Owner: McGupp (12th season in Alexander/26th overall). .507 Winning Percentage/2 division titles (both in Alexander)
Franchise History: .521 Winning Percentage/2 division titles/2 Wild Card berths
Last Season: 79-83, 2nd place (18 games behind). 758 runs for (6th) 795 runs against (15th), "Advanced Record" 77-85
Norm Wheeler, All Star (1st)
Matthew Sellers, All Star (3rd)
Matt Wheeler: The Seven time All Star with a 1.000+ career OPS is clearly on the downside posting only an .837 OPS. An original Moose, he's now unemployed
Ron Hernandez: Another original Moose who had become a liability first in the field, and now with the bat. Ron is also currently unsigned
Bosco Lewis Parttime catcher who moved on to Montreal, slightly below average catcher. Traded for third base prospect Tex Summers
Graeme Moore: Addition by subtraction as he was terrible out of the pen last year with a 1.52 WHIP and 5.30 ERA. The second piece of the Tex Summers trade
Bonk Alexander: Acquired for short money to boost the offense and compete for the leadoff spot. Has the speed for it given his 46 steals in 51 chances, but the sub .320 OBP from season 11 would hurt.
Willis Baker: Nice short money signing who can handle the hot corner and put up an .800 OPS with 22 HRs in Season 11.
Ismael Tavarez: Former international bonus baby signed for $6.3MM coming up to man the SS position. Can handle the position defensively and shouldnt be a complete zero with the bat, should post a .700ish OPS
Season Synopsis: Augusta is a team in transition after four straight seasons without a postseason appearance. This move towards the future is best symbolized by the parting of ways with Wheeler and Hernandez, two players who had been with the Moose from the beginning and and are 1/2 in most offensive categories. It was clearly the right time to move on (neither player has been signed yet), but their departures represent the clear end of an era in Augusta. Meanwhile, the future isnt quite here as most of Augusta's top prospects still need more seasoning. So what's in store for Season 12?
The pitching staff should be solid. Wheeler (14-10, 3.91, 1.35 WHIP)leads a nice rotation backed up by Mateo Rojas and solid young starters Rich Heving and Fred Riggs. Sellers (2.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 30 saves in 32 opportunities) is coming off a dominating season as a closer although at 35 age and durability are becoming more of a concern. Paul LaRocca (1.27 WHIP over 73 innings) is an excellent setup man, and additional veteran depth in the bullpen with Mickey Gwynn and Ozzie Yamamoto provide good depth. The bullpen should be a team strength.
The problem is the lineup. Augusta finished 15th in runs scored last year, Baker and Alexander should replace Wheeler and Hernandez at much lower cost....but when you're 15th in the league upgrades rather than replacements are needed. Wes Rigby (.300/.391/.562) is a legit middle of the order hitter and, at 24, a building block. Glenn Morgan provides potential 40/40 power and speed. Beyond that, the lineup looks pretty grim and while Augusta is decent in the field, the defense isnt strong enough to make up for the weak hitting.
The future looks brighter for Augusta. The Moose are not built to win now and will find it hard to compete with an excellent Pawtucket squad. With the fourth lowest player budget in the league at $63MM, a full $20MM budgeted to prospects, and $11MM available under the cap the Moose will be looking to add to the development pipeline, especially on the pitching side. Sellers in particular seems like a good candidate to move at the trade deadline to further shore up the system.
The farm system is in good shape position-player wise. Bigby has already flashed all-star talent at the big league level while Tavarez (24) may merely be a placeholder for bonus baby Pasqual Castro (22) and former first round pick Matt Waters (23) coming off 1.000+ OPS seasons in up the middle positions in High-A. Trevor Donnels (26) is knocking on the door at Catcher, he'll only be able to hold up for 80 games a year or so but they will be All-Star level games. Wilfredo Guerrero (23) should improve on an already solid rookie year at the keystone.
Sometime a franchise needs to take a step back before taking a step forward, and Augusta will likely take a small step back in Season 12. The foundation to end the team's postseason drought is in place, but that end will not be this year.