Alright thanks to Mike GM of the Whalers for taking time for and interview.
1. How do you feel about these season?
With my offense coming into it's own last season, I assumed I could deal heavy hitting SS Jack Washington to acquire pitching help I will need for next season, thinking the platoon duo of Al Felix and and Javier Benitez could hit at least .240 combined (they couldn't, as they hit .158 and .195 respectively, and Felix was demoted halfway through the season). That has been the story of my season, as every player has taken a big drop in offensive numbers since last season (926 RS in S9 to 698 RS through 150 games in S10).
The pitching has held up for the most part, as Carreras has continued to show he's a future HOF'er (10-8, 2.83 ERA, .211 OAV at age 35), Jose Estrada has returned to the form he showed as S7's AL ROY (18-9, 3.30 ERA, .219 OAV), and SP5 Mo Rigdon has been a surprise (9-10, 3.65 ERA, .250 OAV). However, former anchors in the pitching staff have aged (Alcantara and Snopek), and are no longer reliable options.
With all that said, S10 seems to be a transitional season, with opportunities becoming open for upcoming prospects in the next season or two.
2. What about next season?
I think S11 will be part two of the transition, with prospects such as RP Ben Blume (2.40 ERA, 21 Sv in AAA), SP/RP Edgardo Olivares (4-3, 3.48 ERA, .234 OAV in ML), and DH Mel Milone (.318, 5 HR in 76 AB with Norfolk AAA, .330, 36 HR, 147 RBI in S9 Iowa AAA) likely making the jump to the Bigs. With Carreras' 17.5M contract off the books (and Washington and Hamilton's 8M/yr deals traded away), there will be increased flexibility to make a FA signing or to have more $$$ in the prospect coffers.
All in all, I expect Norfolk to be competitive, but with the AL East becoming increasingly competitive, and the AL North not losing any steam anytime soon, it will take some more work and creative decisions to pull off another playoff visit.
3. Where do you plan to take this team?
It's going to take a lot of luck to get past the AL North this season, as it looks now like the 2nd and 3rd places in the division will take the wild cards (and it also looks like I'll be taking the 4th seed, provided I don't lose 12 in a row). Philly as always been a thorn in my side, and Burlington is still in Dynasty form. With that said, I'm hoping to get past the first round, but it's not looking good (and there are other teams past the AL North who potentially lie in wait).
4. Where do you see you need your biggest improvements in the off-season?
Finding a solid SP2 to replace Del Carreras (who has chosen not to resign after this season). Despite his age (35), potentially losing Carreras could be very damaging to the rotation, and the remaining SPs (Doug Austin, Max Benavente, Mo Rigdon, and Edgardo Olivares starting in S11) are not the best candidates to follow ace Jose Estrada. The bullpen needs strengthening, but the closer position is in lock-down with 26 year-old Vic Guillen (141 saves, 3.47 ERA in 4 ML seasons). Norfolk also needs a legitimate leadoff hitter, and hasn't had one since Jesse Duffy left the team in S5.
5. What excites you the most about your team?
Having an ace, closer, and 3-4 spot lineup guys all under the age of 26 is really exciting. Having those two 3-4 spot lineup guys in skill positions where contact/power are harder to come by (C and 2B) is even more exciting. Not needing to find guys with bats at the skill positions takes a lot of the stress out of trying to build a championship team.
6.What worries you the most?
My biggest concern is that the sophmore slumps of 2B Jaime Valdes (.278, 22 HR, 81 RBI in S10 opposed to .295, 38 HR, 113 RBI in S9) and C Rob Cortes (.275, 30 HR, 112 RBI in S10 vs. .288, 47 HR, 138 RBI in S9) are not sophmore slumps, and that SP's Doug Austin (32 years old) and Max Benavente (29 years old) will become ineffective before the younger core hits their peak. However, what concerns me the most is the rest of my division, which are obviously becoming much stronger, and come a few years, the AL East could look much like the AL North does now.
7. Who do you think people should watch in the upcoming season from your team?
Previous trades to round out my rotation, losing high draft picks in FA signings, and being on the futher end of the draft order has made my farm system fairly sparse. However, some of the deals made this season should start paying dividends in Season 11. Ben Blume, Edgardo Olivares, and Mel Milone are all expected to contribute at the ML level in S11. With those prospects joining the younger core of Cortes, Valdes, Guillen and Estrada, we should see Norfolk still a viable team in S11, with the hopes of stronger runs in following seasons.