Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Season 17 Previews-NL North

NL North
The NL north was a big surprise to me in season 16. Trenton, a team that hasn't been to the post season since season 7 and has never won the division, finally broke through to the top of the division. For only the second time in the worlds history the division was not won by Fargo. And for the first time in Fargo's history they were left on the outside looking in during the post season. Helena was a big surprise to me, as I thought they had the team to make a push for the division, but the under achieved and finished under 500 and in third place for a second season in a row. Iowa City made major strides under new ownership, but appear to still be a couple seasons off from being able to make a real push.

Trenton Thunders
Season 16 record- 89-73(NL North Champs)
5 year record- 392-428

Offense-Average-2nd(.272), OBP-2nd(.337), Slg-12th(.393), Runs-3rd(820), HR-14th(137), SB-2nd(324)
Defense-Fld %-4th(.986), Plus Plays-4th(71), Minus Plays-2nd(26)
Pitching-ERA-4th(3.84), OAV-5th(.249), SO-11th(1061), Saves-3rd(56/71)

Offense: The team was one of the best in the NL last season in hitting and they still have the hitters to make this happen again. The team is fast and will steal a lot of bases again this season.

Defense: One of the better fielding teams in the league appears to have good fielders and ability to remain near the top of the league.
Pitching: Trenton was also among the best teams in the league in pitching last season. The bullpen is as solid as they come. This teams pitching will go as far as the bullpen can take them.

Offense: They lack power and depth.  They have only one player that I'd consider a power hitter. After the starters on this team I don't see the ability to replace them with likewise hitting.
Defense: The shortstop position. They have players that can play it, but no complete player in the field.
Pitching: The rotation. They have players that can be really good starters, but none of them have the stamina to go deep into games. The players that do have the stamina leave something to be desired. This isn't to say the rotation will be weak, but it will be interesting to see how the team goes about things with this bunch.

Summary-Trenton took over this division last season and they should not be overlooked this season. This is a really good team that has the tools to make another run. They made no moves in the off season and chose to stay with what worked for them. They have the hitting, speed, defense and pitching to get things done again. I like this team to make the playoffs again this season.

Fargo Woodchippers
Season 16 record- 88-74
5 year record- 447-363

Offense-Average-6th(.264), OBP-9th(.328), Slg-1st(.445), Runs-7th(778), HR-1st(259), SB-15th(52)
Defense-Fld %-8th(.984), Plus Plays-13th(42), Minus Plays-14th(61)
Pitching-ERA-8th(4.20), OAV-11th(.269), SO-1st(1147), Saves-9th(44/59)

Offense: This team has some good power as evidence of finishing atop the league in homers and slugging last season. They also have some good pure hitters mixed in and should be able to score plenty of runs.

 Defense: The defense has a few good options at shortstop and any of the three can play centerfield. Blank got the majority of the time at short last season, but his range isn't as good as the others. Maxwell played mostly centerfield last season, but he has better range than Blank but his arm isn't as accurate. Diaz may be the most well rounded of the 3 but he fills in at short center and second.

Pitching: They have some good pitchers. Ontiveros is a top starting pitcher and Sweeney is as well. Hayashi is pretty good and rounds out a good top 3 rotation spots. The bullpen is solid as well. Leonard and Castillo are really good coming out of the pen.

Offense: Contact, speed and batting eye. The team lacks many players that make good contact and draw walks. That could be the downfall of this team. They lack speed and won't steal many bases.

Defense: While the team is solid up the middle they lack the fielding at other positions. That may be nit picky, but I had to find a weakness for the sake of posting something. I'd be surprised if they finish as low in fielding this season as last.

Pitching: Depth. After the top 3 rotation spots I'm not thrilled by what they have to fill in after that. The bullpen has 2 very good pitchers, but that also lacks depth. The depth on this staff could really hurt the team in the long run.

Summary- This team is in a rebuilding mode. After dominating the division for so long things have finally caught up to them. They started the rebuild last season but that didn't hold them back as they still challenged for the division title. I think they still have the pieces to challenge again, but could fall short. They may end up trading away some of those pieces to help with the future pieces of getting this team back to dominating the division and NL once again.

Helena Ass Hats
Season 16 record- 79-83
5 year record- 384-426

Offense-Average-4th(.271), OBP-8th(.329), Slg-7th(425),  Runs-8th(770), HR-8th(195), SB-9th(87)
Defense-Fld %-5th(.985), Plus Plays-16th(27), Minus Plays-15th(63)
Pitching-ERA-11th(4.46), OAV-11th(.269), SO-4th(1113), Saves-12th(42/62)

Offense: This team has some power and a few good hitters. They have a little bit of speed as well.

Defense: They have a couple really good pitch calling catchers. Mendoza is the better of the 2 due to his arm.

Pitching: Valbuena and Nieto. These 2 starters are really good. Flores is a pretty good closer and Vasquez can get people out and rack up some innings.

Offense: The roster is incomplete and my guess is that they will be filling the final spots with some callups or free agent leftovers. That leads me to believe that there will be plenty of holes.

Defense: Same as I listed with the offense. The team lacks a real good shortstop and at this point they don't have much at the other positions either.

Pitching: Also the same as above. There is no depth after the top couple pitchers on this squad.

Summary- With an incomplete roster it's really hard to tell what this team will do. My best guess is that they just fill out the roster and work on rebuilding this season. The team really under performed last season and could use a new infusion of young talent as they work on a different way to get this team to the top in the future.
Iowa City Hawkeyes
Season 16 record- 64-98
5 year record- 301-509

Offense-Average-16th(.236), OBP-16th(.295), Slg-16th(.325), Runs-16th(504), HR-15th(110), SB-8th(88)
Defense-Fld %-1st(.989), Plus Plays-1st(87), Minus Plays-6th(34)
Pitching-ERA-5th(3.91), OAV-4th(.247), SO-16th(1015), Saves-12th(42/52)

Offense: There isn't much positive here and it showed with how the team finished last season. One big positive is that the team is planning on bringing up Hank Roling this season and that will help.

Defense: This team fielded one of the best defensive teams in Pine Tar last season. They have 2 good shortstops and one of those, Aramis Cordero, is an elite fielding shortstop. This defense is really good still.

Pitching: The pitching was another bright spot on the team last season. Cora, Grey, Perez, and Segui are really pretty good pitchers. Kirwan will be good coming out of the pen. I'm not sure how I feel about including defense in this spot, but the defense on this team will make these guys even better.

Offense: A lot. This team is a ways off from having a competitive offense.

Defense: I can't really find one. They have an ideal fielder for almost every position. The problem with that though is that you can't usually do that without creating holes in your offense.

Pitching: They lack a shut down starter. The team has one that they drafted first overall last season, but he's a few seasons away from taking this spot.

Summary- The previous owner of this squad really put this team in a bad spot. The new ownership has done a fine job of getting the turnaround process going and are in position to continue that this season. This team could very well jump to the top of the NL in a few seasons if everything goes as planned in Iowa City. The problem is that this won't be the season. Fans of this club should sit by and be patient and things should soon come around.

I think this division will be led by Trenton again. They have a very solid team and should have no problem winning north of 90 games this season. Fargo may be going through a rebuild, but they still appear to have some good pieces to compete. I think they will at least challenge in the division for most of the season and could possibly take a wild card spot. Helena also appears to be rebuilding and the roster at this time is incomplete. They still have some good pieces and regardless of what they add should finish third in the division. Iowa City was left in shambles be previous ownership and did a great job at improving last season. I think they'll continue to improve this season, but still find them at the bottom of the division.

1.) Trenton
2.) Fargo
3.) Helena
4.) Iowa City

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