Thursday, May 14, 2015

Season 29 - Team Previews

Thank you to everyone who contributed.  Unfortunately this is our lowest amount in quite awhile.  I partially blame myself for not sending out the request at the start of spring training.  Thank you to everyone who took a couple minutes to put these together.

Huntington Thundering Herd

Additions: 1B Chip Olshan, 3B Melky Baez, CF Yadier Machado, SP Evan Randolph, SP Michael Robinson, SP Trever Christian, SP Ismael Martinez, SP William Inge, RP Geraldo Ramirez, RP Julio Melendez

Subtractions: SP Ralph Myette, SP Derrick Jerchower, SP Arthur Johnstone, SP Achillie Brower, SP Tony Velez, SP Mark Glover, RP Daichi Song, RP Al Paz, RP Cameron Dorsey, 3B Gill Mauer, OF Stu Bryant, OF Terrance Shields, IF Claude Leonard, OF Rigo Escobar

Typical of management in Huntington, there have been a lot of changes this season. After a season of finishing in the bottom 3 of most pitching categories, the focus was on completely remaking the staff. We brought in 5 new starters. We were able to remake the staff with mostly groundball pitchers, so that should limit some damage. The quality is slightly improved. The bullpen was a strength last season, which is why most of it returns. The addition of Ramirez at the back-end of the bullpen strengthens this part of our team and should help to alleviate some of the rotational concern. 

Last season was a success for the offense as we finished 1st in AVG, 4th in RS, 6th in HR, 1st in OBP, 3rd in SLG, and 2nd in OPS. Wouldn't expect there to be much room for improvement, but we managed to snag the top 3B on the market, Melky Baez (.270/.334/.449, 24 HR, 89 RBI in S28) to replace the rapidly declining Gill Mauer (.261/.319/.467; 28 HR, 83 RBI) is a net gain between his defensive ability and offensive superiority. Former CF Markus Crosby (.294/.358/.522; 27 HR, 49 2B, 87 RBI) shifts over to LF which will improve the OF defense as well as allow Dee Thompson (.285/.352/.350) to PH strengthening the bench. RF J.R. Pastornicky (.355/.371/.871, 5 HR, 12 RBI in ST) looks to compete for ROY honors this season. HOF C Ramon Pong (.288/.364/.469, 29 HR, 93 RBI), 1B Shane Meadows (.311/.387/.486, 24 HR, 91 RBI), SS Ariel Diaz (.311/.365/.454, 15 HR, 76 RBI), and 2B Esteban Crespo (.270/.345/.446, 26 HR, 95 RBI) return to anchor one of the best-hitting, but most defensively suspect IF in the NL. Enrique Mendoza, Chip Olshan, Junichi Donald, and Derrick Longoria anchor a bench that should be a strength for this team. 

If this team does not compete for the NL South title this season, a total teardown may be in order. The starting pitching is suspect, but everything else has improved so much that it is hoped that it outweighs the starting pitching.

Buffalo Bulls

The Bulls attempted to address a lack of a bonafide #3 hitter in the lineup by making a sizable investment in 2b/3b Keith Petersen. Rangy Felipe Diaz takes over in CF and Geoff Snyder moves to LF. Stan Gwynn upgrades the catcher position which he will share with Howie Reddick. Infielder Gus Yoshii, P Danny Feliz, and P Buddy Swann join the big club too.
The hope is a solid exhibition game season translates favorably into a successful regular season and beyond.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

There were a number of key changes to the Red Raider roster during this off-season, though the expectations for the team remain the same. This team should get into the playoffs, and have a strong enough overall squad for a potential deep postseason run. There were a few changes made to both the lineup/fielders and the pitching staff. In the field, veteran 1B Angel Sanchez had his contract bough out and has since signed a deal to play in Salem. This will allow former rookie of the year, Del Todd to move from RF (where his is a liability in the field) to 1B (where he is an asset). Veteran switch hitter Rip Wagner will continue to play in LF, while FA Gabe Podsednik will take over for Todd in RF. Another acquisition the team is excited about is 5x World Series Champion Red Callaway. He will play 3B and (hopefully) provided leadership in the clubhouse the will help elevate this team to the next level. Rookie Pepe Zurbaran will also be called upon to start against LHP at C this season, giving the Red Raiders excellent offensive production out of the C position when combined with Ozuna. This lineup should be average offensively with pretty good power throughout, even though the team lacks a true slugger. There won't be too much in the way of stolen bases, and this squad should be toward the top of the NL in defense. 

On the mound, former #1 overall pick, LH Tommy Moreno will get his chance in the rotation. Combined with phenom Norman Lomansey and veteran Richie Wingo, the starting rotation should be very good, and have multiple LHers and RHers available to start as needed. The bullpen was solidified by Shigetoshi Tabaka and Homer Konerko who were signed. The pitching staff has a great deal of flexiblity with righties, and lefties; as well as seven pitchers capable of starting or throwing out of the pen. The pitching (and defense) will be the strength of the team overall, and should finish as one of the top 5 pitching staffs in the NL.

Kansas City Wildcats

The Kansas City Wildcats are still rebuilding but have brought up four rookie hitters Al Corino, Ralph Martin, Carson Lilly and Wes Story who hopefully will improve the KC offense. KC signed free agent pitchers Rex Clontz, Augie Suzuki, Eugenio Delgado, Jim George, and Jamey Houck to help the pitching staff. I hope to improve upon last year’s 67-95 record.

Memphis Tigers

Memphis enters season 29 having made no major moves during the offseason. The Tigers will return virtually the same lineup from a year ago, a squad that clawed their way into the playoffs, even managing to reach the Elite 8. This season, the offense will be counted on even more heavily. Look for second year pros Juarez (SS) and Owens (LF) to continue to mature, and for 3B Ralph Barkley to complete his first full year in the majors. All three will be depended upon to be catalysts and throttle the offense. Memphis had hoped Mack Brush would be the fourth Horseman, but injuries along with questionable management have ultimately hindered development of his potential. 
The pitching staff will be the bigger concern during the season we believe. The rotation lead by Top Tiger Chili Carver will have a similar look as last year, and starters not No. 1 will need to overachieve again. The same can be said for the bullpen as well, they will need to outperform and get the ball in the hands of the show stopper, John “Last Call” O’Brien. The Tigers have modest hopes to duplicate the results of last year or even finish second in the NL South again. All-in-all though, we are counting on the lineup to shine and provide the pitching staff with adequate and needed run support, specifically Carver, the biggest victim of a punchless offense in past years.

Nashville Commodres

After missing the playoffs last season, Nashville spent the off season attempting to upgrade their pitching staff. Free agent relievers Erubiel Marquez, Jose Martis and Shannon Darwin should upgrade the bullpen. Returning starters include Livan Rosales and Victor Nunez. Overall the staff should be improved.

The offense will once again be led by RF Jack Hurst, DH Harry Zorilla, 1B Alex Flores and LF Paul Igarashi. Offense will once again be the strength of the team.

Strong defense up the middle with SS Edgardo Crespo, 2B Elvis Clay and CF Clinton James, should help improve the pitching staff.

The playoffs are the goal this season in Nashville, and anything less would be a disappointment.

Boise Broncos

The Boise Broncos hope to keep improving this season and think we have a good shot at the Division Title. The team mainly remained the same and is counting on the continued improvement of young stars: Frank Hughes, RF; Javier Martin, 2B; Closer Andre Eyre; Rickey Brush, SS; Carlos Candelaria, P as well as proven vets at 3b – Einar Lee, 1B –Pavano and a solid duo behind the plate. The exciting news has centered around rookie LF, F.P. Charles and pitching FA acquisition Alfredo Carreras. The rotation is solid but not great, but the starting 8 and strong pen should make up any for any deficiencies.

Seattle Huskies

Seattle looks to improve on its wild card berth and subsequent first round exit. As expected the pitching was excellent, runs were scarce. FA 1B/DH Nigel Mickalac was brought in to help produce more runs. SS Torrey Ordonez makes the jump from AA after a blistering spring training. Also making the leapfrog the minors is new C and RF in hopes of improving the O. The rotation is excellent, the back end of the bullpen in also great. The middle of the pen is questionable. Hopefully this team returns to the playoffs again.

Helena Grizzlies

The Helena Grizzlies are going through a long overdue re-build. After winning the World Series in season 18, the franchise has been stuck in medicority. The team has posted win totals between 74 and 83 for the last 9 consecutive seasons. Not good enough to get into the playoffs and not bad enough to get a top 15 draft pick. This season, the team has moved to a much more focused approach on prospect development. They have the 2nd youngest roster in the big leagues with an average age of 26.9 and also own the lowest average current salary. With that the team should be a major player in the international free agent market. While rebuilding can often be painful, nothing can be as painful as the last 9 years of being a middling franchise. Hopefully season 29 is the first step toward a return to the glory days.

Charlotte Tar Heels

The Tar Heels were shocked at how well last season went which was partially due to over performance and partially due to the NL East being really weak. We brought back the major core of this group as we try to contend for another season or two before deciding whether to invest long term in this core group of players or re-tool as we did last offseason.  We did bring Tony Velez back to hopefully anchor the top of the rotation.  Its nice to see him in Carolina Blue again. Other than that move, the lineup, rotation, and bullpen are all the same.  Our goal is to get back to the playoffs and hopefully make more noise than last season.

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