Saturday, July 25, 2015

S34 AL Preview


The AL North is a division that has been owned by one franchise for the past 6 seasons.  It doesn't appear that times will be changing anytime soon as the other 3 franchises are in rebuild mode.  An abandoned team that one only 31 games last season will have to sort through the damage, but have added some nice pieces and could play spoiler as the season goes.  Kansas City and Augusta are on shorter rebuild windows, maybe even 're-load' windows.  KC added some nice pieces and has some help coming up through the system that should see time this year.  Augusta has a nice roster, but tends to be a bit fragile and their season could depend on saying healthy.  It will be a battle for second if history holds true, with Scranton on top for the 7th consecutive season.

Scranton Rail Riders (S33 Record 90-72 **Division Champs**)
State of Franchise:  Contending
Additions:  Elrod Coke, Rafael Rios
Subtractions:  Aneury Sanchez, Edgmer Elcano, Gerald Kida, Julio Molina
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Al Sabathia, Lonny Palmeiro

Notes:  Scranton was able to grab their 6th straight division crown in S33, but the 1st under new owner gregor199.  This is a very talented offense, led by DH Mike Durrington who carried a fantastic .935 OPS and added 31 homers to the team total of 233.  The Rail Riders ship sluggers Gerald Kida and Julio Molina out in the off season and brought in some pitching help in 37 year old reliever Elrod Coke and potential starter Rafael Rios.  Pitching is the soft spot on this club if there is one, Scranton finished below the league average in ERA, WHIP, SLG, OBP and OAV.  Al Gardner had a rough S33 after coming over in a trade with Monterrey, finishing with his highest ERA in five seasons.  No doubt he will have to return to form if Scranton wants to retain the division crown.  

Kansas City Blues (S33 Record 73-89)
State of Franchise:  Rebuilding
Additions:  Wellington RijoBart Owens
Subtractions:  Tony Jorgensen, Arthur Collier
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Louie Maradona, Ignacio Valdes

Notes:  Kansas City is entering it's 10th season under the command of mmaldonado29, finishes no better than 2nd in two of those seasons.  The big signings of Wellington Rijo and Bart Owens add valuable pieces to the puzzle as the Blues look to take the next step.  Pedro Ontiveros is back and coming off a career year with a slash line of .314/.422/.525/.947, pair him with Rijo and that's quite the 1-2 punch.  Much like Scranton, the pitching staff has been the Achilles Heel for this team finishing under the ML average in ERA and WHIP and 4th worst in Ks.   22 year old pitching prospect Louie Maradona, along with Ignacio Valdes could be brought to the show to help the rotation.  Second year pro, SP Ron Backe, will start the season in AA, but could see his ML debut late in S34 or after 20 games in S35.  The help is on the way and another acquired bat and arm could push the rebuilding Blues to the front on the line in the AL North.

Augusta Polar Bears (S33 Record 70-92)
State of Franchise:  Rebuilding
Additions:  William Adams
Subtractions:  Melvin Kydd, Matty Hill, Hal Ladendorf, Wladimir Aceves, Ivan Guzman
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Robert Browning, Bernie Villarreal

Notes:  In his 27 seasons in Felix, dengodd2 has been very consistent, finishing in the top 2 of the division every season since S14, with the exception of 3.  Last year being one of them.  A slight downward trend started in S29 and the organization has been struggling to right the ship since.  It looks as though Augusta has committed to the rebuild.  They moved Ladendorf, Aceves and Guzman in the off seasons for William Adams and prospect Elmer Fasano, who is coming off a S33 stint on the 60 day DL.  The Polar Bears staff finished 2nd worst in the league in ERA, WHIP, SLG and OBP in S33, so dengodd2 decided to move the franchise to Augusta from Hartford in an attempt to hide this obvious weakness.  Coming off his worst statistical ML season since becoming a full time starter, Babe Colin, was give a 3 year / $19.5mil contract extension, locking him up through S37.  The offense was the catalyst last season, but it will be interesting to see what happens after the move from hitter-friendly Hartford.  There are some prospects coming, Browning and Villarreal could see ML time this season, but the trade from hitting success to pitching success could leave dengodd2 right back in the same position next offseason.  Burlington will be improved and Augusta could be fighting to stay out of the cellar if injuries strike this franchise again.

Burlington Bookworms (S33 Record 31-131)

Notes:  Abandoned by their previous owner, jrnyfan01 steps in and moves these orphans to the spacious Mustain Stadium in Burlington.  This is listed as a rebuild, but something tells me that it won't be long because the Bookworms won't stop believing (see what I did there).  Top prospect Nate Lanier will make his debut to start the year, while the bat is limited, his minor league career OBP sits a .410, a solid mark for a good glove man.  Five players were brought in via free agency and another 5 via trade.  The Bookworms ML squad definitely made out on the deals, Ross Rogers has hit 20+ homers in his first 3 full seasons, Hines can play 162 behind the plate with a career .335 OBP and .819 OPS.  The pitching staff looks to be the weak spot, but Burlington can hide that inadequacy.  The team ERA was a staggering 10.18, but that was mostly due to fatigue issues.  The probability is extremely high that the Bookworms do no worse than double their win total with an outside chance at qualifying for a wild card spot.


When you look up the definition of dynasty, there will be a Thunder logo just below it.  Eleven out of the past 12 division titles is an outstanding mark and it looks like 12 of 13 is right around the corner.  50below is the only returning owner in a re-vamped division.  Hartford is on the right track and made some nice trades and signed a few impact free agents, but coming off a sub .500 season, it's hard to imagine they catch the Thunder this season.  Syracuse and Charlotte are rebuilding after both finished more than 25 games back of 92 win Trenton.  Syracuse was more aggressive this off season and will be improved, but they and Charlotte are looking at the same window to be in division contention.  It looks like the most interesting thing this season in the AL East will be to see how far away Hartford is and how Syracuse and Charlotte attack their rebuild process, because Trenton is taking this one down again.  

Trenton Thunder (S33 Record 92-70 **Division Champs**)
State of Franchise:  Contending
Additions:  Pedro Henriquez, Orlando Jose, Osvaldo Castillo, Dennis Hammel, Tanner Battle, Trevor Barrett
Subtractions:  Javy Alvarez, Glen Erving, Johnnie Garcia, Delino Osuna, Rob Sanders
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Jamie Fisher

Notes:  Eleven times out of the past twelve seasons, the division banner has flown above Waterfront Park in Trenton.  50below has built a sensational dynasty here in Felix, 19 seasons, 14 division titles and 2 WS Championships.  The Thunder spent most of their off-season adding value contracts to their bullpen and a few bench players to support an impressive lineup.  This roster is aging as all 5 starters are over the age of 33 and Miguel Gutierrez and AJ Sheffield are on the back end of solid careers.  The biggest handicap for 50below right now is there are some rather large contracts, with 3 players making over $12mil in S34, which makes the crafty cheap value signings so impressive.  Trenton will be there at the end again if they can stay in the top 6 in AVG and OBP and keep the staff above league average.  The division is better with some veteran owners joining, but it's still the Thunder's to lose.

State of Franchise:  Almost There
Additions:  Turk Papelbon, Ray Cohen, Johnny Franco, Marc Diaz, Galahad Melville, Kevin Sobolewski, John Kirby
Subtractions:  Kane Brown, Glenn Seo, Walker Shaw
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Roger Fowler, Terrell WhitakerSlade Stone

Notes:  The Dance Party was involved in one of the more interesting trades in the off season as they found a partner in Monterrey who sent Sobolewski and Kirby over for Walker Shaw and a minor leaguer.  Kevin joins a rotation that already includes the young Felipe Peron, who threw over 200 inning in an impressive S33.  Ivan Aquino, Marshall Clinton and Ricardo Javier will round out the rotation that finished with a 5.16 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP in S33.  Kevin Hatteberg is back along with Andrew Turner and Octavio Macias to power a top 10 returning offense.  The big prize of the offseason for new-comer selmer was Marc 'Does the Carpet match the Drapes' Diaz, who signed for $26 million over 4 years.  The three time All-Star's slick glove should provided some protection up the middle for a staff that may need it.  The offense could see a boost as well if Fowler and Whitaker make the Show in S34 and impress.  Slade Stone could provide HDP will some bullpen help as well once the season reaches the mid point.  There is still some work to be done as selmer continues to tweak this roster, but HDP had a nice start doing so this off-season.  The results may still be a year away, but the heat will be on Trenton soon.

Syracuse Barking Spiders (S33 Record 65-97)
State of Franchise:  Rebuilding
Additions:  Johnnie Garcia, Alex Guzman, Joe Cooper, Vin Saez, Pasqual Rodriguez, Brad Fielder
Subtractions:  Domingo Molina, Alvin Ford
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  none

Notes:  How do you start a rebuild?  How about signing the #1 and #4 ranked free agents for a start?  Prize score, Joe Cooper, went for the hefty price of $90.5mil over 5 years.  The spot Cooper fills in Syracuse is larger than the hole he leaves in Pittsburgh.  Silentpanda really needed to add some talent and credibility to a franchise that just missed losing 100 games in S33.  Another 5 year deal was given to Pasqual Rodriguez, this one worth $71 million, another big price for a guy who will eat innings out of the pen, but probably can't be used as a starter.  The sleeper of all the Spiders signings was arbitration casualty Brad Fielder.  While the bat plays about average, the glove is strong and can be played in multiple positions.  If Fielder can repeat last years' .346 OBP and keep up in the field, the $26 million may prove to be worth it.  Syracuse's rotation could struggle but prospects Tom Siddall and Sadie Friend are on pace to debut in the show in late S35 or early S36.  It wouldn't be a surprise if that was silentpanda's plan to compete once those two come onto the scene.  Look for a trade or an FA signing to add another veteran starter in the next two off seasons.    

Charlotte Charlatans (S33 Record 54-108)
State of Franchise: Rebuilding
Additions:  Bryan Joseph, JR Holder, Martin Brantley, Yamil Estrada, Luis Jacquez, Calvin Ellis, Tony Barrios
Subtractions:  James Barker, Vic Montero
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Cord Hennessey and Julius Ramirez

Notes:  In his first year with the rebuild, bobd4967 was aggressive signing Montero to an extension then shipping him to Tampa for 3 prospects.  There are some nice pieces coming in Charlotte, Cord Hennessey will make his ML debut on opening day and C Julius Ramirez will join shortly after.  Last years' #6 pick Conner Carbonell is coming quick entering his 1st full professional season out of Southern Illinois University - Carbondale.  Gerry Morse will be along to help as well, but Charlotte fans will have to wait a bit longer for last years $17.6 million dollar IFA, Kosuke Sakamoto.  The off season acquisitions should be enough for the Charlatans to hit the win floor and wait for the coming help.  Their window could open about the same time as Syracuse, it will be interesting to see who makes the necessary moves to jump Trenton.


Two teams posted 100+ win seasons in S33 and one took home the crown.  This division is scary good and almost impossible to predict.  Santa Fe is coming off one of the best HBD seasons we have ever seen but Monterrey clipped their wings for the title, Wichita was excellent but ran into Trenton in the playoffs.  Then there is Durham, a team that would win almost any other division in Felix but this one.  Monterrey had to cut some salary in the off season but received nice pieces back.  Wichita is always a threat and re-tooled slightly with no major losses.  Durham also added some nice pieces and will be better just from development.  The major question and one that will most likely decide who sits on top is if Santa Fe can conjure up the magic once again and repeat last years historic season.  A first glance, it would seem Monterrey came back to Wichita and Durham a bit.  Expect one if not both of the AL wild cards to come out of this division and for one heck of another 162 game season in the AL south. 

Santa Fe Brooks (S33 Record 112-50 **Division Champs**)
State of Franchise: Almost There
Additions:  Francisco Santiago, Salvador Spooneybarger
Subtractions:  Enos Phillips, Rick Klingenbeck, Anthony Clark, Yadier Mijares
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  none

Notes:  It seems odd to list a team that finished S33 with the best record in Felix as 'almost there', but as nelsonba25 put it, "Until we win the WS, I guess we're almost there."  This roster is absolutely loaded, former #1 pick Samuel Merrick and his 58 homers are back in RF, Terry French plays opposite Merrick in LF with his career OBP of .388.  Skip Walton was resigned in the off season at 1B and Al Espinosa still mans 3B.  The Brooks finished S33 with the 9th best team ERA in the world.  Wrap your head around that playing in Santa Fe, if they can repeat those numbers, nelsonba25 will be in the WS hunt once again.  The starters are dense, as Santa Fe usually goes with a Tandem style rotation.  Edgardo Cruz won an absurd 33 games last season throwing 233 innings and Sammy Castillo  added 19 wins despite a robust ERA of 5.02.  The bullpen is about as good as the rotation with Derek Fraser and Albert Jose being the main arms.  It's hard to believe that the pitching success can be duplicated once again to get to 112 wins, but this team is very, very good and will be in the mix in one of the best divisions in Felix.

Monterrey Minute Men (S33 Record 108-54 *AL Wild Card*  ***AL Champs***  ****World Series Champs****)
State of Franchise:  Contending
Additions:  Omar Estrella, Art Krause, Ajax Maybin, Jamie Dong, Anthony Clark, Walker Shaw, Wladimir Lopez
Subtractions:  Salvador Spooneybarger, Danys Dotel, Oswaldo Roque, Mike Sherman, Jesus Trinidad, Kevin Sobolewski, John Kirby, Corky Jackson, Pablo Figureoa
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Phillip Skinner, Stuffy Sefcik

Notes:  Safetyman was able to grab his 2nd Felix world title in 28 seasons despite finishing 2nd in the division to Santa Fe.  The Minute Men saw quite a few players exit from last year's squad and added a bunch of new faces.  The main stars are back, Stefen Redondo had a ridiculous first full season hitting 57 homers and driving in 168, all while being awarded the ROY, Silver Slugger and MVP to go with his WS Ring.  Louie Li, Ignacio Flores and Johnny Wilk are back in the rotation and all coming of 13+ win seasons.  Monterrey sent Sobolewski, Kirby and Jackson out in the off seasons via trades and their loses will be felt, but the rotation is still strong enough.  The subtractions definitely out weigh the additions, but this is still a very strong team that will compete.  The offense may have to carry more of the load with the big time loses to the staff.  It's shouldn't be much of a problem though, as Monterrey finished in the top 3 in HR, AVG, OBP, SLG and OPS.  Safetyman will have enough once again to make a run in one of the best divisions in Felix.

Wichita Rocks (S33 Record 97-65  *AL Wild Card*)
State of Franchise: Contending
Additions:  Hong-Chih Nakamura, Alex Callaspo, William Matsumoto
Subtractions:  Louis Barker, Gustavo Bonilla
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Neal Ellis, Ty Governale, Bob Westmoreland

Notes:  Since season 1, barjaz has run the franchise in Wichita.  Things haven't been great recently as the Rocks have been unable to finish higher than 3rd in the division in the past 4 seasons, despite qualifying for 2 wild card spot over that time.  This is the most competitive division in the world, but the fans in Wichita are screaming for a division crown.  It may not come again this season, as it appears barjaz will be looking up at safetyman and nelsonba25 once again.  The three headed monster of Julio Valdez, Rogers Nevin and Ricardo Piedra are back with a rotation that will once again include S33 All-Star and 20 game winner, Brent Davis.  Rounding out the strong starting 5, are Alex Harris, Harold Snodgress, Aurelio Romero and free agent signee Hong-Chih Nakamura.  Al Serra and Jorge Macias will be the first ones out of the pen for the Rocks again this season for a staff that finished 3rd in ERA, WHIP, OBP and AVG.  Wichita has enough to grab a 3rd straight wild card berth with this strong roster and will most likely see the postseason again.

Durham Bulls (S33 Record 85-77)
State of Franchise:  Almost There 
Additions:  Glen Erving, Ugueth Torres, Geronimo Molina, Pedro Guzman
Subtractions:  Ryan Hicks, Gene Leach
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  none

Notes:  Is it possible to win 85 games and finish in the cellar in a division?  It is in the AL South, just ask tony 23.  In 19 seasons, the Bulls have only reached the post season twice and have never claimed the top spot in the division.  One would think Durham has a lackluster offense and a weak staff, but quite the opposite is true.  Durham finished S33 top 5 in AVG and OBP, and in the top half of the league in most pitching categories.  Geronimo Molina was signed (1 year / $5mil) in the off season to augment an offense led by 2nd year man and returning All-Star Doug Shannon and slugging All-Star DH Nicky Oquist.  Last year's #1 pick (#15 overall), SP Richie Mercedes, flew through rookie ball and low A with a sparkling 2.27 ERA and struck out over 3 hitters for every 1 he walked.  Durham gave up the 17th pick to ink Molina, so tony23 will have to find another way to pad his minors with talent.  Durham is a solid team in a beast division and will have to find a way to jump one of the top three or hope the division comes back to them a bit.  


Two new owners, two teams over .500 and two team under .500, that's the AL West coming into this season.  Eric1214 take over the defending division champs and let's some pieces walk in free agency but supplements nicely.  Honolulu is improved and growing into themselves, but Colorado made some serious moves to contend.  The Wild Kittys are sitting back and rebuilding under pville's leadership.  This is another division that is hard to call, Arizona will pull up the rear but Anaheim, Honolulu and Colorado could all make runs.  Colorado had to make moves going into Coors and it looks like the job was done well, so expect them to be right there when it's all said and done.  Anaheim's window is closing and this may be their last chance to made a deep run in the playoffs.

Anaheim Arte Morenos (S33 Record 95-67 **Division Champs**)
State of Franchise:  Contending
Additions:  Joba ZieglerMike Sherman, Ray Griffith
Subtractions:  Carlton Magee, Dennis Hammel, Marc Diaz, Carlton Hines
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  none

Notes:  This franchise, formerly of San Diego, moves to Anaheim under the new leadership of eric1214.  Eric1214 joins Felix with a career win % of .504, but does not have a title to match that success, hard to figure.  The roster is aging and may be in the last few seasons of contention before starting a rebuild.  At 29, 2B Galahad Vogelsong is one of the youngest position players inherited by the Arte Morenos and is coming off an impressive S33 where he had a slash line of .306/.368/.536/.904.   SP Anthony Aven, also 29 years of age, went 18-12 last year with a 4.45 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.  The sure-handed Joba Ziegler was brought in from Louisville to help build off the staff's 4.20 ERA.  The stadium change should have a slight effect on the pitching, but the bump from Ziegler's pitch calling could even things out or even drop the team ERA.  Marc Diaz was a big time free agent, but with the state of the roster and the window closing, the picks seemed more valuable and eric1214 felt the need to move on.  The loss of Magee to Tampa Bay is manageable if Josh Charles repeat his 2.88 ERA from last season and if re-signed SP Jason Mathews can come close to repeating last year's numbers.  Anaheim is good, but Colorado made a lot of impact moves and could bump Anaheim from the #1 spot.

Honolulu Swingin' Jackwagons (S33 Record 94-68)
State of Franchise:  Almost There
Additions:  none
Subtractions:  Jared Sexson, Matthew Lane, Javier Samuel
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Warren HenryJack Cammack

Notes:  As Anaheim ages, Honolulu is getting younger.  Five players will be on the 25 man roster under or at the tender age of 25.  Freesteagle made the jump from rebuild mode last season and posted an impressive 94 win season with growing pieces.  Sexson, Lane and Samuel all over the age of 31 jump ship to more win-ready franchises.  The replacements are in place now as RP Yonder Benitez, SS Dorssys Park and INF Rico Pena will be in their rookie season and should produce decent numbers.  Power hitting catcher Rudy Howell will be in his 3rd full season with the Swingin' Jackwagons following a season in which he posted 47 homers and 132 RBI.  Ace of the staff, Enrique Concepcion won 10 games and held an ERA under 3.00 in S33 and the possibility is there that he has a Cy Young caliber season.  OF Warren Henry and SP Jack Cammack will join the team sometime in the near future.  No doubt freesteagle has a strong squad coming up through the minors, but they are likely still a year or two away.  It's a waiting game in Honolulu, Arizona will keep them out of the cellar but Colorado is likely to jump them.

Colorado Bigfoot (S33 Record 77-85)
State of Franchise:  Almost There 
Additions:  Rick Klingenbeck, Sammy Elster, Yorvit Suarez, Luis CallaspoSanto Cerda, Jolbert Amaral, Socks Rose, Horacia Soria, Hal Ladendorf, Wladimir Aceves, Gerald Kida, Ivan Guzman, Julio Molina, Bing Cousins, Earl Schwartz, Elroy Leonard, Junior Chong
Subtractions:  Ajax Maybin, Luis Jacquez, Ray Griffith, Fred Tucker, Domingo Esposito, Elrod Coke, Santiago Martis, Heinie TobinSteve Snow, Julian Soto, Torey Chambers, Victor Estrada, Ross Rogers, Gary Hamilton, William Adams, Bo Sutton, Rafael Rios, Gerardo Lopez
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  none

Notes:  There is a opening scene in one of the best baseball movies of all time where two construction workers are looking over a roster and say, ''who are these f'''''' guys."  Fans in Colorado would likely be doing the same thing had mitt0108 not acquired the impact players he did.  A whopping 18 guys move on from this franchise and a fresh crop of 17 roll in.  Trying to sort through every move to diagnose what the Bigfoot are up to will make your head explode, so we'll just say this, 'they are better, a lot better".  SP Cerda, SP Elster and 2B Socks Rose are the most recognizable new faces, but the man behind the place is one that we are all aware of, C Andy Lincoln swings one of the most potent bats for a catcher in the world and calls a solid game as well.  Lincoln would have hit 500 homers in his career, but he might have had to hang on a few extra seasons to do it.  With 376 in 9 seasons, he may reach 500 in S35, after posting 51, 40, 59, 47 over the past four seasons and with the move to Coors, watch out.  The Bigfoot did the most reasonable thing a new owner can do when choosing Coors as your home park, he added power bats and ground ball pitchers.  This could be the division champ when the season concludes, but will likely do no worse than a second place finish.

Arizona Wild Kittys (S33 Record 70-92)
State of Franchise:  Rebuilding
Additions:  Jesus Trinidad, Fred Tucker
Subtractions:  Kirk Hartman
Projected Rookie Call-Ups:  Curtis Gosling

Notes:  Pville was able to reach 70 wins last season and once he qualifies for the win floor, expensive pieces could be shipped out as the rebuild is on for the Wild Kittys.  Soon to be free agents, Alex Crespo and Daniel Mulder, could fetch a good price at the deadline.  SS Curtis Gosling could make his debut in S34, but his time could be short lived as #25 pick Felix Wagner is coming up behind him.  There are more pieces coming but are a little while off, such as CF Ralph Hamlin, who hit .295 with 17 homers at Low A last season.  Arizona will pick #7 overall in the upcoming amatuer draft and are sure to play in the IFA market.  It will be interesting to see how pville continues on with this rebuild, but for the near future it looks like Arizona may hang around in the cellar.

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