Atlanta Shockers

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Atanta Shockers 

History: Have made the playoffs in 8 of 11 seasons, and one back-to-back championships in seasons 2-3 while in Charlotte. Atlanta plays in a fairly neutral ballpark.

Opening day Lineup:

 2B            Fernando Garces

CF            Benji Taveras/Bernard Gunderson

1B            Jose Lee

C            Orlando Ordaz

DH            Vic Morales

RF            Juan Zapata

3B            Artie Cox/Julian Aguilera

LF            Rickey Milton

SS             Julian Aguilera/Bernard Gunderson

 

Bench: Stuart Stevens

Rotation:

Mendoza

Duran

Rollins

Paquette

Crow/Tavarez

C: Slugger Orlando Ordaz is a 33 year old whose catching skills are regressing quickly.  A hamstring injury in season 11 really slowed Ordaz down. Despite his slide, Ordaz remains a great power hitter, particularly against LHP. He is sub-par against RHP, but will continue to contribute as a DH and catcher in season 12. In 10 ML seasons, Ordaz has averaged around 35 HR’s and 80 RBI with a .275 BAVG. Ordaz should surpass 400 HRs if he can hang on a few more years. C Flash Michaels is a good defensive catcher who hits RHes fairly well despite a lack of power. Michaels should contribute decently in a platoon/backup role this season.

 1B Jose Lee is an excellent slugger, with great contact and an awesome eye along with solid power. The RH hitter holds his own against lefties and righties. In two full major league seasons, Lee has averaged 27 HRs, 95 RBI, and has a career .299 average and an OBP of .406. Lee has some 30 HR seasons in him, and should continue to flourish at the heart of the Shockers line-up.

2B: Fernando Garces is a good defender with nice speed and an excellent all-around hitter, especially for a middle infielder. A seven year vet, the 29 year old has hit over 150 career HR’s with a .297 bavg, and a solid OPS of .890.  Garces had his worst season in a long while last year, netting only 329 Abs with his lowest HR total as a major leaguer with his lowest batting average at any level (.264). Getting out of Columbus/Cleveland via trade and moving to Atlanta should be a career booster for Garces, who has all the skills that resulted in 20+ HRs and a .300 average prior to last year.

SS: 23 year old Julian Aguilera looks like he will be a fixture in the Shockers lineup for years to come. While his defense needs to develop a bit to be fully ready to play a solid Major League SS, he has solid hitting skills across the board. In his rookie campaign at only 22 years of age, Aguilera hitt .254 with 15 HRs and 12 SBs in 489 ABs while logging games at 2B, 3B, SS, and RF. Aguilera will only get better at the bat and on the field. Atlanta signed FA Bernard Gunderson, who qualifies as the best defensive player on the team. He is a plus defender at SS, and has logged some ST games at CF. The 31 year old has been a major league starter for 8 seasons, hitting a solid .290 with an average of 10 HRs per season. Gunderson may step in at SS for Atlanta, allowing Aguilera to play some 3B and fill in all over the diamond. A solid hitter, Gunderson is limited only by a low durability which will limit him to 120 or 130 games per year, but this was a great signing to solidify the defense.

3B: Artie Cox is a 26 year old switch hitter who is very effective against LH pitching. He makes good contact but has a below average eye, with decent power. He holds his own against RHP as well. Cox is a career .291 batter over parts of four seasons, and has collected 55 HRs.

Outfield

Juan Zapata  (RF) is a plus hitter with excellent contact and eye and a nice arm if not a great glove. The 30 year old has a career batting average of .293 with over 100 career HRs. He should be ready to contribute another solid season this year. Benji Taveras (CF) is a 25 year old with excellent range but a weak arm and only average glove for the position. A year of regression defensively at age 23 both offensively and defensively may prevent Taveras from being the player he could have been. Still, Taveras couples a great contact ability with incredible speed and base running to be a very nice leadoff man against RHP. His struggles vs. lefties may mean he will do best as a platoon player. In 4 years as a part time player, Taveras has amassed 90 SBs and a .279 average. Rickey Milton (LF) is a 26 year old who makes great contact and has plus power and a good eye. He is best against RHP, and will do well in a platoon role. Last year, in Milton’s rookie campaign, had a great campaign, with 27 HR’s, 101 RBI, a .274 Average, and an OPS of over .800. Milton will do well in the middle of the Shockers lineup. Stuart Stevens is a plus hitter versus RHP, with solid contact, power, and a nice eye. He is best suited for LF, but can play RF in a pinch. Stevens is set to make his ML debut in season 12, but has amassed an impressive 222 minor league HRs and a .327 BAVG and a .949 OPS during his eleven year minor league career. Stevens has the bat to contribute as a part-time player in his rookie campaign.

DH Vic Morales is a very solid hitter, particularly against LHs. His eye is one of the best in the league, and he has nice power. The 26 year old has only gotten 120 big league at bats going into this season, but has 7 HRs to show for those Abs, including 4 in only 41 Abs last season. With regular playing time, Morales could be a nice contributor for the Shockers this season. The former Montgomery Burns farmhand also has the ability to be a back up catcher.

Starting Pitchers:

Tony Mendoza is the ace of the Atlanta staff. Now 34 years old, Mendoza has won 152 games and logged 1997 K’s over 11 big league seasons.  The two-time all star overcomes average control with excellent splits, great velocity, and a great curveball and slider to go along with a nice change up, though his fastball is subpar. Mendoza has been on the trade block, but if he stays in Atlanta, he should have another solid year and should crack the 2000 K plateau in his first start.

 Young Vic Duran is a very nice rotation member for the shockers. Still only 24, Duran has excellent control, a great split vs. RHers, and a solid sinker and slider. In ½ seasons at the ML level in seasons 10 and 11, Duran has done okay, particularly as a 23 year old when he went 5-6 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. Duran should be ready to be a rotation contributor for a full season this year. 30 year old James Rollins is a nice innings eater at the end of the Atlanta rotation. He has excellent stamina and control, adequate splits, keeps the ball on the ground, and has an excellent 4-seam FB. His secondary pitches hold Rollins back. Still, in six ML seasons, Rollins has averaged 12 wins a year with an ERA just over 4.29. Rollins is unlikely to repeat the success he had in seasons 6 & 8 when he won 15 and 16 games respectively, but will contribute. Manny Paquette is a very solid left handed starting pitcher with excellent control, two plus pitches, and a great split verses lefties. In three full big-league seasons, Paquette has been a solid player, peaking in season 9 with a 14-8 record and a 3.79 ERA for Charlotte. The former first rounder is now 30, and should be in the middle of the Atlanta rotation.

 28 Year Old Yamil Tavarez rounds out the rotation. He has good control, decent splits, and a nice Fastball and a decent slider, but his third and fourth pitches are not ready for prime time. His major  league numbers have been quite poor, so Tavarez may find himself as a long reliever or mop up guy. Gregory Crow will also compete for the fifth starting spot. The two year veteran LHer started 23 games in season 11, with a respectable 8-8 record despite underwhelming skills.  Crow has decent control, but his splits are weak, particularly against RHers. Crow’s fast ball is mediocre, but his plus changeup allows him to be a big-league hurler. His curveball is average.

The Bullpen is headed by only one elite player: Shane Prince, who has been a stellar reliever in this league for 7 seasons. He has mainly pitched in middle relief, but has logged on average over 100 innings a year out of the bullpen, while compiling a 49-37 record with 22 major league saves. He does it with a very strong mix of stamina and durability, impeccable control, and two plus pitches. His lack of a third pitch limits Prince to the bullpen, and his right handed split is a little less than ideal, but overall, Prince has been a very good reliever over the years.

 Larry Brown is a decent reliever with good control, nice stamina, and decent splits. He lacks a dominant pitch, however. Despite this, Brown has had a few very effective seasons as a short reliever. John Shibata is another decent relief pitcher with good control. A lefty, he does particularly well against LH hitters. Like Brown, he lacks any dominant pitches. Unlike Brown, Shibata has struggled at the major league level. Kevin Thompson is a decent long reliever, with good control and great stamina for a reliever. His splits are low and his pitches underwhelming, however. Despite a great WHIP in his rookie year (Season 11), Thompson gave up 10 HRs in only 58 IP, leading to an ERA over 5. Hunter Wendell is a rule 5 draft pick who offers strong stamina, tub has average skills across the board, with his ability to induce ground balls his only plus skill.  Atlanta may regret this Rule 5 pick, who is not ready for the majors, and probably never will be. Turner Christensen is a decent reliever with good control who is effective against righties, and has two plus pitches. Jerry Murphy is a lefty specialist who is only good for 6 to 10 pitches due to dreadfully low stamina.

Outlook: Very solid hitting lineup, but Atlanta lacks the pitching depth or the bullpen to go too far this season.

Minors: 1B/LF Red Castillo is a nice hitting prospect. Likewise, Kris Post is a nice hitting 2B prospect who is a year away. CF Al Lee projects to be a nice leadoff hitter down the line. Guillermo Guerrero and Eric Pettitte are very nice starting pitching prospects.

ttjackson@yahoo.com

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