Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald
Last Season Lars missed the opportunity to preview the NL North, and now is really looking forward to using his Tarot cards to determine what is what in the division. The AL North is also looking much more competitive than in past seasons, and now boasts the 130 million dollar man, Dean Hernandez, who milked the G-Maniacs for all they were worth and then some. So without further ado, here are this years predictions.
Sioux Falls Corn Cleats (102-60) 2nd place
Question: How will the new look pitching staff compete against the suddenly improved hitting capabilities of division rival New York, and the always tough Fargo Fug Nuts?
Answer: SP Glenn Nye was surprisingly good last season, posting a 19-3 record with quality stats all around.
Player to watch: New addition Bernie Almonte will be counted on heavily to offset the loss of ace Benito Rodriguez, and Herman Knight will get the chance to replace former fireman of the year Shane Parrish.
Outlook: 98-64 - 1st place. The Corn Cleats had some tough luck last year losing the division by 1 game despite having the 3rd best record in the league. But arch rivals Fargo lost a huge chunk of their offense with the departure of Wayne Wilson to New York, and The Corn Cleats pitching should be the best in the division, which along with their still highly capable lineup should propel them to a division title.
Fargo Fug Nuts (103-59) 1st place
Question: Who fills the giant hole at SS left by departing FA Wayne Wilson?
Answer: Kirt Hooper has been simply unhittable during his career in Fargo. This season should be no different.
Player to watch: With the giant Louie Tarraga trade with Syracuse, there are many new faces in Fargo who will be expected to produce.
Outlook: 95-67 - 2nd place. The Fug Nuts didn't have their best offseason, losing Wilson to division rival NY, and having to trade away Louie Tarraga to fill some holes. Still, Fargo has a pitching staff that is as good as any in the league, and still boasts a lineup that will produce runs. But Lars thinks that without Wayne and Louie, Fargo won't lead the league in home runs again, which will impact their win total. Fargo is still excellent, but the likelihood of them topping 100 wins again this season is severely diminished.
New York Pick Pockets (81-81) 3rd Place
Question: Can all those awesome free agent signings pay off with a playoff spot?
Answer: Bill Norton and Wayne Wilson are both excellent bats, and add to an already very potent lineup in new york.
Player to watch: Juan Moreno needs to have a big year, as the rotation will be leaning heavily on him.
Outlook: 90-72 - 3rd place. The Pick Pockets probably have the most powerful lineup in the NL North, and possibly the entire National League. What worries Lars is that there are only three starters on the team who are the equal of those on Fargo and Sioux Falls, Moreno, Harry Perez, and Christian Brantley. Lars thinks that the #4 and #5 spots in the rotation will be the difference in a very tight division race, and unfortunately NY is trumped still at those spots.
Trenton Lions (61-101) 4th place
Question: Can the Lions draft or sign a pitching prospect to match the huge positional talent in the minors?
Answer: New GM brysoc is the answer in Trenton, as he has made some smart FA signings to keep the ML team competetive while the minor league prospects develop.
Player to watch: Frank Hartgraves, Sal Fox, and Napolean Scott are three very talented infielders who will be making their ML debuts this season.
Outlook: 65-97 - 4th place. Things are starting to look up in Trenton, as the fruits of a talented minor league system begin to ripen. But unfortunately for Trenton the pitching prospects are still dead on the vine. So while the Lions will certainly score more runs, they will probably let in just as many. But with that said, the future is much brighter for this franchise than it was a few seasons ago.
Pawtucket G-Maniacs (95-67) 1st place
Question: How will the fans react to money man Dean Hernandez and his new contract?
Answer: The Pawtucket lineup is good and young, from top to bottom, and held together by G-Maniac veteran Tom Petitte.
Player to watch: Hernandez will need to produce like he always has to justify his huge contract. If he has anything less than a Cy Young calibur season it will be a disappointment.
Outlook: 94-68- 1st place. The G's survived a scare last season when Philadelphia and Chicago both were looking like they would finish ahead in the division. But then Pawtucket turned it around and won the AL North for the umpteenth time in a row. But Lars is thinking that outside of Dean the rest of the G's rotation are growing some pretty grey beards, and this might be their last good run. With that in mind Lars once again picks Pawtucket to place.
Philadelphia Cheese Steaks (84-78) tie -2nd place
Question: How is the Earth still spinning after Philly posted a winning season?
Answer: Shawon Lee was a crusher last season, and looks to be the anchor for many to come in the Cheese Steak lineup.
Player to watch: FA acquisition Jose Cervantes posted big numbers last season with Sioux Falls, and if he matches that makes the Steaks lineup much more potent.
Outlook: 88-74 - 2nd place. Philadelphia has turned their team around from a moribund franchise into one with a future, through one big trade and several canny free agent signings. The depth is still a bit lacking in comparison to Pawtucket, but all signs are pointing to a second consecutive winning season and a possible wild card berth.
Chicago Sabercats (84-78) tie - 2nd place
Question: How will Kip Zeile react to finally getting his due?
Answer: Kip Zeile finally won his long deserved MVP, with yet another impressive season at the plate. But time is starting to catch up with the surly slugger, and this might be his last good year.
Player to watch: Placido Tarrasco quickly established himself as the ace of the staff with an all-star and ROY season, he'll need to repeat it for Chicago to have a chance.
Outlook: 85-77 - 3rd place. Things are looking really bright for the future in Chicago, with good young players in the lineup and rotation. But Lars thinks that Pawtucket and Philadelphia were more successful with thier offseason moves, and added more depth to their teams. Lars also thinks that Zeile will have trouble emulating last seasons incredible performance, which means that the team will probably win a few less games.
Toronto Blue Jays (53-109) 4th Place
Question: Will the Blue Jays free agent vets be enough to power the team to a winning record?
Answer: Benito Beltre went 15-10 on a 53 win team, which should tell you all you need to know about how good he is.
Player to watch: Jesus Pujols looks to walk on water with his divine pitching skills in his rookie season, and Toronto really hopes he pulls it off.
Outlook: 75-87 - 4th place. Lars thinks that the Blue Jays will take a big leap forward this season as their young rotation matures. With the help of vets like Ernie Jenkins and J.D. Lewis, Bosco Simon now has some help in the lineup. But The Jays are still a few pieces short compared to the rest of their division, although a 20+ game improvement over last season is nothing to sneeze at. With the talent in their rotation, Lars expects that improvement to be a reality.