Sunday, January 17, 2016

Building Blocks

Brian Dozier celebrating a career year by him & the team.

With playoff baseball upon us in the Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League, I was browsing my past articles on the league and fell onto my piece about my Traverse City Panthers' hopes entering the 2nd Season (2014) -- We are currently in the playoffs of the 3rd Season.

It was a great article, about how most of this team has been put together. I feel the article paints the details of how a General Manager/team owner went to work, and is trying to build a champion out of a team that was in the ashes.


I'm adding to the article, the updates (after the original) -- [Original ARTICLE in Green]

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NOVEMBER 28, 2014
Panthers are ready for Josh Donaldson to release his pure awesomeness.
The top pick went to my Traverse City Panthers, for they had the worst record in the entire league at 46-116. When I drafted this team in the inaugural draft, I thought I drafted really well for them, I thought that I could compete in my division at least, I solely drafted for 2013 MLB players instead of 2012 players, so I knew that would be reflected somewhat, but it really wasn't until putting the rosters together that I realized how little power that my lineup had. Before the season began, I felt we would be in the losing half of the league, but more like 70-92, mid 60's in wins, at it's worst -- I was obviously wrong.

In the 2013 Inaugural draft (which took place in February 2014) and was of 2012 players -- I drafted players that would emerge in 2013, in Josh DonaldsonMatt CarpenterBrian DozierBrandon BeltDevin MesoracoChris Johnson & Julio Teheran. I also drafted some great pitching in Yu DarvishMatt HarveyAlex Cobb, and a No-Card in Scott Kazmir. Drafted bullpen studs Cody AllenLuke Gregerson & Kelvin Herrera.

When I realized that things were going south, I traded players like my center fielder Austin Jackson, who at that point was one of my few constant contributors on offense to Portland with starting pitchers Matt Harrison and Brandon Morrow. Both Harrison & Morrow had pretty good seasons in 2012, so they will help Portland's staff now with a little offense & great defense in adding Jackson. I would acquire Corey KluberNathan Eovaldi & Ryan Raburn in the deal. Portland also acquired my 4th Round Draft pick (basically a late 3rd Round pick). Kluber, as we know would win the 2014 American League Cy Young Award, while Eovaldi has potential, dialing it up in the high 90's; Raburn will be a plus for this season, our 2014 Season (2013 stats) -- Raburn had a .901 OPS in 2013 playing part-time for the Indians, with 16 HR's in only 243 at-bats, which will come in handy off the bench for the Panthers.

Excited about Kluber: By the way, the man only has one face.

At the trade deadline, I made another deal that would help transform this team and set them up for the future, a trade with Boston. Trading Austin Jackson was tough for my Panthers, because it left a vacancy in the outfield, I had Giancarlo Stanton in left, and after that there was a considerable drop-off. I still had Alejandro De Aza (who was solely drafted for 2012 & 2013 MLB stats) and Jarrod Dyson (a part-time speedster), the other guys ended up being released after the season. At this point, I told myself we are drafting starting pitcher Jose Fernandez if we end up with the worst record. Could you imagine a rotation with Darvish, Harvey, Fernandez, Teheran & Kluber?! But my senses kicked in, and I realized I need some outfield studs, and some offense -- who is more exciting than (the other Cuban) Yasiel Puig? Nothing was confirmed, there was my team along with a few other teams that had a legit shot at the #1 overall pick, nor was I trying to lose, who really wants to be the worst? But realistically, I knew I was going to get a good pick regardless, it was a great draft for rookies.

Pence wants to bring his MLB winning ways to Grand Traverse.
So back to the Boston deal, I traded for Hunter Pence. Pence was struggling for Boston, and at that moment was sitting in the minors, he had good numbers in 2012 & better numbers for 2013 & 2014. He is a consistent offensive player, with good glove, that bats around .285 that hangs around the 20/20 club. So my thoughts starting going with a great fielding OF in Giancarlo, Pence & the possibility of Puig. I traded 3B-Chris Johnson, who will help Boston now in their playoff race, and be even better in 2014 (2013 MLB stats), he was traded along with NC (no-card) Scott Kazmir who transformed his career from almost out-of-baseball to sudden back-on-track ace, and a lefty in Jonny Venters (who has had some health issues), but should help in his playoff push. I traded a 6th Rd pick I believe, and received a 15th Rd (last round) draft pick. I would re-acquire my 6th Rd pick back, by trading starting pitcher Matt Garza.

Eventually, we ended up with the #1 overall pick, I drafted Yasiel Puig. He will go along with Stanton & Pence like planned, and I added some depth to De Aza & Dyson with sleeper Scott Van Slyke and surprise Tampa Bay Rays youngster Kevin Kiermaier. Van Slyke, is in an interesting MLB situation, he's in a crowded Dodgers outfield, that has been in middle of trade rumors -- if he was able to get playing time somewhere, he could emerge like Jayson Werth did in Philadelphia, then again, he could also just be another Ryan Raburn, who can never take advantage of his full-time status (better as a platoon option).

T.C.'s alternate logo.
We added Wade Davis in the 2nd Round of the 2014 BoS Draft, that will go nicely in 2015 with Kelvin HerreraCody AllenLuke Gregerson, and Tyler Clippard.

We should be better this season, it will be tough in this N.L. East though with the Hannibal Cavemen & Holland Hitchhikers -- plus the Urbana Locomotives hope to defend their division title as well. Looking forward to seeing how much the Panthers have improved -- I really believe we can finish with a winning record, so I guess it's safe to say that I expect my team to improve it's win  total by 35-40 games. We'll have to see how that all plays out, really stiff competition this season, the league I believe has more parity this season.

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In 2014, the Traverse City Panthers did improve as I expected, not by 35 or 40 games, but by 44 games! The team went from league doormat to a 90-win N.L. Wild Card team over one season. The emergence of young players like Donaldson, Carpenter, Dozier, Belt, Kluber, Teheran and others, plus the addition of Yasiel Puig (#1 overall pick in 2014) helped solidify this sudden-championship contender.

The Panthers defeated its division rival, division champs - Hannibal Cavemen in the American League Division Series, and then gave the eventual back-to-back National League Champion - Portland Microbrewers a run for their money; Forcing the National League Championship Series to seven games.

The off-season would watch the Panthers further evolve, by adding more talent in the draft, and conducting a few trades. The team drafted prospects Brandon Finnegan, Dalton Pompey, and Nathan Karns -- while adding young free agent Wilmer Flores; The Panthers traded Jordy Mercer to the Buffalo Yankees that set-up the pick to acquire Karns, while the Panthers went younger to get Flores to go along with Jean Segura at shortstop. The drafting of Karns would help in acquiring a bigger, up-coming mid-season piece (but we'll get to that in a bit).

Leading up to the 2015 BoS Annual Draft (which includes rookies & free agents), a few big trades went down. The Buffalo Yankees got the young starting pitcher they wanted in Chris Archer, and added a solid second baseman in veteran Ian Kinsler -- in exchange for Miguel Cabrera and Wade Miley. Cabrera's numbers in the BoS was down in 2014 from his A.L. MVP season in 2013, and with the team having another star at first in Adrian Gonzalez, and the pressing need that they wanted to add to their rotation -- it all made sense. I know Buffalo wanted a young starting pitcher for some time, they inquired about my Julio Teheran at one point.

So after hearing of the trade, being the Commissioner, I was a bit surprised when Stray started messaging me about the possibility of myself owning the Major League Triple Crown winner. I definitely was not feeling comfortable of playing Brandon Belt for most of the season on down-numbers for the upcoming season (although I loved Belt's upside, that's if he could stay healthy).

Chicago would acquire Yasiel Puig from Traverse City prior to the 2015 BoS Draft in a blockbuster trade that watched the Nine send Miguel CabreraDrew SmylyJosh HarrisonLeonys Martin & a Chicago 3rd Round Draft Pick (that ended up being Dalton Pompey) to Traverse City; Puig was sent to Chicago with pitchers Yu Darvish and Cody Allen, plus first baseman Brandon Belt T.C.'s 1st Round Pick (Rusney Castillo). 

Overall, if I was to redo this trade, I would give up a little less, but am more relieved that my little brother now owns Puig -- Acquired in separate mid-season deal.

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