Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Season 11 Preview - NL and AL East

NL East

Syracuse Beagles (109-53) 1st place
Question: Will the addition of Kirk White equal playoff success?
Answer: There are answers all over the place in Syracuse, from closer White to a rotation featuring Ron Reilly, Phil Hinch, and Ruben Montero; and a lethal lineup.
Player to watch: The Beagles made a huge trade for White, and they will be counting on him to be automatic at the end of the game.
Outlook: 113-49 - 1st place. The Beagles had a huge offseason, and are bringing out a team that is possibly the best in all of Cobb World. Lars can't find a single weak spot in Syracuse, and thinks that anything less than a NLCS berth will be a disappointment for this team this season.

Wichita Wankers (105-57) 2nd place
Question: Can the Wankers keep pace with a great Syracuse team?
Answer: Grant Keats put it all together last season with a 44 HR, 140 RBI, .313 BA season.
Player to watch: Rookie SP Tuck Leonard will be counted on to provide quality starts.
Outlook: 102-60 - 2nd place. The Wankers are a very good team with a balanced offense and two elite starting pitchers. But unfortunately for them unless Syracuse suffers a rash of injuries the Beagles are just a bit better this season. But a run for the division title isn't out of the question, and barring disaster, a Wild Card berth should happen at the least for Wichita.

St. Louis HoundDogs (89-73) 3rd place
Question: How can St. Louis keep up with the Jones' in the NL East?
Answer: SP Lewis Keller will have to improve on last years W-L record for the Dogs to compete, but he has the stuff to do it.
Player to watch: B.C. Steenstra keeps holding off the ravages of time with outstanding performances, but this might be his last year in the rotation.
Outlook: 92-70 - 3rd place. Things didn't go The HoundDogs way last season, with underperforming players and injuries intersecting with two very good teams in Wichita and Syracuse. If St. Louis stays healthy this season and gets some breaks, they should be right in it, but Lars thinks that ultimately Syracuse and Wichita will be able to weather the rigors of a 162 game season better than St. Louis.

Atlanta Pitbulls (72-90) 4th place
Question: Can the Atlanta fans wait for the trio of stud pitchers in the minors to make it to the bigs?
Answer: The Atlanta lineup shouldn't have any problems scoring runs, and the defense is improved with the addition of Gold Glove SS Mickey Corino.
Player to watch: Rookie Lyle Crudale was acquired in a huge trade for Corey Green, and adds another huge bat to an already potent lineup.
Outlook: 81-81 4th place. Atlanta is quietly putting the pieces into place for a major run at the playoffs within the next two to three seasons. With a young and potent lineup awaiting that can already put up some major runs, the nearing arrival of Tanner Halama, Omar Valenzuela, and Julio Olmedo should finally bring an era of winning records for this long suffering franchise.

AL East

Washington D.C. Patriots (92-70) 2nd place
Question: Will the Patriots knock the steam out of Cleveland?
Answer: The Titans bullpen is as good as any in the league behind Sarma Inge and Bobby Davidson.
Player to watch: Talmadge Young - The big offseason acquisition for the Patriots brings an ace quality arm to an already talented staff.
Outlook: 99-63 - 1st place. Lars likes the pitching staff of the Patriots a lot, and thinks that they will give Scranton another battle for the division title in the challenging AL East. This time Lars thinks they will come out on top.

Scranton Dragons (107-55) 1st place
Question: Can the Dragons hold off the suddenly resurgent Cleveland Steamers and the veteran D.C. Patriots?
Answer: Jeremy Hernandez leads an offense that had seven players hit more than 20 HR's last season.
Player to watch: Free Agent signing Roosevelt Lowell needs to justify the huge dollars he is earning at his advanced age.
Outlook: 98-64 - 2nd place. Lars thinks that this is a three way race for first in the AL East, and that Scranton is the deepest of the three teams, has a chance be the last one standing. But it will probably come down to the last week.

Cleveland Steamers (90-72) 3rd place
Question: Can the Steamers follow up on one of the largest turnarounds in Cobb history with even more wins and a World Series championship?
Answer: Brace Davey celebrated his return to the major leagues with 45 HR's last season.
Player to watch: David Rosado - Rosado had his usual amazing regular season, but completely collapsed in the playoffs, including a disasterous World Series. He'll be looking to turn it around and erase those bad memories
Outlook: 92-70 - 3rd place. The Steamers proved last season that they are team to be reckoned with, earning a Wild Card berth and upsetting the three best teams in the American League en route to the World Series, where they ultimately fell to the powerful Omaha Sluggers. Lars thinks they could do it again this season, but won't win the division because of their lack of depth, especially in the minor leagues, should the usual injuries occur during the regular season.

Pittsburgh SSP (77-85) 4th place
Question: Will Pittsburgh recover from last seasons losing record, or is this a trend?
Answer: Gregg Young was a beast last year, belting 49 dingers and having a huge season.
Player to watch: Brian Wells was a huge FA signing for the SSP this offseason, and he will be counted on for wins and innings pitched in a difficult division.
Outlook: 84-78 - 4th place. Pittsburgh has the unenviable position of being a talented team in a brutal division filled with even more talented teams. But if they get a few breaks there is the possibility that they could compete for a Wild Card spot, and possibly the division title. But in the end Lars thinks that the SSP will draw the shortest straw in the AL East, which is really too bad, because this is an underrated team.

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