Syracuse Snow Pirates
After 10 seasons of never winning the division this team has really taken control the last two seasons. Back to back 100 win seasons and division championships is how they busted out of the 10 season slump. Last season they finished 102-60, but failed to reach the ALCS losing to divisional rival Ottawa 3-2 in the divisional round. Offensively last season they finished for in hitting(280), 6th in obp(342), 3rd in hr(243), 11th in runs(844) and 5th in steals(161). They led the league in fielding(989), they were 1st in plus plays(98), and 4th in minus plays(22). They also led the league in ERA(3.61), and 1st in opponents average(242). This team was solid all around but had dynamite pitching and fielding. Offensively this team was lead by 3 time MVP OF Rob Lee. 1B Ernest Buck, 2B/SS Yorvit Ortiz, C Danny Milligan, 3B Rob Mcnamara, and LF Ismael Liriano, just to name a few, led the charge offensively. They released OF Sadie Watson after a disappointing season and that set the offense and defense heading into this season the way they wanted it. The teams deep pitching staff is led by the man that picked up his 4th Cy Young last season, SP Warren Hargrave. He's followed by a man that could also pick up a couple Cy Youngs by the time he's done in SP Cyrus Torres. The also have a man that has picked up a Cy Young in his career in SP Ebenezer Brett. SP Jose Moreno is just another top of the line starter in this rotation as well. They also have a good young closer in Omar Gabriel. I'd be totally overlooking something if I didn't mention that they have a very good long reliever as well in Benji Contreras. So who did I miss? This team is loaded. I could go on and on about the rest of the squad, but these are the guys that stand out most from a most outstanding squad. If the don't win 100+ games this season then I will eat my hat. Pitching, defense and offense is how you win baseball games and this team has it all.
At 94-68 Ottawa finished 2nd in the division last season. That didn't stop them from making it to the World Series for the 2nd time in three seasons. This season they will be shooting for their 10th straight season of post season play. They have been a very successful team that surprisingly has only won the division 3 times. They've been in the ALCS more times than that though, with 4 trips to the series. Last season they finished at the top of the league in batting average(294), and obp(364), they were 11th in homers(208), and finished 5th in runs(892). They finished 7th in fielding(983), 10th in plus plays(48), and 12th in minus plays(49). They had the 2nd best ERA(4.11), 3rd opponents average(254), and led the league with 54 saves. The pitching and hitting were great but the fielding could use a bit of improvement. Take away the outstanding play of CF Eric Presley, and SS Ossie Gibson, and the fielding goes down considerably. They did resign SS Enrique Santos to help out the defense but he provides little offensively. On offense this team is led by LF Wilfredo Leon, LF/DH Wolf Ramsey, 2B Luke Ryan, 2b Peter Chang and 2B Alfredo Colome. They traded away a big bat in 1B Hersh Greisinger. The top of the rotation features 4 time all star Greg Dejean, and 3 time all star Felix Wilson. RP Gabby O'Brien was a very good closer for them last season. The biggest loss for the pitching staff was SP Miguel Sierra who left in free agency. They also released one of their better relievers from last season Omar Sanchez. They still have a solid team but their weaknesses standout a little to me. They should be real close to their win total from last season but I'm guessing it will be a little less.
Milwaukee Cream Citys
Last season was this teams fifth straight winning season and they made it to their first ALCS in club history. They have never won the division and have only finished 2nd once. They also have only made the post season just twice. This has been the least heralded team in this division but that doesn't mean a whole lot since they have been more successful than quite a few teams in the league. Last season they finished 8th in hitting(274), 10th in obp(340), 4th in hr(237), and 4th in runs scored(896). They were 14th in fielding(979), 6th in plus plays(55), and 2nd in minus plays(20). They were 3rd in ERA(4.24), and 4th in opponents average(265). This is a team that had good power and scored some runs. While they weren't a great fielding team, they did have some range that was able to save some runs and didn't make many mistakes that cost them runs. They also had some good pitching as well. This was a pretty well rounded team. They didn't have any big time power hitter but they did have power spread throughout the lineup. Offensively this team is led by LF Jorge Rincon, 3B Kenny Beard, CF Diego Oropesa, LF/1B Red Smith and SS Melvin Masato. In the off season they added 3B Jaime Hall to the group to also help provide some pop. SP Brooks Mullins was this teams top starter from last season and should continue to pitch well for them. SP Archie Tewksbury is the number 2 guy and pitched very well last season. The top reliever out of the bullpen is Matthew Goodwin who pitched great last season in the setup role. RP Ron Owens is another very good setup man to bring in for them. In the off season they promoted SP J.P. Santos, and SP Collin Hardtke to help out the rotation. I see this team as more of an offensive team than pitching but they have real good defense that will help out the pitching staff. I think the win total from last season is realistically a good number to be happy about if they reach it again.
This is a team that has now seen their win total decline for the fourth straight season. Last season was just the third time in franchise history that they missed the post season. At 80-82, it was their worst season in franchise history. Offensively last season they finished 5th in hitting(279), 6th in obp(342), 2nd in hr(265), and 6th in runs(882). Defensively they finished 4th in fielding(985), 12th in plus plays(37), and 10th in minus plays(48). They finished 9th in ERA(4.88), and 10th in opponents average(281). In all, these aren't bad numbers. They were toward the top of the league offensively and average in pitching. In the off season they traded away C Antonio Zhang, their top hitter last season. Aging RF Howard O'Brien became a free agent and not resigned. They also watched 3B Murray Mahaffey sign with another team in free agency. They did resign SS Victor Ramsay, and also signed C Jaque Chang and 3B Mule Monroe. Add those goes in with RF Vance Piper, 2B Felipe Ibanez, 1B Vic Guzman, and 3B Gary Dolan, guys that provide a good group of hitters in Minnesota. The pitching staff is what bothers me with this team. The top two starters are free agent acquisition Robinson Maddux and youngster Hawk Marquis(24). They let some aging pitchers walk in free agency, Phil Shaw, Zephyr Wasdin, William Busby, and Dan Shipley. They didn't really add anyone of note to help the pitching staff. I don't think this team has the pitching to win this season, but they do have a good offense. I'm thinking that this may be another season of declining win totals as they sit by and wait for some younger guys to work their way to the big leagues to help this team out down the road.
I think this division will not produce the amount of wins they are used to seeing this season, but Syracuse is still a very strong team and could possibly be the only team to improve upon last seasons total. If they don't at least make the World Series then this will be a disappointing season for them. Ottawa has a good shot at making it to the post season again, but I don't see them getting to the World Series again. Milwaukee and Minnesota don't seem as strong to me. This division should still produce one of the wild cards and also a team with 100 victories.