Break up the Spuds!
Or at least mash them with a little butter and garlic, because the boys from Boise look like they could actually do a bit of damage in the Frontier Division this season, thanks to an active off-season and a return to health by all-Galaxy CF Dennis French.
Last Season In A Nutshell
In 2038, the Spuds finished 74-88, 4th in the Frontier and 19 games behind division-winning Edmonton. They were … not good. In fairness, though, any pretensions Boise had towards respectability went out the window on August 10 when French went down for 5-6 weeks with a fractured finger. Game. Set. And, unfortunately, match.
Hope arrived in the offseason, though, in the form of new General Manager Joe Lederer, who took over a team wuth a miniscule $48 million payroll and plenty of cash to spread around during free agency.
And spread it he did, as we shall see!
The Tale of the Tape
Record: 74-88, .457, 4th in Frick League Frontier
Runs Scored: 721 (4.5 per game - 13th)
Runs Allowed: 788 (4.9 per game – 7th)
Run Differential: -67
Payroll: $48,641,049 (14th)
Attendance: 2,613,607 (8th)
Notable Players Added
Egbert Behner, SP (FA)
Alfredo Salazar, LF (FA)
Norm Smith, SS (FA)
Javier Venegas, RP (FA – on DL until at least May)
Notable Players Lost
Patrick Patchett, SP (FA)
Valeri Kharlamov, 2B (FA)
If you somehow missed it, Boise made two splashy free agent acquisitions as Spring Training began in veteran SP Behner and legendary OF “Savage” Salazar. Together, they add 8.1 wins to the Spuds, who picked up a total of 9.7 through offseason signings while losing -0.3. So their net gain is an even 10.0 WAR – not too shabby for rookie GM Lederer. Calgary and Seattle, two of the teams ahead of Boise in last year’s standings, both had net losses in WAR heading into Spring Training, which gives the Spuds some measure of hope for the upcoming season.
Behner, who pitched the last four seasons in Jacksonville, moves to the head of the class in Boise with 7/6/9 skill ratings, and plenty of stamina (9). He figures to anchor the top of the rotation, throw 200-plus innings, and bring home double-digit wins. You could do worse ... The No. 2 role will likely be filled by 23-year-old Pancho Germán. Although he turned in a less-than-electric 2038, his skill ratings (7/8/6) and 8 stamina suggest better days ahead … Middle-of-the-rotation arms could come from a mixture of veteran Maxence Mace (4/8/7); Maxim Makin (5/7/7); and Jorge Báez (5/7/3). Also in the mix, according to Lederer’s Spring Training reports, are António Sánchez (5/10/3); Marcos Sánchez (9/5/4) and Bill Pidduck (6/6/6). Although this is far from an elite rotation, it has the potential to be solid, which is an advance over last season. Before the Behner signing, Lederer hinted that he may try a 6-man rotation or other untraditional approach. Whether that kind of experimentation is still in the cards post-Eggy is an open question.
There’s no shortage of arms in the Boise pen: Dave Walsh (9/4/7); Douglas van Osch (9/3/5); newcomer Felix Alvarado (7/7/6), signed as a free agent in December; youngster Tom Warren, a 20-year-old who’s getting a look in the closer role during Spring Training (6/8/8) … the list goes on. While a lot of these guys look decent, none of them looks exactly like a lock-down stopper, either. Who best to turn to in late innings with the game on the line? Lederer will need to figure that out for the Spuds to step into upper-division contention.
Infield and Catcher
C – Claudio Pérez is the class of the group Boise brought to Spring Training, with decent offensive ratings (5/6/7) and catcher ability and arm that both rate an “8.” The question is, who’s the backup? José Rivera is stronger at the plate, but pedestrian defensively while Howard Beauregard is decent behind the plate but a disaster when he picks up a bat.
1B – You could do worse than Yunosuke “Godzilla” Terada, and most teams do. With 5.6 WAR and a slash line of .277/.375/.573 and 48 homers a year ago, Boise is set here.
2B – Is Ramón Vela the answer? If so, you might consider a different question. His defense is acceptable (7 range/7 error/8 arm/8 DP) but his offense is so-so (5/6/6/5/6). He’s also injury prone and lead-(as in the heavy metal)-of-foot. Room for improvement here.
SS – There’s a battle here between a couple of slick defenders, Joaquín Torres and Norm Smith, neither of whom do much at the plate. Still, either one would be a rock-solid anchor for the infield defense, which ain’t nothing. Early Spring Training returns aren’t promising for Smith: he has yet to get a hit in 16 AB, while Torres is hitting a not-so-blistering .208. Room for improvement here, too.
3B – Captain Pedro Nava figures to split time here with Antonio Baca. Neither is especially fearsome at the plate, although both have a dash of power and are decent in the field.
Wrap-up: With the exception of Godzilla at first, it’s a fairly light-hitting infield with some pretty decent gloves in the key up-the-middle spots. That should help out the pitching staff, at least.
Outfield and DH
CF – Dennis French. He’s the franchise. Hell, he’s the league. Elite bat, elite fielding, can probably bridge the space-time-continuum if called upon. But don’t do that: we want the pleasure of watching him play.
LF – “Savage” Salazar. At age 37 and with skill ratings in steady decline, the main question here is how much does he have left in the tank? If he can approximate last year’s Yellow Springs numbers (.301/.414/.613 and 3.1 WAR in 90 games) over more playing time, he’ll be a tremendous addition. Maybe spend some time at DH to save wear and tear?
RF – Ken Gerhart III and, perhaps, Jim Des Jardien both provide some pop, with skill ratings of 6/7/6/6/5 and 6/6/8/6/5, respectively. Neither has great outfield range, but with French patrolling CF, that’s probably not as critical as it might be otherwise.
DH - Carlos Muñóz. Given his injury history (fragile), DH is probably the safest spot for Muñóz. And with his ability, you want him in the lineup: 7/7/7/6/6. Last season, he slashed .302/.368/.515 with 2.1 WAR in limited playing time.
In a word, bright. In fact, the brightest ever in the 5-year history of the franchise. Boise is poised for its first winning campaign, thanks to Lederer’s aggressive off-sesason.
The BNN preseason predictions pegged the Spuds at 80-82, and that was before the acquisition of Behner and Salazar. They figure to be worth at least a couple of wins to get the Spuds to .500 – and probably more than that. In fact, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see them challenge Seattle and Calgary for third or even second place in the division.
Prediction: 86-76, 2nd in the Frick Frontier. This may be something of a stretch goal for the Spuds, but this season - at long last - they may have what it takes.