29 March 2008

The Real Futures Team, Part V

Grading the Shortstops

Shortstop, like second base or centerfield, is a position where sometimes the best players go because they actually are shortstops and other times they just play there. Capra is blessed with some future standouts currently working between second and third base; unfortunately, for some this is just a short stop on the way to a new position.

Future Gold Glovers

Players who could develop into defensive divas of the diamond, directly.

1. Wesley Smith, Tacoma Rookie, 1st year pro, 18 years old.

The seven teams that passed on Smith in the season seven draft stiffed the man who could become the most complete ballplayer in Capra, based on his projections. The high-school prospect is already impressive, but he could quickly develop into a seven-tool player with the talent he's been given. P-A-P Scouting says he will have above-average speed, baserunning, and power to go with exceptional fielding, range, contact, and plate discipline. He has the most to grow in his fielding, but Smith is a hard-worker who exudes class through his relationship with the press. With the way he trains and takes care of his body, there is also little chance that a serious injury could hijack this young man's career. He's a can't-miss future major leaguer for sure.

2. Chuck Coleman, Jacksonville AAA, 3rd year pro, 24 years old.

Coleman is the closest of his peers to winning major-league accolades, having completed a full AAA season with 40 doubles and 41 homers. The first overall pick in season five completely skipped A ball and has shown across-the-board improvement in all major categories every year. His possible downside is that he could miss the scouts' projections if he gets hurt at age 24 and beyond.

3. Luis Ramirez, Pawtucket AA, 2nd year pro, 21 years old.

Both Ramirez and Wesley Smith are from eastern Illinois, and they both have promising careers ahead of them. Ramirez is a puzzle because he can get to anything in the field, but they have to time him on the basepaths using a sundial. He'll probably not carry as high an average as Smith, but Ramirez continues to take a patient approach to hitting and will help his team somewhere in the neighborhood of his two-year season averages of 50 doubles, 28 home runs, 140 RBI, and 100 walks.

4. Paul Feng, Boston Low A, 2nd year pro, 20 years old.

Feng brings the possibilities of a slick-fielding speedster who can do just about anything a manager would ask his star shortstop to do. Clearly he outclassed his peers in low A in season seven, when he mashed 80 extra-base hits and batted .374. Odds are that his Silver Slugger Award will have lots of brothers and sisters in his trophy case when he's through. He's a bit of a hot-head, though.

5. Hank Griffith, Dover AA, 2nd year pro, 24 years old.

Griffith is another defensive wunderkind with some speed and a bit of offensive spark, but he hit a wall somewhere at AA in season seven. His glovework hasn't progressed as much as hoped and he posted an OPS almost 200 points below his career average in that half-season. To his credit, Griffith still had 30 doubles and almost 100 RBI.

6. Omar Olivares, Cleveland AAA, 2nd year pro, 20 years old.

Like another shortstop named Omar, Olivares could make a living off his fielding. Already he has shown the range and arm to put many big leaguers to shame. He also has some offensive merit; just not against southpaws. AAA hitting coach Steven Keats has been working with Olivares almost exclusively during portions of the offseason, as he sees something in Omar's swing that can't catch up to the lefties.

Other Standouts

Position change, anyone?

Players are listed in alphabetical order by team city.

Derrek Greisinger, Albuquerque Rookie, 1st year pro, 20 years old.

Would make a good third baseman or a below-average shortstop. Probably fits somewhere in the top half of the Roadrunner lineup in season eleven.

William Cone, Atlanta AAA, 3rd year pro, 22 years old.

Range, arm, plate discipline, contact: yes. Glove, speed, power, hitting righthanders: no.

Ernest Wilkerson, El Paso Rookie, 1st year pro, 19 years old.

Ought to become a pretty good second baseman or centerfielder. He's a contact guy; no home runs last season.

Eric Courtney, Florida AA, 2nd year pro, 20 years old.

A Nomar Garciaparra-type in that he can get to anything hit to him, but will make mistakes on routine grounders sometimes. Not so effective against lefties.

Esteban Abreu, Helena High A, 2nd year pro, 20 years old.

He can rake, but probably from the hot corner instead of short. Flies.

Alfonso Cortez, Jackson Rookie, 1st year pro, 19 years old.

Could be a below-average shortstop or an outstanding third baseman in the field. Only played 20 games last year as a late signing.

Torey Aparicio, Las Vegas High A, 1st year pro, 23 years old.

Would be better suited for second or third base. Outperformed himself at low A vs. what he did in rookie.

Ernest Lamb, Salem AAA, 4th year pro, 23 years old.

I wish I still had this guy since he would be an awesome second baseman in the majors right now.

Ted Cormier, Scranton AAA, 5th year pro, 22 years old.

Not enough range for the bigs. Everything else looks major-league.

Sparky White, Syracuse Rookie, 1st year pro, 18 years old.

Projects to be one of the better third base prospects out there. Not a bad prize for the first team that didn't have an opportunity to draft Wesley Smith.

Danny Carlson, Vancouver AAA, 3rd year pro, 20 years old.

Even if he reaches all his potential, would be sub-par defensively. That doesn't mean he wouldn't be my shortstop.

Real Futures Team Summary:

Catcher Pasqual Mota, Jackson

First Baseman Carlos Pulido, Jacksonville

Second Baseman Russ Mercedes, Pawtucket

Third Baseman Javier Osuna, Jackson

Shortstop Javier Osuna, Tacoma

28 March 2008

Vancouver Maintaineers Spring Training Update

Ownership continues to build from within and tweak with trades for role players. AAA World Series MVP, Paul Hayashi, joins a staff desperate for an ace. If spring training is an indicator, he is ready for the assignment at 2-0 with a 0.87 WHIP. Paul was the sixth selection in the season four draft. Shortstop Edgar Romero moves to center field to make room for Danny Carlson, the fourth pick of the season five draft. Romero should solve the perennial problem at center field. Carlson projects to one of the best arms in the game, was also an AAA champion with Hayashi. Another rookie, Cameron Wohlers, gets a shot at the big league as a back up third baseman. Wohlers slammed fifty-two round trippers in season seven. He will be counted on for power off the bench.

Two players arrived via trade: pitcher Sean Bold and shortstop Vin Plata. Bold came over from Anaheim for minor league catcher Wiki Martin and reliever Paul Potvin. Bold has a major league 1.29 WHIP over five seasons and should provide much needed quality innings. Pitching Coach Howie Farr says Bold could be a swing man as both a starter and reliever. Plata is a slick fielding contact hitter. He should get quality at-bats against right handers and be a defensive replacement at short or center field. He has a .281 batting average from 982 ML at-bats.

Coach Witt expects to have eleven pitchers on the roster. Top candidates for the last slot are AAA starting pitcher Charlie Alexander and AAA reliever Clarence Sanders. Alexander has big league stuff, but needs to learn how to get right handed batters out on a consistent basis. Sanders posted a 2.77 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP at AAA last season while working 126+ innings. Is he the heir apparent to Al Howard as the closer?

Left fielder Stan Lee kept pace with superstar Alexander Henry at the plate. Lee holds the team’s season record for doubles (52). He improved in doubles, home runs, average, OBP and slugging while reducing strike outs to just 59. Lee was the fourth pick in season three.

First baseman Alexander Henry won the home-run hitting contest and tied the team record with 49 round trippers. He also batted .360 for the season. He is just 28, so he should be a cornerstone of this team for a while.

Rookie Willie Soto proved he belonged at third base. He holds the season record for infield hits, has excellent range and hit for average at .281. Soto was a season three international free agent.

Statistically, right fielder Garrett Stewart posted career average numbers, .294 average and a .375 OBP. However, after only 58 RBI he needs to regain the ability to make hits in the clutch.

Hootie Roberts had a career year at the plate and continued slick fielding at second base. He got the job done at lead off with a .380 OBP.

Rotation leader James Saitou was rewarded for a club leading 12-win season with a three-year $16.8 million contract. James has 219 major league appearances at the tender age of 27.

Sinker baller Jim Robertson returns after leading the rotation with a 3.88 ERA. He is penciled in for his usual 200 IP.

Hope springs eternal this time of year. Can the Maintaineers get over the hump and be a .500 ball club? The starting lineup only has one player over age 29 (catcher Rodriguez is 31). Let’s watch them grow up together.

Recent HBD Update

The March 6 update to the HBD engine features some important developments we should all be aware of. mnnorthstars mentioned one of these in the chat page: Spring Training playing time now has increased importance. Specifically, those with adequate playing time could get a friendlier boost in ratings, and big league players who don't get enough playing time can take a hit in their ratings. This latter element is the key thing here to note.

As far as what equals adequate( or as tzentmeyer called it "enough") playing time, we don't know yet. Since this update is so recent, there have yet to be any studies in the forum. Before the update, I tried to get as many players as possible 40 at bats and 15-20 innings for starting pitchers to capture the Spring ratings boost.

Perhaps when ST is over some of us can report back here with the varying results of playing time.

The other update to the engine involes rookies and big league service time. Previously, you could call up rookies roughly 12-15 games into the season and avoid them garnering enough big league service days for their first big league season, effectively giving you an extra year with those cheap youngsters. Now, it sounds like you'll want to wait around 20-25 games for the same effect. We can call this the Evan Longoria effect, since that is clearly what the Rays(no longer the Devil Rays, though) are doing with him this season.

27 March 2008

Rule 5 Draft

Capra held its 3rd annual Rule 5 draft a couple days ago. The Pawtucket Patriots kicked off the festivities by selecting 23 year-old centerfielder Peter Phillips, formerly of the Minnesota North Stars. Phillips was a 3rd round pick in the S4 draft and has been an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove winner in the minor leagues, but he'll need to learn to drive the ball a little better to stick in the big leagues.

The Cleveland Brewdogs made shortstop Del Fuentes the 2nd overall pick. Fuentes is an excellent baserunner and skilled with the leather. He could be moved around the infield very comfortably.

Overall, 35 previously unprotected players were snatched up by other teams. The North Stars lost the most players, four, and didn't themselves draft anyone. Boston lost three and didn't select any. Pawtucket drafted the most players in the draft, seven, followed by the Brewdogs, who snatched up SS Fuentes and three subsequent pitchers.

Other intriguing players selected include pick #6(Las Vegas), SP Willie Hernandez, a 22 year-old with a 40-15 career minor league record; pick #11(Jacksonville), RP Shawn Broome, a short reliever who throws in the mid to high 90s and could become an effective short reliever; pick #19(San Juan), 2B Don Torres, a 22 year-old slugger who's averaged over 53 home runs over three full minor league seasons; and the 34th pick of the draft(Pawtucket), 3B Santiago Cruz, another pure masher who won't hit for average but, with patience, could knock 40 bombs a season.

25 March 2008

Five Questions with the Season 7 Champ!

Me and Shoeless Joe . . . we be mates. Here's my responses to rls1's five questions. I've been unsuccessfully lurking around WIfS for 3 years playing Simbaseball, HBD and GD. I play progressive Simbaseball theme leagues, but enjoy the dynasty games more. I run a progressive theme "History Rewritten" that started with the 1885 season and should reach the present day season in 30 years. We'll be here if you want to join. This is my first BLOG post, so I guess I'm officially a nerd.

1) What is the story of your username and how did you get hooked up with Whatifsports?

I enjoy the nicknames used in baseball (yeah, not just a baseball thing, I know). Names like ‘The Splendid Splinter’ or ‘Bucketfoot Al’ or ‘The Old Fox’ speak to the rich tradition/hazing of baseball. Baseball is one of the few sports that place so much emphasis on tradition (well, except Judge Smails’ beloved “galf”). I always go back to Terry Mann’s (James Earl Jones) monologue in the movie, Field of Dreams. “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. . . . . But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray.” I wanted the username Ray_Kinsella – taken (as were variations). The_Voice -- also taken. Shoeless_joe -- gone, too. Maybe I should have taken Ray Liotta? A Yankee version of Shoeless Joe? Come on Hollywood! I tried Sockless_joe and launched my WIfS sojourn. I got in via MLB.com link.

2) Offer a paragraph bio of yourself, possibly including things like work, family life, geography, other hobbies, quirky traits, bad habits, etc.

I attended college in New Mexico, but grew up in Ft. Collins, Colorado. I used to listen to the Denver Bears on my Dad’s AM radio late on summer evenings in the garage/summer patio. We live in Houston and work as an engineering manager in the oil industry. We've lived in Midland, Texas (& SE New Mexico) and Los Angeles (heaven, absolute heaven) before moving to H-Town. I travel overseas quite a bit in my role as a troubleshooter – sometimes really a trouble maker. I’ve never made the family move overseas, I just do the one week to three months travel thing as the job requires. I’ve been married for 21 years and we have two daughters. One kid is off to Georgia Tech this fall and the other begins her freshman year in high school. Work sucks up 60+ hrs a week so the hobbies are down to honey-do’s, WIfS and watching baseball/ NFL (the two only true sports). Worst habit I’ve got is Macallan drams and Guinness’ pints – but I don’t really thing these are truly bad habits.

3) A sports-themed bio paragraph. Favorite team? Players? Did you play as a kid? Now? What and when? Best sports moment? Most heartbreaking moment? etc.

I’m Dodger blue, through and through, and not just because of Alyssa Milano, that’s just a nice bonus. As a kid I idolized Ron Cey (cuz he was slow like me) and Steve Yeager (because he was a catcher like me, plus I hated anyone on the Big Red Machine). Growing up I played baseball, football, basketball and tennis through Junior high – never a stand out, only serviceable. All my sports equipment was 10 – 15 years old from my Dad’s sporting good store. He brought all this stuff home when I was born, then passed away before I reached the age of two. Mom had to sell the store to pay the bills, so I had some pretty old sports stuff -- you really stand out at tennis when you're the kid from the poor side of town. In HS I ran cross-county, long distances in track and swam. I attended a small college that only had intramural sports, besides heavy drinking for the patron saint of mining. Right out of college I played a lot of softball, basketball and golf while living in "Beernoser" Country. I still play softball and golf when I’m in Egypt – just not enough time in the day to play here in Houston. Favorite sports moments include the many Wrigley Field outings with my Aunt Clara and Uncle Hank, freezing our butts off in July – they always came up with tickets so I could watch my LA Dodgers take on the Cubs.

4) What about your franchise is most exciting going into Season 8? What is your team's biggest challenge? Anything else about your squad?

I'm excited to be the returning to defend my title as the Buzz Capra WS Champ (It’s not getting old looking at the WS trophy on the Archer's homepage -- and I'm proof anyone can win this game). I have two peak-age studs in Melvin Martin and the fabled Hong-Gu Hyun, you know him as the accused HGH, that I'm expecting great things from in season 8. I lost a few key bullpen guys I hope I can replace from the farm, and this will be my greatest challenge in season 8. None of the players I drafted in seasons 1 or 2 are on my MLB/MILB team. Seventy-five percent of the international FA’s I signed in seasons 1 and 2 have retired. Only two of these twelve signed International FA’s are on my team (only one on the MLB squad – Melvin Martin). The other two I foolishly traded away.

5) What piece of strategy or advice can you offer about HBD? Yes, I'm asking for one of your secrets, but many of us will be sharing as well.

I'm no expert but I'm long on opinions:

1. Be careful with your fake baseball budget. I missed my first ever draft choice because I didn’t have the prospect budget to sign an ace for a measly $3.6 MM (and he was so distraught he never returned to HBD). It's better now with the budget transfer option, but that's 50 cents on the dollar.

2. If you are going to, or need to, rebuild then just do it. Shed everybody that's not in the future plans and hunker down.

3. When I look for coaches I consider their primary role ratings, but I also weigh their secondary variables (discipline, patience and strategy) heavily in my coaching decisions. I completely ignore loyalty. Does it matter, maybe not, but it makes me thinking it's helpful.

4. When a good international FA surfaces make sure you understand your bidding competition and the funds they may have available. I landed HGH by understanding who I was competing against and estimating how much money they had left to spend.

20 March 2008

Anaheim Anteaters S8 Preview

A few seasons ago, Anaheim(then Portland) was steeped in the possibilities of the future. The minor league system was preparing to mature many top-flight prospects: Charles Jones, Alex Beck, Patrick Spencer, Marino Flores, Julio Santos, Pat Trammell, Cristobal Cruz, Delino Julio, and Eli Lopez were either getting their first taste of the bigs or prepping for their big-league debut. And while many of them have, indeed, flourished, the franchise is suddenly met with a pressure to win now.

Anaheim's veterans are getting older and beginning to see an erosion of their skill ratings. Chiefly, Jacob Foster, Kip White, and Nerio Miller are entering their mid-30s, an age-set that HBD doesn't think very much of. Furthermore, the fact that so many of those prospects graduated at the same time will price some of them out of Anaheim's budget in another year or so. This current group of ballers, that has played in the previous two League Championship Series, may be in their final season together.

Specifically, Santos is not expected to return this season, Trammell and Cruz may be in their final season in SoCal, and Julio and Flores will likely be leaving right behind them. The club is expected to cough up the $ to keep Jones, Spencer, and Beck long-term.

So how does the club look for this season? Much like last year's team. In fact, the only expected lineup change is at the hot corner, where Julio Iglesias , who will test the free agent market, will be replaced by the Brandon Inge-ish Mathew Witt and punch and judy rookie Darrell Daniels. And Anaheim can't expect White, Leary, Cruz, and Beck to all repeat their career-best numbers from last season.

The pitching rubber will host the same starting three as the previous three seasons: Jones, Spencer, Foster. The fourth and fifth spots will be a competition between Alan Dorsey, rookie Fausto Cruz and veteran and former Portland ace Max Bennett. Of course, Nerio Miller will contnue his wild ride as the closer.

Opening Day Lineup
RF Billy Leary
2B Cristobal Cruz
1B Kip White
CF Alex Beck
3B Mathew Witt
C Eli Lopez
LF Marino Flores
SS Delino Julio

Charles Jones
Patrick Spencer
Jacob Foster
Max Bennett
Alan Dorsey/Fausto Cruz

Nerio Miller
Walt Leonard
Clay Allen
Lance Howell

S7 predicted win total: 94. Actual total: 98.

S8 prediction: 92 wins.

Helena -- The curse of Dwight Hamilton

Editorial in the Helena High Times
Howard Gristle, Editor

For the past 4 seasons the Honolulu entry in the AL West has finished in second place but was barred from the playoffs because of the mediocrity of its won-lost record. Beat writers in the Aloha state never faulted the punchless lineup because of the many pitcher-friendly features of the ballpark. However, despite good team defense and the obvious advantages of the stadium, the performances of the various iterations of the starting staff have hovered in the realm of the horrendous, and the press, and eventually the fans, were merciless in grilling these pitchers over the flames of mockery and contempt.

In a decision aimed as much to save the psyches of his pitchers as to garner tax advantages, franchise owner Saffron has moved his team to our fair city after the 7-year lease expired at Aloha Stadium. Helena fans are hoping there is some method to his madness as critics of the move have noted the logic that bad pitchers likely won't get better when moving from pitching-friendly confines to a ball park with neutral effects.

There are no newcomers to the starting five. Fonzie Clifton, one of the heroes of season one, will lead the staff. Rebounding from two grisly seasons he posted the only winning record (12-10) among the starters last year coupled with a decent 3.51 ERA . We can only hope that Derek Crawford and Hector Gomez will eventually actualize the bright promise they showed in the minors. They both come off a season registering losing records and 5 + ERA's. Derek in particular would be well-advised to begin performing as advertised if he wants to avoid being baited by the fans for the outrageous $6.7 million award he was given in arbitration. Phillip Bloomquist did no better, but he wasn't expected to, and will continue to eat innings as the number 5 starter. Antonio Martin will fill out the starting five. His performance fell off a bit from season six but his spot likely will remain safe. Former starter Mark Zhang has been demoted to AAA while he undergoes psychotherapy.

The one team strength is its bullpen. The team is blessed with 4 good to excellent relievers who are horses. With durability ratings ranging from 74 to 98 and stamina running from 37 to 50 one thought might be to limit the starters to 5 innings every game and let these guys carry a larger load. Rob Ojeda remains one of the league's elite closers (35 saves and 2.76 ERA last season) and Arthur Caufield continues to shine in the set-up role (147 IP, 9-5, 3.24 ERA). The usually dependable Raffy Guerrero expects to rebound from a tough season. He landed on the 60 day DL for the second time in his career with an elbow injury (despite his 100 health rating) and didn't regain control over his devastating sinker when he came back (5.91 ERA). The fourth member of this quartet, Chin-Feng Iwazaki (he of the Chinese first name and Japanese last name), is at yet unproven and, with a penchant for giving up the untimely long ball, must be looking over his shoulder at former number one draft pick Bobby White who is chomping at the bit in AAA to replace him as one of the four horses. Banjo Weaver and Teddy Richard will fill in set-up roles while Tommy Bonilla remains unfulfilled promise as the sole long man.

Now for the position players and offense, or at least what there is of it. We hold some hope that the bats will benefit from this move to Helena. The Howling Sukebe are built around their 5-tool CF, Hector Jacquez. Despite an off-year (.256, 16 HR, 19 SB) Saffron has just given Hector a 5 year, 37.5 million contract with hopes that at 27 he will be ready to lead the Sukebe to the promised land. RF Pat Cooper, formerly a core contributor to the offense was bewildering in his offensive ineptitude last year. His BA fell off the cliff to .218, down from .297 and .266 the prior two seasons, with only 25 HRs. The options on the contracts for both of last year's FA signings were picked up because without their contributions Honolulu might have set a record for offensive futility. Despite a .242 BA, LF Carlos Lopez paced the team with 30 HRs and 107 RBIs, while DH Andrea Wagner contributed a .289 BA with 24 HRs and was second on the team with 85 RBIs.

The infield, like the outfield, is excellent defensively, but with even more anemic offense. Rookie Dennys Shinjo was a bright light at SS last season with his great glove and even hit .284 but with no punch. Former SS Kevin Hernandez was moved to 3B to accomodate Shinjo and even hit 14 HRs in 380 ABs but must vastly improve on his .239 BA and .286 OBP to keep his job. Wes Stevens, brought up mid-season to replace the faltering Sam Giley at 2B...same story: good glove, mediocre bat. There may be some hope for the offense at 1B. His confidence boosted by a mention in one of "The Real Futures Team" articles, Bruce Piatt will finally be making his appearance on the major league stage replacing Esteban Rojas who was released after having the nerve to ask for more than the ML minimum in arbitration. Finally, the catching duties will be shared by the capable, if not intimidating duo of former Rule 5 pick-up Tito Robinson (.298 but only fair punch) and Chris Nelson (.322 with 13 HRs in AAA). Nelson, who is replacing FA Parker Cooke, has a weak arm but reputed to handle pitchers well. Let's hope. At any rate, they are merely keeping the position warm for highly touted Jeff Jones who's being given another year to hone his skills before being handed the job.

Not a pretty picture is it? One might be forgiven for wondering how this team finished as high as second for the last 4 seasons. I suppose, the bullpen and defense -- but that's not enough to give hope to the fans of any possibility of tightening the gap between the Sukebe and perrenial AL West bully Roadrunners. In my interview with team owner Saffron to prepare for this article, he explained the current team was built for its former stadium: defense, pitching and speed. He admitted the starting pitching pitching turned out to be a mirage and asked me to convey to the fans his request for patience while the team is retooled. He also stated he was loathe to trade off his younger players for mediocre veterans -- in his eyes, to mortgage the future for a short-term fix.

What do I foresee for the season. I do expect the offense to benefit across the board from the change in venue. But unless Gomez and Crawford turn it around, the team will be hard pressed to hold off the Silver Shockers and Longballers. The novelty of major league baseball in Helena undoubtedly will give the team a honeymoon period, but Saffron might be looking at U-Haul rates in three years if things don't improve.

Oh yes, I failed to explain the title to this piece. In doing research for this article I went back to look at the team's initial amateur draft to write something along the lines of "Where Are They Now?" I was shocked to find that none of the team's top five picks in that draft were still in organized baseball (though two are fruitlessly looking for work as free agents) despite Honolulu having the advantage of the number two pick that season. When I asked Saffron about it during our interview, he pointed out that it was before the days teams could pre-rank amateur prospects so clunkers were possible in high rounds but admitted the odds were miniscule that not one of them was still playing ball. He then told me about their first pick that year, a pitcher named Dwight Hamilton. He recalled thinking the team had a can't miss phenom, projected ratings of "90's across the board", a can't miss candidate for Cooperstown who would anchor the staff for a decade or two. And then he saw the dreaded words "May sign if the deal is right". Even then team management was confident. They came into the season armed with a $14mm prospect budget and had only spent $600m to date on a forgettable Int'l FA. They decided to sign only a handful of the lower picks because they wanted to keep their powder dry for the main event -- Dwight Hamilton -- in case his demands were exorbidant. Keeping a little over $12 mm in their pockets, they waited, and waited for what seemed like months. Keep in mind this was also the days before you could transfer budgets. Finally his agent came back with what he said was only a modest increase in bonus demands -- from $3.9 mm to $13.2 mm. $13.2 MILLION????? Management went into panic mode. They added the maximum ML contract allowable but that still but that still only got them to about $13.1 mm. Frantically they tried to trade salary for the rump of the season, but to no success. Calls to the agent, Hamilton and even his parents were met with complete inflexibility. And then, the season ended, and with it any chance to sign him. To this day, whenever anyone in the front office bemoans the state of the franchise, someone will invariably answer: "The curse of Dwight Hamilton".

Budgetary Concerns

bowlum's teams(formerly Idaho, now Colorado) continue to reward handsomely their players. For the third time they have the highest allotment for player payroll, this season at 114. In fact bowlum has been in the top 5 player payroll amounts for 5 seasons running and has never budgeted less than 90M for players. In 8 seasons, bowlum has budgeted 839M on player salaries, or 57% of his entire franchise budget.

On the flipside, beernoser and chazzzzzz continue their competition as the rightful heir to Billy Beane. Both franchises(Montgoomery and Albuquerque, respectively) have established consistent records of excellence at all all levels while maintaining very low player payroll at the big league level. Beernoser's Constitutions have not run a player salary of more than 50M since season 4, and that was only 65M, all the while averaging 90 wins per season and completing an October engagement. chazzzzzz's Roadrunners have not gone beyond 68M since Season 3, a stretch that includes 3 World Series trips. Altogether, beernoser has spent 540M on player salaries, or 36% of his $. chazzzzzz has run up only 536M(also 36%) on player paychecks.

Looking at the larger $ trends in Capra, in season 1 the lowest player payroll was Saffron's 75M, and no one went below 65M in those first three seasons. Since then, the # of teams at 65M or below are as follows:
S4-4 teams
S5-6 teams
S6-6 teams
S7-9 teams
S8-11 teams.

Inversely, the number of teams at 90M or above have continued to dwindle:

19 March 2008

5 Questions with Saffron

Saffron is one of the most respected and thoughtful owners in WIS baseball. He has started multiple progressive leagues, including his pioneering of the Split Progressive League. He has played over 240 seasons of Simleague baseball, but recently transferred his interests to HBD where he now runs 10 simultaneous teams and makes the playoffs in roughly 60% of those seasons. (Photo inset is the Saffron flower.)

1) What is the story of your username and how did you get hooked up with Whatifsports?
"Saffron" was pure serendipity -- the first word which came to mind when my eyes strayed to a photo of Indian food in a magazine next to the computer. I thought that it was merely a means of accessing the site, not a moniker which would stay with me; but I've grown attached to it. I came to WIS through a link on mlb.com.

2) Offer a paragraph bio of yourself, possibly including things like work, family life, geography, other hobbies, quirky traits, bad habits, etc.
With my wife and two sons I live in the historic village of Concord, Mass., settling here after spending most of our lives in Asia. I write, mostly bad poetry and ignored short stories, and at 56 am also one of the crusty codgers of Capra. My list of bad habits would be too long to list here and at any rate would likely be censored by rls1 for the sake of the young'uns.

3) A sports-themed bio paragraph. Favorite team? Players? Did you play as a kid? Now? What and when? Best sports moment? Most heartbreaking moment? etc.
Despite never having lived close to Ohio I'm a passionate fan of the Cleveland Indians, and have been since the 1962 season. My first memory of the team is of Jerry Kindall hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Yankees and thinking: "This is my team". Little did I know the team I attached myself to wouldn't sniff contention for decades.

4) What about your franchise is most exciting going into Season 8? What is your team's biggest challenge? Anything else about your squad?
My first HBD franchise shift has landed us in Montana and I'm hoping we can give the fans here more to cheer about than we did in Honolulu. This franchise has confounded me more than any other I have.

5)What piece of strategy or advice can you offer about HBD? Yes, I'm asking for one of your secrets, but many of us will be sharing as well.
To me the core beauty of the game is its complexity combined with our inability to reduce success to a simple set of formulae. That said, as in rl, I prize defense above all else, then pitching. The fixation on home runs seems so Republican to me in its reflection of sexual inadequacy...but then again the Archers did win the last WS so who am I to talk ;-). As far as "secrets" or how I approach the game I'll leave that to boring "thought pieces" I'll drop into our blog.

Walt Cashman: An Appreciation

In a game filled with offensive studs, few hitters have risen to the consistent level of excellence as Toronto's Walt Cashman. Cashman has played over 150 games in left or centerfield for the Beavers since Capra's onset. During that time, Cashman has accumulated the following numbers(along with all-time placement),

Career Batting Average: .352. 1st overall.
Runs Scored:1,033. 1st overall.
Hits: 1,565. 1st overall.
Doubles: 355. 1st overall.
Triples: 86. 1st overall.
Runs Created: 1249.70. 1st overall.
RBIs: 1,017. 2nd overall.
Slugging %: .650. 2nd overall.
Runs Created/27: 10.90. 2nd overall.
At-bats: 4,441. 2nd overall.
OPS: 1.076. 3rd overall.
Intentional Walks: 115. 3rd overall.
On-base %: .426. 4th overall(tied).

Furthermore, Mr. Cashman also holds the following Single Season Records

Doubles: 59
Hits: 248
Runs Created: 216.04

All of this has led Walt to winning 4 MVPs, being an All-Star selection 6 times, and a Silver Slugger 5 times. Walt Cashman, I believe I speak for all of us when I say, break an anklethis Spring.

17 March 2008

Albuquerque Roadrunners Season 7/8 Off-Season Report

When MLB teams talk about creating a player development machine, they often refer to the likes of the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, or Los Angeles Angels (of Orange County). In Capra, one of the teams in that sentence would be the Albuquerque Roadrunners. In 7 seasons of play, Albuquerque has won the division 5 times, and made numerous playoff appearances at every minor league stop. That didn’t change in season 7, as the Birds took 5 of the 6 possible division crowns, capping it off with a trip to the World Series by the parent club, despite a disappointing 86-76 regular season mark.

Since the starting nine routinely pace the league in batting, thanks in no small park to the expansive, and dead, air of their home park, the Roadrunners must make an annual look at improving and revamping a pitching staff that curses that same air that gives the offense life. Charles Jang and Max Bennett, notable trade acquisitions, have paced the staff since their arrival, but now both are at or near the end of their contract, so the franchise must begin looking to youngsters such as Harry Solano to step in and contribute. Rookie Bud Simpson established an example for them all to follow, posting a 1.35 WHIP and 4.67 ERA, both second only to Jang amongst the staff. A repeat performance may be necessary as Jang ages and the rest of the staff struggles.

The aforementioned starting nine have established themselves as a model for building a contender on the cheap, as the nucleus of this team has evolved, melding youth and experience without missing a beat. To drive home this point, the team sports one of, if not the only entirely home-grown starting lineup in the majors. If not for the phenom that is Diego Santana, Albequerque might’ve sported their third rookie of the year in four years, as, most notably, Jorel McGlinchy won the Gold Glove in CF while hitting 25 HR, and Pablo Vincente anchored the lineup with 44 HR and 145 RBI, along with a .900+ slugging pct in the AL playoffs to lead the team to its WS appearance. However, off seasons from Hal Randall and Jeromy Wagner, usually among the leaders in both batting average and on-base percentage, left the team shorter in the wins column than they’d anticipated. Their return to form coupled with repeat performances from the rest of the lineup should mean another year at the top of the league for the Birds.
Despite the World Series loss, the Roadrunners’ future continues to look bright with outstanding depth and impact amongst their farm system. Prudent draft investments and international signings continue to maintain a franchise that consistently posts winning seasons with a small-market payroll.

5 Questions with jrnyfan01

1) What is the story of your username and how did you get hooked up with Whatifsports? I am a huge fan of Journey - the band. I guess I was hoping to give them some love by getting them to the top of the standings. They are not so well respected in music circles... oh well. I never have been one to follow the popular choice.
I was playing Diamond Legends when an owner posted the whatifsports website. At $10 per team instead of $50, I thought I could experiment more, and then take my knowledge back to Diamond Legends for bigger prizes. Of course, I never went back.

2) Offer a paragraph bio of yourself, possibly including things like work, family life, geography, other hobbies, quirky traits, bad habits, etc. I am a research associate at Marcus & Millichap, the second largest commercial real estate firm in the country. It is kinda boring. I am studying for my doctorate in education. Expected graduation date is Winter 2009.

3) A sports-themed bio paragraph. Favorite team? Players? Did you play as a kid? Now? What and when? Best sports moment? Most heartbreaking moment? etc. I loved baseball, but when I got to Junior High School, was disappointed that there were so hot chicks (errr so few fans) in the stands to watch me play. Living in Akron Ohio, wrestling was the place to be so I switched over. I finished 3rd in the city my freshman year, moved to Arizona, and placed 3rd in state my Junior year of high school.
I coached little league while I was in college. 13&14 year olds. Gameday was great, but the parents drove me out of it. "Why doesn't my kid get to play more?" Parents just don't want to hear that their kid stinks.

4) What about your franchise is most exciting going into Season 8? What is your team's biggest challenge? Anything else about your squad? I have a tough time developing talent, and my free agent signings never work out. I have not made the playoffs yet, and we are still probably a few seasons away.

5)What piece of strategy or advice can you offer about HBD? Yes, I'm asking for one of your secrets, but many of us will be sharing as well.
The best HBD strategy is to get a lot of talent in season one. Without it, you are dead in the water.

6)What are your proudest WIS moments?
3 years ago, I helped organize a gathering of WIS players, as we visited New York to see the Mets, Yankees, and Cooperstown. We have a core group of 4 guys (eagle61, evil_twin, and chazzz) that have been to San Diego, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, New York (Mets and Yankees) together over the last few years. This years trip will take us to Omaha for the CWS, Denver, and St. Louis. I feel very fortunate to have made these type of friends that will fly all over the country to watch games with me.
I also am very proud of my current progressive SIM league with 50 man rosters. It is by invitation only, and you pay for many seasons in advance, so we have been able to keep it out of the classifieds. The upcoming season will be our 3rd, and I am very proud that it has been so successful while so many others have failed.

15 March 2008

5 Questions with bballc

bballc joined Capra for S6 and took a team that had played .198 in S5 to two straight better-than-.500 seasons. The Jacksonville Juggernauts just won 84 games and are a franchise on the upswing under his management. Elsewhere, in the OCD World, bballc's Richmond Rockets have won 4 of the first 7 World Series titles(eat your heart out Woodchippers)!

1) What is the story of your username and how did you get hooked up with Whatifsports?
bballc started off being a sign on for my son. He was a basketball player. I couldn't talk him into trying WIS so I kept the sign-on for myself. I heard about WIS on a local radio station. Homer 1360, now Homer 1530 from Lance McCalister.

2) Offer a paragraph bio of yourself, possibly including things like work, family life, geography, other hobbies, quirky traits, bad habits, etc.
I'm an old guy. I'm 50. I love sports. I have enjoyed watching my kids play sports. My youngest (bballc) recently got a scholarship to play college football. I live in Cincinnati, Ohio and I'm a huge Bengals fan. I've been playing WIS for around 3 years. I've had hoops teams, Grid Iron teams and HBD teams. I've had the most success with HBD.

3) A sports-themed bio paragraph. Favorite team? Players? Did you play as a kid? Now? What and when? Best sports moment? Most heartbreaking moment? etc.
Like I said before, I'm a huge Bengals fan. Being a Bengals fan thru the 90s and early 2000s was tough. I used to be a huge Reds fan too. I've kind of soured on them lately. As a kid I played baseball. I used to love baseball more then any other sport. Opening Day used to be my favorite day of the year. In High School I ran track, swam, and briefly wrestled. I also played intermural basketball. After I high school I was a softball junkie. I used to play 3 nights a week with tournaments and a co-ed league on the weekends. I've coached girls youth soccer and girls youth softball. I've also coached boys youth basketball, baseball and soccer. I've traveled all over watching boys AAU basketball. My son's team played in 4 or 5 national tournaments. My most heart breaking moment was when I had to quit playing softball due to injuries. I've had so many great sports moments in my life. I've watched, coached and played a lot of sports. It's all been a joy.

4) What about your franchise is most exciting going into Season 8? What is your team's biggest challenge? Anything else about your squad?
I enjoy a challenge. That is why I took this team after a 32 win season. My 1st season my team went 81-81. I upped my win total to 84 last season. I think with a little more pitching and a little luck I might crack the 90 win barrier next season.My other franchise has been to 5 world series, and won 4 in 7 seasons.

5)What piece of strategy or advice can you offer about HBD? Yes, I'm asking for one of your secrets, but many of us will be sharing as well.
Putting together teams and recognizing talent.

14 March 2008

5 Questions with crickett13

crickett13 is a legend on the WIS progressive circuit, having played over 265 Sim baseball seasons and serving long-term in many of WIS' longest running and most-respected leagues. He was kind enough to respond in detail for the benefit of the league.

1) What is the story of your username and how did you get hooked up with Whatifsports?
Crickett13 comes from a combination of an old girlfriends nickname and my number when I played softball. Why 13? I'm dating myself with this but some of you may remember the hero's of the NFL books of the late 60's and early 70's. One featured Don Maynard and even though I hated the Jets (I'm a Colts fan) I really liked Maynard. he said that he wasn't superstitious and wore #13 to prove a point. You didn't need luck to be good you just needed to play harder. As far as the old girlfriend truth be told I don't even really remember what she looks like at this point but just like jrny who asked me this a couple of years ago at a game in Baltimore you are all sworn to secrecy.

2) Offer a paragraph bio of yourself, possibly including things like work, family life, geography, other hobbies, quirky traits, bad habits, etc.
I'm 48 and I married for the second time 13 years ago on, of course, the 13th of May. I have 1 son from a previous marriage who is now 27 and a boy who turns 6 later this month and a daughter who turns 10 in may. I always enjoyed married life I just hated my first wife. I run an optical Lab in Rochester NY and am a third generation Optician. I love to cook and actually attended culinary school but decided that restaurant work was not conducive to a good family life so I left the field. It is now more of passion than a hobby and a lot of fun since I, like a lot of cooks, can be a bit egotistical. We live for when someone tells us something we created is great. I have written poetry and been a drunk, lived in Florida, Texas, Pa 3 times and NY twice and my wife and children are my anchors. I don't mind talking about my alcohol problems from when I was younger because it reminds me that I never want to live that nightmare again. Interesting fact I was in rehab with the actor John Spencer. My main bad habit now is I tend to be the kind of person who verbally pokes people to get a reaction. I like to spar but I really don't take it too seriously and always hope the people on WIS realize that ;()

3)A sports-themed bio paragraph. Favorite team? Players? Did you play as a kid? Now? What and when? Best sports moment? Most heartbreaking moment? etc.
Favorite teams are the Colts and The Phillies. I like football but love baseball. I love the history behind the game and the fact that baseball honors its past heroes. It was a love affair that really started in 1968 when I was 8 years old and what an amazing year to discover baseball. McLain and his 31 wins, Gibson and his remarkable 1.12 ERA and a classic world series. I only played sandlot ball when I was a kid but we played just about every day that the weather allowed. Best sports moment was the Phillies winning the 1980 NLCS against the Astros. 4 extra inning games made it an emotional roller coaster. Most heartbreaking was when Carlton was released by a tearful Bill Giles and when Richie Ashburn died. The Joe Carter homerun was disappointing but they got to the series when they were not even supposed to contend so it really was a great season anyway.

4)What about your franchise is most exciting going into Season 8? What is your team's biggest challenge? Anything else about your squad?
My teams biggest challenge is to compete in the AL North. I mean really we won 90 and tied for second! My team has some guys getting older so my other challenge is to try and keep my minors stocked with talent. I'm excited about season 9 because I have some great young pitching and with a good lineup with Wilson, Stanley, Valintin, Barfield and Tatum.

5)What piece of strategy or advice can you offer about HBD? Yes, I'm asking for one of your secrets, but many of us will be sharing as well.
15 seasons and 4 playoffs don't really put me in a position to be giving out advice. I can say I pay a lot of attention to defensive ratings and prefer good pitching to good hitting (1968 did that to me) On hitters I like good batting eye as well as R/L ratings and with pitching I have my own ranking system that looks at control R/L splits G/F and individual pitches which assigns a point value from 0-6 for each of those.

13 March 2008

Notes on Season 7: American League

The defending World Series Champs pace the AL all season with 109 wins, their best to date, but get trumped in the post-season by the Roadrunners, who go on to the third World Series appointment. . . All 4 division winners(Montreal, Albuquerque, Jackson, and San Juan) repeat their division crowns from S6. . . Abuquerque has now won the division 5 straight seasons and has been to the Series in three of those, but remains a bridesmaid, so to speak. . . Since S3, Honolulu's minor league teams have made the playoffs in 18 of 25 tries. Meanwhile, the big league team hasn't been invited since S1. . . Jackson's Low A team has now won the World Series 4 straight seasons and running. . . Las Vegas fans are losing patience as the Longballers have now dropped 302 games over the last 3 seasons.

Diego Santana. Diego Santana. Diego Santana. . . Elsewhere, Dennys Yamakazi keeps getting better as he gets older and wins CY #3. . . 36 year-old reliever Terry Blauser was on the trading block before the season, but ended up staying put in Ottawa and winning Fireman of the Year while having his best season to date. . . Counting minor league play, Oswaldo Cabrera has now won Gold Gloves at 3 different positions. . . Mikey Tatum is now 285/299 in Stolen Bases in his career.

Minor Leaguers coming soon.

The Iron of Fake Baseball

MINNEAPOLIS - Recently, catcher Jose Almonte was acknowledged for his long streak of consecutive games played, which has lasted the entire existence of the league.

"Es un gran honor ser mencionado en las mismas frases con los héroes de béisbol como Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, y Cal Ripken, Hijo. En algunos lugares, me comparan con mi compadre y mi amigo, Miguel (Tejada). Sólo intento jugar y divertirme cada día y si jugar cada día sea impresivo para los aficionados, pues, gracias," Almonte said at a recent offseason meet-and-greet with fans. "Doy gracias a mi Dios por darme tanta buena salud y al gerente por poner su fé en mi cada día durante las siete estaciones. Sólo espero un aumento de pagamiento para pagar mi cirugia en ambas rodillas durante mis años 40," he said, laughing.

Here's some more info about Almonte. His 1,134-game streak would theoretically put him in sixth place all-time compared with the real Major Leaguers. If he made it through season 8, he would pass Miguel Tejada's streak, which we all witnessed, and Steve Garvey's run in the '70s and '80s.

During Almonte's streak, it was easy to put him in the lineup the first four seasons because his durability was 100 or better. Around this time the website fixed the ratings so they never go over 100, and Almonte also got double-whammied by his age bringing down his resiliency. In season six, he dropped below 100% for the first time, and in season seven José ended the season at 96%. Almonte also walked 100 or more times each year during the streak, and his career .407 on-base percentage bears witness to why he deserves to stay in the lineup.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the streak is that he did not start two of the games in season five, coming in off the bench instead. Almonte also has played two games as the DH. Although the manager tried to work in his backup, Jeffrey Brow, in the later innings more often in season seven, Almonte played the most innings behind the plate at age 34. Brow himself has played in 130 or more games each of the last three seasons and is the first pinch hitter off the bench.

The Real Futures Team, Part IV

Third Basemen

"The Hot Corner" is a hot issue for the future of Capra. In the infield, the secondary offensive threat traditionally comes from third base, and these young men deliver in that category. We also have a speedy tablesetter, a couple of guys who could play shortstop as well as third, and a collective ability to get on base and then get home from there.

1. Javier Osuna, Jackson High A, 4th year pro, 21 years old.

Osuna's a beast, plain and simple. His one drawback might be his slow advancement through the minors in Jackson, where he repeated high A this year. If he played this season in the majors, odds are that his numbers would have been somewhat close to what he put up in high A. He does everything, witnessed by his .366 career average and career-long streaks of 36 doubles, 21 home runs, and 110 RBI. Osuna had 92 extra-base hits and 95 singles in season seven. If he gets hurt, this could all go south in a hurry.

2. Moises Guzman, Jacksonville AAA, 3rd year pro, 20 year old.

Guzman could be a force in the bigs soon. He can work a count sometimes, hits for average, and has good power. Guzman hit 86 doubles and 76 home runs in the last two seasons. To be picky, his contact and baserunning are headliners on the short list of things that aren't quite major league-ready.

3. Kiki Castro, Albuquerque AAA, 4th year pro, 25 years old.

The good news is that Castro has gotten pretty close to his projected ratings, which makes him pretty good. Castro had an off year in season seven when he was about 100 points below his career average, but he still had almost a hundred RBI and scored 117 runs. He stole 49 bases, too. Meanwhile, his arm strength, power, and batting eye are average.

4. Dick Jenkins, Honolulu AA, 3rd year pro, 20 years old.

Somehow a guy with a lot of talent slipped to the 42nd pick in season five's draft. Jenkins is a patient hitter who gets his way pretty often in the batter's box, and he can help his club everywhere else on the diamond. He collected over 100 RBI and scored better than 100 times each of the last two years, and doubled 80 times over that time period.

5. Babe High, Minnesota AA, 2nd year pro, 19 years old.

The High is a 'tweener, not quite good enough to be a shortstop but too good for third base. He won't be a 600-at-bat type of guy, but he's pretty good at everything else when he's in the game. Hitting, defense, and baserunning are pluses for him, and he walks about as much as he strikes out. His end-of-season run with AA was forgettable.

6. Brian Winston, Vancouver AA, 2nd year pro, 19 years old.

Winston's upside is pretty up, since he shows potential in hitting for average and power. His downside is his defense and the fact that he probably will not grow to be an everyday guy with his durability.

7. Ivan Bennett, Las Vegas AAA, 4th year pro, 21 years old.

Bennett has shown that he can hit doubles, triples, and a few home runs during his career. In season six, Bennett picked up more than 200 hits, smacked 42 doubles, and hit .350. His batting eye and muscle on the ball could use work before he gets to the bigs.

8. Jorge Gomez, Montgomery Low A, 1st year pro, 19 years old.

Gomez brings a strong package to Montgomery's future, and he should hold his own in the field. He will miss a few fastballs down the pipe and he's not the best on the bases, but he was quite good in his 99 at-bats at low A, hitting over .300 and on pace for about 30 home runs.

12 March 2008

Notes on Season 7: National League

Fargo has its best season to date with 115 wins, but doesn't make it to the NLCS for the second straight time. . . Instead, Anaheim and St. Louis duke it out again for the NL flag. . . The Archers are the third NL team to win the World Series(Fargo 3x and Toronto once). . . Under new ownership, Tacoma passes the .500 mark for the first time. . . On the flip side, the Beavers finish under .500 for the first time. . . Atlanta has won the NL East for 6 straight seasons. . . Little Rock had their string of four straight division titles snapped by El Paso. . .

Brett Tracy misses 1/4 of the season with a sore shoulder, but still manages to win his 7th straight Cy Young by going 18-5 in 201 innings. . . Kip White sets a Capra record with a .513 OBP and wins his first MVP. . . In 3 seasons Atlanta's Greg Shields is 108/116 in save opportunities. . . Cathcer Jerry West was signed as a cheap, backup for Little Rock and ends up hitting .300 and winning the Gold Glove. . . Melvin Martin wins the stolen base title and has now swiped 164 bags while only getting caught 15 times for a crazy succes rate of 92%. . . Dover's Gene Blair leads the league in complete games in his rookie season with 4. . . Jose "Iron Man" Almonte, Minnesota's all-star catcher, has yet to miss a game behind the plate in 7 seasons. 1134 and counting. . .

In his first season at AAA, 2B Denny Cooper wins every possible award(MVP, Silver Slugger, Rookie of the Year, Newcomer Award), which he also did last season at AA. Christian Grim is 2 for 2 in Cy Young awards as he continues his march to become Brett Tracy's successor. . . Hugh Palmer is a finalist in Cy Yooung voting at both the Low A and High A levels. . . There were no 5-star international signings in the NL. These two guys might have the most promising future: Vic Alicea and David Amaro. . .

08 March 2008

The Real Futures Team , Part III

Second Basemen

Second base is one of the depositories of the most talented players in the minor leagues. Many of them are on different career paths; even if they are headed for the major leagues, they might turn into shortstops, center fielders, left fielders, or, amazingly, second basemen. These two facts make them hard to rank, so this is more of a roll call than a ranking. The players are split into two groups. The first group is made up of the youngsters who project to defensive and offensive excellence, while the second group is everybody else. The basic idea is that all of these guys fit the category of can't miss prospects, but they will fill different roles in their organizations down the road.

Future Gold Glovers

Edgar Berroa, Atlanta AA, 2nd year pro, 19 years old.

Berroa is a five-tool player who caught a cup of coffee in AA and hit 42 doubles in season 7. He can steal bases and should be competent in the field no matter what level he plays. .290/.380/.480 is somewhere in his future.

Phil Eckstein, Albuquerque Low A, 2nd year pro, 21 years old.

Eckstein has a bright future defensively, but the now of this Bald Knob native is that he can rake. He hit .406 in his rookie and low A campaigns combined with 70 total doubles and 70 stolen bases. Eckstein only missed 4 games in season 7.

Fred Redding, Honolulu Low A, 1st year pro, 18 years old.

Redding, if he develops like the scouts project, will be one of the slickest fielders ever. His offense does not keep up with his fielding, but he still posted a .904 OPS.

Russ Mercedes, Pawtucket AA, 3rd year pro, 22 years old.

Mercedes is talented, bringing speed, range, fielding, hitting for average, and power to the Patriots. He has hit over .360 the last three seasons with 60-plus doubles each of the last two years. He has just 28 errors in 256 career games.

Quilvio Perez, Little Rock High A, 3rd year pro, 20 years old.

Perez has the defensive potential to play anywhere but catcher and brings speed and baserunning ability to his talented total package. He stole 27 bases, hit .314, and picked up a .397 OBP while improving in the field.

Four- and Five-Tool Players

sorted by level

Les Livingstone, Boise Rookie, 1st year pro, 20 years old.

Sub-par major league range but everything else looks promising.

Alexander Taylor, Boston Rookie, 1st year pro, 18 years old.

18th overall pick could become a force at any level, but his defense won't wow anybody.

Samuel Stevens, Washington, D.C. Rookie, 1st year pro, 18 years old.

His range and power probably won't get him noticed in his mid-to-late 20s.

Philip Messmer, San Juan Low A, 1st year pro, 21 years old.

Messmer will be able to get to anything in the field. Honed his skills at West Point...Mississippi.

Rudy Hayes, St. Louis Low A, 2nd year pro, 19 years old.

Hayes had 54 home runs and almost 200 RBI this year, but his glovework isn't quite as wondrous.

Brad Smith, Minnesota Low A, 1st year pro, 18 years old.

Won't make the big club as a second baseman but they'll have to put him somewhere with his more-than-capable bat.

Jerry Burns, Las Vegas AA, 4th year pro, 21 years old.

His glove and arm could earn him a shot at third or short; Burns is an all-around good player.

Max Hernandez, Jackson AAA, 6th year pro, 23 years old.

Hernandez probably could have been successful in the majors this year, and he should be even better next year.

William Alexander, Montgomery AAA, 4th year pro, 25 years old.

Designed to kill left-handed pitching and be pretty good at everything else.

Denny Cooper, Syracuse AAA, 4th year pro, 25 years old.

Rare find who collected over 100 extra-base hits in AAA. Cooper is almost as scary on the basepaths but not quite ideal as a defender since he's lightning-quick but doesn't have a glut of range.

04 March 2008

The Real Futures Team, Part II

First basemen

The common assumption is that first base is where the lumbering hulks with the big bats go so they don't make fools of themselves defensively. That's true for some of these guys, but others of them can seriously pick it and could play somewhere else next season or further down the road. As far as excellence at the plate, these guys have it covered. Our boys have hit .401, hit 74 home runs, and driven in more than 200 RBI in individual seasons during their short careers with even more to come.

1. Carlos Pulido, Jacksonville AAA, 4th year pro, 21 years old.

Pulido is a masher in the purest form, cracking 32, then 59, then 62 home runs as he moved up a level each season. He seems to be getting better as his competition improves and his RBI totals have been sick. Expect a .320/.390/.650 line when he goes pro with 50+ homers on his good years.

2. Tex Jordan, Boston High A, 2nd year pro, 22 years old.

Jordan is a home run machine like some of his counterparts, but he also hits for average and gets on base at a pretty good clip. At the A levels in season 7, he picked up 219 RBI with 74 HR and still hit .329. Also important was that he played in every game and nearly had 200 hits and 50 doubles. He's relatively fast but not the ideal baserunner.

3. Tony Mendoza, Atlanta AA, 2nd year pro, 19 years old.

Mendoza got a cup of coffee at AA this year where his numbers were pretty good, but he plied his trade at high A almost the whole season. Still a kid, he hit 35 doubles and 22 home runs in season 7. His true talent will be in making contact and getting on base, and he can be one of the best in the business doing those two things.

4. Bruce Piatt, Honolulu AAA, 5th year pro, 24 years old.

Piatt made AAA in his second season and has stuck there since, collecting at least 170 hits each season with either 40 doubles or 30 home runs (or both). He's good for 100 RBI and 100 runs and probably will hit .300 given his track record. He is an obvious commodity because he has been traded twice since Montgomery made him a third-round pick.

5. Morgan Simpson, El Paso Rookie, 1st year pro, 18 years old.

Simpson's range and arm could improve enough to play right field, but among first basemen he still looks really good. His speed and baserunning stand to improve quite a bit as he gets older, along with everything else. Consider that he already stole 23 bases in a rookie season and his OBP was 143 points above his average and you can figure out where his career could be headed.

6. Michael Richard, Little Rock High A, 4th year pro, 21 years old.

Although not fast, Richard is quickly becoming a better baserunner. Richard was brought along slowly, spending full two seasons in rookie, but he collected 200 hits in season 6, and he almost hit 100 doubles in his last two seasons. He may have some news stories on him when he turns pro because of his sound-alike name.