Sunday, January 27, 2008

Atlanta Sprawl Season Preview

The Sprawl project to be a 90-94 win team in a division that doesn’t have a clear front runner (though New Orleans looks tough). They are built for a division title, though not a playoff run.

The Good

Hi, Jerry: 1B FA acquisition Hi Rivers and DH Jerry Daly give the Sprawl a mashing 3-4 combo that rivals any other duo in the league

.“You down with OBP?”: The Sprawl lineup prides itself on taking pitches and drawing walks and will undoubtedly rank among the top in the ‘original Moneyball category: OBP. Rivers and Daly induce walks simply through intimidation of the pitcher, while CF sparkplug Erik Hinske, 2B leadoff man (and FA acquisition) Kevin Jones and platoon masher RF Lariel Sosa all demonstrate commendable patience and plate discipline.

Grand Theft Atlanta: While fans may be bored with ubiquitous 10-pitch at bats, once the Sprawlers are on base it’s ‘go time’. They boast 3 or 4 burners who will be given a perpetual greenlight from smallball manager Ronn Evans.

A Bullpen named Voltron: The club made a number of shrewd acquisitions in the offseason, building an 8-man bullpen that, combined, is a force to be reckoned with. Chan Bong, Pete Brooks, John Fujiwara, Albert Cueto and Andy Betemit will all share closing and setup duties, depending on the ballpark and who has the hot hand, though none it is doubtful any will surpass 60 innings in the year.

The D gets an A: The Sprawl hope to compensate for a solid but certainly unspectacular rotation with outstanding team defense. They boast plus defenders at SS, 3B, 2B, RF, and CF, and carry a couple of defensive specialist for later innings.

The BadLast

Charge of the Grayhairs: There’s no beating around the bush - the Sprawl field five 30+ position players and three 30+ starters. At the same time, though, they field four talent youngsters under 25 and their #1 starter, Ross Ramirez, is a babyfaced 23. Taking a page from a Barack Obama speech, Sprawl management is selling it as “a diverse coalition of young and old Americans.” Except for Hi Rivers, of course, he’s a Canuck.

The Ugly

A Bunch of Delicate Daisies: The Sprawl’s season hinges upon the team’s combined health. The downside of the balls-to-the-wall play of young 3B Alberto Alcantera has resulted in a series of frustrating injuries, while the – ahem – veteran nature of the club has opened them up for a variety of strains, pulls and tweaks. Management is keeping its fingers crossed that, with a bit of duck tape and a lot of luck, the Sprawl can keep its core healthy and productive.

A barren (minor league) cupboard: The Sprawl GM has never pretended to have much interest in prospects. He’s cut from an impatient, win-now fabric, and believes that the true challenge is to build up a minor league system white remaining competitive. “Anybody can tank for three or four years, acquire top draft picks and internationals, and be competitive in Season 5. The true challenge is to be competitive year in and out, while plugging holes and building a foundation through ingenuity and wit.” Full disclosure: This GM has recently been lampooned for moving bushels of prospects for one year rentals of marginal veterans.

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