The Los Angeles Cherubs entered the offseason on the short list of World Series contenders, but critics questioned some of the moves made by GM travisg. The team made a handful of trades, including the controversial deal that sent potential ace Vasco Rodriguez and CF Quinn Spencer to Portland for three young SP, and signed only one FA, a minor league pitcher, due to payroll issues.
C J.J. "Jimmy Jam" Jefferies is one of the best all-around players in the game, and will contend for a batting crown and Gold Glove.
1B Veteran Chief Adcock has lost most of his HR power but remains a fine middle-of-the-order hitter and a great teammate.
2B Marty Butler, entering what is likely to be his last year with the club, will bat second and provide solid defense up the middle.
3B The Cherubs acquired veteran Craig Blake from Seattle to provide some much-needed pop from the cleanup spot, and club officials believe he could be one of the better defenders at his position.
SS Team officials aren't sure what kind of offense to expect from George Cradle, who some scouts believe could thrive as a singles hitter in Dodger Stadium, but his glove is the reason Los Angeles acquired him in a trade with New Orleans.
LF Fan favorite Pepe "The Priest" Prieto is no longer the HR threat he once was and both his range and arm have slipped considerably, but he can still mash lefties. Prieto will forever be remembered by fans for his elaborate routine between each pitch and for blowing kisses to fans as he takes his position in the field.
CF Trade rumors swirled throughout the offseason about Turk Casanova, who needs no nickname because his name sounds made-up, but the club instead dealt his heir apparent. Club officials said Casanova's age and salary were an impediment, but many scouts believe his defense is worth the money. He's no slouch at the plate, either, and holds the all-time record for most mentions at gossip blog On The DL.
RF Clarence Downs will move from 3B, where he's average, to RF, where he's outstanding. Some scouts believe he's better off with a platoon mate who can hit righties, but most scouts believe Downs can consistently hit .300. He's not a burner, but his baserunning is among the best in the league.
SP1 If it's possible for a pitcher as good as Les Mills to be underrated, then he's underrated. None of his talents jump out, but he does everything well and gives his team a chance to win in every start.
SP2 Although Jake Joseph is the same age as Mills, he's yet to put it all together at the ML level. The team betrayed its lack of confidence by declining to offer him a long-term contract and taking him once more to arbitration.
SP3 D'Angelo Marin, recently acquired from Portland, has the potential to become a very good pitcher, but control is a concern. The team hopes Jefferies can help him behind the plate and that his walks, combined with stellar IF defense, will lead to double plays. Still, that's a gamble.
SP4 The team will likely enter the season with one of a pair of talented, but erratic, veterans as its fourth starter. Slick Friend nor Tim Ray have each found occasional success in the ML, but their control issues will likely push one or both of them into mopup work, if not the minor leagues.
SP5 The last spot in the rotation will likely go to either soft-tossing youngster Kevin Henderson or recently acquired Sid "Yes, Master" Bates. Both pitchers are talented and project well, but neither has pitched in the ML.
The bullpen is among the league's best, with veterans Don Clifton and Pedro Manto setting up closer Gary DiFelice, acquired from Kansas City. Rookies J.C. Crawford and Hipolito Cendeno will gain valuable experience as long relievers.
The Cherubs' bench will be largely determined during ST, with a number of jobs up for grabs and no money to bring in reinforcements. The team obviously didn't feel that young SS Gary Martin was ready to hold down a full-time starting role, but he's a fine backup for now. CF Delino Diaz could start for many teams, but he'll back up Casanova and keep the seat warm for prospect Albert Torres. Rule 5 pick James Ray will back up Blake and Downs, and team must decide whether to go with defense or offense for their backup C. Los Angeles appears to need a power bat and backup DEF 2B going into the season.
Two comically large question marks are blinking where a fourth and fifth SP should be and the Cherubs' bench is thin, but Los Angeles boasts a dynamic offense, three fine SP and a quality bullpen. A lack of depth may eventually catch up with them, but for now they still look like a contender.