Pitching and more Pitching would change the chemistry of this team and could quickly turn them into a winner.
Free Agents C Phil Tabaka, 37 and 3B Kevin Chaisson, 36 will look to take their games elsewhere if not retire. Both carved out nice niches in Norfolk and still could contribute but for ½ their S18 pay. On the other hand FA to be pitchers Clayton Mills and Joe Phillips were bargains at 600K and 940K respectively. Both will want to be paid to come back. If you can pull Phillips in under 3M a season why not give him a spot in the rotation. Both are far from stars, but are nice pieces to have on a rebuilding team.
Nice outfield combo of 29 year old CF Brad Finnessey, 28 year old Bert Jones, and 22 year old Max Bennett. They all provide a solid offensive and defensive presence. Add in All-star 1B Scot Bowman and 3b Duffy Hudek and you have a very complete lineup. With the exception of a hole at catcher and no bat at SS. The team should be able to roll into the season with a solid blue collar lineup.
Bowman, Jones and Bennett all are capable of hitting 30+ home runs which should add some fire to the offense. If the Train wrecks can get them all swinging at the right time.
AAA catching prospect Malcolm Rogers should get a shot this season with the departure of Tabaka. In addition the Train Wrecks will want to get looks at RF Frank Kulik( AAA), CF Brett Bacsik(AAA), LF Hector Purcell(AA), LF Gustavo Figureoa(AA), SS Al Encarnacion(AA), and AAA 2B Bobby McClain. All have huge upside and are close if not already ready to be in the Show. My guess is not all will make out of spring training wearing a Norfolk uniform, watch out for a blockbuster trade to bring in some pitching help in S19.
The pitching is a little more unsettled. The one and two slot are slated with 3rd year man Rudy Henry and 4th year ace Trenidad O'Donnell, but the rest of the rotation is still up in the air. Henry compiled a lowly 6-20 record last season. Expect a season closer to his S17 numbers of 12-14 wins. O'donnell's season was derailed early in S18 with injury and he missed 12 starts, but still posted an 11-7 record with a 3.60 ERA. On the farm Norfolk might try to get an extended look at3rd overall pick Joshua Quinn who tore up the rookie leagues last season for a 10-1 record with 1.20 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He averaged over a strikeout an inning. Depending how he looks in spring it's likely we see him very soon.
The Bullpen needs work; they really could use a number of upgrades. CL Frank Jackson is average at best though his stellar 20/22 conversion rate might show otherwise. It would not take much to upgrade this area as they have LoA sensation Larry High ready to go. He should get an extended look in spring training. As will Jamie Mathews who could step into the closer role.
Summing it up with a Quote:
"Put away the walker, I'm playing!" 38 year old Phil Tabaka