Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Season 11 Preview - NL and AL North

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

Last season Lars failed in is attempt at perfectly predicting the outcome of Cobb regular season, but still was fairly accurate in his predictions. This season Lars took stock of the changes around the league, and is back once again with his outlook on the upcoming season 11.

NL North

Sioux Falls Corn Cleats (101-61) 2nd place

Question: Will the offseason additions be enough to bring Sioux Falls to their first division title since season 1?
Answer: Patrick Lamb delivered in a big way last season, posting a 1.087 OPS, and hitting 44 HR's in 400 ABs.
Player to watch: New addition Emmanuel Castillo provides an unequalled base stealing threat in the leadoff spot.
Outlook: 103-59 - 1st place. The Corn Cleats addressed some weaknesses in the lineup with the addition of Castillo, and added another very solid SP in Victor Gandarillas. With a powerful lineup and rotation as strong as the Fug Nuts, and what Lars thinks is a better bullpen, this could be the season they finally make back to the top of the NL North.

Fargo Fug Nuts (113-49) 1st place
Question: Who will replace Kirk White as the stopper in the Fug Nuts Bullpen?
Answer:The rotation remains rock solid with John Chang, Kirt Hooper, Santos Diaz, Zephyr Burns, and new addition Barney Johnson dishing out quality starts.
Player to watch: Whoever emerges from the closer by committee will be the player to watch.
Outlook: 101-61 - 2nd place.The Fug Nuts have a lot of talent, the lineup remains lethal, and the rotation is as good as any in the league. But losing Kirk White lengthens the game from 7 to 9 innings for the Fug Nuts, and Lars thinks that will cost Fargo enough games to fall into second place behind an improved Sioux Falls team for the first time in a decade.

New York Pick Pockets (79-83) 3rd Place
Question: Can Elvis Christman make it through a season without getting injured?
Answer: Super slugging 1B Omar Rosado is ready for a ROY campaign in his first year in the bigs.
Player to watch: Juan Moreno has to live up to his Cy Young performance if he is to make NY fans forget about Ernest McConnell, who he was traded for in the offseason.
Outlook: 90-72 - 3rd place. The Pick Pockets have some very talented players on their team, and made a huge statement with the offseason deal of McConnell for the reigning NL Cy Young Moreno. But unfortunately for New York, Sioux Falls and Fargo have deeper rosters, and will prevent the Pick Pockets from achieving a division title in season 11. But Lars thinks that NY as an excellent shot at a Wild Card berth.

Trenton Lions (61-101) 4th place
Question: Will a move to Trenton breathe new life into the once moribund Toledo team?
Answer: New GM brysoc is the answer in Trenton, as he has made some smart FA signings to keep the ML team competetive while the minor league prospects develop.
Player to watch: Frank Hartgraves and Napolean Scott are both studd AAA prospects who might make an impact on the ML squad this season.
Outlook: 63-99 - 4th place. Lars feels bad for Trenton, as the top 3 teams in the division are just too good for them to compete with this season. That being said, Trenton is a solid if not spectular team, with a competent lineup and rotation that will be competetive in every game they play. The fans need to wait for the young guys to make it, and they are starting to arrive.

AL North

Pawtucket G-Maniacs (102-60) 1st place
Question: Does the aging Pawtucket pitching staff and lineup have what it takes for another playoff run?
Answer: Dean Hernandez won his 2nd Cy Young in season 10, and is the dominant pitcher in the American League.
Player to watch: Young Joseph Funaki has to keep his average above .270 if he is to help offset the aging Tom Pettitte and co. in the Pawtucket lineup.
Outlook: 98-64 - 1st place. The G's won the division once again, and they have the horses to do so once more. But Lars sees Pawtucket in the same place Louisville was three seasons ago, with a very talented team at the tail end of their run as father time starts to take it's toll.

Chicago Sabercats (81-81) 2nd place
Question: Will Kip Zeile ever get any love from the MVP voters?
Answer: Zeile had yet another MVP calibur season go by with no notice from the voting press.
Player to watch: Guillermo Segui had a solid rookie season and is emerging as a good complement to Zeile in the lineup.
Outlook: 85-77 - 2nd place. The Sabercats are a few pitchers and a position player away from being able to win the division when Pawtuckets run finally ends. They are close, but not quite there yet.

Detroit Dashing Dingle-Berries (60-102) 3rd place
Question: What hasn't Detroit tried in their quest for a winning season?
Answer: Jose Cervantes was outstanding in season 10, and is the anchor of Detroit's lineup and outfield.
Player to watch: SS Garrett Wells is ready to make an impact in his rookie season.
Outlook: 71-91 - 3rd place. Detroit has cast it's lot with it's rookies, as the ML roster is dominated by 24-26 year old players. Ultimately though Lars sees a pitching staff that is too weak to compete for a division title.

Toronto Blue Jays (49-113) 4th Place
Question: Will the Blue Jays show improvement as the rebuilding project progresses?
Answer: Rookie Benito Beltre could be a contender for the Cy Young on a team with a better lineup, and should have a ROY calibur season.
Player to watch: Rule 5 pickup Steve Kerr was a coup for a talent starved organization, and if he can stay healthy should provide a huge lift to the pitching staff.
Outlook: 63-99 - 4th place. The Blue Jays are showing steady and quality progress towards a brighter future, and should see results on the field this season as young players such as Beltre, Kerr, Bosco Simon, and others begin to make their mark.

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