Tuesday, December 27, 2011

NL North Season 18 Preview

NL North
It appears that times are changing in this division. A division that for so long has been led by Fargo has now seen Trenton take the last 2 division titles. For Trenton, it was a very successful season as they not only won the division, but won the National league title as well. That team that dominated for so long, Fargo, has now missed the post season for the past 2 seasons and appear well on their way to rebuilding. They still took second in the division, but had their first losing record in team history. Helena has disappointed in each season since winning the franchises first division title back in season 14 as they finished third again. They've seen their win total drop in each of the past 3 seasons now. Iowa City appears to be on the way up in this division. Since that terrible season in season 15, they have improved in each season since under the new ownership. They finished fourth, but are primed to keep moving forward. The division didn't look as strong as usual last season and things are changing in the north as new teams are moving to the front of the pack.

Trenton Thunders
Season 17 record- 96-66(NL North Champs, NL Champs)
5 year record- 408-402

Offense- Average-2nd(.270), OBP-3rd(.337), Slg-12th(.398), Runs-5th(823), HR-14th(153), SB-1st(357)
Defense- Fld %-3rd(.986), Plus Plays-3rd(77), Minus Plays-4th(29)
Pitching- ERA-4th(3.93), OAV-3rd(.242), SO-5th(1134), Saves-1st(57/72)

Key Additions- None
Key Losses- None

Trenton is a team on the move up. Under qtip32, this team started out slow, but the past 3 seasons have been steps in the right direction for them. They finally won the division for the first time in season 16 and followed it up with another title last season to prove it was no fluke. Last season they set a franchise record in victories with 96 and went on to the World Series where they lost to Syracuse. Baby steps. Maybe this season they can get over the top and take it all. They really made no significant moves in the off season, choosing to stick with what worked for them. Why not? The team is made up with 15 first round picks and a couple second round picks. Mix in some IFA's and they have a good base. Offensively they were among the best in the NL last season. The only thing they lacked was power. They haven't changed anything offensively and should finish real close to how they finished last season. They were also a really good defensive team. I don't like the shortstop situation in Trenton, but they have good gloves at most positions. I think they over achieved last season and will probably fall off a bit this season. The pitching was another strength for them last season. They have some real good pitchers on the staff, but most of the starters have lower stamina and won't get deep into games which will stress the bullpen. Good thing for them though is they've got a real good bullpen as well. The pitching staff looks strong and should be pretty good this season. This team is pretty good, but I don't think they are a great team. The defense worries me a bit with them as well as the lack of power. They do seem to have a formula for success so I'm going to say they'll be tough to beat for this division championship. Heck, if they don't win the division then they still would get a wild card as this is a 90+ win team again this season.

Fargo Wood Chippers
Season 17 record- 79-83
5 year record- 439-371

Offense- Average-4th(.268), OBP-8th(.330), Slg-4th(.436), Runs-11th(728), HR-6th(222), SB-16th(14)
Defense- Fld %-6th(.985), Plus Plays-11th(39), Minus Plays-16th(64)
Pitching- ERA-10th(4.31), OAV-13th(.273), SO-3rd(1146), Saves-8th(45/62)

Key Additions- C Orber Beltran(tr-Cha), SP Orlando Nieves(tr-Nas)
Key Losses- C Pablo Maduro(tr-Bos), SP Charles Hayashi(tr-Bos), 2B Pepper Bennett(tr-Bos), RP Ruben Molina(tr-Cha), 3B Dave Thompson(tr-Cha), RP Tom Leonard(tr-Nas), OF/3B Spike Maxwell(FA), SP Roland Sweeney(FA), SP Karim Ontiveros(FA), SS Willie Blank(FA), 3B Omar Siqueiros(FA)

Owner Starbuckdc has stated that this season they are "Burning down the house." I guess that means it's time to rebuild. After 14 division titles in the first 15 seasons, you had to know this day was coming. After missing the post season the past 2 seasons, they've decided that it is now time. Really though, they were starting the rebuild last season. This season though, they've made quite a few trades and let some big free agents walk. The additions were more geared towards future seasons and the losses were as well. They now have 8 picks in the top 81 of the draft. They should be able to add some players that will fill spots nicely in the future. The big picture though is that they saved some money up and should be able to compete for some solid IFA's the next couple seasons to go with some draft picks. Offensively this team was pretty average last season. They could hit well, but didn't score many runs. This season it's a completely different squad. They have some good power in the lineup, but I don't see them hitting enough to really be a threat offensively. I really like the addition of Beltran though as that is a young player that will hit and get on base. The defense was mostly average last season as well and they lacked range. They have an OK shortstop, but no centerfielder. Overall this is a bad defensive team that likely will drop close to the bottom of the league. The pitching was a big disappointment for this team last season. They were below average with some really good pitchers. The losses of Ontiveros and Sweeney really hurt and those guys are irreplaceable. The rotation this season looks bad. I'm actually thinking it may be one of the worst in the league. I like Nieves, but they have little besides him. The bullpen isn't very good either. This pitching staff is in shambles. They are going to give up a lot of runs this season. Overall this team is rebuilding and have many weaknesses. They may be battling for the first pick in next seasons draft, but they won't be in it for the division title this season.

Helena Ass Hats
Season 17 record- 74-88
5 year record- 387-423

Offense- Average-16th(.247), OBP-15th(.309), Slg-13th(.396), Runs-14th(645), HR-9th(194), SB-7th(121)
Defense- Fld %-15th(.981), Plus Plays-7th(52), Minus Plays-14th(55)
Pitching- ERA-9th(4.27), OAV-10th(.266), SO-10th(1080), Saves-3rd(53/75)

Key Additions- RF Don Masato(FA)
Key Losses- SP Russell Wheeler(FA)

moosedrool enters a 14th season running this franchise. In his time here the team has been near the top of the division for most of it and has led the team to 6 post season berths, 1 World championship and 1 division title. While the division titles have been elusive, the team has been competitive more than not. The past 3 seasons has seen the teams victories decline in each of them. Last season was the third worst in franchise history. With Fargo rebuilding, now could be the time to sneak into the top of the division. Surprisingly though, the team did very little in the off season to get to that point. Offensively this team was not very good last season. The addition of Masato adds some power to the lineup though. They do have some good hitters in the lineup, but the depth of that isn't very good. This offense is still lacking a bit and shouldn't improve too much from last season. They weren't very good defensively either. The lack a good shortstop and most positions feature less than average gloves. I don't see the defense improving upon last season. The pitching was average last season. They have a shutdown number 1 starter, but the rest of the rotation isn't very good. The bullpen is a bit less than average as well. This team is another team that appears to be rebuilding and likely won't compete for the division title this season. I don't think they'll be terrible, but 70 wins is probably the goal here.

Iowa City Hawkeyes
Season 17 record- 68-94
5 year record- 304-506

Offense- Average-15th(.251), OBP-16th(.305), Slg-16th(.353), Runs-16th(562), HR-16th(135), SB-9th(93)
Defense- Fld %-6th(.985), Plus Plays-4th(63), Minus Plays-3rd(25)
Pitching- ERA-3rd(3.85), OAV-4th(.253), SO-16th(1016), Saves-15th(40/51)

Key Additions- 3B Kory Garland(FA), CF Spike Maxwell(FA), RF Julio Owen(FA), SP Deivi Valentin(FA)
Key Losses- SP Tony Ramirez(FA), RP Farmer Davis(FA)

Iowa City is a team to watch this season. Entering a third season at the helm, tk21775 has seen an opening in the division and made some moves to improve this club in the off season. They gained more than they lost in the off season. Management has stated that this was the season that they circled on the calendar when taking over as the season to make moves to put themselves in contention. This is one team that took advantage of the deep free agent pool. The spent some big money and went after some type A players to try and take the division crown for the first time in franchise history. Offensively is where this team needed help. The were terrible last season. They added some power to the lineup with Maxwell and Garland. Owen should hit well for them as well. This lineup is much better than last season, but I'm not ready to call it a threatening lineup yet. They should however be an upper half of the league offense. They also have some speed and will likely lean on that to win games this season. The defense was above average last season and a strength of the team. I really like this defense. They may be one of the better d's in the NL this season. The pitching was pretty good last season as well. The rotation is pretty solid. Not great, but solid. The bullpen features a couple really good arms as well. Over the past few seasons, they've really added some nice young arms coming up through the system. Even though they won't help this season, the staff has a solid base for when they do arrive and this team will continue to get better. This is a greatly improved team this season and should be real tough. They could even take the division this season, but if not then this is a wild card contender for sure. They have some holes, but those holes are closing.

Wow have things changed in this division. The 2 teams that were regularly at the bottom are the 2 that will battle it out for the top spot this season. Trenton is a good team as they proved last season and will be tough to knock from the top. Iowa City is a team on the rise and should give Trenton a real battle for the top spot. Fargo is a team rebuilding and not really focusing as much on this season as they are on a few seasons down the road. Helena is another team that isn't going to contend this season and is more focused on the future. I'm sure my predictions here will be bulletin board fodder for the team that I don't pick to win it.

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

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