Bison's chances take a hit (or two)

Flagstaff, AZ - The Iowa City Bison suffered two losses to the disabled list, as LF Vinny Funaki and IF Tyler Merrick were injured in Spring Training games. Funaki suffered a pulled oblique muscle and is expected to miss at least two weeks while rehabbing, and is expected to open the season in the DL. Funaki is a 3-time all star and 2-time silver slugger, but was placed on the disabled list for the fourth time in his 11 year career. Originally a 2B, the 32 yr old Funaki started a significant number of games in LF in Season 10 following a herniated disk that limited his infield range, and projected to be the Bison's regular LF this season. Funaki is a .321 career hitter and appeared in 154 games last season.

In an earlier spring training game, Funaki's projected replacement at 2B,
Tyler Merrick, suffered a torn ligament in his ankle while running out an infield hit. Bison team physician Dr Raul Falto indicated that Merrick will undergo surgery today to repair the ligament, and is expected to miss at least one month. Team GM Bill Zooba issued a statement "Although both of these injuries are significant to our team, we emphasize the concept of team and believe that the team will continue to compete until we get them back and healthy. At this point, we believe we have enough talent and depth in our organization to fill the temporary needs until Tyler and Vinny are healthy to come back to their jobs".

Following the injuries, the Bison made a few roster moves. 3B
Jason Whitehead was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Elephants. Whitehead is a Rule 5 draftee and must stay in the Major League roster or be returned to his original team, the Buffalo Blizzard. 2B Travis Biggio, who filled in admirable for the injured Vinaki during Season 9's playoff push, was added to the ML roster. Biggio, Whitehead, and fellow Rule 5 draftees Vic Saez and Billy Hunter are the most likely options to temporarily replace Merrick and Funaki in the lineup.

Rule 5: Winners, Losers... chain smokers and boozers

The Mathewson Season 11 Rule 5 Draft was complete, and early on, it appears that there were some clear winners, some losers, and well, as the country music song goes, some chain smokers and boozers. The Cleveland Lumberjacks lost 7 players in the draft, while the Colorado Crush lost 5. The majority of players drafted project to fill some limited roles for their new teams, but some notable exceptions are expected to carry significant roles.

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks took infielder
Jorge Perez with the first pick of the draft. Perez, a previous Colorado projects to be a solid infielder with a balanced set of tools and should play a significant role in Anaheim's rebuilding efforts.

The Baltimore Blast picked catcher Pablo Santos in the second pick of the draft. In 250+ at bats at the ML level in Season 10, Santos hit a decent .275 AVG/.353 OBP/.712 OPS, while catching in 74 games. The Blast were in desperate need of a catcher, and Santos clearly helps fill that void.

The Boston Minute Men claimed outfielder
Pedro James from the Colorado Crush. The 23 yr old James has been a 4 time All-Star in the Minor Leagues, and has shown great promise against right handed pitching and a great batting eye.

No real losers in this draft. While Cleveland lost the highest number of players, Colorado lost the most talent. However, the Colorado minor league system is very strong, and the players lost in the draft have a minimal impact on the depth of the system. In fact, looking at the number of quality players protected by the Crush that would've been eligible for the draft, Colorado could qualify as a winner in this year's draft.

Chain Smokers?
The Baltimore Blast claimed 10 players in this year's draft. In picks ranging from the #2 to the #290 in the draft, the Blast strategy was clearly aimed at numbers in restocking a franchise that lost a lot of talent under prior management in the last few seasons. It is not clear that these players will remain in the roster, but the Blast get the "chain-smoker" award.

The Iowa City Bison picked two very similar players in this year's draft:
Vic Saez and Billy Hunter. Both are defensive, speedy players who play 2B and CF with limited offensive capabilities, and it is not immediately clear what role both of these would play in the team if they stay with the franchise.

In the drafting binge of Rule 5 talent stocking, the Baltimore Blast took on
AJ West off of the El Paso Fighting Tacos... and his 5 million contract due in season 11. Although a talented player, West's otherwise modest contract will be a significant burden in a team looking to rebuild and leaving the Blast management in a post-draft hangover. The Blast are considering returning West to El Paso; after clearing waivers and not getting claimed by other teams, El Paso is still considering. Rumors say that the Blast are in negotiation with several teams regarding a possible trade that would bring younger prospects to Baltimore.

Season 11 TOP 125 PROSPECTS (by jmagliaro)

Top 125 Prospects – Season 11 (by jmagliaro)

A breakdown of what went into determining the ratings. First off, I took into account health and makeup because those 2 things could considerably hinder a prospect from reaching his projected numbers. For position players the ratings are based on defensive skills, health, makeup, contact, power, splits, batting eye, speed and baserunning. For starting pitchers ratings are based on health, makeup, stamina, control, splits, grounball/flyball and pitches. For relief pitchers ratings are based on health, makeup, durability, stamina, control, splits, groundball/flyball and pitches. I welcome any suggestions of how to make this more accurate.
(Note from zoobaseball; jmagliaro included attribute ratings on how the ranks were determined, but I omitted those in the posting until I can sort out the spacing posting/editing).

1 George Crandall, SP (New Britain, HiA) Rank: 9.8
Pascual Martin, CF (Memphis, AA) Rank 9.6
Adam Phillips, SP (Colorado, AAA) Rank 9.6
Howard Robinson, 3B (Cincinnati, AA) Rank 9.5
Del Henley, SS (Anaheim, HiA) Rank 9.5
Tomas Gonzales , SP (Helena, AA) Rank 9.5
Dennis Satou, SP (Salem, AAA) Rank 9.5
Steven Reith, SP (Oakland, HiA) Rank 9.5
Shea Brooks , CF (Chicago, AA) Rank 9.4
Albert Bell , 2B (Chicago, AA) Rank 9.4
Joshua Gaston ,SP (Portland ,LoA ) Rank 9.4
Vic Cordero, SP (Portland, AAA) Rank 9.3
Tyler Merrick , SS (Iowa, AAA) Rank 9.3
Octavio Guerrero, SP (Richmond, HiA) Rank 9.3
Albert Moraga, CF (Norfolk, HiA) Rank 9.3
Ken Easley, RF (Memphis, AA) Rank 9.3
Fernando Rodriguez, LF (Trenton, AAA) Rank 9.3
Mike Jameson, RF (Baltimore, LoA) Rank 9.2
Cozy Ponson, SP (El Paso, AAA) Rank 9.2
Pedro Uribe, SP (Chicago, AA) Rank 9.2
Johnny Roth, SP (Colorado, AAA) Rank 9.2
Joaquin Vega, RF (Helena, AAA) Rank 9.2
Hugh Stargell, LF (Columbus, AA) Rank 9.2
24 Chris Tobin, 1B (Columbus, AA) Rank 9.2
Carlos Rosado, SP (Columbus, AAA) Rank 9.2
Ivan Henriquez, SP (Seattle, AAA) Rank 9.1
27 Brendan Lee, CF (Helena, LoA) Rank 9.1
28 Bob Willis, SP (Las Vegas, HiA) Rank 9.1
Sidney Gardner, 3B (Cincinnati, AAA) Rank 9.1
30 Kevin Jenkins, SP (Norfolk, LoA) Rank 9.1
Charlie Chambers, SP (Las Vegas, AAA) Rank 9.0
Yeico Julio, SP (Cleveland, HiA) Rank 9.0
O.T. Ferrara, SP (Iowa, AAA) Rank 9.0
34 Shaggy Spencer, SP (Charlotte, RL) Rank 9.0
35 Mariano Gonzalez, DH (Colorado, AAA) Rank 9.0
36 Jumbo Becker, 2B (Helena, LoA) Rank 9.0
37 Sammy Ugueto, SP (Portland, AA) Rank 9.0
38 Trevor Bellhorn, LF (Trenton, AAA) Rank 8.9
39 Douglas Thompson, SP (New Orleans, AA) Rank 8.9
40 Bono Hardy, 2B (Helena, AAA) Rank 8.9
41 Carlos James, SP (Louisville, AA) Rank 8.9
42 Pedro Pulido, SP (New Britain, HiA) Rank 8.9
43 Edgar Martin, SP (Cincinnati, AAA) Rank 8.9
44 Anthony Christenson, LF (San Antonio, AAA) Rank 8.9
45 Kelly McPherson, SP (New Britain, HiA) Rank 8.8
46 David DeLeon, CL (Kansas City, HiA) Rank 8.8
47 Yorvit Beltran, RF (New Britain, AA) Rank 8.8
48 Pedro Gonzalez, SS (Helena, HiA) Rank 8.8
49 Derick Romero, SP (Colorado, AAA) Rank 8.8
50 Brian Jordan, 2B (Salem, AAA) Rank 8.8
51 Stan Middlebrook , SP (Salem, ML) Rank 8.8*
52 Cam Kelley, 2B (Salem, HiA) Rank 8.8
53 Valerio Reyes, SS (Boston, AAA) Rank 8.7
54 Patrick Bonilla, SP (Boston, AAA) Rank 8.7
55 Howie Martin, SS (Kansas City, HiA) Rank 8.7
56 Dolf Spencer, CL (Texas, LoA) Rank 8.7
57 Jerrod Payton, LF (Norfolk, AA) Rank 8.7
58 Flash Barr, SP (Buffalo, AAA ) Rank 8.7
59 Richie Johnson, 2B (Richmond, AAA) Rank 8.7
60 Damon Rivera, 2B (Norfolk, AAA ) Rank 8.7
61 Hick Delahanty, LF (Salem, AA) Rank 8.6
62 Guy Zaun, CL (San Antonio ,RL) Rank 8.6
63 Cookie Bravo, 1B (Cincinnati, AAA) Rank 8.6
64 Bey Franco, SP (Texas, HiA) Rank 8.6
65 Craig Gates CL (Memphis, LoA) Rank 8.6
66 Rob Cox, CF (New Britain, AA) Rank 8.6
67 Quinton Hansen, CL (Chicago, HiA) Rank 8.5
68 Ivan Pescado, LF (Chicago, HiA) Rank 8.5
69 Hector Riley, CL (Norfolk, HiA ) Rank 8.5
70 Albert Vallarta, SS (Texas, RL) Rank 8.5
71 Ken Clark, SP (Detroit, RL) Rank 8.5
72 Edgar Sanchez, CL (Colorado, AAA) Rank 8.5
73 Pedro James, RF (Boston, ML) Rank 8.5 - RULE 5 DRAFTEE
74 Pedro James, 2B (Trenton, AAA) Rank 8.5
75 Clayton Reagan, 2B (Salem, AAA) Rank 8.4
76 Hank Puffer, 2B (Salem, HiA) Rank 8.4

77 Pascual James, 1B (New Orleans, LoA) Rank 8.4

78 Courtney Ratliff, CF (Cleveland, AA) Rank 8.4
79 Al Park, CF (Colorado, AA) Rank 8.4
80 Hideo Martin, SS (Trenton, AAA) Rank 8.3
81 Enrique Macias, CF (Baltimore, HiA) Rank 8.3
82 Bailey Darensbourg, 2B (El Paso , LoA) Rank 8.3
83 Bump Newhouser, 2B (Boston, RL) Rank 8.3
84 Harry Butler, 2B (Baltimore, HiA) Rank 8.3
85 Luis Baerga, LF (Charlotte, RL) Rank 8.3
86 Howard Stockton, 1B (Seattle, AAA) Rank 8.3
87 Tony Miranda, SS (Oakland, HiA) Rank 8.3
88 J.R. Holt, SP (Los Angeles, RL) Rank 8.3
89 Henry Jenkins, CL (Oakland, AA) Rank 8.2
90 Esteban Rodriguez, RP (Iowa, AAA) Rank 8.2
91 Hootie Glynn, SP (Los Angeles, RL) Rank 8.2
92 Joshua Lewis, 2B (Colorado, AAA) Rank 8.2
93 Brendan Pierce, 3B (Trenton, AAA) Rank 8.2
94 Sammy Rivera, SP (Cleveland, AA) Rank 8.1
95 Cooper Harper, SS (Salem, HiA) Rank 8.1
Jorge Perez, 3B (Anaheim, ML) Rank 8.1 - RULE 5 DRAFTEE
97 Rex Vaughn, LF (Buffalo, AAA) Rank 8.1
98 Steve Griffiths, RF (Trenton, HiA) Rank 8.1
99 Sandy Blake, RF (Texas, AAA) Rank 8.1
100 Chris Mcquillan, SP (New Orleans, AA) Rank 8.1
101 Joe Rolle, CF (Los Angeles, AA) Rank 8.1
102 Harry Encarnacion, 3B (Portland, AAA) Rank 8.0
103 Andres Melo, CL (Seattle, AAA) Rank 8.0
104 Mike Haywood, SP (El Paso, AAA) Rank 8.0
105 Will Jones, LF (New Britain, AAA ) Rank 8.0
106 Juan Colon, DH (St. Louis, AAA) Rank 8.0
107 Chad Scheinder, LF (Anaheim, AA) Rank 8.0
108 Hector Morris, 2B (Memphis, RL) Rank 7.9
109 Heath Wood, 2B (Detroit, AA) Rank 7.9
110 Derrek Silva, C (Portland, AA) Rank 7.9
111 Harry Harding, SP (Columbus, AAA) Rank 7.9
112 Jose Bennett, C (Buffalo, AA) Rank 7.9
113 Sal Priest, CF (Norfolk, AAA) Rank 7.8
114 Rube Murphy, RP (Iowa, AAA) Rank 7.8
115 McKay Reagan, CL (Memphis, AA) Rank 7.8
116 Steve Reed, CF (El Paso, AA) Rank 7.7
Jason Whitehead, 3B (Iowa City, ML) Rank 7.7 - RULE 5 DRAFTEE

118 Paul Smith, 2B (Helena, HiA) Rank 7.6

119 Artie Stuart, SP (New Orleans, HiA) Rank 7.6
120 Albert Cairo, C (Salem, AAA) Rank 7.6
121 Kevin Sikorski, C (New Britain, HiA) Rank 7.5
122 Albert Borbon, C (Seattle, RL ) Rank 7.3
123 Andrew Harris, SP (Seattle, AAA) Rank 7.1
124 Greg Smith ,C (Helena, AAA) Rank 7.0
125 Buddy Taylor, C (Detroit, HiA ) Rank 6.8

Aging bison look to stay ahead of the herd

The season 11 Iowa City Bison look very much like an older version of the Season 10 bison. After two seasons on top of the NL East, management has done very few changes in the offseason. The team is drastically different from the Season 6 team that moved into Iowa City after playing several seasons between Columbus and New York.

Pitching remains the team's strength, with 31 yr old Cookie Ramirez returning as the staff ace for the 11th consecutive season, having won his first Cy Young award in Season 10. The rest of the rotation is rounded up by 35 yr old Brandon Freeman, Rick Cobb, Ismael Alvarado and Darrin Lloyd, although Jose Amaro and Pedro Saenz will challenge Lloyd for a spot in the rotation during spring training. The bullpen lacks a clearly defined closer; Brett Halter is likely to get the majority of the save opportunities, but Robert Owens may be ready to step into the role.

The team lost two significant position players in the offseason: 2B/CF Jimmie Henley (who signed a deal with the Chicago Billy Goats as a free agent) and OF Joe Eyre. Their speed on the bases and stellar defense, will likely be replace by a pair of Rule 5 draftees: Billy Hunter and Vic Saez. Failing to land a free agent, the team looks likely to rely heavily on aging sluggers 36yr old RF Mike Burrell, LF Vinny Funaki, 36yr old C Joel McNamara and 34yr old 3B Kenny Perez. The younger core of the offense is provided by 1B/LF Norberto Fernandez and CF Aaron Bailey, while the defensive gold glove platoon of Tony Tatis and Willie Lopez returns for a third season. Bo Wells returns on a limited role as part time 1B, occasional catcher and pinch-hitter extraordinaire. Likely to make the team as starting 2B is highly touted prospect Tyler Merrick, a shortstop in his minor league career.

The team is a combination of aging free agent and trade acquisitions, and some home-grown talent, but the fate of the Bison likely rests on the skills of some aging players and how well the bench players can fill in to keep them fresh. In a division where Buffalo, Cincinnati and Norfolk have significantly improved, the Bison herd will likely find themselves fighting to avoid extermination.

The Flatlanders are ready for the new season!

(Analysis contributed by bobcat_grad)
COLUMBUS, OH - It's been a long trek for the Flatlanders since taking over a troubled franchise six seasons ago Columbus organization seem poised to take the next step.When the former Chicago Cruisers was purchased by the Columbus ownership group, the team had just wrapped up a miserable 65 win season despite $97 million dollar payroll. Much of that money was wrapped up in aging players with very little talent in the farm system. The new general manager, Bob Catgrad, made the decision to cut the player payroll and invest heavily in scouting, pursuing international players and the annual amateur draft. Catgrad said, "Initially, we didn't have much to work with. We knew it was going to be a rough couple of years, so we just dug in a weathered the storm."

Catgrad made some significant trades in his first two seasons as the Flatlanders GM, shedding salary and brining in young prospects.
Randy Bailey and perrenial MVP candidate Tony Devereaux were brought into the organization while the big contracts were sent packing. Recognizing the amount of talent around the globe, the Flatlanders made investments in players like current left-fielder Denny Lo early on, but the core of the current roster was built through the domestic draft. Current ace of the staff, Jackie Little, was the first pick in the draft made by Catgrad and has turned into an anchor for the young Flatlander staff. Rick Boswell emerged as a good offensive second basemen last year, pushing veteran Mike Webb out of the lineup, and starts this season penciled in as the starter. The young phenom, Marty Boyer, made the leap at age 19 from Rookie league to the majors and is coming off a 29 save season posting a 2.08 ERA. At only 22 years of age, the Flatlanders look to have their closer situation settled for the next decade. The investment in youth and building from within began to pay off two seasons ago when the Flatlanders won 91 games, made a late run at the wild card, but ended up losing in the second round to division rival Portland. Last year, the team fell short of the postseason by one game and the front office felt the lack of veteran leadership may have hampered the team's performance. A late trade by Catgrad tried to address this need, but the addition of Howie Buckley did not turn out well as Buckley hit .239 and with an OPS of .712 for the Flatlanders, well off his career numbers of .293 and .918. "Who would have expected Howie to struggle so much here?" said Catgrad. "I don't think he did, and I certainly didn't."

Looking to improve his club's chances this year, Catgrad has already made the first big move of the offseason by trading some of the young prospects he's stockpiled for two proven players.
Harry Moya and Tony Delgado come over from Salem, and will be counted on to shore up right field and the starting rotation. The Flatlanders are reportedly also shopping for a center fielder, opting to not tender Ozzie Howell an offer. Catgrad is looking forward to spring training, saying "I feel confident with the moves we've made that this team can contend for our division this year. Portland has set a high bar for us, but we are going to do our best to reach it."