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.

Arizona Diamondbacks Season 37 Preview

Season 36: 84-78
GM:  cbriese

Big Offseason Moves:  More like a bunch of small ones that had a "Better D" theme: the acquisitions of CF Jermaine Vogelbach, 2B Pascual Estrada, IF/CF Bernie Gennett, C Alex Noonan,
3B Kosuke Takada, SS Blake Neal, SS Ringo Frye, and C Benjamin Ward.  Free agency brought in some pitching, but the idea seems to be "make the pitching better with great defense."

Outlook:  They've moved Vince Hawkins to 1B and Luis Mendoza to DH, so they feature superb defenders at every position on the field.  

It's certainly working so far, as those defensive whizzes are OPS'ing .815 and leading the league in runs scored (as well as doing the expected and leading the AL in + plays). Mendoza's .406/6/24 start certainly isn't hurting.

On the pitching front, Patrick Hunter has returned from an injury-plagued Season 36 to start 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA.  The other 2 of their rotation "Big Three," Erv Daley and Midre Espinosa, have both started 3-1.  Those 3 have thrown 55% of their innings so far (good sign for the playoffs), but the supporting starters and relievers have pitched well enough for Arizona to post a league-leading 3.28 ERA.

No doubt this team's for real.  The offense will cool off, but with that defense they'll win more than their share of low-scoring games.  And come playoff time, you won't find a more formidable rotation group than Daley, Hunter and Espinosa.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Season 37 New York Mets prevew

Season 36: 102-60,  Wild Card, advanced to NLCS and lost to St. Louis
GM: z0601

Big Offseason Moves:  last year's trade for Paulo Tellis to replace FA departee Jemile Frazier.

Outlook:  The Mets' offense put up 708 runs (5th in NL) last year, and should be similarly productive.  I see they've moved Cecil Bonilla to the leadoff spot in an attempt to jump-start him.  While he's been a productive player (.873 OPS), he hasn't hit the greatness many expected (I would think he's capable of something like a .315/40 HR's/.410 OBP with 40 SB's thrown in).  1B Ricardo Pena (.274/32/92), 3B Rico Lopez (.267/29/85) and RF Paulo Tellis (.250/27/73) in his last full ML Season in Milwaukee comprise the remainder of the offensive core.  New York opts for defense at C, SS, and CF and it shows in their defensive stats (.987 fielding %, 75/14 +/- plays).

Mets pitching begins (but certainly doesn't end) with 3-time CY winner Ruben Ozuna, coming off one of the most dominant seasons in Major Leagues history.  He won 26 (tied for 4th all-time), .963 winning % was 3rd all-time, had 36 quality starts (tied for 2nd all-time), and pitched 307 innings (2nd all-time).

Dante Day (18-9, 2.49 ERA in 253 IP) and Daniel Stevenson (19-10, 3.03 ERA in 267 IP) handle the bulk of the remaining SP duties in their (mostly 4-man rotation), with Grant Young (8-8, 3.59 ERA in 165 innings) relegated to spot-starter status.

If there's a weak spot here, it's the bullpen, although it came through well last year (particularly Ramon Wanatabe and Hector Cruz).

With those 3 monsters in the rotation, great defense, and a top-5 offense, this is a team built for the playoffs.  I'd be very surprised if this team doesn't win a couple of championships in the next few seasons.

Season 37 Philadelphia Phillies preview

Philadelphia Phillies
Season 36:  83-79

GM: tk21775

Outlook:  tk must be wondering what he got into.  93, 90,95,97,102, 98, 81,92, 112, 90,104, 94: no, that's not a fibonacci sequence.  It's the number of wins of each of the Phillies' division mates over the last 4 seasons. Their 83 wins last year was a 9-year high, and that still landed them 10 back of 3rd-place D.C.

That probably won't change this year, but the foundation for it is growing each season.  CF Dean Whitfield (Season 31's #5) begins his 3rd season - he's going to be a + bat in CF and will have a few GG's before he hangs 'em up.  Karl Floyd (Season 30's #6) is a similar story at 3B - better than adequate offense and GG defense.  Hooks Bogusevic has 46 wins and a 3.18 ERA in his 4 seasons.  And there are already other young contributors like C Art Scholl and RP Theo James.

There's more help coming.  The last 3 drafts have produced SP J.P. Hernandez (12th Sea 36), SP William Linares (8th Sea 35), 2B Tom Chapman (6th Sea 34), and IF Gabriel Sanchez (15th Sea 34).  All future solid ML'ers.

The only thing missing from the Phil's foreseeable future are some big bats for 1B and COF.  But the picture is coming into focus.  One day, the Nats, Mets and Pirates will get old and retool.  Philadelphia is setting up for a nice long run when that day arrives.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Detroit Tigers Season 37 preview

Season 36:  86-76 


(from GM jsturgis5866)

"After making the playoffs in S35 then missing out by four games in S36 - with star SP Manuel Cano (just 105 IP) on the DL for 2/3 of the season - the Detroit Tigers were at a crossroads. Hamstrung by a budget that was busting at the seams, unable to allow the signing of any significant free agents, the decision was made to retool. SP Pedro Nunez and his big FA contract were traded (biggest part of the return being pitching prospect Matty Santana) in pre-season and thus began the rebuilding process.

'With Cano still in Motown, a solid bullpen and a good defense, the upside in S37 is probably just a notch above .500. S36 All-star and GG 3B Horacio Montero is probably the best offensive player but he's a top-of-the-order guy. Rookie OF Rip Elbert, a 1st round pick in S33, joins the big club to add a little youth but it would be a surprise if he had a major impact on the team's fortunes."

--  jsturgis5866

Cano's return will definitely help a staff that had the 6th-best ERA in the AL, but they might have to win a bunch of 1-run games.  Scoring runs is going to be a challenge - their only .800+ OPS'er from last year, Garland Bottalico, bolted in FA for the Mets.

This may set up one of the most interesting story lines of the season - where will Manuel Cano reside at season's end?

Anaheim Angels Season 37 preview

Season 36: 90-72, lost to Minnesota in Round 1
GM: kennedrj

Not many of my
 predictions work out, but this one did.  Here's what we said about the Angels' Season 35:

"Crazy...one of the unluckiest seasons ever (in terms of everybody having a bad year at the same time). Comeback time this year."

And here's GM kennedrj's assessment of the upcoming campaign:

"The Angels bounced back last season to take the AL West division for the 14th time in 19 seasons. They will continue this season to try to contend while replacing older players with a significant youth movement. 

'Eleven players on the 25 man roster have one year or less of ML experience, led by future all-stars David Saitou (Season 32 IFA) and Michael Satou (Season 35 IFA). Young pitchers Santos Chavez (14-14, 4.27 ERA as a rookie), Erasmo Miranda (13-6, 3.61 ERA) and Carlos Valdez (Season 33 IFA) are being counted on to contribute significant innings for the rotation.

'Looking for a bridge at 3rd base until No. 5 pick Mark King is ready to take over, the Angels were thrilled to pick up all-star 3rd baseman Hal Hernandez for a thrifty $6.5M for two years. On the somewhat disappointing side, the Halos were hoping to find a quality power bat for LF. After losing out on a couple of higher profile FA, they settled on a one-year deal for aging Orlando James. Hoping that he has one more season of production in his system."

-- kennedrj

Just a little historical perspective as Anaheim transitions from it's latest batch of successful vets to a new generation. This team has one of the best (maybe THE best) long-term record in Major Leagues.  In 19 seasons under kennedrj, the Angels have:

  • made the playoffs 16 times
  • won 90+ games 13 times
  • had 1 losing season
  • Won a World Championship in Season 24
Something tells me they'll make it through the current transition just fine.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chicago Cubs Season 37 Preview

Season 36: 84-78, Won Division, lost in first round to New York Mets
GM: helop

The Cubbies jumped to a Division Title and an 11-year high in wins last year, thanks to a huge year from MVP Walter Brooks (.328/57/165) and big dividends from their farm system: LF Reggie Hunter (.288/36/110) was the 4th pick in Season 32, 1B Adrian Garcia (.296/37/102) was the 5th pick the same year, and CF Steve Mench (.292/18/53, 46 SB) was the 10th pick of Season 30.

Those lineup cogs propelled the Cubs' offense to # 3 in the NL with 730 runs scored.

Now for the pitching.  Chicago's staff posted a nice improvement last year, going from a league-worst 4.32 ERA in Season 35 to 3.89 - good for 11th.  The Jenkins/Grilli/LLoyd/Mondesi/Javier rotation was pretty good, with all 5 posting sub-4 ERA's and winning 55 games total.  The bullpen was another story and was really the weak point of the team.

Chicago's big offseason move was the acquisition of 7-time All-Star Pedro Nunez from Detroit (for swingman Rocky Clinton and a nice pitching prospect).  Nunez at 34 is still a Grade A starter, just 1 rung below the Moya's and Osuna's of the NL.  His strength is great command of 4 pitches - the "lookout for" is he's homer-prone; 38 last year, an alraming number considering Detroit was his home park.  Nunez bumps Javier into a relief role, which helps both the rotation and the bullpen.

The Cubbies will score and their pitching will likely improve; they have to be favored to win the North again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Montreal Expos Season 37 preview

Season 36:  66-96

OK, first year of the rebuild in the books.  This offseason saw the continued out-migration of 30-something vets (Mitch Mirabelli, Jose Gongora, and Mitch Lee); more promotions of prospects (C Shep Moylan and OF Felipe Flores); and a few budget-conscious FA signings (IF Edwin Coy, SP Jerome Speaker, and SP Henry Sanders).

The offense will rely on vets Wesley Duffy (1B - .269/21/91), Vin Almonte (LF - .279/20/78) and Orlando Figueroa (RF  - .264/20/73).  The rest of the lineup is mostly defensively-oriented, if not outright defensive specialists (CF Derrick Lucas).  They scored a better-than-league-average 679 runs with a similar crew last year and should be able to match that.

The staff is older but less predictable.  They went with an unconventional 3-man rotation (mostly) last year, with Matty James, the departed Lee, and Leon Ross all getting 45+ starts.  Even though James pitched well (3.20 ERA in 205 IP) and the prime relievers did their parts (Snider - 3.43 ERA in 107 IP and White - 3.81 in 101 IP), the whole thing didn't work out that well - 4.38 ERA (14th in NL).  The Speaker and Sanders signings seem to signal a return to a 5-man rotation.

Clearly this is rebuild Year 2.  They have total payroll down to $68MM - should be able to compete for a good IFA as well as land a good draft pick at #6.  All while maintaining a good competitive profile.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

San Diego Padres

Season 36:  74-88
The Pads signed Chad Koch (RP), Willie Espinoza (SP/MR), D’Angelo De Aza (MR), Albert Gongora (C), Yorvit Beltre (C), and Julio Petit (SP). They didn’t add any Rule 5’s. The team promoted Jade Darwin (MR), Neil McGee (2B), and Marcus Wood (3B).

This season marks the first opportunity the current ownership has had to promote homegrown talent to the Show. The development of the farm system has taken time, and the top prospects in the system are still two seasons away from making their mark at Petco. The current squad includes a deeper pitching staff and a greatly improved infield defense. If the Pads can manage to improve upon their 3.40 runs scored per game last season, they should challenge the .500 mark.

-- cwaldenj

Monday, February 13, 2017

Seattle Mariners Season 37 preview

Seattle Mariners
Season 36:  89-73

GM:  crabman26


Signed FAs Andrew Wathan (3b), Eddie Hamels (LF), and Dom Humphries (RP). Rule 5s added were Jerome Pedersen (RP) and Vic Elcano (OF). Carson Matthes (SS) was promoted. Otto Little (SP) claimed off waivers during last seasons playoffs. Traded for Kyle Lintz (CF)


Coming off a surprising, yet disappointing, season the Mariners are looking to get into the playoffs. After starting off with a historically bad first half, Seattle turned things around after the All-Star break and came within 1 game of winning the division...and within 1 game of the final wild card. That didn't sit well with ownership so Seattle upgraded CF, LF, 3b, and their bullpen with Free Agent additions. With the Otto Little (Hometown boy) surprising addition off waivers, the rotation could be one of the most potent with Little/ Martin/ and Jackson as the 1-2-3, with Hubbard moving back to the #4 slot. If Dayton Asche (2b) can continue where he left off they should get some offense out of that position, which is a rarity. Hopefully Paxton Whitehill (1b) can improve upon his rookie season and contribute a little more as well. 

Its playoffs or bust here in Seattle, or the GM is going to feel the wrath of these Pacific Northwesterners.

-- crabman26

Houston Astros Season 37 preview

Houston Astros
Season 36: 93-69
GM:  shafty

Signed Rule V'ers Howard Braden, Maicer Gongorra (subsequently waived) and Hick Rocker; promoted P Lars Appel and C Nathan Sheets; and signed FA C Robert Roberts.

The 'Stros missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons last year (but just barely - 1 game back of St. Louis in the South and a tiebreaker loss to D.C. for the Wild Card), but are still blessed with Tony Moya (still capable of winning a CY at age 38), Jim Colin (although out for the first 2 months), Garrett Ward (2-time CY winner in his own right), 3-time MVP Alex Field, and a number of other solid players (mostly on the pitching staff).

Houston really needed to shore up their offense - I think they dropped the ball here (and yes, my opinions are usually wrong).  I don't know if Gerald Crane was the answer (or if they even had a chance to re-sign him), but at least one team thought he was worth quite a bit more than his previous contract.  Stefan Palmeiro becomes the full-time RF - he'll probably produce at about the level Crane did last year (not great), but they're left without any viable hitter as a backup COF.  Field will likely snap back from a sub-par Season 36, and 1B Danny Barr is the real deal as a power hitter.  But the rest of the lineup is woefully underpowered. Possible nice surprise: 2B Jason Bravo came over in a trade from Seattle last year to juice up the power numbers, but missed a good chunk of S36 with a hammy injury - let's hope he can be the goods this year.

I think their pitching will keep them in the race, as most of their excellent (3.06 ERA - 3rd in NL) staff returns (minus only reliever Orval Wilkins).  Losing Colin for 60 days certainly doesn't help, but the group is deep enough to absorb that loss.  

Looks to me like management has decided the Cardinals can't replicate their S36 success (yeah, they did win 32 1-run games, but the 'Stros won 31), and that they're (the Astros, that is) playoff shoe-ins. I guess that's the "anything can happen in the playoffs, so get to the playoffs with the worst team possible theory."  OK, but the Braves didn't sit still, the Reds have left rebuilding behind, and nobody's expecting the Cubs, Pirates, Mets or Rockies to fall off anytime soon.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Season 37 AL East Preview

Season 36:  97-65, won Division (6 straight), lost to Minnesota in ALCS 
GM: Spistol

Just a few tweaks to the 6-time defending East champs.  A trade brought in RP Tom Williams (4.32 ERA in 3 seasons in Arizona), and utilityman Laynce Taubensee (.741 OPS in 4 seasons in Milwaukee, playing mostly 2B and CF) signed as a FA.  They also re-signed 1B Matt Lawrence (.241/32/86) and RP Jimmy Griffin (3.46 ERA in just 26 IP). 


The Sox scored 840+ runs for the 5th straight year in Season 36, thanks to the fruits of their Season 30 and 31 drafts. Season 30 saw them grab Ronnie Burns (.253/38/114) 5th, and Season 31 produced Peter Magnusson (.271/51/145) at the 11th spot.  Magnusson only missed his 3rd straight AL MPV thanks to the heroics of Michael Aoki (he did notably pick up his first 2B Gold Glove), and Burns, in addition to his power, contributed 21 good plays in the outfield.

1B Lawrence (32 HR), SS/OF Danry Santiago (28 HR), DH Curtis Smith (25 HR) and Gold Glove LF Eddie Hines (23 HR) assist in the power-based attack (league-leading 259 HR).  They balance the power with pretty good on-base skills (.334 - 4th) and better than average base-stealing (147 steals and only 50 caught).

Boston wins even with average pitching (4.20 ERA - 8th). The Grey/Mateo/Black/Knorr/Johnson rotation is starting to age, but should be OK for another year.  Closer Dan Lambert is the only real star on the staff - he just keeps knocking out 30-save seasons.  Between the starters and Lambert, they try to keep the cost down and score a couple of good seasons a year from their anonymous mid-relievers.

They do help out their pitchers with excellent defense - .988 fielding % and an impressive 94 good plays.  They probably get more + plays in the outfield than any AL team, with Burns, Santiago and Hines totaling 44 OF + plays last year.

Season 36: 90-72, Wild Card, advanced to Division Series and lost to Boston
GM: jgnjr

Acquired CF Luis Montanez via trade and signed free agents Jamie Suzuki (C), Lorenzo Saenz (OF), Carlos Perez (C), and Brian Chang (CF).

We noted the youth movement in Cleveland in last year's preview; younger teams frequently improve, but you can't overlook the Tribe's 42 one-run wins last year.  If they have the same number of 1-run games this year(58, an unusually big number in itself) and win 48.5% of them (last year's expected winning %), that's 28 wins...a full 14 less than last year.

Math aside, there's plenty to like.  DH Rudy House OPS'd .911, his best in a full season.  1B Lou Owen (.308/27/82) had his best ML season.   OF Philip Rose (.291/34/96) continued his hot hitting of the previous 2 seasons.  Their bullpen produced 5 sub-3.10 seasons.  And I like Dan Lewis as a "late bloomer"...he's posted a 5.28 ERA in 2 ML seasons, but he looks capable of better.

Last year's 90 wins was a mirage fueled by the 1-run anomaly.  It's still an improving team, but their starting from an expectation of somewhere around .500.  I think they'll be better than that and contend for a wild card again.

Baltimore Orioles
Season 36:  71-91
GM:  NormanW5

No free agents this year for the Birds, just a trade - P Ricky Kalish - and a bunch of promotions - RP Ernie Volstad, OF Patrick Collins, SP Salvador Ciriaco,  and SP Preston Feldman (maybe he can afford that dental work now).

Last year we pointed out Baltimore's rising stars (Flip Harris, Keith Townsend, Chip Caminiti) but lamented their many limitations.  It was probably 50-50 that they would improve on a couple of 77-win seasons, but they slid back to 71.

This may have been the year for the Orioles to start filling some holes in free agency.  In addition to the 4 stars mentioned above, this year they brought up Season 34's # 13 pick, Patrick Collins.  He's another credible power threat, although he won't help a critical need - more baserunners (.316 OBP last year).  Magglio Rodriguez and his 97 batting eye would've fit in well here - instead they're going with near-minor leaguers at 1B, DH and RF.

Beyond Harris and SP Derek Helton, the staff is a grab-bag of low-end scufflers.  Appropriate (and extremely economical) for a rebuild, which is what the Birds have decided they are, for at least one more year.

Season 36:  70-92
GM:  fsubwj

Traded for P's Hyun-Jin Dong and Ken Adams.  Promoted 2B Bryant Mulder (250 AB last year), and CF Grant Spencer.

Another team on the verge of contention that has apparently decided to build again this year.  The Yankees have done a great job of getting a lot of young talent up to the Majors - now they've just got to plug a few holes to be a long-time playoff contender.

Surprisingly, New York was last in runs scored in the AL last year with just 647.  New 2B Mulder will help there, although I suspect he'll add more in the power department than in the critical (team OBP last year was .308, and Didi Gongorra was their top on-baser with .338).  

Vin Gumbs has established himself as one of the AL's top starters.  Cy Young contention is just a matter of when he gets the run support (even without it he won 15 last year). Brace Wooster is a capable innings-eater who cold conceivably be a #3 starter on a contending team.  And Mendy Dietz has performed well in a variety of relief roles - mostly closer. Rosell Miro's talent has yet to kick in.  Beyond those 4, they could use upgrades to more reliable hurlers.

There's a lot here to base a winner on - still a few bats and a couple of good arms away though.