Richmond Cohibas (94-68) 1st place
Question: Will this be the year the Cohibas top 100 wins for the first time since season 2?
Answer: Geronimo Liriano was a beast last season, anchoring a lethal Richmond lineup.
Player to watch: Free agent signing Max Navarro makes the transition from the pen to the rotation for the first time in his career, and if he delivers adds to the pitching quality that Richmond craves.
Outlook: 98-64 - 1st place. Richmond has been improving by leaps and bounds the last three seasons, but Lars thinks this is the season where it starts to level off a bit. That being said they are still a 1st place team in a division that was much more respectable last season and earned back some pride. If the Cohibas pitching can keep opponents to less than 4-5 runs a game, the lineup should be able to power them through to another division championship, and possibly a deep playoff run.
Jackson Pollocks (70-92) 2nd place
Question: Lars is still asking himself, "Why did the Pollocks sign David Garrido to that contract?"
Answer: Norm Gibson is the most exciting Norm in Jackson since that dude from Cheers.
Player to watch: Sammy Maduro can still produce, and at his contract price this season is a fairly nice pickup for Jackson.
Outlook: 88-74 - 3rd place. Jackson is a team in transition, and with a few moves here or there could become a wildcard contender. As it stands right now though Lars sees them once again overachieving, as this franchise is always stronger than the sum of its parts. The talent level isn't quite equal with Richmond, or Huntington, but this group of players has proven that it can get it done, so Lars is picking them for another 2nd place finish.
Huntington Hillbillies (85-77) 1st place
Question: Will the Hillbillies just look good on paper, or will they deliver in person?
Answer: The lineup as a whole should produce massive amounts of runs. And they will need to, as Eble Park has not been kind to their pitchers the last few seasons.
Player to watch: Pedro Chavez raked the biggest contract in team history this season, and The Hillbillies are hoping their star SS doesn't spend most of it on snacks at the Wiki Vasquez wing of the local hospital.
Outlook: 84-78 - 3rd place.Lars has really liked the Hillbillies the last few seasons, and each time they have let him down. So this year Lars isn't expecting much from them other than a winning record. The team has too much talent to not be successful, but for whatever reason they just haven't meshed on the field. If they do suddenly become best buddies in the locker room, big things are possible from this squad. Until they prove it on the field though Lars is going to Hillbillies games for the banjos and Natural Light.
Montgomery Burns (59-103) 4th place
Question: Which callups will make an impact this season?
Answer: Despite his abyssmal batting eye, Wascar Lopez was the best player in the lineup and the field for the Burns last season, and they are hoping he can repeat that level of play this year.
Player to watch: AA Prospect Tim Collins is the most electrifying player the team has seen since the glory days of Dallas Kline. When he hits the bigs, big things will happen in Montgomery.
Outlook: 63-99 - 4th place. The Burns are steadily making some moves to bring a competitive team back to the big league level. But right now the best players in the franchise are clearly in the minors, as Collins, along with a trio of very nice starting pitchers, should bring about some major changes once they hit the big leagues. Right now though the team is in a holding pattern, and while they won't embarrass themselves, certainly aren't going to win the division.
Florida Alemdares (84-78) tie - 1st place
Question: Will the new digs of Dolphin Stadium be a better fit for the great young arms in Florida?
Answer: Year after year, all Hades Booker does is produce. If he can stay healthy in his twilight years he should continue to do so.
Player to watch: Eric Collins and his mustache have yet to break the 15 win barrier, and this is as good a season as any to do it.
Outlook: 90-72 - 1st place. Lars really likes the way this team is built. For whatever reason they just weren't able to do much better than 85 wins in Mexico City. Lars is thinking that the relocation to the pitchers park in Florida should help things considerably. There is more than enough pop in the lineup to support the great pitching, so a winning record is highly likely. But this will be a tight division, so Lars is recommending that you don't count this prediction as a sure thing.
Louisville Dogs (71-91) 3rd place
Question: Will what is now an excellent pitching staff pay dividends in a new hitters park in Louisville?
Answer: Proven vets Benito Rodriguez and Shane Parrish instantly make this rotation/bullpen as good as any other in the division.
Player to watch: Catching prodigy Ralph Woods makes his ML debut this season, and if the scouts are correct, he has a chance to be the next Patrick Stanton.
Outlook: 86-76 - 2nd place. Lars thinks this team is drastically different than it was two seasons ago, and much for the better. The lineup is now deep and balanced, and the rotation is solid from top to bottom with proven vets in Rodriguez and Ugueth Posada and rising stars Eric Holdridge. Getting six time All-Star and former Fireman of the Year Shane Parrish to close out games is a major upgrade as well. Lars thinks big things are possible for this team, and a division championship isn't out of the question, as long as the Dogs avoid the 16 game losing streak this season.
Nashville Rebel Riders (84-78) tie - 1st place
Question: Who will emerge in the rotation to help the Riders keep pace with the Dogs and Almendares?
Answer: Pedro Franco is simply put, the best player on the team, and possibly in the AL South.
Player to watch: Jeremy Hernandez put up decent numbers last season, but his .260 average is far below what he is capable of producing at the plate.
Outlook: 84-78 - 3rd place. Lars didn't see the Rebel Riders take a step backwards this offseason, but he did see Louisville take a giant leap forward, and Florida move to a park that is better for thier pitching. He sees all of these developments adding up to more of the same for Nashville, a winning record, but nothing to show for it this season. If Nashville can improve their starting pitching, which is the real weak spot on the team, they can keep pace. Lars just doesn't see it happening this year.
Kansas City Express (65-97) 4th place
Question: What kind of promotions are the Express going to run to bring fans to thier games?
Answer: The farm system is starting to bear fruits as Derrick Brumbaugh and Ira Black make their big league debuts this year.
Player to watch: Roosevelt Fox and Thurman Tresh are nearly ready to go, and that prospect has K.C. fans excited.
Outlook: 68-94 - 4th place. Kansas City is quietly building a nice foundation for the future. With a few more nice pitching prospects in the minors, Lars thinks that all the Express are missing are few more pieces in the lineup. The ML team won't be a pushover either, but still can't match the quality of the other three teams in the division. But the winds of change are starting to blow in the AL South, and it is looking like the Express will start to deliver soon.