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

Upcoming Winter Brass League: New Challenges

by Daniel Valois

The upcoming Winter Brass will present a new face this year : teams will only be able to protect three amateur players and international recruits are off-limits.

The new rules will have a significant effect on the Montreal Sunsets’ roster building philosophy. In the past, Montreal has relied heavily on the draft - and not so much on trades and free agency – to build a team that has now gone on to four consecutive Division championships and 100+ win seasons. Players taken in the draft include core membrers of the Sunsets 2007-8 edition such as Travis Hafner, Carlos Zambrano, Johan Santana (sorry, Mark), Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Gonzalez, Hong-Chi Kuo, Bobby Crosby, Jhonny Peralta, Chris Coste, and David DeJesus, Mike Pelfrey having just been sent to Dayton in the John Smoltz trade (I’m not going to mention the flops, though, like first rounders Miguel Olivo, Nate Cornejo, and Ryan Wagner).

On the international front, the Sunsets were able to snag frontline starter Daisuke Matsuzaka in the 9th round of the 2006 draft (hey, you have to be lucky, too), who figures to anchor the pitching staff for years to come at a very low price, something that will now not be possible under the new rules. For the moment, past drafts will keep adding to the roster: Matsuzaka, Justin Upton, and Joakim Soria will be carded next year, and David Price, and probable MLB first overall pick Pedro Alvarez should be very soon.

Oh, I’m not complaining. I voted for the rule changes myself, thinking that they would be good for the league overall, both now and in the longer term. For one thing, the changes will make the annual draft much more interesting in terms of the quality and number of carded and non-carded players available, making the rebuilding process much easier for a lot of teams, while at the same time enabling more teams to compete for the league’s higher honors in a shorter time frame.

But Montreal management will have to keep its head up and find new ways of doing things if it wants to continue to be successful. The Sunsets play in a division with three other very solid and knowledgeable owners, including two – John Storer and Lenny Luchtefeld – who have won many division, Silver League, and Brass League championships in the recent past. But the team will eventually be dethroned no matter, probably sooner than later. When that happens, I’ll be rooting for the Iron Division team to take it al!.

Bolts' Draft ... Hope for the Future

The Brookfield Bolts are pleased with the results of their 2008 draft. They managed to bring in some talented youngsters who may make an impact as soon as next year, and grabbed some inexpensive to fill in some gaps.

The top pick for the Bolts (6th overall) was Geovanny Soto, a young catcher who is expected to start this year for the Cubbies. Soto projects to be a high average, moderate power players who also provides solid defense behind the plate. He will transition to the starting role in 2009 when Ivan Rodriguez moves on.

Joakim Soria, a hard-throwing righty out of Kansas City was the second pick (8th overall). Bolts management had wanted to grab Kelly Johnson, but we were out-of-town and unable to get back in time to change the auto-draft. Still, Soria should provide solid to excellent relief numbers for the next few years. There had been talk of his moving into the rotation, though that appears to have slowed of late.

Manny Parra, the Bolts' third first round pick at #17, is listed just outside the Milwaukee Brewers projected 5-man rotation for the coming season, but given the annual health issues surrounding ace Ben Sheets, the serious questions regarding Chris Capuano's ability to regain form and questions regarding whether Dave Bush would be better off in the bullpen, this year could be Parra-time. He has an electric arsenal and could, eventually, slide into the number 3 spot in the rotation. The Bolts are ecstatic to have been able to acquire him.

In the second round, the Bolts acquired 23-year old righty, Jo-Jo Reyes. He will be in the running for a rotation spot with the Braves and given the injury problems of Mike Hampton, and the age issues of the staff as a whole, Reyes has a chance and has the talent to win a spot.

The third round was dedicated to bolstering the bullpen for the future. Manny Acosta, a 27-year old reliever who is slated to be Rafael Soriano's setup man and Jose Ascanio, an intriguing 23-year old Cubbie were selected.

The fourth and fifth rounds were dedicated to giving hope to those running out of big league chances. Buddy Carlyle and Horacio Ramirez were selected in the hopes that they may 1) eat up some innings this year and 2) hope that Ramirez regains his form of a few years ago when he pitched in the Braves organization (notice a trend here, by the way ... 5 former or current Braves pitchers)

Tyler Johnson, a lefty reliever, looks to have a good opportunity in St. Louis and was selected in the sixth round.

The remaining four players were selected to back up others. Gary Bennett will back up I-Rod at catcher. Nelson Cruz and Craig Monroe were selected to prove some outfield ABs, and for the slim chance they might contribute next year and Lance Cormier was brought back because Bolts management still thinks he may turn into something useful if he can overcome injuries.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thought for the Day

Courtesy of Big D ...

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

-- George Carlin