The Durham Bulls are looking at another sub .500 season unless they play with more consistency as they were very streaky last season. No exciting free agents or rule 5 players were added this season to give the season any impetus. It will take a true team effort to be in the playoff hunt. Staff “ace” Bynum and minor leaguers Stokes and Donovan were fun to watch in spring training and the minor leaguers sold some extra season tickets down on the farm but the ML club may have to go back to the pretty chicks in hot pants cleaning off the bases during the 7th inning stretch to keep attendance from dropping.
After relocating from Tampa Bay, Season 7 was the Aristocrats first winning season in franchise history and we learned the hard way that’s there’s no 1 game playoff for the wildcard.
Season 8 is full of hope and promise as we have a full season of our future stud, Mandy Matthews. Also former #5 overall pick, Archie Hill, will be our #2 starter. Look for former first rounders, Nick DeRosa and Joe Clark to make the rotation by midseason. The staff will definitely be different as we will return 3 pitchers from our Season 7 opening day roster.
The lineup was the 4th highest run scoring offense (Should be 3rd if you throw out the anomaly that is Colorado) in the majors last year and there haven’t been any major losses.
Season six 2nd round pick, Chet Wagner, should make his debut this year and should anchor down 2nd base for years to come.
Starting pitching will still be our biggest question mark but the Aristocrats will be hoping for 90+ wins and a division title and the franchise’s first playoff appearance.
It's been an interesting off season for the TB Tocobaga. The franchise relocated from up the road in Jacksonville, with hopes of leaving it's many years of disappointment and underperformance behind.
An aggressive new owner inherits a team that could be legitimite contenders in the next couple of years. With solid young players like Alex Escobar, Javier Leon and Kevin Baker, TB has at least something to build upon.
The Tocobaga was able to acquire via trade or free agency 3 legimate power bats: Oswaldo Arias, Damian O'Brien and Orlando Cervantes. Also, they moved up STUD rookie Vincente Franco to the major league rankings. Franco and O'Brien had a killer Spring Training combining for a .295 average, 17 HR and 38 RBI's! TB had a 13-5 Spring Training Record, overall.
The definite strength of this team is it's solid bullpen, but as is with the rest of the team, they are young and at this point inconsistant. Talent alone, gives them the chance to win most games, however their inexperience will more than likely leave them on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Nevertheless, for the first time in many years, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for this franchise's loyal following. Especiially if Mitch Smith or Denny Shibata have anything to say!
Summary: The Stickballers have won their division in all but one of the seven seasons in Stickball World, but only won the WS Trophy once, in Season 6. They are known for having an explosive offense, and feature a lineup of very patient power hitters, but their defense has been really strong in recent times and has been a major factor in their success. This offseason saw the Stickballers part ways with two of the best players in the league, Nick Abbott (league's best career AVE) and Felipe Ozuna (one of the League's greatest SPs). Apparently neither would accept their asking price but, instead, elected to test the free agent market. (Colorado fans are just a wee bit upset with both of them, especially considering Ozuna flubbed up royally in the playoffs).
Pitchers (opening the season with a 6-man rotation):
SP1 – Rocky Martin 16-1 (OAV .255/ WHIP 1.34/ ERA 4.00) Former Rookie-Of-The Year, this 16 game winner collected 169 strikeouts last season and is the Ace of the staff despite not having the highest stamina and being something of a flyball pitcher.
SP2 – Bill Brown 19-5 (OAV .264/ WHIP 1.25/ ERA 4.06) Colorado’s Season 1 Supplemental Pick won 19 games this season. He signed a nice, fat contract at the beginning of last season and responded well, dropping his WHIP and ERA considerably.
SP3 – Sean McKay 14-7 (OAV .281/ WHIP 1.45/ ERA 5.86) The very young McKay was brought up to the Majors early last season and played well enough to stick and make the Playoff Roster. Colorado expects big things from this kid.
SP4 – Pinky Merloni 8-11 (OAV .254/ WHIP 1.37/ ERA 3.38) Merloni is a new addition this offseason, and Colorado is quietly excited about the fact that this guy was still hanging around when they offered him a contract. Merloni, with this offense behind him, could be in for a big year.
SP5, Tracy Grimsley 7-8 (OAV .303/ WHIP 1.55/ ERA 4.69), is an aging groundball pitcher picked up midway through last season from Washington.
SP6, Juan Carrara 1-2 (OAV .294/ WHIP 1.53/ ERA 6.75), is an young groundball pitcher who was called up toward the end of last season. He is blessed with wicked "stuff", but is a soft-tosser and needs to keep the ball down or he gets victimized by the long ball.
Long Relievers – Anchored by Sidney Coleman (OAV .300/ WHIP 1.52/ ERA 5.71) Colorado’s all-time winningest pitcher, this wily 39-year-old sinkerballer responded well the last two seasons by winning 27 games. He graciously has accepted bullpen duty, but knows that he could be called up to start in a pinch if the need arises. He allows a ton of baserunners but the offense seems to rally around him and he always seems to get the double play when he needs it.
Short Relievers – After boasting about these guys in last year's Team Preview, this unit jumped up from a combined regular season ERA of 3.50 the season before to somewhere around a 4.50 ERA last season.
Closer – Miguel Sanchez (OAV .279/ WHIP 1.49/ ERA 4.73) got the nod after Spring Training, but the Stickballers are going to keep him on a short leash and may come up with someone new to take this role over.
1. 2B Denny Koch (.298/.386/.352) Fleet-footed 32-year-old stole 38 bases last season while platooning in CF, LF, and 2B. He has will platoon 2B with young stud Heinie Barrett this season. Barrett is a GG'er at 2B and hits lefties particularly well.
2. CF Winston Miles (.280/.338/.404 AA). Rule 5 Draftee Miles, at only 22 years old, is really being thrust into the limelight here. His ability to execute situational hitting and steal bases is why he is starting the season at the number two hole, but the Stickballers are prepared to move him down the lineup if he struggles in this spot in the order.
3. 3B Scot Sexton (.332/.409/.594 - Combined) Came over in a trade with Washington near the trade deadline last season. While in Washington he hit .310/.391/.549. Once in Colorado, he hit .385/.449/.698 ... think he's happy to be here?
4. 1B Jose Johnson (.362/.450/.750) actually started out last season pretty slow but lit it up toward the end of the season. He finished with 63 HRs and 202 RBIs. He is the League's All-Time HR leader.
5. DH J.P. DeRojas (.346/.429/.730) Drafted in Season 1 in the second round, DeRojas was traded away at the very beginning of Season 6 only to be brought back later in the season. The team just wasn’t the same without him. He hit 56 HR’s last season and knocked in 158 RBI’s in 500 at-bats. He serves as MAJOR protection for Jose Johnson.
6. SS Dante Wynn (.312/.367/.494) Acquired last preseason, Wynn hit 35 doubles and drove in 82 runs last season earning himself an All-Star game. He tanked, however, in the playoffs and looks to redeem himself this season.
7. 3B Pablo Duran (.272/.379/.447) Two-time All-Star has a great eye, hits with some pop, and doesn't seem to mind playing in RF this season. His numbers were down last season, but he had a decent Spring Training and is looking to improve his bat.
8. C Jamie Cornelius (.318/.418/.521) While not the Stickballers best defensive catcher, young Cornelius’ bat gets him a lot of playing time. C Lee Benson (.286/.329/.493) is their defensive catcher (he throws 1 out of every 3 base-stealers out and calls a pretty good game), and he sees a lot of time, esp. vs. righties.
9. LF Albert Cruz (.304/.366/.350) Picked up in the offseason from Washington, journeyman Albert Cruz is back in Colorado. In Season 3, while with Colorado, Cruz, then only 23-years-old, hit for a .332 AVE, and, if he shows that kind of pop once again, he could find himself in the #2 Hole in a hurry.
Bench: Colorado features primarily defensive guys on the bench, but sometimes they’ll start a defensive stalwart and keep either DeRojas or Cornelius on the bench just in case an important pinch-hit opportunity arises. Dan Baumann is exactly this kind of player, Colorado ranks him as a starter vs. lefties and an excellent defensive replacement/pinch-runner any time during a game.
The experiment with mixing veterans and youth didn't work out as planned last season for Syracuse...so a change of venue was in order. Memories of the Baltimore Colts midnight escape to Indy were everywhere as Syracuse boxed everything up and moved to Detroit to start fresh and hopefully give that city something to cheer about. Doing more with less is the motto for this season with one major change being that Filipe Ozuna is no longer the Ace of the staff after being traded to Colorado for some young prospects. It's kind of a rebuilding year for the franchise as cutting some payroll was a priority. A trade or two plus the releasing of some overpaid and middle of the road talent hopes to lighten the load and Detroit can get back to the basics of playing some sound and fundamental Baseball. The youngsters have had another season to mature and hopefully will start living up to expectations such as Ruben Macias the fireballing Lefty who anchors the rotation. The veteran Catcher Chen brings his big bat with him this season and will hopefully combine his leadership and power into a positive influence on the club. Second place in the Division last season was underachieving for this club and they're hoping to improve on last season and get back to the Playoffs and do some damage.