28 January 2008

All Hail . . .

Diego Santana. In his first taste of the bigs, Santana is hitting .373/.429/.747 with 32hr, 92rbi, and a 28/37 BB/K ratio. That's good for 1st overall in RBI, 2nd in HR, 2nd in OPS, and 5th in BA. All while handling the backstop duties and the league's 11th best pitching staff(4.62 team ERA). Santana was signed for a mere 3.2 million as the 10th pick in the draft back in Season 4 by Washington/abracapocus, then traded to Boston as a youngster in the Rookie league(a loophole in the system allowed him to be dealt). Santana murdered minor league pitching to the tune of 164 bombs in 3 seasons, and is now doing the same at the big league level. And while his defensive ratings aren't stellar, they're strong enough to allow him to play respectably behind the dish. Throw in Durability and Health ratings in the 90s, and it's becoming clear that all future Capra catchers will be measured by Santana. Cheer up, abra, we've all let someone get away in a deal here or there. At least you traded him to the AL, where you won't have to face him much.

11 January 2008

Early Standouts - American League

Hitters

1B Don Wilson. Scranton Breakers. Just 25, in his 4th full season, and is somehow getting even better after putting up a career .353/.430/.548 in his first 3 seasons. Currently at .405/.457/.759. 1st in the AL in Hits, Avg, OBP, Doubles, and 5th in SLG. Oh, yeah, Wilson also has a nifty 16 game hit-streak going. Sheesh.

1B Rogers Glynn. San Juan Express. When will these children learn to mind their place? Glynn is paving the way for the all-world offense of the Express. 18HR(1st), 40RBI(1st), 37R(1st), .841 SLG(1st), 1.261OPS(1st), not to mention he's hitting .349/.420. Oh yeah, Glynn is 23 and on pace for around 100 round-trippers.

DH Jeromy Wagner. Albuquerque Roadrunners. Another youngblood up there with the big boys. 25 and hitting .404/.449/.570. 2nd in AVG, OBP, Hits, and Doubles. More walks than strikeouts. The kind of DH you wish you had.

Pitchers

SP Shawn Morton. Pawtucket Patriots. The season 1 AL Cy Young, Morton is now 36 and had injury-plagued campaigns in seasons 2, 3, and 4, but is rewarding the risk the Patriots took in giving him 21M last year. 5-0 with a 1.15ERA and 0.79WHIP. Has allowed just 26 hits and 2 HR in 47 innings. WOW.

SP Gerald Hernandez. Montreal Royales. Hernandez blossomed in time last year to lead the Royales to their first championship, and hasn't slowed up any this season. Currently 5-1 with a 1.96ERA, 0.98WHIP. And he started out the season with a 0.00ERA after his first four starts. He has definitely arrived.

RP Ronnie Serafini. Montreal Royales. Refused arbitration by the Anteaters a few seasons ago, Serafini has also matured in the last year and a half. After serving as an effective part-time closer last season, he has gotten off to a perfect start: 7/7 in save opps, 0.00ERA, 9+ innings with just 3 hits and 2 walks allowed.

09 January 2008

Early Standouts - National League

Hitters

1B Alexander Henry. Vancouver Manitaineers. Veteran slugger went yard 30 x in 585 PA's last season. Has already mashed 15 in less than 110 AB's this season for a pace of something like 80. Leads the NL in HR and SLG, is 2nd in RBI and OPS, and is carrying a .345/.429/.836 line. Sweet.

RF Melvin Martin. St. Louis Archers. Leading the NL in OBP and SB, a deadly combination, not to mention doubles. Also 3rd in RBIs. On pace for 30HR and 80SB. Hitting .388. Dude is sick.

1B Evan Moore. El Paso Diablos. Another veteran first-bagger on pace for his best campaign to date. 2nd in the league in AVG at .402. 1st in Hits. On pace for 48 HR, a number that would almost double his usual total in the upper 20s. Can he keep it up?


Pitchers

RP Henry Brantley. Little Rock Travellers. A neat story. Spent the first 3 Capra seasons at AAA. Spent the next 3 seasons bouncing back and forth between the majors and minors. Doesn't have naturally great stuff, but has suddenly become unhittable. Perfect in 10 save opps. 1 earned run in 15 innings. Critical to the Travs NL-best record of 21-8.

SP Brandon Stevens. Florida Sunrays. Stevens is 23 and in his first tour of the bigs, but is certainly here to stay. In 5 starts, he is averaging a line of around around 7 2/3 innings, five hits, 1 earned run, 1 BB, and 4 Ks, which is all good for a total ERA of 1.43, WHIP of 0.77. Young pitchers should not be allowed to start out throwing this well.

SP Patrick Spencer. Anaheim Anteaters. Has he arrived? Leading the league in IP, tied for the lead in wins(4-0). 4th in OAV(.198), 4th in ERA(1.76), 5th in WHIP(1.02). Has allowed just 36 hits and 3 HR in 51 innings.

06 January 2008

The Firemen of Capra

Without much football on TV and a lack of decent baseball being played in Salem, I decided to highlight some of the best closers (Past, present, and future) to grace Capra. Sorry in advance if I missed someone.

The All-Time Greats


Tyler Henderson, 34, Fargo Woodchippers

Working his seventh major league campaign, Henderson is Capra’s all-time saves leader and a model of consistency. He has twice been named the NL Fireman of the Year (seasons four and six) and is a three-time All-Star. He has converted 226 of 259 (82%) save opportunities while posting a 2.95 career ERA and nearly a 3 to 1 K/BB ratio.

Henderson’s best season to date was Fargo’s World Championship season five, in which he saved 41 games in 45 chances and recorded 10 wins while posting a 2.89 ERA. To date Henderson has 6 saves and a 1.59 ERA in season seven.


Brady Garcia, 34, Scranton Breakers

Also in his seventh season, Garcia is second all-time in saves. Although not as dominant as Henderson, Garcia has converted 181 of 220 (82%) saves and posted a career 4.57 ERA with both Jackson and Scranton. He has twice been an All-Star and was the AL FOY in season three.

Despite being one of the league’s best for three seasons, Jackson owner steelerstime dealt Garcia after his best effort in season three, when he converted 39 of 47 save opportunities while posting a 3.49 ERA. With two more saves in season seven Garcia will have an even 100 in 3+ seasons with Scranton.


Rob Ojeda, 33, Honolulu Rain

The best of the AL West, Ojeda is number three among Capra’s all-time closers with 175 career saves in 212 chances (83%) while striking out 327 batters and walking only 91. The pride of Honolulu is a four-time All-Star and is the reigning AL FOY.

Despite blowing 10 chances last season Ojeda still set a personal best with 46 saves, four more than his previous high of 42 set in season four. Ojeda has posted a career ERA of 3.74 while holding opposing hitters to paltry .292 OBP.


Terry Blauser, 36, Ottawa Ice

Terry “Don’t call me Jeff” Blauser has been in Capra since day one, averaging 26 saves per season. His total of 159 conversions in 192 tries (83%) ranks him fourth among Capra greats, despite saving only five games in all of season six.

Blauser’s career ERA is 3.70 and he has posted 338 career strikeouts to go along with a 51-41 W/L record. He is a 4-time All-Star and was the American League FOY in season five. His best campaign may have been season two; in which he posted a 3.16 ERA and converted 37 of 42 save tries while limiting opposing batters to a .241 Avg.


Joe Nunnari, 35, El Paso Diablos

Nunnari has been usurped as the closer in El Paso these days, but his 155 saves are still good enough for fifth on the Capra all-time list. During his five seasons as closer in El Paso Nunnari converted saves at a rate of 85%, highest among the all-time leaders; and was a four-time All-Star and season two’s NL FOY.

The league’s inaugural season may have been Nunnari’s finest as he limited batters to a .239 batting average and posted a 2.80 ERA and 37 saves in 45 tries. He also recorded 8 wins in that All-Star year.

Despite being deposed from the closer’s throne Nunnari has one save just weeks into season seven while posting a 3.60 ERA.


The Up and Comers


Greg Shields, 27, Atlanta Stonewallers

At 27 years old Shields may be a little bit of a late bloomer, but his numbers from season six speak for themselves: 34 saves, 3.33 ERA, .239 Opp. Avg, and 56 strikeouts in 51 innings. A NL All-Star last year, Shields has converted 5 of 7 opportunities this season while posting a 6.35 ERA.


David Wanatabe, 26, St. Louis Archers

Wanatabe has spent at least parts of all seven seasons in the bigs, and has been shutting the door on St. Louis’ opponents consistently since his breakout year in season four; in which he posted 27 saves and a 3.98 ERA. He ran away with the NL FOY award in season five with 40 saves in 43 tries and a dominating 1.96 ERA. After notching 34 more saves a season ago, he is a perfect four of four in opportunities in season seven.


Sid Watson, 23, Jacksonville Juggarnauts

After being selected with the 82nd overall pick in the season two amateur draft, Watson was a Rule Five selection by Jacksonville in season six and made the jump to the major leagues; where he saved 18 of 24 ballgames and posted a 4.01 ERA in 52 games. A work in progress with dynamite stuff, Watson has saved four games and struck out nine in 6.1 innings this season.

Coming Soon

  • Impressive Early Performances
  • The Futility File
  • Season 2's Top 10 Draft Picks: Where are They Now

NL West Season 7 Preview

St. Louis Archers
Season 6: Division Champs, 93-69


Season six was the Archers best to date after claiming the division flag and playing in the National League Championship series, yet there are brighter seasons ahead for fans in the Gateway City. 26 year-old centerfielder Hong-Gu Hyun, brought over from Japan for a hefty 14M signing bonus, made his ML debut last season with a modest first line of .328/.429/.658, 41hr, 142rbi, 14sb, and NL Rookie of the Year, as well as the NL's CF Silver Slugger award. Partnering with Hyun in the outfield is 23 year-old speedster Melvin Martin, who, in his first two seasons, has averaged .328, 17hr, 105rbi, and 50 stolen bases. Martin was an All-Star selection last year, and he and Hyun probably form the most lethal 2/3 of an outfield in the NL, not to mention that they're both earning minimum wage for the next couple seasons.

There's more: 2B Rudy Carver is an All-Star, Gold Glove, and can do everything offensively. 23 year-old pitcher Ted Davis won 17 games and made the All-Star team in his rookie campaign, and might have won ROY if not for his teammate in CF. Closer David Wanatabe is only 26 and money in close contests, as evidenced by his nailing 74 out of 80 saves over the last two seasons. In fact, the geezer of this club is 34 year-old Willis Donovan, who proved of great value as a mid-season free agent swingman.

The Archers' one glaring concern is their starting rotation depth. After Davis, they have a host of solid, but inconsistent arms, #4-type guys. Howard Kapler and Ralph Cosby promise to bolster the rotation in the next season or two, but aren't ready yet. Nonetheless, the Archers have the sticks and energy to make a mess of many NL pitching staffs and play many important games late in the season.

Prediction: 97 wins, NL West Champs.


Anaheim Anteaters
Season 6: 90-72, NL Wildcard/NL Champs


After three division titles in five seasons in Portland, management pulled up stakes and moved to sunny Southern California for season 6, where the newly named Anteaters started out of the gate very slowly, losing 17 of their first 22 contests. But they turned things around and ended up losing the World Series to the Montreal Royales. One of the key figures in the turnaround was the steady maturation of SP Charles Jones, who went on to win 16 games with a 3.23 era in his second full season.

Anaheim's lineup is peppered with youngsters. In fact, only three players are over 28: All-World 1B Kip White is 33 and just inked a 4-year contract extension. 37 year-old back-up catcher Mariano Tatis provides veteran wisdom for the young pitchers, and newly acquired 3B Julio Iglesias is just 29, despite having played in 5 mid-season classics, and sporting three Silver Slugger trophies and one Golden Glove on his mantle.

Anaheim's rotation appears solid after Jones. Bonus baby Patrick Spencer is finally developing the consistency to become a rotation anchor. Veteran Jacob Foster is one of Capra's career leaders in SP era after putting up another line with 16 wins and a 3.73 era. Alan Dorsey hasn't reclaimed his rookie season glory of winning 19 games, but continues to be a capable #3 starter after his third season of 14 wins or more. If the bullpen and volatile Nerio Miller can hold up, they will be neck and neck with St. Louis all season long.

Prediction: 94 wins, NL Wildcard.


Boise Idaho Tater's
Season 6: 73-89, 3rd place

Two seasons ago the Taters went to the post-season as division champs, but have otherwise had a frustrating run in the NL West despite their owner's willingness to open his pocketbook year in and year out. And although All-Star slugging shortstop Geronimo Ordaz cashed in his free agent chips for 85M in Sin City, season 7 looks to be much of the same for the Spuds after having dropped a total of 80million to sign seven free agents(Alex Alomar, Pete Martin, Abraham Rogers, Vic Mateo, Tim Spoljaric, Albert Garza, Scott Stokes), plus another 5M in salary by dealing for slugging catcher Craig Phelps.

What will all this money get the Idaho fans? Well, if chicks dig the long ball then the women in Boise will be happy with all the high scoring games at Memorial Stadium because these potatoes can mash. In particular, Phelps, slugging RF Alberto Sosa, 24 year-old 1B Taylor Mayne, power-hitting 3B Alex Alomar, and all-around 2B Pete Martin promise to send many pitchers to early showers.

However, the Taters pitching staff will find themselves on the wrong side of many 9-8 losses. Albert Garza, Omar Johnson, Gary Kroeger, Jose Lira, Scott Stokes, and Harold Woolf all fit nicely in the latter end of a big league rotation, but there are no horses who can consistently put up quality innings. As a result, the bullpen will be taxed early and regularly, and when the Boise women aren't watching balls leave the yard, they will be waiting for new pitchers to come in from the bullpen.

Prediction: 72 wins, Third Place.


Vancouver Maintaineers
Season 6: 72-90, Fourth Place

The Maintaineers have been one of Capra's most consistent teams from the outset. Their team salary, player personnel, and final results are eerily similar from season to season. Not surprisingly, the season 7 incarnation of the Canucks looks much like the Season 6 and Season 5 teams, and the final standings will likely sing a familar tune.

The exciting slot in the Great White North belongs to LF and 22 year-old Stan Lee, who debuted last season by hitting .316/.380/.604, 33hr/112rbi. Lee also has blazing speed(100), but has yet to be set free on the basepaths. Last season's ROY might have been his last season if not for all-world division mate Hong-Gu Hyun. Elsewhere, Gold Glove C Felipe Rodriguez should rebound from his worst offensive campaign at the ripe age of 30. RF stud Garrett Stewart blossomed last season by hitting .327/.394/.555 and is entering his age 27 season. Alexander Henry will again rake while cleaning up the 1B area. All-Star/Gold Glove 3B Ringo Hubbard has begun the steady decline at 34, and may soon be supplanted by 22 year-old Willie Soto.

But, much like their rivals in Idaho, the pitching staff will not be able to keep pace with the offense. Japanese born James Saitou is just 26, has already pitched in 190 big league games, and has #1 starter potential, but has had trouble fully developing his abilities. Perhaps this will be the season. Veteran Jim Robertson is coming off his best season, but has never logged 200 innings and at 34 can't be expected to carry this staff. It remains to be seen if 24-year old Victor Julio can develop into a #3 starter. The pitching filler beyond those three is probably not enough to get to closer Al Howard for many opportunities.

Prediction: 72 wins, Third Place.

01 January 2008

AL West Season Seven Preview

Albuquerque Roadrunners
Season 6: 98-64, division champion


Since season three the Roadrunners have averaged 97 wins per campaign and four straight division crowns, yet the post-season has been less than kind to the turf burning birds. Seven game losses in the World Series in seasons three and four followed by an ALCS loss to Montgomery and a first round exit a year ago have Roadrunners fans thinking that flying objects aren’t the only things unidentified in New Mexico.

The outlook in Albuquerque remains bright with a plethora of young stars, and marked by the returns of reigning AL MVP and three-time All-Star Hal Randall (37 HR/149 RBI/.392/1.187) and young slugger Jeromy Wagner (26 HR/123 RBI/.366/1.021).

Backstop Patrick Hardy will handle the pitching staff after a solid rookie campaign in which he hit .340 while drilling 13 homers and 30 doubles; and third baseman Zachery Cohen (.314/30 HR) and left fielder Roger Scalici (.274/34 HR) should provide a potent punch for the Roadrunners in middle of the order.

Season seven also marks the arrival of uber-prospect Pablo Vicente. Who’s that, you say? He’s the Domincan first baseman that has mashed your minor league pitching to the tune of 122 homers and 345 RBIs over the past two seasons. Vicente’s bat is certainly major-league caliber but there are questions about the young star’s durability and health. If he can stay healthy he should be a legitimate threat to win AL Rookie of the Year.

On the mound, Albuquerque ace Tom Hudler is coming off of a personal-best 15 win season in which he tossed five complete games, and should again be a thorn in the side of his opposition. The staff will be bolstered by rookie Bud Simpson who went 17-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 29 starts at AAA last season; as well as returning veterans Charles Jang (14-10, 3.83); Max Bennett (16-10, 4.90); and Lewis Jameson (12-8, 4.97).

The single question mark in Roadrunners camp centers around the loss of closer and season six All-Star Harry Pena. Pena recorded 38 saves a year ago despite posting an ERA of 6.58 and blowing 11 leads in 56 appearances. He is succeeded by Lorenzo James who slides into the role after posting a 4.19 ERA and eight relief wins in 63 games.

Albuquerque will once again reign supreme in the AL West. Look for 105 wins, minimum, and a deep playoff run.



Honolulu Rain
Season 6: 83-79, second place


Blue skies and sunshine aren’t all that Hawaiians have to look forward to this year; a fourth-consecutive 80+ win season is on the horizon for the Rain, who continue to add depth to one of the most respected minor league systems in Capra while maintaining modest results at the major league level.

Closer Rob Ojeda was the lone representative for Honolulu at last season’s midsummer classic, his fourth invitation to the event. Ojeda, season one’s AL Rookie of the Year was also hailed as the Fireman of the Year is season six. Ojeda posted 46 saves in 56 tries and an ERA of 4.22 while appearing in 75 games last season, and, like a fine wine, appears to be getting better with age.

Honolulu appears to be buying time while some of its top-rated prospects mature in the minors, but with only three players on the major league roster over the age of 30, the youth movement is on in Hawaii.

All five of the Rain projected starters return from a year ago, and Hector Gomez (7-12, 6.15 ERA), Derrek Crawford (11-11, 4.85), Fonzie Clifton (9-14, 5.47), and Mark Zhang (6-10, 6.52) look to improve on sub-par performances in season six. If his results from a year ago are indicative, 25-year old Antonio Martin (10-5, 3.79) looks to be an ace in the making.


A pair of Canadian free agent defectors: first baseman Andrea Wagner (.254, 8 HR in 228 at-bats with Toronto) and left fielder Carlos Lopez (.253, 8 HR in 229 at-bats with Ottawa) should help to bolster the Rain offense; and third baseman Pat Cooper (.266, 28 HR) looks to rebound from a disappointing season six in which both his power and average dipped while his strikeouts reached a career-high of 115 in 613 plate appearances.

It looks doubtful that Saffron will have enough Hawaiian punch to wrestle the division crown from Albuquerque in season seven, but the efforts of his steady organizational rebuilding process are evident and it’s only a matter of time before the road to the postseason goes through our island friends to the west. Outlook: 75+ wins and a second place finish.


Salem Silver Shockers
Season six: 64-98, third place


The move down the Pacific coast to Salem has been anything but kind to the Silver Shockers, who have averaged 95 losses in the two seasons since being relocated from Tacoma under the control of Sparrow31 prior to season four. Like most of the Silver Shocker’s competition in the West, the foundation of future success in Salem is being built through the draft, and the construction is far from complete.

Left fielder Cliff Griffin slugged 33 homers and drove in 134 while hitting a modest .287 in an All-Star campaign during season six and will again be called upon to lead a meager offense. Likened to Dale Murphy in the 1980’s, Griffin is the lone star on young team that is still years away from being regularly competitive.

Some of the younger stars who drive the Silver Shockers’ hit and run offense are second baseman Jim Heathcott (.330, 16 HR, 89 RBI), first baseman Terry Evans (24 HR, 87 RBI, 39 SB) and third baseman Aramies Tapies (108 runs, .297, 33 SB).

Management is hopeful that 24-year old shortstop Neil Valentine will handle the starter’s duties with all of the aplomb he showed in his stop at AA; where he hit .348, with 24 Hrs, 167 RBI, and 157 runs scored.

The move toward respectability in Salem may have started with the signing of two veteran arms in the off season. 32-year old Glen Hillenbrand posted 26 wins in two seasons with El Paso before signing a four-year deal this off season; and Daryle Naulty joined Salem after three mediocre seasons in Washington. Neither is expected to vie for individual honors, but both are significant upgrades to a Silver Shockers rotation that has served up more taters over the past two years than a waiter at an Irish pub.

Salem will not contend in season seven, but improvement is expected. Look for 70+ wins and a third place finish.


Las Vegas Longballers
Season six: 53-109, fourth place


Long has Las Vegas been hailed "The city that never sleeps" and former league commish jrnyfn01 stepped down from his post to focus all 23 waking hours per day on rebuilding a Longballers franchise that last posted a winning record in season three. Perhaps the team’s 109 losses a year ago alerted our crooning friend that his franchise had fallen on hard times.

With no All-Stars a year ago, the Las Vegas offense will have to rely on talented but Tin Man-like outfielder Dustin Scott to set the table for some viable offensive additions. Scott has posted less than 600 at-bats in the past two seasons due to separate ACL tears. Scott has performed well when healthy and was hitting .357 with a .447 OBP before being sidelined in season six.

Bereft of high-level prospects that were major league ready Las Vegas opened the wallet this off season, dumping millions into high-priced but talented bats that should help to improve one of the league’s worst offenses from season six.

29-year old shortstop Geronimo Ordaz was the crown jewel of the free agent crop and after six seasons toiling in Boise his bat will be the brightest light on the strip. Ordaz posted 31 homers and hit .326 last season. Third baseman Carson Houston (.273, 23 HR, 28 SB with Toronto), catcher Dale Dickey (.311, 23 HR, 91 RBI with Washington), and center fielder Scott Ritz (.299, 17 HR, 114 RBI with St. Louis) are not as flashy as the Ordaz signing but are definitely upgrades at their respective positions.

While making significant upgrades to the lineup, the Las Vegas pitching staff will count their rosaries among standard issue equipment. 25 year-old southpaw Kevin Jung is the most experienced starter in the rotation, going 1-15 in 41 games (28 starts) while posting a 5.82 ERA last season. Kip Herges (3-9 in 58 games, 7.57 ERA), Josh Sosa (4-13, 40 starts, 4.28 ERA), Howie Clark (9-4, 64 games, 10 saves, 5.26 ERA), Don Chang (8-6, 66 games, 5.85 ERA) will all see significant time, and three rookies: Darrell Payton (2-11, 5.34 ERA in AAA), Gregory Palmer (3-6, 3.47 ERA in AAA), and Tony Molina (7-15, 6.81 ERA, 7 complete games in AAA) will all look to make immediate impacts.

Much improvement was made after a disappointing season six, but there is much work to be done in Las Vegas before they become the one-armed bandit stealing any AL West loot. At best the Longballers finish with 65 wins and remain in the basement.