Sunday, September 19, 2010

Season 13 Preview: NL South

Big changes took place last season in this division. Charleston ended their 6 season run of winning the division and Monterrey took the division title. All that would turnout to mean was that Charleston had that little extra motivation heading into the post season. They made it to their second World Series and brought home their first World Series Championship. What a season. Monterrey continued its climb marking the fifth straight season that they improved their win totals. The days of this team finishing 4th seem to be over for a while. Texas finished third for the fourth year in a row and the franchise that was in Richmond lost 100 games for the fourth time in 5 seasons. Richmond sold the team and are now located in Jackson. This was a top heavy division last season and we'll take a look and see if that is going to change this season.

Monterrey Jacks

This franchise put up a record high victory total last season going 99-63 and won their 4th division title. A season after making the LCS though turned out to be a disappointment as they couldn't turn regular season success into the post season success they had hoped for. They ownership in Monterrey are pretty excited about the teams chances this season and even the local media are getting pretty hyped about the team. As one local radio personality put it "Anything less than a pennant will be a disappointment for the team, the fans, and the city of Monterrey." Offensively this team finished 11th in hitting(266), 11th in obp(327), 1st in hr(281), 5th in runs(869), 4th in steals(133) and 2nd in slg(464). They may not have been the best hitting team but they knew how to put up runs and had the power to get it done. They finished 10th in fielding(980) which management put in part on the poor play they got at thirdbase, and finished 13th in plus plays(29) and 12th in minus plays(67). Not very good defensive numbers at all. Even with the less than spectacular fielding the finished 5th in ERA(4.04), 7th in opponents average(264), 1st in strikeouts(1228), and 1st in saves converting 63 of 86. There isn't a whole lot to improve on an already very good team. They resigned SP Bingo Baker, a guy who could provide a little help possibly more in the bullpen than starting, and they also signed 3b Murray Mahaffey, to help make up for the lack of production they got out of the position last season. Besides that they promoted SP Clay Jeter who should be able to help this team. If this team is going to win it all, then they will need RF Miguel Mesa to put up MVP type numbers as he is capable of doing, as he seemed to take steps backwards last season. They will be moving pitcher Al Astacio to the bullpen where he is better suited to help this team as he was the weak link in the rotation last season. They already have one of the best bullpens in the game and there is no reason to think that will be any different this season. Throw that together with a pretty solid rotation and this team has the pitching to win a championship. SP Oscar Osterbrock is the ace of the staff and this guy could be a Cy Young candidate come the end of the season. SP Doc King is pretty good as well. This team has a good lineup and solid backups to go with it. Defensively they appear to be average but have a few players that are good. The key for this team is that they are made up of some very talented young players that should be around for quite some time. The have only a few aging players that are starting the back end of their careers but most of them are just bit parts for this team. When I talk about teams that are going to be at the top of the league this one falls right into that category. The biggest thing for them will be that they could make it last due to the group of young players that are going to be key for this team. I must say that I agree with that radio host in Monterrey.

Charleston Riverdogs

World Champions! This team made it back to the title series for the second time in five seasons and brought home the title this time. The regular season was good for them but they did miss out on winning the division for a seventh consecutive time. That was all the motivation they needed. They swept Fargo in the first round, then beat Jacksonville 3-1 in the second. They went 7 games against Seattle in a series they had well in hand, up 3-0, but slipped a little before taking game 7 to advance to the World Series. They made quick work of Ottawa in the World Series 4-1. Add it up and they were 14-5 in the post season. Not bad at all. They went 97-65 in the regular season putting them 2 games out of first place. They were 2nd in the NL in batting(278), 1st in obp(355), 4th in homers(231), and 2nd in runs(905). A force offensively. They were 6th in fielding(983), 6th in plus plays(45), 2nd in minus plays(25). That would put them in the upper half of the NL defensively. They were 3rd in ERA(3.93), 3rd in OAV(258), and converted 45 of 58 save opportunities. So the real question was what was their weakness? This was a solid all around team that just missed a few breaks here and there in the regular season. I just don't see how they didn't win well over 100 games. This team was rock solid and that is why they were able to dominate in the post season. They decided to pick up the option on SP Al Mota, 3B Juan Otanez, and OF Frank Martin. These three are eating up plenty of salary but are key players on this team. They extended the contract of 2B Pepper Sanders, another key member of this team. They resigned SP Rafael Gutierrez, but let SS Ivan Perez, Closer Archie Goldman, and RP Harry Gonzalez walk in free agency. They selected RP Adam Bergen in the rule 5 draft who could turn out to be a gem. They went out and signed SP William Busby and RP John Chen to replace the losses they had. Overall, they didn't lose much in the off season and kept around the players that they needed to. The only major loss was closer Archie Goldman, but they have Jesus Amezaga waiting in the wings to take over. They are a team that has young talent with some good veterans mixed in. That seems to be how most of the successful teams in the NL are doing it and they are no different. Charleston is still going to be a team to beat in the NL this season and will be battling it out with Monterrey in trying to recapture the division title this season.

Texas Beavers

This team had their 4th straight losing season last season by going 71-91. They have only made it to the post season twice and it's been since season 1 the last time they won the division title. It doesn't help that they are on their fifth owner in that time but carseneau is moving into the fourth season as owner of this franchise. Is this the season they start to make a move? Management is hoping that their young core players take steps forward this season and they added a couple veterans to help them close out games. They believe that if these things happen then they can compete for a spot in the post season. Offensively this team last season finished 6th in average(270), 4th in obp(339), 8th in hr(210), and 6th in runs(855). They were 10th in fielding(980), 10th in plus plays(35), and 10th in minus plays(60). They were last in ERA(5.66), last in opponent average(294), and converted only 35 of 64 save opportunities. It surely appears that pitching and defense were major weaknesses for this team. So they traded away from the one strength they had, hitting, C Vic Diaz, and RF Juan Torres. They traded for the older but still solid hitting C Antonio Zhang and pitcher Davey Tavarez. They signed RP Louie Mangual, and closer Archie Goldman. Goldman is a major upgrade to this teams bullpen. They also promoted young SP Doug Jodie. They let SP Santos Rodriguez, and SP Robinson Maddux walk in free agency. Overall this is a young team and should be better than they were last season. They improved some weaknesses on this team from last season and didn't lose a whole lot in doing so. They let a couple of older pitchers go and got better in that department. I don't think this team is ready to contend quite yet, but with all the young players they have in place they should continue to get better over the next few seasons.

Jackson Juggernauts

This franchise is now on it's ninth owner. It's hard to put anything together when a franchise is constantly having to reinvent itself. Last season they finished 61-101, marking the fifth time in franchise history hitting triple digits in the loss column and third season in a row. Surprisingly though, this franchise has won a division title although it was the only time they have made the playoffs and they didn't make it out of the divisional series. Offensively the finished 14th in hitting(261), 10th in obp(328), 13th in hr(188), and 12th in runs(746). The finished 15th in fielding(976), last in plus plays(17), 9th in minus plays(57). They were also 15th in ERA(5.49), 14th in opponent average(281), and converted only 36 of 53 saves. All these numbers show why this team lead the NL in losses last season. So this team had some things to do in the off season. Bringing up young talent, making acquisitions, something. They've actually done quite a bit of everything. They selected some guys in the Rule 5 draft, the most notable being SP Aubrey Simmons. They claimed guys off the waiver wire, 3B Benny Carrasco, and RP Pedro Park. They made free agent signings, SP Placido Fenandez, SP Alex Montero, and OF Russell Borkowski. They promoted SP Allie Knight, and SS Quinn Watson. The only players they lost to free agency that did anything for the club last season were, OF Troy Jefferson, and SP Patsy Cummings. They released players that didn't fit or help the team much. They have some good young players in place that are going to help in OF Hipolito Matos, IF Jeff Moore, 2B Alex Romero, and SP Rube Clark. They have a young team with more talented young players on the way from the upper minor league levels. I don't see how this team could possibly match last seasons loss total. If they don't improve I will be shocked(although I'm not eating any hats over it). This may not be their season to make a run at a post season berth, but this team isn't far off and within the next few seasons could be challenging for the division title.


This division is much more solid than last season. The top two are still the class of the division and should battle it out till the end. I think both Charleston and Monterrey will make the playoffs again, but it's a tough pick on who wins the division. The bottom two teams show promise heading to the future but just aren't good enough yet to hang with the better teams in the league.





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