Monday, February 7, 2011

S19 Stone Cold Preview

Houston Stone Cold Killers

S18 record: 82-80
Finish: Second place, AL East
2010 final payroll: $ 72.6 million
Estimated 2011 opening day payroll: $ 65million

Offseason action:

Teams intact could be cheap and go after bullpen help
1B Marquis Ashley got his career back on track with Houston in S17 and looked strong in Season 18, but unless he comes back at a discount, he will be gone. LF Edgardo Almanzar is at the tail end of his career and would need to return at a huge discount for it to happen. RP Howie Oliver lost most of his season to a hernia. He looked great in his limited action, but teams will be hesitant to bring him back at 36 after such a big injury. Rp Andrew O'Shea could be resigned for at least another season of work after going 5-7 last season, but you might find someone better. RP Ivan Rodriguez will also gather some interest. The Stone Cold got serious about Free Agency adding pitching help in the form of Deion Dunn, Stephen O'Connor, Bing Milligan, Brandon Roosevelt and Ralph Ainsworth. This will give the bullpen a whole new look and feel coming into play for the new season. Houston also added backup catcher Charlie Marion who is a career .272 hitter to upgrade the battery.

Reality check
CF Neal Robinson and 2B Stephen Dreifort are the guiding forces to the Cold offense. Both are capable of 35+HR a season and 100+ rbi along with 20 steals. The Stone Cold will have their offense built around them for the next few seasons. C Luis Peralta is a great #5 hitter, but might be better as a DH than in the field. That would make it awkward for DH William Clyburn who has that position sewed up, but could be the reality with the addition of Marion to the lineup. Marion will be a superior fielder to Peralta and might see a lot of action just as a late inning guy and occasional starter in the very least. 3B Rob Mulder also is working toward a crossroads in his career. He has been successful in the field and at the plate, but he needs to be controlled better on the base path where he is getting caught off base way too much. Leadoff man J.C. Stokes will only get better as the offense around him develops, at 25 he is still developing himself and is capable of 40+ stolen bases. Add in LF Louie Rosario's bat and Houston has one of the best young and upcoming offenses. Prospect LF Mike Thomson should be making the jump this season. He seems to come from the same cloth as Stokes, they would be an interesting tandem, but might blackout the offense if they are both playing at the same time back to back. AAA CF Lawrence Hutton seems to have fallen out of favor with Houston and might look to be dealt for pitching or prospect help. He is ML ready and is wasted in AAA right now.
The rotation is led by Winston Franco who had a solid season at 11-10 with a 3.93 ERA. Pedro Barceló, who was brought in before season 18, provided his normal 4.50 ERA and 10 wins as the wingman. Rookies Brian Iwazaki and Tony Sweeney should be improved over last season's performance, but they will still get beat around some. Don Shelby as the edge for the final rotation spot He is signed through season 21 for 4.4M a season, but competition will be tight with Wilson Dolan coming off a huge elbow injury. Alfredo Velazquez could also be in the mix, but he might end up in the crowed long relief for the bullpen. The relief corps came from one of the greenest and least sure to one of the most veteran and clutch pens in the league. Dunn, Roosevelt, and Ainsworth are no longer capable starters, but they are still very effective pitchers. Watch for them to be lights out in their work. They just need to be monitored for fatigue to be most effective. Closer Karim Espinosa stepped up to the task in Season 18 and there is no reason to assume he will not be able to do that again in Season 19. He will have helped with newly acquired setup men Bing Milligan and Stephen O'Connor who will be huge in short spurts of use.
Summing it up with a quote:

Neal Robinson
Stone Cold Killers
Age: 23B/T: R/R
Born: Skaneateles, NY
Position(s): CF
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"I guarantee 40/40 this season, watch it!" CF Neal Robinson

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