Thursday, March 25, 2010
Everything is happier in Outlaw land. Well, that might not have always been true, but it surely applies to the feelings heading into the 2010 NASBL season with OJW coming off a NASBL Championship season. The TG South looks like a tighter 4-team race this year as the division’s dominant forces OJW and NJT may have taken a step back while the bottom half of the division teams have their constituents buzzing.
Five-Year Win Trend
‘09 Record: 101-61, 1st in TG South
Pythagorean Record: 101-61 (+0)
Current NASBLOTA Projection: 96-66 (1st in TG South)
Outlaw finished the 2009 season in first place, 4 games ahead of the Trash Heap. They were able to win 11 more games than they did in 2008 and improve from on their position of 6 games out of first place. In 2009, OJW scored 830 runs while allowing a league 2nd best 648. There were many bright spots for OJW in 2009, with one being Ryan Dempster’s 21-7, 3.11 campaign.
While the rich got richer in the form of two 1st round draft picks (Elvis Andrus & Nelson Cruz), the toughest challenge will be holding the opposition under 700 runs again. The pitching staff was hit hard by injuries, leading Mark Hildebrant to rely on an improved defense (four 1-range players in the IF!) to limit crooked numbers on the score board. Four big question remain for this team: (1) Is Manny Ramirez in a nonstop downward spiral or can he put together a healthy end to end season? (2) Will the Outlaw rotation, full of part-timers, be good enough to pitch well all season? (3) Is Elvis Andrus, taken #3 overall, the NEXT BIG THING? and (4) When will GM Hildebrant relax his “Joba Rules” and unleash Mr. Chamberlin’s considerable talents on the rest of the league?
The catching position was not a big source of strength for Outlaw a year ago, and not much has changed heading into this season. With former prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s shoulder still an area of concern and his offensive numbers never really coming together, Mike Napoli should see a good chunk of playing time in 2010 and punish LHP in the process.
Gonzalez has firmly established himself as a star and is the club’s first baseman of the present & future while Pedroria comes in as a sleeper for the TG batting title. Andrus is a strong
Manny and his former minor league teammate David Ortiz will hit RHP well from the DH spot and should post about a 120 OPS+ against lefties.
Franchise mascot Omar Vizquel is back again, this time to tutor young Elvis in the finer arts of glovemanship and provide about 150 ABs worth of experience. Ryan Ludwick and Manny make up very good #4 and #5 OFers.
Outlaw’s rotation is experienced but lacks a true top of the rotation innings-eater. Much of the rotation’s success will depend on the health of Rich Harden and Jake Peavy. Getting a combined 225 IP from these two talented hurlers will go a long way for Outlaw success, but you should expect them to miss at least a handful of starts in 2010. Ryan Dempster, the #1 on paper, won 21 games in 2009, but heading into this year appears to lack true “ace” stuff. Scott Baker will be a competent 25+ start option for Mark and Scott Kazmir and Joba Chamberlin’s combined production are above average for their back of the rotation status. The team hopes it can nurse Tim Hudson back to health so he may return to his past dominance.
The bullpen is one of the team’s biggest strengths. Broxton and Soria are great closer options and the rest of the pen is littered with very good set up men and other options for closers if the need arises in the form of
AROUND THE HORN WITH OUTLAW JOSEY
Sharing more of the time behind the plate with Mike Napoli should allow Saltalamacchia’s offensive game to develop more and as his catching demands lessen, he should find his swing and become more of the offensive threat he was projected to be. With his shoulder feeling better after off season surgery, and being just 25 years old, Saltalamacchia still has a bright future ahead of him. As long as he can take some time to work on his plate discipline and reduce the number of Ks, the rest should improve on its own.
Ready to Rebound…
Coming off an “injury” plagued 2009, MannyBManny can only improve in 2010. You could say that after 2008, he suffered from hitters Verducci effect where his body just wasn’t ready to play a full season without pharmaceutical aid. He’s gone through a lot and has a questionable work ethic. As long as he can listen to what his body is telling him in terms of injuries he should be able to stay on the field and produce.
Ready to Disappoint…
Harden needs to fill a vital role in the rotation and for someone who just hasn’t pitched a lot of innings due to injury, there’s not much he’ll be able to do when the inevitable DL stint occurs. If (When?) Harden gets hurt, it will leave a huge hole talent-wise in the top of rotation, which will cause Outlaw to pull players out of different roles to fill a need. This may not end well for Outlaw or Harden if he isn’t able to pitch a full season.
Don’t Be Surprised If…
Outlaw regresses a bit and
Be Shocked If…
Elvis Andrus dose not compete for TG ROY. He’s just too talented and will get a lot of run scoring opportunities hitting ahead of Adrian Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz.
One thing that stands out more than anything in this lineup is Adrian Gonzalez’s consistency. He’s a hitter with excellent bat control, and someone who can drive the ball on a consistent basis. None of that even mentions his gold glove caliber defense.
Age & Injuries
Father time is catching up with more than a few of OJW’s All-Star caliber players. Between Manny & Big Papi, the offense ain’t what it used to be. And the bullpen car best be driven by a paramedic.
In the Next Three Years…
Look for Outlaw to be consistent winners in the TG South as their young position players gain experience and become leaders within the club house and the rotation returns to health. Hildebrandt has a good group of young players who are still learning and with each year of experience these young players gain, the better the team will be as a whole.
The raising of the banner in Outlaw Stadium. This is what season ticket holders have been long waiting for, and OJW rewarded their loyalty by bringing home the hardware.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Here's the actual transcript between a new Burlington Free Press blogger and GM Beard.
Hello Steve. My name is Dinosaur Jib Tux, I am the NASBL Blogger for the Burlington Free Press. My (a-hole) editor asked I get an official comment from you regarding the upcoming season and the recent trades made by the perennial Taste Great East Cellar Dweller Illinois Chow Chows. So:
Q: Mr. Beard, in light of the aggressive moves made by Brad "The New Elder" Sherlag, do you feel your three-year stranglehold on 3rd place in the TG East is in jeopardy? Have the fans expressed anxiety?
Q: In case the rumors from FireSteveBeard.com, a rabid LCC fan site, are true and your head has actually been in the sand, here are the deals for your review:
GRK sends Carlos Zambrano and GRK #4 to ILL for and ILL #1
LVI sends Angel Pagan to ILL forand ILL #2
Q: LCC GM Steve Beard used to have the handle Trader Beard. But in recent years LCC has taken a more passive approach to the trade market. Should the CanniFans, as they call themselves, expect a swift and decisive response to ILL's statement moves?
Q: It used to be hard enough to keep up with HHA and SPR. Now ILL is nipping at your heels. Will the realization that the TG East is getting even stronger rekindle the long-rumored realignment talks at the NASBL Head Offices in St. Albans, VT? Is it true that you commissioned a Blue Ribbon Panel of experts to examine how to broaden NASBL's appeal and one of their suggestions was a radical floating realignment plan?
Q: Additionally, a recent addition to ILL's rotation was 1st round pick Brett Anderson. Anderson was acquired with LCC's former #1 round pick and is seen by scouts as someone with a great future who also possesses a quality card for the upcoming season. We know how LCC historically adores 'backward cards', and Anderson certainly is a backward lefty. How do you feel now that in hindsight it's obvious LCC let a prototypical LCC-style player get through the cracks?
Q: Another LCC-mantra is to not value corner OFers and 1b-men too much. Players at these positions are easy to obtain and should not have too much invested in them in terms of salary, draft position, etc. Yet, with LCC's first 2 picks in the 2010 NASBL Rookie/Free Agent Draft, GM Beard pulled the trigger on Garrett Jones and . Both of whom are defensive liability, 1b/OF/DH types. The exact type of player that has littered the Cannibals roster in the past. Fans were promised a shift away from this beer league softball roster management, but here we go again. Can you please explain why a) you seemingly reverted to the old beer league school and b) you used valuable draft picks on otherwise easy to obtain skill sets.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
GM Brad Sherlag described the move as follows "Morandini now has a lot of choices in mixing and matching. The Chows could go with an OF of Pagan, Bourn and Beltran most of the time or could decide to play Beltran in CF vs. Lefties and go with Pagan, Bourn and Fukudome as their primary OF rotation. He might even do something crazy like play Beltran in all divisional games regardless of what side the pitcher throws from. Without stashing Shields away for next year, Gaudin was really an extra part for us. Instead of having a pitcher we would hardly ever use, we now have an outfielder who can play all three positions and give us some quality ABs."
When asked if this trade was in response to an article that appeared in a Burlington, VT newspaper that gave Springfield an 8 Sherlag lead in the OF, Sherlag said "Of course not - what the heck is a Sherlag? I am not familiar with the article you are talking about, but if it said our OF was a little short, we know that was the case. That is why we pursued Pagan. We had him fairly high on our draft board and were not able to get him in the draft."
When asked if the Chows were done, Sherlag said "I don't know - if the right deal came along we would listen. We would still like to get a CF vs. LHP or a top LF vs. RHP (which would allow Beltran to play CF vs. L), but frankly I am not sure what we have to give up. Our entire roster now has a role. For the right player we could "
The Chows OF now consists of:
Bourn, Beltran, Willingham, Raburn, Fukudome, Pagan & Gomes (though Gomes will likely DH vs. LHP)
Monday, March 15, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Details are sketchy at this point as the initial report had "Big Z" involved with A.J. Pierzynski but now it seems that "NBT" (Next Big Thing) top prospect Matt Wieters had to be seperated by several teammates including AJP & Jeff Francoeur. Zambrano was sporting a large welt over his left eye & shouted "I'll be throwing heat for The 'Kill long after that punk is finished".
GM Miller was overheard saying "MY NAME IS JOHNNY & IT MIGHT BE A SIN BUT I'LL TAKE YOUR BET, YOU'RE GONNA REGRET, 'COS I'M THE BEST THAT'S EVER BEEN". He then immediately contacted Chow Chows GM Brad Sherlag & sent "Big Z" packing (with GRK's 2011 #4 pick) for James Shields & ILL's 2011 #1 draft pick.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Easter is around the corner, and it's time to rev up America's favorite tradition - unwanted forced time with family members. Nothing says "Get this damn thing over with" more than another holiday get-together involving Aunt Midge having one too many and pinching your rosy cheeks.
A little known fact is that in the Sherlag household the annual argument is not over who gets the last piece of ham. Rather, it is about whether or not this is FINALLY the year little Brad can compete with Doug's Springfield 9.
Well, all you Sherlags and Sherlagettes out there, this is your opportunity to grab the Cliff Notes and dominate the conversation. Follow along as the Burlington Free Press, who has been disturbingly quiet on the Albert Pujols front, dives into the debate and looks at each team's primary players position-by-position. Along the way, a new metric is introduced, the Sherlag. Based on a scale of 1-5, a Sherlag indicates how much of an edge one team holds over the other in the given category. 5 Sherlags shows a wide gap (think Pujols vs. Overbay) and 0 Sherlags is a virtual dead heat (think Beard's bladder vs. that icy cold rack of Canadian ale).
ILL - Kurt Suzuki & Pudge
SPR - Zaun, Ryan Hanigan & Teagarden
Ahh, the old quantity vs. quality debate on two fronts. On one hand ILL gets almost 1000 ABs out of their duo, while SPR has under 700 ABs to spread across their 3 catchers. The good news for ILL is they won't have to worry about usage, the bad news is that Pudge can't hit a lick. SPR gets the edge here, a Zaun and Hanigan platoon will produce better results than the competition. EDGE - SPR 2 Sherlags.
ILL - Helton & Pena
SPR - Berkman & Dunn
The prototypical case of a dead heat. Each team has quality bats at these power positions, almost equal in production. The only tiebreaker? Defense. The Chows will get to and hold onto balls just a little better than the 'Topes twosome. EDGE - ILL 0.5 Sherlags.
ILL - Prado & Counsell
SPR - Roberts
Middle infield, home to countless scrappy SOBs. And we all know how valuable scrappy, dirty-uniform guy is, don't we? Each team is represented by a significant amount of grittiness at 2b. All three glove the ball decent enough, but a Ecksteinianly-small edge is awarded to ILL for depth of quality players at this position. EDGE - ILL 1 Sherlag.
ILL - Chone & Beckham
SPR - A Ramirez & Stewart
ILL takes both the quantity and quality awards in this category. If only Aramis gathered more at bats, SPR could've contended. Chone is a top-flite 3b and Beckham more than capable of producing in his rookie season. That is not to totally dismiss the valued production SPR will get out of their 3rd-sackers, merely to demonstrate the relative strength the Chows have. EDGE - ILL 3 SHERLAGS
ILL - Hanley
SPR - Furcal & Ryan
No need to waste ink, Hanley is a top 10 NASBL talent. The others are serviceable, but by no definition elite. EDGE - ILL 4 SHERLAGS
Outfield (Grouped together given NASBLs rules)
ILL - Beltran, Bourn, Willingham, Radburn & Fukudome
SPR - Cuddyer, C Gonzalez, Choo, Nyjer, Ellsbury & J Hamilton
Finally, SPR steps up to the plate and hits a long ball. ILL's best OFers, Beltran and Radburn, are limited to a half season's worth of ABs, and the rest of the Chowtfielders are better suited for platoon duty and/or possess only a few of the requisite 5 tools (Bourn, Michael). Sherlag the Elder's SPR OF contingent is formidable. They can, and do, do everything. Catch a screaming line drive, check. Throw out a baserunner, check. Hit for power, check. Stretch the BB into a double, check. SPR's OFers stack up very favorably against the entire league, and certainly stand head and sherlags above ILL's. EDGE - SPR 8 SHERLAGS (larger scale w/3 positions in play).
SUMMARY - ILL has definitely closed the talent gap and is ready to challenge SPR for Sherlag supremacy. My sketchy math skills reveal a one-half Sherlag advantage for SPR in the hitting and fielding categories. Stay tuned for Part II - Pitching, to see if Doug can hold onto his scant lead. Coming soon ...
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
NEW YORK - Never underestimate the power of the press.
A source within the Knights' front office has advised that since the publication of the Mirror's review of the Knights 2010 draft, the front office has received a number of calls from other teams interested in dealing for underachieving righty Matt Cain. Rather than respond to each inquiry individually, GM Mitch Pak issued the following statement this morning.
"Ever since a local tabloid published an article about our draft selections, we've received a number of calls about the availability of one of our starters. I'm here to tell everyone that regardless of the opinion of a tabloid journalist (and I use the word loosely), none of our starting pitchers are now nor will be available for trade at any time during the upcoming season. We think that the Knights have an excellent starting rotation, perhaps the best ever in our history, and it would be foolish for us to trade a starter now."
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The Mirror presents its review and analysis of the array of hits, misses and head-scratchers that was the Knights’ 2010 draft.
NEW YORK – Mitch Pak established once again that when it comes to the draft, he is nothing if not unpredictable.
Where conventional wisdom had the Knights addressing their most glaring need in the opening round of the draft – catching – Pak opted instead to strengthen the starting rotation by drafting young fireballing righthander Josh Johnson. While Johnson is unquestionably a solid choice, the starting rotation was one aspect of the club that was not in need of an obvious upgrade, anchored as it was last season by LF Rookie of the Year runner-up Jon Lester (12-10, 3.86 in 2009) and bolstered by veteran lefty Joe Saunders (4.33 ERA, 120 K’s). An anonymous source in the Knights front office (the same source that was leaking inside information from the Knights draft “war room” via Twitter before being mysteriously silenced) suggested that Pak is “very concerned” about Matt Cain’s ability to regain the form he displayed in his 2007 rookie season, when he was 15-10. There is also legitimate worry that Cain, who was the Knights’ #1 pick in 2007, simply does not have the makeup to even be a reliable #2 starter behind Lester, as he yields too many hits. Cain is 34-45 with a 5.82 ERA and 1.61 WHP in his three seasons in New York and his star (not to mention his trade value) has fallen sharply since ’07.
Pak also was allegedly concerned about fan reaction in the event that Adam Wainwright, whom the Knights dealt last year to Georgia in exchange for Vladimir Guerrero, develops as expected into a front-end starter for the rejuvenated Roadkill. Despite the passage of five years, Knights fans are still smarting over the infamous 2005 deal that sent closer Joe Nathan to Georgia for Barry “The Biggest Loser” Zito. Nathan went on to become a perennial All-Star while Zito became a punchline for cheesy late-night comedians.
Despite posting a 29-win improvement over the Disaster of ’08, the Knights were still considered to be an offensively-challenged team in ’09. The team RBI leader, Xavier Nady, had just 75 RBI despite 31 homers and 34 doubles and CF Grady Sizemore had just 73 RBI despite 28 homers and 38 doubles. While having even a faded Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup will probably ease the Knights’ run-scoring woes in ’10 to a degree, the club decided to focus on improving the offensive attack overall. That was the probable reasoning behind the selection of three-year veteran LF Juan Rivera in the early rounds of the draft. Rivera played for LF Central rival Pocono from 2005 through 2007 and posted a career .316 average and .878 OPS. His last season with the Chin Music, 2007, was also his finest, when he batted .338 with 17 homers, 53 RBI and a .921 OPS in 115 games. The knock on Rivera is that he is injury-prone and has never proven his worth over 162 games. That should not be too much of a worry with the Knights, since Rivera will be playing under Mitch Pak’s extensive platoon system. Rivera will probably share playing time in left with returning Knight Jason Kubel (19, 65, .243 in ’09) and, to a lesser degree, Luke Scott (13, 48, .229) and will likely not have more than 400 at bats in ’10.
The Knights were also thinking about offense when they drafted 26 year old second baseman Alberto Callaspo. While not technically a rookie (he had a cup of coffee with the Grizzlies last year, during which he hit .295), Callaspo was taken as insurance in the event that returning veteran Clint Barmes isn’t up to being the full-time second baseman (a real problem area for the Knights since the departure of Mark Loretta some years back). In 106 games at second and short for the Knights last year, Barmes hit a solid .290 with 11 homers and .795 OPS, but he shared the second base job with incumbent Ty Wigginton. The Knights had concerns over Barmes’ inability to effectively hit right-handed pitching and his glove work was suspect as well. Callaspo and Barmes are the only second-basemen on the Knights roster right now, so look for them to compete for the starting job as the spring progresses.
A somewhat intriguing choice by the club was the selection of 41 year old Gary Sheffield in the 12th round. At this stage of his career, Sheffield is mostly a designated hitter, although scouts maintain that he can be useful as a bottom-of-the-depth-chart corner outfielder. While he was out of the league in ’09, Sheffield has had a marvelous 12-year NASBL career, the last six with the Knights’ cross-Hudson rivals, the New Jersey Trash Heap. Sheffield ’s career average of .290 and a career OPS of .909 to go with 280 homers, 922 runs scored and 1,426 hits will likely merit serious Hall of Fame votes down the road. Figure to see Sheffield as a dangerous pinch-hitter and spot starter at both DH and in the outfield. Privately, the Knights are hoping that Sheffield will not be another in a string of faded veterans who come to New York to finish their NASBL careers and give the club almost nothing in the process. (See David Cone in ’03 and Mike Piazza and Jeff Kent in more recent years.)
The Knights suffered a PR disaster last year when Mitch Pak inexplicably failed to draft a second catcher behind Jason Kendall, requiring Kendall to catch all 162 games. The resulting overusage penalty ( Kendall , at age 35, had well over 600 official plate appearances, his highest number since ’02) sent the Knights into poor draft position in the middle rounds. While Mitch Pak was not enamored of any of the available catching talent in the ’10 draft (in a burst of prescience, he reportedly compared Georgia ’s overall #1 pick Matt Wieters to the Knights 2008 mega-bust Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a comparison subsequently validated by Baseball Prospectus), he clearly needed to ensure that the club had enough catching talent for the upcoming season. Choosing quantity over quality, Pak selected Ronny Paulino, Rod Barajas and, in the 13th round, Jason Varitek to don the tools of ignorance for the Knights this year.
Varitek, 38, is the grizzled veteran of the group and will be entering his 11th year in the league. He is regarded primarily as a defensive asset now and will probably be used by the Knights as a late-inning defensive replacement. Knights fans will recall Varitek from his career here that spanned from 2003 through 2006. His best year as a Knight came in 2004, when he hit 29 homers and knocked in 88 runs. Barajas, 34, has only played 276 games over three seasons in the NASBL and owns a career average of .262. His best season came with the Texas Thunderbirds in 2006, when he hit .293 with 18 homers, 58 RBI and an .841 OPS. He is considered to be a fair at best defensive catcher. Paulino, at 28 the baby of the group, last played in the NASBL in 2008, when he split 63 games and 161 at bats between Lehigh Valley and Troy . In 195 career NASBL games, Paulino has a .260 average and .663 OPS. He will most likely start the season second on the catching depth chart. Clearly, the Knights are hoping that this trio will perform respectably as a single unit, since their individual performances will probably be underwhelming, to be charitable.
In the later rounds, the Knights also drafted veteran Julio Lugo, chiefly to back up #1 shortstop Cristian Guzman. Despite an ability to play both infield and outfield positions and some pop in his bat, Lugo has had a very spotty NASBL career. While his resume indicates that he started in the league back in 2001, when he had a solid rookie season with the Canyon Country Cannons (.274, 8 HR, 45 RBI, .726 OPS), he bounced around after that and missed the 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2009 seasons. He last full season in the league came in 2006 with Lake Champlain , when he hit .278 with 3 homers, 59 RBI and 95 runs scored. He last swung a bat in the NASBL in 2007 with Troy , hitting .284.
With their final pick in the draft, the Knights brought back utilityman Ty Wigginton, to back up Michael Young at third. Wigginton has spent the last three of his four NASBL seasons with the Knights, with varying degrees of success. His best season came in 2008, when he led the team with 30 homers and 86 RBI, but his success was lost in the giant mound of cow flop of that 118-loss debacle. The Knights like Wigginton’s hard-nosed makeup but were disappointed at his lackluster ’09 numbers (16 homers, 45 RBI, .253) once he started to share time with Clint Barmes, and eventually cut him. With Young manning the hot corner in ’10 and with second being covered by Barmes and newcomer Alberto Callaspo, Wigginton will probably not see much playing time.
On the pitching side, after drafting Josh Johnson with their first pick, the Knights refocused on rebuilding the middle relief staff, one of the team’s strengths in 2009. The Knights cut five relievers after the ’09 season, retaining only closer Chad Qualls (4-2, 2.86, 9 saves) and middlemen Jeremy Affeldt (1-4, 2.86, 1.23 WHP) and 40 year old lefty longman Darren Oliver (3-2, 3.47, 1.25 WHP). While the Knights are banking on the strength of their rotation, particularly the top three starters, to provide substantial innings in order to take the pressure off the pen, Mitch Pak is not losing his focus on the need for solid middle relief in the event that a starter gets blown out (which is not uncommon in the NASBL).
Thus, coming to the Knights are three new bullpen arms – and one returning friend. Making his NASBL debut this season is 25 year old righty Tyler Clippard. For MLB’s Washington Nationals in 2009, Clippard put up excellent numbers in relief – a 4-2 record with a 2.69 ERA in 41 appearances spanning 60 IP. What really captured the Knights’ attention regarding the rookie was his 1.13 WHP and a miniscule .172 average against. Scouts around the league have indicated that Clippard has a nasty fastball (67 strikeouts in 60 innings) but that he has bouts of wildness (32 walks). Recently retired Knights legend Mike Mussina, now a special roving instructor with the club, will no doubt be working with Clippard as the season draws closer.
Another NASBL rookie joining the Knights pen is righthander Phil Coke. The organization is hoping that the 27 year old hurler will have the same measure of success he did last year with MLB’s New York Yankees, for whom he posted a 4-3 record and 1.07 WHP. The big knock on Coke is that he allows too many home runs and too many extra base hits, as evidenced by his high 4.50 ERA, which was the result of too many earned runs (30) being plated despite not a lot of hits allowed (44).
36 year old Tim Byrdak made his NASBL debut last season with Outlaw and had a good season despite being used sparingly. In 26 appearances with the Wales , spanning 25.1 innings, Byrdak, who has developed a forkball in recent years, was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.24 WHP. Like Tyler Clippard, Byrdak does not give up a lot of hits but does have a tendency to wildness and the longball.
Finally, the Knights welcome Octavio Dotel back to the organization as part of the middle relief corps. Dotel, 35, was drafted by the Knights in 2009 after having missed the previous three seasons due to various injuries. Dotel rewarded the club with a solid year, striking out 59 in 53 innings while walking just 26 and posting a WHP of 1.37.
In conclusion, this page sees the Knights as fielding an improved team on both sides of the ball. However, the lack of a big-time, 40-homer slugger in the A-Rod or Pujols class will continue to keep this team out of serious playoff contention. If everyone performs up to expectations, we believe the Knights can finish over .500, possibly with 83 wins, in 2010.
Monday, March 8, 2010
The opening round of the 2010 NASBL Rookie & Free Agent Draft was both compelling (8 of the 16 picks were made by teams other than their original owner) and deep with talent. Rather than go through the silly exercise of HAVING AN IMMEDIATELY IMPORTANT OPINION (something the WLL can't resist), we'll simply turn to the experts and see what they have to say about the 16 shiny new toys. The experts are the folks over at Baseball Prospectus and all material is from their Essential Guide to the 2010 Baseball Season.
1. GRK Matt Wieters - Wieters didn't walk as nearly as much expected, symptomatic of someone who's pressing, and the decreased selectivity could also explain the power drop. We still expect big things from him, even if he doesn't sign autographs for five thousand people using only two fishes and five loaves of bread. Comparables - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Sherman Obando, Charles Johnson, Steve Decker
2. VFS* Tommy Hanson - Hanson will be in the rotation in 2010, and with an improved changeup and better command within the strike zone, he could move into elite status over the next few years. Comparables - Jason Bere, Wade Davis, Kevin Gross, Jimmy Haynes
3. OJW* Elvis Andrus - Andrus wasn't drop-dead good, mind you, not with an OPS just over 700. Nor does it mean he won't be good in the future; he's just not there yet. The good news is he's still six to eight years away from his prime. Comparables - Edgar Renteria, Oman Infante, Alcides Escobar, Luis Rivas
4. TRY Pablo Sandoval - El Osezno is not the sort of player where pat assertions about regression to leaguewide marks for line-drive rates or BABIP mean much. His exceptional plate coverage makes him ore dangerous because he won't just try to hit your pitch; he can hit your pitch. He's in line to launch lava-hot liners after an aggressive off-season conditioning program. Comparables - David Wright, Carlos Baerga, Michael Barrett, Scott Rolen
5. NYK Josh Johnson - Johnson finally threw off the still-smoldering wreckage of Joe Giardi's Marlins stint. Reasons for [future] acquiring team to exercise caution: by virtue of his two injury-afflicted years, Johnson experienced a big jump in his workload, and fatigue may be an issue, especially as his ERA increased every month of the season, rising from 2.60 in April to 4.11 in September. Comparables - Ed Halicki, Pete Vuckovich, Gaylord Perry, David Goltz
6. ILL Chris Carpenter - His story isn't finished yet. (A)fter last season's exploits, another bit of greatness or another disappearance onto the DL seem to be the poles he operates from, with little chance of anything in between. Comparables - Clay Carroll, Jason Grimsly, Julian Tavarez, Tanyon Sturtze
7. ILL* Gordon Beckham - His skill sets work even better at 2b, and his bat will be even more valuable up the middle. Players who move this quickly (through the system) tend to be stars, and there's an excellent chance that when you visit The Cell three years from now, you'll be greeted by a sea of No. 15 jerseys. Comparables - Ron Hunt, Ken Keltner, Dale Berra, Bob Bailey
8. ILL* Brett Anderson - What's surprising is how much of a forward leap he took, and he now looks like a potential All-Star. His [stuff] was always advanced for his years, but it was with his fastball that he took the biggest step forward in 2009. Anderson has been upgraded from good to great. Comparables - Renyel Pinto, Scott Olsen, Jaime Garcia, Glendon Rusch
9. GCG David Price - The most troubling aspect of his season was his struggles with his vaunted slider, which had been considered a plus-pitch. It generated swings and misses just 4.8% of the time, 4th lowest rate in the league. He'll have to restore his feel for that pitch in order to fulfill the lofty expectations set for him. Comparables - Sean Marshall, Britt Burns, Steve Cooke, Chris Nabholz
10. HHA Andrew McCutchen - He has all the tools necessary for stardom, including great speed, rapidly emerging power, and the type of range and arm to become an outstanding defensive CFer. The Pirates have had their share of phenoms fizzle out, but McCutchen is the real deal. Comparables - Ellis Burks, Rontrez Johnson, Winston Ficklin, Kevin Belcher
11. LVI* Rick Porcello - He is another in a line of recent, high-draft picks whose minor-league numbers are completely useless for analysis. He fully deserved his spot in the rotation last year - other than a couple small hiccups he was solid and consistent. The worry shifts toward keeping his pitch counts and innings in check, as he's only 21. Comparables - Jon Garland, Buddy Carlyle, Bronson Arroyo, Kyle Hartshorn
12. LVI* Phil Hughes - He was successful in the pen last year. In the short term, that role was exactly what he needed, but in the long term, limiting him to one-inning appearances would be wasteful. Comparables - Stan Williams, Fausto Carmona, Don Cardwell, Lindy McDaniel
13. VFS J.A. Happ - He benefited from a lofty 85% rate of stranding runners, well above the league average of 72%, and he may not strike out enough hitters to make his high walk rate stand up. Happ won't be excellent every time out, but he should be a rotation stalwart for years to come. Comparables - Dave Williams, Vaughn Eshelman, John Halama, Rich Hill
14. HHA* Kendry Morales - By all accounts, he had a surprising 2009 season. Credit Morales for adjusting to big-league pitching and making solid contact far more often than he had in the past. Even if PECOTA suggests a major regression, this is one case where you're better off letting go of those numbers. Comparables - Ryan Garko, Shea Hillenbrand, Bob Hamelin, Paul Sorrento
15. SPR* Nyjer Morgan - Although he'd been previously criticized for sloppy outfield play and bad routes, Morgan's dramatic defensive improvement and high OBP made him a 5-win player last year. As wonderful as all that is, and as much fun as it is to root for someone with his back story, the enhancement is not likely to last. His low walk rate and nonexistent power make his offensive value too reliant no a slap-and-dash approach to maintain a high batting average. He's already 29, but his speed and defense should age well and he has shown he can be a starting CFer. But is Nationals fans expect an All-Star, he's not the droid they're looking for. Comparables - Milt Thompson, Kerry Robinson, Alex Cole, Endy Chavez
16. OWJ Nelson Cruz - His power is not a ballpark fiction, but he's a fly-ball hitter in a fly-ball-hitting environment finally logging a full season. Between his Ks and fly balls, racking up RBIs will depend on his hitting more homers. Nelson is a fine regular in his prime, he just shouldn't be asked to be the best hitter in a contending lineup.
* - Indicates traded pick
In my 19 years in NASBL I can recall only two trades of this magnitude.
In the early 1990s, Ken Griffey was the undisputed future of baseball. Juan Gonzalez and David Cone were a little older but were two of the best players in baseball and best cards in the Strat-O-Matic set. Young Willoughby Fighting Monkees manager Mike "Digger" Hutter had Griffey but was looking for more immediate rewards. NASBL founder and Dallas Fort Worth Spurs manager Red Robbins had Cone and Gonzalez. A marriage was made and Juan Gone and Cone were traded for Griffey. All three players dominated baseball for several years. Griffey lost more time to injuries, but Cone and Gonzalez were out of baseball well before Griffey so I would call this trade a draw.
In January of 1997 "trader" Mike Johnson owned the first pick of the NASBL draft. Oklahoma City manager Dave Covert had the 2nd or 3rd pick and coveted a young shortstop by the name of Alex Rodriguez, who Dave knew would go first. I don't remember the exact details but Covert gave up the farm to move up to the first pick in that draft. In fact I remember trader Mike telling me that he had told another owner to "get your own farm team" when that owner complained about how much Mike had gotten for that pick. History has been kind to Dave and ARod has been the kind of franchise player worth trading the farm for.