>The Sacramento Terrible Two’s are getting in the habit of having succesful years turn unsuccesful very quickly. In Season 9, the Two’s won the NL West for the 6th consecutive season, only to once again lose in the NLCS; one step from the World Series. During this amazing run, the Two’s have only 1 World Series win (in its only appearance) to show for their work. The team is getting older, salaries are rising, and the fans are beginning to get restless as the rest of the NL West (and the National League in general) are catching (or caught) up.
There were two notable changes in the offseason as long-time Two Vinny Granger was allowed to leave via free agency. Vinny was a former All-Star, Silver Slugger winner, and a popular player with the fans. He hit .306 during his career with the Two’s and carried a obp above .380+. Unfortunately, at 31 years old, and his trips to the DL coming more frequently, he was expendable. He had 4 DL trips in his career, but 2 in the last 3 seasons, with last years trip costing him most of the season. He also lost his range in CF and there was simply no place to play him. Enjoy the bitter cold in Fargo Vinny.
The other significant Two to leave was Danys Ortiz. Acquired before season 9 from Boston, he was an intregal piece to last years team. He played CF and 2B, covering most of the year for the aforementioned Vinny Granger, and was very productive with the bat. Again, we needed to cut costs a bit, and with his age creeping into the mid-30’s, it was a one and done for Ortiz.
The Two’s, normally very active in the Trade Market were quiet this offseason; although rumors abound they are working on several deals as we speak. The two main additions in the Capital City are rookies Cyrus Curtis, and the highly touted Harry Paleaz (pronounced just like a 4 year old begging Mom for 15 more minutes of TV before bed…Puuuuuuulllleeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzz). But more on them later.
2B-Dario Moran: As a rookie in his 1st full year in Sacramento he put up eye popping numbers. In 325 ab’s, he hit for a .335 average with a .390 obp, while scoring 63 runs in only 79 games. He also showed developing “pop” as he hit 9 hr’s in the pitcher friendly Raley Field. The 2B job is his and he will lead off and provide the top of the order spark for the Two’s.
C-Mitchell Drew/Brandon Nixon: The two spot in the lineup will be held down temporarily by the catcher tandem of Brandon Nixon and Mitchell Drew. Both are studs, but with the Two’s yet to make a deal for CF (or to move one of them), they will platoon. In the end, it is a rare spot in the lineup for a slow moving catcher, and the will hit lower in the order as well, but for now they will get on base and give the meat of the order plenty of rbi opportunities. Nixon is a 4-time All-Star and a 2-time winner of the Catcher’s Silver Slugger award. Drew is only 25 but is a .315 career hitter with a .397 obp in 3 full seasons.
RF-Albert Piper: Along wth Otis Pavlov, Piper is the face of the franchise. After a devastating injury during his first year in the bigs (season 3) that threatened his career, he has done nothing but shine on and off the field. On the field he is a 6-time All-Star, has won the Silver Slugger in LF and RF, and was the season 5 NL MVP. He turns 30 this season but shows no signs of decline, putting up a .324 average last year to go along with a .390 obp, 42 hr’s, 129 rbi, and 115 runs scored. One of the best #3 hitters in the game. Period. Rumors are also circulating that Piper’s name has been mentioned in talks with other teams, but at press time no deal has been made or any rumors substantiated.
1B(LF)-Dave Glaus: When Glaus was taken with the 17th pick in the season 4 draft, the organization was excited, but little did they know what a gem they had truly found. In only his 2nd full season in the majors, Glaus won the Silver Slugger for LF. In season 7, he hit 34 hr’s as he began the year in AAA. His “sophomore slump” in season 8 produced a 55 hr season, and last year he hit 48 bombs while driving in 136. This is great, we know he has power, but what really has the Two’s excited is the fact that his batting average has risen each year in the bigs from .261, to .272, to .294 last season. The sky is the limit for Mr. Glaus.
3B-Otis Pavlov: Otis Pavlov won his 2nd NL MVP (season 6) last year and is ready to tear up the National League this season. The Two’s were cruising towards the NL Pennant when he suffered an injury which ended his season. His absence versus San Antonio was one of the reasons the offense sputtered and the team never recovered. He has the credentials, a 7-time All-Star, 5-time Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove, and he also has two 50/30 (hr’s/sb’s) seasons and a 40/40 season. He can do it all, but what he really wants is for the Two’s to hang another World Series championship banner in Raley Field. He also shows no signs of slowing down as his .314/.364, 51 hr, 147 rbi, 134 runs scored, 24 sb season was one of his best.
LF-Harry Pelaez: The rookie phenom is here!!! The fans, as well as the organization, have placed a lot on the shoulders of the 22-year old potential 40/40 man. He played well during his “cup of coffee” with the team in season 9 hitting a whopping .340, with a .436 obp, while hitting 3 hr’s and driving in 6 in 13 games (47 ab’s). He retained his rookie status and should contend for Rookie of the Year honors. He is hitting 6th so the pressure will be minimized a bit, and with the big boppers in front of him, he should have many opportunities to drive in runs, and should see great pitches to hit.
CF-Vicente Soto: After spending most of 7 seasons in the minors, he was a utility man off the bench last year and put up very respectable numbers. In 132 ab’s, he hit .288/.369 while stealing 12 bases (only 1 cs) and scoring 25 runs. He is the starter by default since Sactown was unable to make a move for an established young star, but he is the starter nonetheless; for now at least.
SS-R.J.Lee: R.J. won a gold glove at every stop he made throughout the minor leagues, and the Major Leagues were no different. He won his first SS Gold Glove last year and he is a true wiz with the leather. The Two’s are firm believers in defense first at the SS position, and in turn, that is all they get out of Mr. Lee. Even with his .207 average last year, the Two’s still score over 900 runs as the rest of their offense is potent. He will once again be the man in the 8th spot, if there is such a thing. Another rumor is out there floating that the Two’s are looking at a low level minor league SS who hits for average, power, and has the glove of Lee. Time will tell if the rumor is a rumor, or there is more to it.
The bench is solid with Roger Gonzalez (C) the first bat up in clutch situations, no one will ever forget his walk-off single to give the Two’s their World Series Championship in Season 7. He could start for many teams around the league. Felix Drew is a another defense only SS and will come in for defensive replacement late in games. Dan Washington is a former Rule V pick who has another potent bat, and Byron Swan (a Rule V pick this year) can play CF and 2B and should provide a nice pinch hit option. The Two’s will also have one of either Mitchell Drew or Brandon Nixon on the bench as the other platoons each night which will really help in critical game situations.
Albert Boone: The unquestioned ace of the staff, and one of the all-time best pitchers in the NABCL. He gets better with each passing year and his 165 wins are tied with Lenny Singleton for the most in history. He is coming off of 3 straight 20-win seasons posted his best career ERA last year. He also is coming off of 3 straight 300+ inning seasons. He will continue to give the Two’s a quality start every 4th day and hopefully lead them into the postseason for the 7th year in a row.
Fausto Bennett: He doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but National League hitters know who he is. The 3-time All-Star is coming off a 17-7 campaign with a 2.84 ERA and .167 OAV. He has 2 20-win seasons on his resume already and with this offensive lineup behind him he may take over as the Two’s ace anyday. His 230+ innings will be counted on greatly this season.
Alex Schmidt: Schmitty will always hold a spot in fan’s hearts as he was the Two’s first ever draft pick (#2 overall) in season 1. In season 8 he had a 24-win campaign and slipped last year to 17 wins, but he is another innings eater who keeps his team in games and gives up less hits than innings. He is the ace on most staffs but in Sacramento he is the #3 starter. He dislocated his shoulder (clean…no ligament or rotator cuff damage) in spring training trying to put sun tan lotion on his back, but will only miss 3 starts during the regular season.
Cyrus Curtis: The #4 spot in the rotation goes to rookie Cyrus Curtis. The season 6 1st round pick was acquired in a trade early in season 9 and is highly regarded within the organization. In 26 starts in AAA last year he posted a 3.22 ERA and in 4 starts with the big club during a September call-up he went 3-0. His splits (82/88) and pinpoint control (87) should make him the next in line of great Two’s pitchers. He could very easily join teammate Harry Pelaez in consideration for Rookie of the Year honors at seasons end.
Miguel Polanco: Rumor has it that Mr. Polanco is on the trade block but nothing has happened yet. Until then, he will man the backend of the rotation and put up solid numbers. Acquired in the Danys Ortiz deal with Boston before last season, Miguel put up solid numbers going 13-5 with a 3.60 ERA. He was signed to a 2-year extension at the beginning of the season but year two is a player option.
The bullpen is not used as much as normal bullpens but when they do pitch they are among the best. Closer Zephyr Johnson is a 2-inning closer (very rare nowadays) and he has 84 saves the last 3 years. His 10-win, 28 save season last year had up in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award at the end. He can pitch over 100-innings and is a rock the Two’s lean on heavily. The setup men are led by crowd favorite Billy Ray Politte. He was once a dominant closer, and could be again, but in Sacramento his role is to set up Big Z. Many teams have inquired about his availability and he would put up huge save numbers elsewhere. But he doesnt complain, which is a testament to his desire to do whatever the team needs to win. Cy Dillon and Juan Martin are the other setup men and they do a fantastic job as well, giving up less hits than innings and keeping the ball in the park and men off the bases. The long men are led by Randy Delucci, who would start anywhere else in the league. He will eventually start for the Two’s as players move on or get traded, but for now the bullpen calls; but to have a great #3 starter as your long man can only help you win games. Duke Myers is the long B and Rule V pick Jose Rivera round out the ‘pen.
The Two’s look like the favorite to win the NL West again, but the gap has certainly gotten smaller. Honolulu has a great young team, and the best pitcher in the game, and will give a huge push. Portland is the Two’s main rival and they are always in the playoffs, and Colorado Springs won 90-games and was the 3rd NL West team to make the playoffs. Ultimately, the window is closing on the team, how fast it is closing is yet to be determined, but the organization is beginning to make moves to secure the long term health of the team. I would look for a few subtle moves throughout the season and the offseason to be a busy one as the team is reshaped and made younger. For now, our sights are set for one thing and one thing only. The World Series and the franchises second championship ring. Anything else would be a disaster.