Monday, March 21, 2016

2016 Sano Caught Sucking

Grundy County benched its first draft pick for sucking on a pop-cycle during spring training.  Owner Jack Howard call a quick team meeting and demanded that recently re-acquired Zack Greinke sit as judge on a an impromptu Kangroo Court to hear Miguel Sano’s defense. 

Sano could not believe his ears.  “What I do,” he said.  His defense attorney, fellow 1st round pick Kyle Schwarber called for a reading of the charges.

Owner Howard enlisted David Price as prosecuting attorney and Price stated, “You, Mr. Sano, were caught sucking.  The Griz took a vow not to suck this season and as such we demand you to stop sucking immediately.”

The first and only witness, (called), Manny Machado, produced a pop cycle stick with Sano’s DNA on it.  Machado proclaimed he found the pop-cycle stick behind the batting cage immediately before Mr. Sano took his hacks.  Machado, said he saw Mr. Sano suck on the pop-cycle and then gobble up the pop-cycle as he was called into the batting cage.

Sano stated that he needed the sticky-sugary substance on his hands to get a better grip on the bat.

Judge Greinke told Sano that he should try to find a more traditional sticky substance as a grip builder.  Greinke offered Phil Neikro’s phone number, stating that Mr. Niekro is an expert on acceptable substance used during ballgames.

The court room was silent as the clock ticked forward.  Judge Greinke said “this court finds you guilty – Mr. Sano.”  Your penalty is that this court prohibits you from starting any game in Block I of the 2016 NASBL season. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

2016 NASBL Preview - Outlaw Josey Wales: Stuck in the Middle?

Cruz hopes to bash OJW to the playoffs
Spring training is well underway, so what better time to start running through our team-by-team previews? 

Outlaw Josey Wales

Average Record Last 3 Years: 82-80

Notable Draft Picks: 1st Rd, 3B Maikel Franco, he can flash a little leather and wield a big stick. His true long term NASBL value will be realized if his parent MLB team resists the temptation to move him across the diamond to 1B. 2nd Rd, Jaime Garcia, LHP, Garcia will always be a huge health risk, and he is not someone to count on. But he has great stuff, and if he can take the mound consistently for the next few years he could be one of the better pitchers in NASBL.

Best Player: Nelson Cruz, RF. He edges out fellow corner OF J.D. Martinez on the basis of his consistent, and growing HR output. He has 45 HR, 110 RBI potential, which would automatically make him an MVP candidate. If OJW falters out the gate, while not likely, Cruz's age and production make him perfect trade bait should GM Mark Hildebrandt chose to go in that direction.

OJW's biggest challenge will be to choose the path between middle of the pack relevance and rebuilding. That's not to say they can't make the playoffs, but the odds are stacked against them with their tough Taste Great competition. Should Outlaw choose to be a seller, those future assets would pair well with this year's draft haul of four picks in the first two rounds.

The Lineup

As we'll note with pretty much every team, this is just a rough outline of what could be the best lineup at the disposal of the manager.

1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
2. Maikel Franco, 3B
3. Nelson Cruz, RF
4. J.D. Martinez, LF
5. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
6. Albert Pujols, DH
7. Elvis Andrus, SS
The Blur could excel in his 'double leadoff'' role
8. Yan Gomes, C
9. Billy Hamilton, CF

Pedroia and Franco provide valuable table setters, albeit at only half season's production for a potent 3-4-5 trio that averages 37 HRs a man. After that, things get dicey with each of the 6-9 hitters having identifiable holes in their games.

The bench has some intriguing pieces in Matt Kemp, Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto. The options to fill out the other half the schedule at 2B in Pedroia's absence are replacement level. The bench contains some value, but likely not enough to help push OJW over the top.

This will be a defensively average team, though made better if Hildebrandt can stomach Hamilton's .563 OPS to allow him to anchor the OF with his speed and arm.

The Rotation

1. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
2. Anthony Desclafani, RHP
3. Julio Teheran, RHP
4. Jaime Garcia, LHP
5. Tim Hudson, RHP

Carrasco is the present cream of the crop and things look very bright going forward IF Teheran return sto form, Desclafani's maturation continues on an upward path and Garcia can avoid the injury bug for once.

Hudson will share the #5/swing spot with Jake Peavy with the hopes that their veteran knowledge proves valuable to this staff as it faces a key make it or break it phase.

The Bullpen

CL Francisco Rodriguez
Setup vs R Casey Fien
Setup vs L Anthony Bastardo

K-Rod continues to defy age and should be in line for around 35 saves; he has no weaknesses and can shut down batters from each side of the plate or just sit them down with his more than a K per inning power.

OJW's pitching coach has a lot of options with this deep in bodies pen. The Outlaws will carry 15 pitchers, 10 of which can work out of the pen. This creates an enviable quantity over quality situation and provides Hildebrandt with an almost endless supply of late inning match up options. If he can channel his inner La Russa, not the crane kick guy, the potential to steal a handful of wins is there for the taking.

The Outlook

Outlaw can definitely contend this year, the key question is for how long? However the best long term strategy may to sell off some aging assets while they still have value (Cruz, Kemp, Pujols, A-Gone, perhaps even Petey), make some hay again in the draft next year and wait for that pitching staff to realize its potential.

They are hamstrung by getting only half-seasons out of the 2B and 3B spots. That is another area that is ripe for improvement next year. But, this is a very tough spot to expect OJW to come close to last season's 98 wins. Heck, 88 would be impressive with this roster and the tough competition it will face.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

2016 NASBL Preview - Troy Haymakers: The Future Begins Now


Up Up and Away
Spring training is well underway, so what better time to start running through our team-by-team previews? 

Troy Haymakers

Average Record Last 3 Years: 76-86

Notable Draft Picks: 1st Rd, #2 overall, 3B Kris Bryant, a player with the ability to carry a franchise for the next decade, Bryant is front and center in Troy's rebuilding plans. 2nd Rd, Jung Ho Kang, 3B, one can never have too many HR smashing 3B, and if you're Troy and looking toward the future, grabbing the BPA is the quickest way to get there. Kang is just about Bryant's equal with the stick and glove and provides for great flexibility as a DH, 3B or even trade bait.

Best Player: Yoenis C├ęspedes. You could make a case for Bryant, or heck, even A.J. Pollock, but neither of them can change the game with one swing every time up like Cespedes. He hits for power, runs down every fly ball, has an arm that was memorialized into a gif meme many times over.

One of GM Ken Anderson's strongest scouting traits has been his ability to find a glove. Troy will make its mark thanks in large part to their ability to play five 1-rated fielders at the same time, including the all important positions up the middle in the infield and outfield.

However, Troy faces the daunting task of unseating NASBL World Series Champion DFW in their own division and their win total has declined in each of the last three years from 98 to 67 to 62. Anderson's boys appear ready and eager to buck that trend, but how will they do it?

Here's how.

 The Lineup

As we'll note with pretty much every team, this is just a rough outline of what could be the best lineup at the disposal of the manager.

1. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B
2. A.J. Pollock, CF
Troy fans should get used to this sight
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
5. Eric Hosmer, 1B
6. George Springer, RF
7. Jung Ho Kang, DH
8. Dide Gregorius, SS
9. Wilson Ramos, C

You have to go all the way to the 9 spot to sniff a weakness in this lineup. This team will flat out wear opposing pitchers down. This lineup has speed, power, OBP coming out their arse. The one thing it lacks, if I may pick nits for a moment, is extra left hand sticks. There are only three lefties on the roster, to go with two switch hitters (one of which is gasp, Panda) and they will be susceptible to hard throwing RHP.

The bench is not as deep as a playoff contending team would like, but it's early and bench help is relatively easy to acquire as the season progresses.

As mentioned, the defense will be among the league's best. So in addition to scoring a lot of runs, defensive run prevention will be a specaility of this year's Troy squad, which is a good thing for Anderson because ...

The Rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
2. Colby Lewis, RHP
3. Edinson Volquez, RHP
4. Dan Haren, RHP
5. Kevin Gausman, RHP

Bumgarner will, and MUST, get his share of wins. For Troy to really contend they'll need to take full advantage of all 32 of Bum's starts and hope for a 20 win season from their ace. Because if not, things get really ugly in a hurry if the Volquez-Haren-Gausman trio is asked to do much.

Colby Lewis is a vital piece of the 'Maker puzzle this year. If he can be ~+5 in the W/L column, that would be welcomed production.

Rookie Raisel Iglesias and Aaron Sanchez have the potential to be valuable pieces, both as swing starters and long relievers when Haren gets run out of the game in the 4th. To make it even better, both are high upside players who are likely to have larger roles in future years for Troy.

The Bullpen

CL Andrew Miller 
Setup vs R A.J. Ramos 
Setup vs L *Spring training battle
Swing Starters/Inning Eaters Iglesias & Sanchez

Miller is a top 5 closer, so if Troy can simply get him the ball 40+ saves are not out of the questions. Ramos and Shawn Tolleson provide closer depth. Iglesias' 9.9Ks/9IP should be able to help Troy get out of any late inning jams.

The only real missing piece is someone to get those tough outs vs. lefty batters.

The Outlook

Did the Haymakers improve on the team that won 62 games last season? Certainly. Did they improve enough to get to the mid- to upper-80 win total needed for a playoff run? That's the real question.

Starting pitching depth is a big problem although it's a potentially solvable one with the hopes of Iglesias and Sanchez cracking the rotation and providing 20+ quality starts.

Back to the high points, the potent offense is the team's co-strength, along with defense.

In all, the Haymakers have the pieces to make another postseason run like in 2013, but they would need to add some minor pieces to do so. Those pieces are a middle of the rotation starter, a lefty pinch hitter and a LHP who can shut down LHBs.

The most likely outcome appears watching Red Robbins hang another Less Filling West Banner and fighting it out with the likes of Vermont and Shawnee for a wildcard spot.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

2016 NASBL Preview - Lake Champlain Cannibals Load up for Another Playoff Run

Ace Clayton Kershaw - 56-25 in the last three years
Kershaw hunting for his first Cy
Spring training is well underway, so what better time to start running through our team-by-team previews? 

Lake Champlain Cannibals

Average Record Last 3 Years: 88-74

Notable Draft Picks: 1st Rd, CF Joc Pederson, he can hit it far, but LCC will need him to hit it more often to payoff long term. 2nd Rd, Roberto Osuna, LCC grabbed a top tier closer midway through the second round - his future depends on how the parent Jays plan on using him; facing competition for the closer role could push him to the rotation, where many experts thing his high ceiling future lies anyway.

Best Player: Clayton Kershaw. The former 1st round pick lefty is already far and away the career LCC wins leader with 109. Can this be the year when he nets his first Cy Young Award? Can he shed his playoff failure label? The 2016 fate of LCC lies in the answers to these questions.

This is shaping up as a normal season for the Cannibals. They can, and always have been able to rake with the best of 'em, but can they field and do they have the pitching depth to get across the finish line?

Will they have enough to topple the two-time defending pennant winner Ed Couch New Potatoes, not to mention traditional powers Leigh Valley and Springfield and the resurgent Canyon County Cannons in the ultra-competitive Taste Great? Let's take a look.

The Lineup

As we'll note with pretty much every team, this is just a rough outline of what could be the best lineup at the disposal of manager Steve Beard. "Regular" lineups aren't really a thing in NASBL and perhaps even less so with a platoon whiz Beard at the helm penciling in lineups.

1. Mookie Betts, CF
2. Joe Panik, 2B 
Captain Troy shows the way
3. Justin Turner, 3B
4. Freedie Freeman, 1B
5. Pedro Alvarez, DH
6. Colby Rasmus, LF
7. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
8. Brian McCann, C
9. Joc Pederson, RF

Look at the depth here. Tulo 7th, McCann 8th? That's incredible. However, the youngsters at the top of the order are just too good not to give those extra at bats to every game. And having Pederson swatting the occasional homer in the 9 hole is hardly a handicap.

The team lacks a true power threat, but is full of guys who will clear the fences 15+ times.

The bench is loaded, many teams would kill to slot Christian Yelich or Jason Kipnis in their everyday lineup and Chris Carter and Mike Napoli provide plenty of catch-up-quick power.

The defense is OK, certainly not top tier NASBL but definitely better than past versions of the Elk's Lodge Beer League Softball Team Beard used to run out there. On the bright side, again, the Cannibals will have no issues scoring runs.

On the other hand ...

The Rotation

1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2. Shelby Miller, RHP
3. Mark Buehrle, LHP
4. Gio Gonzalez, LHP
5. J.A. Hap, LHP

Ever the contrarian, GM Beard has loaded up with a rotation of lefties, a fetishist's collection, that Kershaw aside, won't scare anyone.

Compounding matters, Shelby Miller is miscast in the #2 role leaving Beard no choice but to try to use some Commissioner magic to produce an LCC schedule full of "Kershaw and four days of rain."

We'd predict that Beard could spot start some of his low IP starters vs. lineups that struggle against righties, but he would need to have righties at the ready. Instead, to the 'rescue' come more lefties in the form of Drew Pomeranz and Travis Wood.

So unless the entire league falls under a Can't Hit LHP spell, Beard will need to have a regular quick hook. Speaking of ...

The Bullpen

CL Roberto Osuna
Setup vs R Joakim Soria
Setup vs L Hunter Strickland
Swing Starters/Inning Eaters Wood & Pomeranz

The big 3 of Osuna, Soria and Strickland can get any lineup out, but behind them the depth is questionable.

Another true 6th/7th inning guy would be a valuable addition.

The Outlook

If you squint strongly, isn't there enough here to justify a division championship? The offense is plenty potent and bullpen has talent, but will the rotation be the team's anchor?

Plainly put, if Beard stands pat, another mid- to upper-80s win team that gets a lot of 8-6 Ws and more than their share of 10-5 Ls awaits the Lake Champlain faithful.

But, BUT, we predict Beard will not, no, cannot stand pat.

For this year's version of the Lake Champlain Cannibals to realize their full potential Beard must move a bat or two (Yelich and an extra 2B are the obvious candidates) and/or trade some high picks for some rotational depth behind Kershaw. If that happens, anything is possible for this team.

Absent that, LCC fans will have to begin to wonder how many more years of Kershaw and Tulo's primes can be wasted away with near misses before time runs out? That question, and Steve's answer to it, will define 2016 for the Cannibals.