Saturday, February 09, 2008

Brass Winter League Musings

A look at the future of the Iron Division
The Meridian Trojans

The Brass 2007-8 season is coming to an end. While some of the teams are preparing for the playoffs, others are looking into the future. In the Iron Division, three teams are on the latter program: The Southtown Misers, the Dayton Dragons, and the Meridian Trojans. One of those teams will take over the division sooner than later, once the Montreal Sunsets inevitably have to go through the cyclical rebuilding process.

In a series of upcoming articles, I would like to look at the Iron division teams. To break with the tradition of writing about one’s own team in Brass newsletters, I will look at each team but mine, with respect to its present situation, both on and off the field (that is, their draft and financial situations), and long- and mid term forecast.

I will begin with the The Meridian Trojans. The Trojans have a nice core of players for 2008-9, lots of money in the bank, and a slew of exciting young players. They are probably a year or two away from Brass domination, but once they reach the top, they will be a force to reckon with for many years.

Next year


On offence the Trojans will be led by Paul Konerko (.841 OPS), Aramis Ramirez (.915 OPS and a nice 2-range at 3b), Miguel Tejada, .799 OPS at shortstop (which amounts to a 109 OPS+, but with a disappointing 3-range), and Rickie Weeks, .807 OPS at 2b - although the 4-range at the keystone will hurt.
With Ramirez entrenched at 3b, Casey Blake will probably have to settle for a spot in the Trojan outfield, where he brings his .776 OPS (.827 versus lefties, and a 3-range in right field) to the table.
Others who will be of some help include Jarrod Saltalamachia, with 327 PAs and a .796 OPS versus righties, Joey Gathright, 249 PAs, .371 OBP vs righties, Dave Roberts, 438 PAs, .356 OBP and .793 OPS vs righthanded pitching, with a 2-range in left field, a 3-range in center field, and 31 stolen bases in 36 attempts, and Cody Ross with his amazing 1.008 OPS against southpaws (195 PAs). Lastings Milledge (.956, 206 PAs) and Bobby Kielty (.379/.503/.882, although in only 95 PAs) are two other lefty killers. Put bluntly: avoid lefty starters when playing the Trojans in ’08-09!
Finally, Ramon Hernandez will be his usual reliable defensive self behind the plate (3-rating, e1, +1 arm).


For now, the Meridian starting pitching is a little thin, both in quality and in depth. The three main characters here are future ace Tim Lincecum (146 IPs, 1.27 WHIP, .653/.691 OPS vs rhb/lhb, solid Jon Garland (208 IPs, 1.32 WHIP, .714/.723), and ageless Orlando Hernandez (147 IPs, 1.17 WHIP, .593/.775). Taylor Buchholz will contribute 93 IPs of 1.33 WHIP and .770/.722 ball to the staring pitching.
The bullpen has two high quality arms in Matt Capps (1.01 WHIP, .473/.743) and Peter Moylan (90 IPs, 1.06 WHIP, .534/.684). Brian Shouse can be useful versus lefthanded batters (.607 OPS, but .851 versus righties).

Other assets

The Trojans’ bank account is loaded, with $39, 839, 029 available, highest in the league by more than $8M, while the 2008-9 projected payroll is at a reasonable ($23, 613, 550). So expect Lenny to go Steinbrenner on us soon.

With respect to the draft Meridian does not have its 4th and 5th picks in the upcoming draft, but it owns East Lyme’s no. 2 pick, and has so far retained all of its picks for 2009.

The future

Aside from the aforementioned Weeks, Saltalamacchia, Milledge, and Lincecum, Meridian has some very nice players waiting in the wings in Matt Wieters (one of my favorites), Nick Adenhart, Joey Votto, and Angel Villalona. Even Joel Guzman still has a chance to eventually come out of his bubble and contribute somehow (remember Brandon Phillips? I do … And Tony is smiling).

In a nutshell

Maybe a little more patience will be needed from Lenny before things get back to the usual Trojan standard of quality – unless he decides to bust the budget right now - but with all that cash, a few very solid young veterans in Ramirez, Garland, and Konerko (all signed to multi-year contracts), a possible rebound by other long-term signee Tejada, and all those very promising young players, the (immediate) future looks very bright for this team, and will be for a number of years.

Projected lineup so far

C Ramon Hernandez
1b Paul Konerko
2b Rickie Weeks
3b Aramis Ramirez
SS Miguel Tejada
OF Joey Gathright
OF Lastings Milledge
OF Cody Ross
OF Dave Roberts
OF Casey Blake
OF Bobby Kielty
DH Anybody who does not play the outfield
SP Tim Lincecum
SP Jon Garland
SP Orlando Hernandez
RP Matt Capps
RP Peter Moylan
RP Brian Shouse

0 Swings of the bat: