Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Season 37 Chicago White Sox Prevew

Chicago White Sox
Season 36:  96-66, Wild Card, advanced to Division Series and lost to Minnesota 
GM: pfontaine

Big Offseason Moves:  Re-signing future HOF'er Magglio Rodriguez.  Even with the team aging and losing some key pieces (Kevin Chong), keeping Rodriguez means huge production at 2B for another 4, maybe even 5 seasons.
Outlook: Age, free agency and a climbing payroll stopped Chicago's 100-win streak at 6 seasons, and the plucky Twins bumped them form the playoffs for the 2nd straight season.

Can an aging team with $125MM committed to ML payroll pull it together and reached the promised land again?

I think it depends.  The White Sox' 2 best teams (by record, at least) in their 6-season, 100-wins run were their Season 32 World Champ team (110 wins) and their Season 34 AL Champ team (112 wins).  Both teams had it all in terms of offense and pitching - they led the league in team ERA both years, and were first in runs in Season 32 and 3rd in Season 34 (they clearly gave up a little defense to get all those bats in the lineup, as they put up with 100+ errors both years...they did have a pretty decent 74/27 in +/- plays in Season 32).

Obviously, "having it all" helps teams contend and increases their chances to advance through the playoffs.

But with the usual attrition you can't have it all, so if you have to pick what do you pick?

Even when Magglio was winning MVP's and the Sox' offense got all the press, I thought the keys to their fortunes were their Big 3 SP's Addison Johnson, Tony Flores and Hector Ayala.  Why, because no position on the field has more influence on the outcome of a game than SP, and if you can rollout out 3 great SP's you have a chance to dominate the playoffs whether you score many runs or not.

One can argue about the dominance of these 3.  They're not Ruben Ozuna or Tony Moya dominant...heck, Flores and Ayala have even had bad seasons.  But Johnson and Ayala have won CY's (not coincidentally in Seasons 32 and 34), and together the 3 of them have the possibility of getting hot for an entire playoff run.

The Sox haven't started well at 8-12, as the offense is struggling mightily.  But keep an eye on those 3 SP's.  It might be as a Wild Card again, but I'd bet those 3 have enough left for at least 1 more playoff push.

Season 37 Florida Marlins Preview

Florida Marlins
Season 36:  76-86
GM: cyben5150

Big Offseason Moves:  Promotions of Season 34 #8 overall pick Gabe Mullen and Season 29 #59 overall Rex Flair.

Outlook:  The Marlins have been patiently rebuilding their farm system for 5 seasons now, and last year it started paying off.  This year they welcome Gabe Mullen, a promising power/speed/defense (at least range and arm-wise) rightfielder.

As a result of their farm-building focus, Florida has one of the tiniest payrolls in the league - $35 million for their ML roster, even with $9.8MM going to 3-time All-Star (and Silver Slugger last year) shortstop Adeiny Nova.  And they still have prospects like Didi Herrera, Donzell Roberts, and Tanner Rogers sprinkled around their minors.  When they arrive, Florida will arrive big.

For this year, I think they'll improve on their 694 runs scored, which was 6th in the NL.  While Mullen is not off to a hot start, I think he'll figure it out quickly and emerge as a ROY candidate.

As for pitching, I don't know...Cookie Young seems like the only guy they can really depend on.  They'll undoubtedly get some surprise good seasons from some guys with low splits but good pitches, but I don't think this staff is ready to get them into contention.

A few more wins in the uber-competitive South, but it's going to be another season or 2 before the Marlins start contending.

Season 37 San Francisco Giants Preview

San Francisco Giants
Season 36:  58-104
GM:  bigthrowsie

Big Offseason Moves: Just a little dabbling around the edges of free agency in year 2 of the rebuild.  Lorenzo Izquierdo signed on for 2 seasons, replacing Paco Sandoval at 2B.

Outlook:  The future in San Fran starts with LF Doug Lindor and CF Yamil Pino.  Both have been disappointing so far. Lindor missed a chunk of last year with a bad hammy and was only moderately effective when he played.  The bigger mystery is how he has accumulated 2+ years of service time with only 550 AB's.  Pino showed promise in Season 35 but regressed at the plate and in the field last year.  I don't think the Giants expect him to be a Silver Slugger-type CF, but playing every day, hitting .260, and being in the conversation for Gold Gloves are reasonable expectations.

San Fran kick-started the repopulation of its farm system last year with 6 first-round picks.  Mostly supplementals, there are no stars in that bunch but some will no doubt make the Big League team.  A big pick looms for the team this year - they really need to hit on #4.

The Giants' 4.29 team ERA was 13th last year and needs improving.  Good chance they get that even with the same group of starters - Adkinsson, Sauer, Plouffe and Palmeiro (93 starts among them) were all weel abo ve their career-norm ERA's, plus Palmeiro missed a chunk of the season (he only got in 14 starts) with a shoulder problem.  

They converted Edgar Tavarez to a reliever last year with mixed results.  With Corey Montgomery moving down the coast to San Diego, Tavarez probably gets the closer role.  If they're going to have a bullpen standout, he's probably it.

Watch for the pitching to improve - they might not score quite as well, but should be more competitive.

Season 37 Toronto Blue Jays Preview

Toronto Blue Jays
Season 36:  63-99
GM:  coltonrocks

Big Offseason Moves:  pretty active offseason for the Jays...the biggest moves were probably the free-agent signings of IF/CF Alex Cyr, RP Frank Donald, 1B/OF Andres Almora, SP Tommy Monroe, SP Kevin Uehara, RP Kevin Chong, LR Damaso Martinez, and 2B Juan Park.  All were pretty budget-conscious signings except for that of Cyr, who commanded a hefty 2-year, $26MM deal.

Outlook:  The Jays mounted a pretty good offense last year - 738 runs, which was 6th in the AL despite being just below the league average.  The problem is they lost 5 of their top 7 hitters to free agency (the other 2, 3B Pat Lincoln and OF Eduardo Mesa, turned 36 and 37 this year).  So they're pretty much starting over with a new lineup.

It looks like they're going with Park in RF, Cyr at 2B, Almora at 1B, last year's 1B Geoff Bagley DH'ing, Lincoln in LF, Darryl Springer at short, Kouhei Irabu in CF, and defensive C's Sefcik and Klassen sharing backstop duties.  That lineup is doing OK so far - they're right about league average in runs scored.

The also-new-look pitching staff features 4 rookies and 3 more 25 or under.  A little rougher start for this group than the hitters, but with 7 hurlers 25 or under, there's more of a future here.  So far, Luis Oliveros (a season 31 IFA who morphed into a DITR) has been the star of the group at 3-1, 1.99 ERA.  They've had some other nice surprises and some bad surprises - Martinez, Peters and Donald are currently sporting 10+ ERA's, and the Red Sox hung 20 on them on 2/19.  Growing pains of a young staff.

So far, the totally-rebuilt Jays are solidly competitive, anf the beginnings of a winning staff have reached the majors.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Colorado Rockies
Season 36: 88-74, won Division, lost to Washington D.C. in first round
GM: grapeape

Big Offseason Moves:  none...one of the league's quieter offseasons. 

Outlook:  Colorado's #8 offense does a little of everything - a little above league average in slugging (LF Borders, 3B Bacsik and 1B Miller with 26, 26, and 25 HR's), great at stealing bags (178 - Miller with 39 and Borders with 34), and decent at contact (.241 BA) and reaching base (.309). Departed SS Santo Peraza actually led the team in OBP last year with .384...if there's a concern on offense it's definitely in the reaching base department.

The Rockies' concentration of run production in 3 positions (1B, LF, 3B) does indeed translate to good defense elsewhere around the diamond (66/20 +/- plays and a .986 fielding %).

Their pitching staff has been around the middle of the pack for the last few seasons. #1 starter Stubby George has been a model of consistency and excellence his whole career, never posting an ERA above 3.75 and falling below 200 IP in only 1 complete season.  He's started this season 3-1 with a microscopic 1.16 ERA.  5th-year man Amos Gregorio capably fills the #2 starter role.  He boasts a career 3.77 ERA and  has started well this year with a 2.16.  Another hot starter - closer Norman Weston is 6-for-6 in save opportunities and has ridiculous .374 OPS-against .

The Rockies have won 4 straight West titles, and while the rest of the division is certainly gaining on them, they're the favorite until someone knocks them off.

Should the Portland Mavericks replace the Nashville Sounds when the opportunity arises?