Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NL South Tour: Wichita Wack Jobs

At a Glance
owner: peio - 22 seasons, .457 win %, 10 playoffs, 2 WS titles (Durham in Munson)
team history: peio's 1st season at the helm, 6 division titles (in world's 1st seven years)
last season: 66-96, 4th place in division
top hitter: Donne Higginson (.319, .410, .532, .942)
top starting pitcher: Charlie Tatum (Rule V Draftee, 10 IP in season 11)

Notable Departures
Carlos Franco: In a payroll trimming move, Wichita allowed the reliable and fleet-footed outfielder Franco walk. The 32 year-old Franco, still awaiting a ML job offer, deprives Wichita of a reliable top-of-the-order hitter who can snag it with the best of them. Although his defensive abilities were perhaps a bit under-utilized defensively in left, Franco would be a welcome addition to many teams.
Oswaldo Ferrer: The durability-challenged Ferrer also said good-bye to Wichita in free agency, signing a healthy 4 year, 26 million deal with division rival Houston. Although Ferrer would be hard-pressed to deliver more than 130 innings to any team, he can be being extraordinarily effective in those innings. Wichita will be hard-pressed to replace Ferrer's presence on the staff.
Rafael Quixote: Wichita traded the potential middle-of-the-order bat to St. Louis (who was then flipped to Indianapolis) in the offseason. Given the rebuilding project, many Wichita fans questioned the new owner's decision to deal Quixote. The franchise has apparently high hopes for Trenidad Montero, who was main piece acquired in exchange for Quixote.

Notable Newcomers
The big news out of Wichita was the banner haul in the Rule V Draft. In addition to getting a potential rotation mainstay in Tatum, Wichita drafted another jaw-dropping eight players. The haul is headlined by Tatum, and future solid bullpen pieces Karim Carrasquel and Andres Jose.

Prospect to Watch
Eduardo Arias: With so many youngsters at the big league level, it's difficult to pinpoint who the next prospect to arrive who is not already in the majors. The rather depleted AAA roster of Wichita is headlined by Arias, who profiles as a potential platoon C at the next level.

The 2nd youngest squad in the NL, featuring an avg salary of less than $600k at the ML level, is not looking to contend this season. But Wichita, the recipient of the franchise transfer, is happy just to have a team - which is good thing. Wins will likely be few and far between in Wichita this season - who will be in contention for a top 5 draft spot.

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