After two mediocre seasons of 83 wins each and no playoff appearances the Sicilian nine moves into Season 22 with some questions answered and but several with answers still pending. In short, this season could be a success or something considerably less.
Catcher: Clayton Rollins, he of the .301-.380-.467 career averages, is back again. Season 21 saw his numbers a bit below his career figures, but still he hit .292, OPS'ed .829, and whacked a career high 24 homers. He also showed great durability in playing in 157 games, the forth consecutive year he has played in more than 155 games. He's a warhorse.
Lonny Alomar played well in his rookie season, as a backup, and managed to hit .284.
1B: The Sicilians platooned at the right side corner in 21 and it payed great dividends. Rookie Larry Flood hit .293, bonked 24 homers, and slugged .546 against RHP. Third year player Will Lee hit .287, bonked 13 homers, and slugged .569 vs. LHP. Both have been dangled as trade bait in the off-season but currently they are still Sicilians and ready to reprise their Batman and Robin roles.
2B: Future HoF'er Louie Hayes was shipped down the road in the off-season and now Sammy Guerrero moves over from 3B to man 2nd. Guerrero is a good gloveman who hits especially well against lefties. Veteran Carlos Olmedo was a late signee and will provide an experienced utility presence, decent bat and great glove.
SS: Jim Darwin won the Gold Glove in his first full MLB season. He added 19 homers to account for a heck of a double threat. He was a very popular target in trade offers over the off-season, but the Sicilian front office has, so far, resisted the trade temptation. Benny Scharein played several different positions with luster and surprised everybody with an average north of .270
3B: Veteran Tino Wood was brought in over the winter. He's a decent glove and a decent bat. Wood averages over 20 homers per season and has a career OPS of nearly .800. He won't replace Hayes bat in the lineup, but he's a solid major league and a workaholic locker room presence.
LF: Slugging Wilfredo Hernandez and his 28 homers was not resigned in the offseason. Wild and crazy rookie Steve Martin came up on fire after his midseason call-up. His .320-.426-.606 stat line with 18 homers in 86 games was worthy of some ROY consideration. He's back, will start against lefties and pinch hit. No one expects numbers like he showed last season, but he commands the strike (walking nearly 16% of his PA's) and punishes fences. Early in the season AAA .300 hitter Jason Dodson will get the AB's against RHP, but expect Terry Pariss (acquired in the Hayes' trade) to get his first call up very early.
CF: Switchhitting Ralph Hammonds is consistent. He's hit 7 homers three season in a row and averaged .271, .271 and .279 over that time. He's not very good, but he's consistent.
RF: Max Eckstein hit 31 homers, .244, and OPS'ed .760. All were 3-season lows. He also played only 149 games (with a 15-Day DL stint) after playing every game the previous two seasons. He confidently predicts he will bounce back. He better, or he won't be a Sicilian in Season 23. Hopefully, tough love works.
Starting Pitching: Buzz Andrews is 61-36 with a 3.41 ERA in his 4-year career. He's a good one. Mario Hyers had a career worst 8-15 record in season 21, along with a career worst 4.14 ERA. He still threw 226 innings and is expectedd to bounce back. Former Bonus Baby Everth Cantu saw his record fall from 16-5 to 8-10 and his ERA increase by 1-pt to 3.93. He is expected to sparkle again. Rookie Max Javier went 12-5 after his call up. Those 4 form a very solid rotational core. Thomas Borbon walks too many guys but is 21-21 over his career. He'll get 1st shot at the #5 spot. If he gets bombed, Yorvit Sanchez will get his opportunity in the rotation. He has filled every role in his career, from starter to closer.
The Sicilian bullpen was pathetic in Season 21. P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C. It has to improve in Season 22. It can't be worse. Einar Ferrer, Paul Dong, and Orlando Bonilla were brought in to shore up this weakness. Bonilla throws 100 innings a year and has a career ERA of 3.45 and a WHIP of 1.10. He's a pretty good one. Buddy Bottalico was a bullpen bright spot as a rookie. He was 9-5 with a 3.02 ERA. Greybeard Julian Furcal had 17 saves but an ERA over 5. He was wildly overpaid. Thank God he'll be gone after this season! Cy McDowell has great skills, great makeup and a crappy career ERA of 4.38. He remains an enigma and will eventually get another chance to blow the closer role. Dong will get that role as the season begins.
That's it. This year's Syracuse Sicilians. If Wood hits, Eckstein bounces back, Pariss has a fine rookie season and the bullpen doesn't stink it up again, we may challenge for a Wild Card spot, riding on the backs of a decent rotation. We might win 73 games, too.