Saturday, October 24, 2009

Season 14 Preview - American League

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

American League

Overview: The American League has been dominated by the Cleveland Steamers for the past four seasons, as the controversial franchise has been to four straight World Series, winning in season 12, but failing in all three tries against the mighty Omaha Sluggers. Battling for the right to lose to Cleveland in the playoffs has become much more competitive lately, outside of the easily predictable AL North, with several playoff newcomers last season. This year looks to be the same, as the Steamers will again in all probability take the AL East, the #2 seed will likely go again to Pawtucket, and the rest of the race will be a crap shoot.

Projected Cy Young: Dean Hernandez - Pawtucket G-Maniacs
Projected MVP: Lyle Crudale - Cleveland Steamers
Projected Fireman of the Year: Jared Jacobsen - Anaheim Sharks
Projected Rookie of the Year: Matty Palmer - Boston Loggers

Top Five Rotations in the American League
1. Toronto Blue Jays
2. Pawtucket G-Maniacs
3. Cleveland Steamers
4. Florida Almendares
5. Tacoma Jerry Gang

Top Five Lineups in the American League
1. Cleveland Steamers
2. Anaheim Sharks
3. Louisville Dogs
4. Vancouver Grizzlies
5. Pawtucket G-Maniacs

Top Three Offseason Free Agent Signings
1. Corey Green - Louisville Dogs
2. Vernon Jones - Louisville Dogs
3. Kip Zeile - Arizona Tigers

Four Teams on the Rise:
1. Tacoma Jerry Gang
2. Vancouver Grizzlies
3. Chicago Sabercats
4. Nashville Rebel Riders

Three Teams on the Decline
1. Anaheim Sharks
2. Dover Dingos
3. Pittsburgh SSP

Five prospects who could make a difference if called up this season
1. Patrick Ramirez - Boston Loggers
2. Hugh Clark - Tacoma Jerry Gang
3. King Gonzalez - Pawtucket G-Maniacs
4. Thurman Tresh - Kansas City Express
5. Roosevelt Fox - Kansas City Express

Projected finishes, by division:

AL North
Pawtucket G-Maniacs - 96-66
Toronto Blue Jays - 85-77
Chicago Sabercats - 82-80
Seattle Pilots - 64-98

AL East
Cleveland Steamers - 97-65
Dover Dingos - 82-80
Pittsburgh SSP - 72-90
Boston Loggers - 68-94

AL South
Louisville Dogs - 91-71
Nashville Rebel Riders - 90-72
Florida Almendares - 87-75
Kansas City Express - 61-101

AL West
Tacoma Jerry Gang - 96-66
Vancouver Grizzlies - 94-68
Anaheim Sharks - 89-73
Arizona Tigers - 71-91

The End of Spring

David Morales- South Florida correspondent

Gerardo Meija surveys the Trenton Lions spring training complex in Port St. Lucie Florida and he likes what he sees. The Lions have one of the newest and most impressive spring training complexes in Florida, but that is not what has him excited this morning. Instead, Mr. Meija is watching the Lions newest star, Rico Estrada, lead the Lions onto the field for one of the last infield practices of the spring. In an unlikely sports-business story, Mr. Meija went from fan to owner almost overnight by providing the cash infusion to sign Mr. Estrada.

For a music company executive, buying part of a baseball club may seem like an unusual move. “Not at all,” says Mr. Meija, “established professional sports are a fairly safe investment and I’m a passive investor in all this.” Mr. Meija’s interest isn’t entirely passive, however. His buy-in was contingent on the Lions signing Mr. Estrada to a contract. “I’d been a fan of Rico’s for a long time, and I know he’s a fan of mine. It just made sense.”

Last fall, after the stock market crash, the Trenton Lions were hard up for cash and it seemed they may not be involved in the free agent market. Enter Geraldo Meija. “I met some of the ownership group at one of Jimmy Iovine’s parties and I told them they should sign Rico Estrada. They said to me ‘that’ll take 75 million- we don’t have 75 million’ so I told them ‘I have 75 million’. It just went from there.”

For his part, Mr. Estrada seemed excited to be involved with the Lions and Mr. Meija.“ There were several clubs offering me contracts, but when I heard that Geraldo was involved with Trenton I knew that’s where I had to be.” Mr. Estrada also seemed undaunted by the task of helping turn the Lions into consistent winners. “It’s going to be an uphill battle here, but before I signed I talked to brysoc [Trenton Lions GM] and I liked his plan for making this club a champion. I think we can do it.”

Even if Mr. Estrada’s signing doesn’t guarantee a championship for Trenton, it certainly helped the club grab some much needed attention. Mr. Estrada was arguably the most important free agent this offseason. Among his accomplishments, Mr. Estrada holds 2nd place all time in Cobb for hits and 5th place all time for runs scored. Mr. Meija's resume includes his own hit song, 'Rico Suave', and bringing rapper Bubba Sparxxx to Interscope records.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Season 14 Preview - National League

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

The more things change in Cobb World, the more they stay the same. That much was evident last season as the playoffs welcomed some teams that hadn't seen the glory of the postseason in over a decade, or ever, yet still yielded a World Series where Omaha triumphed over Cleveland for the 3rd time in 4 seasons. But the winds of change are blowing through Cobb, as some teams are clearly on the rise, while others are in decline. To help you make sense of it all, Lars the Greek has cast the runes to see who will ultimately triumph in season 14.

National League

Overview: The National League has been ruled by Syracuse for the past two regular seasons. In the playoffs it's been another story as Omaha has passed the test numerous times, and Wichita recently made a surprise appearance in the World Series. This season looks to be not much different, as Syracuse clearly has the best team on paper, but Omaha has the experience where it counts in the playoffs. Lars sees Syracuse posting another dominant year with an easy path to the #1 seed, while the race for the #2 seed will be a bit more competitive, but will probably once again result in Omaha receiving the playoff bye. The second best team in the NL might actually be another member of the increasingly brutal NL East, but with Syracuse being so good at the moment, the best they can hope for is a wildcard berth.

Outside of the two top teams the rest of the NL is a pretty wide open race for the final four playoff spots. Lars thinks pretty much every team save Trenton, Montgomery, and the NL West outside of Omaha has a shot at the playoffs, and those five teams are rapidly closing the gap. The end result should be a very exciting wildcard race to close the regular season in the National League.

Projected Cy Young: Davey Silva - Wichita
Projected MVP: Paul Jung - Syracuse
Projected Fireman of the Year: Kirk White - Syracuse
Projected Rookie of the Year: Blade Haas - Los Angeles Leopards

Top Five Rotations in the National League
1. Omaha Sluggers
2. Atlanta Pitbulls
3. Syracuse Beagles
4. Columbus HoundDogs
5. Sioux Falls Corn Cleats

Top Five Lineups in the National League
1. Syracuse Beagles
2. Charlotte Thunder
3. Omaha Sluggers
4. New York Pick Pockets
5. Wichita Wankers

Top Three Offseason Free Agent Signings
1. Rico Estrada - Trenton Lions
2. Benito Rodriguez - Los Angeles Leopards
3. Ruben Montero - New York Pick Pockets

Four Teams on the Rise:
1. New York Pick Pockets
2. Iowa City Corn Dogs
3. San Francisco Earthquakes
4. Trenton Lions

Three Teams on the Decline
1. Sioux Falls Corn Cleats
2. Hartford Whalers
3. Omaha Sluggers

Five prospects who could make a difference if called up this season
1. Furio Kydd - Iowa City Corn Dogs
2. Harold Austin - Richmond Cohibas
3. Tim Collins - Montgomery Burns
4. Morgan Kirby - Montgomery Burns
5. Kazuhiro Martin - San Francisco Earthquakes

Projected finishes, by division:

NL North
New York Pick Pockets - 91-71
Sioux Falls Corn Cleats - 89-73
Hartford Whalers - 82-80
Trenton Lions - 70-92

NL East
Syracuse Beagles - 107-55
Wichita Wankers - 92-70
Columbus HoundDogs - 89-73
Atlanta Pitbulls - 88-74

NL South
Charlotte Thunder - 89-73
Richmond Cohibas - 87-75
Jackson Pollocks - 82-80
Montgomery Burns - 54-108

NL West
Omaha Sluggers - 96-66
Iowa City Corn Dogs - 78-84
San Francisco Earthquakes - 75-87
Los Angeles Leopards - 71-91

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Free Agent Fever Hits Cobb

Cobb world has been insulated from the recent economic downturn if the recent free agent splurges of several teams are any indication. The top 5 free agents received a total commitment of over $220 million. Virtually every team made some kind of signing, whether it was the New York Pickpockets adding new ace Ruben Montero, the Chicago Sabrecats upgrading the closer position to Geraldo Santiago or Tacoma bringing Buddy Hennessey out of retirement. Probably the most exciting Free Agent news were the big signings in Los Angeles, Louisville and Arizona.

"So much has changed for me over this off-season," said new Los Angeles Leopard Benito Rodriguez, " especially the expectations." Rodriguez has played most of his career in the small prairie cities of Fargo ND and Sioux Falls SD, flying under the national radar despite success that favorably compares to high profile pitchers like the mustached Eric Collins. Now that he has landed in Los Angeles, with an Ace's contract, the quiet Georgian will face intense media scrutiny. "Its something I have to get used to but we're building a winner here, and there is no better town to be a winner in than this one."

While Los Angeles took a giant step forward in their quest to make the playoffs, another team used the free agent period as an opportunity to build a potential champion. The Louisville Dogs won the final 15 games of the regular season to capture the best record in the AL. In the playodds they ran out of steam, bowing out to Cleveland in the ALDS. In response, Louisville has added power and improved their defense, bringing in top shortstops Steven Grilli and Corey Green, both of whom are capable of hitting over 30 HR. Green will move to 3B as he chases 500 HR and a spot in the Hall of Fame. "There were other teams who were offering the chance to stay at shortstop, but at this stage of my career, I am more interested in accumulating championships" Green said. " I think that Steve (Grilli) and I add a dimension to this team that can put it over the top."
Louisville also added catcher Vernon Jones to their mix. Jones will both catch and DH, and could himself hit 30 HR with enough playing time.

To the South West, the recently relocated Arizona Tigers made a huge splash when they signed superstar Kip Zeile. Arizona bench boss Cesar Galvez was excited about the addition of the accomplished slugger "Its great from a baseball perspective, but also from a business standpoint. The last time I was in Arizona the club just didn't click with the fans. Now Zeile is a guy the fans can relate to- he's one of the greatest hitters of all time and he is a great person- we didn't have a guy like that two years ago."

Biggest Winner:
Besides Benito Rodriguez, the biggest winner in free agency this off-season were the Richmond Cohibas. Richmond added stud relievers Shane Parrish, Ryan Kinney and Bobby Flores and now has one of the most dominant bullpens ever, at the mere cost of their second and third round draft selections.

Biggest Loser:
Any player with Type-A status. As is usual, teams shied away from Type-A's this offseason, leading to smaller contracts than some analysts expected for pitchers like Ryan Kinney and Bernie Lopez.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Free Agent Market: First Base/ DH

It is difficult to win a championship in Cobb without a top-quality offense. While a contender will need offensive contributions from all over the diamond, it is essential to have a top run producer at first base (and designated hitter in the AL). Also, because this is the easiest position to play, non-contenders may choose to allow a fading star to chase a milestone at first base.

OBP leaders: Herman Perry (.372) is still one of the most dangerous left-handed hitters in Cobb. Kip Zeile (.358), Woody Olerud (.347) Roosevelt Ingram (.344) and Alfredo Cruz (.313) round out the top 5. Honorable mention goes to Willie Kotsay (.301) who has a career .349 OBP.

SLG leaders: Herman Perry (.600) remains a significant power threat, and would make a great platoon 1B/DH or pinch hitter for a lot of teams. Kip Zeile (.565) has 636 career HRs and launched 107 HR the past two seasons. Roosevelt Ingram (.505, 33 HR), Alfredo Cruz (.402, 19 HR) and Woody Olerud (.349) are the other top sluggers.

Defense: Speedster Alfredo Cruz has won 2 gold gloves at 1B in the last 4 years.

Notable: Kip Zeile was the season 12 AL MVP. Alfredo Cruz is the career Cobb leader in steals has stolen over 100 bases in each of his full major league seasons and has never been caught more than 10 times.

Free Agent Market: Second Base

This year's group of free agent second basemen is fairly limited. However, the free agent market still presents opportunities for clubs willing to be creative.

OBP: Benji Molina (.372) is the premier second baseman available. Rabbit Lara (.370) and Diego Villa (.365 in 90 PA) are capable veterans at the plate. Tony Saenz (.336) is only a season removed from posting an excellent .375.

SLG: Villa is the hardest hitter in the group (.471) although he may be better cast as a pinch hitter and utility player at this stage of his career. Benji Molina (.463) and Rabbit Lara (.418) are the other top sluggers.

Defense: Benji Molina is a two time gold glove winner at the position, and is still capable of top quality play. Tony Saenz is at least major league average. Buddy Hennessey has superior skills around the bag and is making a comeback attempt after missing a season due to outrageous contract demands. Willis Roth, another comeback candidate but listed as a CF, has very good range at 2B.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Free Agent Market: The Hot Corner

Third basemen must blend quickness with power to have successful major league careers. Some player have managed to combine great defense and the ability to reach base to become assets to their teams. This year's crop of free agent third basemen includes not only the players profiled below, but also players already profiled at SS and the OF who might be better suited for this position. With the glut of 3B types on the market, teams looking for a free agent bargain are in luck.

OBP leaders: Tom Pettite's .371 allows him to profile as a potential leadoff man for some teams. Curtis Chase (.349), Tito Sisco (.344), Ken Daniels (.342), Derrick Crosby (.342) and Domingo Montana (.341) are the other OBP leaders.

SLG leaders: Derrick Crosby and his 30 HR lead this group (.528). Domingo Montana (.506) managed his 9th 100 RBI season behind 27 HR and 31 doubles. Sammy Maduro (.475) Tom Pettite (.441), Ken Daniels (.418) and Curtis Chase (.417) are the rest of the top sluggers.

Defense: Tom Pettite had the best range factor in this group. Domingo Montana has a great glove and throwing accuracy for a 3B. Curtis Chase and Tony Sisco are probably the best all-around defenders. Derrick Crosby may profile as a top defensive RF.