The Anteaters are fresh off of their best regular season to date. However, 103 wins in S11 didn't translate to anything more than an early round playoff sweep at the hands of their long-stewing rival, the St. Louis Archers. In fact, that marked the 4th straight playoff loss that St. Louiee has bestowed upon Anaheim in the post-season. So the question is no longer can the 'Eaters fly another division flag(having won 7 in 11 seasons), but rather can they find the legs to stick around in the playoffs.
Al Perez, CF
Bingo Gonzalez, LF
Ismael Maduro, 1B
Ariel Rosario, 3B
Trenidad Rios, RF
Julio Uribe, 2B
Eli Lopez, C
Delino Julio, SS
Everyone in the lineup is returning and 29 or younger. Last season, only Gonzalez and Uribe did not get to 30 homeruns; they took the tour 23 and 21 times respectively after being recalled after the first month of the season. CF Al Perez looks a lot like Carlos Beltran after averaging 31 HRs, 32 SBs, and .308 at the dish over his first 2 campaigns. Trenidad Rios is shifting from 3B to RF this year, but otherwise he should be a lock for another 30+ dingers and 90 ribbies. Rios' shift is designed to make room for Ariel Rosario, who was acquired in a mid-season trade last season. After going West, Rosario carried the team on his back during the second half by knocking 24 out of the park in only 65 games and ended the year with 46 bombs total. His greater range at 3B should help an infield defense that was already very good. Julio and Lopez will again provide 30+ homeruns at SS and C, but will also put a huge dent in the team's batting average.
The energy in Anaheim this spring, though, centers on 21-year old 1B Ismael Maduro. Maduro became the successor to potential Hall of Famer Kip White last season and won the NL ROY with a 307/385/559 line in 130 games. For a rookie, Maduro did an admirable job in controlling the strike zone with a 67/76 BB/K ratio. Given another 16 or so seasons, Maduro will not only challenge White's career record of 1,262 free passes, Maduro may approach many of the offensive marks in Capra.
While the offense in Anaheim looks unusually strong, the pitching, one of the staples of this team's success over the last 8 seasons, suddenly appears a bit less steady. Gone are the quality start horses that have long anchored the team, Patrick Spencer and Charles Jones. Spencer was dealt for Rosario last season and Jones skipped out on his option year so that he could test the free agent market(in spite of the fact that we drafted and developed him and, subsequently, met all of his demands). Now is the time for their understudies to take center stage: Almonte won the Cy Young last season with a 19-6 record. Palmer came into his own with 14 wins and a 3.37 era. Free agent-veteran Don Chang resurrected his career in the pitcher friendly Big A with 175 IP and 14 victories, also. And nobody's yet sure what kind of juice swingman Fausto Cruz has been on the past two seasons, but he's claimed 23 Ws with an era under 4.
In the pen, Nerio Miller will continue to do his best Mariano Rivera imitation. Miller has averaged 47 saves and an era in the mid-ones over the past three seasons, in addition to winning almost every award available. But he'll be 36 this season. And we know how HBD feels about anyone over 35. The rest of the pen is a mystery. Setup man Yamid Espinosa: gone. Lefty specialist Danny Mota: gone. Junky mopup man Al Gordon: gone. AAA quality Paul Potvin will continue to grab a few innings in blowouts, but otherwise this team better find some 7th/8th inning arms to get them to Miller.
Prediction: This team will continue to frustrate me.