Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Season 19 Previews-AL South

AL South
There was much of a surprise in the South last season. Nashville was the dominant team they were expected to be and ran away with the division title. They found themselves in the World Series again after a couple seasons of losing in the ALCS. The championship wasn't meant to be though. They lost to Jackson in a very exciting 7 game series. It's hard to be disappointed about a season like that. San Juan ended up in second in the division again and finished below 500. The franchise has only 1 post season appearance ever and the fans are growing impatient. Tampa Bay continued there post season drought but made steps in the right direction. New Orleans fell off a bit and finished last in the division.

Nashville Nalas
Season 18 record-109-53(AL South Champ, AL Champ)
5 season record-551-259

Offense- Average-1st(.292), OBP-1st(.374), Slg-4th(.465), Runs-2nd(981), HR-9th(214), SB-3rd(162)
Defense- Fielding %-2nd(.988), Double Plays-6th(419), Plus Plays-3rd(104), Minus Plays-2nd(10)
Pitching- ERA-1st(3.63), OAV-2nd(.245), SO-1st(1133), Saves-2nd(54/72)

Key Additions- none
Key Losses- none

Nashville has consistently been one of the teams to beat in the AL for the past 7 seasons as they've put together one heck of a run. Last season the team put up their fifth straight 100 win season and made it to a second World Series in the past 4 seasons. They came up short on the big stage, but it was a great World Series that was decided in 7 games. They were so close. In the off season the team stayed quiet and chose to keep together the young team they've assembled. Offensively this team has been the standard in the AL for quite a few seasons now and last season was no different. They may have lacked some power, but that wasn't enough to keep them from being quite possibly the best offense in the league. This season should be pretty much the same. They still lack some power, but the hitting on the team is unmatched and they have good speed as well. The defense is also among the best in the league. They have great gloves for almost every position in the field, but I think they lack a great shortstop. That's not enough to knock them down from the top tier though. This defense is still elite. The pitching last season was the best in the AL. The rotation is led by Alex Martis, Dan Siebert and Jeremi Rice, who form a great top end. The rotation is weaker after those three, but they are enough to put the group among the best in the league. The bullpen is pretty good as well. Maybe not as strong as the rotation, but still a pretty solid group. The pitching staff should be pretty good again this season and will likely rank among the top teams in the league. Overall, I think Nashville is going to be tough to beat and has their sights set on a return trip to the World Series. They are my favorite to win the AL at this point.

San Juan Pollos Hermanos
Season 18 record-77-85
5 season record-348-462

Offense- Average-12th(.262), OBP-9th(.334), Slg-11th(.419), Runs-9th(792), HR-11th(197), SB-6th(98)
Defense- Fielding %-4th(.986), Double Plays-8th(417), Plus Plays-8th(66), Minus Plays-6th(24)
Pitching- ERA-6th(4.29), OAV-5th(.261), SO-4th(1104), Saves-13th(35/57)

Key Additions- RP Junior Brogna(FA)
Key Losses- RP Gabe Gorecki(FA), RP Ezdra Johnson(FA), SP Edgardo Lugo(FA)

Over the past four seasons this team has steadily seen their win total climb to a respectable level from the 60 wins back in season 14. Last season ended with a second straight second place finish in the division and gave a little hope for the fans in San Juan. They've never won the division and have only seen the post season once. The climb in victories are hopefully a sign of things to come. They didn't make many moves in the off season and have a really young club that should continue to get better. The offense was pretty average last season. The didn't hit well or hit for power, but did steal some bases and scored runs at a decent rate. This season the team still lacks power and the hitting seems a bit below average. They do have some speed though. The offense looks about the same. The defense was pretty good. They have a couple real good shortstops and a pretty good centerfielder. This isn't the best defense around, but they are pretty good and should be one of the better teams in the league. The pitching was above average last season. I don't like that they saved only 35 games and blew 22 saves though. The rotation is pretty good and led by Napoleon Hallman, Darren Banks and Diego Valbuena. That is a pretty good top of the rotation. The rotation looks pretty good and is definitely a strength of the team. The bullpen though isn't as impressive. Carlton Harding isn't the pitcher he used to be and Junior Brogna is solid, but outside of them the bullpen doesn't have much going for it. If the bullpen was better then this would be one of the top staffs in the AL, but right now they are just above average. I have to say that the team looks pretty average right now, but they aren't far off from breaking into the above average group with a couple moves.

Tampa Bay Thunders
Season 18 record-75-87
5 season record-397-413

Offense- Average-5th(.271), OBP-6th(.338), Slg-8th(.432), Runs-5th(856), HR-7th(215), SB-4th(154)
Defense- Fielding %-12th(.982), Double Plays-16th(324), Plus Plays-15th(28), Minus Plays-13th(57)
Pitching- ERA-12th(5.20), OAV-9th(.269), SO-10th(1052), Saves-11th(40/59)

Key Additions- RP Ezdra Johnson(FA)
Key Losses- RP Bert Jordan(FA)

Tampa Bay at one time was the team to beat in this division. From season 5 through season 11 they won the division in each season. Since then the franchise has failed to make the post season. They've just missed out a few times in that span, but the past three seasons haven't gone so well. Last season was a step back towards the winning side of things after a fourth place 69 win season in season 17. Tampa finished third last season and improved to 75 victories. They stayed pretty quiet in the off season, but I really like the addition of Ezdra Johnson to the bullpen. They also have a good group of younger players on this team that should continue to develop. Not to mention some good young prospects in the minors that well be on the way over the next few seasons. Last season the offense was good. The could hit well, scored runs well, had a little power, and stole plenty of bases. I like the power on the team this season and would be surprised if the home runs didn't improve. They also have a good group of hitters that will likely get the team ranked among the best in the AL. The have some good speed also. This is a well rounded offense and I think they can improve upon last season and end up as one of the best offenses in the AL. The defense was one of the worst in the AL last season. Defense is a big weakness for the team. I don't like the shortstop or centerfield situation in Tampa and they don't have good gloves for most positions. I think they'll rank near the bottom again. The pitching last season was pretty bad. The rotation isn't great, but they are average. Young starter Claude Collins should have a good season and he is going to be a top starter in the league. Bo Carter is a good young starter also and with those 2 in the rotation they do have something to build around. The bullpen looks pretty good this season. The addition of Johnson helps. The team has 4 good bullpen arms that are going to really help this season. The pitching staff looks solid and should have a better season than last season, but the defense could hurt that prediction. Overall Tampa looks like a solid team and should at least challenge for a post season spot. I think they'll make a step forward this season and finish above 500 at the very least.

New Orleans Nighthawks
Season 18 record-68-94
5 season record-363-447

Offense- Average-14th(.258), OBP-13th(.325), Slg-6th(.437), Runs-10th(789), HR-5th(233), SB-10th(89)
Defense- Fielding %-10th(.983), Double Plays-3rd(432), Plus Plays-6th(81), Minus Plays-10th(46)
Pitching- ERA-9th(4.90), OAV-12th(.280), SO-12th(1015), Saves-9th(42/60)

Key Additions- C Tanyon Paige(promoted), 1B Kenny Beard(FA), OF Luke Ryan(FA)
Key Losses- OF Wascar Martinez(FA)

It's been a long time since that 97 win wild card season back in season 9 for this franchise. They've been in a playoff drought ever since and the last winning season they had was way back in season 10. The past couple seasons have seen them fall further behind and last season was the first time the franchise has finished in fourth place in the division. They stayed fairly quiet in the off season, but didn't lose much and added a few pieces to help. They have a couple younger players in the big leagues in Sam Slotnick and Braden Fussell that are pretty good, but the roster has some older players that don't do much for the longer term plan. They do have some solid pitching prospects in the minors that will help out over the next few seasons, but they aren't quite ready to help out yet. Last season the offense was below average. They didn't hit well, but did have some power. This season they look about the same. Luke Ryan and Kenny Beard will help them hit a bit better, but not enough to make them above average. This team lacks real contact hitters and the offense as a whole is below average. The defense was about average. They showed decent range with a good plus play number though. I like shortstop Vin Hernandez, but the defense altogether isn't good enough to break into the upper half of the league. They really look about the same as last season. The pitching was pretty average last season. The rotation looks below average and could use some help. The bullpen looks good though. I think the bullpen is probably the best strength the team has. The staff is probably just below average. I think the team will likely struggle this season again, but they have some solid players and should continue to get better over the next few seasons when some of the young pitching prospects are ready to contribute.

Nashville is a tough team and will likely be making another run at 100 wins and the AL championship. They are just too good to be challenged for the division title. San Juan looks like an average to below average team and won't put any pressure on Nashville and would need a lot of things to go right to get into the post season. Tampa Bay looks like a team that could surprise, but I don't think they can take the division. A wild card spot is a real possibility though. New Orleans just has too many holes still and could be in for a long season.

1. Nashville
2. Tampa Bay
3. San Juan
4. New Orleans

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