Saturday, February 26, 2011

Still More Previews

NL North

Detroit Roadsters

The Roadsters are clearly in win now mode. The Roadsters looked primed to make a run at a division title with a veteran led team. To help their playoff push, they moved most of their prospects to upgrade in the OF positions acquiring Sammy Marichal and Pedro Domingo , as well as snagging #3 starter Joaquin Soto. They better hope that everyone stays healthy as organizational depth is not a strong suit for this team. The Roadsters do have two future stars in 1B Bubba LaFromboise and CL Antonio Whang but they are still a couple of years away from the majors.

Milwaukee Wolves

Can the Wolves have some bite to go with their growl this year? They'll rely on a rookie GM and Manager with a strong mix of veterans to lead the way. Looking for productive seasons from Augie Paige , Eric Lillibridge , and Diego Feliz to go with up and comers Vic Saenz and Rafael Guerrero. A patchwork pitching staff with no clear #1 starter could be the achilles heel though.

Minnesota Lumberjacks

The Lumberjacks will be trying to compete for the division title but might have their work cut out for them with the Roadsters and their nice 1 – 2 punch at SP and veteran lineup. To help the team compete they traded for veteran Bob Campbell who comes as a one year rental to lead the staff. We think we got a relative bargain in FA with Josias Estrada who should be a capable #2 starter. Holdover Mac Wang will lead a young lineup. The lineup will be bolstered at some point this season by trade acquisitions Trent Whitaker and Carlos Seneca. At only 19, Seneca could use some seasoning but the Lumberjacks like his bat and can’t afford to wait with him as he would slide right into the 3 or 4 slot in the lineup. Hopefully he can handle the pressure despite his age. Young pitchers Jermaine Bere and Anthony Appier are also slated to join the big league club this season if the current staff should falter. This team has a nice young nucleus with a few veterans sprinkled in that we hope will keep us competitive this season and for years to come.

Chicago Hitmen

The Hitmen start and end with two young arms, Blake Decker and Bum Brandt . The Hitmen plan on this being a very good duo for years to come. Offensively, there are some very good, young big leaguers that will have to grow into their positions. Luis Pulido , Tony Chang, Wesley Hall , and Derek Koloff . In the minors, there are some nice prospects, mostly at the upper levels. Yovani Gallardo , Maximo Duffy , Bernie Flores , Flash DeHaan , and Footsie Uggla @ AAA. Cody Pettyjohn , Pedro Mercedes , Ray Patrick , and Brian Lambert @ AA. Herbert Kelley and Nap Hartman at High A. The Hitmen round out their first season with 4 picks in the first 46 selections in the draft, so they should be able to add a few solid prospects along the way.

NL East

Cincinnati Tall Stacks

The top players are also new additions to this team they include Carlos Rios, Phil Pellow,and Chien-Ming Meng. Top prospects are Alex Reese, Joel Grimsley, and Everth Gonzalez

Pittsburgh Phantoms

Pittsburgh is led by Willie Johnson and Birdie Mahomes on offense. Clarence Arnold and Nick Adcock anchor a solid pitching staff that should keep them in most games. This franchise may not run away with the division but should be able to play break even ball and with a few breaks, could contend for the division title.

Indianapolis Racers

I'm looking to win now. I'm going for a small ball approach with contact, speed, hit and run etc. I have the least power in the world. My defense is very sharp with Murray Harris 3B, Slim Jefferies SS, and Carlos Guzman at 2B. My pitching is terrible but has the best control in the league and keeps the ball on the ground. I don't have a single prospect worth mentioning.

St. Louis Bishops

Despite missing out on a couple of valued FA, optimism runs high in St. Louis. The offense will be led by FA aquisition C Alex Romo. 1B Julio Diaz and LF Mark Chen will also add offensive pop. The rotation will be balanced, with no dominant starter, but 5 capable hurlers to share the load. Rabbit Edwards should lock down most late inning leads. With balance up and down the roster the Bishops hope to make a run at the playoffs this season.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Previews

AL East

Philadelphia Quakers

The Quakers head into the season with a very suspect pitching staff. The starters may struggle but the offense should help keep them in most games. They are led by one of the better young hitters in the game in Al Ordaz . Will Gardner , Trevor Sherman , and Esmerling Cano will also provide some offensive fireworks for the rookie GM. Their closer, Dave Hermida , is solid but is he being best utilized in that role? With this team’s starting pitchers likely to struggle, he may not have many opportunities to save games and therefore not as many innings pitched for this team that desperately needs as many solid innings pitched as possible.

New York Legends

My team is all about the starting pitching staff. The SP1 through 4 are all guys I gained through trades and are all pretty much number 1 guys. My lineup is built on power, having three 100 power guys and a few others in the 90s. My key additions are my top 4 starting pitchers, my key losses is my whole minor league system basically. I traded them all away for a chance to win now. My best prospect remaining is Tom Mann and he will be up in the majors after 20 or so minor league games. My key major leaguers are Angel Molina , Jhonny Johnson , Alvin Roberts , and Stubby West .

Boston Checkers

With the roll of the dice, the inaugural season of the Boston Checkers went down the drain. Their minors were decimated with early season callups to fill in for the absolutely horrible ML roster compiled by the SIM. There is some hope to meet the league minimum of wins if players such as former Indiana and Texas Tech head basketball coach Bob Knight and Eduardo Almanza put up the type of season they should be capable of. Pitching will be an issue this season in Beantown and they will rely heavily on the arm of Henry Mullens to bring home some victories this season. So if you plan on coming out to spend an evening at Fenway this season, come early and down a few on Lansdowne St., enjoy the experience of Yawkey Way or have a big bowl of chowdah. Chances are what you see on the field will be a bit disappointing.

Baltimore Ironclads

Baltimore should have one of the more potent offenses in the league. They are led by super star Jin Ho Yang who the GM thinks should contend for the MVP for ten years, and I agree, he should have an excellent career anchoring the Ironclads’ offense. Also contributing will be Lewis Tremie who may be a defensive liability at SS but can rake with the best of them. Vance Sosa is slated to be the teams #1 starter right now. Can his incredible splits overcome his low control? Baltimore sure hopes so as they will need him to perform as an ace if they are to compete for the title.

AL West

Seattle 747s

My team has a decent lineup with Chico Montanez & Jay Patrick leading the way. My rotation is going to be weaker after several big trades. Season one may not be my season, but with several very good young players in AAA and AA, the future is close. 3 Players to watch for are Edwin Walton , Ryan Frank & Ewell Osterbrock

San Francisco Slingers

The Slingers go into the season optimistic of their chances to compete for a division crown. They haven't had full backing from some of their fans however because they feel like the owners didn't open up their pocketbook enough in the offseason. With speedsters Vic Serrano and Parker Jacquez in the top of the order followed by some good power in Archie Coco and Armando Marrero, they could prove to be one of the stronger top of the orders in the league. Watch for Jacquez to have a breakout season as he is currently lighting up Spring Training with a .462 average and 3 home runs. The key for them will come in pitching and the ability of some good young minor leaguers to step up when called upon. Angel Espinosa at 31 will be looked upon as one of the elder leaders of the pitching staff and Tom Mora looks to be a big contributor as well. Regardless of the outcome, the Slingers feel that with their fans expectations being low and being tagged as an underdog in the league, they have nowhere to go but up.

Los Angeles Aces

The Aces will be anything but... This team has a good young nucleus to build around, but it will take a couple of seasons to become a viable contender in ULB.
[Editor's Note: I guess LA prefers to be shrouded in mystery.]

Portland Pioneers

We feel pretty confident in the team we have assembled. Veteran Tris Steenstra along with up and coming superstar Terry Thurman lead a potent offense, and old man Lyle Galloway leads a strong pitching staff. Several trades have brought in some fresh new faces and added some pop to the lineup and some gas to the staff. Once the season gets started, we will know more about our team, but fans and ownership alike are confident in the boys to come together and play winning baseball. The Pioneer faithful are ready to cheer their team to a pennant.

Monday, February 21, 2011

AL North Preview

The season is underway, and if you need a little help handicapping the division races, the ULB Times will be taking a look at each of the 8 divisions over the next 8 days. Up first, the AL North!

Toronto Mounties

The Mounties roll into Season 1 with a mix of veteran talent and some young arms. They will be led this year by 31-year-old, slugging LF Clark Walsh and CF Heath Olmos. Anchored by Closer Bruce Ruffin, the Mounties will hope that their starters can turn the game over to him with a lead more times than not.

The Mounties will have concerns surrounding their starting rotation as they field no clear ac- on their staff. They will be putting a lot of weight on the young shoulders of 24-year-old Vic Rosales and 21-year-old Jose Lind. Rosales and Lind are being counted on as the building blocks for this franchise for years to come.

Toronto has hopes of being a playoff contender this year, but it is hard to project where they may finish record-wise. During the offseason the Mounties were very quiet in free agency and on the trade front. Management chose to not sell out the future talent for a win now team and chose to let the season play out and evaluate as they go.

Cleveland Crows

Quite frankly it is difficult to predict how the initial season will go for the Crows. The overall talent level of the team is below average but that seems to be the consensus of most owners in the league. The Crows decided to trade off most of their high-priced players and pending FA. Most deals resulted in younger prospects coming back. Some stop gap FA were signed to plug gaps while they wait on those prospects. The goal appears to be building the widest competitive window they can. The best players on the team are prospects SP Tim Jackson and OF Dan Ramirez, both in their early 20’s. The game plan is to keep the top prospects in the minors for the first part of the season to postpone the arbitration years. After the first 25-30 games, if the Crows look to be competitive, Jackson, Ramirez and other top talents could be called up to make a playoff run. If the team dives to the cellar out of the gate, the Crows may choose to wait until next year to promote their top talent.

The Crows do still have some good MLB talent with players such as Mat Dunham, Brandon O'Neill, and Harry Benson. While they would love to win the AL North, the Crows would be happy to get to .500 this season.

Montreal Hilltoppers

The Hilltoppers expect to field a competitive team this season but are expecting bigger things in the near future. Currently our top players are left-handed SP Don Chenand slugging 3 Michel Carreras; both players will be serious all-star contenders. Top rookie prospects are Buck Holmes, Tomas Tejeda, Jim Dougherty, Jamey Stockton, Jeff Doumit, Les Stratton, Che-Bang Hukata, and Hector Tapies. All enjoyed a solid spring season. Another top prospect, Francisco Matos, is presently in AAA but is expected to be called up to the big club once he gets a few more at-bats. Matos has the skills to be a five-tool player.

Tejada, Chen, and Sammy Stammen are the anchors of a solid but very young rotation. The Hilltoppers also enjoy a strong bullpen, as well as good team speed and defense.

Buffalo Mammoths

A rebuilding team with a lot of promise on the horizon, the Buffalo Mammoths will likely struggle to make the minimum win totals set by the league, but if they can hold out hope for a few seasons, there are plenty of promising arms in the system. The big league squad is anchored by ace SP Louis Cochrane, star-in-the-making C Charlie Rhodes...and not much else. This team will struggle to score runs and other than when Cochrane is on the mound, they will struggle to prevent runs.

In the low minors however, the pitching is stocked and developing. The threesome of SPs Rob Eischen , Luis Nunez, and Phil Riggs is the future top of the Mammoths' rotation. The bullpen arms include future lights out Closer Carlton Wood and Neftali Alvarez. The position player prospects are weak throughout the system but the Mammoths hope to work on that through the draft, thanks to the #2 overall pick, and the international market.

In short, the present will not be pretty in Buffalo, but the ownership group is asking fans to be patient because the future promises better days ahead.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Fish Bigger than Sharks' Tannehill

Jacksonville, FL -- The Jacksonville Sharks got their man; SP Royce Tannehill was never able to escape the confines of northern Florida, though his bank account will have a lot more 0's in it than ever before.

Tannehill, the hottest commodity on the open market during the innaugural free agency period of the ULB, put several teams on pins and needles for days before settling on the full max contract the Sharks had lain on the table.  The contract is a 5-year deal at $20M per season, with the added perks of a $10M signing bonus, a full no-trade clause, and a player option on the deal's final year.

The Sharks' current
payroll is $94,245,645.
Jacksonville ownership had really hoped Tannehill would simply resign when they had exclusive negotiating rights, but the call of a big pay day was too appealing.  Now, both parties got what they wanted.

Tannehill is unquestionably the best starter on Jacksonville's roster now, and he may need to pitch 40 times for this team to be competitive this season.  If they are not competitive, perhaps the lucrative deal will still bring fans to the stadium every fifth day.  The Sharks are within $3M of their budgeted payroll, so there probably aren't many aggressive personnel moves in their future before the season opens on April 3.

With the big question of the winter now resolved, the anticipation for the launch of ULB's premiere season can now mount unabated.  Spring games start in just 3 days.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hot Stove Heating Up Under Tannehill

The race for Tannehill is heating up as it comes down to the wire. The St. Louis Bishops have had their name cleared after inking C Alex Romo to a monster deal. But a few new teams are being circulated around the winter meetings as possible suitors for the crown jewel of the free agency market.

The Minnesota Lumberjacks have signed a few sizable 5-year deals already and now are getting some buzz as possibly pursuing Tannehill. The money is there, but will adding Tannehill to the other contracts anchor this team down in a few years?

The other team that fell under the initial radar sweep is the Los Angeles Aces. While Jacksonville remains the leading candidate, they would be happiest to see Los Angeles take home the trophy if they cannot. While Minnesota had an unprotected draft pick, they already forfeited it by signing SP Josias Estrada. Los Angeles' first round pick is unprotected, and as yet still their own.

There is not much time left, but the intrigue builds thicker than ever? Where will "Rolls" Royce Tannehill land?

Tannehill's Pay Day Approaching

Jacksonville, FLA -- SP Royce Tannehill is poised to become ULB's first superstar--or at least its most overpaid one.

Royce Tannehill is
currently 29-years old.
Tannehill's rights were originally owned by the Jacksonville Sharks, but as he was eligible for free agency, he wanted to test the waters.  Financially, it was the smart move.  He's poised to become ULB's richest player for its first 5 seasons.

A 5-year deal worth upwards of $100M seems all but imminent.  Our investigative sources say only 3 teams are prepared to offer at least that much.  They are the Chicago Hitmen, St. Louis Bishops, and Tannehill's original franchise, the Jacksonville Sharks.  St. Louis and Jacksonville appear to be the frontrunners.

So with a contract that lofty, the question immediately springs to mind: is he worth it?  Tannehill is a right-hander who throws strikes--hard--and keeps the ball in the yard.  He will easily surpass the 200 IP mark, and he fares about as well versus left-handed batters as he does right-handed batters.  He is more than capable of anchoring a staff, and in fact, elevating it to the next level.

But still, $20M for 5 years is an incredibly large commitment.  If there's one knock on Tannehill it's his durability.  He has to stay healthy for the contract to be even remotely worth it.  Depending on how many starts he gets per year, he is making roughly $500k each time he takes the mound.  Because the deal is 5 years long, he opens himself up to more injuries the longer he plays for the team that signs him.

One thing not likely in play is Tannehill's Type A designation scaring off the remaining bidders.  Jacksonville would obviously forfeit no picks if they resign Tannehill.  St. Louis and Chicago meanwhile have protected first round picks in the midseason Amateur Draft.  So it's boiling down to the money, and the question: how much is too much?

We'll have continuing coverage of the Tannehill story as it develops, including breaking the news to you when he signs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Budgets by Division

The budgets have come across the wire for each of the 32 teams preparing to launch their innaugural season in the United League of Baseball. Here is a breakdown by division of player payroll budget. Which teams will be making runs at expensive free agents in an attempt to wear the crown first?

AL North
Toronto Mounties, $85M
Buffalo Mammoths, $82M
Montreal Hilltoppers, $80M
Cleveland Crows, $75M

Pretty reasonable payrolls from the only division to feature Canadien teams.

AL East
Baltimore Ironclads, $96M
New York Legends, $91M
Philadelphia Quakers, $78M
Boston Checkers, $73M

The Yankees they are not--the Legends don't even have the highest payroll in their own division.

AL South
Jacksonville Sharks, $97M
Kansas City Bolts, $80M
Louisville Thoroughbreds, $79M
Houston Vultures, $74M

The Sharks left themselves plenty of financial wiggle room only to trade away 2 big contracts this morning--pending league approval.

AL West
Los Angeles Aces, $102M
Seattle 747s, $90M
Portland Pioneers, $90M
San Francisco Slingers, $79M

The AL West is the only division to feature 3 teams with over $90M. Can the Slingers keep pace?

NL North
Milwaukee Wolves, $105M
Minnesota Lumberjacks, $94M
Chicago Hitmen, $84M
Detroit Roadsters, $78M

The Wolves are the second predatory animal to have the highest payroll in their division, after the Sharks.

NL East
Cincinnati Tall Stacks, $125M
St. Louis Bishops, $116M
Indianapolis Racers, $85M
Pittsburgh Phantoms, $72M

Indeed, the two highest payrolls reside in the same division. This could be quite a heated battle on the open free agent market. It will be interesting to see what kind of coaches Cincinnati ends up with given their $6M available to spend on them.

NL South
Atlanta Fireballs, $108M
New Orleans Jesters, $89M
Charlotte Cavalry, $69M
Tampa Bay Barracuda, $61M

The anti-NL East, the NL South features the two teams with the lowest payrolls.

NL West
Las Vegas Daredevils, $89M
Arizona Geckos, $87M
Salt Lake City Miners, $84M
Oklahoma City Kingfishers, $77M

We finish as we began, with a lot of middle-of-the-road payrolls. Who can emerge from the pack?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tips for Rookies: Budgeting

Today's event is budgeting, which can be accessed by going to Admin Office > Budgeting > Set Budget.  This is an important first step in the season as it shapes the kind of team you are capable of having this year.  Think you can contend out of the gate?  Consider pumping up player payroll and making a run at some premium free agents.  Prefer to develop in house?  Turn up your prospect budgets and start building through the draft.  The choices are endless.  Here are some pointers to make some sense of things.

The Basics

In total you have $185M to divvy up between the categories of Player, Prospect, Coaches, College Scouting, High School Scouting, International Scouting, Advance Scouting, Training, and Medical.

The first category, Player, is determined by taking $185M and subtracting your values for all of the other categories.  You don't set this category directly, but it is determined by the values you set for all the other categories.

Prospects and Coaches can be set anywhere from $6M-$20M.  They can be set anywhere between this range every year.

The remaining categories can only be increased or decreased by $4M in either direction from what they were set to the previous year.  Because new worlds start with a baseline of $10M for all of these categories, you may only set them to somewhere between $6M and $14M this year.  Then next year, you can increase/decrease them by $4M more again if you desire.  The minimum value for all of these categories is $0M and the maximum is $20M.  If you've done your math, you know you cannot reach $20M in these categories until Season 3 at the earliest.

The Categories

Player:  This is the big one, the base payroll for all of your players, from ML down to Rookie ball.  If you want to mimic the Yankees, turn this up and reel in the big fish in FA.  If you prefer to model yourself after a small market team, keep this low and trade away high-salary players for younger prospects.

Prospect:  This category determines how much money you have available to pay to prospects their signing bonuses.  There are 2 ways to get new prospects, which we'll discuss more later.  They are the Draft and the International Free Agent market.  Draft players will have demands based on where they are drafted and how willing to sign they are.  International Free Agents will have initial demands, but often be bid up by other owners trying to land the same player.  Basically, turn this up if you want to try and build up your farm.

**Remember that in this world this category is capped at $25M for the entire season.  Though you can only set it to $20M initially, I will discuss budget transfers later.  Budget transfers will allow you to bring this category as high as $25M, but no higher due to our world rules.

Coaches:  This category determines how much money you have to sign your coaches.  The simplified theory is "Coaching + Playing Time = Development".  Young prospects will develop no matter what level they play baseball at, as long as they are getting playing time and their coaches are good.  The more money you put here, the more likely you'll be able to land the premium coaches when the time comes.

College/High School Scouting:  Both of these categories effect how many players you'll scout in advance of the midseason Amateur Draft, as well as how accurate the projected ratings you'll see for them are.  College players tend to be older (obviously) at the time of draft, meaning they are closer to the majors but have fewer developmental years left in them.  High school players are younger with more developmental years.  The higher you put both (or one) of these categories, the more likely it is that you will have a strong draft.  Remember to consider where you are drafting!  If you're drafting 32nd overall, it may not make sense to pump these categories too high, unless it is to plan for the future (remember the +/- $4M per year rule).

International Scouting:  Throughout the year, your scouts will inform you of international prospects/players that you are then allowed to sign using your remaining prospect budget.  Turning this category up means you will be notified of a larger selection of these players, and you will also see more accurate projected ratings for them.  This is the only other way to stock the farm outside of the draft.  The advantage to this category is that even if you have a bad draft slot, you can still land a stud prospect via this process.  The disadvantage is that these prospects tend to command much more expensive signing bonuses as owners bid them up, sometimes dumping their whole prospect budget on one player.

Advance Scouting:  This category controls the accuracy of the projected ratings you will see on players under 27 years old (all players 27 and older have projected ratings that match their current ratings--even though it is still possible for them to develop slightly).  Turning this category higher means you will be more confident that the player you are trading for will reach the projections you are seeing.  Many veteran owners will turn this down once they understand the development patterns, but I would advise against it as a rookie owner.  I have plenty of seasons under my belt and still keep this very high most of the time.  Very important if you want to make any trades involving prospects.

Training:  Training is responsible for 2 important things.  First, the higher your training the less likely your players are to get injured.  This is important as it makes it less likely that your ML stars will go down to injury, and that your precious prospects won't get injured and have their development wrecked.  Second, a high training budget will slow the ratings decline of older players.

Medical:  The slight difference between training and medical is that medical reduces the length of injuries once players are injured.  So, for example, if you have high training but low medical your injury frequency will be low but your players have a higher chance of getting injured for a long time and taking big ratings hits.  If your training is low but your medical is high, you will see a higher frequency of injuries but each injury will have a low chance of being for a long period of time.  If you just want healthy players, you'll have to turn both categories up.

Budget Transfers

Though you cannot perform these until tomorrow it is important to keep them in mind, as they may effect how you budget.  If at any point during the year you find yourself with excess Player, Prospect, or Coaches budget, you are allowed to transfer it to another category.  You can do so in $2M chunks, and you forfeit half of the money in order to do so.  But, for example, to get to the $25M Prospect cap, you could overbudget Player by $10M, then transfer all of that to Prospect, giving you $5M more to use there.  Just keep it in mind that you can do this, as you'll probably use it some day.

And that's it!  Happy budgeting!