23 April 2011

Seattle Picards S20 Preview

The Picards stumbled out of the gate in S19, not even making it to .500 until the all-star break and then getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs. The team's struggles persuaded management to trade off some veterans and go with younger players. This season, Seattle will try to walk the tightrope of rebuilding with youth while still competing for a playoff spot. Will they be able to do it?

Pitching
Since coming over in a trade with Monterrey three seasons ago, David Armas has turned into the staff ace, posting sub-3.00 ERA's in back-to-back season. In the rotation, he's capably followed by Junior Funaki, Che Hasegawa and Denny Martin. Groundball specialist D'Angelo Rojas holds down the SP5 spot. Phenom Junior Hernandez is still a year or two away.

Seattle was unable to land a lights-out RP over the offseason, so they will go with veterans Slash Clay and Rolando Diaz in the late innings; along with youngsters Harry Hammond, Willie Seguignol and Pat McCullough.

Catcher
Julio Concepcion and Blade Odonnell have so far survived the team-wide youth movement. Both return for their 10th season as platoon mates. Concepcion brings the solid bat while Odonnell provides excellent pitch calling skills and defense.

Infield
1B Hayes Corino won his second NL MVP last season as he put up eye-popping numbers once again. However, the rest of the infield is unproven. 2B Virgil Canseco needs to show he can handle the leadoff spot. He struggled in his rookie year last season and his weak glove is a concern. 22 year old Aramis Granados looks to bounce back from serious injury last season and cement himself as Seattle's long-term answer at 3B. Shortstop will be platooned by all-glove no-hit Tony Lopez and S19 Rule 5 pick Jolbert Olivo. Veterans Willie Oconnor and George Casian give Seattle a flexible and defensively strong bench.

It remains to be seen how much the team will miss former blue chip prospect Willie Ueharra, who was traded away this off-season for 19 year old Junior Hernandez.

Outfield
S19 silver slugger RF Cesar Pulido moves to the cleanup spot this season. He's hit at least 40 HR in five straight seasons and Seattle fans hope he continues. LF Raul Costilla struggled mightily in the first half last season, but recovered to put up solid numbers. Speedy CF Matthew Wilson had a successful rookie campaign last season. Late free agent signee Felix Stuart will platoon with him in CF.

Overall
Much will depend on how well the kids play. If Seattle's young infield and bullpen gel together, the Picards might be able to extend their playoff streak to five seasons in a row. However, if the youth falter, it might be a long S20 in Seattle.

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