Saturday, April 24, 2010

Season 16 Preview - American League

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

Once again last season Cleveland followed it's usual M.O. and made the playoffs as a wildcard entrant, and then proceeded to unseat the top seeded teams en route to an incredible 6th straight World Series appearance, where they lost to the powerful Columbus side from the NL.  How will this season fare in the AL, will it be more of the same as the rest of the league just plays for regular season glory while Cleveland tears through the postseason yet again?  Or will there finally be someone else representing the junior circuit in the championship?  Read on to see how Lars thinks the regular season will play out.

American League

Lars the Greeks Divisional Breakdowns

AL North: For as long as Lars can remember Pawtucket has owned the AL North.  But the winds of change are blowing and not even the mighty Dean Hernandez may be enough to stop the oncoming Toronto Blue Jays storm.  The Chicago Sabercats and Seattle Pilots are rebuilding for the future, so this is a two team race featuring a long time powerhouse vs. a franchise that is sorely overdue for some success.  Lars thinks that with the moves Toronto made in the offseason to shore up their lineup plus their maturing and very impressive pitching staff they will finally have enough to unseat the mighty G- Maniacs.

AL East: Dover owned the regular season last year while Cleveland once again did enough to get into the playoffs, where they have ruled supreme in recent memory.  Lars sees more of the same this year as both squads remain very talented and are clearly superior at the moment to their divisional rivals in Syracuse and New York.  While those two teams rebuild to challenge in a few seasons, it looks like another dogfight for the top spot.  Lars sees a similar outcome to last season as Dover is the deeper of the two franchises, and that benefit will be reaped in the regular season. 

AL South:  The AL South has the real potential to be what the NL East is currently in a season or two, as all four teams look to be very good in the upcoming seasons.  This year though Kansas City is a season or two away and will probably finish at the bottom of the division, albeit with a competitive record.  Florida and Nashville are locks to be good teams and have winning records, while the Dogs move to Santa Fe is the wildcard in this division.  Santa Fe improved their ML team by leaps and bounds in the offseason, and if their pitchers arms stay attached could match the performances of the divisional favorites.  This should get interesting, and picking a division winner for the AL South is extremely difficult indeed.

AL West:  This division should be a similar story to the last few seasons as Tacoma and Vancouver are the favorites, and St. Louis and Anaheim are dark horse candidates for a wild card spot.  Vancouver hasn't been able to quite put it together the last few seasons, but they added some huge free agent signings in the offseason that make their lineup very dangerous.  Lars thinks that this year might be the time they finally beat out their Pacific Northwest rival to the North for the division.

Projected Cy Young: Dean Hernandez - Pawtucket G-Maniacs
--Other Contenders: Kazuhiro Ong (NAS), Benito Beltre (TOR), Tommy Wakeland (VAN), Darren Howry (TAC), Eric Collins (FLA), Trevor Seelbach (CLE)
Projected MVP: Pedro Franco (NAS)
--Other Contenders: Lyle Crudale (CLE), Ralph Woods (SFE), Richard Nakajima (VAN)
Projected Fireman of the Year: Trevor Seelbach - Cleveland Steamers
--Other Contenders: Raymond Hawkins (FLA), Jared Jacobsen (LAA), Edgardo Romero (DOV)
Projected Rookie of the Year: Russell Walker - Toronto Blue Jays
--Other Contenders: Mike O'Shea (DOV), Damaso Pizarro (SYR)

Top Five Rotations in the American League

1. Toronto Blue Jays
2. Florida Almendares
3. Pawtucket G-Maniacs
4. Tacoma Jerry Gang
5. Vancouver Grizzlies

Top Five Lineups in the American League
1. Nashville Rebel Riders
2. Vancouver Grizzlies
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Santa Fe Greyhounds
5. Cleveland Steamers

Top Three Offseason Free Agent Signings
1. Bosco Simon - Vancouver Grizzlies
2. Victor Gandarillas - Santa Fe Greyhounds
3. Ignacio Lopez  - Vancouver Grizzlies

Four Teams on the Rise:
1. Toronto Blue Jays
2. Vancouver Grizzlies
3. Santa Fe Greyhounds
4. Kansas City Express

Two Teams on the Decline
1. Anaheim Sharks
2. Chicago Sabercats

Four prospects who could make a difference if called up this season
1. Morris Coomer - Anaheim Sharks
2. Malcolm Tucker - Cleveland Steamers
3. Harry Barnes - Vancouver Grizzlies
4. Enos French - Vancouver Grizzlies

Projected finishes, by division:

AL North
Toronto Blue Jays - 94-68
Pawtucket G-Maniacs - 88-74
Seattle Pilots - 72-90
Chicago Sabercats - 64-98

AL East
Dover Dingos - 96-66
Cleveland Steamers-94-68
Syracuse Sympathizers - 76-86
New York Expos - 63-99

AL South
Florida Almendares - 92-70
Nashville Rebel Riders - 90-72
Santa Fe Greyhounds - 85-77
Kansas City Express - 63-99

AL West
Vancouver Grizzlies - 97-65
Tacoma Jerry Gang - 95-67
Anaheim Sharks 89-73
St. Louis Tweakers - 71-91

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Season 16 Preview - National League

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

The dynasties of the past are officially dead in the National League, and the NL East proved their mettle with three playoff teams and the eventual World Series champions in the Columbus HoundDogs.  The HoundDogs were especially dominant last season, with the best record in both leagues, the W.S. title, and a sweep of all major awards.  It will be very difficult for them to match that feat again this season, but they do have the horses to make a run at the repeat.  Who will stand in their way?  Read on and find out.

National League

Lars the Greeks Divisional Breakdowns

NL North: The NL North looks to be a three team race between New York, Trenton, and Sioux Falls.  Burlington is in a full on rebuild and won't be a factor at the ML level this season.  Of the three contenders all have flaws - Sioux Falls has great pitching and Kirk White but their offense is anemic, New York has a great lineup and rotation but the bullpen is iffy, and Trenton has some great hitters but only two starters who can really get the job done. Lars thinks that New York has the slight edge here.

NL East: Tampa Bay (formerly Syracuse) really shook up the division with tons of trades this season and signed a lot of talented veteran free agents, but even with all those moves Lars doesn't think that this year will be any different from last season when they won 95 games and finished 4th.  This division belongs to Columbus until someone knocks them from their perch.  Wichita and Atlanta are certainly capable of doing so, as they have the talent, but Columbus is probably just too good this year.  But Lars thinks that there will be three playoff teams from this division once again, as Tampa, Wichita, and Atlanta are all pretty evenly matched. 

NL South:  Jackson took a major step back last season, going from a World Series team to the cellar, and sold most of their major league team as a result this offseason, so Lars doesn't see them making an impact in the divisional race.  That leaves Richmond, who has been enjoying a pretty good run the last few seasons, Charlotte, which has some great hitters but lost a lot to free agency this year, and Montgomery, who if they call up their incredible slew of uber talented minor leaguers could have the best team in the National League.  Lars thinks that this is the year that the Montgomery franchise goes back to the top of the NL South

NL West:  San Francisco won the division handily last year, but thanks to some untimely injuries faltered in the playoffs.  Iowa City has the same level of talent but just didn't get it done last year, so they are looking to make amends and give the Earthquakes a run for their money.  Omaha is well managed and in transition so look for them to have a winning record but not really factor into the division, and Los Angeles is getting much better but just isn't quite there yet.  Lars thinks that if Iowa Cities pitchers perform like they should, they have a slight edge this season. 

Projected Cy Young: Davey Silva - Wichita Wankers
--Other Contenders: Clyde Ford (SF), Talmadge Young (COL), Ivan Canseco (SF), Junior Lee (ATL), Furio Kydd (IA)
Projected MVP: Chipper Harper - Columbus
--Other Contenders: Nick Weaver (ATL), Omar Rosado (NY2), Tim Collins (MNT)
Projected Fireman of the Year: Kirk White - Sioux Falls
--Other Contenders: Sarma Inge (CLB)
Projected Rookie of the Year: Wascar Galvez - Trenton Lions
--Other Contenders: Bo Bianucci (SXF), Juan Javier (TB), Kazuhiro Martin (SF), Jesus Tabaka (LA)

Top Five Rotations in the National League
1. Tampa Bay Beagles
2. Columbus HoundDogs
3. Atlanta Pitbulls
4. San Francisco Earthquakes
5. Iowa City Corn Dogs

Top Five Bullpens in the National League
1. Sioux Falls Corn Cleats
2. Columbus HoundDogs
3. San Francisco Earthquakes
4. Wichita Wankers
5. Tampa Bay Beagles

Top Five Lineups in the National League
1. Columbus HoundDogs
2. Trenton Lions
3. Atlanta Pitbulls
4. Iowa City Corn Dogs
5. Wichita Wankers

Top Three Offseason Free Agent Signings
1. Bernie Almonte - New York Pick Pockets
2. Alex Presley - Charlotte Thunder
3. Jerry Ross - Richmond Cohibas

Top Three Trade Acquisitions
1. Kirk White - Sioux Falls Corn Cleats
2. Louie Tarraga - Montgomery Burns
3. Frank Hartgraves - Jackson Pollocks

Four Teams on the Rise:
1. Montgomery Burns
2. Trenton Lions
3. San Francisco Earthquakes
4. Los Angeles Leopards

Three Teams on the Decline
1. Jackson Pollocks
2. Burlington Champs
3. Charlotte Thunder

Seven prospects who could make a difference if called up this season
1. Michael Leonard - Iowa City Corn Dogs
2. Doyle Grey - Montgomery Burns
3. Morgan Kirby - Montgomery Burns
4. Jamie Hayashi - Montgomery Burns
5. Ignacio Feliz - Montgomery Burns
6. Brutus Meyers - Omaha Sluggers
7. Andres Tatis - San Francisco Earthquakes

Projected finishes, by division:

NL North
New York Pick Pockets -91-71
Sioux Falls Corn Cleats - 88-74
Trenton Lions - 84-78
Burlington Champs - 68-94

NL East
Columbus HoundDogs - 104-58
Atlanta Pitbulls - 94-68
Tampa Bay Beagles - 92-70
Wichita Wankers - 90-72

NL South
Montomgery Burns - 96-66
Richmond Cohibas - 87-75
Charlotte Thunder - 72-90
Jackson Pollocks - 64-98

NL West
Iowa City Corn Dogs - 93-69
San Francisco Earthquakes - 89-74
Omaha Sluggers - 84-78
Los Angeles Leopards - 73-89

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Season 16 Offseason Free Agency Preview

Leon Jackson - Special Correspondent

The hot stove is warming up, and we're here to bring you all the coverage! Today, we bring you our rating service's top 10 free agents of this offseason. Overall, it's a fairly weak class of free agents, but there are still a few solid players out there that can turn around franchises. Let's get to the top 10!

SEASON 16 Top 10 Free Agents

P.T. Wiggins
Age: 30B/T: R/R
Born: Las Vegas, NV
Position(s): 1B/DH
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

10. P.T. Wiggins, 30, 1B/DH
No Designation
Key Stat: Solid Ratings Across the Board

Possible Destinations: Santa Fe, New York (AL), Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver
Salary Over/Under: 3 years, $8 million

Signed with Atlanta - 2 years, $3.8 million

Wiggins has never really gotten a shot in the bigs, coming off the bench for Sioux Falls for a few seasons before being traded to Hartford last season and demoted to AAA. This guy deserves a spot as someone’s 1B or DH. He’s got great splits and batting eye, and very good power. His contact isn’t great, and he can’t field very well. But with that kind of bat, he should be in someone’s lineup – we think he could hit .275 with 30-35 HR if given a full time opportunity.

Pete Brantley
Age: 32B/T: L/R
Born: Palm Harbor, FL
Position(s): C/1B/DH
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

9. Pete Brantley, 32, C
Type B Free Agent
Key Stat: .814 Career OPS

Possible Destinations: Santa Fe, Richmond, Charlotte, Trenton, Chicago
Salary Over/Under: 3 years, $10 million

Signed with Seattle - 1 year, $1.855 million

Brantley is a very average defensive catcher, but has such an excellent bat, that some team will likely give him a shot to be their everyday backstop. He has great splits and contact, and a pretty good batting eye, to go with decent power. Age is a concern, more so defensively, as he may only have a few seasons left as a serviceable catcher. As a 1B/DH, he loses a lot of his value.

Gregory Rivers
Age: 36B/T: L/L
Born: Hempstead, NY
Position(s): P (ClA)
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

8. Gregory Rivers, 36, RP
Type A Free Agent
Key Stat: 3.32 Career ERA

Possible Destinations: Charlotte, Santa Fe, Atlanta, Wichita, Tacoma
Salary Over/Under: 2 years, $11 million

Signed with Richmond - 3 years, $24 million

Rivers has outstanding peripherals across the board, ranking as having the best control, splits, ratios, velocity, and pitch combo in the class by a wide margin. But durability, stamina and age bring his value down quite a bit. He should be an excellent reliever for a few more seasons. It’s hard to justify signing a 36 year old type A free agent, but Rivers is so good, we think someone will bite, despite durability concerns.

Del Haney
Age: 29B/T: L/L
Born: Burlington, NC
Position(s): P (SuA)
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

7. Del Haney, 29, RP
Type A Free Agent
Key Stat: 4.31 Career ERA, Age

Possible Destinations: Cleveland, Anaheim, Atlanta, Jackson, Nashville
Salary Over/Under: 4 years, $20 million

Signed with Santa Fe - 1 year, $4.45 million

In a free agent class that doesn’t feature many quality relievers, Haney’s value soars. He has great durability and stamina for a reliever. Control and splits are good, but not great, he can really keep the ball down, and has some very nice pitches. He could close or be a great setup guy. The next Kirk White he’s not, but in this class, he’s one of the best relievers.

Bosco Simon
Age: 30B/T: R/R
Born: Cordell, OK
Position(s): LF/2B/RF
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

6. Bosco Simon, 30, LF
Type A Free Agent
Key Stat: .833 Career OPS

Possible Destinations: New York (AL), Trenton, Vancouver, Santa Fe, Richmond
Salary Over/Under: 4 years, $36 million

Signed with Vancouver - 1 year, $7 million

Simon is an outstanding contact hitter with nice power, good splits, and a nice batting eye. He’s coming off a solid season with Toronto, and would fit nicely as a team’s #2 hitter, possibly even a #3. He’s never really had the breakout season that his ratings indicate he may be capable of. In the right lineup, it could happen.

Gregg Young
Age: 32B/T: L/L
Born: Texarkana, AR
Position(s): 1B/DH
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

5. Greg Young, 32, 1B/DH
No Designation
Key Stat: 310 Career HR

Possible Destinations: Chicago, Santa Fe, Richmod, Vancouver, New York (AL)
Salary Over/Under: 3 years, $11 million

Signed with Anaheim - 4 years, $25 million

Greg Young is a tremendous power hitter, with excellent contact, splits, and batting eye. He’s put up some spectacular numbers in past seasons, although last season was a disappointing one for him, putting up the worse numbers of his career. We think he’ll bounce back. He hasn’t declined much, and should be able to add a lot of value to a lineup. If he goes to a hitter’s park, look out. And he won’t even cost you a draft pick, which is a definite plus.

Victor Gandarillas
Age: 32B/T: R/R
Born: San Lorenzo, VE
Position(s): P (SP3)
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

4. Victor Gandarillas, 32, SP
Type A Free Agent
Key Stat: 3.99 Career ERA

Possible Destinations: Cleveland, Charlotte, Tacoma, Santa Fe, Seattle
Salary Over/Under: 4 years, $34 million

Signed with Santa Fe - 3 years, $26 million

Gandarillas is a solid righty, coming off a tremendous season with Sioux Falls, where he posted a sub 3.00 ERA and posted 15 wins. He has outstanding control, velocity, and keeps the ball down. His pitches are solid, but not spectacular. He is a bit vulnerable to lefties, but we don’t see that as much of a concern. He hasn’t declined much, even though he’s 32, so he should have several more solid seasons ahead of him.

Bernie Almonte
Age: 29B/T: S/R
Born: Barahona, DO
Position(s): P (P)
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

3. Bernie Almonte, 29, SP
Type A Free Agent
Key Stat: 3.84 Career ERA

Possible Destinations: Seattle, Richmond, Santa Fe, Wichita, New York (AL)
Salary Over/Under: 4 years, $44 million

Signed with New York (NL) - 5 years, $29.2 million

Almonte, another Sioux Falls pitcher, features superb control, has great splits and throws with a lot of velocity. His pitch quality is decent, but doesn’t impress, and he generates a lot of fly balls. He worked mostly as a reliever last season, after starting the previous three seasons. He has borderline stamina for an SP, which is probably why he has gone back and forth between the rotation and the pen. Given his young age, we feel he can still be a starter for several more seasons, and would be a plus for most rotations.

Jerry Ross
Age: 32B/T: L/L
Born: Overland Park, KS
Position(s): P (P)
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

2. Jerry Ross, 32, SP
Type A Free Agent
Key Stat: 3.71 Career ERA

Possible Destinations: Tacoma, Florida, Wichita, Cleveland, Charlotte
Salary Over/Under: 4 years, $48 million

Signed with Richmond - 5 years, $82 million

Ross stands out because of his outstanding splits, to go along with excellent control. His Velocity and ability to keep the ball down are solid, and he has a very good pitch selection. Again, his stamina isn’t great for a starting pitcher, which is a slight concern, he was used in relief some in the past, but has mostly been a starter. The good news, is there is no signs of decline yet for him, so we think he has some good years left as a starter, where he should post excellent numbers.

Alex Presley
Age: 28B/T: R/R
Born: West Blocton, AL
Position(s): 2B/CIF/OF/DH
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

1. Alex Presley, 28, 2B
Type A Free Agent
Key Stat: Last 3 Seasons averaged 35 HR 107 RBI

Possible Destinations: Santa Fe, Charlotte, Richmond, New York (AL), Vancouver
Salary Over/Under: 5 years, $80 million

Signed with Charlotte - 4 years, $39 million

Presley gets the nod as the top prize in this year’s free agent class. He is an outstanding hitter across the board, putting up great numbers the past two seasons in a heavy pitcher’s park of Tacoma. He has upside for even better numbers. He is also a great fielder, who can be an asset at 2B, or he could play CF in a pinch. He is also still only 28, so he should be outstanding for the entire length of a 5 year deal. Get your checkbooks out now!

Here’s a few players that were considered, but didn’t make the top 10. These guys can helps some teams too:

Honorable Mention, Hitters: Luke Henley, Sam Lockwood, Santiago Matos, Brandon Miller, John Helms, Dude Barry, Ignacio Lopez, Roger Sanders

Honorable Mention, Pitchers: Ryan Kinney, Luis Gonzales, Luis Sosa, Phil Chang, Patrick Bullinger, Andres Quixote

Good luck in free agency!