Jefferson League Baseball

2015 Winter Report

 

Written by

 

Chris McDonald

President of Baseball Operations

Sterling Starfish

4-time JLB Champions

 

Welcome to the 2015-16 offseason!  I think we can all agree that 2015 was a wonderful year in the land of JLB, with the League receiving unprecedented media coverage and the best team taking home the Joe.  It marked JLBÕs 15th year, which means that all those over-achieving 8th graders currently working on their TJ applications werenÕt even alive when JLB—then known as JFBL—was established.

 

A lot has happened in 15 years—weÕve seen half of the twelve teams change hands, five owners have gotten married, with an astonishing zero yet to get divorced, although unfortunately only a single male heir has been sired so far.  Throughout the JFBL/JLB era, one thing has been constant—the League has served as a great vehicle for keeping in touch as weÕve spread out around the country, and I hope it can continue to do so.

 

This year we bid farewell to a dedicated JLB member, [Debdeep Maji].  Since joining the League in 2007, [Deep] has consistently put a profitable contender on the field while relentlessly pursuing Constitutional perfection off it.  His tireless Carlton-bating, meticulous League record-keeping, and seemingly endless supply of Coors Lights during Winter Meetings will all be sorely missed.  Thanks for all the help [Deep]!

 

Awards

 

JLB Most Valuable Player: Bryce Harper, Sterling Starfish (114 R, 42 HR, 98 RBI, 6 SB, .332 AVG)

 

Until this season, Harper oozed potential but his performance resembled a Òwalking ambulanceÓ (© J.D. Moss).  Then 2015 happened, and he posted results that matched the hype, carrying SterlingÕs offense all year.  With 3 years left at $1.7m annually, heÕs up there with Mike Trout among the most valuable commodities in the game.

 

Josh Donaldson was a close second after taking his game to the next level with his fourth team in three years.  HeÕs clearly a handful in the clubhouse, but the production on the field keeps his services in demand, as his 122-41-123-6-.297 line dominated the competition at third base.  Mike Trout (104-41-90-11-.299) and A.J. Pollock (106-19-74-39-.322) tied for third, despite coming from complete opposite ends of the expectations spectrum.

 

Player

1st

2nd

3rd

Points

Harper

7

0

2

37

Donaldson

1

6

1

24

Trout

1

1

0

8

Pollock

1

1

0

8

Arrieta

1

0

1

6

Goldschmidt

0

0

3

3

Cain

0

0

1

1

 

15 years of JLB MVPs

Year

Player

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

2015

Bryce Harper

STR

114

42

98

6

.332

2014

Mike Trout

MAN

115

36

111

16

.287

2013

Miguel Cabrera

CLI

103

44

137

3

.347

2012

Ryan Braun

GF

108

41

112

30

.320

2011

Matt Kemp

ARL

115

39

126

40

.324

2010

Carlos Gonzalez

FC

90

30

96

22

.349

2009

Joe Mauer

ARL

93

27

93

4

.362

2008

David Wright

HER

115

33

124

15

.302

2007

Hanley Ramirez

STR

123

27

75

51

.329

2006

Alfonso Soriano

ROU

119

46

95

41

.277

2005

Alex Rodriguez

STR

124

48

130

21

.321

2004

Adrian Beltre

HER

104

48

121

7

.334

2003

Javier Lopez

GF

62

28

76

0

.342

2002

Alfonso Soriano

GF

128

39

108

41

.300

2001

Sammy Sosa

GF

146

64

160

0

.328

 

Randy Johnson Award Winner:  Jake Arrieta, Manassas Manatees (216.2 IP, 22 W, 0 SV, 222 K, 1.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP)

 

Arrieta turned in one of the best pitching seasons in JLB history—but was it the best?  More on that later...  Manassas picked up Arrieta for a 2nd round pick in January, which seems to have worked out pretty well for them.  Before you beat up on Arlington for actually agreeing to that deal, keep in mind that they had signed Arrieta to a two-year minimum-salary contract in 2014, so really weÕre all pretty dumb.

 

Only ArrietaÕs insane season prevented SterlingÕs Clayton Kershaw (229.0-16-0-294-2.16-0.89) from claiming his third consecutive Randy.  If you ask him, though, heÕll tell you heÕs just happy to have earned his third ring instead.  He now enters free agency as a 27-year-old coming off the best three-year pitching performance in JLB history.  Could we see a record-breaking contract?  Tied for third were Zach Greinke, CEN/MAN (207.2-18-0-184-1.69-0.86) and Dallas Keuchel, GF/FFX (232.0-20-0-216-2.48-1.01).  Both players were traded mid-season, but you know Great Falls endured way more self-inflicted anguish after their deal than Centreville did.

 

Player

1st

2nd

3rd

Points

Arrieta

9

1

0

48

Kershaw

2

3

1

20

Greinke

0

1

4

7

Keuchel

0

2

1

7

DeGrom

0

1

0

3

Familia

0

0

1

1

Miller

0

0

1

1

 

15 years of JLB Randys/Cy Youngs

Year

Player

Team

W

SV

K

ERA

WHIP

2015

Jake Arrieta

MAN

22

0

222

1.66

0.84

2014

Clayton Kershaw

STR

20

0

230

1.77

0.86

2013

Clayton Kershaw

STR

16

0

232

1.83

0.92

2012

R.A. Dickey

ARL

14

0

179

2.50

1.02

2011

Justin Verlander

ROU

24

0

250

2.40

0.92

2010

Roy Halladay

ROU

21

0

219

2.44

1.04

2009

Zach Greinke

CLI

16

0

234

2.24

1.07

2008

CC Sabathia

FFX

17

0

251

2.70

1.11

2007

Jake Peavy

CEN

19

0

234

2.36

1.03

2006

Johan Santana

HER

19

0

245

2.77

1.00

2005

Chris Carpenter

HER

20

0

206

2.79

1.04

2004

Johan Santana

HER

20

0

259

2.52

0.91

2003

Mark Prior

OAK

18

0

237

2.36

1.07

2002

Randy Johnson

ROU

24

0

334

2.32

1.03

2001

Randy Johnson

ROU

21

0

372

2.49

1.01

 

JLB Rookie of the Year:  Jacob DeGrom, Alexandria Alleycats (191.0 IP, 14 W, 0 SV, 205 K, 2.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)

 

AlexandriaÕs well-established scouting network in Flushing Meadows really started to pay dividends this year.  DeGrom surpassed all expectations to lead the Alleycats rotation in wins, ERA, and WHIP.  Another Queens product, Jeurys Familia (77.0-2-43-84-1.87-1.01), came in third in the voting.  Both young fireballers offer something exciting to build around for future Alleycat 5th-place teams.

 

Sandwiched between the two ÔCats was Gerrit Cole, whose 182.1-16-0-179-2.62-1.09 line contributed to JLBÕs best pitching staff in Sterling.  Like his teammate Harper, Cole put all the pieces together this year after a minor league career where his stuff often exceeded his stats.

 

 

 

Player

1st

2nd

3rd

Points

DeGrom

7

2

0

41

Cole

1

2

5

16

Familia

2

0

2

12

Abreu

1

2

0

11

Betances

0

1

1

4

 

15 years of JLB ROYs

Year

Player

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

W

SV

K

ERA

WHIP

2015

Jacob DeGrom

ALX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014

Julio Teheran

SPR

 

 

 

 

 

13

0

169

2.66

1.05

2013

Mike Trout

MAN

109

27

97

33

.323

 

 

 

 

 

2012

Stephen Strasburg

CEN

 

 

 

 

 

15

0

197

3.16

1.15

2011

Craig Kimbrel

ARL

 

 

 

 

 

4

46

127

2.10

1.04

2010

Carlos Gonzalez

FC

90

30

96

22

.349

 

 

 

 

 

2009

Tim Lincecum

FC

 

 

 

 

 

15

0

261

2.48

1.05

2008

Ryan Braun

CEN

92

37

106

14

.285

 

 

 

 

 

2007

Prince Fielder

FFX

109

50

119

2

.288

 

 

 

 

 

2006

Jon Papelbon

BUR

 

 

 

 

 

4

34

72

0.95

0.80

2005

Jason Bay

GF

86

24

81

19

.295

 

 

 

 

 

2004

Travis Hafner

STR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2003

Brandon Webb

HER

 

 

 

 

 

8

0

130

3.16

1.21

2002

Eric Hinske

FAI

87

22

75

12

.266

 

 

 

 

 

2001

Albert Pujols

GF

105

33

118

1

.324

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

ItÕs an honor to win the Mike Durgala Award again—thanks for your votes.  The first place votes were spread around more than usual this year, and with good reason.  Moskowitz & McDonald led the Manatees to their best season in franchise history, potentially ushering in a new era in Manassas.  Keenan swung some huge deals early in the season and came tantalizingly close to his first championship.  [Deep Maji] deserves as much credit for the StarfishÕs championship as anyone does, for both pilfering J.D. Martinez from Manassas before leaving the helm in Centreville and then inspiring the Nelson Cruz trade afterwards.  And Hausman is still Hausman.

 

GM

1st

2nd

3rd

Points

McDonald

4

2

1

27

McKowitz

2

3

1

20

Keenan

2

0

3

13

[Maji]

2

0

0

10

Hausman

0

2

2

8

 

 

Superlatives

 

Since 2015 is a landmark season, itÕs time for some Best & Worst JLB moments.  If you disagree, too bad, theyÕre in the Winter Report now, so theyÕre official.  Maybe you should have tried a little harder last season.

 

Best free agency contract:  Max Scherzer (ROU), 3 years, $9.6 million, 2/12/2012

 

Mad Max turned in one decent year (#38 pitcher) and two fantastic ones (#2, #12).  He led all pitchers in strikeouts over the three-year span and was a major contributor towards the Roundabouts 2013 title.  All for just $3.2 mil per year.

 

Worst free agency contract: Brandon Webb (ROB), 5 years, $67.5 million, 1/24/2009

 

Teixeira, Verlander, and others come to mind, but Webb, coming off an outstanding 6-year run in Herndon, cashed in with the Robots and promptly blew out his arm in his very first start in Reston!  The Robots/Spacemen paid $67.5 million for 77 pitches.  Gulp.

 

Best waiver claim: Paul Goldschmidt (ROU), $3.2 million, 8/7/11

 

Goldie didnÕt sneak up on anyone, as seven owners submitted bids for the mid-season callup.  Fairfax was next closest to paydirt, with a $2.7 million offer.  Immediate actual message board responses included the following:

 

ÒFuck me.  I was gonna empty my bank account on him.  Good thing he's terrible and will never be a good player.Ó – Keenan

 

ÒWow.  And now we can see that money is no longer as valuable as it used to be.Ó – Lasken

 

Worst trash talk:  J.D. Moss, October 10th, 2013, directed at Carlton Davis

 

ÒI knew you used to spend a lot of time in the gym at Uva, but I never understood why.  Now I know it was to peep in the men's locker room.  Makes sense.Ó

 

You donÕt need any context to know that this is just terrible.

 

Best MLD pick:  Hunter Pence (STR), 2006 MLD 5.11

 

ItÕs easy to see why he was available this late in the 2006 MLD, since every time he steps into the batterÕs box he looks like a newborn foal trying to stand for the first time.  He overcame his natural awkwardness to produce three OF3 seasons and three OF1 seasons before hitting free agency, although only one of them would be in a Starfish uniform.  If Jordan Zimmerman (CEN, 2008 MLD 6.10) has a big step 6 season in 2016, he could overtake Pence hereÉif heÕs not non-tendered first!

 

Best AD pick:  Josh Donaldson (HER), 2007 AD 3.9 (cut in 2011Éwhoops)

 

Best MLD endgame: Sterling, 2007 MLD

 

9.1 Chris Davis (traded to Clifton in 2008 for Kevin GreggÉwhoops)

13.1 Lorenzo Cain (cut in 2007 to make room for Gorkys HernandezÉwhoops)

14.1 Brett Gardner (59 SB in 2 seasons in SterlingÉokay)

 

Worst 1st overall MLD pick: Angel Villalona (FFX), 2007

 

Not only is Villalona the only 1.1 pick to not make the major leagues, but he also killed a guy in 2009.  This one is gonna be hard to top.

 

Worst 1st overall AD pick: Josh Vitters (FC), 2007

 

Josh Vitters has never spent a day on a JLB 40-man roster, which is probably a good thing, since his career MLB RC+ is 5!  Not a typo—itÕs actually 5.  Which means his career MLB production has been 5% as good as the average major leaguer.  At least Carlton made up for it with the very next pick by selecting David Price.

 

Worst AD non-sign:  Kris Bryant (GF), 2010 AD 5.6

 

On the bright side, J.D. saved $200,000 and ended up getting his man anyway!  So it all worked out.

 

Best season, individual hitter:  Alex Rodriguez (STR), 2007 (143 R, 54 HR, 156 RBI, 24 SB, .314 AVG)

 

Peak ARoids was just on another planet this year.  He led JLB in runs, home runs, and RBI, and he was 13th in steals and 19th in average.  Nobody else has ever had 5-category production like that—not even Trout!  Even without adjusting for era or position, I think ARodÕs 2007 edges SosaÕs monster 2001 (146-64-160-0-.328).

 

Best season, individual pitcher:  Randy Johnson (ROU), 2002 (24 W, 334 K, 2.32 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)

 

And you wonder why we call it the Randy.  The Big Unit actually gave back 38 strikeouts from his 2001 performance, but more wins and a lower ERA led Reston to the first of three consecutive titles.  To put RandyÕs season in perspective, crosstown rival Reston Roosters had 790 Ks as a team that year.  His ERA- was 54, which would equate to about a 2.00 ERA in 2015.

 

Best hitting season, team:  Clifton Clams, 2012

 

The Clams lineup put together a 58-point performance that carried them to 3rd place in this critical season during ÒThe Bet.Ó  Lasken managed the heck out of this team, too, as productive backups got significant playing time (>50 games played) at C, 2B, and 3B.  Miguel Cabrera and the good Josh Hamilton did the heavy lifting, with well-leveraged role players filling in the rest.  The result was an offense that won both the power (HR, RBI) and speed (SB) categories, while coming just 12 runs and 26 hits—thatÕs one texas leaguer a week—away from a clean sweep in the hitting categories.

 

Best pitching season, team:  Herndon Heroes, 2005

 

As the only team to ever max out either side of the standings, the 2005 HeroesÕ 60-point pitching staff is a no-brainer for the best in JLB history.  Chris Carpenter, Johan Santana, Brad Lidge, and Joe Nathan were dominant.  With a healthy 9 points in steals as well, you would have thought Herndon had a great shot at the title this year, but second-to-last showings in HR, RBI, and AVG scuttled their championship hopes.

 

Best season, team:  Great Falls Gamers, 2001

 

The franchise formerly known as the Gamers turned in a dominant performance in JLBÕs first season that hasnÕt been topped since.  Their 106.5 standings points are still a record, as is their 19-point margin of victory.  They won half of the statistical categories, a feat that has been duplicated since but never surpassed.  In case youÕre wondering, the GamersÕ lineup was led by studs such as Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling, and Jason Isringhausen.

 

Best career, player:  Albert Pujols (1570 R, 545 HR, 1650 RBI, 102 SB, .310 AVG)

 

Prince Albert burst on the JLB scene in 2001 as the surprise steal of the inaugural auction/draft.  As his owner wrote in that yearÕs winter report, ÒPujols started the year at AAA Langley but was quickly promoted and made Tony Batista expendable.Ó  Which implies that, at one point, Tony Batista was indispensible.  I guess this League has been around for a while.

 

Pujols quickly settled into the Great Falls starting lineup, and basically never left for 13 years.  From 2002-2013, he hit 486 home runs in MLB and 484 for the Grenades.  For the first decade of his career, his average season statline in that decade was 118-40-123-8-.331.  His worst season in the 00Õs was 2007, when he was still the 19th-best hitter in JLB. He was ridiculously good and consistent for a very long time.

 

ARod (1348-488-1432-192-.289) was his only competition for this category, and probably actually held this crown through 2012, but his disastrous 2013-14 campaigns allowed Pujols to fly by.  ItÕll be fun to watch Trout and Harper attempt to reach PujolsÕ level of awesomeness—hopefully theyÕre both still mashing in 2027.

 

Best career, owner

 

J.D. Moss has run the most profitable JLB franchise over the last 15 years, pocketing a cool $3,545 on the back of three championships and seven money finishes.  But he hasnÕt been the most successful owner in JLB.  To nobodyÕs surprise, that title has to go to Dan Hausman.

 

Under HausmanÕs guidance, the Reston Roundabouts have had fewer seasons out of the money (four) than atop the standings (five).  Although his first four championships netted him just $1440—less than a single title is worth now—itÕs hard to compete with the RoundaboutsÕ consistent success.  Although the crowns have been harder to come by while battling teams throwing several years of resources at a short compete window, heÕs still placed in 5 of the last 6 years, a claim no other owner can make.  His fearless and tireless trading habits have kept the Roundabouts in the hunt more than any other JLB team.

 

Team Recaps

 

1st place: Sterling Starfish (100 points, 43 hitting, 57 pitching)

 

SterlingÕs bid to become the third repeat champion in the free-agency era got off to a rocky start.  A third of the way through the season they were sitting in 5th place, and although by the All-Star Break they had inched up to 3rd, they still had a 10-point deficit to overcome to catch the League-leading Sixers.  But thatÕs when GM Chris McDonald had the completely original thought of leveraging his stellar pitching staff (54.5 points at the break) to shore up a sorry excuse for a contending offense (29 points at the break, including last in RBIs).

 

Sterling found a natural trading partner in Alexandria.  The Alleycats were in 6th place, within striking distance of the first ever money finish in franchise history, and had a deep outfield along with a pitching staff that had yet to recover from an April injury to Opening Day starter Adam Wainwright.  Enter Felix Hernandez.  The Felix for Nelson Cruz swap was one of the most obvious deadline deals in JLB history, and should have been win-win for both teams.  Until it wasnÕt.

 

WeÕll get to FelixÕs performance later, but Nelson Cruz instantly went apeshit.  He arrived in Sterling on July 29th, promptly homered in 5 of his first 7 games, and 10 of his first 16.  At the end of that stretch, Sterling was tied for first.  Meanwhile, that playoff-tested, championship-caliber pitching staff would only get stronger as the season went on, gaining two standings points between the trade and the seasonÕs end.

 

Outlook ($105m in the bank, $68m committed):  Sterling spent just about all of its fungible assets to go all in on its title defense, leaving the minor league cupboard nearly bare and the bank account as low as itÕs been in years.  What few prospects they had left were just dealt for Carlos Gomez and Hector Rondon.  TheyÕre well-positioned headed into free agency, needing only a catcher and some starting pitching to call their lineup complete, but if anything goes seriously wrong mid-season, itÕll be much harder to patch up a leaky roster this time around.

 

2nd place: Manassas Manatees (98 points, 49 hitting, 49 pitching)

 

Halfway through the season, Manassas was stuck in 6th place, wondering if this would be another wasted year of the Mike Trout Era.  But then on July 2nd, Jose Fernandez made his long-awaited return to the mound, and there was much rejoicing.  Fernandez picked up right where he left off 14 months earlier, delivering 11 excellent starts and inspiring the ManateesÕ meteoric rise to second place, the best finish in franchise history.

 

Co-GMs Jay Moskowitz & Mick McDonald worked feverishly all year to get the most out of their roster, with mixed results—the Jake Arrieta trade worked out better than in their wildest, wettest dreams, and while some thought that they might have bought high on Zach Greinke, he kept it up down the stretch, giving the Manatees the top two ranked players—not just pitchers—in JLB this year.

 

Then there was their attempts to trade OF for SP.  Apparently not content to rest on their laurels after the offseasonÕs best free agent pickup, Manassas shipped J.D. Martinez and Charlie Blackmon out for James Shields and Garrett Richards in two separate deals.  Combined, the two SP provided 9 wins and below-average ratios in 29 starts.  Meh.  Meanwhile, Martinez and Blackmon combined to go 111-37-109-21-.297 in 178 total games for their new owners.  While itÕs true you miss 100% of the shots you donÕt take, that really has nothing to do with fantasy baseball, so they probably shouldnÕt have made these trades.

 

Outlook ($104m in the bank, $89m committed):  Manassas wasted no time in preparing for an even stronger run at the 2016 title, picking up a high-impact 1-year rental to round out their outfield in Giancarlo Stanton.  ItÕs not every day you get to acquire a potential JLB MVP in exchange for a guy who probably picked the wrong sport in high school, so kudos to them for a strong pickup.  They already have $89m committed in 2016, but could still use a UTIL bat and another starter, so theyÕll have to tread carefully in free agency.

 

3rd place: Fairfax Firemen (89.5 points, 51 hitting, 38.5 pitching)

 

The perennial fan favorites in Fairfax gave the Joe a serious run this year, spending more days in first place than any other team.  But on September 9th, with the rest of the League looking up at the Firemen and their 99 points, GM Mike Kennan opened up the Juice Laundry in the Historic Coca-Cola building in downtown Charlottesville.  One would think a business with a name like that would have obvious benefits for any baseball team, fantasy or otherwise, but in this case, there was no synergy to be found.  While the Juice Laundry thrived (I recommend the Basil Bomb), the FiremenÕs season went up in flames, as they lost a ½ point per day to finish at 89.5 and in 3rd place.

 

It still must be considered a successful season for Fairfax, however, as they placed for the first time since 2010.  Offseason acquisitions Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion mashed, while Yoenis Cespedes turned in his best year as a Fireman.  Trading Lindor for Keuchel was the perfect move for this team, and now theyÕve got an ace with four more years of team control.

 

Could the Firemen have done anything to prevent their late-season tumble?  It doesnÕt look like it.  They had already paid dearly to improve their weakest offensive category (SB) by trading Manny Machado for Billy Hamilton.  Closers are the most popular deadline target, but Fairfax finished 20 saves behind the next-closest team in that category.  The biggest problem was that Johnny Cueto and Chris Archer combined for a 6.31 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, and just 1 Win between them in September.  IÕm no juice expert, but just looking at him, IÕm pretty sure Cueto could have used a good cleanse.

 

Outlook ($109m in the bank, $71m committed):  Fairfax has more cash than all but three JLB teams, and with about $71m locked up in 2016, theyÕve got room to spend it.  They could use an upgrade at shortstop, but with Jose Reyes leading a weak class and a handful of contenders in the same boat, that could be easier said than done.  The real-life Giles trade cost Gregerson the closer job, which will cost Fairfax another free agent signing.  Or maybe thereÕs a deal to be made with Herndon?  Corey SeagerÕs been shopped around, David Robertson is of much more value to a contender, and Fairfax still has some top-tier minor league talent they could choose to deal.

 

4th place: Reston Roundabouts (77 points, 40 hitting, 37 pitching)

 

Stop me if youÕve heard this before—some shrewd in-season maneuvering by GM Dan Hausman enabled the Roundabouts to squeeze every point possible out of their roster to ensure another finish in the money.  Reston wasnÕt in the top four all season until September 27th!  But they were there when it counted six days later at the seasonÕs end.

 

How did they get there?  Jose Bautista (108-40-114-8-.251) earned his hefty paycheck, Paulie Goldschmidt (103-33-110-21-320) reminded everyone who the best 1B in baseball is, and David Price (18-0-225-2.45-1.08) returned to form.  But Tulo played 75% of the season (i.e., one Tulo season) while sputtering down the stretch, Stephen Strasburg was not the steal we thought he was, and Rubby de la Rosa (5-0-43-5.49-1.63) got 12 (!) starts down the stretch.

 

Recognizing early on that his team would not be in the title hunt, Hausman managed to place while still jettisoning several big contracts, like Pedroia, Uehara, and Sandoval.  HeÕs already shed Tulowitzki plus an additional $2.6m in 2016 salaries this offseason.  In other words, watch out.

 

Outlook ($100m in the bank, $53m committed):  ItÕs a good thing DanÕs been able to trim the fat from his roster, because heÕll enter 2016 with the least amount of cash heÕs ever had to work with before—and the second-least in all of JLB.  So what does that do to his 40-man roster payroll?  During each of the last three seasons the average amount spent per team during the season has been $7.7m.  RestonÕs on the way to punting the 2016 Amateur Draft, however, which will save them $3m.  A full minor league roster costs $3.75m, though, which still pegs them for at least $8m in expenditures on top of their 40-man roster payroll, which means Hausman has three choices:  1) see how far a $92m 40-man roster can go against a bunch of $100m contenders, 2) donÕt sign a single free agent all season, or 3) sell assets for cash.

 

5th place (tie): Springfield Spacemen (76 points, 32 hitting, 46 pitching)

 

Springfield made the leap into contention much faster than anyone north of the Mixing Bowl anticipated, just missing a money finish while turning in the franchiseÕs strongest season in over a decade.  Jose Abreu (88-30-101-0-.290) made an impressive JLB debut while offseason signee Chris Davis (100-47-117-2-.262) not only regained his power stroke but also offered to fill in at third base after Alex GuerreroÕs early struggles.

 

Pitching was the strength of this team, although Co-GMs Brennan Wergley & Courtney Moore employed an unprecedented strategy when assembling their rotation—they just picked up the entire CardinalsÕ starting five and just let Yadi Molina work his magic.  Literally—the top five Spacemen in innings pitched were Wacha, Lackey, Lynn, Martinez, and Garcia.  More amazingly, it worked, as they won half of their 120 starts and collectively posted a 2.96 ERA.

 

What really has Franconia abuzz is the infusion of talent witnessed during this yearÕs round of September call-ups.  Carlos Correa, Miguel Sano, Noah Syndergaard, and Carlos Rodon got some pennant race experience and were unfazed by the bright lights of JLB.  It wonÕt surprise anyone if Correa ends up the #1-ranked shortstop next year.

 

Outlook ($160m in the bank, $55m committed):  The last time the Springfield franchise finished in the money, they were the Reston Robots, owned by Brian Winings and led by Carlos Delgado and Jason Schmidt.  ThatÕs about to change, however.  With an impressive pack of young talent already on the 40-man roster, a boatload of cash on hand, hardly any bad contracts to navigate around, and a still well-stocked minor league roster, the Spacemen are preparing for liftoff.  Perhaps the best sign is that theyÕre not afraid to make a deal, having already cashed in on a couple prospects to add Buster Posey and Cody Allen.  TheyÕre an outfielder and a couple starting pitchers away from being a legitimate championship contender, and theyÕve got the resources to pull it off.  This could be the beginning of a great run in Springfield.

 

5th place (tie): Alexandria Alleycats (76 points, 44 hitting, 32 pitching)

 

Alexandria finished tied with Springfield for 5th place, but thatÕs where the similarities end.  While Springfield was happy with their result and is full of optimism for the future, the attitude in Alexandria is one of disappointment and frustration.  The Alleycats have been around for four full seasons now, and amazingly, theyÕve finished in 5th place every single season!  ThatÕs literally the worst possible outcome—theyÕre picking 8th in every draft while never collecting any end-of-season payouts.  Although this was the closest theyÕve come to a money spot (1 point away), that will be little consolation to their increasingly impatient fanbase.

 

On the bright side, the emergence of DeGrom and Familia was encouraging, and they seem to be winning the Dee Gordon trade so far.  Those playersÕ performances helped keep them in the hunt—in fact for the entire second half of the season, the Alleycats resided somewhere between 68 and 78 points.  They made one big deadline deal—the aforementioned Cruz-for-Felix swap.  Unfortunately, that didnÕt exactly work out.  Some quick work by the traveling secretary got Felix on the mound for the ÔCats just 20 minutes after the ink was dry on the trade agreement.  He rewarded their hard work with a 4-run first inning that would set the tone for his brief tenure in Alexandria.  He would end up with a 5.05 ERA as an Alleycat, and the ÔCats would actually lose 2 pitching points between when Felix joined and the end of the season.

 

Outlook ($101m in the bank, $64m committed):  When the franchise moved to Alexandria four years ago, they had $162m in the bank.  Since then theyÕve spent the third-most in JLB with nothing to show for it.  Now that the funds have just about dried up, the Alleycats are at a crossroads.  Early indications are that Alexandria will stay the course.  TheyÕd Òrather be mediocre than bad,Ó according to Actual GM Joe Gittens.  Ò[Whatever Joe said],Ó said Other GM Ricky Mixon.  Unfortunately, with a thin minor league roster and a tight budget theyÕll have an uphill climb ahead of them.

 

7th place: Centreville 66ers (71.5 points, 30 hitting, 41.5 pitching)

 

First off, IÕd like to thank new GMs Paul Wagoner and Tom Perez-Lopez for doing the League a great service this year.  On short notice they stepped in to rescue a flagship JLB franchise in sudden need of new management.  They quickly got up to speed on the JLB system, poured themselves into roster management, and then promptly drove a contender into the ground.  Your fellow JLB GMs thank you!

 

On June 17th, the new ownership group took the reins of a club in first place by the narrowest of margins—just a one-point lead over both Fairfax and Sterling.  They actually made steady gains the first six weeks, peaking at 96 points on July 29th.  One month later, they sat in 3rd place with 89.5 points—nearly the same amount that they inherited.  From that point until the seasonÕs end, however, they would lose a half a point per day, finishing a distant 7th overall.

 

So what happened?  It wasnÕt for lack of activity, as Centreville made several signings and a couple trades before the deadline.  The focus of those transactions, however, may have been the problem.  TPauL inherited a team with 12 points in saves and immediately began an obsessive campaign to Get More Closers.  From July 22nd to August 23rd they acquired nine RP in nine different transactions.  By comparison, Arlington made a total of just seven transactions all season!  Seven of those nine new RP racked up three saves or fewer.  Altogether, Centreville spent $3.35m, a 2nd rounder, and Eduardo Rodriguez (probably their best JLB prospect at the time) for 3 wins and 29 saves. 

 

That was enough to keep them in second place in the saves category, but meanwhile, the rest of their team was floundering.  From the day they took over until the end of the season they lost 21 points in SB, AVG, W, and K.  Maybe some of it wasnÕt their fault—Ellsbury, Frazier, Kipnis, and Freeman all lost over 50 points in batting average in the second half.  But despite all the bullpen maneuvering, Centreville still logged just 1201.2 IP and 1416 GP this year—leaving about 60-70 innings and 44 games played on the table.  ThatÕs a ton!  And get this—an additional 4 wins, 4 HR, and 9 RBI would have netted them 7 more standings points, which would have been enough to climb into 4th place.  Still a setback, perhaps, but just ask Alexandria how good 4th place sounds right now.

 

Outlook ($103m in the bank, $66m committed):  Despite the Matt Williams touch they demonstrated in their first half-season, Wagoner and Perez-Lopez are still set up well for the future.  Trading fewer JLB HOFers like Greinke and McCutchen for injured also-rans like Tanaka and Kang would be an excellent place to start in 2016.  Their lineup is already basically set, and theyÕve got three solid starters in hand to build the rotation around.  With Wade Davis as their only closer, theyÕll need to add some RP, but TPauL wouldnÕt want it any other way.

 

 

 

 

8th place: Herndon Heroes (54 points, 24 hitting, 30 pitching)

 

One of JLBÕs original franchises has experienced two distinct eras in its 15-year lifespan.  From 2001-2008, their average ranking was 3.5 and they finished lower than 4th only once.  Since then, their average ranking has been 7.1 and theyÕve only once cracked the top 5.  Despite being only two points out of a money spot at the All-Star Break, this year didnÕt buck the recent trend, as a second-half swoon left the Heroes well out of contention by September.

 

Buster Posey (74-19-94-2-.319) proved that heÕs still easily the best catcher in JLB, as his 43rd-overall player ranking dwarfed the next best catcher (Russell Martin, 147th).  Nolan Arenado showed that he can be a franchise cornerstone for the next four years, and Giancarlo Stanton was awesome—for a few months, at least.  And thatÕs about all the good news.

 

There was plenty of bad news to go around, especially regarding recent Heroes free agent signees.  Last offseasonÕs crop included $37m for Victor Martinez, Brandon McCarthy, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Joaquin Benoit, who so far have produced just DL stints and holds, neither of which is a standings category.  The year before that the Heroes guaranteed $72m to Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez.  Hanley was decent in 2014, a disaster in 2015, and has now lost his SS eligibility, while Sanchez has provided Herndon 12 wins in two injury-riddled seasons.  All six of those signees just mentioned are still under contract in 2016, with a collective $36.5m coming their way next season.

 

So with the deck stacked against him in 2016, GM Danny White has decided to cash in some present value for long-term assets.  Buster Posey, whoÕs definitely getting his HeroesÕ jersey retired, was flipped for Joc Pederson, whoÕs a safe bet to be at least a 4-category contributor for the next six years in HerndonÕs outfield.  White shipped Giancarlo Stanton out as well, eliciting a sense of unfulfilled expectations during his time in Herndon.  Since then former 1st overall MLD pick burst on the scene in 2011 his performance was always solid, but injuries limited him to an average of 121 games over five JLB seasons and he cracked the top-40 player rankings only once.

 

Outlook ($99m in the bank, $69m committed):  The only real question at this point is how much White can get for his expiring assets.  Does he trade David Robertson for more prospects?  Or use him to pare off bad contracts?  Arenado, Pederson, Mookie Betts and Corey Seager have the potential to be the foundation of an excellent offense, but the pitching staff has a long way to go.

 

9th place: Clifton Clams (43.5 points, 21.5 hitting, 22 pitching)

 

This year marked the end of an era in Clifton—for (perhaps) the final time, Miguel Cabrera donned a Clams uniform.  Miggy was selected with the 27th overall pick back in 2003, back when we kept something like 20 players per year.  He went two picks after Hanley Ramirez and two picks before Adam Wainwright.  We had yet to invade Iraq!  The apple of LaskenÕs eye went on to crush 398 home runs during twelve and a half years with the Clams.  His most dominant stretch came from 2010 to 2013, where he was a top-5 hitter each season and carried Clifton to three money finishes in four years.

 

As long as Cabrera was in Clifton, GM Jon Lasken was right to try to contend.  Miggy was a special kind of fantasy beast, and he never belonged on a rebuilder.  But one has to wonder if Lasken held on to his favorite toy for too long.  That dominant four-year stretch coincided nicely with ÒThe Bet,Ó which worked out to the tune of 1,000 clams, but may have caused Jon to miss a golden opportunity to deal his stud for a better package.  On June 3rd, 2013, according to a reliable source, Gerrit Cole, George Springer, Sonny Gray, an AD 1.5, and $5m were put on the table for Cabrera.  Yikes!  Lasken turned it down, sealed his victory over Arlington, but would never see that kind of offer again for his superstar.

 

Another move that Lasken took some grief for this year was trading three picks for Alex Rodriguez to replace the departed Cabrera at third base.  He already had the startable Aramis Ramirez on his roster, but claimed the deal made financial sense due to standings points penalties.  ARod turned in a 49-22-55-4-.238 line in 90 games (better that what Cabrera would do in Sterling, for what itÕs worth).  During the same time period (June 8th until the end of the season), Ramirez posted a 31-11-59-1-.267 line.  While a direct replacement of ARodÕs stats with AmRamÕs oversimplifies things, itÕs also all I have time for, so letÕs assume exactly that.  The ARod factor (+18 R, +11 HR, -4 RBI, +3 SB, -.002 team AVG) only affected the standings in HR (+1.5 points) and AVG (-2 points), which is basically a push compared to AmRam.  ItÕs imprecise, for sure, but with the benefit of hindsight the rough sketch indicates that the naysayers were right on this one—even though in a vacuum ARodÕs actual line was pretty productive.

 

Outlook ($107m in the bank, $36m committed):  Even though Lasken has been actively filling key roster spots via free agency for the past few years, heÕs managed to avoid any albatross contracts.  Darvish burned him last year, but was just a one year mistake.  UeharaÕs deal is suddenly a bad one, but he dealt him for prospects before that became true.  Meanwhile, Carlos Gomez and Max Scherzer have been outright bargains (how does the same guy get signed below market twice?).  As a result, heÕs got a streamlined roster—but unfortunately one with very little top-tier talent on it.  If Bauer and Matz develop as hoped, then Clifton could have the makings of a decent rotation, but otherwise thereÕs little help on the way.  With so much cap room, Lasken could attempt to spend his way back into contention, but history has shown thatÕs easier said than done.  He might be best served by punting the next couple years to build up the next Clams contender.

 

10th place: Arlington Arsenal (35.5 points, 29 hitting, 6.5 pitching)

 

Arlington was pretty bad, but that was expected this year.  GMs Justin Warren and Brian Greenhalgh didnÕt max out their payroll, putting just a $80m product on the field on Opening Day.  If that even sounds high for a non-contender, itÕs probably because theyÕre still feeling the repercussions from The Bet.  Unlike Clifton, Arlington shoved all in on free agency during that window, leaving them with $26m per year going to Prince Fielder and Robby Cano—both ranked 9th at their respective positions this season—which is a tough way to keep operating costs down.

 

A.J. Pollock (106-19-74-39-.322) broke out and got some JLB MVP votes.  Kyle Seager (85-26-74-6-.268) was pretty good again, but still ranked just 13th among 3B, and as a rising step 6 has little trade value.  As for the pitchingÉsince 5 points would be the absolute minimum, 6.5 is pretty awful.  But at least they got to 1100 innings pitched!  On the bright side, theyÕve got all their picks for the foreseeable future.  They should be pretty high ones.

 

Outlook ($103m in the bank, $47m committed):  ThereÕs really no reason to hold on to A.J. Pollock at this point—he may never repeat last yearÕs gaudy numbers, heÕs only getting more expensive, and Arlington may not place again before his arbitration years are up.  But with many contenders having already made moves to acquire outfield help, that market may be drying up.  At least SB are frequently a hot commodity during mid-season deals.

 

11th place: Falls Church Foxes (32.5 points, 18.5 hitting, 14 pitching)

 

This was the last of the cellar-dwelling years for this generation of Foxes.  Despite a third consecutive second-to-last place finish, Falls Church is already making moves to climb the ladder in 2016.  But is it too soon?  The Firemen just pulled off the biggest single-season leap in the free agency era by gaining 57.5 points compared to 2014.  Nobody else has ever improved by 50 from one year to the next.  Even pulling off that feat would place Falls Church at 82.5 points, which is almost exactly the historical average for 4th place (82.4).  Is cashing in multi-year assets for a 4th-place finish worth it?  When those assets are mediocre and injured like Jung Ho Kang, I guess it canÕt hurt to try.

 

As for 2015 performances, Joey Votto (95-29-80-11-.313) returned to relevance and looks like a bargain signing.  Xander Bogaerts (76-6-71-10-.321) and Manny Machado (73-25-63-13-.287 in 122 games) look ready to form the best left side of the infield in JLB.  If Anthony Rendon gets his act together, this could be the LeagueÕs best infield, period.  In the outfield, nobody has a bigger gap between JLB and MLB value than Matt Kemp (75-23-96-11-.264).  And Byron Buxton may just tear the League apart starting in 2017.

 

Developments on the mound were less encouraging for Falls Church.  Shelby Miller had a nice season, but will have a tough time replicating that in the high desert.  Taijuan Walker, Robert Stephenson, and Andrew Heaney all had mixed results and will be far from a sure thing in 2016.  At least Carson Fulmer (2015 AD 1.4) looked good in his professional debut, albeit in high-A ball.

 

Outlook ($166m in the bank, $40m committed):  The McCutchen acquisition signaled that Falls Church is definitely going for it in 2016.  Their offense is nearly complete, but theyÕll need to bid heavily on pitching in free agency.  With the most cash in JLB in their bank account, why not!  Carlton Davis will either bring Clayton Kershaw back to Falls Church, or break somebody elseÕs budget trying.  DonÕt be surprised if a couple other SPs from the Felix, Wainwright, Darvish, Hamels group end up joining him.  TheyÕll need some closers too, but thereÕs still room in the budget for that.

 

12th place: Great Falls Grenades (26.5 points, 8 hitting, 18.5 pitching)

 

They were terrible, but thatÕs all part of the plan.  Great Falls is deep into a rebuild cycle that has seen them accumulate a stockpile of prospects, with the majority of their minor league roster having appeared on a top-100 list in the past year.  So while deciding whether or not 2015 was a successful season for the Grenades, thereÕs really no point in talking about what happened at the JLB level.

 

Great Falls made a couple deals with Fairfax, as each franchise headed in opposite directions.  GM J.D. Moss dealt Dallas Keuchel, Jake McGee, and Jean Segura for Francisco Lindor, J.P. Crawford, and Clint Frazier, among others.  The big move came in January, when Corey Kluber and Freddie Freeman went south to Centreville in exchange for Kris Bryant.  ItÕs a good thing he made those deals, because otherwise his system is lacking on high-upside talent.  Look for that to change after a couple years atop the draft board.  It helps that theyÕve got five 1st-round AD picks in the next two years.

 

Outlook ($144m in the bank, $21m committed):  If Great Falls chooses to retain the rest of its arb-eligible players, itÕd have just seven empty roster spots with a $21m payroll.  After next season theyÕll be pushing $200m in the bank while still having a ways to go in the rebuilding process.  This process wonÕt be over anytime soon, so hopefully daycare prices donÕt go up with the rise in interest rates.

 

2016 Projections

 

Standings

1st Springfield

2nd Manassas

3rd Sterling

4th Firemen

5th Alexandria

6th Foxes

7th 66ers

8th Clams

9th Roundabouts

10th Arsenal

11th Heroes

12th Grenades

 

MVP: Trout

Randy: Kershaw

ROY: Correa

Durgs: Wergley & Moore