Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jackson Juggernauts Season 3 Preview

The Juggernauts again have high expectations after winning the Wild Card last season with a 98-64 record. But, for the second year in a row, Jackson is eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, being swept by Anaheim. The core of the team remains with only two additions.

No longer with the big league club are LF/1B Kenny Cohen, who hit .283 with 12 HRs and 55 RBIs, and Rey Ludwick, a defensive specialist who was outrighted to AAA. Cohen was welcome to resign with the team in the offseason, but he was asking for too much to be a worthwhile signing.

New additions to the team are 1B/LF Cyrus May, who has hit 30 and 37 HRs in seasons 1 and 2 and is being counted on to provide some pop in the middle of the order. Signed for $3.2 M, (less than what Cohen was asking for), Cyrus should set the club record for HRs, which stands at 28. Also added is Rule 5 draftee and SS Eugene Walker. Eugene will take the place of Ludwick as the defensive specialist, but should be able to hit much better than Rey, while providing some speed off the bench. Late season callup Vic Baerga will pitch in the bullpen in long relief until injured starter Patsy Phelps returned from the 60-day DL.

Not currently on the roster, but awaiting their return from the DL is the aforementioned Patsy Phelps, season 1 signee who will miss the first 3 months of the season, but is expected back with around 70 games left. Hopefully he will perform as a top All-Star break addition to push the Juggernauts into the playoffs. Also injured with about 15 days expected on the DL is Skeeter McConnell who struggled all last season after performing as a top leadoff man in season 1.

Lineup (what it will look like when Skeeter returns from the DL)

1- CF Skeeter McConnell - .273 Avg, .324 OBA, 56 steals last season after a .307/.372/54 season 1. If he has an OBA of .350 or higher, he will score lots of runs with 80+ stolen bases.

2- 2B Mario Wright - .266/.322/.500 with 20 HRs, 69 RBIs and 16 SB in 384 ABs after being recalled from AAA after 2 months. He is expected to hit in the .280 range with a .340+ OBA, and hit 30 HRs, while stealing 60+ bases. Should be our first 30/30 man this season. He may move to 3rd in the lineup.

3- DH Edgardo Sosa - .317/.386/.437 with 14 HRs and 89 RBIs to lead the team. I would like to move him down in the order, but it would leave to many RH hitters at the end of the lineup, and he had the best OBA on the team.

4- 1B Cyrus May - .233/.301/.503 with 37 HRs and 126 RBIs for Jacksonville last season. We hope he returns to Season 1 stats of .285/.355/.560 with 40 HRs and 133 RBIs. Can run with 23 SBs last season.

5 - LF William Rothschild - .287/.360/.472 with 24 HRs and 87 RBIs. Should continue to improve, and can hit for more average as a .330 Avg in Season 1 in 440 ML ABs shows.

6 - C Randall Carpenter - .289/.370/.526 with 28 HRs and 83 RBIs. Hit .340 in Season 1.

7- RF Jerry Sutton - .270/.352/.477 with 26 HRs and 80 RBIs. Still a solid hitter at the age of 34.

8- 3B Jumbo Romero - .281/.335/.399 with 9 HRs and 24 SBs. Was disappointing last season after hitting .295 with 11 HRs and 10 steals in season 1 in only 244 ABs.

9- SS Charlie Seay - .241/.303/.367 with 16 HRs and 20 SBs. Plays Gold-Glove caliber defense, but may get replaced in the lineup for more offense on occation.


C Sam Giambi - .294/.344/.361 last season in 115 games. Plays good defense and will play a lot behind the plate with Carpenter getting days off and days at DH.

CF/OF Mateo Johnson- Hit a combined .267/.337/.464 for Vancouver and Jackson last season with 28 HRs and 12 steals. Should play a lot, especially of Skeeter McConnell struggles again this season.

LF/RF Jerry Wengert - .291/.373/.537 last season with 18 HRs andf 72 RBIs. Switch hitter with power who led the team in slugging last season can only play about 80 games now at the age of 35, so will get some spot starts and as a good bat off the bench.

SS/IF/OF Eugene Walker. Isn't being counted on to hit much, but be a solid defensive replacement around the field and give rests to whoever needs it.

Rotation (not including Phelps)

1- LHP Juan Garces - All-Star and Cy Young candidate was 16-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 220 innings last season. Should continue his form this season as a legitimate ace.

2- RHP Olmedo Uribe - More of a 3rd or 4th starter, but is being used to split up the lefthanders in place of Phelps. Was 12-12 with a 4.30 ERA in 222 innings last season.

3- LHP Mateo Mota - Fellow left-handed ace Mota was 15-6 last season with a 2.95 ERA in 220 innings. The future ace should improve this season as well.

4- RHP Juan Terrero - Quality swing man who gets the start in the rotation with Phelps injured. He was 12-6 last season with a 3.87 ERA in 148 innings and 20 starts (35 games) last season.

5- RHP Jamie "I like to smoke da" Bong - Was 6-7 in 41 games (12 starts) and 115 innings with a 4.28 ERA in his first full season in the majors. Has room to grow and should be a 10 game winner if he stays in the rotation the whole season.


LR (L) Gil Frazier - As the LRB or mopup pitcher, Gil only pitched 27 innings with a 3.62 ERA last season. Will be counted on for more this season with no other experienced long relievers.

LR (L) Vic Baerga - Was brought up at the end of last season and pitched in only 1 game. Pitched fairly well in AAA last season ( 4.75 ERA), but made the jump instead of higher rated prospects so the prospects could pitch on a regular basis in the rotation.

SU (R) Jerome Archer Solid reliever threw 43 innings last season with a 3.35 ERA, and was 5/5 in save opportunities.

SU (L) Eugene MacRae - Good lefty had a 3.69 ERA in 68 innings last season after a 2.84 ERA in 98 innings in season 1.

SU (R) Bryan Nelson - Season 2 Rule 5 draftee pitched 27 innings last season with a 4.56 ERA. Should improve this season and will be called on more often.

SU (L) Quinton Tankersley - Very good reliever who will take the ball anytime threw 101 innings with a 3.56 ERA last season. Anchors one of the top bullpens in the majors.

CL (R) Kris Carson - Had 38 Saves last season and is 74 / 84 in his career with a 2.72 career ERA (down to 2.40 last season). One of the top closers in the league, and the 2 time All-Star is still only 28.


If CF Skeeter comes back to hit like he did in Season 1, and 1B Cyrus May provides the pop in the middle of the order, the Juggernauts should challenge for 100 wins if Terrero and Bong pitch as expected. Phelps should provide a boost when he returns and gets the team ready for a playoff run.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Austin Popsicles Season Preview

If Vancouver is allowed to go on and on, then so can I...

After a second season remarkably like the first--horrendous first half followed by inspiring second half leading to 82- and 81-win seasons respectively--the Popsicles appear ready to make the leap into serious playoff contention. I'm always willing to put players into the majors about a year before they're ready. This season is no exception. But some of our fruit has begun to ripen.

Our major problem last year, other than the usual inconsistent bullpen, was the lack of a true leadoff hitter, which left few runners on base for our big power hitters and forced us to play MVP candidate Darren Rossy in the top spot for most of the season. That has changed with the arrival of our new left-fielder Andy Newman, fresh off a AAA campaign where he posted a .443 OBP and stole 57 bases.

We're well-represented in the number two hole as well, which was a revolving door of platoon players last season. A dangerous experiment has converted last season's starting catcher, nightly-news legend David Brinkley, into a first baseman. We assume that his impressive contact rating and excellent splits will offset his teeball-level range. This is David's second full ML season, and he's coming off a solid rookie season where he hit .290 with 12 homers and 61 RBI.

Then the big guns fire, first with Darren Rossy, a serious MVP candidate last year for a third-place team while hitting 47 HRs with 113 RBI, batting .313 and OPSing 1.004--mostly from the leadoff spot. Batting fourth is the amazing Bucky Hernandez, one of CAPB's elite players, who hit 52 HRs for the second season in a row, drove in more than 130 runs for the second season in a row, stole more than 20 bases for the second season in a row, and made one error in 900-plus innings in CF.

Darren and Bucky have good protection this season, thanks to our 3B William Suzuki, acquired early last season from Pittsburgh. Between his two squads, William hit .286 with 36 HRs and 119 RBI. Hitting sixth is our outstanding young shortstop Pedro Guzman, who socked more than 20 HRs for a second straight season and hit a solid .279. Pedro's ratings continue to rise. Hitting seventh is another rising young star, right-fielder Quinn Lorraine, who won his way onto the big-league squad with a stellar spring. Last year at AAA, Quinn hit .316 with a .409 OBP, 12 HRs, and 83 RBI. He's certainly ready to contribute to the big club. Finally, hitting eighth, we have yet another rookie, the physically unattractive yet talented Babe Flair. He has the makeup of a two-bit hood, but the pitch-call rating of a God as well as quite a bit of power. His career minor-league OPS of .943 and flat-out excellent defense bode well for us.

Our bench is led by utility infielder and 3B heir apparent Tomas Goya, another budding star barely of drinking age. Tomas hit .282 with 10 HR and 14 SB in limited action last year, but we're grooming him for big things. Pinch-hitter and LF/1B fill-in Les McNeil, who hopes to return to his season one .292 form after last year's forgettable numbers, and Albert Lopez, unforgivably benched after a season where he won the Gold Glove and stole 21 bases, will both play key roles. Rounding out our position players are Napoleon Larson, providing veteran leadership while playing out his lousy contract, and the insanely overpaid Mo Leach, who got a four-year contract by accident one night when I was drunk. Still, if your 25th man has a career OPS of .782 and can play excellent outfield defense, you're probably in for a good season.

Our pitching staff also looks very good. Opening day starter Jesus Rijo is a high-end workhouse with a career OAV of .240 and a career WHIP of 1.16. He's given me 230-plus innings two years running, and has never faltered. Future Cy Young winner Matthew Harris, another Popsicle rushed into big-league service far too early, is the second starter, coming off a season where he allowed a .230 OAV and a .294 OBP, while proving increasingly unhittable as his ratings soared toward the stratosphere. He starts off this season stronger than ever, with frighteningly limitless potential. Yes, his 2 rating on the GB/FB is a little alarming, but if you strike out 200 batters in 198 innings, you can give up a dinger now and then.

Claude Wilson, our third starter, is a veritable graybeard on our team at 24. He comes off a fine season where he allowed a .242 OAV and a 1.26 WHIP. Fourth is Cristobal Beltran, who had a somewhat disappointing second season, with an ERA near five after a good first season, but he eats innings and has excellent control. Hector Graham, who had a rough rookie season but improved remarkably in the offseason, is our fifth starter.

Our bullpen is headed by hotshot closer Billy Gutierrez, who was nearly unhittable last year, saving 36 games out of 37 opportunities, with an OAV of .145, an OBP of .225, a WHIP of .081, and an ERA of 0.89, while giving up one home run. Nothing can compare with that, but setup men Doc Everett, Vern Garcia, Patrick Webster, and the veteran Joe Maas should be able to get him the ball with regularity.

In a departure from the norm, the Popsicles signed two older free-agent relievers to round out the pen. Brutus Barkley, solid for two years with the former Oakland franchise, now gets a two-year deal in the Popsicles green or whatever the hell that color is. Heath Woods, after two years with LAA, is asked to provide some long relief before he retires to his upstate New York McMansion.

In short (or long), I expect big things from the Popsicles this season. Our division doesn't lack quality squads, but it has balance, and we can win. With that one-two punch at the top of the rotation, a really good lineup, and a great closer, postseason success, while never a certainty, is definitely possible. Assuming we don't start 5-13 for a third straight year, we could be one of the NL's best teams.