Thursday, October 16, 2008

Season 10 Preview - AL and NL North

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

Last season Lars was fairly accurate with his prognostications, with a few notable exceptions. This season Lars is back to make an attempt for a first ever perfect season. This task will prove difficult though as the NL East has no clear dominant team, the NL South is in flux, and the huge number of high profile free agent signings in the AL will shift the balance of power. Still, Lars perserveres, and presents his season 10 preview.

NL North

Fargo Fug Nuts (107-55) 1st place
Question: Will the Fug Nuts ever make it out of the first round of the playoffs again?
Answer: Yet another season of offseason change and new faces makes it a whole new era in Fargo, but all star pitcher John Chang is still around to make it happen.
Player to watch: MVP Louie Tarraga replaced former MVP Corey Green in the heart of the Fug Nut batting order.
Outlook: 99-63 - 1st place. The Fug Nuts have too much talent to finish anywhere other than 1st in the NL North, but the rest of the division is catching up. This might be the first season in a long time that Fargo doesn't break 100 wins. Then they will face the annual playoff collapse fears.

Sioux Falls Corn Cleats (81-81) 3rd place

Question: Will the Corn Cleats pitching improve from a horrible season 9?
Answer: Marino Sierra bounced back from a forgettable season 8 to post the all star calibur numbers Sioux Falls fans are used to.
Player to watch: New acquisition Patrick Lamb could fill the hole in the Cleats lineup left after the trade of Vernon Jones.
Outlook: 91-71 - 2nd place. The Corn Cleats revamped their pitching with the trade for Benito Rodriguez and the promotion of several talented minor leaguers. They could challenge for a wildcard spot.

New York Pick Pockets (86-76) 2nd Place
Question: Can the Pick Pockets build off of the teams best finish in franchise history?
Answer: The lineup is still solid with lots of proven run producers, including MVP candidate Ernest McConnell.
Player to watch: Elvis Christman has 20 win potential, if he can stay healthy.
Outlook: 89-73 - 3rd place. The Pick Pockets will contend for runner up in the division, but might not be able to match the pitching of the Corn Cleats. New York should still win more games than last season, and it will be a very close race for second.

Toledo Tsunamis (71-91) 4th place
Question: Will the Tsunamis once again outperform expecations?
Answer: Once again, the answer is in the minors as the prospects creep one season closer to the majors. But after last years surprisingly competitive season, fans of the ML squad should get their monies worth.
Player to watch: Morris Lloyd is as exciting as anyone on the ML team.
Outlook: 66-96 - 4th place. Lars sees a slight regression for the ML squad simply because the other 3 teams in the division are all improved. Still, Toledo won't be the easy out they used to be on the schedule.

AL North

Pawtucket G-Maniacs (101-61) 1st place
Question: Can the G-Maniacs make it back to the World Series?
Answer: Dean Hernandez is the face of the franchise, and deservedly so.
Player to watch: Skeeter Robinson - Hernandez and Albert Franco will get their wins, but if injury risk Robinson can pitch to his potential, Pawtucket will have arguably the best top 3 starters in the league.
Outlook: 98-64 - 1st place. The G's made it to the World Series last season, but the next step is the most difficult. Lars sees the G's making a run, and they should take their division once again.

Augusta Angry Armadillos (76-86) 2nd place
Question: Will the move to Augusta pay off with a winning season?
Answer: The lineup has some big power bats, and should hit more than a few HR's.
Player to watch: Jose Cervantes was miserable the last two seasons in Syracuse, perhaps a change of scenery will result in the numbers that are expected from the slugger.
Outlook: 84-78 - 2nd place. Augusta scrapped the elderly FA plan in favor of young power hitters this season. That should make for a nice foundation and lots of runs, but the pitching still isn't good enough to get them past Pawtucket.

Chicago Sabercats (67-95) 3rd place
Question: How will the youth mesh with Kip Zeile's hazing skills?
Answer: Zeile once again proved he's the anchor for the Sabercats with a monster MVP calibur season.
Player to watch: Guillermo Segui could make an impact in the lineup in his first full season at the ML level.
Outlook: 76-86 - 3rd place. The Sabercats are getting back on track, and will field a competitive team that is just a few pitchers away from being able to challenge for a wildcard spot.

Toronto Blue Jays (54-108) 4th Place
Question: Will the Blue Jays be able to sign their draft picks this season?
Answer: Lots of money in the prospect payroll means some big time signings for the Blue Jays this season.
Player to watch: Bosco Simon is the best position player to be on the ML squad in several seasons.
Outlook: 54-108 - 4th place. The Blue Jays made a nice comeback from their draft disaster last season with the signing of Benito Beltre, and are looking to make several more impact signings to bolster the future prospects for the franchise. But it will be a long year at the ML level.

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