Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tampa Yankees Preview and some more

I figure that I should start my pre-season previews of the four Yankee full season leagues with the most certain of the teams, Tampa. The A+ Yankees finished 2nd in their division in 2006, going 41-28. Tampa fans saw a solid team of players, but after Phil Hughes, Marco Vechionacci, Brett Gardner, and Tim Battle were either demoted or promoted, didn't have a lot of players to really get excited about. That will change in 2007.

I am going to be saying this a lot in my previews. The Tampa Yankees have the most exciting pitching staff in the Florida State League. The starting rotation should look something like this (in no particular order):

1. Ian Kennedy
2. Joba Chamberlain
3. Zach Kroenke
4. George Kontos
5. Tim Norton

Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain should both move fast. If everything goes right, they will be ready to be promoted to Tampa by the begining of the summer. By then, Daniel McCutchen should be off his suspension and ready to play again. He will take a spot. Rolando Japa and Erik Abreu both may have an outside chance at Norton's spot.

In the bullpen, we'll see a lot of converted starters. Eric Wordekemper is an underrated right hander who may make a solid middle reliever in the majors. R.J. Swindle, the submariner southpaw, throws a nasty 55 mph curveball and dominated A- ball last season. Nick Peterson will likely make the jump from Staten Island, despite horrendous control problems. The Yankees haven't said much about David Robertson, but his 600,000 dollar bonus might send him straight to A+ despite not making his professional debut in 2006.

The lineup should look something like this:

LF: Jose Tabata
CF: Austin Jackson
RF: Tim Battle*
3b: Marcos Vechionacci
SS: Eduardo Nunez**
2b: Reegie Corona
1st: Juan Miranda
C: Irwil Rojas
DH: Ben Jones

* - The whole outfield could be any combination of the three.
** - Although he flopped at Tampa last year, I can't see the Yankees demoting him

That is one hell of a lineup. Hopefully Tabata, Vechionacci, and Battle will all finally have their break out seasons and hit for some power. Juan Miranda and Ben Jones should both be good for 25 home runs, and the overall defense is as good as it gets. Between the ballpark effects, the Florida State League in general, and that outfield defense, we may have to adjust some pitching ERAs way up.

Tampa is the FSL favorite right now. That is pretty certain. How far they go will be determined by a) How long Kennedy, Chamberlain, and to a lesser extent, Miranda stay at the level and b) If the young guys finally learn to hit for power like they are supposed to.

R.J. Swindle could move very quickly. He's got a lot of experience in high-level independent league play.

Most Interesting Storyline: Will one of George Kontos or Tim Norton turn their short season success in to a top-10 rating next season?

Darkhorse: Eduardo Nunez was a top-8 prospect on a lot of lists this year. He flopped in 2006, but has so much talent on both sides of the ball that he could regain his place. Was I wrong not to list him top-30?

My Personal Favorite Prospect: Ian Kennedy. Way underrated.

The fantasy league drafts on Sunday at 8:30. I sent out emails for 14 spots, including myself. We're still waiting on a few people to register. If you want to be included in the league and did not get my email, post in the comments section below and I'll put you on the waiting list.