Norfolk Train Wrecks: Inexpensive and talented group who will be building on last season's success. You have to love the middle of the lineup featuring the likes of 1B Max Bennett, 2B Bobby McClain and clean-up man Gustavo Figureoa. SS Al Encarnacion came in strong for his rookie campaign but also showed that he wasn't as durable as Norfolk hoped tiring 3/4th through the season. Norfolk will need to bring in a comparable glove and bat to rest him more or be willing to rest Al more for his defensive replacement Tike Shelley, who has a history of struggles and is up for arbitration. Norfolk also needs to find another guy to plant on top of their batting order who can be a base threat other than Encarnacion. Norfolk should also be shopping around for upgrades at 3B where Felipe Campo just exists, but doesn't seem to excel at any one thing. OF Duffy Hudek could get some spring time reps at the hot corner. The farm is still choked full of talent with 2B Del Hyun getting a spring audition, but still a season away. Of prospect Hector Purcell should get plenty of notice in the spring as well and could crack the team as a 4th outfield, he will be competing with Frank Kulik. No reason Prospect SP Joshua Quinn isn't in Norfolk in the spring, he dominated the farm splitting time between AA and AAA last season, and has nothing left to prove. Adding him to the top of the rotation will give Norfolk a huge 1-2-3 punch with O'Donnell and Henry. The 4th and 5th rotation spots are a bit of a tossup veterans Samuel Jackson and Wayne Clark both have not shown much to have faith in handing the rock to every 5th day. Rule 5 pick-up Fred Boucher seems to be a better fit for long relieve, but did perform solidly in his brief starts. Also in the mix for the final spots might be international Prospect Matty Tatis who commanded 22.8M in bonus money last season. He will not be in the minors for long at that sum and should see if he can make the break this spring. Also in the mix is AAA pitcher Matty Tatis who showed some command issues last season in AAA, but is said to have work out his mechanics this winter and is looking sharp off the mound. The Pen should get a full season of newly touted closer Larry High who looked in control in his 9 appearances in season 20. He will be joined by setup men Charles Bang, rule 5 season 20 and former closer Frank Jackson. The Pen should be a position of strength for Norfolk in Season 21. Norfolk still could invest some capital in finding a strong FA starter and give Tatis another year to season. They might also be able to swing an upgrade for 3B and Defensive specialist to round out the team.
Projected Finish: 92-70 2nd place
FA Rumors: NEEDS LEAD OFF HITTER, PITCHING UTILITY HELP all get some consideration.
New York Dolls- Once again the Dolls will be the team to beat in the NL East. From top to bottom they have the most potent offense to work with. -1B Kenneth Springer is a consistent threat to hit 50 home runs. And Shayne Owens has found his stroke lead off this offensive juggernaut. The bench and defense might be a little undersized and on off days for the starters this team could be vulnerable. Bart Hogan and Christopher Joseph both will compete to be Ben Hogan's backup at catcher. Neither offers much behind the dish, but both can be offensive threats. Hogan himself also lacks a lot of catching finesse. Utility man Moises Bonilla seems to offer speed off the bench, but he finds himself struggling in the key defensive positions of Shortstop and Centerfield where he is a defensive downgrade over the starters. AAA SS Ernest Sutcliffe could be a fine replacement and a low cost alternative in the utility role this season. AAA 2B James Pribanic will also garner a few extra reps to see if he can offer some speed and defense for the bench as well in the spring. The pitching staff is developing flaws that other teams seem to be eating up. Shayne Nagy has struggled with his control and is looking increasingly hittable the past 2 seasons, although he still has the potential to dominate any game. Starter Dick Lewis also finds himself looking at the plus side of 4 the past few seasons, a rare experience for NY starters. A lot of hope is riding on Alex Alomar's arm this season. He has been a bust so far in his career and seems to be getting compared to other high potential prospects that never seemed to carry that potential into the ML. This will be his make or break season. The pen will be able to hold most any lead given to them and should serve as the nail on many NL team's coffins. The 5th starter spot competition is wide open with a few long relievers who could capable step u. NY also has a few arms that have nothing left to prove in AAA in Juan Belliard and Vic Cruz; both could be in NY uniforms at some point in the season or be playing elsewhere. Neither is going to win a Cy Young, but they might be solid 5th starter investments. NY could also try to make a splash and land another top end starter and further separate themselves from the pack or even bring back FA-to-be Allen Roundtree.
FA Rumor: bottom end starter on a 1 year contract Defensive utility guy. Defensive Catcher.
Hartford Whalers- New Ownership might mean a new direction for a team which has many holes on the offense and defense. Catcher still stands as a position of need. Marcus Thompson a trade deadline acquisition is a professional lead-off hitting machine, but he is blocked in the field by the superior Larry Perry. His best move might be to take over at 1B and upgrade that position of need. The middle of the lineup is strong with the aforementioned Perry, Thompson and CF Midre Jordan. The rest of the lineup is very pedestrian and could use another bat to tighten up the offense in a tough division. The starting pitching is above average at the top of the rotation with Parrish and Crosby, but takes a big dip in the middle with Alberto Rodriguez and John Jensen. Rodriguez seems to underperform and might prove a quality innings with more seasoning right now he has been hit or miss with each start. The Whalers should be in the running for a flasher starter to add to the rotation. The bullpen can hold its own with Joe Coleman and closer Howard Neal. Both are coming off tough seasons, but should bounce back this year. Neal is starting to let his mileage show but he still can be one of the better relievers in the game any given day. Luis Perez should probably he looking for work elsewhere and would be an easy reliever to upgrade on. Not much to look for on the farm yet. To fill their holes they will have to find those answers through trade or Free Agency. If Hartford gets to worried they could look to bring back both Schultz and Estrada as part-time platoon partners to fill the gaps in the offense.
Projected Finish: 76-86 4th Place
FA rumors: need to add a catcher and one more offensive weapon.
Atlanta Braves- Give this teams an everyday 1st and 2B that can produce consistently and you could have one of the better offensive teams. The mid-season trade that landed them C Santiago seems to have worked out well giving the Braves a solid 1-2 behind the dish. Grace, Tartabull, Nunez, and Post are all 30 this year, so it gives the season a now or never vibe. The team will miss the offense of Tim Sutton, but his price will be quite restrictive and might better serve the team as a Compensation Pick. Young Stud Woodie Gross though gives the future a nice glean. The pitching rotation is seasoned well and should hold their own in S21. They tire very easily though and will depend heavily on the pen to throw a lot of innings. Atlanta might want to look for a workhorse starter to give the pen a rest on occasion. Atlanta does have Ricardo Martinez and Ivan Johnson in the pen both are capable of 100+ out of the pen and both throw quality innings. Not enough ready on the farm to fill the holes in the lineup and rotation, Atlanta will have to make smart moves in Free agency or through trades.
Projected Finish: 78-84 3rd Place
FA Rumors: Looking at 1B, 2B and a workhorse starter.
Toledo Mudhens - Huge hole exists at CF. Rhodes is at best a part time starter at 2B and SS Cesar Carreras has 284 career at bats in 11 seasons of pro ball. The offense has a number of huge contracts on that the new ownership will have to tip toe around, while filling holes in the lineup. The offense still has plus weapons in Pedro Osuna, Jose Park and Dan Kashmir. Al Frazier is a solid bench player at this point in his career. And should get a good number of at bats . Former ace Alex Wang looks worn-down after last season and might to be able to give the Hens a quality 6 innings this season. He is still a guy you need to get into the game and his best contribution might be as a setup guy. Starters Juan Escuela and Joel Perry should bookend the rotation, but the middle of the rotation will be up for grabs. Candidates included last season acquisition Edwards who went 5-0 in 5 starts down the stretch, but is considered overmatched in a full season of work. Jim McMahon who is a former high end starter who just seems to disintegrate in late inning work with a worn arm . Also in the mix is former starter now at AAA Trent Boone who has huge control issues, but loads of talent. Prospect reliever Fernando Valdez should get action this season in the pen and could allow the Mudhens at least 1 chip to trade to fill other holes. Coming off one of the worst years in franchise history they should rebound quickly in S21 with the right moves, but they will need to do so in a cap conscious manner. Might want to see if SP Don Shelby (R) or Victor Perez (L) wish to return at a discount. FA to be Max Mills might get a return nod, but his cost might be too restrictive at this juncture for the team.
Projected Finish: 73-89 4th Place
FA Rumors: Rotation help and a part timer at 2B
Chicago Wolves- Chicago has built a team to rival all teams. They have a strong 4 man rotation , each capable of Cy Young potential. Clarence Morgan, Cristobal Jacquez,, and Luis Candelaria are former all-stars and C Davey Santana has been ranked as one of the 10 best catchers in Ryan History. This is an offense that can crush you while the pitchers blaze the ball by you. The Wolves might need to add one more proven arm for the pen and maybe have another guy in the reserves for the rotation in case of injury. 2 of their own FA might get calls to see their price tags in Doug Evans (R) and Al Riveria. If the price is right these guys only make this rotation that much more lights out. A few Utility guys would not hurt to hold in AAA, if they can be had cheaply. Prospect OF Kevin Takada could provide nice punch for the bench, but will allow for a break for the starters without a lot of drop off in production.
Projected Finish 100-62 1st Place
FA Rumors: late mover in FA they might just bring in a few bargain pieces if they can find them, they will not need to overpay for talent..
Durham Bulls - A.J. Rollins has a new 3B to work with in Bonk Wells, both should be the catalyst for the offense in Durham. Add in young starters Emmanuel Horton and Frank Yamamoto and you have the making of a solid young core to build around. There are still plenty of holes, but they might be easily to fill and could be done cheaply. !b and Catcher both need upgrades on the offense AA prospect SS Joey Taft could get a lot of attention in the spring and could skip AAA.
The Pitching has played some of the worst innings ever recorded for the skill level of the starters. To be blunt they just have underperformed. Hurst, Wight and to a lesser extent Martin all seem to be pitching to long in outing, pitching tired and end up throwing with dead arms. Their pitch counts need to be dropped and the coaches need to be ready to pull them when they no longer have their pitches. If cared for these guys should be closer to the mid 4 ERA range instead of plus 6 ERAs. Granted this will mean bringing in a few stretched arms to pitch the 4-6th innings on occasion and maybe investing in a few more inning eaters, but this should come cheaply. SFA SP Phil Chapman might be given another year to make up for his bloated ERA in Season 20. There is no reason as a team Durham can't shave a full run off their team ERA without much effort.
Projected Finish: 77-85 2nd Place
FA Rumors: Needs a 1B C and Pitching Depth.
Boston Redsox - Offense is well intact with a solid murders row in Fergie Ryan, Juan Cervantes, and David Gardner. The rest of the lineup shows flaws and can be exposed in games.. It shouldn't be too hard to find upgrades at 2B and 3B and possibly a 4th outfield without breaking the bank this season. SS Prospect Julio Mota has been fast tracked, but is still a season away from making an impact and will not benefit riding the bench this year in the ML versus starting at AAA. The rotation is in flux behind Ace Omar Ramirez. The talent level is a steep drop off with Christian Lim, Orber Bonilla, and Adam James better set to compete in a spot starting role then an every 5th day choice. FA Preston Walker will almost have to be brought back to help this rotation. Boston will have to invest in a few arms and open their wallet if they hope to compete. SP Guy Costello sits down at AA, but he is more than likely looking at 1 more season before a call-up. If things do go great in Free Agency he might be the one in Red and White in the Summer though. Demoted starter Hugh Richardson has the experience, but many fear his career is washed up, a spring audition will answer that question. AAA pitcher Vic Pena might be another cheap option., but he has notably struggled against right handed hitting. The pen is right now bear with the only guy worth the paper it's written on is CL Diego Cruz who is coming off a down season, but should be back this season after playing strong in winter ball. Projected Finish: 74-88 3rd Place
FA Rumors: Needs pitching @b and 3 B upgrades Relievers.