Pawtucket G-Maniacs (110-52) 1st place
Question: Will this be the last year for the G-Maniacs that the Dean of Pawtucket is dropping knowledge on opposing hitters?
Answer: Dean Hernandez won his 3nd Cy Young in season 11, asserting his dominance in Cobb World.
Player to watch: Brace Davey should flourish with guaranteed playing time now that he is no longer in Cleveland.
Outlook: 102-60 - 1st place. Lars is seeing what will in all likelihood be the end of an era in Pawtucket, as the G's win the AL North for the gazillionth time in a row. But the fans in Pawtucket had better enjoy it while they can, as their three best players will either be gone or much diminished in their capacity to contribute next season as Dean Hernandez is looking to become the most coveted free agent since Phillip Brown, and Tom Petitte and Albert Franco are both on the wrong side of 35. Still, this season there should be no problems taking out their divisional opponents and making it to the playoffs, where they will perhaps get a third chance to be upset by their hated rivals the Cleveland Steamers.
Philadelphia Cheese Steaks (66-96) 3rd place
Question: Will the once again entirely new lineup and pitching staff mesh, or will this be another losing season in Philly?
Answer: Shawon Lee is a beast at the plate, and will be a welcome addition to a lineup that lacked a true slugger.
Player to watch: SP Gary Ferguson will be one of the most hyped rookies in the league this season, and Philly hopes he delivers.
Outlook: 81-81 - 2rd place. With yet another move to another city, The Cheese Steaks are looking for that magic combination that will get them a winning season. Scary as it is, Lars actually likes their team a lot, and thinks that they have enough in the tank to improve upon last season and reach .500 for the first time in franchise history. A lot depends upon the collection of veteran rentals and young rookies staying healthy and producing, and speedy but OBP nightmares Andres Cruz and R.J. Hunt getting on base, but Lars thinks it will happen, and the fans will be rewarded.
Toronto Blue Jays (58-104) 4th Place
Question: Will this be the first year since season 5 that Toronto surpasses 60 wins?
Answer: Larry Gant won the ROY last season behind his .304BA, 41HR, 130RBI year.
Player to watch: Ace SP Benito Beltre went 8-9 last season despite a 3.31 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. With just a little more run support he could easily be a 15-20 game winner.
Outlook: 68-94 - 3rd place. The Blue Jays have some major pitching talent on the ML squad and rapidly moving through their minor league system. Their solid core of Beltre, Steve Kerr, Paulie Gilbert, Justin Barnes, and Jesus Pujols will be causing nightmares to AL hitters for the coming decade, that much is certain. But Lars doesn't see them taking the next step from good to great until they get some more offense. Outside of Bosco Simon and Larry Gant, their positional players are pretty anemic at the plate. The Blue Jays made a nice early season move in signing International FA Carlos Lopez, but it take several more players with some pop to keep Toronto moving up the standings. Still, with pitching like they have coming down the pipe, they have some wiggle room.
Chicago Sabercats (67-95) 2nd place
Question: Will there be good promotions and beer specials to get the Chicago fans through the season?
Answer: Kip Zeile came off a monster season 10, and channeled his green rage into 40 HR's, and 120 RBI's, far and away the best production in the lineup.
Player to watch: Rookie SP Placido Tarrasco has big expectations, but will calling him up this early cause a Mark Prior like flame out?
Outlook: 60-102 - 4th place. Lars likes the Sabercats. He really does. But Lars also can't deny his third eye, which is telling him that this will probably be an adjustment period for Chicago as Kip Zeile throws one last monster season in the books, cementing his Hall of Fame status as one of the greatest players to have never won a World Series. There are some nice young players to watch, like Guillermo Segui, Tarrasco, Jesus Henriquez, and Odalis Ramirez. But Lars sees a team in flux, executing a youth movement while still retaining 83 million dollars in payroll, and knows in his all seeing and all feeling heart that those two factors cannot align in the heavens.