Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cincinnati Chickenhawks Season Preview

Cincinnati hopes are pinned on the future. It is a bright future, and should get even brighter after a draft where they get picks #2, #18, #33, and #50. The quantity of high picks in the draft is certainly unparalleled. Continuing to focus on the future Cincy traded their 26 year old ace SP, but got a 19 year old Mo Kirby who looks to be a perennial all-star SP. The other big trade cost them a bevy of quality SS’s, but netted them DH Donald Jang. Only 24, but his current bat ratings of 83/89/96/95/90 put him on par with the best bats in the league, he compares well to a Jeff Bagwell type guy.

If Jang compares to Bagwell he is complimented in the lineup by 2B Javy Palmeiro, who is a Craig Biggio clone. Oddly enough though the recent signing of Dan Russell might indicate that ownership is willing to trade Palmeiro since they have a suitable (though not nearly as good) replacement. Palmeiro hasn’t been happy since he saw the contract Kyle Thomas got, since outside of hitting 10-15 less HRs a year should be every bit as good as the $110M man.

Switching hitting 3B Marc Morris reminds ownership of Terry Pendelton. CF Bryan Butler might as well be the son of former all-star Bret Butler. Butler has superior range, and for the foreseeable future should contend for the lead league in SBs. Two inexpensive FA acquisitions are switch hitting power hitters, won’t hit for average but could each get 45+ HRs and their gloves are good enough to cover 3rd base.

Ownership did not have a SS with baseline defensive numbers currently on the team, so they had to sign a Walt Weiss type defensive gem in Bip Doyle. Obviously nobody named Bip Doyle would strike fear in any pitcher, but he’s there to help out pitchers.

The lineup is not dominant, but is playoff caliber. Well rounded with both speed and power, a lineup could include three switch hitters and a lefty with a mixture of youth and vets.

What will keep this team from competing in the next couple of seasons is the pitching staff. From the beginning this staff really only had 3 SPs at the ML/AAA rosters currently worthy of being on an ML staff, and just one average ML RP. They traded away some offensive weapons to get some young bullpen help, then they hit free agency looking for those rare bargains. Joseph Saitou was their star FA pickup. For a modest salary he will be their Ace the next couple of seasons. Two other FA RP acquisitions Kingsale and Lowell have average pitching skills, but at least their high DUR and decent STA should help ensure fully rested RPs are available. Along with a rule 5 draft pick the bullpen which was non-existent to start the season could be a strength. They will probably go with the hot hand and do a closer by committee. One more SP is probably needed, and a long term injury to an SP could sink this team.

Cincinnati is happy with their FA pickups, they avoided bidding wars and got good value. Overall this team is hoping that a decent lineup, and better than average defense at most positions is enough to get the team around .500 mark.

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