Sunday, May 8, 2016

Season 34 AL South Preview

Kansas City Royals
Season 33: 91-71, lost in Round 1 to Boston
GM: tdfactory

As is his custom, GM tdfactory sent in a much more extensive preview than I would have undertaken...take it away, tdfactory

Offseason: Returning - RP Desmond Wengert and C Edgar Escobar
Added - C Rich Daniels and SP/RP Dave Frascatore
Losses: RP Donaldo Sanchez- (Minnesota), C Tanner Shea (FA), RP J.R. Voigt (FA), RP Louis Locke (FA), DH Manny Martin (Chicago White Sox)

Outlook:  Prior to last offseason, the Royals were faced with some talent and also a roster that had holes and was beginning to age. At that time, the Royals went all in and made quite a splash in FA, deciding that the window of opportunity to win with this club had a short time left. While last year’s major Free Agent spree brought in 5 new starters, it left a looming $138 million payroll this season, which made this past offseason much quieter. 

After digesting losing the division title on a tiebreaker and an early playoff exit, senior management dove into the roster and decided to make a few minor tweaks. While GM tdfactory would have loved to make a major FA Pitching splash to bolster an underperforming staff, payroll limitations hampered that effort. 

Clearly offense was not an issue, with the Royals leading the majors in most offensive categories last year. The offense was bolstered by two of last year’s FA signings -  LF Orlando James (49 HR 120 RBI, .284 ave) and RF Rabbit Grilli (37 HR 118 RBI and .261 ave). The Royals led the majors with Runs scored (901), Hits (1570), RBI (877) AVG (.274) SLG (.451) and OPS (.795). The Royals offense was amazing, with leadoff hitter Ryota Chen's 63 SB’s setting up runners in scoring position with the power alley of 5 hitters with 22 HR’s or better following in the lineup...4 of those had over 100 RBI each. 1B Henry Mercedes continues to shine with his 27 HR 114 RBI and .308 average. C Edgar Escobar continues to be solid behind the plate and Util Rookie Carl Corbin (18 HR and 61 RBI 12 SB) got off to a nice start in his Major League career. 

As good as the offense was, the pitching staff was really average. While 4 starters had double digit wins, there were just too many runs given up and the run support put up by the offense was squandered too often. The talent is there, the staff just has to put together better starts this season to have a chance to advance deeper into the playoffs. 

With only a few minor FA losses this offseason, GM tdfactory only made a few moves, bringing back starting C Edgar Escobar and RP Desmond Wengert. C Rich Daniels was brought in to be the backup catcher, he is more of a defensive catcher and will catch some late innings and give Escobar periodic rest. SP/RP Dave Frascatore was brought in to compete for a starting spot in the rotation, however if last year’s starters remain the same, he will be a solid LRP for the Royals. Not much help expected from the farm this season, with no pitching prospects at all and only offensive prospects. 22 year old Shunsuke Tamura can play LF and 1B but is currently blocked in both positions may get a late season call up to provide a bench bat. 25 year old DH Andrea Lane could get a call depending on how the offense starts out for the Royals. 

As has been stated, the Royals are in win now mode and this may be their best chance to do it. If the season disappoints, it could signal the beginning of a major overhaul in next offseason. 

Tampa Bay Rays
Season 33: 91-71, lost in Round 1 to Oakland
GM: jthornton75

Offseason:  The Rays had 4-5 free agent losses to'd they do?  They started with re-signing C Shibata and RF Frascatore. and shored up the staff with Jorge Guerrero and Dillon Shave

Outlook:  Tampa Bay gambled big on Max Mullens last year, and he responded with 18 wins and a 3.21 ERA in 249 innings pitched - key player in their 91-win season.  They might not need 45 HR's (Season 32) from Chris Freel to repeat that, but they'll need more than 25 (Season 33).  Watch youngsters Peter Hatcher (3b - .256/18/90) and Eugenio Tejada (CF - .275/23/80)...the offense will go how they go.  Underestimated asset:  their short relief corps looks old and under-OVR'd, but they get the outs.  

Here's GM jthornton75 on his team's chances:  "My chances are pretty simple this season. I have a good starting lineup with very little depth and I will be relying heavily on my bullpen as several of my SPs are short on stamina.  My team can compete if they avoid major injuries, but if injuries do occur they probably won't be able to overcome them."

Texas Rangers
Season 33: 68-94
GM:  bperkins

Offseason: The Rangers lost 6 free agents who played fairly big roles for them in Season 33, so they had some major retooling to do.  They signed 3 FA pitchers - Valerio Guzman (minimal innings but effective for MIN the last couple seasons), Nigel Lee (7 seasons as a starter for MIL), and Al Burton (journeyman reliever for 7 seasons, mostly with CLE) - and a catcher - Mario Powell (a defensive specialist who will be making his ML debut).

Outlook:  Texas desperately needs pitching help - 3 of their top 4-ERA pitchers (who pitched over 70 innings left in free agency (and that was on a staff that had a 4.96 team ERA).  The FA additions could help...rookie Don Davis, a Rule V draftee, won't.  MacBeth Kohlmeier, Season 30's 26th pick, will almost certainly get an early call and should help. They have the best 1B/DH combo in the AL with Walter Brooks (.278/54/127) and Glendon Logan (.309/30/109)....the new arms will give them some signs of life, bt not enough to challenge KC and Tampa Bay.

Nashville Sounds
Season 33: 76-86
GM:  fallball

Offseason:  Nashville started retooling at midseason last year, trading CF R.J. Rosado for 2 starters (SP Omar Sanchez and CF Alex Cyr) and an OF prospect (Gus Kirby).  They stepped up and signed SP Paulie Pendleton (career 3.67 ERA) in FA and promoted SP Nate Harnisch, a Season 29 supplemental pick.

Outlook:  Improved...maybe on the verge of wild card territory.  Can they improve to 85 wins (from 76)?  Pendleton and Black are a good enough 1-2 in the rotation to make that leap, but they're short on power (and offense in general) and the bullpen will need some heroic performances for them to contend.   

Division Race:  It's Kansas City and Tampa Bay again, and likely close again.  KC probably starts faster this year and wins it by 5 games or so.

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