats off the bench are also strong. The team's weakness might be defense, and that will be something to monitor throughout the season, as will sgmedia's management of the pitching staff...pitcher fatigue has plagued sgmedia in every world he's played in. A division title seems within reach. How far the team will go in the playoffs depend on what tinkering can be done throughout the season.

An Objective Outsider's View: "Defense:
Little Rock is strong up the middle with Lucano, Guerrero and Nieves. The IFA market has been good to the Razorbacks. Throw in Peterson at 3B with platoon player Ortiz in LF and they should have a top 5 defense.

To build that defense, they had to sacrifice a little offense, especially against LHP but the meat of their order, featuring Peterson, Rodgers and Jackson should produce plenty of runs. Part-timers Brandt, Morales and Cerda will provide good support. Looks like this team might be able to steal a few bases as well.

The staff will be led by Domingo Prado. Lawson should be a good number 2 but the Razorbacks will need a couple of pitchers to step up in order to fill out the starting rotation and provide long relief. The short relievers, headed up by Cabellero, Silva and Andino, should slam the door shut in the late innings. They'll just need to get there with a lead for it to matter."

AL West

Anaheim Trojans

A very boring offseason in Anaheim. There are no changes to the position players. We came in 2nd in runs scored in the majors last year so no changes were needed. A few minor changes to the back end of our bullpen. Ramon Pan will be called up to bolster the pen. Will probably be in the market for pitching at the deadline although the top of our rotation and back-end of the bullpen are set. Hoping for some better luck in the playoffs this year.

Seattle Huskies

Seattle enters the season with its eyes on the playoffs. The question, can they possibly score enough runs to finally get there? The 1-2-3 starting combo of Henderson Edwards-Patrick Pettibone-and Darrin Hagen are formidable. Hagan, 22, was promoted late last season due to injury and will stick around. Roberto Moya can close games. The pitching staff will give the Huskies a chance in most games. 1B Thumper Junge and LF Albert Garza will be relied on to get on base. FA 3B Willard Perez, RF Al Ayala, and CF Aaron Servais need to knock them in consistently. Scratching and clawing for runs is the motto for this crew.

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