AL South Previews: San Jose

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San Jose Elephant Seals

Historically, San Jose has made the playoffs three times, but has not finished above .500 since season 9. The team plays in a park that favors power hitters.

Possible Opening Day Starting Lineup:
2B Alredo Morales
LF Vicente Jose
3B Andy Bell
CF Matthew Sweeney
1B Juan Benavente
DH Tom Henderson
C  J.P. Hernandez/Ryan Brooks
SS Josh Ellis
RF Mark Suzuki

Key subs: Ricardo Johnson, Andres James, Gary Youkilis, Jim Coco

Starting Staff: 
Ed Nunnari
Alex Aoki
Rex Pederson
Damion Shibata
Abraham Diaz

Bullpen:
Marvin Becker
Wes James
Luis Sivilla
Pascual Fernandez
Dee Kershner
Jason Reed

Analysis:
The team is hoping to build around 23 year old CF Matthew Sweeney, who just missed a 20/20 season as a rookie last year. Sweeney should be a great piece to build around over the next several seasons, although his glove may make him a better 2b than CF. 25 Year Old RF Mark Suzuki is an excellent defender who could step in at 3B or even SS if need be. While his contact rate and power are limited, he has averaged about 15 HRs and a .283 average over his three + major league seasons.

30 year old speedster Ricardo Johnson has several seasons of 100 + steals thanks to a great batting eye, an awesome contact swing, great base-running and speed. He might be good trade bait for this team that is trying to rebuild. Alfredo Morales, coming off of a 25 HR season with a .290 average, should be a solid overall hitter who can step in at 2B. 3B ANdy Bell, meanwhile, is coming off a .300 season at the plate. 

23 year old speedster Andres James also seems to have the tools to cause trouble on the basepaths, but has been slowed by substandard OBPs, including a low .313 last season, despite a great eye and good contact. James is perhaps hurt by a total lack of power, allowing pitchers to challenge him without a threat of making them pay. Still, it is way too early to give up on this young future lead off hitter, who could have a very bright future.

Josh Ellis is a very good fielding SS who struggles against RHP and has very limited power. Gary Youkilis, on the other hand, handles RHP well, but lacks the power necessary for a corner outfielder, especially on a team that is in desperate need of power. Newly acquired LF Vicente Jose is an on base machine, with a career OBP over .420, but his power is fading as he ages, and again as a LF he will not provide much in the way of extra base hits. Juan Benevente is a nice hitter in the mode of Sean Casey (a 1B with very limited power-a theme on this squad).

Where is the Power? Jim Coco does provide power, swatting 60+ HRs in his past two minor league seasons, but the Jack Cust clone was in the minors at age 26 for a reason, striking out over 130 times per year. While his average has been decent, his atrocious contact rate and substandard splits make it unlikely Coco can produce an OBP to justify his power at the major league level. The only power hitter who is proven at the major league level is 1B Tom Henderson, who hit a HR in every 10 ABs last season, netting 38 in under 400 ABs. Henderson has a good batting eye, but like Coco is limited by poor splits and a poor contract rate. Henderson may have had his best overall season as a 26 year old rookie.

C JP Hernandez will be an excellent platoon catcher and relief pitcher against LHP. He is dreadful against RH'ers, but young Hernandez should have a long platoon career ahead of him. Brooks offers good power as the other part of the catching platoon, and they both are solid defensively.

The strength of the pitching staff, unfortunately, is the bullpen. 22 year old Luis Sivilla has an excellent arm, and should only get better as a future shut down closer or set up man. Pascual Fernandez is even better, and was one of the better relief pitchers in Plumpy Rules in season 11. Wes James is yet another fine reliever, but he is coming off a poor year in the ERA and WHIP departments. Marvin Becker provides veteran leadership for a bullpen that is among the best in all of Plumpy Rules, and it had better be, because as we will see, they will log a lot of innings to compensate for a very substandard starting staff.

26 year old Alex Aoki is a decent starting pitcher, with excellent control and passable splits, but has only one major league pitch, which limits his effectiveness as a starter. Veteran Daimion Shabata has accumulated over 100 victories, and is a reliable 4th starter. Pederson is very similar, with 114 career victories, but waning skills, but he will be asked to be a #2 or #3 SP on this team. Abraham Diaz, meanwhile, is a passable end of the rotation SP for San Jose. Rule 5 pick Ed Nunnari has some of the best skills of any potential SP for the Seals. He has excellent control, a great first pitch, decent second and third offerings, and he keeps the ball on the ground. His achilles heal is barely passable splits vs. lefties and righties, but on this staff, flame throwing Nunnari appears to be the cream of the crop. 

Jason Reed, meanwhile, is barely passable as a long reliever or mop-up guy. Kershner's control will pose problems for him, and he doesn't have the splits or enough great pitches to compensate. He is more of a mop up guy than anything.

Verdict: San Jose simply does not have the starting pitching or the lineup to compete in season 12. They do have a great bullpen and a few very nice young players to build around. Perhaps trading James or Sivilla for emerging prospects could accelerate the rebuilding process.

And help is on the way with slugging DH/C Vin Romero, AAA SS Pedro Campos (who is one of the very best prospects in Plumpy Rules), and pitchers Sherman Fick and A.J. Fassano, who both project to be far better than any of the Starting Pitchers currently laboring at the ML level. With the 8th pick in the upcoming draft, San Jose is sure to add another nice building block to their team.

ttjackson@yahoo.com

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Commissioner of the fakest fake baseball league on the planet: Plumpy Rules!!!!111

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