2036 Huntsville Phantoms Preview

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2036 Huntsville Phantoms Preview

Post by Lane » Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:34 pm

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2036 Huntsville Phantoms Preview

GM Kyle Stever (2021-2030, 2034-Present)
After 10 very successful seasons at the helm of the Phantoms (7 times playoffs, two times LMS Champions) Kyle stepped away from the team in 2031. Though he was not gone long, the team changed dramatically, and in just a season and a half, the Phantoms again look very much like a “Stever” team.

Fun Fact: HNT has been very successful when they make it to the Landis Memorial Series, having won the title in 5 of 6 attempts.

Franchise Facts:

Playoff Appearances: 21

Landis Memorial Series Appearances: 6

Landis Memorial Series Wins: 5

Known as the Chicago Black Sox from 1973-2020.

2035 Results
86-76 3rd JLS

Offseason Summary

Key Losses

SP Bonaventure Habermas (7/6/6 Ratings)
3B Dave Wilfer (8/6/5/6/8 Ratings)
RP David Cantu (6/8/9 Ratings)

Key Additions

RP Leon Flores (9/8/5 Ratings)
RP Kenny Hill (8/8/5 Ratings)
CL Esteban Velasqsuez (10/7/8 Ratings)
RP Reynaldo Garza (6/9/9 Ratings)
RP [ Jose Gutierrez (7/7/8 Ratings)
SP Esteban Sanchez (7/6/8 Ratings)



Quick Hit

When he took over in the middle of the 2034 season, Kyle conducted one of the quickest turnarounds that I’ve ever seen in this league. If there’s anyone that has a vision of how to win in OOTP, and knows how to execute that vision with ruthless abandon, it’s Kyle. The Phantoms look good again, and the JL Southeast just got a lot more competitive.


2033 Predicted Starters

Catcher

Switch hitter Luis Barrera (8/8/8/6/7 Ratings) may be the only catcher that sits atop a BBA lineup. He doesn’t hit lefties as that well (you may hear this again before the preview is over) but he sure can mash right handed pitching. He’s just fine defensively, and is locked up through at least 2038.

First Base

Anthony Templeman (6/8/4/6/6 Ratings) appears to be penciled in to see the majority of starts at first base. At a glance, this appears to be a hole for the Phantoms. He’s a lefty hitter, but despite the 151 OPS+ vs RHP last year, that is almost certainly unsustainable. He should at least get on base a fair amount with a sum of 14 for AvK+Eye and as a superior defender with the ability to steal bases he should be just fine day in and day out.

Second Base

Gerardo Guzman (8/7/2/6/8 Ratings) will man the keystone in Huntsville as the elder statesman of the lineup. Another left handed hitter, he has excellent bat to ball skills and can pick it with the glove as well. Work 3.5 WAR last year in a down season from his 5.8 WAR 2034 campaign, we could easily see him approach 5 wins this season. While he’s worse against left handed pitching, he maintains enough contact skills to keep his OPS above .700 against them.

Third Base

The hot corner will be manned by the brightest star in a very young and very solid infield, Leyli Yelanian (6/7/6/7/6 Ratings). A 2035 midseason acquisition from Long Beach, the Armenian native had a very strong 48 games in Huntsville, putting up a 142 OPS+ and 1.6 WAR. In total, he was worth 4.1 WAR for 2035 and at age 25 there’s no reason he can’t get better from here. He fits in with the rest of the infield as a guy that demolishes RHP but struggles against LHP. As opposed to Guzman though, Yelanian really, really shouldn’t ever face a southpaw. He’s also excellent with the glove, with plenty of arm for the throws from foul territory and quick enough feet to start the 5-4-3 double plays with ease.

Shortstop

Finally, here we are at shortstop and we see another player who is very strong against RHP in Brian Sullivan (6/8/6/6/5 Ratings). Oh, and his glove is not bad either. This is what we’re talking about when we say it looks like a Stever team. Dude has a vision, and executes it. Sullivan was acquired in a trade with California prior to the 2035 season. He put up a career best 1.8 WAR and somehow was even good against lefties! The ratings don’t really back it up though, despite being a switch hitter, he does not seem equipped for success vs lefties.

Utility Infield

As of this writing, Fernando Navarro (6/8/4/4/7 Ratings) is the only non-OF non-DH non-backup catcher on the roster. In a surprising, or perhaps unsurprising twist, he bats right handed. He played very well in 2035 over 39 starts vs. LHP putting up 0.5 WAR and a 110 OPS+. Unfortunately for the Phantoms, he’s only able to play one infield position at a time. That said, he should start every time they face a lefty, rotating among all of the infield positions except 1B.

Given the makeup of the infield, it wouldn’t be surprising to see prospect Esteban Fernandez (5/6/5/5/5 Ratings) up with the big club for significant time this season to man 2B in place of Guzman.

Outfield Corners

David Hall (6/7/8/6/6 Ratings)
Adam Parrish (7/6/6/7/5 Ratings)
Leon Sandcastle (7/6/7/8/5 Ratings)

Hall brings the power to the party, with 80 home runs over the last two sesasons. He’s not much with the glove, but when you hit like he does, it won’t matter. Just 23, he could easily eclipse his 4 WAR 2035 and to really top things off, he is perfectly capable against LHP as well.

Parrish hits from both sides of the plate, and is a good defender in either corner. He hits righties better but is competent against southpaws. Signed as a free agent prior to the 2035 season, he had a career year, putting up 3 WAR in hist first opportunity as a mostly full time player since his rookie year in 2028.

Future Hall of Famer Leon Sandcastle (7/6/7/8/5 Ratings) will be on the shelf to start the year, but should join the Phantoms by May. He can’t really hit lefties anymore, but even at age 40 he will hit righties well, and will be a great defender in left field. He also brings some needed veteran presence to the young clubhouse.

Center Field

Adrian Young (6/8/7/6/6 Ratings)
Tim Torres (6/7/7/7/6 Ratings)
Young and Torres are shockingly similar players. Torres excels in CF, while Young is merely passable. They both bat left and hit righties better than lefties. Neither is truly a star, but they are both strong players to have as options in CF or in the corners.


DH

The Phantoms are set up rather nicely at DH, with a platoon of Chris Klein (7/8/7/5/6 Ratings) on the strong side and Jose Cortez (8/8/3/6/8 Ratings) on the weak side. Klein brings the bombs, with 35 last year and Cortez looks to be more of a doubles machine with lots of speed on the bases. It may be less than ideal to platoon at DH, but these two make a great pair, with Cortez being an excellent weapon for pinch hitting in the late innings.


Offensive Summary

Does Kyle know that some BBA pitchers throw with their left hand? Seriously, this team will struggle against southpaws. But they will absolutely crush all but the best of the best right handed pitchers. While I would prefer a more balanced approach, the lineup is solid. It’s not going to be the best in the division, but when they face a righty they’re going to win a lot more than they lose.



Starting Pitchers

Righty Heinrich Peithner (9/7/7 Ratings) leads the staff and with a career 3.80 ERA (3.84 FIP) he’s proven to be a very reliable starter since 2033. Topping 200 innings each of the last two seasons, he was worth 4.6 wins last year. With his sinker, curve, change mix and over the top delivery, he’s equally effective against lefties and righties. He may not be a Nebraska contender, but he’s a great pitcher to take the ball every 5th day.

If you balked at the notion of Peithner being the ace of the staff, then Yu-bao Tong (8/7/6 Ratings) is probably why. The 23 year old led the league with a 2.92 ERA over 200 IP in 2035. The lefty from Taiwan utilized his 6 pitch mix to confound batters over and over in his rookie season. So, why isn’t he my pick for the leader of the staff? The 3.68 FIP indicates that there’s some regression due. But even a 3.68 ERA in 2036 would be excellent for the young pitcher. If he can stay on the mound for another 200+ innings in 2036, the Phantoms have an excellent 1-2 L-R punch at the top.

Juan Nicto (8/8/6 Ratings) had a career high WAR in 2036, worth 3.4 wins on a 4.40 ERA in 206 innings. The trend we’re seeing here is that Huntsville is not shy about leaning on their starting pitchers, and Nicto is no exception. At age 24, he still has room to improve. If anything is to hold him back, it’s his troubles against LHB. With his 3/4 delivery and reliance on his fastball and slider, lefties tend to hit him pretty hard. That said, he is a great starter to plug in the middle of a rotation.

Southpaw Ludwig Charles (6/7/7 Ratings) pitched very well in his first full BBA season. At a glance you may think he outplayed his ratings, but the 4.28 FIP backs up the 4.65 ERA very well. Charles wouldn’t be the first lefty in the BBA to play above his ratings, and while his arsenal is not especially deep, four pitches is just enough for the mediocre stuff to play up.

Rounding out the rotation is lefty hurler Esteban Sanchez (7/6/8 Ratings). Acquired in an offseason trade with Seattle, Sanchez will look to return to his 2034 form, after spending most of 2035 in AAA. He makes up for his lack of strikeouts by limiting the walks, particularly against same handed hitters. He also does well to control the running game and all in all makes for a fine back end of the rotation starter. He should keep the Phantoms in the game more often than not, at least when they’re facing a righty.

Relief Corps

Esteban Velasquez (10/7/8 Ratings)
Ricardo Baez (9/7/6 Ratings)
Reynaldo Garza (6/9/9 Ratings)
Jose Gutierrez (7/7/8 Ratings)
Jose Gutierrez (7/7/8 Ratings)
Kenny Hill (8/8/5 Ratings)
Carlos Sanchez (6/7/8 Ratings)
Leon Flores (9/8/5 Ratings) (out 3 months)

As young as the lineup and rotation is, the bullpen is old. Like really old. Two guys are pushing 40, and of the guys healthy to start the seaon, only 27 year old Baez is under 33. Now, that does not mean that they’re not good. Velasquez is about as good as they come at the end of the game, and Baez, Garza and Flores (when healthy) make a formidable bridge to the 9th inning. The two Gutierrez’ are fine for the middle innings, and Hill is coming off of an excellent season in Long Beach. When the bullpen is handed a lead, they will keep it more often than not.

Pitching Summary

Unlike the offense, the pitching is well balanced left and right. This should serve them well, especially with the three lefties in the rotation. The lack of top-flight rotation talent is made up for by the superior ‘pen, and even so, the rotation should grade out as above average. They remind me a bit of my own rotation in Long Beach, balanced and deep.

Summary

As I said before, this team will win a lot of games against righties. Their defense and pitching should keep them in competition in a lot of of games vs left handed starters, but that’s going to be a struggle all year. Another struggle could be depth. The upper minors are thin, especially at starting pitching. This leaves them vulnerable to falling off if they have any injuries to SPs during the season. Stever isn’t shy about hitting the trade market though, and I’m confident that he will be able to fill any holes that may pop up over the course of the season.

Prediction

The Johnson League Southeast remains Jacksonville’s division to lose. New Orleans appears poised to take a step back, and Louisville lacks the punch they had in their championship seasons. With Nashville still working on The Plan, Huntsville has a great shot at second place. The Johnson league wild card should be as tight in 2036 as it was in 2035, but this time the Huntsville Phantoms should be right there in the thick of it. I’ll predict an 89-73 finish that places them second in the JLS and in position to fight for the second wild card in the JL.
Stephen Lane
PR Director / Historian / Tech Support
General Manager, Long Beach Surfers
Since 2026

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Re: 2036 Huntsville Phantoms Preview

Post by agrudez » Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:11 pm

Thanks for the preview, Stephen - I agree with most all of what you said. One thing, though, is I'm still very up in the air about my 1B situation. Until Sandcastle gets back, the OF is going to be Young-Torres-Parrish with Hall at DH and Klein at 1B. When Sandcastle gets back, he obviously goes into one of the corners, but I'm debating whether he should replace Parrish (whom would go to the bench) or Young (whom would replace Klein at 1B). I'm leaning towards replacing Parrish, but I'm not sold yet (I mean... the guy put up over 3 WAR last year, after all). A good problem to have, I guess - for depth concerns. I actually considered sending Templeman down (he has options still) again since I don't have a place for him so there's depth (1B/DH/2B), too.

I also feel a lot better about my offense vs. LHP than you, obviously. Part of that is probably my philosophy to never platoon true offensive stars (which would include Barrera, Sandcastle, Hall, Yelainen at least) so that is already a couple positions where its not an option (I do this because, eventually, a game gets sent to the bullpen - which is more than likely heavily comprised of RHPs - and I don't want my big bats sitting on the bench in a close game in the 7th). Bring Navarro (for Sullivan or Guzman) and Cortez (for Klein or Young) in to platoon and that's probably better vs. LHP than I had last season, tbh (in which we were >.500, iirc).
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Re: 2036 Huntsville Phantoms Preview

Post by Lane » Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:19 pm

Interesting thoughts. I agree that Templeman could go down, don't really see a good fit for him on the roster.

I appreciate hearing your thoughts on why you keep all the lefties in against lefty starters. I wouldn't take the same approach, but there's definitely validity to having the pitching+defense keep the game close until the starter is out and then beating up on the righties in the pen. I guess I put more faith in the OOTP manager to make substitutions than you do. And if you were >.500 last year vs. LHP then you must be on to something.
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Re: 2036 Huntsville Phantoms Preview

Post by agrudez » Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:30 pm

Lane wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:19 pm
I guess I put more faith in the OOTP manager to make substitutions than you do.
That is probably the answer there. I have negative faith in my manager making a correct decision during game time. In my estimation, the AI is just as likely to sub Yelainen out for Navarro in the bottom of the 9th with 2 on, 2 out against a RHP as it is to sub Yelainin in for Navarro in the top of the 7th after a LHSP gets replaced by a RHRP. As such, I set my position players sub slider to absolute minimum and pray that means he never does it (of course, I never study my game logs, so maybe the bastard does it all the time behind my back anyway).
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Re: 2036 Huntsville Phantoms Preview

Post by Lane » Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:40 pm

agrudez wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:30 pm
(of course, I never study my game logs, so maybe the bastard does it all the time behind my back anyway).
Quite a contrast from me, as studying the game logs is about the first or second thing I do when I DL the file.
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Re: 2036 Huntsville Phantoms Preview

Post by RonCo » Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:17 pm

Stephen and I are quite similar in approach, it seems. I literally track what my manager does inning by inning sometimes.
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