Wednesday, December 30, 2009

AL South Season 14 Preview

Here's how tough the AL South is: not a single team improved last year (although Little Rock matched Season 12's 93 wins), but it still won more games (359 - 1 win short of 90 per team) than any other division. Not hard at all to imagine 3 90-game winners this year, with Nashville improving as well.


: The Holes were 4th with 908 runs last year. Ivan Maranon and Billy Ray Hernandez have moved on, replaced by a committee at SS and Rafael Machado in the outfield. Carl Serrano (41 HR's & 95 RBI as a rookie) moves to right - he joins DH Carlos Manzanillo (.300/24/74), 1B Wilson Costello (.284/33/80) and 3B Wes Phillips (.283/26/102) in the heavy lumber part of the lineup. Trend (even)

Little Rock
: The Pebbles were 9th with 150 runs last year. The 2, 3 and 4 lineup slots are in excellent hands with power-hitting CF Troy Harris, lifetime .324 hitter Matt Wallace, and career doubles leader Lon Andrews. Jerry Bernero packs a wallop at SS (42 and 37 HR's his first 2 seasons), and new LF Pedro Guerrero has some monster HR seasons on the resume. Guerrero's clearly in decline, though, and the rest of the lineup is a bit of a black hole. They may need to trade for some offense to contend. Trend (even)

Richmond: 6th with 887 runs last year, the Poor Men count on a trio of sluggers for the bulk of their run production: DH Tony Ueno (.280/42/125), RF Tomas Cruz (.287/51/152), and 3B Sean Hines (.268/29/85). CF Jared Coleman isn't your ideal lead-off man, but he did score 97 runs last year. C Ryan Lord had a very nice rookie season and could improve; they could also get a boost from AAA COF's Edgar Redondo and Alex Garland. Trend (+)

: The Ramblers piled up an impressive 904 runs last year (5th). They feature a balanced power (8 plyers with 20+ HR's) and speed (5 players with 15+ steals) attack. Richie Elder (.348/22/86) is one of the league's top-hitting C's Derek Foster (.278/41/105) seems to have found his stroke again, Lance Reed (.284/39/88) could have been ROY in a different year, and Frank Schmidt has quietly put up 3 straight 39+ HR, 97+ RBI seasons. DH Ray Henley may be trade bait for pitching help. Trend (+)


Jackson: The Holes' 4.23 ERA was a virtual tie for first last year. #1 starter Johnny Collier continues his assault on the record books. #2 Del Mendoza had an off year but should return to his excellent Season 12 form, and Darryl McCorley is a steady #3. Closer Orlando Diaz is closing in on the top 5 in career saves. Somebody tell me why Quilvio Rodriguez can't pitch. Trend (even)

Little Rock: The Pebble's pitching (4.23 ERA) carried them to the Division Championship Series last year. While every conversation about Little Rock's staff starts with closer Geoff Sosa (his Cy Young/FOY double last year has only been accomplished once before, by Roger Lawson in Season 8), it's a solid young rotation (Del Ramirez has the most star potential). In the 'pen Quentin Houston is the perfect compliment to Sosa, and would probably be the closer on any other. AAA lefty Vicente Rivera could be added bullpen strength this season. Trend (even)

Richmond: The Poor Men were 4th with a 4.42 ERA last year. Charlie Cosby's the ace...the rest of the rotation has flaws but gets the job done. Rookie Dion Rice may get a chance to crack the rotation this year, as could Season 11 1st-rounder Dion Hull (AAA). Jacob Franklin might be the second-best closer in the AL now - with rookie Harry Gumbert, FA Rich Brock, Juan Martinez and Dutch Pavano, it looks like Richmond has put together a comparable set-up crew. Trend (+).

: The Ramblers were 11th with a 5.23 ERA last year. Harold Bryant regressed a little from his near-ROY rookie season, but still won 15. He's joined in the rotation by an all-30+ group - they've either seen better days or are holding their breath for the next trade announcement. Hideki Martin got 15 starts as a rookie last year and could get another crack at the rotation. The bullpen is perhaps more undistinguished - closer Yorvit Manuel is the best of the bunch but his poor control is a nasty flaw. Trend (even)


It's a strong division, but Jackson will take it again
2. Richmond improves its late-inning pitching to take second
3. Little Rock's pitching is good, but I don't think they can repeat last year's performance - they fall to third.
4. Nashville will socre a lot of runs, but it won't be enough in a brutal division...gotta go get some pitching somewhere.
5. Rookie watch: Richmond's Edgar Redondo and Little Rock's Vicente Rivera
6. Vets on the move: just about any Nashville hitter could move sometime this year...let's say Henley and/or Foster if both/either has a strong start.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NL South Season 14 Preview

Business as usual in the NL South last year, with the Apologists winning their 11th division title and Mexico City challenging for most of the year and finishing with 99 wins. This may finally be the year things tighten up: Memphis and the Desperadoes both took big free-agent hits, while El Paso and Austin keep bringing up more young talent.


Memphis: The Mudcats' predecessor Apologists punched in 3rd with 825 runs last season, but are sure to miss departed free agents Maximo Cota and Valerio Benitez (360 hits and 219 RBI to replace). They'll try Davey Molina at SS (who will at least be a defensive upgrade) and some combination of Kennie Hamilton, Johnny Hernandez, and Ramon Iwazaki in LF. It's still a potent lineup, with the likes of RF Danny Perisho (averaged 49 HR's over the last 4 seasons), 2B Sammy Reyes (41 HR, 108 RBI last year), C Andre Brownson (.297/21/86), and 1B Nash Brooks (.307), but they're likely to back up a little. Trend (-)

Mexico City: 761 runs last season, good for 7th. The free-agent reaper hit hard, claiming Matty Marrero, Ryan Shelley and Pedro Guerrero. The Desperadoes will count on 1B Dicky Hudson, LF Damaso Castillo, and CF Charles Perez to do most of the damage, but they might go through some scoring draughts this year. Trend (-)

: Disappointing Season 13 with 733 runs (9th), but help is on the way. The Chaloupas gutted their farm system and moved fan favorites Marty Daly and Felix Koh to get thumpers Kevin Grabowski and Richie Scheffer, and C Pat Ramirez. FA Ryan Shelley takes over at 2B for Koh. Trend (+)

El Paso
: The Nine plated 671 last year for 15th. C Eddie Garciaparra improved nicely in his second year with 29 HR's and 78 RBI, and Harry Rodrigo (.260/31/87) was one of the year's best bargains at $890K. Ryan Adcock (the other half of the C platoon) crushes lefties. Beyond that, their best hitters might be in AA (Kenneth Scoroposki
and Graham Black). Trend (even)


Memphis: 4th at 3.85 last year - lost Kaz Lim to free agency. Pat Thomas moves into the rotation, which is suddenly looking vulnerable. Jose Romo may be the best starter now. Pasqual Tabaka is an absolute workhorse setup man, and Lawrence Simpson remains a top closer - both could see new addresses by midseason. Trend (-)

Mexico City
: Led the league with a 3.54 ERA last year. Lost Jesus Javier and Jacob Martin to FA, and still have 2 ace-caliber starters (Pedro Encarnacion and Cy Young winner Luis Redondo) plus Belle's career strikeouts leader (Cory Mitchell) in the rotation. The Desperadoes need (and so far are getting) great things from 3rd-year man Cesar Morales and rookie Peter Itou. Yamil Manzanillo and Tony Rodriguez anchor a huge (8-man) bullpen. They might slip a little, but it's still a deep, quality staff. Trend (-, but just a little)

Austin: 13th with a 4.48 last year, the Chaloupas hit free agency hard and landed Jesus Javier, Terry Pote, Theodore Curtis and Felix Cortes. Prospects Omar Chavez
and William Kim have made roster - blue-chipper Rafael Aquino was being shopped around for another ML starter, but suffered a career-threatening injury. Trend (+)

El Paso
: 6th at 4.11 ERA last year; lost Terry Pote and Pedro Fernandez in FA. The Evil Nine rotation features a trio of promising youngsters: Vince Cross and Midre Jose debuted last year; Alex Russell makes the jump this season. The bullpen hierarchy is unclear, although Rick Miller seems set to retain his closer job. Trend (+)

1) Austin wins its first division title since Season 3
2) Mexico City's pitching carries it to 2nd and wildcard contention
Memphis still has enough to take 3rd
4) El Paso's pitching progresses, but oh, that O isn't enough - 4th.
5) Rookie Watch: Mexico City's Peter Itou, Austin's Omar Chavez and El Paso's Alex Russell
6) Vets on the move: Memphis relievers Tabaka and Simpson

Sunday, December 27, 2009

HBD Tip #8: minor-league fatigue

(thanks to firechief for this one)

Manage your minor league fatigue. You screw up development and add to injuries if you play your players down to 0.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

AL East Season 14 Preview

The briefly-Hartford Katanas dominated last year, winning a league-record 125 games en route to their 8th straight division championship. A year ago, D.C. looked ready to challenge, but they backed up by 16 games (not to be blamed on the .291/32/127 with 44 SB's Victor Morales). Pittsburgh posted a nice 7-game improvement in its first season of the Rebuilding Challenge; Rochester's 12-game slide has sparked rumors of a tear-down.


Cleveland: The Katanas plated a monstrous 1247 runs last year and bring back a nearly-identical roster. They feature 4 hitters with 40+ HR potential (Encarnacion, Fitzgerald, Langston and Joyner) - although the end of the steroid era and the move from Hartford may suppress the power totals some. On top of that, there are seemingly countless .300 hitters (in addition to the above 4) running around. About the only real concern is whether LF John Tamura can stay healthy. Runs are likely to be down, but they'll still lead the league by a healthy margin. Trend (-)

Washington D.C.
: the Revenge add a pair of new weapons to last year's 851-run (8th) team: LF Miguel Mesa looks like he could put up a .370+ OBP and 30 HR's, and DH Hooks Allen, has the potential for .340 and 25. They join last year's MVP, 1B Eric Brantley (.324/54/143) RF Victor Morales (.291/32/127), and 2B Danny Pride (.292/13/69) as the team's core run producers. Trend (+)

Rochester: The Phantoms have also been busy tinkering with last year's 3rd-ranked offense (922 runs). FA's Pablo Padilla and Pablo Cerveza move in at C (versus righties) and 3B, meaning last year's ROY, All-Star and Silver Slugger 3B Jesus Gomez (.334/28/126) shifts over to SS. Robert Franco takes over at DH from the 13 different ones they tried last year, and should be a big upgrade. I like the moves, but you have to be wary of fall-off's from Wally Reid (career .296 hitter who exploded to .349 last year) and Gomez. Trend (even)

Pittsburgh: The Allegheny's were 15th with 742 runs last year, but were the talk of free agency with their Brogna and Cota signings. Now if Neifi Foster (new record for stolen bases last year - 113)can keep getting on base at a .345 clip, they'll be set for a nice jump up the offensive rankings. Trend (+)


Hartford: The Katanas led the league at 4.22 last year and brig back the entire staff intact. Cleveland's staff is outstanding not in having 1 or 2 killer studs (although Vic Benitez and Roger Lawson do have Cy Youngs ), but in having no weak spots. They throw 6 starters who are capable of making the All-Star team (4 have); Lawson heads a pen that is equally free of deadly flaws. Trend (even)

Washington D.C.: 6th at 4.65, the Revenge staff let them down last year. They especially need improvement from big talents Jimmie Feliz (7-14, 5.44) and Esteban Velasquez (11-14, 5.40). If anyone on the rotation falters, we could see Season 11's 2nd overall pick, Omar Carrasco, sooner rather than later. The bullpen looks shaky...they need a big comeback year from Edgardo Diaz and a couple of surprise breakout seasons. Trend (+)

Rochester: The Phantoms tumbled from 6th in ERA in Season 12 (4.30) to 16th (5.71) last year. Ouch. To try to reverse the trend, they signed FA SP's Corky Durham and Cesar Mendez, and brought up rookie Ossie Johnstone. Season 11's 10th overall pick, Rich Grace, will also probably get the call shortly. Jose Guardado and Rich Rollins head a bullpen that's a bit more settled. Odds are they'll improve, but they need more talent. Trend (+)

Pittsburgh: The Allegheny's were 13th at 5.43 last year, but things are looking up. They benefit immediately from the Kaz Lim signing and the debut of Season 11 IFA Max Cruz. When it comes to Pittsburgh pitching, though, the real buzz is about AAA phenoms Jung Wanatabe and D'Angelo Cerda (overall #1's in Seasons 12 and 11) and when they'll be promoted. The JBT says they'll be in the big club's rotation in another 9 days or so. Trend (+)

Despite facing 3 much-improved competitors, Cleveland wins again.
2. D.C. makes the jump we all expected last year - I'll say 95 wins
3. Pittsburgh wins 90 to take 3rd
4. Rochester could well improve it's win total but still fall to 4th
5. Rookies to watch: D.C.'s Miguel Mesa and Omar Carrasco, Pittsburgh's Wanatabe and Cerda.
6.Vets on the move: I have to think the Phantoms will try to move some vets for young pitching at some point. Wally Reid will have a new team by mid-season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

HBD Tips 6 and 7 - signing prospects and scouting budgets

(thanks to mdules13)
The best loophole is still that you can sign prospects to an ML contract, then immediately take them off the 40-man roster without passing them through waivers. It gives you an edge in negotiations and costs nothing but an option year.

(thanks to ruffleswest)
Put as much $$$ into both College and High School as you can each year and then max out your Advanced Scouting budget. I seem to end up drafting around 22 - 32 spots with most of my other teams that I have had for a long can always end up getting a top 10 player (or better) that far down if you put the $$$ into it. Of course this stategy won't work if you don't care about the amatuer draft or projected ratings and have a high salaried team who spends all their money on overpriced F/A's.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

NL East Season 14 Preview

Burlington won the division again and improved by 4 games, while Jacksonville posted a nice 15-game improvement. Indianapolis is still rebuilding (although some young talent started arriving last season) and Toledo is likely to be, so the suspense here is whether the Jokers can gain enough ground on the Lake Monsters to make it a race.


Burlington: The Lake Monsters were 11th with 709 runs last year. Wilt McDowell took a nice step up in his second season, hitting .307 with 27 HR's. RF Theodore Beckett notched his second straight 30+ HR season (although his average slipped badly), as did the just-resigned Hong-Jin Kobayashi. Ivan Ruiz is a potential All-Star or Silver Slugger at SS. 1B and 3B are badly sub-par offensively, though. Trend (even)

Toledo: The Mud Hens trailed the field with 631 runs last year - they need some bold moves. Ted Stein packs a wallop at C, Rafael Carreras is solid at 1B, Gary Goodwin is a perennial All-Star candidate in RF, and Samuel Scarsone is a nice bat at SS. The rest of the lineup is pretty sketchy, and the only near-term help in the minors is AA 2B Yorrick Fassero. Trend (even)

Jacksonville: The Jokers tied for 12th at 700 runs last year. Any discussion of the Joker offense begins with George Kipling, their leadoff hitter who hit .309 with 32 long flies last year (and made his first All-Star appearance). With Kevin Grabowski gone, Orel Gardner (33 HR's last year) becomes the top power threat. Tim Milton was a nice Rule 5 pickup and will add some punch at 3B, but not enough to make up for the loss of Grabowski. Trend (-)

Indianapolis: The Sluggers improved by over 100 runs scored last year (10th, 733). 1B Matt Flores hit 40 HR's as a rookie and has a promising future. He could use a little help in the power department, as the team was 15th in HR's last year. 2B Roosevelt McGowan and SS Neal Stone are competent table-setters, and LF Elroy Gant is occasionally productive. Going the right way, but they might hit a little plateau this year. Trend (even)


Burlington: The Lake Monsters were 2nd with an excellent 3.70 ERA last year. Frank Huff is one of the top starters in the NL (and most prolific - 9 straight 200+ innings seasons). Mark Fisher was "Mr. Hard Luck" last year, posting a 3.23 ERA but only winning 9 - he could double that with some luck. Teddy Nelson got away with putting runners on last year...don't count on a repeat. Fausto Cedeno had mixed results as a closer in Cincinnati, but thrived as a 100+ inning setup man last year. Juan Romero moved into first place on the all-time saves list last year (398) and shows no signs of slowing down. Tommy Fabregas has put together 2 straight excellent campaigns and gives the Lake Monsters a 3rd top-notch short relief option.
Trend (even)

: posted a 4.80 ERA last year - 15th. They tried 14 different starters last year - none were especially effective, although Trever Fielder managed a 3.41 ERA in 21 starts. Of the 4 rookies who will probably gets starts, Bailey Anderson looks to have some potential. Short relief is a mess. Domingo Guillen and Cristobal Sivilla in AAA have a lot of promise, but won't be ready this year. Trend (even)

Jacksonville: 9th with a respectable 4.39 ERA last year. Christy Harper and Norm Rose lead an unheralded but effective rotation. Rookie Cyrus Keller and Rule 5'er
Hector Reyes get a shot this year. C.C. Taguchi had a great year in relief, but don't hold your breath for a repeat. FA Wolf Ellis and rookie Sammy Lopez will be counted on (with some justification) to improve on last year's woeful pen. The primary dividend of the Grabowski trade, Efrain Zhang, starts in AAA and should probably spend the season there. Trend (+)

: nowhere to go but down on last year's 5.40 ERA. Mike Franco got 48 ML innings last year and seems ready to step tp the head of the rotation, and Enrique Velasquez should easily improve on last year's 8-13, 5.28. Julian Lopez showed some flashes as a closer, adn is also a good bet to improve. Jesus Diaz in AAA will provide some help this year, but Fonzie Tessmer (also AAA) is probably 2 seasons away. Trend (+)

Burlington wins the division for the 3rd straight year
2. Jacksonville may take a little step back, but still takes 2nd
3. Indianapolis continues to patiently rebuild and comes in 3rd
4. Toledo 4th whether they commit to all-out rebuilding or not
5. Rookie Watch: keep an eye on Indy's RP Jesus Diaz, currently in AAA
6. Vets on the move: Toledo's Gary Goodwin remains one of the most valuable...and elegible...hitters in either league

Friday, December 18, 2009

Opening Day 14 in Belle - Early Games

Around the AL...

Pedro Mendoza's RBI single in the 7th broke open a 1-1 tie, and Augusta topped Cincinnati 3-1. Jacque Butler allowed 1 run over 6, and Tomas Martin got the win for the Polar Bears.

Eric Brantley tripled and homered to drive in 5, and Victor Morales scored 4 times as Washington D.C. throttled Rochester 8-2. Norm Barkley went 6 for the win.

Nashville squeaked by Jackson, 2-1. Clyde Simon doubled home Ray Henley in the 7th for the game-winner, and Harold Bryant pitched 7 strong innings for the win.

Portland opened with a 6-2 road victory in San Diego. Frank Suzuki drove in 4 with a homer and a double, and 4 Bar & Grillers pitchers scattered 6 hits. Kevin Christensen picked up the win with 2 scoreless relief innings.

Around the NL...

Ottawa was cruising with a 9-0 lead, then survived a furious Trenton rally to hold on, 9-8. Rookie SS Cesar Liriano ripped 4 hits for the Ice; Larry Locke yielded just 1 walk over 4 innings to get the win in relief.

Indianapolis erupted for 5 runs in the bottom of the third, and the Sluggers took down Burlington, 5-3. Neal Stone's 2-run single was the big hit in the decisive 3rd. Sluggers starter Valerio Cerveza threw 8 innings for the W.

Austin pummeled Memphis, 14-0, in front of a home crowd. Newcomers paced the Chaloupas: Jesus Javier twirled 6 scoreless, and Scheffer and Grabowski knocked in 8.

Fresno got 3 in the fifth to snap a 3-3 tie with San Jose, and the Grizzlies went on to win 7-4. Dale Barker posted the win with 5 innings of work, and David Whitehead plated 4 with a double and a triple.

The remaining openers run in the pm2 cycle later today.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Early IFA Haul

Following last year's international bust season, we've already seen two big-time IFA signings before Season 14 starts.

El Paso gets Ramiro Fuentes, SP - $24MM signing bonus. A 20 year-old Dominican, Fuentes features very highly-developed splits and pitches (first 2, anyway). His stamina and control could benefit from some minor-league development, but he probably could pitch well in the majors now. The nine have started him in AA...he projects to be a very high-level ML pitcher (several All-Star Games, maybe a CY candidacy or 2).

Las Vegas gets 1B Miguel Rios - $17MM signing bonus. Rios is quite advanced for a 20 year-old...he could hit well in the majors now. He'll ultimately be a dominant masher - .300+ and 40+ HR's a year. He's clearly better from the right side (he's a switchie), but should still be quite good when hitting lefty. Top it of with a very good batting you have a multiple-time future All-Star who could easily win an MVP or 2.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AL North Season 14 Preview

Augusta won its 2nd straight Division crown, but the buzz was all about Madison's 26-win improvement (2nd in the entire league). Cincinnati started slow and never got it going - too much talent there not to see a rebound. Traditional North power Columbus (5 division titles) looks like they're starting a rebuilding phase, but we could very well see a tight, 3-team race here.


Augusta: The Polar Bears' 842 runs was only good for 10th last year, but it's a pretty young lineup with a balance of skills: Crawford, Drew and Keisler hit 30+ HR's; and Nunez, Bell and Weeks all reached base at .379+. Bargain-basement FA signee Blake Byrd takes over in RF for the departed Sid Bogar and could be a nice upgrade. Got a feeling they're going to miss George Sweeney in CF once they get a good look at Rick Sandberg. George is still out there, Bears. Trend (+)

Cincinnati: The Waste Managers were 13th with 781 runs last year and expect a big rebound. 3 of their Big 5 - 2B Carlos Pineiro, 1B Carlos Cairo, and C Odalis Gutierez - had down years and are good bets to bounce back. They join LF Christopher Booker (.296/31/109) and RF Karim Martin (.294/21/69) as the frontline run producers. The "Crash Davis of Belle" (10 years in the minors), Stephen Bland, gets his shot and will add some punch, if not a high OBP, at 3B. Ivan Maranon is a welcome addition at SS - Alfonzo Diaz may become the fulltime CF with Larry Davis out for most of the season. Trend (+)

: The Criminals were 12th with 817 runs last year and seem to headed for a couple of rebuilding years. They traded C Pat Ramirez and lost 3B Pablo Cerveza and DH Pablo Padilla to free agency. Matt Selby (.295/28/112, mostly as DH) will make up for the loss of Ramirez; FA Frank Nicholson will be adequate at 3B but he's 34 and has a 1-year contract. Miguel Bautista had a nice season (38 HR, 101 RBI), but it remains to be seen if he can handle righties adequately. Trend (-)

Madison: The Badgers put across 877 runs last season, good for 7th. They feature a strong power game (Bush, Polanco, Riggs and Olivares all hit 36+ HR's) comnied with decent on-base skills (.343 OBP - 7th). Rookie Pedro Sierra should be an upgrade at 2B, although with both splits at 46, he may not be great. They traded C Charles Bottalico and lost SS Terry Owen FA; Owen may be the greater loss to the offense, although Cookie Martin should be his equal defensively. Trend (even)


Augusta: The Polar Bears were 5th with a respectable 4.44 ERA last year. Jacque Butler has won 18 2 straight seasons and leads the rotation. Mickey Beckett won 15 and could easily improve. FA signee Ozzie Calderon should be an improvement over departed SP's Wolf Ellis and Cedrick Waters, but the last rotation spot is unsettled. Thomas Martin pitched pretty well last year but managed to blow 13 saves. Oswaldo Escuela and Mendy Justice are getting long in the tooth, but can still get it done as setup relievers. Trend (even)

: The Waste Managers checked in 7th at 4.89 last year. Andy Newman (10-8, 3.57) leads a rotation that welcomes rookie Carlos Javier, Season 9's first rounder and a potential ROY. Gerald Lackey, a Season 9 supplemental pick, may also get a shot at starting. The bullpen is suspect, although FA signee Sherman Morris will help, and Eduardo Valentin had a promising rookie season(2.89 in 43 innings). Trend (+)

Columbus: The Criminals' ERA ballooned to 5.64 last season (15th). Not a strong point of the team even in their Season 9-11 division champs, it's likely to get worse before it gets better. Their one top-quality starter, Cookie Prieto, is on the block, but his contract is a roadblock. It'll help if he gets off to a strong start. Ditto Fred West, who has crackling stuff but also the control problems that frequently accompany it. Bosco Swann has the potential to be a top reliever - just hasn't quite put it all together yet. FA signee Benito Rivera is still young enough to return to his Season 11 FOY form. Trend (even)

: The Badgers came in 14th in ERA with a 5.49 last year, making their 26-game improvement even more impressive (or maybe suspect). Dan Cirillo is coming off perhaps his best season (17-7, 3.48) - the Badgers need a repeat. J.J. Little was a disaster when he did pitch, then blew out his elbow; a return to something around his career numbers (4.43 ERA) is critical - and likely. The #4 and 5 spots are unsettled and could stay that way all season. Madison doesn't use a closer...Damaso Arias appears to be the best option of the committee. Expect more moves here as the season progresses. Trend (+)

This is a tossup. The smart money probably goes with Augusta to 3-peat...for no great reason I suspect a strong Cincy rebound and narrow win.
2. Augusta 2nd in a close race.
3. Madison 3rd with a strong showing.
4. Columbus launches all-out rebuilding effort.
5. Rookies to watch: Cincy's Carlos Javier
6. Vets on the move: anyone on the Columbus roster; with pitching at a such premium, have to think someone finds a way to take Cookie Prieto's salary.

Monday, December 14, 2009

HDB tip #6: Advanced Scouting

(thanks to bdrose for this one)

When in rebuilding mode or beginner mode, spend a lot on Advanced Scouting for player evaluation.

Also, don't be in a division with the team that wins the World Series every year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interview With rugby1, GM of the Defending NL Champion Syracuse Saltine Warriors

During the Winter Meetings (and before Brogna signed with Pittsburgh, as you can tell), the JBT sat down with the GM of the defending NL Champs to get a take on his team's chances this year.

JBT: How do you look at your chances to repeat?
rugby1: We have a very good chance to repeat as division champs. I try to keep the lineup rested so everyone is at full strength for the playoffs.

JBT: How do you replace Brogna in your lineup?
rugby1: If we do not re-sign Brogna I fully expect Marte to step up and become one of the premier players in the league. Also Daal and Pinzon are capable of improving on last year. If Brogna does resign then we will again have one of the best lineups in either league.

JBT: Can you get a repeat of your second-half pitching performance this year?
rugby1: We will have James for a full season and Jensen should improve over his rookie season. If Brogna does not resign we will use the extra funds to improve the staff.

Trade Report

Save for the Chaloupas, trade activity stayed low during the Winter Meetings and early Spring Training. We'll see if that translates to bigger trade deadline volume (which was pretty quiet last year after an active pre-season).

Madison gets SS Julio Jose, a defensive specialist who hit .203 over a couple of seasons of backup duty in Austin.
Austin gets LF Omar Cruz, a AAA OF who could see ML duty during September callups.
Analysis: Madison gets the backup they were looking for; Austin makes room for the better-hitting (at least against lefties) Jack Gruber.

Jacksonville gets SP Efrain Zhang, Season 12's 24th pick, and Benito Cordero, a Season 10 2nd-rounder. Zhang projects to a #2 SP, albeit a HR-prone one. Cordero could be a decent 5th starter or LR - he may make the roster this year.
Austin gets RF Kevin Grabowski, a 3-time All-Star
Analysis: The Jokers were desperate for pitching and none was moving; Austin gets the bopper they wanted to go for it now.

Jacksonville gets IF Ismael Lima, a 7-year veteran who has been a regular but was a little-used backup in Nashville last year.
Nashville gets SP Jose Aguilera, an 11-year big leaguer with a career 4.43 ERA and 108 wins.
Analysis: The Ramblers have been looking for pitching and get a guy who has had 3 straight pretty good years in the Jacksonville organization. The Jokers are planning on trying Lima as a (relatively) good-hitting CF, and backing him up with the good-D, no-hit Nate Jenkins.

Rochester gets DH Robert Franco, a former 1st-rounder who hit .307 in 277 AB's as a rookie last year.
Syracuse gets prospect SP Horacio Aquino, a Season 13 IFA who had a promising 2.22 ERA as a rookie.
Analysis: Syracuse gets something for Franco, who belongs in the AL. Rochester adds a good on-base guy.

Sioux Falls gets 1B Marty Daly, 2B Felix Koh, and SP Louie Paniagua
Austin gets LF Richie Scheffer and MiL 2B Edgardo Vazquez
Analysis: Wow, Austin may have made one too many trades here. An All-1B, a promising 2nd-year SP and a solid 2B for Scheffer, although admittedly Scheffer is the best player in the deal. The Presidents gave up Scheffer to get pitching; adding Daly and Koh just creates the high-class problem of having too many good position players on the roster.

Cincinnati gets 2B Leo Glover, a former 2nd-rounder who has been undistinguished in 853 ML AB's.
Trenton gets Alex Booker, a AAA SP who projects to be exactly that.
Analysis: a swap of minor-leaguers, although Glover could see big league action as a vL platooner.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

NL North Season 14 Preview

The NL North improved by 4 games last year, with Ottawa and Trenton getting above .500. Despite winning 8 fewer games, Syracuse still posted its 4th-straight 100-win season. The North was the "strongest" NL division last year (measured by wins). The Warriors are still loaded, despite the loss of free agent Rafael Brogna, and have to be the pre-season favorite.


Syracuse: 2nd in the league with 862 runs last year, the Warriors' biggest offseason chore was to replace this year's biggest free-agent millionaire, Rafael Brogna. They got Valerio Benitez late in free agency to do exactly that, and will count on him for 20-25 HR's and 90-100 RBI. Billy Ray Hernandez provides OF depth and pinch-hitting. Don't be surprised if there's a trade in the works - the Warriors have 4 frontline middle infielders battling for playing time. Trend (even)

Sioux Falls
: The Presidents were 6th with 762 runs last year but seem to be just a player or 2 away from breaking out. 3rd-year LF Richie Scheffer and 4th-year SS Bailey Johnson lead the attack and are ably complimented by RF Jimmie Stokes (.282/27/83) and 2B Ricardo Nunez (.271/29/79). Jim Olson will debut this year and will likely push Johnson to 3B and Jung Cho to a utility role. You'll likely see Olson on the ROY ballot. Trend (+)

Ottawa: 766 runs were good for 5th in the league last year. Rookies Cesar Liriano and Brian Jiang (and possibly Taylor Rivers and Dion Vitiello) join last year's bumper crop, but the Ice are overloaded with infielders and short on thumpers (13th in HR). With all the young and improving talent, the Ice will still improve and could be one of the top 3 offenses in the league. Trend (++).

Trenton: The Trogs put across 773 runs last year, good for 4th. Their OBP was a puny .319, so you know they're doing it with the long ball. LF Vladimir Lopez is one of the league's big secrets, but he's blasted 105 HR's in his first 2 seasons. Their even-more-unknown RF, Jesus Mendez, tagged 96 the last 2 seasons. They're lacking table-setters: 2B Tony Martinez swiped 87 bags, but needs to reach base more. Terry Kent will be an improvement at 1B, and SS Kelly Quinn was a nice Rule 5 find. Trend (+)


Syracuse: The Warriors rode their Big Three of James/Nakajima/Woodward and a stout 'pen all the way to the WS last year. They added 4th-starter types William Kondou and Davey Bailey - innings, but nothing special. Rookie Carl Hume could help an already-strong bullpen. They'll need repeat performances from the Big Three. Trend (even)

Sioux Falls: The Presidents were 14th in ERA last year. The good news: they didn't lose anybody. The bad news: they brought back the entire staff. Daryl Holtz and Bernard Myette had very nice seasons and could repeat; they could also be a lot worse. Enrique Ramirez is the centerpiece of the bullpen...rookie Ted Bennett could help. There's a trade for pitching somewhere on the horizon. Trend (even)

Ottawa: 11th last year at 4.43, the Ice lost a handful of 30-somethings in FA and signed a different handful. Jorge DeJesus, Albert DeJean and Raul Arias form a very nice front 3 of the rotation - breakout seasons imminent. #'s 4 and 5 Humberto Urbina and Reid Black have both been better than last year, so some improvement is possible there. Closer Doug Brown heads an unheralded but effective bullpen. Trend (+)

: 10th with 4.41 ERA last year. Magglio Nunez leads the staff and is a legit #1. George Titan is a capable #2 - 14 wins with a 3.68 ERA last year. Jimmy Martin
and Vic Mesa may have pitched well over their heads last year - watch out for some explosions. Casey Sherman was adequate - but no more - as closer last year. The rest of the bullpen needs improvement. Trend (-)

Syracuse wins 100+ again and wins its 6th straight division crown
2. Ottawa steps up to 95 wins and contends for a wild card
3. Sioux Falls 3rd - has more assets to get pitching than the Trogs
4. Trenton 4th - pitching over-achieved last year
5. Rookie watch: Sioux Falls' Jim Olson and Ottawa's Cesar Liriano
6. Sioux Falls and Trenton might move anybody for pitching: let's take a wild guess and say Ricardo Nunez and Jesus Mendez

Friday, December 11, 2009

HBD Tip #5 - Free Agent Strategy

When you're nearing the end of your rebuilding phase and ready to contend, you may decide it makes sense to sign free agents at some point. If you go after Type A's, try to time it so you do that the year after your team was still "bad" (if you have the 16th pick or better, you don't lose that #1 pick as compensation for signing a Type A - it only costs you your 2nd-rounder).

Also, if you decide to sign a Type A, it makes more sense to sign a 2nd or 3rd one in the same year, rather than one a year for 2 or 3 years. The Chaloupas this year are an example: 3 Type A's, which "cost" 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-round picks.

It takes some luck to time all this - you have to try to coincide your "go for it" year with a good free agent class. If you "grade" free agent classes by how many Type A and B's there are in it, this year's is so far a little better than last year's (20 A & B's so far this year vs. 17 last year). In my first year in Field of Dreams, there were 35 Type A and B free agents.

HBD Tip #4 - Pitch Counts

(thanks to tjconnatser)

Minimize your Pitch Count on your pitchers so they don't get tired at the end of games and give up runs late.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Skidd22 Sounds Off On FA signings, PIT's Chances

(by Skidd22, GM of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys)

I thought I could stay under the radar and still be a player in the Free Agent market this spring.

I hoped to get 2 out of the 3 players I targeted and lo and behold, due to somebody trying to save some money, all 3 fell into my lap. I had given up on Brogna until somebody backed off their bid and I was in the lead for 1 negotiation session.

I recognized that tactic and adjusted my bid slightly and after I fell out of the lead next session - bingo, the SIM Gods decided I was worthy. Brogna and Cota are perfect offensive players for the park I play in.

Lim has some risk but with the pitchers I have coming in a little while he doesn't have to carry the staff. As far as Cerda, Cruz and Wanatabee, they will probably begin the season in AAA and if the big team seems to be competitive offensively, they could be early season call-ups. This is 1 season earlier than I planned on, but the players available were great fits for me and I couldn't anticipate the same types of players being available next season.

The beauty part of the whole scenario is that I spent significant money in bonuses this season, which I could afford and my salaries are not going to be a burden in the coming seasons.

I will be able to add another big player next year if a desirable becomes available. My competition in the east is formidable and we have no delusions of being able to win the division. However if we get off to a good start and find the appropriate promotions are warranted, we just might compete for a wild card spot this year. Next season however watch out for us!

Alleghenys Hit The Mother Lode

The Pittsburgh Alleghenys vaulted into the AL Playoff picture today, signing sure-fire Hall-of-Fame free agents Rafael Brogna and Maximo Cota.

Brogna gets a 5-year, $84.2MM deal; Cota will earn $30.8MM over 3 years.

Combined with their previous signing of SP Kaz Lim and the anticipated promotions of former #1's D'Angelo Cerda and Jung Wanatabe, the moves give Pittsburgh a core group of superstars that rivals any in the league.

Rumors swirled that Brogna was about to sign with Syracuse or Austin, but the Alleghenys swooped in with a better offer at the end of the PM part 2 cycle. Chaloupas GM blanch13 confirmed the team's interest: "We thought somebody was offering the max, but then we had the nod at the end of pm part 1. His agent left a lot of money on the table by not giving us a chance to counter. That's how these things go sometimes."

Pittsburgh gets 2B Rafael Brogna - 5 years, $84.2MM. Boasts a .944 OPS over 9 seasons, an MVP in Season 10, and numerous other awards. This deal represents a 26% discount from Victor Morales' max contract last year. Grade: A

Pittsburgh gets LF Maximo Cota - 3 years, $30.8MM. .931 career OPS, ROY Season 6, MVP Season 11, lots more awards. He's maintained his power rating quite well into his early thirties...he should still be a force in teh last year of this contract. Grade: A

Austin gets SP Jesus Javier - 5 years, $71.5MM. Struggled in his first 3 years and came into his own aftter being traded to Mexico City. Biggest limitation is his stamina, but still capable of 200 innings. Anytime you can land a true ace in free agency, it's a bargain. Grade: A

Madison gets SS Cookie Martin - 4 years, $25MM. Plus hitter at SS (.340 career OBP) and a decent defender. Should be comparable to the departed Terry Owen. Grade B+

Augusta gets SP Ozzie Calderon - 5 years, $30MM. 83 wins and a 4.20 ERA over 6 years with Jackson. Nice price for a pitcher of this caliber. Grade B+

FA Heads For Conclusion

Belle's FA signing period will wrap up later today. The big news will be the new cities for several top names, but the real story may be the bargains signed after Spring Training starts. Looks like there are lots of good players out there dropping their demands, and not enough teams in the market. Stay tuned.

Nashville gets RP Pedro Fernandez - 2 x $4.3MM. Workhorse-type reliever with a 4.28 ERA over 10 seasons. Look for 100+ innings this year for the Ramblers. Grade: B+

Oakland gets RP Bobby Anderson - 1 x $2.845. Yeah, he had a bad year last year...after 5 straight good years. And this will be the best pitcher's park he's played in since Season 8. Good shot at a pleasant surprise here. Grade: A

Rochester gets SP Cesar Mendez - 4 x $5.4MM. 87 wins and a 4.66 ERA over 8 seasons. Marginal splits somewhat offset by good gb/fb and 3 plus pitches. He'll get a lot of innings, and no doubt a lot of them will be quality. Watch out for the move from big bllaparks to a neutral field. Pretty nice buy overall. Grade: B

Oakland gets RF Matty Marrero - 2 years, $9.6MM plus a $4.2 mutual option. This is the signing that signals the excess of supply over demand. Former All-Star and Silver Slugger with a careeer .870 OPS signs for what a middling setup man usually commands. Grade: A

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blog polls

Will We See Another Max Contract This Year?
In our first blog poll, 6 (33.3%) voters said they thought we'd see another max contract this Free Agent Season, while 12 (66.7%) said it wouldn't happen. The yea's were probably focused on last year's precedent-setting contract for Victor Morales; the nay-sayers pointed to D.C.'s failure to reach the playoffs after signing Morales and a much bigger supply of quality players in FA this year.

One way or another, we'll know something by Wednesday PM2 at latest.

What Do You Think of Lim's FA Contract With Pittsburgh?
Should be an interesting spread of opinions on this one. The Alleghenys could promote their 2 star SP prospects (former #1's D'Angelo Cerda and Jung Wanatabe) and instantly have a "Front Three" of their rotation that would rival anyone's. At 5 years averaging right at $10MM a year, the price doesn't seem crazy for a top starter.
On the other hand, Lim's health rating has been steadily dropping and was never that great. Plus, Pittsburgh skimped on training and medical this year to pump up scouting, go after an international, and obviously, snaer at least 1 big FA.

Alleghenys Nab Lim

Day 2 of Free Agent signings kicked off with one of the headliners, Kaz Lim, inking a 5-year, $50.25MM deal with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Jacksonville and Fresno also signed pitchers, while Ottawa grabbed a backup C.

Pittsburgh gets SP Kazuhiro Lim - 5 years, $50.25MM. 126 wins, 3.11 ERA, and 4 rings over 11 seasons in Charleston. A bold stroke. Might be a long shot, but if the Alleghenys could nab a wild card berth, would any team relish facing the 3-man rotation of Lim, Jung Wanatabe, and D'Angelo Cerda? If there's doubt about Lim it's with his relatively low...and steadily rating. Pittsburgh's paltry 10/8 training and medical budgets make this an even bigger risk. But I still love this move. Grade: A

Jacksonville gets RP Patrick Shaw - 2 x $3.0MM. One big year as a closer (3.26, 45 saves for Austin in Season 8), but otherwise, his career ERA of 4.46 gives a good idea of what the Jokers can expect. An OK price for a middle-of-the-road reliever.
Grade: B

Ottawa gets C Nash Gray - 1 x $1.665MM. A capable backup for Zach Holzemer. Grade: B

Fresno gets RP Dwight Long - 1 x $3.32MM. I know his health is suspect and his ratings are plummeting (the Grizzlies' well-funded training and medical staff will help out there). He can still help, and for minimal cost and only a year commitment. Grade: B+

HBD Tip #3 - Draft Scouting Budgets

(thanks to Skid 22 for this one)

When budgeting for amateur scouting I always go 0 for HS and 20 for college. I would rather get absolutely accurate ratings for half the players in the draft and only spend $20M.

Monday, December 7, 2009

1st Day Of FA Wraps

The early stage of free agent signings wrapped up with Trenton and Fresno getting in on the action:

Trenton gets 1B Terry Kent - 4 x $5MM. "Mr. Enigma" gets a 4-year deal that could prove a bargain, IF he can live up to his prodigious potential. We should be seeing Season 10 (.295/28/110) every year, but too often we're getting Season 11. Trivia question: How does a guy slug .393 and still drive in 122 runs? Grade: B+ - I think he'll figure it out and have a couple of .900 OPS seasons in this contract.

Fresno gets SS Terry Owen - 2 x $5.4MM. Nice signing for a .300-hitting SS and a nice compliment to the young talent arriving in Fresno. I know he's not the best defensive SS in the league, but he's not bad and his backup will offer good late-inning D. Grade: A

Fresno gets CF Al Pulido - 2 x $5.2MM. The Grizzlies continue to shore up defense. Pulido can be a useful player...he'll be a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner and backup OF. But he's a CF - he isn't going to start over Pascual. Do you spend $5.2 MM for a backup? Grade: C+

Fresno gets 2B Sandy Weston - 3 x $6.2. Grizz pick up a young second sacker. He's been a decent hitter for a 2B, and should be OK defensively. The Grizz lineup is filling out nicely. Grade: B

HBD Tip #2: Pitching or Hitting?

(by tk21775)

My strategy right now is building the team around pitching (steroid era over) as I feel that it will not only carry you in the regular season but will be the best help in the playoffs (especially 5 game series).

Day 1 Free Agent Signings

The early free agent signing cycles are traditionally where bargains are found - players who only get one offer tend to take it - and this year seems to be keeping with that tradition.

With a deep class of players and several marquee names at the top getting mucho attention, we've had some super-bargains sneak through in the early cycles. Here's how they line up so far:

GRAND LARCENY (slam-dunk, no-brainer...everybody else had to screw up)

gets SP Jacob Martin - 2 x $6.75MM. A starting pitcher with a career 3.80 ERA, a 77 vR, and 3 pitches rated 77+ gets one offer for what he was asking? We were all asleep on this one.

RUN-OF-THE-MILL ROBBERY (there's a way it doesn't work out, but it's remote)

Austin gets SP Terry Pote - 3 x $5.2MM + a mutual option. Not quite the pitcher Martin is but c'mon...$5.2MM?

Richmond gets 2B Quilvio Diaz - 3 x $6.5MM. Excellent defensive 2B with blazing speed and a career .354 OBP. Not sure where the Poor Men play him with Tomas Cruz at 2B, but I'm sure they'll think of something.

Cincinnati gets SS Ivan Maranon - 3 x $6.6MM. Never the slickest fielder at SS but a huge plus there as a hitter. Can that work? Check out his 2 WS Championship rings.

Austin gets Ryan Shelley - 5 x $8.5MM. Tough to consider anyone a bargain at $8.5? Not with a 93 glove and a good bat. Does this make Felix Koh expendable?

Cincinnati gets RP Sherman Morris - 2 x $4.6MM. Started his career with 3 straight 5+ ERA years; last 4 ERA's have all been 3's - seems to have it figured out. Biggest risk may be the move to a more HR-happy ballpark.

Richmond gets RP Rich Brock- 2 x $3.0. Guys like this with great ratings but low stamina are baffling...they seem to put up worse numbers than comparable high-stamina guys. Maybe their low pitch counts keep them from working out of their own jams and their stats end up in the hands of lower-quality pitchers. Still, the odds are he'll do well, especially for this price. The Poor Men continue their 2-year effort to monopolize the setup market.

PETTY THEFT (maybe good, maybe not, but the price makes it a minimal risk)

Nashville gets RP Mike Simpson - 2 x $3.4. He's been up and down, but mostly pretty good. Nice price for a solid reliever.

Jackson gets RP Darren Gardner - 1 x $2.0MM. Gotta love the 1-year deal for the aging vet. Gardner has been very good, he's been terrible, and he's been most places in between. Even if he sucks, somebody probably grabs him off waivers.


gets RP Benito Rivera - 5 years, $25.4MM. Former FOY gets a fat of the first to sign who appears to have had several bidders.

Portland gets SP Vance Scutaro - 4 x $5.2MM. Pitched adequately (45 wins) for 3 years, backed by a juggernaut offense in Cleveland, before crashing last year in Syracuse. If his next 4 years look like his first 4, the Bar & Grillers will probably think they've done OK.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Early Winter Meetings Trades

Unlike last year, the Winter Meetings have gotten off to a quiet start. Only Austin has dealt aggressively, picking up C Pat Ramirez and swinging 3 smaller trades. Here's what's happened since the last trade report:

Cleveland gets SS Javy Delgado - a guy who doesn't have to go on the 40.
Ottawa gets IF Ken Coco, a season 10 2nd-rounder who could get to the Majors as a defensive backup type. The Ice infield looks a little crowded this season, though.
Analysis: Cleveland trimming its 40-man roster

Austin gets 1B Raul Martin, a Season 9 IFA by Austin who was traded to the Fresno organization the following year. Martin may get a shot as a pinch-hitter but will more likely be an emergency backup stashed at AAA.
Fresno gets SP John Smith, a Season 11 2nd-round pick. Smith is a groundballer with a deep, if not devastating array of pitches. He projects to be a marginal major-leaguer who will struggle with lefty hitters.
Analysis: fringe major-leaguers...this is the 15 minutes for both

Richmond gets C Russell Herman, a 2nd-rounder last year who could make it to the majors if (and it's a big IF) he can stay healthy.
Austin gets CF Albert Harmon, an underperforming talent who the Poor Men grew tired of waiting on. The Chaloupas see a nice pinch-runner, defensive replacement and occasional starter vs. LHP.
Analysis: Harmon will be a useful spare part for his 2 more years of cheap salary. Herman could be a bit more, but look away when he has his first home-plate collision.

Madison gets LR Shawn Waterson and IF prospect Jamie Wilson. Waterson was a Season 4 supplemental pick of Jackson and has a 3.81 ERA in 87 innings over parts of 2 seasons with 3 teams. Wilson was a Season 11 4th-rounder who has a shot at the majors as a backup infielder.
Austin gets C Charles Bottalico plus $2.155MM. Bottalico is a 4-time All-Star who can still play but is starting to show his high mileage. He'll see pinch-hitting duty and get occasional innings backing up ironman Pat Ramirez.
Analysis: The Badgers dump a salary that doesn't fit their future; future is now for Austin, who gets a nice bat off the bench for 2 seasons.