Thursday, September 19, 2013

AL South

The South has been owned by AKG and his Rangers for a long time. Can the Knights overtake them???


LAST YEARS PREVIEW: Texas has always been a force under owner AKG. Much of that has to do with the dominance of Texas and the team they bring to the ballpark every day. The Rangers don’t look like much of a sure thing anymore. They have lost productive key pieces to the offense, and have to replace some of their starters. For the first time in years, the Rangers are vulnerable.

OUT: Moose Finley, Miguel Fernandez, Luis Rodriguez, Richard Hukata, Les Carter, Derek Lewis
IN: Sadie Wells, Al Parker, Vern Mlicki

PREVIEW: Vulnerable? Ya, right. 104 wins later AKG and the Rangers proved once again that they are THE team to beat in the AL South. Charlotte is gaining on them, but the AL South champs have not been dethroned yet.
To start, the starting pitcher was stellar last year. Every pitcher but rookie Olmedo Hernandez had FIP below 4. The bullpen had its issues but it all worked out in the end. Hidden in the bullpen is super reliever Rolando Gonzalez. In 124 innings (out of the pen) he had a 3.18 fip…one of the best in the league.
The offense is probably one of the most interesting case studies around. The entire team contributes at a high level, and they all play good defense. It’s an impressive team to review if you have the time. The only loss was Luis Rodriguez and he was the only starter that didn’t contribute offensively (59 Runs created, 0.9 war). Every contributor is back for a team that scored 864 runs…scary.
A few additions are for defensive purposes (like Vern Mlicki), Brian Russell joins up from Philly and will contribute (but it’s unclear where…RF?) This is a team in motion, and to be feared.

Charlotte Knights (AL)
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LAST YEARS PREVIEW: Things were a little rough in the Deep South as the Knights pitching staff got rocked to the tune of 840 runs. With a little help on the bump, the Knights could make some noise. The Knights’ first move was to go after young pitching… pitching and defense are solid. The Knights will have to slug their way out of poor pitching. But it won’t be enough to fetch a division crown or playoff spot.

OUT: Omar Bonilla, Ivan Villa, Wilfredo Barrios, Christopher Tracy
IN: Damian Carpenter, Al Saenz, Roger Berkman, Alex Perez

PREVIEW: When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. The Knights blasted my prediction by 15 wins (that’s 150 runs!). Their pitching was still shaky at 770, but that is much better than 840. They then scored 881 runs…yes you read that right. The Knights lost Omar Bonilla and Ivan Villa (and with them, 150 runs)
I don’t see anyone filling those holes, especially Bonilla and Villa. The pitching should help ease the blow (Carpenter was a great pick up, as was Saenz). It should be interesting to see if they move forward. I predict they fall back just a touch based on the runs lost vs runs gained.

Kansas City
Kansas City Royals (AL)
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LAST YEARS PREVIEW: Owner somtom is finding his way in Kinsella… the rest of the group has two things in common 1. Not particularly fast 2. No power. This is a team that might struggle to improve their offense over last season.

OUT: Hugh Taylor, Sam Russ, Alex Ramirez
IN: Donaldo Granados, Shelby Newhouser

PREVIEW: Well, somtom didn’t make it. Enter a_ersberg for the rest of the season and now hinz57 has the Royals and a big project on his hands. The biggest issues didn’t get worked out though.
To start the new year, Granados moved in from Montreal and starting pitcher Taylor finds himself up north. Taylor wasn’t that good in Royal Blue, and Granados never produced in Montreal.
It’s never fun when the young players don’t move forward. The offense managed to score 721 runs (about average), but gave up 838. Alex Ramirez was let go, and Shayne Lloyd will play 2B instead which is a big offense for defense move. Will King Bittle finally get his chance to shine? Ronnie Wilkins could do wonders behind the plate, but it’s sad he will never meet his projections after DITR. If Tomas Dotel takes over in LF a lot will be at stake defensively.
The young guys are coming up to contribute but it’s hard to know where the pieces fit. Overall, I just don’t see how this is going to work out. Looking strictly at numbers, it doesn’t look good.


LAST YEARS PREVIEW: Every year the Rays say they are “rebuilding” only to make a few last minute signings and trades. . Payroll was slashed thanks to young players coming into their own, and the loss of several overpriced veterans. The team picked up superstar Jolbert Ortiz from Montreal, and shortstop Warren Parker from Atlanta. Four former first round picks will now be starting for the Rays. Young guys always seem to struggle in their first year. With so much youth on this team, it’s impossible to say exactly how they will perform.

OUT: Francisco Sanchez, Jerry Blake, Carlos Johnson, Alex Izturis and the rest of the bullpen, Doug Robbins, Tito Yoon
IN: Yuniesky Mercado, Vernon Lane, Benjamin Valdes, Rule V bullpen, Brant Clark, Ivan Gomez, Rodrigo Lima, Jeff Evert

PREVIEW: As usual, things didn’t work out in Tampa Bay. 81 wins was a bit optimistic, but it was predicated on Jolbert Ortiz meshing well with the group. It didn’t happen and he was sent back north. Vic Gonzalez was finally sent to a winner, and became a champ with the Pirates (couldn’t happen for a better guy).
There was almost NO offensive production, no help in the bullpen. It’s a good news bad news situation. The young pitchers (Dixon, Kirby, Kennedy) held their own, and they still have pseudo-ace Paxton Banks. To help them out, defense was shifted to provide maximum help for the starters. The entire bullpen was turned over via Rule V, and Free agency. The Rays traded for Brant Clark to fill in at 2nd, Ivan Gomez to take over 3rd, and Rodrigo Lima for depth.
Overall, I have to be honest about this team. It’s moving to a completely pitching/defense style of play with speed being the key component. The Trop is probably the worst stadium in the league, but it is built for strong right handed pitching, and fast outfielders. Something the Rays have but at a mediocre level.

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