Last year, the SISsies hit the board while driving the final nail in the coffin of BP's PECOTA projection system (which, oddly, we recently learned was actually NOT managed by Nate Silver last season. So, sorry about the team name, Nate).
They also engaged in an occasionally bewildering series of trades, which had the effect of setting them up nicely for this year's draft. So, good team last year, good draft position this year...sounds like a threat to move up that last notch this year. Let's see what we've got.
How you feel about this squad depends a lot on how you feel about Aaron Hill. He went absolutely crazy at 2B last year, putting up a 103/36/108 that gave the team a massive advantage over all non-Utley squads in the league (perhaps not coincidentally, the Utley squad was the only one to finish ahead of them last year). But those power numbers are so far beyond Hill's career norms--more than double his previous career high in the case of HRs--that it's tough to think they'll happen again. Hill should still be a nice starter, but color us doubtful that he'll shred the league again quite so thoroughly.
The rest of the IF consists of solid citizens Kevin Youkilis, Derek Lee, and Brian McCann, along with last year's rookie sensation Yunel Escobar. So if Hill does come through again, this should be one of the better IFs in the league. If not, they'll be closer to solid than spectacular.
This is a group whose whole is more than the sum of its parts. Adam Lind provides crazy power, Carl Crawford and Rajai Davis crazy speed, and Bobby Abreu crazy OBP. None of those guys will score in all five categories, but they provide several ways to mix-and-match to give the team an additional boost in whatever category in needs. Useful.
A brief note of warning on the offense, though--the bench of Martin Prado and Ian Desmond is massively underwhelming. So if anybody gets hurt, things could get ugly with a relative quickness.
Can't do much better than Roy Halladay at the top. Even his move to Citizens' Bank Bandbox doesn't worry us, because the league switch and comp drop from the A.L. East more than balances things out. Josh Johnson is also a solid #2, though the recent injury histories of young pitchers in Florida has to give some pause. After that, things get squishier. I actually like Hiroki Kuroda a lot, though he too has a troubling injury history. Wait, so does Scott Kazmir. Huh. As demonstrated by my own rotation, I don't mind the strategy of targeting SPs coming off of injuries, because people will sometimes shy away from them more than is warranted. But this might be pushing things a little far.
Finally, though this is more of a TA note, Mat Latos was a nice snag.
Extensive. There are a couple of great closers from last year, Andrew Bailey and David Aardsma. I am bearish on Aardsma's rate stats for this year, because he got amazingly lucky in terms of his XBH/FB ratio. But there's not really an obvious guy there to edge him out, so he should still throw off saves. The rest of the pen are all save roulette veterans, and should help keep the team's rate stats in shape.
All in all, I think this staff will be competitive in the rate stats, though I fear that they might lack a little bit of oomph in the W and K categories.
These guys won't be sneaking up on anybody after last year's money finish, which might affect their ability to wheel and deal in-season. But they've got enough on hand right now to make things interesting. A solid squad, and like The Revenge Squad, a team that starts with just a half-notch advantage over the rest of the league. Good health will be key, though, because there just isn't any depth to speak of.