Well another season came and went, a new champ was crowned, a new owner elected to the owner Hall of Fame, and the off season passed. Spring training is now in full swing and teams are making plans for this season and beyond. Some teams are going all out for the ultimate goal of a championship, others are building for the future, and some are stuck in mediocrity for another season as they try to get their organization in a position to compete in the near future. The off season brought player trades, coaches changing organizations, and big free agent signings. Now it's time to review what each team has done and take a look at where they stand heading into another exciting season. This my friends is your look at the season previews.
Last season I made the point that this was the best division in the league, and once again they didn't disappoint. Our world champs from season 13 came from this division, and the division also gave us both AL wild card teams. The division was also featured in the ALCS when the eventual world champ, Syracuse, defeated Ottawa 4 games to 1. The top 3 teams totalled 300 victories between them in the regular season. The one time divisional power house, Minnesota, has found winning in this division extremely hard to do, as they put up a franchise worst 64 wins. For the second straight season and only the second time in team history they posted a losing record.
Syracuse Snow Pirates
Season 13 record- (103-59, 1st division, World Series Champs)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-7th (.280); OBP-8th (.339); Home Runs-7th (236); Runs-7th (884); Steals-13th (97) Pitching(AL) ERA-1st (3.70); Opp Avg-1st (.239); Strike Outs-3rd (1104); Saves-3rd (51) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-1st (.989); Plus Plays-4th (75); Minus Plays-3rd (19)
Key Acquisitions- SS Buster Starr(tr-Sea), 3B Kory Garland(tr-Sea), SP Alex Romano(promoted)
Key Losses-SP Warren Hargrave(tr-Sea), LF Orval Yeats(tr-Tex), 1B Ernest Buck(FA), SP Ivan Dotel(FA), CF Darrell Evans(released)
The World champs are back and ready to make another run at a repeat. This team finished in the middle of the league offensively, but at the top in pitching and fielding. If it's not broke then don't fix it appears to be the slogan in Syracuse. They upgraded defensively by adding Starr and Garland, and added another good arm to the team in promoting Romano. They traded away a key piece in Hargrave, who seems to be aging extremely well. They also traded away a bit part in Yeats, and chose to let Buck, and Dotel walk in free agency. Neither of the two were players that couldn't be replaced. Evans was released and while he's an excellent fielder, he was a player the team no longer needed. Besides these moves the team seems largely unchanged and most of the players are under age 30, so they should be able to keep the team moving forward for seasons to come. If I had to find a weakness in this team, it would be that the hitting and pitching coaches, who guided this team last season, are just around the league average. With players like they have in Syracuse they have proven that they can get by with these two though. Watch out AL, Syracuse is going to be a force again this season.
Milwaukee Cream Citys
Season 13 record- (99-63, 2nd division, Wild Card)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-5th (.281); OBP-7th (.343); Home Runs-2nd (290); Runs-3rd (959); Steals-9th (128) Pitching(AL) ERA-2nd (4.30); Opp Avg-4th (.259); Strike Outs-7th (1050); Saves-4th (49) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-7th (.983); Plus Plays-2nd (78); Minus Plays-4th (24)
Key Acquisitions- RP Archie Metzger(FA-resigned)
Key Losses-RP Ivan Castro(released), SP Brooks Mullins(FA), RP Luis Seguignol(FA)
Milwaukee was one of the better offensive teams last season and had the fielding and pitching to go with it. This team ranked toward the top of the league in all key categories. That is what helped this team to the second best record in baseball last season. Which makes their wild card round 3 games to 1 loss to Durham that much harder to stomach for this franchise. Having that good of a team and not making it out of the wild card round to me sounds like a disappointing season. So what did they do to improve the team? Well they actually did nothing. The only acquisition that was key is a player that was already on the team last season in Metzger. They lost 3 players that played a roll on the team and didn't do much to replace them. I doubt they really needed to in all honesty. Maybe it was a fluke, since anything can happen in a best of 5 series anyway. The biggest problem with this team is that they have quite a few players above the age of 30 and will need to replace them before long. For this season though, I think they'll be one of the better teams and probably in the wild card race again. They may even have the 2nd best record in the league again, but I don't see them over taking Syracuse this season.
Season 13 record- (98-64, 3rd division, Wild Card, ALCS runner up)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-4th (.286); OBP-3rd (.357); Home Runs-6th (238); Runs-2nd (960); Steals-7th (153) Pitching(AL) ERA-4th (4.51); Opp Avg-3rd (.257); Strike Outs-1st (1127); Saves-13th (33) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-7th (.983); Plus Plays-12th (40); Minus Plays-7th (37)
Key Acquisitions- 2B Jeremy Stanley(FA), RP Carlton Harding(FA), RP Robin Schalk(FA),
Key Losses-1B Wilfredo Leon(FA), 2B Luke Ryan(FA), RP Osvaldo Tatis(Released), RP Clarence Cain(Released)
Last season turned out to be a very successful season for this team. They had a winning record for a tenth straight season and had one of the best records in the league. They also found themselves in the ALCS for the second straight season and for the fifth time in the last seven seasons. They were unable to repeat a World Series appearance after losing to eventual champion Syracuse 4 games to 1. The team ranked toward the top of the AL in offense and pitching, but around the middle in defense. One area of concern was the fact that they only converted 33 saves last season. So in the off season they bolstered the bullpen with the huge signing of Carlton Harding and the signing of Robin Schalk. Offensively they lost big time hitters in Leon and Ryan. They replaced them by signing the speedy contact hitter Jeremy Stanley. This team also replaces some of the players they lost with younger players ready to play at the ML level in SP John Rucker, and P Alex Tapies. This is a pretty young team overall with some young studs that should help them continue their winning ways. I can see them taking over the division title from Syracuse but that is going to be an extremely tough task. My prediction is that this team finishes with a very strong season and takes one of the wild cards again.
Season 13 record- (64-98, 4th division)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-10th (.270); OBP-11th (.330); Home Runs-5th (260); Runs-13th (798); Steals-15th (73) Pitching(AL) ERA-12th (5.21); Opp Avg-13th (.288); Strike Outs-16th (972); Saves-15th (31) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-7tht (.983); Plus Plays-8th (48); Minus Plays-14th (61)
Key Acquisitions- LF Doc Hebert(Prom)
Key Losses-SP Robinson Maddux(FA), 2B Felipe Ibanez(FA), 3B Gary Dolan(FA), 3B Mule Monroe(FA), 2B Diego Rivera(Released), RP Scott Easterly(tr-Tex)
What a difference a few seasons can make. This once heralded franchise has taken a turn for the worst the past few seasons. Last season made it 3 straight seasons without a post season appearance after missing the playoffs once in the first 10 seasons. They've cut player payroll to it's lowest point in team history and let go some veterans to save money. They only made one good addition and that came from within their own system. The players that are out were getting older and the team did not want to spend the money to keep players together that couldn't win anyway. The team does have some pretty good players in the minors that should be able to help in the next few seasons, but they won't be ready this season. As of right now there just isn't much to say about this team. They don't have the players to compete and will more than likely be one of the worst teams in the league this season. The team is obviously rebuilding at this point and while they do have a few good players, it will probably be a few seasons before they can compete again.
This division will look largely the same this season, as Syracuse looks like the team to beat. This is the toughest division in the league though and anything could happen at the top. The top three teams should make the post season again, and Minnesota will likely struggle to avoid 100 losses.