Monday, September 26, 2011

Season 17 preview- AL North

AL North
Last season was much of the same from this tough division. Syracuse won the division for a 6th straight season, but surprisingly finished with under 100 victories for the first time in that stretch. In doing this they also went on to win the World Series for the second time in 4 seasons. Ottawa led the division for quite a bit of the season, but fell off in the end and easily took the 2nd wild card spot. Milwaukee was good as usual, making the post season for a 6th consecutive season and finished second in the division. Minnesota is the team that has struggled since season 10 in this division without a playoff appearance, but they improved again last season and are close to making a run as the rebuild is nearing an end and the days of competing are closing in for this franchise.

Syracuse Snow Pirates
Season 16 record- 96-66 (AL North Champs, World Series Champs)
5 year record- 525-285

Offense- Average-14th(.259), OBP-15th(.321), Slg-6th(.442), Runs-5th(821), HR-3rd(257), SB-15th(42)
Defense- Fld %-1st(.991), Plus Plays-1st(105), Minus Plays-1st(7)
Pitching- ERA-1st(3.68), OAV-2nd(.243), SO-9th(1038), Saves-6th(43/62)

Offense: This team has some power for sure. They have 6 guys that are threats to go deep and a few of those are legitimate power hitters. They may not be the best hitting team as evidence by the teams average and obp last season, but they can slug the ball.

Defense: This team is complete defensively. They have a few guys that could play shortstop and Aramis Aybar is the guy they go with. He may have a light bat, but the guy is a gold glove more often than not. The loss of Yorvit Ortiz hurt the team last season but he's back and they love to have his glove in there at secondbase. He's another gold glove on this defense. If I had to grade this teams defense I'd give them an A+.

Pitching: There's not much wrong with a staff that has 3 legitimate aces. Dock King, Cyrus Torres, and Ebenezer Brett are all top notch hurlers. Then they have Omar Gabriel closing games and while he struggled last season with 12 blown saves, I think that is just bad luck and doubt it will happen again. Benji Contreras is a phenomenal setup man that could close for most teams. This may be the top pitching staff in the league.

Offense: This offense has the power, but not the overall hitting and ability to draw walks. This is possibly the worst hitting bunch that Syracuse has had in a while. I expect them to finish pretty close to last seasons totals.

Defense: I can't find a weakness. They even have some pitchers that can field good for their position.

Pitching: Wow. This staff is deep. Even the mopup guys can pitch and have done so in the past. It's going to be tough to score on this team.

Summary- Well this is the World Champs and they looked poised to give it another run this season. The hitting may not be up to par with the defense and pitching, but I doubt any teams hitting is up to par with this teams pitching and defense. They'll be tough to score runs off of, so we may see plenty of low scoring games coming from this teams boxscores.

Milwaukee Cream Citys
Season 16 record- 92-70(Wild Card)
5 year record- 468-342

Offense- Average-5th(.270), OBP-6th(.333), Slg-5th(.449), Runs-4th(826), HR-7th(234), SB-11th(75)
Defense- Fld %-5th(.986), Plus Plays-13th(50), Minus Plays-5th(29)
Pitching- ERA-9th(4.50), OAV-11th(.270), SO-12th(1024), Saves-1st(49/65)

Offense: This team can hit. They finished near the top of the league in average last season and I expect most of the same this season. The offense is led by Jorge Rincon, who is a really good hitter. Add in Red Smith and Howard Atkins and they have a good top of the lineup.

Defense: This team has some solid gloves led by centerfielder Diego Oropesa who is one of the best at his position. David Keats an average pitch calling catcher, but he has a really good arm.

Pitching: This team was near the middle of the league in pitching last season, but they did lead the league in saves. A large majority of that was due to Ron Owens who is a really good closer. The rest of the bullpen is really solid as well.

Offense: The team lacks power. They have guys that can hit homers, but not many and the ones they do have aren't real power threats. They could use an upgrade in this department.

Defense: The team lacks a real shortstop and that is important in my views. The guys they do have to play the position are below average with the gloves and could use a bit more range.

Pitching: The rotation is solid, but they lack a true shutdown starter. I'd rate the rotation as about average, but a top starter could make them good.

Summary- Milwaukee finished second in the division last season and it seems like they are always in the post season. They have a solid team, but I view them as a sub 90 win team. I think if they make it over 90 then it was a very successful season that seen a lot of things go right for them. I don't believe they are a losing team, but they should finish in the upper 80's in win total which may put them in the post season again.

Hartford Hunters
Season 16 record- 90-72(Wild Card)
5 year record- 477-333

Offense- Average-2nd(.283), OBP-2nd(.352), Slg-2nd(.468), Runs-2nd(906), HR-2nd(261), SB-8th(115)
Defense- Fld %-8th(.983), Plus Plays-9th(56), Minus Plays-13th(51)
Pitching- ERA-4th(4.27), OAV-5th(.257), SO-5th(1089), Saves-12th(38/54)

Offense: The team has a few good power hitters and some good pure hitters. They finished near the top of the league in most offensive categories last season. Peter Cheng is a great young hitter. Matty Coco and Freddy Cuddyer are a couple of the really good veteran hitters on this club. This team is going to be really tough offensively.

Defense: The team is solid in centerfield, and at shortstop with Alberto Pujols and Ossie Gibson. They also have a really good catching duo.

Pitching: This team has a really good rotation and bullpen. They may not be on the level of Syracuse, but they are close. Bret O'Leary, Felix Wilson, and John Rucker are really good starters. Alex Ordonez is a really good arm from out of the pen.

Offense: The team lacks speed. They are not a threat on the bases at all. They stole plenty of bases last season, but I'd be surprised to see them do that again.

Defense: Depth. This team has some good fielders at key positions, but they don't have good backups for them and also don't have good fielders at most of the other positions on the field.

Pitching: This is a good staff with a lot of good things about them. The only thing I can find is that they struggled closing out games last season with only 38 saves compared to 16 blown. That's not a good percentage and I think they should be better, but they'll have to show me something first.

Summary- This is a pretty good team. They should challenge for the top spot in the division again and if they can't take it then they should earn another wild card spot. They have all the tools they need to be dangerous.

Minnesota PeaceFrog
Season 16 record- 74-88
5 year record- 347-463

Offense- Average-15th(.255), OBP-12th(.324), Slg-8th(.431), Runs-11th(769), HR-5th(237), SB-10th(82)
Defense- Fld %-2nd(.988), Plus Plays-9th(56), Minus Plays-10th(40)
Pitching- ERA-11th(4.67), OAV-9th(.268), SO-15th(997), Saves-14th(34/53)

Offense: This team is loaded with power. They may have the most power in Pine Tar. They have a good young power hitter in Ruben Pelaez, and it doesn't stop there. Tiny Thome is another powerful good hitter for them. This team will only continue to get better over the next few seasons offensively as they await youngsters Armando Mota, and Chris Young to make their ML debuts.
Defense: This team doesn't have much defensively but they do have a great catching tandem in Christopher Herman and Benny Linton. They also have a good but not great shortstop in Carlos Duran. While they aren't bad defensively they aren't great.

Pitching: Todd Washington is a good closer. Vinny Grace is a good starter. That's mostly it for now. The future looks bright with Enrique Santiago and Sammy Johnson awaiting to make their debuts in the future.
Offense: This team lacks good contact hitters and guys that will hit for good averages. The offense may be powerful, but they won't hit with the better teams.

Defense: They have a solid defense, but not all around. They won't be good at all positions on the field and lack good backups.

Pitching: The team has decent pitching, but they aren't deep. They really lack a top starter or two to anchor the rotation.

Summary- This team is much improved from a couple seasons ago and the ownership has a goal of finishing .500. The future looks bright for them, but I don't think this is the season they break into the top. They have enough holes to keep them from the top, for now.

This is going to be a tough division again. They could very well send 3 teams to the post season once again. Syracuse is a very tough team that seems to be at the top every season and I don't foresee that ending this season. The pitching and defense are just going to be too tough for the other teams to overcome. Milwaukee is a good team, but I don't think they have the team to overtake Syracuse. They should put up a good fight for a wild card spot though. Hartford is pretty good and have very few holes. They have the best offense in the division and could challenge Syracuse for the top spot in the division. They should find themselves in the post season no matter what happens in the division. Minnesota is an improving team that will not be a push over this season. They still aren't there yet, but they aren't far off.

1.) Syracuse
2.) Hartford
3.) Milwaukee
4.) Minnesota

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