Jefferson League Baseball 2014 Winter Report

Written by Chris McDonald

Sterling Starfish

2005 JLB Champions

2007 JLB Champions

2014 JLB Champions

 

ItÕs a great honor and privilege to write my third JLB Winter Report.  IÕd like to thank everyone else that tried to win but couldnÕt—without you all, the taste of victory wouldnÕt be nearly as sweet.  Decades from now, when people are playing in fantasy leagues that use playersÕ JLB fantasy stats for their own second-order fantasy teams, theyÕll point to the Sterling rebuild from 2009-2013 as a textbook example of how to return to glory and crush the competition.  LetÕs see how we got here.

 

Step 1 (2009):  The Firesale.  The JLB universe was turned upside-down on January 4th, 2009, when Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Roy Halladay were all traded in the primes of their careers.  In return, Sterling received the building blocks for their next contender:  Justin Upton, whose contract was barely long enough to survive the rebuild; Mike Moustakas, who despite sucking horribly was flipped for a decent contributor in Tyson Ross; Tyler Skaggs, who was part of the Kershaw deal; andÉhmmm.  There has to be more.  LetÕs seeÉNeftali Feliz looked good but got hurt, while Justin Smoak, Matt Laporta, and Wade Davis looked bad and got cut, and Angel Villalona looked good but got convicted of murder.  ThatÕs not very good.  Jacob Turner at least saw some time on the JLB roster this yearÉbut was ranked 818th among 821 pitchers in the Yahoo! 2014 database.  So, step 1:  trade JLB MVPs and HOFers for nubs prospects*.  On to Step 2!

 

Step 2 (2010-11):  The Drafts.  By cleverly timing two deployments overseas to coincide with their rebuilding process, the Starfish insulated themselves against accusations of tanking with a warm blanket of patriotism.  Their terrible 2009 season produced two first overall picks in the 2010 drafts, which were used to select Aroldis Chapman and Bryce Harper!  Here our story really takes off, as reading the Cuban MissileÕs stat lines is better than porn, while in 2014 Harper—was a waste of 200 ABs.  Crap.  Despite being out of pocket again for the whole 2010 season, the Starfish were out-sucked by the Roosters, leaving them with the second overall picks in 2011, which produced canÕt-miss studmuffins John Lamb and Dylan Bundy.  In summary—pay attention now Springfield—draft the best players available, and hope that at least 25% of them contribute within 5 years.

 

Step 3 (2012-13):  The Leap.  Rome wasnÕt built in a day, and dynasties like this one arenÕt polished off in a single offseason.  Sterling began cementing their juggernaut with the 2012 free agency class by guaranteeing a total of $54.2 million to B.J. Upton, Mike Morse, and Ubaldo Jimenez.  By signing them all to 3+ year deals, they were sure to be around to provide veteran leadership during multiple championship runs.  The following offseason, we saw the coup de grace:  trading three top-10 prospects for Clayton Kershaw and the $50.1 million still owed to Mark Teixeira, and then just for good measure, signing Justin Verlander to a $60.6-million deal.

 

In retrospect, the last five years have been a fantasy nightmare, but apparently saving a lot of cash and making some good moves in 2014 is enough to win a JLB championship.  Frankly, you all should be ashamed of yourselves.  I hope you try harder next year. 

 

In real league news, this year marked a promising return of legislative sympathy, with a consensus of owners preferring to relax the strict interpretation of JLB rules that had been the norm since half the League entered law school years ago.  While this more reasonable approach was for the most part welcomed and is hopefully here to stay, it will be a challenge to navigate the newfound gray area in a consistent, equitable way.  All I ask is that you trust that any decisions I make as Commissioner are with the LeagueÕs best interests in mind and are as impartial as I can make them.  And if you happen to disagree with one of them, just remember that I work with the guys that made Act of Valor, and theyÕll fuck you up.

 

Awards

 

JLB MVP:  OF Mike Trout, Manassas Manatees (157 GP, 115 R, 36 HR, 111 RBI, 16 SB, .287 AVG)

 

One year after being named the JLB Rookie of the Year, Trout has earned JLBÕs highest individual honor, the MVP award.  Although he lost a step on the basepaths, the extra five inches added to his turtleneck size last offseason paid off in the HR and RBI departments.  Even ignoring contracts heÕs the best player in JLB, and when you consider that heÕs cost-controlled through 2018 at about what Adam Lind got as a free agent this offseason, heÕll be the most valuable asset in JLB for the next two or three years, if not until he hits the free market.  ItÕs nearly impossible to envision a scenario in which Manassas would part with their favorite son before then.

 

Despite all that, the voting was very competitive this year, as there are multiple ways to interpret the criteria for JLB MVP.  If you considered 2014 production versus salary, Trout was the unanimous choice.  If you considered 2014 performance versus how readily available that player was last offseason, then bargain-basement signees like Jose Altuve (80/7/56/52/.340), Michael Brantley (88/18/92/23/.325), and Victor Martinez (68/22/77/2/.341) entered the discussion as well.  Martinez in particular got some bonus points for being on the league champion, but those were probably cancelled out by his JLB stats being less gaudy than his MLB full-season line.

 

Player             Points 1st        2nd       3rd

Trout              25       5          0          0

Altuve             20       1          4          3

Martinez         20       3          1          2

Brantley         17       2          2          1

Stanton           12       1          2          1

Kershaw         9          0          2          3

Cruz                1          0          0          1

 

Handicapping 2015:  Trout (4/1), Goldschmidt (5/1), McCutchen (6/1), Stanton (6/1), Tulowitzki (8/1)

 

Randy Johnson Award:  SP Clayton Kershaw, Sterling Starfish (193.1 IP, 20 W, 230 K, 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP)

 

Boat race!  As predicted a year ago when this award was renamed, Clayton Kershaw led the Starfish to the 2014 title and took home his second consecutive Randy in the process.  He finished the season as Yahoo!Õs number-one ranked fantasy player, which is incredible considering that he missed the entire month of April and that he shares a league with Mike Trout.  In an increasingly pitcher-friendly environment, his miniscule ERA and WHIP set single-season JLB records for a starting pitcher and nearly earned him the award unanimously.

 

Johnny Cueto (243.2/20/242/2.25/0.96) matched KershawÕs counting stats and although his ratios werenÕt quite as low, their effects were magnified by the fact that he threw an extra 50 IP.  HeÕll offer the highest combination of potential risk and reward on this offseasonÕs free agency market.  Kershaw and Cueto were just the beginning for Sterling and Alexandria in 2014, as their two pitching staffs claimed a remarkable 7 of the top 8 spots in Yahoo!Õs end-of-season pitcher rankings.  The exception (at 4th overall) was Corey Kluber (189.0/14/214/2.48/1.07), who went from being dangled for Mike Moustakas in April to outpitching Kershaw in the second half, and is suddenly one of the most valuable commodities in JLB.  Nice job trading Tyson Ross instead J.D.

 

Player            

Points

1st

2nd

3rd

Kershaw        

51

10

0

1

Cueto             

23

1

5

3

Kluber                       

15

0

4

3

Hernandez    

9

0

2

3

Sale                

1

0

0

1

 

Handicapping 2015:  Kershaw (5/2), Hernandez (6/1), Strasburg (8/1), Price (9/1), Cueto (10/1), Kluber (10/1), Sale (10/1)

 

Rookie of the Year Award:  SP Julio Teheran, Springfield Spacemen (202.2 IP, 13 W, 169 K, 2.66 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)

 

The tire fire that was the Reston Robots is starting to fade from memory, thanks to encouraging performances like this one from multiple young Spacemen.  Leading the charge this year was Teheran, who carried the Springfield staff to a respectable 16 total standings points in the non-SV pitching categories.  ItÕs only matter of time before they start calling the Joey Votto trade the Julio Teheran trade.

 

Yasiel Puig was the front-runner for this award at the All-Star Break but lost votes with a middling second-half performance.  Josh Harrison and Garrett Richards both were surprisingly strong contributors for teams in the pennant race.  If Jose AbreuÕs translations from AA Woodbridge are to be believed, look for Springfield to bring home this hardware two years in a row.

 

Player            

Points

1st

2nd

3rd

Teheran        

27

4

2

1

Puig               

20

1

4

3

Harrison        

12

1

2

1

Richards        

12

2

0

2

Gattis             

11

2

0

1

Gray               

9

1

1

1

Tanaka          

9

1

1

1

Mesoraco       

4

0

1

1

 

Handicapping 2015:  Jose Abreu (3/1), Rendon (7/2), Yelich (6/1), Myers (8/1), Hamilton (10/1)

 

Mike Durgala General Manager of the Year Award:  Chris McDonald, Sterling Starfish

 

Thanks for the generous votes this year.  For the 4th consecutive year and 13th time in 14 seasons, the Durgs goes to the league champion.  This is the first time, however, that the recipient has won the award for a season in which he spent over $60 million to get out from under two terrible dead contracts (Teixeira and Verlander).  Based on this yearÕs title, my rebuilding effort can now be labeled a success, but it took a lot more of the resources acquired during that timeframe than it should have to assemble this yearÕs roster.  At least the 2014 season featured some sound moves, such as trading for Felix Hernandez and Jose Bautista as well as signing a free agent class with several contributors and no major busts.  And I suppose not every rebuilding effort makes it back to the top of the mountain, so I canÕt complain.  Thanks again for the recognition.

 

Handicapping 2015:  McDonald (3/1), Hausman (4/1), Maji (6/1), White (7/1), Davis (8/1), Mittens (8/1), McKowitz (8/1)

 

Standings

Overall Points

 

 

Batting

Pitching

 

Rank

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

W

SV

K

ERA

WHIP

Total

1.

Sterling Starfish

10

10.5

12

9

9

10

10

12

12

12

106.5

2.

Reston Roundabouts

11

10.5

10

8

8

8.5

12

11

7

11

97

3.

Herndon Heroes

9

9

9

11

11

8.5

9

10

9

8

93.5

4.

Manassas Manatees

8

6

7

12

10

11

11

5

8

5

83

5.

Alexandria Alleycats

6

12

11

5

4

12

4

6.5

11

10

81.5

6.

Centreville 66ers

12

8

8

7

12

6

3

6.5

4

7

73.5

7.

Great Falls Grenades

7

5

4

3

3

7

6

9

10

9

63

8.

Clifton Clams

3

4

3

10

5

5

8

8

3

3

52

9.

Arlington Arsenal

4

3

6

1

6

3

7

1

2

6

39

10.

Fairfax Firemen

1

7

5

2

2

2

2

4

5

2

32

10.

Falls Church Foxes

5

1

2

6

7

1

5

3

1

1

32

12.

Springfield Spacemen

2

2

1

4

1

4

1

2

6

4

27

Overall Stats

 

 

Batting

Pitching

Rank

Team

Total GP

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

IP

W

SV

K

ERA

WHIP

1.

Sterling Starfish

1452

799

201

797

114

.275*

1258.2

84

155

1342

2.74*

1.06

2.

Reston Roundabouts

1455

800

201

767

113

.275*

1280.2

82

172

1327

3.16

1.11*

3.

Herndon Heroes

1459

785

194

760

126

.282

1273.0

82

134

1251

3.14*

1.14

4.

Manassas Manatees

1449

731

153

715

137

.281

1251.1

85

161

1179

3.14*

1.19

5.

Alexandria Alleycats

1453

698

203

788

91

.262

1267.2

91

35

1180

2.74*

1.11*

6.

Centreville 66ers

1417

805

177

735

111

.288

1261.1

76

24

1180

3.45*

1.18*

7.

Great Falls Grenades

1435

723

151

618

75

.253

1254.1

81

70

1213

2.90

1.12

8.

Clifton Clams

1386

641

150

605

118

.263

1261.1

74

130

1181

3.64

1.26*

9.

Arlington Arsenal

1399

642

141

667

57

.269

1119.0

68

83

1005

3.67

1.18*

10.

Fairfax Firemen

1344

601

159

634

60

.251

1258.2

65

6

1135

3.45*

1.26*

10.

Falls Church Foxes

1409

683

129

596

95

.270

1235.0

62

68

1087

3.86

1.33

12.

Springfield Spacemen

1393

628

140

559

87

.245

1250.2

71

3

1035

3.43

1.24

 

 

Team Recaps

 

1st place:  Sterling Starfish (106.5 total, 50.5 hitting, 56 pitching)

 

What went right:

A balanced attack on offense and a star-studded pitching staff paced the league on both sides of the ball and allowed Sterling to tie a 13-year-old JLB record for total standings points.  The infield (Lucroy, Martinez, Kinsler, Donaldson, Desmond) was durable and productive, with all five players ranking among the top 4 at their respective positions.  The outfield featured a career year by Justin Upton in his walk year, a huge bounce-back from Melky Cabrera after a speculative April signing, and reliable top-of-the-order production from Hunter Pence and Starling Marte.  Winning the Jose Bautista sweepstakes at the trading deadline was the nail in the coffin, as he mashed his way to a 31/13/39 line in just 49 games.

            Kershaw, King Felix, and Maddy Bumgarner combined for 560 nasty innings with a collective 2.23 ERA and 0.93 WHIP.  In the bullpen, Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Rafael Soriano, Mark Melancon, and Sean Doolittle all racked up the saves while posting sub-2.60 ERAs and—other than Soriano—sub-1.00 WHIPs.  And other than Soriano, all the SP and RP mentioned are coming back for 2015, with the titillating addition of RP Dellin Betances, who managed to crack Yahoo!Õs top-20 pitchers despite saving only one game all season.

 

What went wrong:

            Chris Davis gave all the steroids to Victor Martinez and forgot to save any for himself.  Bryce Harper was mediocre for five months and nearly got traded for Billy Hamilton.  Justin Verlander pitched the entire season left-handed so he could use his right hand to wipe his ass with fantasy hundred-dollar bills.

 

Question for 2015:  Will Sterling fall in love with its championship roster?

The Starfish have eight rising Step 4s, which if a trade isnÕt made, will limit the amount of cash they can use to fill holes at 1B and 2B this offseason.  Increased roles can be expected for Harper, George Springer, and Gerrit Cole next year.  The Donaldson, Hernandez, and Bautista trades have left the farm system relatively barren, so if any mid-season upgrades are required again next year they may be harder to come by.

 

2nd place:  Reston Roundabouts (97 total, 47.5 hitting, 49.5 pitching)

 

What went right:

            The new revolving door that Reston installed in their clubhouse to facilitate High-Frequency Trading was a huge success.  The Roundabouts started 29 different position players this year and saw only 2 pitchers throw over 110 innings in black.  Their September starting lineup featured just two players (E5 and Crisp) that began the season in Reston.  The incredible number of contributors can be attributed to injuries (Goldie, Tulo, E5), disappointing performance (McCann, Pedroia), and HausmanÕs insatiable addiction to JLB.  Despite finishing in second place, this season has to be considered one of his best efforts yet.

 

What went wrong:

            Tulo, Goldie, and E5 all suffered some of the most influential injuries in JLB this year, and their production was never adequately replaced.  Goldschmidt being injured the night that Jose Bautista became a Starfish was particularly brutal timing.  Brian McCann got pull-happy in Reston, and Jason Heyward became fantasy irrelevant.  While trading Matt Moore was a prescient move, the Oscar Taveras car accident was a devastating piece of news this offseason.

 

Question for 2015:  Will Hausman be able to keep the shoestring-and-bubblegum routine alive for another season? 

Carlos Santana and J.D. Martinez present difficult arbitration decisions as rising step 5s.  With Duda losing OF eligibility, Reston will need a couple outfielders and some starting pitching help this offseason.  Of course, JLB rule #1 still applies:  Never Count Out the ŌBouts.

 

3rd place:  Herndon Heroes (93.5 total, 49 hitting, 44.5 pitching)

 

What went right:

            Giancarlo Stanton (89/37/105/13/.288) became as studly in real life as he is in DannyÕs wet dreams.  Michael Brantley turned in five categories of awesome for $800k and Josh Harrison was possessed by the spirit of Joe Morgan.  On the mound, Mike Fiers and 2012 debut Carlos Carrasco carried the staff after Yu Darvish went down with a second half injury.  The Heroes continued to leverage one of their most consistent advantages—not leaving any games played or innings pitched on the field.  This year they were the only team to exceed both the games played and innings pitched limits, thanks to some clever final-day managing.

            Overall, the 2014 Heroes were a team without any glaring weaknesses or particular strengths, as they ended up between 2nd and 5th in all ten roto categories—including six 4th-place finishes.  As for the future, Mookie Betts emerged as the crown jewel of the farm system, but much of his value will be tied to positional eligibility.

 

What went wrong:

            A clubhouse rift between team leader Stanton and hotshot mid-season signee Mike Fiers got ugly.  The injury bug was contagious among the starting rotation, biting Darvish, Sanchez, Iwakuma, and Cobb, who together averaged just 22 starts.

 

Question for 2015:  Will this finally be the year that the Heroes get over the hump? 

Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Herndon is without a doubt the most successful JLB franchise to never win The Joe.  TheyÕve got momentum to build on, though, with a ton of cap flexibility for 2015, and only 8 players under guaranteed contracts for 2016.  Their current roster shortcomings match up well with this free agent market, which is long on 1B and SP.

 

4th place:  Manassas Manatees (83 total, 43 hitting, 40 pitching)

 

What went right:

            Mike Trout came to play, while Jose Altuve (80/7/56/52/.340) led the league in hitting and was one swipe away from doing the same in SB.  Charlie Blackmon hit like Ryan Braun.  Zack Grienke (194.1/17/199/2.78/1.17) and Masahiro Tanaka (128.1/12/132/2.95/1.08) led a solid staff, which was enough to squeak the Manassas franchise back into the money for the first time since 2003!  Congrats Manassas!

 

What went wrong:

            Manassas shoved all their chips in last offseason, dealing three top-100 prospects and three 1st-/2nd-round picks for five players (Mauer, Rios, Greinke, Cahill, Nathan) that were signed to approximately market-value contracts.  As a result, they were unable to take advantage of the free agency recession, during which they broke the bank for Braun but could afford little else.  Any remaining valuable assets were shipped to Fairfax in exchange for Matt MooreÕs declining velocity.  Then Ryan Braun hit like Charlie Blackmon.

            In spite of all that, the sun was shining in Manassas on May 13th when the Manatees started the day tied for 1st place.  When the news broke, however, that the JLB strikeout leader and Manassas ace Jose Fernandez had suffered a torn UCL, their dreams of glory vanished.  They held on to the top spot as late as May 23rd, but it wasnÕt meant to be.  Without anything left in the cupboard to make an impact trade, the Manatees rode their early-season momentum to a 4th-place finish.

 

Question for 2015:  Will Moskowitz & Mick emerge from their UCL-induced and alcohol-fueled depression in time to win a title before Mike TroutÕs arb years are gone? 

Their roster makes them look like the anti-Heroes, with a ton of guaranteed contracts in 2015 and beyond.  Without much flexibility and with Fernandez still rehabbing, theyÕll be hard-pressed to make it back to the money again in 2015.

 

5th place:  Alexandria Alleycats (81.5 total, 38 hitting, 43.5 pitching)

 

What went right:

            Nelson Cruz (83/39/106/3/.275) and Adam Jones (44/15/49/4/.267 in 88 games) brought the magic, while the quartet of Cueto, Wainwright, Sale, and Lester was the best top-4 among any rotation.  The Alleycats managed their innings well, leaning heavily on that stellar rotation to lead the league in Wins, while still earning four Saves points despite a semi-punt in that category.  Adrian Gonzalez (70/22/95/1/.274) bounced back in a big way, and they may have found something in Chris Carter (21/13/30/2/.220 in 49 games).

 

What went wrong:

            The curious move to scratch Adam Wainwright from his final start of the season due to a season pitch count limit probably cost Alexandria 4th place.  Two more strikeouts would have guaranteed them a tie for 4th, and had he allowed either 1 or 0 earned runs against the lowly D-backs, theyÕd have passed Manassas outright.  Many questioned the decision, with some speculating that their Manatee-blindness was so severe that they thought they were already among the top four spots.  I believe that with Waino under contract for 2015, however, that it was simply a decision to protect their future, in which case the message is clear—only losers care about 4th place.  Alexandria is in it to win it.

 

Question for 2015:  Will the Alleycats make the long-awaited push to shed their uninspiring nickname? 

In JLB history, only one team with a name worse than the Alleycats, has ever taken home the Joe (Gamers, 2001).  Meanwhile, no owner named Joe has ever taken home the Joe.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.

 

6th place:  Centreville 66ers (73.5 total, 47 hitting, 26.5 pitching)

 

What went right:

            Although the finish was disappointing, Centreville turned Martin PerezÕs frayed elbow ligaments into Devin Mesoraco, Jason Kipnis, and a 1st round pick (via Dee Gordon).  Which versions of those two players show up in 2015 will have a big influence on their fortunes next year.  Michael PinedaÕs return from TJ was very encouraging, and Kris Bryant is probably a top-12 JLB 3B already.

 

What went wrong:

            The Sixers fell out of the money for just the third time since moving to Centreville in 2007, thanks to an under-achieving pitching staff and Joey VottoÕs anxiety disorder leading to a shitty walk year. 

 

Question for 2015:  Will the Sixers ever tap into their deep farm system to go for the gold again, or will they remain content to reside at the fringes of contention? 

With four 2nd place finishes in eight years, owner Debdeep Maji has remained happy with their steady profit margin, but Centreville fans keep wondering when those successes will pay off in terms of JLB championships.

 

7th place:  Great Falls Grenades (63 total, 22 hitting, 41 pitching)

 

What went right:

            Corey Kluber got stupid.  ThatÕs about it.

 

What went wrong:

            They locked up their backup shortstop position for the next five years with Jean Segura (55/5/31/18/.235).  Jay Bruce (69/17/62/11/.221) worked hard to disprove the Ņage-27 peak yearÓ theory.

 

Question for 2015:  What kind of effect will the hair-wrenching decision to either quickly rebuild or tear down completely have on GM J.D. MossÕs rapidly thinning scalp?

            As we learned from the last half-decade in Sterling, a total rebuild can be an exasperating process, not to mention a difficult $1,500 investment to explain to oneÕs loved ones.  Then again, Great Falls lived in the purgatory of 5th-8th place from 2004-2008, which is even worse.

 

8th place:  Clifton Clams (52 total, 25 hitting, 27 pitching)

 

What went right:

They beat out archrival Arlington for 8th place, led by Clam 4 Life Miguel Cabrera (101/25/109/1/.313) and Carlos Gomez (95/23/72/34/.283).  Gomez continued to solidify his reputation as a five-category fantasy stud and will be pitifully underpaid for the next two seasons.  Gregory Polanco combined the first name of Greg Swindell with the last name of Placido Polanco.  The Clams surpassed the 1385 games-played threshold by a single game on the last day of the season, avoiding any fines with a clutch performance by manager Jon Lasken.

 

What went wrong:

            After back-to-back years in the money, Clifton fell back to earth thanks to an offensive collapse.  Their pitching lost just 6.5 points off their 2012-2013 average, even though nobody outside LaskenÕs immediate family could name more than one Clams starting pitcher this year.  Meanwhile, their offensive point total plummeted by 30 from their two-year peak, thanks in large part to Miguel Cabrera ceasing to be absurdly dominant and instead becoming merely great.

 

Question for 2015:  Will Miguel Cabrera finish out his JLB career with the Clams, or will they attempt to trade him for players who may become a part of the next 4th-place Clifton team?

It took nine years for their first finish in the moneyÉwith the Mike Trout show just a short drive down Rt. 29, will the Clifton faithful be willing to wait nearly another decade for their return to contention?

 

9th place:  Arlington Arsenal (39 total, 20 hitting, 19 pitching)

 

What went right:

            They traded high on Jacoby Ellsbury and got three real assets in return (Seager, Allen, and Janssen).  Jake Arrieta (134.1/9/141/2.81/0.98) got awesome and is still super cheap for one more year.

 

What went wrong:

            Matt Cain sucked, and Billy Butler was a constant reminder that he is still not Paul Goldschmidt.  According to Marcel projections, Prince Fielder will hit -21 home runs next year.  Their best player, Robinson Cano, is essentially untradeable.

 

Question for 2015:  What will the Prince of Pai Gow do to spice things up again for Arlington?

With ŅThe BetÓ officially over, itÕs time for some new sidepot action to draw GreenhalghÕs attention back to JLB.  As for the other half of this ownership team, look for Warren to make a mint by betting happiness hedges against the Arsenal for years to come.

 

10th place:  Fairfax Firemen (32 total, 17 hitting, 15 pitching)

 

What went right:

            Anthony Rizzo (84/30/71/4/.279) got on the Juice Laundry diet and now looks like a building block for the next Firemen contender.  Cole Hamels anchored the pitching staff with a shiny 2.71 ERA, but with meager offensive support mustered only 8 wins all year.  He should be joined in the 2015 Opening Day rotation by Matt Harvey, though, whose rehab is on track.  Mike Keenan paid a high price to move up in the MLD and draft SP Julio Urias, but after he dominated the Willow Springs Elementary School recess games, it looks like a good move so far.

 

What went wrong:

Dustin Ackley and Jedd Gyorko were 3rd and 4th in games played by Firemen, and they are really terrible.  Dom Brown took a big step backwards, and Manny Machado couldnÕt stay on the field.  In fact, the entire lineup had a hard time staying on the field, which led to $6.5 million in games-played penalties—the only playing-time penalty applied to any team this season. 

 

Question for 2015:  Will Rizzo stick with Green Agitator again in 2014?  Or take things up a notch with Citrus Fire?  If so, watch out for Prince FielderÕs franchise power records to start falling.

 

11th place:  Falls Church Foxes (32 total, 21 hitting, 11 pitching)

 

What went right:

            Getting Anthony Rendon, Andrew Heaney, and a 1st-rounder for Pedro Alvarez and David Robertson was probably the trade of the year.  For a team high on cash and upside but low on ready-now JLB talent, the Matt Kemp (74/23/85/7/.284) signing made sense, and he returned to OF1 status.  Thanks to some shrewd draft pick maneuvering, Falls Church turned an MLD 1.2 and some spare parts into three 1st-round draft picks, one of which was used to select the young OF Raimel Tapia, who put up a tasty 93/9/72/33/.326 line in low-A Dunn Loring.  The system is starting to graduate talent, as the Foxes promoted seven top-100 prospects when rosters expanded on September 1st (Zunino, Adams, Rendon, Bogaerts, Hamilton, Skaggs, Gausman).  The farm system shouldnÕt suffer too much, however, as 10 of the first 26 AD picks this year were made by Falls Church.

 

What went wrong:

Some of the crown jewels took steps backwards this year.  Byron Buxton and Xander Bogaerts both had lost seasons in 2014, Tyler Skaggs got hurt, and Robert Stephenson has a walk rate above 5 per 9 in 151 innings above A-ball.  Some typically strong-armed negotiating tactics with top amateur pick Brady Aiken finally backfired and may cost Falls Church their rights to the young pitcher, pending the outcome of litigation.

 

Question for 2015:  Will the heralded crop of 2014 rookies continue to develop?

Will Mike Zunino and Javier Baez make enough contact to be fantasy relevant?  Has the league figured out Billy Hamilton (.200/.254/.257 2nd half)?  Can Tyler Skaggs come back from Tommy John?  With a solid talent base and oodles of cash, the Foxes could make a big splash in free agency as early as this offseason and vault back into contention.  How far they rise, though, will most likely be determined by the performances of the kids already wearing the FC jersey.

 

12th place:  Springfield Spacemen (27 total, 10 hitting, 17 pitching)

 

What went right:

Before the season began their farm system was ranked 2nd-best in JLB, representing a quick turn-around from the bare cupboard that existed when the franchise was moved to Springfield.  Based on the recent graduations in Falls Church and strong seasons from Spacekids like Jon Singleton, Carlos Correa, Joc Pederson, and Noah Syndergaard, itÕs a safe bet that theyÕll take over the top ranking this offseason.  At the JLB-level, they laid low in free agency, avoiding all risk with a series of short and inexpensive deals, but in doing so failed to pick up any potential mid-season trading chips.  Kudos to their roster management, however, for being able to meet all playing-time thresholds in 2014 while signing just one mid-season free agent (after coming up 5 games short in 2013 while signing zero).  Their fiscal frugality over the past two seasons has dug them out of a deep financial hole in an efficient way.

 

What went wrong:

The offense put up a putrid 10-spot, and the honeymoon in Springfield is already over, judging by their declining attendance figures.  When the bar is set low, though, itÕs hard to find much else.

 

Question for 2015:

Will the Spacemen double down with two mid-season free agent signees in 2015?

 

2015 Projected Standings

 

1. Sterling Starfish

2. Herndon Heroes

3. Alexandria Albinos

4. Centreville 66ers

5. Reston Roundabouts

6. Manassas Manatees

7. Falls Church Foxes

8. Clifton Clams

9. Arlington Arsenal

10. Springfield Spacemen

11. Fairfax Firemen

12. Great Falls Grenades

 

*The next best alternative was an offer from Falls Church that included prospects David Price, Max Scherzer, Pedro Alvarez, Jay Bruce, and Ben Revere.