Monday, April 13, 2009

Season 12 Preview - AL West

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

Last season Lars beheld the cryptic cyphers, and unraveled them with predictions of impeccable quality. This season he is back to look into the areas between space to determine the ultimate designs that season 12 will unfold upon Cobb World. So without further ado, here are the season 12 predictions from the enigmatic prognosticator, Lars the Greek.

AL West

Anaheim Sharks (97-65) 1st place
Question: Who will step to replace the old and departed starting pitching that was an exceptional strength for the past 8 seasons?
Answer: Sammy Bennett had a year to remember in season 11, belting 54 HR's and knocking in 134 RBI's.
Player to watch: IF Lew Allen makes the leap from AA to the ML squad this season, bringing yet another player capable of 60+ HR's and a high average into the Sharks lineup.
Outlook: 92-70 - 1st place. The Sharks lineup will be loaded, with more power, speed, and OBP potential then almost any other in the American League. The question lies with their pitching, where Olmedo Contreras is a shadow of his Cy Young days, and J.T. Kidd is also aging rapidly. They brought on veteran SP Nate Rodgers, but he is clearly not a long term solution. If the lineup can overpower their opponents enough to cover for the aging starters, and talented but wild young pitchers being brought up to replace them, they have a chance to repeat yet again as division champs. But it won't be easy.

Vancouver Grizzlies (81-81) 3rd place
Question: Can the Grizzlies get enough pitching to back up Tommy Wakeland?
Answer: The lineup is as deep as Vancouver has ever had in team history, and still young and improving.
Player to watch: If Vancouver is to challenge Anaheim, they will need a 20 win season from Tommy Wakeland.
Outlook: 90-72 - 2nd place. With a little luck, Vancouver could overtake Anaheim for the division championship, but as it stands right now Lars thinks that their pitching is just not deep enough yet to make a sustained run for the AL West. Patrick Stanton lost a lot of power from his season ending injury last season, but still remains an elite catcher, and Alex Brantley is rapidly becoming a beast at the plate. The rest of the youngsters need probably another year before they hit their collective strides. But they are very close, and Anaheim had better watch out.

Arizona Phoenix (82-80) 2nd place
Question: Will Skeeter "Bling Bling Skeet" Robertson live up to his 107 million dollar contract?
Answer: Buzz Boswell lived up to the hype in his rookie season leading the pitching staff and making the all star team in his first full year in the bigs.
Player to watch: All eyes will be on Skeeter Robertson, and not just because of his contract. He is an electrifying pitcher with incredible skills, but is also fragile and will be watched for his injury potential as much as his skill.
Outlook - 89-73- 3rd place. The Helena Hellraisers bid farewell to Montana and all time great Orber Olivo, and now seek a resurrection of fortune in Arizona as the Phoenix. Lars sees some great hitting coming out of the ballpark, and pitching staff that could be lights out if everything goes as planned, but could just as easily fall apart with a key injury or two to Robertson or the also injury prone Boswell, and fellow health risk starting catcher Trenidad Palaez. If they stay healthy the Phoenix will challenge for the division title, but Lars isn't willing to bet on it.

Tacoma Jerry Gang (81-81) 4th place
Question: Will the Jerry Gang finally break through for their first winning season since season 2?
Answer: Tony Arnold was a revelation last season, proving the Times Herald staff completely wrong in their draft assessment, and leads a rapidly improving lineup.
Player to watch: Rookie SP Joaquin Rivera will be counted on to make an impact in the Jerry Gangs rotation.
Outlook: 87 - 75, 4th place. Tacoma almost broke through to winning record territory last season, but fell just short with a 81-81 record. This season Lars sees them finally getting over the hump, especially if their young bats can keep up their improvement. Ultimately though Lars thinks that Tacoma's pitching, while solid, isn't quite as good as the rest of the AL West. That will change as their pitchers grow and mature, and they could surpass their divisional counterparts as early as next season perhaps, but at this time they are filling gaps with last gas veterans Flip Heathcott and Matt Perkins. Once their starters get a little more skill vs. right handed hitting, this will be a team to watch out for. In any case, the winning season Lars sees happening this season is a huge improvement for this historically troubled franchise.

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