Season 18 brought us a new champ in this division. The Iowa City franchise had long been one of the worst franchise's in Pine Tar, but last season the fortunes finally changed and they won their first division title. That division title earned them a first trip to the post season. Trenton earned a wild card spot after finishing just 1 game from the top spot in the division. It was quite possibly one of the best division title races in quite some time. Fargo, as expected, dropped off a bit farther last season as they continue to rebuild and finished third. The franchise that was in Helena was real bad last season and with that the ownership decided to leave and turn over the franchise to someone new. With that they picked up and moved to Detroit. They are in a prime position to rebuild the franchise with the first pick in this seasons draft.
Iowa City Hawkeyes
Season 18 record-97-65(NL North Champ)
5 season record-328-482
Offense- Average-14th(.255), OBP-15th(.315), Slg-10th(.405), Runs-14th(708), HR-9th(195), SB-8th(96)
Defense- Fielding %-1st(.987), Double Plays-4th(396), Plus Plays-4th(77), Minus Plays-1st(16)
Pitching- ERA-2nd(3.42), OAV-3rd(.240), SO-12th(1039), Saves-3rd(58/70)
Key Additions- SP Matty Andujar(tr-Ana)
Key Losses- RP Oliver Bland(FA), RP Vin Segui(FA)
Iowa City made huge strides last season. A franchise that just never could get into the post season finally earned a trip. They didn't make it as far as they'd have liked, but it was a huge step considering where the franchise has been since season 1. It was actually just the second time in franchise history that the club posted a winning record. I personally thought it was going to take longer to get this franchise into the post season after the previous owner killed a couple drafts and didn't do much with the minors or majors. In the off season they added a solid starting pitcher in Andujar and didn't lose anything significant. If this team had a glaring weakness last season it was the offense. They ranked near the bottom of the league offensively. They are a bit short on power, but they have some players that can be a threat with the long ball. They don't have the best contact hitters, but they have some guys that can hit for a good average. This is an area the team still needs to improve. Defensively this team was great last season. Quite possibly the best in the league. They have a couple guys that could be gold glove type shortstops and have another couple that could hold down centerfield. This team is great defensively. The pitching was also one of the best in the league last season. The rotation isn't great, but they are solid and the great defense behind them helps. The bullpen looks good and are led by a couple really good relievers in Dennis Coleman and Rondell Kirwan. The pitching staff looks good, but not great. With the help of the defense I expect them to be among the best in the league again though. This team is solid and should make another run at the division title this season. I think they'll continue to improve and likely be one of the top teams in the NL for some time.
Season 18 record-96-66(Wild Card)
5 season record-441-369
Offense- Average-10th(.261), OBP-6th(.332), Slg-15th(.378), Runs-11th(728), HR-16th(132), SB-1st(299)
Defense- Fielding %-3rd(.985), Double Plays-6th(388), Plus Plays-5th(72), Minus Plays-4th(28)
Pitching- ERA-3rd(3.43), OAV-1st(.235), SO-2nd(1176), Saves-2nd(61/70)
Key Additions- RP Geronimo Osuna(promoted), 3B Jim Campbell(promoted)
Key Losses- RP Ryan Maloney(tr-Scr), SP Bud Donnels(FA), RP Max Guillen(FA)
Trenton has been on quite a nice run this past 4 seasons. They've been right around the top of the division over this time and have even won 2 division titles with a World Series appearance. Last season they came up just short of the division title in a tight race with Iowa City, but ended up earning a wild card spot anyway. In the off season they made a couple nice promotions, but lost a few key players. Last season this team was a below average offensive team. They got on base at a nice rate, but the power was last in the league and they didn't score enough. They did lead the league in steals though. This season they still don't have much power and the hitting isn't among the tops in the NL. They have some guys that can get on base though and should still be in the upper half of the league in OBP. They are blazing fast though and will steal a lot of bases again which should help them score runs. The team looks like they can at least do a better job at scoring runs this season which would put them above average offensively. The defense was among the best in the NL last season. I think they could use a better shortstop and possibly centerfielder, but the team has good gloves for every other position. Overall it's an above average defense. The team really excels at pitching. They were among the best in the league last season. The rotation has some good arms, but nobody that stands out as an ace. The bullpen is really solid though. They have quite a few good bullpen arms that will shut down opponents late in games. If this team has a late lead then it should be locked up more times than not. Overall it is a good staff and should be one of the best again. This team is solid all around and should make another push for the division title. If they can't take the division then they are going to be tough to knock out of a wild card spot.
Fargo Wood Chippers
Season 18 record-61-101
5 season record-405-405
Offense- Average-12th(.258), OBP-13th(.320), Slg-8th(.416), Runs-13th(714), HR-6th(215), SB-16th(31)
Defense- Fielding %-16th(.974), Double Plays-15th(334), Plus Plays-11th(38), Minus Plays-16th(79)
Pitching- ERA-16th(5.42), OAV-16th(.293), SO-15th(970), Saves-13th(35/54)
Key Additions- none
Key Losses- RP Polin Castillo(FA)
Ownership in Fargo is claiming that this will be another lost season. The plan is to compete in a couple seasons if they can lock up some young pitching through the draft or IFA's. Last season was the third straight season without a playoff berth for this team that had never missed them until that time. With 2 World Championships and 5 World Series appearances ownership has proved that they know how to win and desire to win. I'm sure the fans in Fargo won't be disappointed once this team is finished rebuilding. Offensively the team was a below average team last season. They did have power though. The team isn't really a threat offensively this season, but once again they have a few guys that can knock one out of the park when needed. The defense was quite possibly the worst in the league in season 18. Vic Diaz is a solid shortstop, but they really lack good gloves at just about every other position. The defense doesn't look very good heading into season 19. The pitching ranked at the bottom of the league also. Orlando Nieves is a solid young starter to build around, but the rotation isn't very strong. The bullpen could use some help also. The staff is looking rough. The team will likely struggle this season, but all hope is not lost. They have some good young players on the squad to build around and the minors look like they have some good prospects that aren't too far off from helping.
Season 18 record-55-107
5 season record-384-426
Offense- Average-15th(.250), OBP-16th(.311), Slg-13th(.391), Runs-15th(657), HR-11th(169), SB-9th(93)
Defense- Fielding %-15th(.976), Double Plays-10th(379), Plus Plays-10th(42), Minus Plays-9th(43)
Pitching- ERA-15th(5.16), OAV-15th(.276), SO-16th(955), Saves-16th(33/50)
Key Additions- 1B Matty Coco(FA), C Harry Mateo(FA), LF Tiny Thomes(FA), 2B Preston Williams(FA)
Key Losses- RP Peaches Vasquez(FA)
Here we have a team that is in full rebuild mode. The franchise has seen the record dip each of the past 4 seasons to a franchise low of 55 last season. The former owner decided it was time to get out of the business and sold the team. The new owner has the task of getting this team back to where it was for so long, a solid playoff team. Unfortunately it looks as though this owner has already bailed on the team. They made some roster additions in the off season and didn't lose too much, but the roster is not full as we head into the season. I'm not even going to bother reviewing a team that I can't give an accurate account for due to this. Sorry.
Well, Iowa City and Trenton are looking like they are going to battle for the top spot all season long. This could be quite a good race once again. Both are good teams and should make the post season. Fargo is a team clearly rebuilding and focusing on the future division titles they plan on winning. Detroit, I'm confused about since the owner seemed interested, but doesn't have a complete roster at the time of this writing, which is scary since the season starts today.
2. Iowa City