Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NL West Season Preview

Season 15 Recap: Las Vegas won 102 to nip the defending World Champ Surenos by 5 games, but Oakland got the last laugh, topping the 69'ers in the NLCS and going on to win their second straight Champeenship. Meanwhile, Santa Cruz (then Fresno) improved by an impressive 21 wins to 81, while Vancouver (the long-time San Jose Bad News Bees II) dipped under .500 for hte 3rd straight year. The West dominated post-season awards: Oakland's Clyde Jackson won the Cy Young, Santa Cruz' Kennie Frascatore took the ROY, and Vegas' Juan Gomez nabbed the FOY.

LAS VEGAS has a rather remarkable record of 15 straight .500+ seasons - only 3 of which have been under 90 wins. And they're doing it largely with pitching - last season's #2 ranking in Team ERA was the 3rd straight season in the top 3, although the lineup supported that staff with 782 runs (5th). The 69'ers rotation is without a true ace, but is solid through #5...the idea is for the starter to go deep and then turn it over to Juan Gomez, who won his first (but not likely his last) FOY. On offense, they rely on everybody contributing rather than riding a star: the Wengert/Keeler catcher tandem led the team in OPS, while RF Hughie Bruskie led in HR's with 30.

didn't sit on their laurels - they shook up the roster by trading for SP's Trent Diaz and Rafael Aquino, and signing C Harry Encarnacion to a front-leaded FA deal (leading us to believe that he's trade bait). The Surenos have a power-oriented attack (with Maduro, Rivera and Burns the main sources), but rely heavily on leadoff man Wilfredo Feliz to get on ahead of the sluggers. To call their pitching staff "reliever-oriented" would be an understatement; the basic plan is t give Gary Ramsay an 80-pitch start, then fill in with spot starters until he can go again, and mix-and-match a wide assortment of effective relievers. Then rinse and repeat. The addition of Diaz may give them a solid #2 starter, although they've attempted to trade him once already.

SANTA CRUZ has one of the up-and-coming young teams in the NL, improving by 21 games last season. ROY Kennie Frascatore gives the Radicals a legit ace - they can be a winner in any series. Can they get to the playoffs? With 3 young stars (C Nomura, 1B Cooke, and LF Farr) in the lineup, the offense is probably there. But they were 11th in ERA last year, even with Frascatore winning the ROY. This may have been the year for them to go after some FA pitching help - for them to have a shot at overtaking OAK and LV, they'll have to add some more pitching at some point.

VANCOUVER has moved from the extremely pitcher-friendly San Jose Municipal Stadium to Vancouver's perfectly neutral Nat Bailey Stadium. Maybe that'll get Derek Walker jump-started; after a ROY Season 12 (.983 OPS), he's posted 3 decent, but frankly disappointing years (all .700's OPS). Troy Harris will add some needed pop to the lineup, which should produce at least adequate scoring. The question is the pitching staff, which was so-so in a great pitcher's park last year. They have some bright spots (Craig Hague, Midre Estrada, Carl Benson), some spots that should be bright (closer Deion Corbin), and a bunch of question marks. They're auditioning 14 pitchers at the moment...if they can find 6 or 7 that work they might make some noise.

1. This will be one of the best races in Belle, with Vegas, Oakland and Santa Cruz
in a year-long dogfight. Well, that may be expecting a bit much of the Radicals, but I think they'll improve. I think the Surenos have enough left to squeak by Vegas.
2. Watch for Santa Cruz starter Kennie Frascatore in the CY voting...he was great last year and the move to an even bigger ballpark can only help
3. Although he's off to a bad start, watch for OAK's Harry Encarnacion to be the ost accomplished pinch-hitter in Belle history...or be traded for some young pitching talent.

3rd Superstar IFA Signs

The IFA Gods are smiling on Belle this season.

Baltimore has shelled out a new-league-record $28MM bonus to ink Dominican lefty starter Ariel Chantres.

Chantres is a fireballer who is young and raw, but looks to have a huge upside. Scouts say he'll eventually have good success against both righty and lefty batters, and expect him to develop 4 competent pitches. He already keeps the ball down well. If any part of his game is suspect, it's his control, but given good coaching and training support, it could grow into the "effectively wild" category. He looks like he'll have outstanding stamina and durability...he'll throw a ton of innings and at least threaten (maybe obliterate) strikeout records.

The $28MM signing bonus paid by Baltimore surpasses the previous-record $24MM mark given by New York this year (Ramiro Delgado) and El Paso in Season 14 (Ramiro Fuentes).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

AL West Season Preview

Season 15 Recap: Salem improved by a whopping 43 games (to 87) to win the division, got past Nashville in the first round of the playoffs, and lost to eventual AL Champ Jackson in the second round. The other teams were in various stages of rebuilding.

SALEM features a potent power attack (861 runs last season), with 8 players capable of launching 20+ HR's (which they did last year). They got some defensive help with Daniel McDowell and added another bat in Vinny Ma in free agency, but they'll need some pitching help to get further in the playoffs. Season 12's first-rounder, Ernest Terrell, might help but will at least start the season in AAA.

made a big free-agency splash, signing 7-time All-Star C Pat Ramirez and SP's Derek Betemit and Jimmy Martin. They join a very young team led by 1B Brant Cooney (27) and SS Frank Suzuki (24). This team should see some improvement in both their hitting and pitching stats - don't know if it's enough to make up the 20 games Salem beat 'em by last year, but they should close the gap some.

BOISE had a couple of significant FA signings in Matty Marrero and Midre Ordonez. They join rookies Lon Comer (1B), Hugh Rivera (SS) and Reid Finley (RP) to give the Posse a pretty different look this year. Boise had a 5.13 Team ERA last year but is capable of much better. P.T. Navarro and Milton Starr can both put up much better numbers than they have in recent years; who knows if this is their year?

SAN DIEGO's major off-season changes were the loss of their best hitter, Diego Coronado, and the signing of old pro Kyle Bradshaw. Coronado's spot will be filled by 2nd-year 1B Daniel Unroe; Bradshaw joins an otherwise young rotation on a 1-year deal. A trio of rookies gets the call this season: Jimmie Ibanez (Season 12 IFA) will start in CF, Stan Burnett (Season #10 overall) opens in right and Miguel Mercado (Season 10 IFA) joins the rotation. The Surf Babies are starting to get some nice pieces in place.

1. A tight, 3-way race with Salem pulling it out
2. Boise's pitching comes around enough for a 2nd-place finish
3. Watch for Boise's Hugh Rivera in the ROY race

2nd Superstar Prospect IFA Signs

The San Diego Surf Babies have signed Eduardo Sierra, a 2B from Venezuela and the second potential superstar IFA to reach Belle already this year.

Sierra already has very good contact and batting eye...he could very well develop into a perennial 100-walk, .400 OBP leadoff stud. He's not a power hitter, but his splits shoudl get good enough to make him a solid .300 hitter. He already has great range and an adequate glove...he could become a multiple GG winner at 2B.

While Sierra could probably hold his own at the big-league level now, the Surf Babies will probably give him a couple of minor league seasons to let his splits and glove develop. Look for this guy on the ROY ballot in Season 18.

Surenos Trade For Owen

The 2-time defending World Champion Oakland Surenos have made a move to bolster their infield, getting Terry Owen from New York for a relief pitching prospect.

Owen was initially a first-round pick of the San Diego franchise. He was a part-timer for most of his 5 years in Cleveland, but started at SS and 3B his last 3 seasons in Madison (now Buffalo) and Fresno. Owen has a .282 lifetime average, and, he's likely to fill a utility role for the Surenos.

In return, the Necromancers get Geronimo Guzman, a Season 11 IFA by the Baltimore organization. Guzman has a very lively, rising, 4-seam fastball. He'll get a lot of strikeouts, especially against lefty batters. He has some problems against righties, and his second pitch - a slider - is of average-to-decent major league quality.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

AL South Season Preview

Season 15 Recap: Jackson won its 6th straight division title, while Richmond, Nashville and Little Rock won 88, 88 and 86, respectively (the Ramblers edged out the Poor Men for the last wild card spot). Jackson went to the WS for the 4th straight year, but lost for the second straight to Oakland. Nashville lost in the first playoff round.

JACKSON had a few FA losses but plugged holes with RP's Ken George and McKay Casian, and IF Chin-Hui Song. They're also expecting big things from Season 11's first-rounder, LF Dennis Hewson. Collier, Costello & co. may be a year older, but they're still dangerous.

NASHVILLE is coming off its second straight playoff appearance and is gunning for a division championship. Lance Reed (.305/44/145), Richie Elder (.294/22/90) and Frank Schmidt (.269/45/131) lead the power side of the attack; Emil Morales (.295, 43 steals) leads the speed side - he'll get table-setting help from rookie 2B Tom Fischer. The staff needs help for Luis Martinez (20-6, 3.540 and Harold Bryant (17-9, 4.21); it's most likely to come from rookies Charlie Hernandez and Michael Burnitz, but it's also likely that more is needed.

RICHMOND had some significant free agent losses in Sean Hines and Daniel McDowell. They countered by signing Fred White to play 3B and brought up rookie SS Trent Gray. They also added a pair of promising rookies to the staff - SP Josias Rodriguez and Wiki Batista. Looks like they could score fewer runs this year but also allow fewer...if they could improve on last year's 16-25 in 1-run games they could be poised for a breakthrough.

LITTLE ROCK has their string of 8 straight 90+ win seasons snapped last year, although 86 was respectable. An era ended in Little Rock this season as 13-year vet and future Hall of Famer Lon Andrews moved on to a FA contract with Baltimore (although the loss of Troy Harris is probably a bigger deal). They're going to feel those losses in the runs column - they were already on the short end of the leafgue average last year. The pitching also slipped a bit from recent seasons but remains capable of posting a Team ERA in the top 3 of the league. Rookie Paul Shibata looks like a nice addition to the bullpen. And speaking of the pen, 4-time FOY Geoff Sosa is showing no signs of slowing down but is in the last year of his contract. It'll be interesting to see what the Pebbles do if they're not in contention at the break and getting offers for Sosa.

1. I'm picking Nashville to knock off Jackson this year.
2. Jackson comes in a close 2nd, with Richmond a close 3rd.
3. Geoff Sosa will have a different address by season's end.

Lake Monsters Get Daal

The Burlington Lake Monsters have been looking for a SS since the defection of Ivan Ruiz to Columbus. With free agency winding down, they got their man - 7-year vet Bucky Daal - by trading 3 lefty pitching prospects to Syracuse.

Daal has a lifetime .832 OPS and posted career highs in average and RBI last season (.312 and 86) playing mostly CF for the Warriors. Defensively, he's adequate at best as a SS - a little short on range, a somewhat balky glove, and a strong but occasionally scattershooting arm.

The Monsters also get Carl Hume, a reliever with 2 very good pitches but lower than ideal splits. He posted a respectable 3.61 ERA for Syracuse last year to go along with 6 wins, but also lost 6 and blew 4 of 5 save opportunites.

Syracuse got 3 good prospects in the deal:
Bunny Munoz was a Season 9 2nd-rounder who has developed into a control/finesse specialist with a wicked sinking curveball. He'll open the season in the big league club's bullpen.
Khiry Robinson was a Season 14 1st-round pick. He's got the highest potential of the three...give him a couple more years in the minors and he could have excellent splits along with 4 decent quality pitches. He'll pitch in AAA this season.
Joaquin Polanco (originally a Season 10 2nd-round selection) also starts in AAA. He's reached his potential, but it's not bad: very good control, a fall-off-the table sinker, 2 more devent pitches and adequate splits. With 13 pitchers on the Opening Day roster, don't be surprised if Syracuse moves a pitcher or 2 to make room for this guy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Well, it's not like you even have to "get out". Just vote!!

Here's how I see it, for what it's worth.

In my view there are 5 candidates clearly worthy of induction and 3 more in the conversation:


Phil Kimura: Basket full of awards and monster numbers for a guy who played a lot of SS. I can see the objection that he pooped out at an early age (33 was his last year), but his accomplishments are still deserving I think.

Alex Ramirez: Perhaps a tad short on awards, but 480 (in 10 seasons, at that) dingers for a middle infielder is pretty compelling.

Luis Seanez: toddcommish has made the case for him convincingly. The argument against him is that he didn't get enough wins and didn't win a Cy Young (which is essentially repeating that he didn't get enough wins). Wins are hugely affected by factors other than how a guy pitches. When you take a close look at his qualitative stats, he has without a doubt compiled the 3rd-best career of any SP in this world.

Dick West: .334 lifetime BA, 2 MVP's, and a bunch of other awards. Easy call.

Rob Romano: I keep asking myself if I can really vote for a guy who only played 6 and a half seasons. Then I look at those seasons...3 MVP's (1 of 3 players... and CostelloLeon are the others), only .400 season in league history, career leader in OPS, on and on. Best hitter in world history...he's gotta be in.

Rico Nunez: 3 GG's and 3 Silver Sluggers at SS, plus 417 career homers...pretty good.
Steven Vaughn: 3 Cy Young is pretty convincing.
Thomas Sparks: Just 1 CY, but in every qualitative measure he was better than Vaughn.
I wouldn't have an argument with any of these guys I don't think...will revisit next year if they don't get in this season.

6/22/10 Update - changes to coach hiring

As most of you know we passed out a survey on 5/17 that involved making changes to the coach hiring process. The overwhelming majority of you wanted to see the loyalty rating significantly increased. With this update we have increased the values so that any coach with a 50 loyalty rating will now stay with your franchise 75% of the time. The percentage increases as the loyalty rating gets higher.

In addition to making that change (we couldn't just leave it at that!) we have gone ahead and included some significant changes to the process that have been
requested heavily for quite some time.The first is the ability to promote your minor league coaches during the rehiring process. You can now promote any minor league coach that is willing to stay with your franchise. Adding this feature has made the page and the UI a bit more complicated so please take your time with it the first time you experience it.

The other included improvement is that fielding coaches will no longer automatically accept bench coach roles. Both roles are now viewed equally, so it will now come down to the value of the contract.

All of these changes should make the process much better and leave you with only a few coaches to sign each season.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Necromancers Win Bidding For Delgado

The New York Necromancers took a huge rebuilding step today, signing Dominican uber-prospect Ricardo Delgado for a $24 million signing bonus.

Delgado already has major-league power at age 21. Give him a few seasons and he'll be one of the game's top power hitters. He looks like he'll have better contact skills than your typical slugger, and will handle LHP with no problem. Defensively, he projects to good range and a plus arm for a CF. His glove might be slightly lacking, but with his bat that's minor concern. His durability is already good, and he could possibly grow into a Ripken-like ironman.

While it's conceivable that Delgado could hit in the majors right now, New York has elected to have patience and start him out in High A. Don't be surprised if this guy smashes some minor league batting recordsand shows up in New York in only a year or 2.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

AL East Season 16 Preview

Season 15 Recap: Cleveland won (yawn) 114 to take its 10th straight division crown. Washington D.C. surged late to win 96 and get a wild card spot. Pittsburgh improved a game to 85 wins; Rochester slipped back to 76 wins after 3 straight .500+ years. The Katanas got to the ALCS for the 6th straight year but lost to Jackson for the 4th straight time; the Revenge lost in the first round to Cincinnati. Cleveland took 3 of the 4 major awards, with Thomas Simpkins winning both the MVP and ROY, and Aaron Torres taking the Cy Young.

CLEVELAND seems to just reload every year. They lose Harry Encarnacion in FA and bring up Season 10 supplemental pick Scott Becker (he'll hit a ton). Otherwise, it's pretty much the same as last year's crew. They'll score 1000 runs or close to it, as usual. And as usual, their pitching may look like it has weaknesses but will be near the top of the league in ERA.

WASHINGTON D.C. eagerly awaits the ML debut of Season 10's #2 overall pick, Omar Carrasco. He pairs with Rob Workman (20 wins each of first 2 seasons) to give the Revenge perhaps the best 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation in Belle. They could also call up OF Mark Gang, who's ML-ready but doesn't have a position open. He (or someone else) could be traded for a 3B, as the departure of Vinny Ma has left an opening there. Could this finally be their year?

PITTSBURGH has surged to 84 adn 85 wins the last 2 years, thanks to its big Season 14 FA signings plus an influx of talent from the minors. The farm system has produced a couple more this year in power-hitting RF Joaquin Alvarez and lefty sinkerballer Louie Yang. Not hard to see the Alleghenys winning 90-95 this year.

ROCHESTER has some retooling to do following a 76-win season and quite a few FA losses. The Replacements are hoping for a better sophomore season from Season 11's #10 overall pick, Rich Grace, plus a monster MVP year from 24 year-old SS Jesus Gomez. Even if they get those and win 85 games, they're likely to finish 4th in this ball-buster division.

1. I've been picking D.C. to unseat Cleveland for years, now. Even with Carrasco joining the rotation, I can't see the Revenge picking up 18 games. Katanas win, but in a much closer race.
2. D.C. and Pittsburgh both win 90+ and get wild card berths.
3. Watch for the aforementioned MVP bid by Rochester's Jesus Gomez, and a CY bid by Pittsburgh's Jung Wanatabe.

Friday, June 18, 2010

AL North Season 16 Preview

Season 15 Recap: Cincinnati squeaked by Augusta by 3 games for its 2nd straight division title. Augusta improved by 10 wind to 77; Buffalo and Columbus continued rebuilding campaigns. Edgar Perez of the Waste Managers took hone the AL FOY. Cincy upset D.C. in the first round of the playoffs and lost to Cleveland in the Division Round.

could have one of the best rookie classes in the AL...don't know if there's a ROY candidate among them, but there are 5 who could possibly contribute. A return to Season 14 form by SP's Carlos Javier and Andy Newman would be a big help.

AUGUSTA dumped a bunch of 30+ guys - the only one they'll miss is C Crawford. Diego Coronado (1B) and Victor Perez (RF) should make up for his production plus some, and if they add a FA DH (a distinct possibility with guys like Padilla and Brooks still available) their offense could be much improved. Inoue and Barkley could give a boost to a staff that was pretty good last year.

is looking at another rebuilding year, although they could make some noise if they get good seasons from the aging-but-still-dangerous vets, William Katou and Vinny Zhang. Look for a better sop season from Season 13's #3 overall pick, Daniel Tankersly.

has a trio of rookies - Theodore Maxwell, Andrew Davis and Fred Watson - ready to join last year's ROY candidates Fernando Espada and Pascual Pena in what could be the AL's youngest lineup. Problem: 16th in ERA last year and adding Humberto Roque (although that was a good move) isn't gonna be enough. With a couple of hitting-for-pitching trades, the Criminals could get into the race.

Cincinnati and Augusta battle it out all year again...I think the Waste Managers' rookies will trump the Bears' FA signings and pull it out.
2. IF Columbus can pull off a couple of trades to improve their pitching, they could get to .500. .500 can win this division.
3. Watch for Columbus' Fernando Espada to make some nosiue in the MVP race. The Criminals also have a possible ROY contender in Andrew Davis - his other ratings are just good enough for that 99 power to translate to 40+ HR's.

Rule V Top Ten

Looks like there was a little help available in the Rule V...comments on the top 10:

1. Mateo Cortez, SS (New York): slick fielder with plus range and a cannon arm, can also hit a little. This guy could start on most of the ML teams in this world.

2. Hector Romo, SP (El Paso): decent control, OK splits, and 1 good pitch - could be OK in a LR role.

3. Jesus Felix, RP (Vancouver): a little intriguing because all 3 of his pitches are at least better than average. Dark-horse to be the surprise achiever of this group.

4. Javier Rios, OF (Rochester): nothing spectacular or terrible...pretty solid guy to have backing up at LF/RF/1B. Could get 200-250 AB's doing that plus pinch-hitting ad DH'ing occasionally.

5. Julio Martinez, IF/OF (Santa Cruz): not going to ht enough to see much action; may be relegated to defensive-replacement.

6. Terry Schafer, 1B (Salem): big-power, big-strikeout switch-hitter. Worth taking a shot with your 25th roster spot, but I'm betitng the contact skills are too poor to make him worthwhile.

7. Grant Rivers, OF (Nashville): only offensive skill is the ability to coax a walk, but he could be a good late-inning defensive replacement.

8. Carlton Locko, RP (Burlington): couple of good pitches, but plagued by control issues. Outside chance to surprise, but won't be counted on for much,

9. Fernando Santana, RP (Washington, D.C.): 2 good pitches plus excellent control make him another decent bet to perform fairly well.

10. Tim Scanlan, RP (Syracuse): keep him away from righties, but might work as a vL specialist.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 3 FA Signings

Augusta (3 Type A's) and Baltimore (3 Type B's) were the most active teams on the final day of the Free Agency period, and El Paso handed out the biggest contract.

William Inoue, SP - 2 years, $6.7MM: big ballpark is to his liking
Victor Perez, OF - 3 years, $10.35MM: solid lefty bat settles into RF
Diego Coronado, 1B - nice signing at 3 years, $11.1MM
The Polar Bears also got a bargain in re-signing Roy Drew for 2 years/$9.8MM, giving them effectively 4 Type A FA signings.

Horatio Valdes, RP - 2 years, $5.4MM: Birds make a nice deal for a solid reliever
Herm Carasone, RP - 2 years, $4.47MM: more bullpen help
Ryan Adcock, C - 2 years, $4.2MM: punch vs. LHP and a good compliment to Zurburan

Sean Hines, 3B - 3 years, $22.5MM - good stick for the Warrior lineup; probably moves to LF

Ivan Ruiz, SS - 5 years, $57.1MM: you can tell you're in a highly competitive world when the defensive SS's get paid
Humberto Roque, LR - 3 years, $17.9MM: Criminals bag one of the few good pitchers in ths year's class

El Paso
William Kwon, SS - 3 years, $35MM: could he win a GG if he moves to 3B?

Pat Ramirez, C - 3 years, $22MM: will help both the lineup and pitching staff immensely

Jacob Martin, SP - 1 year, $1.15MM: former #1 seeks injury comeback

News From New York

Press Release: New York management have released a statement indicating that top prospect Ellie Roenicke will spend the season in AAA. Roenicke was considered by some to be a top ROY candidate this season. When asked to comment, Roenicke replied, "The Necromancer organization showed a lot of faith in me, taking an unproven high school kid in the first round. It's time for me to repay that faith. I trust the GM to do what's best for the team, and I'm only concerned with winning."

Reactions among the media reps covering the team varied. One said, "These guys aren't going to contend this year...let him develop for another season and he'll be an even better bet for ROY next year." Another disagreed, saying, "If he's ready to play in the majors he should be in the majors, extra arb years be damned!"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2nd Day of FA Signings

Looks like most of the remaining A and B free agents are biding their time, seeing how hard they can play bidders against each other. Just a couple of contracts today:

Boise inked 2B/OF Vance Carter for 4 years at $5.1MM a year. Carter has a little pop (20+ HR's a couple of times) and is competent against lefties, but has trouble with righties. Not particularly well-ranged or sure-handed at 2B, he's likely to see mostly OF action.

Pittsburgh shored up the pen with a 2-year, $6.8MM deal for Johnnie Hernandez. JH has yet to really put it together in his 6-year ML career. He has good control and good enough splits, but suffers from up-in-the-zone-itis and poor command of his #2 pitch, a curveball.

Syracuse jumped into the FA fray with a surprise (1-year deal for a Type A) signing of RP Sherman Morris. Morris hasn't suffered any ratings deterioration to speak of, but has struggled the last 2 years in Cincinnati. The Warriors are hoping the change of scenery revives his career. This signing has a lot of pundits thinking they're confident of signing another Type A.

While we probably won't see any mega-deals rivaling osme form the last few years, we will see some contracts tomorrow that will affect the competitive balance. Among the pitchers, Humberto Roque and Kyle Bradshaw are still considering their options. The top position players still available include SS's William Kwon and Ivan Ruiz, 3B Sean Hines, C Pat Ramirez and 2B Roy Drew.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday's Trades

Syracuse and Salem made a curious (at least on the surface) trade today. The Warriors shipped LF Elroy Gant and cash to the Goonies for 2 minor leaguers - SP Dario Simmons, a Season 12 supplemental pick (#49) who is a marginal ML prospect; and Eugene Rocker, a Season 13 sandwich choice (#42) who might see a little ML action as a vL platooner.

Gant was the 3rd overall pick (by Toledo) in the Season 4 draft and has an .826 OPS over 8 ML seasons. He signed with Syracuse as a free agent last year and has a season left on his contract. He'll likely start in LF for Salem.

The move fueled speculation among the Warrior fandom that a shakeup is on the way. There's no obvious LF replacement on the ML or AAA roster, although the team has ample payroll room for free agent signings.

The Necromancers and the Victory also made a small trade today. New York picked up a defensive SS in Matthew Guerrero, sending P Angel Brogna to Vancouver. Guerrero won't hit a lick if he see the majors, but could play a decent SS. Brogna isn't likely to rise above AAA.

Big First Day In Free Agency

15 Type A and B Free Agents signed so far; Memphis leads the way with 4 signings. A and B signings by team:

Carlos Pineiro, 2B - 4 years, $30MM: .289 lifetime hitter may be the new leadoff man
Clyde Simon, IF - 3 years, $19.5MM: not sure where he'll play, but he'll be in lineup
Bruce Post, 3B - 4 years, $30.5MM: impoved 3B defense + a little pop
Aramis Espinosa, ? - 3 ears, $20.8MM: may be slated for OF duty

Matty Marrero,
OF - 4 years, $18MM: 11-year vet joins 8th team

Mike Simpson
, RP - 1 year, $3.4MM: Ice need a bullpen stopper; Simpson may be it

Troy Simpson, 2B - 3 years, $16.2MM: lineup looking better for the new fans

MacBeth Crawford, C - 3 years, $14.7MM: Monsters look to improve last year's 166 HR's

Jimmy Martin
, SP - 4 years, $25MM:Bar & Grillers revamping rotation in attempt to contend

Little Rock
Brett Holmes, RP - 3 years, $10.8MM: Pebbles try to recapture Sea 13-14 pitching magic

Norm Rose, SP - 3 years, $22MM: can still eat innings, but 3 years?

Mexico City
Pedro Fernandez, RP - 1 year, $5.2MM: still gets the job done

Daniel McDowell, IF - 4 years, $23.6MM: infield help for the AL West champs

Charles Bottalico, C - 1 year, $3.6MM: veteran presence for a young team

Harry Encarnacion, C - 2 years, $8.32MM: they have Burns at C...sign and trade coming here

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Austin Trades Again

Austin moved a step closer to completing its catcher-by-committee, getting its Season 10 backup/platooner Evan Peterson, for cash and last year's first-rounder, Jeff Diaz.

Peterson's accurate arm and savvy pitch-calling have kept him in the majors for 5 years, although he can hit lefties at least a little. He hit .285 for Austin in Season 10 and got a career-high 435 AB's for Syracuse in Season 13.

Diaz was the 28th pick in last year's draft. He's an OF who projects to have terrific range, but probably not a good enough glove to handle CF. He could develop a decent batting eye and a good ability to drive the ball; the big question is whether he'll make contact enough.

The Free Agent Class Position-By-Position

Unlike recent classes (Goodwin and maybe Nakajima and Woodward last year; Brogna, Lim and Javier in Season 14; and Morales in Season 13), this class doesn't have a headlining superstar. That doesn't mean there aren't some very helpful players available. For those willing to investigate closely, work in a platooner here and there, and generally be creative in their picks, this class offers some good value, especially among position players. Some thoughts, position-by-position:

Catcher: Pat Ramirez appears to be the top name here, although there are lots of 30-something vets available. Matt Selby and Jose Zurburan could be good value at the right price. Ralph Bacsik offers a mean bat, especially against RHP, although he has an annoying tendency to call for high fastballs to high fastball hitters. There's also a varied assortment of platooners that can contribute.

1B: Diego Coronado isn't your classic power guy, but could give you 18-20 homers and a .400+ OBP (in a sm aller park than San Diego's). Nash Brooks can still hit and, at 34, might come cheap. This group trails off badly after those 2 but might provide a surprise find or 2.

2B: Roy Drew is solid but coming off 2 subpar seasons. Carlos Pineiro is in the same neighborhood, although he's a year older and has less power than Drew. Troy Harris might be an interesting play for someone - he's among the better defenders available at 2B and smacked 28 taters for Little Rock last year.

3B: Hard to say who's at the top of this bunch, although it seems Bruce Post and Sean Hines are the most visible. Post is the better defensively; Hines delivers more punch but is marginal at the hot corner. After a couple of seasons as a backup, Midre Ordonez got his chance last year and delivered a respectable (for San Diego's park, at least) .741 OPS - he can field the position adequately. Aramis Espinoza gives you power, but also has some trouble in the field. For those considering a defensive specialist here, Terry Owen could be your guy. At 35, Mitch Hall isn't going to be your everyday 3B, but he could fill in there occasionally and will still get a big hit.

SS: Some interesting names here, lead by (imho) sure-fire, 1st-ballot HOF'er William Kwon. His power's down a little, and his range and arm aren't really in SS territory anymore, but his glove and other hitting ratings are still sterling. Ivan Ruiz offers excellent D (NL Gold Glove last year) and a good bat against RHP. It's probably time for Clyde Simon to slide over to 3B. Among the pure defensive specialists, Julio Jose maybe the most intriguing...with that 96 range he notched 26 "+" plays for Buffalo last year (but he can't hit squat).

COF: Most a grab-bag this year with a lot of role-player types, although Victor Perez, Billy Ray Hernandez and John Lindsay could be more than that. Lon Andrews is a part-timer now but is still better than most here at 36.

CF: If you're really in need of a CF, you might want to consider trading for one, as all the available CF's have flaws of one kind or another. George Sweeney and Al Pulido appear to be the only ones here who can field the postion well (in case) to adequately (in Sweeney'sPulido's) and hit at least a little.

DH: Harry Encarnacion call still rake (.300/42/101 for Cleveland last year) at 34. Beyond that, Tony Ueno seems the best bet to contribute.

SP: At first glance this looks like a motley crew, but there are plenty of guys who could have good seasons (they could also have sucky seasons, but that's pitchers for you). Some possible breakout candidates: J.J. Little (decent in a LR role for Jackson last year), Edwin Hill (although it's hard to see him improving at 36), Ken George (same comment as Hill, only he's 37), Jacob Martin (can he come back from injury at 34?), Norm Rose (man, this is an old group), Jimmy Martin, and Derek Betemit.

RP: Fausto Cedeno is the prototypical 100+ innings setup man. He's been excellent for Burlington and the only rating that's started to slip (at 35) is velocity. Humberto Roque could probably get away with being a won't find better command of the first 2 pitches anywhere. Rick Miller night be the best 1-inning guy avaible...he has struggled before but put it together the last 2 seasons in El Paso. Bobby Anderson is 38 and had a rough Season 15, but is only a year removed fromposting a 1.44 ERA (62+innings). Lawrence Simpson appears to be done - he's 2 years and a lot of earned runs from his last glory season in Charleston.

Arb Day Trades

Another pair of trades went down during the latter part of arbitration day: one minor deal and one that was significant.

Richmond had been trying to move minor-league 2B Fred Price, probably to make room on its 40-man roster in advance of the Rule V draft. Buffalo obliged by taking Price for Aurelio Oropesa, a speedy Season 13 2nd-round OF possessed of an excellent batting eye but no particular talent otherwise.

In the largest deal to date, Oakland coaxed a Trent Diaz and Rafael Aquino out of Austin for closer Wesley Telford. The Surenos had only two SP's on their reliever-dominated staff (Ramsay and Rolls - both approahcing their mid-30's) and saw no help in FA; Austin pointed to its bullpen as the major reason for missing the playoffs last year.

Diaz is a Season 9 1st-rounder (12th overall) who has won 61 games over 4 seasons (including 22 in Season 14). He features good control, better-than average splits and an excellent 1st pitch (a 4-seam fastball). The knock on Diaz is his propensity to give up the longball (33 last year and 35 in each of hos first 2 seasons) - so the larger Oakland ballpark may be to his liking. Aquino was a promising Season 12 IFA who was set back by a devastating shoulder aneurism in Season 14. He has plus control and is tough on righties; lefties give him trouble and his array of pitches is only average for a major leaguer.

Telford was a Season 10 1st-rounder (15 overall). He has decent control, excellent splits and keeps ev erything on the ground. He projects to be Austin's everyday closer.

Analysis: Austin paid a big price to get its closer, but the deal may work out well for both teams. Telford is a nice fit for the Dwarves' cozy ballpark and stifling infield defense; Diaz will like Oakland's spacious outfield. The wildcard is Aquino and whether the Surenos can make use of his talents while hiding his limitations.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Karn Evil 9 Corral Murray

The El Paso Karn Evil 9, seeking to vault into NL South contention, have acquired veteran infielder and 4-time All-Star Tim Murray from Jacksonville.

In return, the Jinxed get Benito Leon, a 2B/CF defensive specialist who could also steal some bases if he gets on enough; Alan Bigley, a SP who was a Season 12 supplemental pick; and Ted Ramsey, an OF and Season 14 2nd-rounder who will likely enjoy a long AAA career.

Murray is a 13-year veteran with 313 home runs to his credit. He's been a 2nd baseman for most of his career, but patrolled CF for Jacksonville last year and picked up his 2nd Silver Slugger award.

This looks like a good deal for both teams. El Paso gets a nice bat without giving up very much, and Jacksonville gets a couple of players who, while they won't lead the team to the promised land, will be competent and can contribute for many years.

Friday, June 11, 2010

69'ers, Dwarves Make Season's First Deal

The Las Vegas 69'ers and the Austin Ancient Dwarves have broken the trade ice at the Winter Meetings with a small deal.

The Dwarves, openly looking for catching help, get Vegas' AAA C, Juan Vazquez, in return for their backup CF the last couple of years, Albert Harmon.

This looks like a case of 2 teams trading from strength to fill a specific need. The 69'ers already have 3 excellent catchers on the big-league roster; they liked Harmon's defensive chops and ability to hit lefties as a complement to regular CF Alex Woodson. The Dwarves have a good defensive CF/2B, Braden Forest, chomping at the bit at AAA.

Austin decided it could overlook Vazquez' defensive shortcomings to get his bat into the lineup against righties. He isn't a power hitter, but makes good contact, is murder on righties, and has an excellent eye. Team sources confirmed they're still on the lookout for another C.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dwarves Front Office Working Overtime

With the budget deadline rapidly approaching, Austin's front office is working overtime to make its budget work this year. With long-term contracts coming for Myatt, Scheffer and Blair plus 9 arbitration cases, the Dwarves expect their total payroll to approach $100 million.

To free up cash, the team has confirmed it will not re-sign backups Charles Bottalico and John Lindsey. "John and Charles are both starting-caliber players who accepted backup roles for us," said a team official. "They did it with class and performed with excellence. They deserve shots at starting roles." The team will also likely skimp on coaching and completely shut down their advanced scouting department. "It's gonna be tight," Austin's CFO told this reporter. "If we go to arb with Sid (Selby) instead of signing him long-term, and win 2 or 3 arb cases, we should be OK."

In other news, the Dwarves did confirm they are in talks with "a number of teams" who had inquired about trading for one of their 6 starting pitchers. They characterized the talks as "ongoing but preliminary" and would not elaborate on which pitcher or pitchers were likely to be wearing new uniforms.

Live, From The Grand Ballroom of Harrah's Hotel and Casino...

in beautiful downtown Shreveport, LA, we bring you the opening of the Joey Belle Season 16 Winter Meetings!

New Owners This Season

In keeping with our tradition, the first event of the Winter Meetings is the introduction of new owners by the previous years WS Champ (rlahann of the Oakland Surenos, for the 2nd year running):

Starting in the AL, our only new owner is an old owner. tk21775 previously piloted the Jacksonville AL East squad for two-and-a-half seasons, and rejoins us after a brief absence. tk has 31 HBD seasons under his belt a recent WS win in Mauer.

Over in the NL, we start in the North, where gwvsjohn has taken control of the old Trenton Trogs and moved them to New York as the Necromancers (love the name). gwvsjohn brings 7 seasons of experience in Fingers and Major Leagues.

Next, we move on to the East, where we have 2 new skippers. z0601 took over in Jacksonville last season and is our resident newbie (1 season in Belle and into his 2nd season in Fingers). Last year, z obliterated the league record for most questions asked to the commish in a mere half-season (that's a good thing, z).

Our other new NL East boss is slonneman, who, in a mildly ironic reversal, moved the Indy team to Baltimore (the Orioles). slonneman has completed 26 HBD seasons and has WS titles in Moneyball and F.Y.C. (2 of 'em).

In the South, enterprise takes over from original owner jiml60 in Mexico City and has re-christened the team as the Red Devils (kinda like the sound of "Diablo Rojos" myself, but then again, I live in Texas). enterprise has 14 seasons to his credit, most accumulated in The Sandlot.

In the West, Fresno gets a makeover as the Santa Cruz Radicals (not the Bannana Slugs?!), courtesy of RubeRant. Great, an even more pitcher-friendly ballpark for Kennie Frascatore. RubeRant is the "dean" of our new owners, with 41 HBD seasons, and a WS title in The Sandlot.

Welcome, new owners!

Winter Meeting activities for today: budget resolution.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Miscellaneous Musings While Waiting To Fill Our Last Spot

Free Agency: On first glance it looks like a bumper crop for hitters and pretty thin for pitchers. You never know for sure until teams have re-signed their own guys, but it looks like this could be a bigger year than our last 2 (29 A and B players changing teams last year, 21 in Season 14).

Makeup matters to development - Exhibit A: Magglio Nunuez (makeup 99) gained a point on his vR and 3 points on his 4th pitch in his 10th pro season last year.

Hmmmm....Memphis has 9 1st-rounders from its last 3 drafts in the minors.