Friday, October 17, 2008

Season 10 Preview - AL and NL West

NL West

Omaha Sluggers (112-50) 1st place
Question: Will the Sluggers make it 4 consecutive World Series appearances this season?
Answer: There are no weak links in Omaha, the Sluggers are loaded in the lineup and the rotation.
Player to watch: Kazuhiro Ong - Everyone knows Ong is good, which is why he is fun to watch as he blazes a path to the Hall of Fame.
Outlook: 110-52 - 1st place. The more things change in the rest of the league, the more they stay the same in Omaha. There was very little turnover in Omaha, which is a good thing because this team still has world championship potential. Barrios and Ong get all the headlines, but the rest of the team is elite as well.

Seattle Seacows (44-118) 4th place
Question: Will the infusion of veterans into the lineup pay off with wins?
Answer: Luis Escuela and Diego Nieto may be past their prime, but they are still very good hitters and make the Seattle lineup better than it has been in the past.
Player to watch: Brook Lennon - If the young pitcher can overcome his control issues he could be the ace of the staff.
Outlook: 74-88 - 2nd place. Seattle paid for some quality veterans in the offseason and made a few trades to shore up their ML team which should give them a slight edge in the race for 2nd place in the NL West. If Rico Cruz can hit enough to support Nieto and Escula, and Pascual Mendoza is solid in the rotation, this should be a pretty competitive team.

Iowa City Corn Dogs (61-101) 2nd place
Question: Will the starting pitching be able to handle right handed hitting?
Answer: Curtis Chase will be counted on to star in the field and in the heart of the order.
Player to watch: Brady Van Pelt - There isn't much power in the Corn Dogs lineup, and Van Pelt will be expected to provide the bulk of it.
Outlook: 62-100 - 3rd place. Iowa City made the decision to put it's future in the hands of the minor leagues, so that is where the bulk of the franchises talents lie. But there are enough players on the ML squad to make them dangerous, but not enough to pose a real threat. Until The Corn Dogs get some bigger hitters, they won't seriously contend.

Honolulu Islanders (59-103) 3rd place
Question: Where will the pitching come from?
Answer: In addition to being featured in Subway ads a few years back, Clay Henry owns lefties, and should be solid in the lineup this season.
Player to watch: Lou Brow - The development of this young pitcher is very important to the future of the team. He may not have the best season this year, but he needs to show progress none the less.
Outlook: 61-101 - 4th place - Honolulu continues to develop it's youth, so they won't challenge this season, which is just as well because Omaha has a lock on the division. But they are positioned nicely to ascend once Omaha starts to age. Look out for the Islanders in another few seasons.

AL West

Anaheim Sharks (110-52) 1st place
Question: Will rookie Sammy Bennett be able to replace 2 time MVP Ernie Jenkins in LF?
Answer: The solid farm system of the Sharks has ensure that they don't miss a beat when their stars age out.
Player to watch: Olmedo Contreras - At 36 years, he may be known as Oldmedo, but he is still talented enough to win 15-20 games.
Outlook: 109-53 - 1st place. Anaheim is the counterpart to Omaha in the NL West, a team that dominates its division and shows no sign of letting up, even as it's players age and are replaced. It is a testament to the quality of management that they remain this competetive year in and year out.

Helena Hellraisers (99-63) 2nd place
Question: Will the Hellraisers be able to keep pace with the Sharks and hold off the youth movement in Vancouver?
Answer: With Orber Olivo feeling the effects of age, Thomas Hill will be the rock in the Hellraiser lineup.
Player to watch: Alex Presley - The talented rookie will be counted on to produce and help offset the loss of Hades Booker and Patrick Lamb.
Outlook - 93-69 - 2nd place. The Hellraisers outperformed Lars' predictions last season, but the loss of Lamb and Booker coupled with the decline of Olivo means the lineup won't be quite as potent. Helena should still challenge for a wildcard spot though.

Vancouver Grizzlies (82-80) 3rd place
Question: Can the Grizzlies new arrivals pack enough punch to get past the Hellraisers?
Answer: Patrick Stanton is still the centerpiece of the Vancouver team, and will be counted on to anchor the lineup and guide the young pitching staff.
Player to watch: The Rookies - There are so many young players making their first appearance at the ML level that they bear watching as a group. How they adapt will determine the season for Vancouver.
Outlook: 82-80 - 3rd place. This season should serve as an opportunity for their young players to learn the game, and see what it takes to beat consistent AL West powers Anaheim and Helena. Further improvement should happen next season, but this year they just aren't quite ready yet to challenge for the division.

Tacoma Jerry Gang (64-98) 4th place
Question: Can the Jerry Gang draft some hitting this season to go along with their pitching prospects?
Answer: The minor leagues keep getting deeper and deeper with every season, soon it will pay off at the ML level.
Player to watch: Victor Gandarillas - his record may not show it due to lack of support, but he has been a very solid pitcher in the majors, and probably cannot wait for the minor leaguers to finally make it to the bigs.
Outlook: 67-95 - 4th place. Tacoma has some pretty good pitching in the minors, but they are still a year or two away at this point. But there is hope, as 3B prospect Brandon Miller is almost ready and could provide the offense with a needed jolt if he is called up this season. In the meantime it looks like another season of talent gathering and waiting for Anaheim and Helena to get older.

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