Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Season 11 Preview - NL and AL South

NL South

Huntington Hillbillies (82-80) 1st place
Question: Will the Hillbillies 123 million dollar payroll translate into more than 82 wins?
Answer: The leagues most expensive team has big bucks in every position, and they should deliver with a bonanza of runs.
Player to watch: Huntington needs to get more than 137 innings out of Gregory Rivers, their best pitcher, if they want to increase their win total.
Outlook: 96-66 - 1st place. They won the division with just 82 games last season, and the other three teams haven't improved enough to overtake that win total yet, so Lars says the Hillbillies should walk away with the NL South this season

Richmond Cohibas (66-96) 3rd place
Question: Will the Cohibas finish higher than 3rd place for the first time in franchise history?
Answer: Veteran Ernie Jenkins showed the young turks how it's done, with a 32 HR, .317 BA season.
Player to watch: Anyone on the AAA roster. Once call ups start, there are several Cohibas who could make an immediate impact.
Outlook: 78-84 - 2nd place. The Cohibas will finally attain the heights of a 2nd place division finish, albeit with a losing record. Still, it is a sizable improvement over last season, and a precursor of things to come.

Jackson Pollocks (70-92) 2nd place
Question: Can the Pollocks draw fans to a team that won't be competing for the division title?
Answer: There are some solid players like Trent Billingsley who should keep people coming to the park on nights that don't have pork rind promotions.
Player to watch: David Garrido has taken Wiki Vasquez's place as the highest paid injury prone player in the league. He's good when he plays, but bookies are already placing odds on games missed this season.
Outlook: 70-92 - 3rd place. It was another offseason filled with veteran free agent departures and call ups of rookies to take their place. The team is well managed, but doesn't have the star power to compete in today's baseball market. But Lars knows this will change over time and the Pollocks will eventually be back on top.

Montgomery Burns (57-105) 4th place
Question: Will the fans recognize a team that has dealt away virtually every star player from the glory days?
Answer: Wilfredo Henriquez will be counted on to be the power man in the Burns lineup.
Player to watch: All of them, as they are pretty much all new to the scene in Montgomery.
Outlook: 65-97 - 4th place. After suffering a first to worst season 10, the Louisville Tysons changed management and moved to Montgomery for a fresh start. With none of the all time greats remaining on this once proud franchise, a new era is dawning in Alabama, but the fans will have to be patient.

AL South

Nashville Rebel Riders (104-58) 1st place
Question: Will Nashville achieve back to back division titles, and not flame out in the playoffs?
Answer: Pedro Franco was a beast last year, posting a 1.054 OPS.
Player to watch: Gregory Hanson was dynamite in the regular season, posting a 20-3 record. But he was a complete bust in the playoffs, and needs to bounce back.
Outlook: 96-66 - 1st place. Nashville is a very solid team and well balanced in the lineup and the rotation. But Mexico City is better this season and should take some of their win share.

Mexico City Diablos Rojos (81-81) 2nd place
Question: Will a full season of Eric Collins and Geoff Washington equal more victories?
Answer: Eric Collins has what it takes to win the Cy Young, and a lineup that can give him the run support needed.
Player to watch: The other Eric Collins (w/o the stache) and Lou Wills are both pitchers in the minors who could make an immediate impact if they get a shot in the major leagues.
Outlook: 94-68 - 2nd place. Lars couldn't figure out how the Diablos Rojos only won 81 games last season, a year in which they really could have won much more. With two more big FA signings in Woody Olerud and Diego Nieto, their team is even more loaded in the lineup, and their rotation is rock solid with even more great pitchers on the way. Looks like it's time to compete for the division title again.

Charlotte Dogs (67-95) 3rd place
Question: What is the plan for this team?
Answer: Rafael Villafuerte was a nice FA signing for the Dogs.
Player to watch: Milt Serafini, former ROY, brings his offensive talents to the Dogs, where he will be counted on to produce some runs.
Outlook: 73-89 - 3rd place. Lars is being frank when he says the Dogs are in need of an overhaul, and won't be able to compete with Mexico City or Nashville. But Lars also thinks they are on the right track, having shedded millions of dollars in bad contracts, and started the development of young talent. It's not all bad in Charlotte, but it isn't going to happen this season.

Kansas City Express (57-105) 4th place
Question: Will the Express get a stud with their high draft pick, and will they sign a great international?
Answer: Ronnie Burks was a pleasant surprise last season, knocking 31 dingers. Now if he just could raise his average.
Player to watch: Roosevelt Fox is making K.C. fans drool as they wait impatiently for him to progress through the minors.
Outlook: 56-106 - 4th place. At least the K.C. fans are used to losing seasons, but it doesn't make it any easier. The Express have a long road ahead, and a season of player development and scouting coming up. Lars hopes they get some studs.

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