Monday, February 7, 2011

S19 Wolves Preview

Chicago Wolves

S18 record: 80-82
Finish: Third place, AL South
2010 final payroll: $ 100.7 million
Estimated 2011 opening day payroll: $103 million

Offseason action:
3B Tom Randolph should add a cheap leadoff hitter to the Wolves offense. He could be a nice addition and hopefully will solve some of the lack of production from the middle of the lineup by forcing the pitching staff to be more on guard while they pitch.
38 year old Closer Orlando Martinez seems like a sure bet to return his dominance as closer for the Wolves. HE should be locked up through his 40th birthday.
CF Jonathan Minor (R),
C Pedro Lee (R), RP Jorge Cabeza (L), 1B Wilt Street and RP Wiki Nunez (R) are all looking for a raise during arbitration. It will be difficult for Chicago to bring them all back. Minor and Lee filled part-time roles on the team and could be replaced with equally skilled and cheap replacements. Street is coming off a major shoulder injury which hugely affects his value to the team. Even if he does rebound completely does he offer enough to merit a 2M+ deal? Nunez might be the most sure thing of the bunch. He has been a dependable reliever and will continue to be an inning eater out of the pen, but this might be a huge late spring pickup if they can't find a better option. Former starters William Alexander and Pokey West join Chicago on 1 year deals. Both add a solid element to the front end of the bullpen.
Reality check

Clarence Morgan
Age: 29B/T: R/R
Born: Honolulu, HI
Position(s): 3B/IF/OF/DH
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C Davey Santana is one of the best pure hitting catchers in the game. Last season he tried to power the ball more than he should have. The results were 21HR and 86RBI, but he watched his average drop 40 points from last season. Davey will be a big part of the team's offense, but I would not expect another 20 hr outburst. On the contrary 3B Clarence Morgan should be counted on to produce those homeruns and knock in 100+ a season. Last season Morgan suffered his second straight dog year. He needs to get his average up to closer to .290 and be counted on to hit 35HR a season. Both numbers he has produced in the past and should be expected to too again. With RF Bill Thome and 2B Calvin Lui batting around him he should not struggle to hit this goal. Thome also nearly missed the 100RBI platform while hitting 36HR. The coaching staff will need to evaluate the batting order to maximize the potential of these hitters. To many times in Season 18 did Thome come to the plate with no one on base ahead of him and the ones on base aren't being knocked in by him or, 1B/DH Lorenzo Cornejo. Adding 3B Tom Randolph adds an instant #1 hitter to the lineup. He has shown a knack for getting on base and putting himself in scoring position. He might be the x factor this season. Instant power and offense might come the way of AAA RF Kevin Takada who might be ready to make the ML jump this season. There will be a time this season he gets the call and makes the club.
Chicago's rotation will be intact from last season. With Doug Evans, Harry Ortiz and Tony Ortiz taking the big 3 spots in the rotation. Al Rivera looked absolutely overwhelmed in his 1st season as a full time starter. With a full season under his belt, the Wolves hope he has the butterflies out and can pitch the way scouts think he can. Jose Blasco also suffered through a horrible season after 2 almost untouchable seasons in Chicago's rotation; he looked down right abused with his 4.52ERA and almost 50 less strikeouts in season 18. Once he gets his strikeout touch back, look out he could be a huge factor. Both Blasco and Rivera will be on a short leash with Todd Olerud sitting at AAA eyeing their spot in the rotation. It will be only a matter of when he takes a job. Most likely one will be auditioning for a rotation spot for another home.
The pen right now is waiting on management decision about direction. The sure things in the pen are Al Martinez, a solid veteran reliever. Martinez is starting to lose his ball control and as he ages is finding the plate increasingly difficult to center. Adding in newly acquired West and Alexander and the Pen seems to be gaining some form at the front end. They should over temporary insurance for the season until some of the young guns can take on bigger roles. Prospect Closer David James might be ready to make the jump. He spent Season 18 in AA compiling a 2.76 ERA and 26 Saves. He is either going to be tested in AAA this season or be O.Martinez's replacement at closer. AAA Prospects Al Knight and Marvin Puffer (AAA) might also make a play at bullpen time.
Pundits all agree Chicago suffered a poor luck season, this team is much closer to its season 17 incarnations on the field than the numbers they put up last season. With a healthy team they should be competing again for their division if not the Al Pennant.

Summing it up with a Quote:

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