Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Division Preview Continued - Season 33

                                                                         AL South

                The AL South is the most competitive division in the junior league for season 33, with all four owners returning to King Felix, three of whom made the playoffs last season.
                Safety’s streak of 7 straight division titles looks to be in jeopardy, but not if the Minute Men have anything to say about it. The Corky Jackson/Al Gardner trade with Scranton may have been the biggest move of the offseason. As mentioned in the AL North preview, only time will tell who won the trade, but as Jackson is a righty and nearly two years younger than southpaw Gardner, I think Monterrey will be just find. Safety also pulled off a trade for stud lefty Louie Li from Pawtucket, which should improve the fourth best ERA in the AL last season. Monterrey also splurged in free agency, bringing in another starter in Kevin Sobolewski and John Kirby, Cesar Mesa, and Jamie Graves to bolster the bullpen.
                The best shot at taking the AL South crown from Safety would be the Santa Fe Brooks. Ever since Nelson joined King Felix, his young team has been on the rise clinching wild card births the last two seasons. The Brooks roster is staying just about the same this season, with the only one notable addition, closer Derek Fraser. In the meantime Santa Fe’s young lineup of second baseman Samuel Merrick (24 years old/94 overall), third baseman Al Espinosa (26/91) and left fielder Terry French (24/82) will continue to smack the cover off the ball. Add in a rotation including Edgardo Cruz, and 23-year-old Sammy Castillo, and Santa Fe could be in position for their first division title.
                King Felix’s only team that has been in the league for 33 seasons snuck back into the playoffs last year after a 14 year drought. The Wichita Rocks 91 win season was led by young rotation of Brent Davis, Harold Snodgrass and Aurileo Romero, all of whom should only get better this season. Barjaz kept all of his moves in house this season, bringing back nine players through arbitration, while locking up centerfielder Ted Britton and third baseman Paul Hiljus to long term deals. Wichita has a long road ahead of them if they want to make their second straight playoff appearance, but behind a rotation that finished with the third lowest ERA in the American League, the Rocks are clearly a contender again.

                The Durham Bulls finished in fourth in the AL South last season. Any other division would consider that a disappointment, but a 79-83 record in the toughest division in baseball is no small feat. However after spending lots of money the last two offseason’s on free agents, tony23 kept his team quiet this offseason. There is only one new face on the roster, second baseman Andy Latham, who is back in the majors after a year of AAA. The Bulls also made sure to keep their younger players in house, shelling out long term contracts for shortstop Frank Selman, left fielder Roscoe Pence, and relief pitcher Andrea Sheffield. However the roster could be changing this season, after Durham added 10 players to the trading block. They will be a team to keep an eye on come trade deadline time.

                                                                              AL West

                Our last preview, the AL West, features a clear front runner and three dark horses. A year after finishing with an American League best 108 wins and World Series title, 40’s San Diego squad remains in prime condition to repeat. Edward Jeffries was brought in from Trenton to replace Zachary Anderson at Centerfield, and Jason Matthews can eat some of the innings vacated by Kevin Sobolewski who left for league rival Minute Men. All Star and Cy Young candidate Anthony Aven bolsters a stingy bullpen in a stingier park, while “Sir” Gallahad Vogelsong and Horatio DeLeon hope lead another power surge on offense. Short of any injuries (knock on wood, sorry for the jinx 40) San Diego should easily makes their way back into the playoffs.
                The other three teams in the division have a bit of a gap to close, as evident by their respective top 10 picks in the amateur draft. By far the most aggressive moves came from the expansion Fresno Falcons. New owner vdfizio made a huge splash by trading for first baseman Wellington Rijo and third baseman Walt Cook from Texas for starting pitchers Miguel Bennett and Chris King. Fresno’s lineup will definitely be improved next year alongside Steve Snow, Andy Lincoln and Ross Rodgers but after Victor Diaz and Heinie Tobin as a first and second starting pitcher, the staff begins to look shaky. However Fresno certainly has the hitting to take second place a push for a wildcard bid.
                The Arizona Wild Kitty’s were forced to make some tough decisions this offseason. Daniel “X-File” Mulder, who hit and MVP worthy .323/.393/.633 slash line along 46 homers and 143 RBI was brought back on arbitration for nearly 9 million. However this meant having to let starter Robb Lockwood leave for Philadelphia. Tony Vizcaino was brought in from Seattle to take his spot in the rotation, and with Paul Evans finally able to spend a full season in Arizona and Skeeter Tanner back from injury, they may be able to pick up the slack. However someone on offense will need step up besides Mulder in order for the Wild Kitty’s to improve upon last year’s record.

                Honolulu had the quietest off-season of all, with only one new face on the roster, right handed pitcher Rey Camili, who can start or eat up innings out up the bullpen. Otherwise freesteagle will continue to watch his young lineup led by third baseman Orval Moss (26 years old), left fielder Javier Sanchez (26) and second baseman William Berger (23) gain experience. Berger is an especially popular choice to finish as Rookie of the Year. The staff on the other hand isn’t very exciting. Enrique Concepcion and Albert Polonia are ok at the top, but after that the Swingin’ Jackwagons are in serious need for an upgrade to their pitching.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Division Previews: Season 33

NL South

Season 33 in King Felix should be an absolute dogfight in the NL South. Any of the four teams could find the right buttons to push and find themselves sitting atop the division at seasons end. With so much competition in division, getting a 2nd team into a wild card sport may be too difficult, and a very deserving team may be left sitting at home.

Tampa Bay,led by cebola, last years division winner went into the off-season with limited payroll flexibility and focused on smaller FA moves to improve his club. Most notable from this group of smaller tier FA’s is Art Krause who has enjoyed a fine career. Cebola also brings aboard Rodney Peterson, a 22 game loser last season. Obviously, Peterson is not that bad and should help shore up the pitching staff. Kevin Lowery resigned with Tampa and will lead them offensively. If cebola is looking to give Lowery some help, at some point in the season, stud C prospect Brandon Cunningham could see a call up to the big club.

Richmond fell short last year by a game in the standings. I don’t believe it was due to a lack of hitting or pitching, but rather a shaky defense. Richmond boasts an impressive lineup, bolstered this year by Tony ‘tiger’ Rodriguez’, their only FA signing of the offseason. The pitching staff is lead by Harry ‘balls’ Arias, and Perry Gonzalez. Can the offense score enough to offset a few unearned runs here and there? If so, bwb53 will find himself king of this leagues most competitive division

The Texas Wildcats are helmed by a man unafraid to spend money. Carseneau boasts a squad featuring 3 players making over 17.8 million and one of the higher payrolls in King Felix. This strategy has helped the wildcats to some impressive seasons lately, but has not translated into any playoff success, much like mtg and the peacemakers. As the roster ages, cars must be asking how long the window will stay open for the ever elusive WS title. The Talent is there, the wildcats just need to get hot at the right time. Leading the charge for this years team is Yorvit Rodriguez. Rodriguez started his career in Texas, and after a few years away from the lone star state, is back with a big contract and even bigger expectations.

The final team in this four way race, the Iowa City Johnsons are led by King Felix vet ahsowhat. The Johnsons finished last season with a record of 86-76. Hardly the record of a 4th place team, however that is where they finished. Ahsowhat must have felt pitching let him down last year as every FA signing he had was a pitcher. The biggest signing however was the re-signing of Clarence ‘Scrooge McDuck’ Coleman, who was given his second max contract. Offensively, Sherman Curtis and his 128 runs scored will be the focal point. You will be hard pressed to find a better lead off batter then Curtis in this world. Youngster Diego Alvarez will also be expected to contribute at the plate.


The NL West looks to be a one horse race as King Felix enters season 33. The Helena Peacemakers are the clear cut favorites to win the division and make another run in the post-season. Mtg has been a frequent visitor to playoff baseball, but is possibly the unluckiest owner in King Felix when it comes time for October baseball. Mtg will once again rely on Gerald Hull ‘ie shit, he’s good’  and Hersh ‘chocolate’ Glyunn offensively, both who are MVP candidates any given year. What makes this team elite though is that Helena may boast the best pitching staff in the NL. Darryl Bigbie leads a staff that should boast a number of 15-18 game winners.

The rest of the division looks to be very competive with each other for the second place slot. The
Tacoma Tornadoes, led by 1st yr King Felix owner alogman1, will boast a lineup featuring 2 superstars in Benny ‘the jet’ Molina and Luis Peron. The rest of the roster is still being shaped at the time of this preview.

The 2nd newcomer to the division is tigersin7. Tigers has located his franchise in pitcher friendly Seattle, just a 30 min drive from division rival Tacoma. Looking to make a splash, tigersin7 landed FA pitcher Sidney Little ‘johnson’, a pitcher who has been extremely under utilized for the 1st part of his career. I’m sure there are more then a few who are curious to see how he will be used going forward.

Last but not least is longtime King Felix owner bigparb13. His Shock have been in rebuild mode the last 3 seasons after a highly successful run for the last dozen years or so. His draft picks and international signings have landed him a bevy of young offensive talent. Wellington Diaz made his debut last year as a 19 yr old rookie and was far from over-matched. To go along with Diaz, the Shock lineup will soon have the option to add talented minor league youngsters ‘wha’ Seop Jiang, ‘the rifleman’ Jerry Winchester, Chris Edwards, and Jackson Dicky. All who look to be either stars or solid ML ball players. If the shock could find some young pitching, we could be looking at another dozen solid years for the franchise.

                Three teams return to the AL North minus the reigning division champs, leaving the division for the taking. The Minnesota Elites are gone, but Gregor199 and the Scranton Rail Riders will look to pick up where his old roster left off. Gregor’s main focus seemed to be improving the second stingiest pitching staff in the AL, responsible for winning 101 games. Gone is 19 game winning right handed pitcher Corky Jackson, who was swapped to Monterrey straight up for equally impressive lefty Al Gardner. Only time will tell which team got the better end of the blockbuster. Cy Cone and Andres Zapata were also brought in to shore up the bullpen. Not much changed on offense for Scranton, and could be familiar to fans for a long time after Julio Molina, Ralph Spiers and Mike Durrington were signed to long term extensions this off-season.
                Though the finished in last in the division in season 32, Kansas City made aggressive off-season moves to push them back into the playoff chase. Mmaldanado made Pedro Ontiervos a rich man, shelling out 17 mil for the lefty swinging right fielder who hit .301/.398/.512 en route to his first All-Star appearance. Chuck Sanders was also brought in to get on base and play amazing defense at either centerfield or shortstop. While the hitting should be improved, a pitching staff coming off a 5.20 ERA is the real reason for concern. Jerry McClain, taken 3rd in the rule 5 draft from Seattle should help the rotation, but the Blues may need to add another arm to the rotation to get back to the playoffs.
                Dengodd’s time in Toledo seems to have been an experiment gone wrong, as the Mud Hens have already retreated back to their longtime home of Hartford. However that was really the only major move for the Whalers. Youth seems to be the theme in camp this spring after nine players were brought back on Arbitration, 6 of whom are 28 or younger. The team will likely be getting even younger in the coming months. While they currently aren’t on the roster, 25 year old Bernie Villarreal and 22 year old Robert Browning may find themselves on the 25 man roster later this season. Villarreal, a contact hitter from both sides of the plate and Browning, who hit 50 home runs in AA last season, could make a formidable corner outfield duo for the coming years.
                Vancouver stayed quiet this offseason, with a core lineup of Alvin Hundly, Junior Chong and Johnny McNally, all 24 or younger, continuing to get more at bats and more expierence. The only change to tdfactory’s lineup were the additions at catcher. Randy Kelleher allowed opposing batters a 3.82 ERA in his first full season as a starter behind the plate in old Sacramento. He will compete for at bats with rookie Bing Cousins who gets his first shot at the majors after growing up in the Shock’s minors. New long relief pitcher Calvin Curtis can take some much needed bullpen innings.

                For the past decade, the AL East has known only one true champion, the Trenton Thunder. 50’s team has won the East pennant 10 of the last 11 seasons, qualifying for the playoffs as a wildcard in their only non 1st place finish. Division titles aren’t enough though, as 50 will be looking to add another title to his season 25 and 26 trophies. Trenton will have to improve on a pitching staff that had a 4.87 ERA last season. J.P. Brogna was brought in from Iowa City as a back end rotation/long relief pitcher and Terrence Riggs gives the Thunder a strong throwing righty killer. The only other new faces in town came through the Rule 5 Draft. Vin Pattenson, Rod Stone and Bob Hunter could all see at bats this season in Trenton, with the power hitting first baseman Pattenson really expected to shine.
                Trenton’s biggest challenger this season may be the new Rochester Garbage Plates, taking Philadelphia’s old franchise. Fregoe’s team finished with 86 and 85 wins the last two seasons, but it hasn’t been enough for a wildcard spot. However Rochester’s offseason was relatively quiet. Four players were resigned to extensions, including second baseman Sammy Medrano. The only brand new face so far in camp is former first round pick Slade Rehfield, who after being called up from High A will add another young arm to the bullpen. Yet with a roster consisting of 11 players 29 or younger, this youthful team will only get better with expierence.
                The Cleveland Clumsy Pelicans had a quiet offseason in the second year in King Felix, after they traded away five players last season in exchange for youth. The youth movement continued this offseason by way of the Rule 5 Draft. Pete Sullivan, a 26-year-old shortstop, a Brooks Volstad, a 23-year-old starting pitcher were great additions if Cleveland continues their rebuild. Four other younger players were brought back in arbitration, including shortstop Vic Monterto and pitcher Anibal Espada, both of whom will be looking to play their way into large long-term details next season.

                Norfolk will be looking to rebuild after suffering 115 losses last season. Their top off-season addition hasn’t even joined the team yet, as the Turkey’s own the number one pick in the amateur draft. Former top draft picks and future projected rotation pitchers Tom Siddal and Sadie Friend are just 20 and 19 respectively. Whenever they get to the majors, they will likely have Tony Valdes to frame pitches behind the plate after he was taken first overall in the Rule 5 draft out of Arizona. However until loosec’s young guns are able to develop, Norfolk will be a longshot to take the division title.