Thursday, January 23, 2014

Season 25 Quick Recap

Since the blog was inactive for all of Season 25, here's a quick look back at the season's big stories.

Season 25 started off with a bang as a strong class of free agents moved around the league. Scranton, as usual, ended up with the big prize: 29-year-old former Montgomery pitcher Allen Shaw took a 5-year, $110M deal to become Big Blue's newest ace. The top position player on the market made a much more surprising move, however - infielder Pedro Fernandez, late of the Zephyrs, went to Iowa for 5 years and nearly $100M.

After a long and spirited debate over the merits of a number of different candidates, three players joined the Minor Leagues Hall of Fame in Season 25: Pitchers Reid Monroe (19 votes) and Albie Marrero (18), and DH Adam Carter (24). Pitcher Pedro Arroyo just missed with 13 votes. Even with those three voted in, the ballot is likely to get quite crowded in the next few seasons, with the legendary Julio Rincon having already retired and other luminaries such as Marcus Walker and Henry McFeely likely to follow him very soon.

Mid-season was dominated by one of the craziest trade markets I've ever seen in HBD. When longtime playoff contenders Omaha and Buffalo both got off to poor starts, they started selling off veterans left and right, including many of their biggest stars. Buffalo sent Ernest Adkins to Norfolk, Howie Donovan and Tony Viriato to Jackson, and Tori Belitz and J.J. Spoljaric to New Britain; Omaha moved Neil Bottenfield to Norfolk, Fernando Trevino to Richmond, Harvey Charles to Syracuse, Max Ordaz to Memphis, Wilton Beck to Salt Lake City, and Raul Benitez to Toledo. Also on the move during the regular season was Trenton's 2-time defending MVP Orlando Canseco, who was traded to division rival Salt Lake City. That's quite a frenzy of activity for a single season!

With the top overall pick in the season 25 amateur draft, Burlington took high school pitcher Alex Berroa. A flamethrower with precision control and killer splits, Berroa lacks the stamina of a truly elite starting pitcher, but still clearly has the potential to be a real monster of a player down the road. Gary Craig, the top pitcher from the college ranks, went #2 overall to El Paso. Other draft highlights include outfielder Jerrod Higginson (4th overall, Jacksonville), the draft's best hitter; pitcher Malcolm Brooks (6th overall, Pawtucket), who was neck-and-neck with Berroa and Craig as the draft's best pitching prospect; and 2B Vin Huson (17th overall, Albuquerque), a top-10 caliber prospect whose inexplicable slide to the middle of round one may have made him the biggest steal of the draft.

Season 25 featured two memorable Wild-Card playoff races. In the NL, Iowa capped a surprising season with their first playoff berth since season 18, and were nearly joined by Toledo, whose playoff drought has lasted just as long. But a diastrous 3-9 mark to close out the season left the Mud Hens just out of the postseason picture, as the Jackson Generals captured their second Wild Card in three years. Meanwhile in the AL, the race for the sixth and final playoff spot came down to the season's last day, with Memphis' win clinching their place in the postseason, just one game ahead of the underdog Trenton Thunder.

The Vancouver Canadians were the 800-pound gorilla of Minor Leagues this season, easily cruising to a 108-54 record and crushing Iowa in the Division Series. But in a shocking turn of events, they were undone by New Orleans in the NLCS, a classic 7-game affair that turned on the Zephyrs' dramatic one-run, extra-inning win in Game 6. The ALCS, too, went to 7 games, with division rivals Dover and Richmond duking it out until the bitter end. Richmond won game 7 at home to take the series, and then went on to pound New Orleans, 4 games to 1, for their third World Series title and first since season 11.

Unlike recent seasons, Season 25 had plenty of clear-cut winners for the league's major hardware. Dover slugger Joseph Chong easily took the AL MVP Award with his great .309/.368/.665 batting line and 64 homers, while Zephyrs outfielder (and free agent-to-be) Angel Molina took home his second MVP award with an even more remarkable .339/.416/.665 slash line, 43 home runs, and 40 steals. The Cy Young Awards were easy to hand out, too - Salem's Jacob Vaughn won his third in the AL with a career-best 2.18 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, while in the NL, Vancouver's Markus Taft took his second Cy in a row thanks to his ML-leading 1.81 ERA and .195 OAV. As for Rookie of the Year honors, it was a no-brainer in the NL (Toledo outfielder Glenn Teixeira), but the AL proved a bit more difficult. 21-year-old Dover ace Luis Garza took home the hardware, but Pawtucket slugger Victor Bush came very close, falling just 2 votes shy of Garza's total.

The Blog is Back! (Ch-ch-ch-changes...)

I am happy to announce that, after a brief hiatus, the Minor Leagues HBD blog has returned! I'll be posting a Season 25 Recap soon, but before that, there are a couple of administrative notes...

First, a bit of sad news: El Paso Diablos owner firesign34, the longtime primary contributor to this blog, will not be returning to the league for Season 26. I will try to fill the gap with a post every now and then, but I welcome help from any other Minor Leagues owners who wish to join in. Anybody interested should contact wholck to be added to the contributors list.

Second, and more importantly, Scranton Yankees owner brianj000013 recently stepped down after several seasons as Minor Leagues world commissioner. I will try my best to take over that role as well, but it won't be easy - through Brian's tireless efforts, Minor Leagues has remained one of the best private worlds in all of Hardball Dynasty. I think I speak for the entire league when I say THANK YOU for everything he's done.