Friday, October 22, 2010

Lars the Greeks Season 18 Preview - National League

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

Last season saw the Wichita Wankers advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history, only to lose to the Cleveland Steamers for the second time in franchise history.  Along the way Wichita upset the top two seeds in Montgomery and San Francisco, who both return with pretty strong teams this season.  The rest of the NL was the benficiary of a free agent arms race as all the top pitchers, including the legendary Dean Hernandez, made their way to the senior circuit.  How will all those big dollar signings pan out?  Read on and find out how Lars sees the chips being thrown down in the NL. 

National League

Lars the Greeks Divisional Breakdowns

NL North: It wasn't close in the NL North last year as the NY Pick Pockets ran away with the division and Sioux Falls sputtered to finish near .500, while Trenton took a step back and Burlington continued it's rebuild.  Things definitely got interesting in the division however as the Pick Pockets inked one of the major free agents in stud SP Clyde Ford.  Signing the six time all star confirms that New York is going to give it at least one more run with it's talented but aging lineup.  Sioux Falls also bolstered their chances, trading for talented young SP Cesar Viriato and making several trades and free agent signings to bolster their lineup.  Trenton and Burlington were pretty quiet in the offseason, so it comes down to NY and SXF again this season, with Lars thinking SXF might have the edge. 

NL East: The NL East is one of the hardest divisions to predict, as all four teams have been elite for the last 5-7 seasons. New Britain is showing signs of slippage though, with the first losing record for the franchise since season 6, but are back in the race for the division title this season after bringing back star SP Phil Hinch via free agency.  The other three franchises should also be in a dogfight to the finish  Having 4 time MVP Chipper Harper among others always gives Columbus a shot, while Wichita remains just as strong as their World Series team last season.  But Atlanta has to be given the edge in the division this season after bring on board EIGHT time Cy Young Award winning SP Dean Hernandez, who still has a ton in the tank as is evidenced by his second max contract. 

NL South: Montgomery avoided the fall swoon that ruined their playoff hopes two seasons ago to forge ahead to the #1 overall seed last season in the NL playoffs.  But their regular season success didn't equal playoff glory as they lost in the NLCS to Wichita.  Despite that heartache their team brings back an all star lineup and top rotation to challenge again for the top hardware.  But the rest of the NL South isn't going to make it easy, as Richmond returns a team that is very similar to the squad that made the World Series in season 16 and should put up a good challenge to the Burns.  The Charlotte Thunder are a dark horse this season to make a run after some very big free agent signings, and Jackson always remains a very tough out, even when they are retooling the franchise.  But Lars thinks Montgomery is the smart money here.

NL West:  Lars thought that San Francisco couldn't pull it off last season, yet they put 20 games on a very talented Iowa City squad en route to the #2 seed in the playoffs.  Lars doesn't think that will happen again however as Iowa City is just too good to get beat that badly two seasons in a row, but San Fran is still the king until proven otherwise.  Fresno and Omaha are rapidly improving and should provide more of a challenge to their division rivals this season, but it should still come down to the Earthquakes and Corn Dogs, with Lars thinking that San Fran will ride their improved bullpen to another division title.

Projected Cy Young: Dean Hernandez - Atlanta Pitbulls
--Other Contenders: Kirk White (SXF), Phil Hinch (TB), Jamie Hayashi (MNT), Junior Lee (ATL), Furio Kydd (IA), Davey Silva (WIC)
Projected MVP: Chipper Harper - Columbus
--Other Contenders: Charley Morton (SF), Omar Rosado (NY2), Tim Collins (MNT), Doyle Grey (MNT), Benji Ordonez (RIC), Wascar Galvez (TRE)
Projected Fireman of the Year: William Kim - San Francisco Earthquakes 
--Other Contenders: Bert Miceli (NY), William Kim (SF), Kirk White (SXF)
Projected Rookie of the Year:Wade Stowers - Fresno Fresas
--Other Contenders: Pablo Vicente (WIC), Oswaldo Prieto (MNT), Eduardo Ayala (TRE), Harry Mendoza (CHR)

Top Five Rotations in the National League
1. Atlanta Pitbulls
2. Montgomery Burns
3. New York Pick Pockets
4. Iowa City Corn Dogs
5. Sioux Falls Corn Cleats

Top Five Bullpens in the National League
1. Sioux Falls Corn Cleats
2. San Francisco Earthquakes
3. Montgomery Burns
4. Wichita Wankers
5. Richmond Cohibas

Top Five Lineups in the National League
1. Atlanta Pitbulls
2. Montgomery Burns
3. San Francisco Earthquakes
4. Wichita Wankers
5. Trenton Lions

Top Three Offseason Free Agent Signings
1. Dean Hernandez - Atlanta Pitbulls
2. Clyde Ford - New York Pick Pockets
3. Shane Parrish - Charlotte Thunder

Three Teams on the Rise:
1. Charlotte Thunder
2. Fresno Fresas
3. Omaha Sluggers

Three Teams on the Decline
1. New Britain Fug Nuts
2. Columbus HoundDogs
3. Richmond Cohibas

Five prospects who could make a difference if called up this season
1. Vic Sosa - Omaha Sluggers
2. R.J. Vizquel - Montgomery Burns
3. John Miller - Montgomery Burns
4. Ricardo Roque - New Britain Fug Nuts
5. Vic Lopez - Trenton Lions

Projected finishes, by division:

NL North
Sioux Falls Corn Cleats -92-70
New York Pick Pockets - 91-71
Trenton Lions - 84-78
Burlington Champs - 72-90

NL East
Atlanta Pitbulls - 100-62
Columbus HoundDogs - 96-66
Wichita Wankers - 93-69
New Britain Fug Nuts - 84-78

NL South
Montomgery Burns - 103-59
Richmond Cohibas - 88-74
Charlotte Thunder - 81-81
Jackson Pollocks - 71-91

NL West
San Francisco Earthquakes - 99-63
Iowa City Corn Dogs - 89-73
Omaha Sluggers - 83-79
Fresno Freas - 71-91

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