Monday, April 19, 2010

Mid-Season Musings

Finally got a break from work to look around the league. What I noticed...

After 7 years in the minors, Buffalo's Doyle Pellow finally gets his shot and is 2nd in the AL with 12 plus plays.

Three most improved teams (winning % as compared to last year):
1. Salem Goonies (AL West), up 216 points
2. Fresno Grizzlies (NL West) up 190 points
3. Mexico City Desperadoes (NL South) up 166 points

Despite getting rocked by Mexico City and Austin in his last 2 starts, Fresno's Kennie Frascatore is still the runaway leader for NL ROY (12-1, 1.87 ERA, .521 OPS against). Until those last 2 rough outings, he had allowed 2 or fewer runs in 15 of 16 starts. (And I missed him by one damn spot in the Season 11 draft).

It's the Lance Reed Show for AL MVP. The Nashville RF leads the majors in HR's (29), RBI (99), and is 5 points back of D.C.'s Danny Pride and Richmond's Daniel Gallagher (both at .347) for the batting title.

Cleveland closer Roger Lawson is perfect in save oppotunities (21-of-21).

Oakland slugger Joe Rivera looked like he would take over the all-time Belle HR lead from Skip Leon this year. But at 38, Skip is hitting .314 with 8 HR's and 29 RBI for Toledo. Current lifetime HR totals: Skip 620, Joe 605.

AL Cy Young: Jackson's Johnny Collier leads the way in ERA (2.51), but only has 4 wins. That puts 4 guys at the front of a large pack: (9-4, 2.81), Richmond's Charlie Cosby (9-4, 2.81), Billy Brocail (9-2, 2.96) of the Katannas, the Alleghenys' Jung Wanatable (10-4. 3.04), and last year's winner, D.C.'s Rob Workman (11-4, 3.01).

Biggest drops in winning % from last year:
1. San Diego (AL West) - 122 points
2. Oakland (NL West) - 115 points
3. Jackson (AL South) - 106 points
In case you didn't notice, the last 2 were in the WS last season.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

AL South Season 15 Preview

Season 14 Recap: Jackson posted its 6th straight 100-win season, taking the division easily for the 9th time in 10 years. Nashville jumped 17 wins (to 92) and Little Rock notched its 8th straight 90-win season, while Richmond fell just below .500 for the first time since Season 11. Nashville lost in the first playoff round; Jackson advanced to the WS but lost to Oakland, 4-2. On the awards front, Little Rock's Geoff Sosa won his 2nd straight FOY.


Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 5th, Team ERA - 1st, Fielding % - 1st
Is the division gaining on the Holes? Their numbers are pretty much the same across the board as last year, but instead of leading by 10, they trail the Pebbles by 4 and 1/2. They've been a little unlucky - their expected wins is 49 - but they're still solidly in an interesting race.

On offense, Wilson Costello ranks 5th in OPS in the AL; Carlos Manzanillo is 19th and Don Burns is 22nd. 4 starters are in the top 25 in ERA: Johnny Collier (1), Carlos Ramirez (20), Del Mendoz (24), Darryl McCorley (25).

Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 4th, Team ERA - 10th, Fielding % - T 6th
The Ramblers are just 2.5 back at the half, thanks to a league-leading 485 runs scored. Rookie CF Emil Morales (.375 OBP) could be on the ROY ballot, 3B Bruce Post is having a second straight career year (.312/17/52), and RF Lance Reed (.340/26/95) is probably the first-half MVP (leads the majors in both HR and RBI).

Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 10th, Team ERA - 3rd, Fielding % - 13th
FA signee Sammy Reyes seems rejuvenated in Little Rock, leading the team in average (.304), HR's (19) and RBI (60). On the pitching side, Geoff Sosa (2.66, 20-of-23 saves) is up to his usual, while Pedro Gonazalez (8-2, 3.12), Derrek Betemit (8-4, 3.28), and Vin Amaro (6-4, 3.38) form a tough front 3 in the rotation.

Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 8th, Team ERA - 5th, Fielding % - T 4th
The Poor Men are riding big seasons from some key players into AL South contention. 2B Thomas Cruz wasn't exactly bad last year - 40 points under his career OPS (.872 vs career .912). But he's come roaring back this year (.334/17/72) and could be a factor in the MVP race. RF Daniel Gallagher broke in with an .819 OPD is Season 13, but fell off to .719 last year. So far this looks like his big breakout - at .350/10/50 he's gunning for his first 100 RBI year. With 20 wins and a 3.17 ERA last year, it's hard to criticize Charlie Cosby's Season 14. But he had 12 losses, and a lot of those were poor outings on his part. The ERA's down 60 points (2.57) this year, and he only has 3 losses with 9 wins.

This is the tightest race in Belle at the half, and could go to any of the 4 teams. Look for some major wheeling and dealing at the deadline by AL South teams, with Nashville looking for pitching, Little Rock looking for hitting, and Richmond and Jackson looking for an edge anywhere they can find it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Draft coverage

The Rule 4 (Amateur) Draft was held for Season 15 in Joey Belle and we saw some interesting results. There were some bargains to be had, and there were some guys taken maybe a touch too early. Here's the first round pick by pick. Grades are given on the basis of the player taken and where he was taken in the draft.

1. Tim Branson, SP, Salem

Branson is a hard-throwing lefthanded starter with two very good pitches (fastball and change-up). He's got excellent control and will eat innings. Not sure he'd be the consensus #1 if all the prospects could be seen, but would be in the discussion at the very least. That'd be good enough for me. Grade: A

2. Marty Coco, 2B, Toledo

Wow. Toledo will have to find him a position (I'd say 2B would probably be a likely candidate), but this guy should be an offensive dynamo. He's got an amazing blend of power, speed, and knowledge of the strike zone. A possible future MVP candidate. Grade: A+

3. Virgil Martinez, RP, Toledo

With the second pick of a back-to-back, Toledo didn't do nearly as well as it did with the first of those picks. Martinez has two great pitches, but his splits indicate to me that he won't dominate. Some people wouldn't take any reliever this high in the draft. Even if you would, I don't think this would be the guy. Grade: D+

4. Craig White, LF, Columbus

White should project out to be dangerous at the plate: a guy who can hit for power and contact. He's got good speed to go with it. Defensively, he's definitely a left fielder. Grade: A

5. Javy Matos, CF, Fresno

Matos is either a future CF or a 2B (if he winds up at second I would lower this grade) who can fly. He doesn't have much power, but he can get on base by a hit or a walk and easily steal second (and maybe third). Possible future stolen base champ. Grade: A

6. Cliff Dillon, 3B, Memphis

Dillon is an interesting prospect. His bat should be average to good (not great), but he's got great knowledge of the strike zone and well above average speed, an odd combination for a 3B (if he ends up there). With his defense, he could end up as a 3B or a corner outfielder- it remains to be seen. Grade: B+

7. Benj Green, SS, Trenton

A nice pick here for Trenton, as Green has a solid bat and projects out defensively (if he reaches his potential) to be a solid (not great) defensive shortstop. As a 3B or a 2B, his bat would be average; at shortstop, he'll be one of the best offensively in the league in 4-5 seasons. Grade: A-

8. Osvaldo Gonzalez, SS, Augusta

Gonzalez has a world of speed but probably doesn't have enough defensively to play shortstop in the big leagues. This devalues him slightly but he'll still be a good offensive player, so his big league team shouldn't have a problem finding a position for him when the time comes. Grade: B+

9. Blaine Knight, RP, Buffalo

Again, this may be too high to pick a reliever, and my sources from inside the Buffalo organization told me they weren't happy about having to take a reliever at #9. But if you feel forced to take a reliever here, Knight isn't a bad guy to take. He's got a live arm and the Wings feel he's a future elite closer. Grade: B+

10. Bonk Young, CF, Indianapolis

A bit of a risky pick, as he is still unsigned and there's been no indication either way as to how the negotiations will end up. Should he sign, Indianapolis would get a guy who isn't outstanding at any one thing but does a lot of things well: hit, hit for power, run, and field. At Oregon St., he was susceptible to the Pac-10's better lefthanded pitchers- that may be his only true flaw. Grade: Inc (hasn't signed yet)

11. Corey Anderson, INF, San Diego

He's listed as a SS but would be a Jose Offerman-like disaster there if the Surf Babies tried him there in the majors. What he can do is hit the ball over the fence- he's got very good power. Other than the premier positions (SS, C, CF), he should be just fine defensively. He'll swing and miss from time to time, but should be a nice addition to a lineup driving in runs. Grade: B

12. Mitch Raben, SS, El Paso

Scouts say he's going to be a lot like Benj Green- should have enough defensively to cover shortstop and be one of the best in the league offensively at that position. The only thing he doesn't do well is run- he's downright slow. But he's got all the other tools offensively, from pure hitting to his eye at the plate and he's an outstanding bunter. Grade: A

13. Freddie Lewis, 2B, Jacksonville

Another player whose signability is in question. Should he decide to sign, his future could be in CF, despite his (even by CF standards) weak arm. He's a solid hitter and a good defender (again, as long as you keep him away from SS or C). Word around the GM meetings is that the Jokers may very well not negotiate aggressively and be willing to take the type D pick if he doesn't sign. Grade: INC

14. Barry Ewing, SS, Portland

My scouts have him as a classic tweener- not good enough to handle shortstop and not a good enough hitter to have great value at any other defensive position. If Portland could get him to play short this is a good pick. He's a guy that does a lot of things fairly well but doesn't stand out, although coaches who have managed against him praise the fact that he's not fast but runs the bases well. Grade: C

15. Tom Hill, SP, Boise

The second starting pitcher taken has to wait until the middle of the first round after Branson went #1. Hill is a hard-throwing lefty who has a nasty slider that lefties have little chance against but righties might be able to see fairly well. Boise management may want to keep an eye on his home run total, but he should end up being an innings-eater at the big league level. Grade: A-

16. Billy Burke, 2B, San Jose

Burke knows the way to San Jose, but he could very well be getting there on foot. A solid (if unspectacular) hitter, he should be able to draw walks and steal some bases once he gets on. He should be a solid, if not Gold-Glove caliber, second baseman. Grade: B

17. Josh Mercedes, RP, Richmond

This pick was a big surprise. Mercedes, drafted #17 overall, probably wasn't worthy of a first round pick. He seems to have all the tools- 3 solid pitches, throws hard, good control- but just can't seem to get guys out. The other knock on him in college was that he couldn't throw everyday- his coaching staff just couldn't seem to get innings out of him. A curious pick. Grade: D

18. Chris Snyder, RP, Jackson

The run on relievers, unusual for a first round, continues. But Jackson, like Buffalo, got a future closer who they could get more than 1 inning at a time out of if necessary. The righthader's forkball seems to neutralize lefties as well as righties. Grade: A-

19. Ivan Ohman, RF, Pittsburgh

Unlike a prototypical right fielder, he's not a slugger- he could hit around 20 homers or so on the big league level. But he's got a good swing and has exceptional speed, so he'll get on base and will always be a threat to run. Grade: A-

20. Adrian Trammell, 2B, Toledo

Not sure what's going on with the negotiations here, but Toledo should have a big-time slugger at 2B with this pick who happens to run well. A good pick if the Mud Hens get him in camp. Grade: Inc

21. Rafael Diaz, INF, Ottawa

Another tweener but with a little more power than Ewing. That may enable him to have some value at 3B or 2B. Another prospect who is solid in all areas but excels in none. Grade: B-

22. Wellington Pizzaro, SP, Rochester

Hard to make heads or tails out of this one. One the plus side, he's got four pitches he can throw for strikes and has outstanding control. But his splits are decidedly average and his manager may have to monitor his pitch counts- he's likely not a 200+ inning type guy. Grade: C

23. Zoltan Steinbach, RP, Little Rock

Interesting pick as the 5th reliever in the 1st round. Steinbach doesn't have as big an upside as Knight or Snyder, but he should be a solid reliever with a higher ceiling than Martinez and
Mercedes. He's a soft-tossing lefty with a very good changeup and spots his cut fastball well to keep lefties off balance. Grade: B

24. Hack Boyle, SP, Nashville

Remains unsigned. If he does put his name on a baseball contract, Nashville gets a solid middle/bottom of the rotation type guy who won't dominate but will be known as an "innings eater". He'll keep the ball on the ground with his good sinker and slider. Grade: Inc

25. Pascual Crespo, SS, Cincinnati

This tiny (5'5, 156 lbs.), still unsigned infielder could very well make the transition to big league shortstop and has way more power than a guy his size should have. But, as could be expected with a guy his size, durability could be an issue. If he stays at short and he signs, this is a very nice pick toward the end of the round. Grade: Inc

26. Randall McCarty, P, Las Vegas

My scouts couldn't find him and he is unsigned.

27. Rick D'Arnaud, SP, Sioux Falls

An innings-eater who is tough on lefties, has 3 big-league grade pitches (including two that are outstanding), and has stayed healthy throughout his amateur career seems too good to be true. The proof that maybe he is comes against righthanded batters- he struggled at Blinn College against them. Grade: B-

28. Jeff Diaz, CF, Austin

Like D'Arnaud, he has a lot of good characteristics and one major (potentally fatal) flaw. He's a good defensive center fielder who can run and knows the strike zone well. He's got decent power to go with it, but his swing is off- he swings and misses too often and may not hit enough to be a viable offensive option. It will be interesting to see how his career goes- Austin may have found a good future CF or wasted a first round pick. Not sure which. Grade: C

29. Jiggs Daniels, P, Jackson

Jackson picks again in the first round and takes another pitcher. He's got two good pitches and one more decent one and is pretty solid on righties. Lefties are another story and he may be limited innings-wise. He's got such good control he could hit the exact center of a plate-glass window blindfolded. Only thing is, the window wouldn't break- he doesn't throw hard. Grade: B-

30. Everett Morris, 2B, Washington

A solid defender and a good offensive option. I don't see him as a future MVP candidate, but those are hard to get this late in the draft. This is a good solid pick at this spot. Grade: A-

31. Daric Whitesell, SP, Indianapolis

Indianapolis's second pick in this round would project out to a #5 starter on a decent to good staff. His splits are mediocre and he only has one legitimate big league pitch. Grade: C+

32. Tony Tejeda, INF, Oakland

This is a high-risk, high-reward pick. Tejeda could have durability and/or injury issues, but if he's healthy and in the lineup, he's a 3B type with tremendous power and a solid overall hitter. Grade: B+

33. Gene Newson, INF, Cleveland

I'm not too high on this pick, even if it is at the end of the first round. Newson is a solid defender who can run, but I don't see him getting on base enough to be a big-time contributor. He's not an outstanding hitter and won't draw enough walks to make up for it. Grade: C+

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NL South Season 15 Preview

Season 14 Recap: Austin took the division pretty handily with 102 wins. Mexico City won 86 but missed the playoffs for the first time since Season 7. El Paso regressed to 69 wins, and Memphis committed to rebuilding after the end of the Charleston dynasty. In the playoffs, Austin lost in the second round to Syracuse. The South won no major awards last season.


Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 3rd, Team ERA - 4th, Fielding % - T 4th
Sayonara: none
New Faces: SP Magglio Nunez (via trade)
Rookie Possibilities: none
OUTLOOK: Regarded as an up-and-coming team last year, the pitching staff has totally collapsed to start this year, casting doubt on that assessment. The team ERA is up almost 2 runs a game from last year, with only Jesus Javier and Woody Blair pitching effectively. The offense is adequate, with Pat Ramirez hitting .425 and 3 bench players (Lindsey, Bottalico, Corder) over .400. It's not too late for a turnaround, but the pitching better show signs of life fast. Likely finish: 2nd

Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 3rd, Team ERA - 4th, Fielding % - T 10th
Sayonara: CF Charles Perez, RP Martin Taylor, SP Cory Mitchell
New Faces: RF Gary Goodwin, CF Wally Reid
Rookie Possibilities: Season 11 1st-rounder Greg Mercedes has landed a short relief job.
OUTLOOK: The Desperadoes sport a new slugging look on offense, with big-name FA's Gary Goodwin and Wally Reid moving into the outfield. That should improve the fortunes of 2 of the best starters in the NL, Pedro Encarnacion and Luis Redondo. So far, though, the good start is due to a rather unheralded bullpen - Thurman, Mercedes, Itou and Manto all have sub - 2.60 ERA's , leading to a 7-2 record in 1-run games. Likely finish: 1st

Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 16th, Team ERA - 7th, Fielding % - T 1st
Sayonara: RF Harry Rodrigo, RP Alex Diaz, SS Lefty Schwartz
New Faces: RP Dutch Pavano, LF Matt Wallace, C Marlon Linden, LR Darren Gibson
Rookie Possibilities: Season 10 2nd-rounder Benito Leon is starting at 2B. Season 12 1st-rounder (#3 overall) Kenneth Scoroposki got the call at Game 24 and has taken over in LF, as has his Season 11 counterpart (#3 overall), Graham Black in CF. Billy Kinney, a 3rd-rounder from Season 10, is getting a rotation shot.
OUTLOOK: The story of the NL so far is El Paso's pitching. Midre Jose and Alex Russell both have 2 complete games already and Vince Cross has been solid. The bullpen doesn't look real imposing but has been especially effective (5 relievers under 3.00 ERA). They've also been the hard-luck team of the league so far - 5 games under .500 with a positive run differential (140-134). Wallace and Scoroposki have been much-needed boosts to the offense. It's early, but I like what they've done...they'll challenge for 2nd. Likely finish: 3rd

Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 12th, Team ERA - 16th, Fielding % - T 7th
Sayonara: 2B Sammy Reyes
New Faces: SP Felix Woodward, RF Eduardo Guillen, SP Brian Nakajima, SP Barry Carew
Rookie Possibilities: Season 14 supplemental pick Lonnie Capps is learning SS on the job. 8th-rounder Dave Holtz has the 5th starter job, at least temporarily. Barney Wallace, Joe White and Tim Edwards have landed bullpen roles.
OUTLOOK: Woodward is helping, and Nakajima will, sooner or later. But there are just too many holes top to bottom for Memphis to contend this year. Their offense is last in the league...this is basically still a rebuilding year. Something tells me they signed Woodward and Nakajima just to trade them for prospects at midseason...both a fairly short (3 year) contracts and neigher has a no-trade clause.
Likely finish: 4th