Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Season 11 Preview - NL and AL West

NL West

Omaha Sluggers (112-50) 1st place
Question: When will the Sluggers dynasty let up on the rest of the league?
Answer: 3 World Series in the last 4 seasons is answer enough.
Player to watch: Ernest McConnell and Peter Mullin are two new everyday lineup players who need to make an impact to keep pace with their predecessors.
Outlook: 110-52 - 1st place. What can Lars say about Omaha that hasn't already been said? They are the class of the league, and until someone knocks them off the top of the hill, they are king. Anything less than another World Series will be a disappointment for this squad.

Salem Bitches (68-94) 2nd place
Question: When will the prospects start paying off?
Answer: Spud Upshaw was very good in his rookie season, posting a 1.007 OPS.
Player to watch: The Bitches need more production from their big international Rico Cruz if they are to compete.
Outlook: 70-92 - 2nd place. The Bitches actually hung with the Sluggers until the all-star break last season, when things just fell apart for the team. Many of the veterans have been shipped out, and this is now a team that is building for the day when Omaha is done with their run. If Salem can get a few more good pitchers and hang on to them, they should be in good shape.

Honolulu Islanders (59-103) 3rd place
Question: Will Honolulu or Iowa City be the winner of the $4 credit?
Answer: Clay Henry was the class of the lineup, posting a .312 BA and a .912 OPS.
Player to watch: Vladimir Fernandez is a talented rookie looking to make his mark on the major league squad, and he's pretty good vs. righties.
Outlook: 61-101 - 3rd place - The Islanders are taking their lumps, but they have some very nice pitching prospects, and in a few seasons should see a much better product on the field as a result of their maturation. Until then it's another season of enjoying the nice weather in Honolulu.

Iowa City Corn Dogs (58-104) 4th place
Question: Where's the offense going to come from?
Answer: Ivan Guillen is a defensive upgrade over Curtis Chase at the SS position.
Player to watch: Carl Alexander on the HiA squad is a stud, and Corn Dog fans across the globe are anxiously awaiting his debut in the bigs.
Outlook: 56-106 - 3rd place. Iowa City has continued the makeover process, jettisoning Curtis Chase for prospects. There are some very good positional prospects in the farm system, but the Corn Dogs will need to upgrade their pitching if they want to be successful in the future.


AL West

Anaheim Sharks (100-62) 1st place
Question: Is this the last hurrah for the Sharks pitching trio of Kydd, Contreras, and Campbell?
Answer: Kory Arnold made an MVP three-peat with his crowning last season.
Player to watch: The rotation as a whole, as the stars are starting to show their age and there doesn't seem to be any replacements in sight.
Outlook: 95-67 - 1st place. Anaheim is showing their age in the rotation, and although their lineup is as good as any team in the league, unless their starting pitching can shrug off the detorioration of age, Lars doesn't see them being as good as last season. Still good enough to win the division, but not what they used to be.

Helena Hellraisers (85-77) 2nd place
Question: Will Buzz Boswell be an effective replacement for Brian Wells?
Answer: Even with his declining skills, Orber Olivo still led the team in HR's last season.
Player to watch: Buzz Boswell is a talented SP with lights out control and skills vs. lefties, and is the great hope for the pitching staff.
Outlook - 88-74- 2nd place. The Hellraisers have a skilled lineup with a good mix of youth and veteran players. Their pitching staff is solid, but weak against right handed hitting which Lars thinks will ultimately keep them from taking the division. Still, this is not a team to be trifled with.

Vancouver Grizzlies (79-83) 3rd place
Question: Can the Grizzlies surpass Helena for 2nd place in the division?
Answer: Tommy Wakeland is the young ace that should lead the Grizzlies to loftier heights.
Player to watch: Rookie Alex Brantley is a big bat who could be the force that propels the Grizzlies past Helena.
Outlook: 87-75 - 3rd place. The Grizzlies are rapidly closing the gap between them and the top two teams in the AL West. Lars thinks that they will get close this year, but aren't quite there yet. Next year however Lars sees big things from Vancouver, the rest of the AL West needs to watch out.

Tacoma Jerry Gang (60-102) 4th place
Question: Will the Jerry Gangs rookies rebound from disappointing first years?
Answer: Brandon Miller fared the best at the plate in the cavern that is Tacoma's stadium.
Player to watch: Geronimo Seguignol needs to produce better than a .223 average for Tacoma to compete.
Outlook: 64-98 - 4th place. Lars thinks that there is no way the Jerry Gang's young players can perform worse than last season, so he thinks that a rebound is on the way for players like Seguignol, Jerry Torrealba, Frank Donatello, and others. That should translate into some more wins, but not much due to the stiff competition in the AL West. Still, Lars loves the pitching in the minor leagues, and can't wait to see some of them and LF Tony Arnold in the majors, they are pretty good.