Thursday, July 12, 2012

Season 20 NL North Preview

NL North
The NL North was a very tough division in season 19. Division winner Trenton finished the season with a league leading 106 wins. Trenton looked ready to make a splash in the post season but was eliminated in the second round in a 5 game series. Iowa City took a small step back last year finishing with 91 wins, still impressive. Even with 91 wins, Iowa City failed to make the post season after making the post season for the first time in franchise history back in season 18.  Continuing the rebuilding process, Fargo had a franchise worst record, finishing with a 60-102 record.Under very good and experienced ownership it only a matter of time before Fargo becomes a contender. Detroit finished in the basement for a second consecutive season. This off season we saw Detroit move to Montreal and new ownership put in place in hopes of turning around the franchise's losing ways.

Trenton Thunders
Season 19 Record: 106-56 (NL North Champ)
5 Season Record: 476-334
Owner: qtip32: 745-726 (3 division titles)

Offense 1 Defense 1 Pitching
Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank
Average .278 3 Fielding % .982 21 ERA 3.54 3
Home Runs 156 31 Double Plays 401 17 Opp. Avg. .239 3
Ops. .759 14 + Plays 61 15 Stike Outs 1108 8
Runs 882 5 - Plays 31 14 Saves 53 7
Steals 345 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Slugging .412 21 1 1 1 1 1 1

Key Additions- None

Key Losses- RP Phil Krause(FA), SP Dean Harvey(FA)

The Trenton Thunders have been in control of the NL North for a few seasons now. They've won the division three of the last four years and earned a wild card spot once. Season 19 was a bitter sweet year for qtip32. Under his ownership, Trenton finished with a franchise record of 106-56 but failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs. This team is poised to be a top tier team in the NL with young star Raymond Petrov leading the way.

This team was above average in offense last season. They scored 882 runs but somehow finished 31st in homers. Raymond Petrov had a solid year finishing with a .277 avg, 22 home runs and 72 RBIs, not bad for a player who is only 25. Eddie Delahanty is another big player in Trentons' offense. Delahanty finished with a .311 avg and 61 steals. Trenton's offense is old school and built around small ball. This team can get on base, where the real damage is done. 345 steals last season led all of Pine Tar. Combine that with such a deep line-up and this team is a terror on the base paths. Overall Trenton has a very good offense but they lack any  real power. Thats not necessarily a bad thing though. Can you imagine this team with one big slugger in the middle of the order? Grade B+ 

Defense was the weak spot of this franchise in season 19. Ranking toward the middle of the league in all major defensive categories, Trenton has room to improve. If they added a true defensive short stop in the off season it would of greatly improved this team. With no major signing though Trenton looks to be content with the solid gloves they have in the field. This team has sacrificed defense for offense but their defense isn't too bad, average with plenty of room to improve. Grade C

Trenton's pitching staff is very good. Ranked 3rd in ERA, Opp Avg and 8th in K's, pitching is the backbone of this team. This team has a three headed monster of  Tony Fernandez, Al Rosaio and Rudy Baker at the top of the rotation. These three combine for 51 wins and 19 losses, you cant ask for more out of your top three starters. To compliment the starters, Trenton also has a very good bullpen. David Ortiz and Ivan Carrasco are just two above average guys in the pen. This team has a pitching staff that is the real deal and will be a tough out if Trenton makes the playoffs. Grade A

It wouldn't be surprising to see Trenton take the NL North crown again this season. This team has above average pitching and an offense that will make any opposing pitcher have a hard time. Trenton looks ready to take the next step and win a championship in the next couple seasons.

Iowa City Hawkeyes
Season 19 Record: 91-71
5 Season Record: 359-451
Owner: tk21775: 327-334 (1 division title)

Offense 1 Defense 1 Pitching
Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank
Average .259 23 Fielding % .988 3 ERA 3.34 1
Home Runs 188 22 Double Plays 384 26 Opp. Avg. .235 2
Ops. .725 26 + Plays 85 7 Stike Outs 1075 13
Runs 681 27 - Plays 6 1 Saves 52 9
Steals 52 9 1 1 1 1 1 1
Slugging .404 24 1 1 1 1 1 1

Key Additions- 1B Jose Alfonzo(Promoted),  DH Neifi Mathews(FA)

Key Losses- DH Joseph Bang(FA)

One of the more underrated teams in Pine Tar, Iowa City is due for a breakout season. This team missed the playoffs last year even though they posted a 91-71 record. Owner tk21775 has turned the page in Iowa City from the losing ways of the past to the winning ways of now. This club has had consecutive 90+ wins in a season for the last two years. Hard to believe just five seasons ago this team only had 39 wins.

In season 19 offense wasn't a strength of the Iowa City Hawkeyes. They were in the bottom half of the league in most offensive categories. This team did damage on the base paths finishing with 52 steals and 7th in the league.  Kory Garland had a great season with 26 homers and 90 RBI's. Even with those numbers i could see Garland improving a bit in his home run numbers and RBIs. The acquisition of Neifi Mathews this off season will add some much needed pop in the middle of the order. Mathews is a journeyman who has played in many different ballparks so i don't see his home runs taking a dip this year. He should hit anywhere from 40-50 long balls. Jose Alfonso has made his long awaited ML debut this season and should be a big help to the offense. He is a solid bat plus he adds more speed to the line-up. Overall this offense will be better in Season 20 with those two additions. Grade C+

Iowa City only committed 6 minus plays in all of Season 19. The last time a team had less then 6 minus plays was way back in Season 8.  The Hawkeyes defense ranked in the top of the league last year. Bert Biggio is a great fielder holing down the middle infield. Aramis Cordera can field just about any position which is always a benefit when injuries start to stack up. The only place where Iowa City can improve defensively is second base or short stop, depending on which position Cordera plays. Double plays is the only flaw in this teams defense. The Hawkeyes defense is very good and should be just as good in Season 20, if not better.
Grade A-

Pitching is Iowa City's major strength. A team ERA of 3.34 lead all of Pine Tar last year. Sticky Farquhar when 17-7 and posted a 2.71 ERA, not bad for a rookie. Deivi Valentin and Matty Andujar help round out a very solid rotation that's only getting better. Stud setup man, Brendan Taylor, will head a very good bullpen for the Hawkeyes. Combine Taylor with Dennis Coleman and they will shut down most late inning rallies. This team has a very strong pitching staff which will carry Iowa City to a lot of wins and possible a playoff berth. Grade A-

This franchise should make the post season this year with all the pieces they have in place. Iowa City is a young team and will be a contender for years to come. This team only needs one or two pieces to really hit the next level and make it deep into the playoffs. Watch for this team to make a big move in Season 20 by making a trade to add one more big bat. The Hawkeyes look ready to take the NL by storm and make the post season by either dethroning Trenton or clinching a wild card spot.

Fargo Wood Chippers
Season 19 Record: 60-102
5 Season Record: 378-432
Owner: Starbuckdc: 1784-1307 (2 World Series Titles, 14 division titles)

Offense 1 Defense 1 Pitching
Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank
Average .256 26 Fielding % .976 31 ERA 5.04 29
Home Runs 159 30 Double Plays 407 14 Opp. Avg. .289 30
Ops. .695 31 + Plays 22 32 Stike Outs 1042 20
Runs 619 32 - Plays 105 32 Saves 34 28
Steals 28 32 1 1 1 1 1 1
Slugging .379 31 1 1 1 1 1 1

Key Additions- CF Saul Trevino(Promoted)

Key Losses- IF Vic Diaz(FA)

Season 19 was a down year for the rebuilding Fargo Wood Chippers. This team finished with a record of 60-102 but came in 3rd place in the division. Owner Starbuckdc has been rebuilding the franchise for the past two season. Management is still looking for pitching before any young players will be promoted to the majors.The draft helped this team in a big way by giving them future stud Zip Sullivan with the third overall pick. Historically Fargo has been a premier team in Pine Tar winning the NL North for 13 straight years. With that in mind it shouldn't be long before this team is ready to compete again.

The Chippers offense struggled in Season 19 but they look to improve this year. Ranked toward the bottom of the league in every category, this team had some needs to address. The addition of Cather Ron Hudek is a big help. Hudek adds a middle of the order bat with his .306 avg and his 50 walks. Julian Prieto made his ML debut in season 19 as well. As a rookie played in 73 games, finishing with 7 homers and 27 RBIs. Prieto will be a nice piece in this offense in the seasons to come. Saul Trevino will make his ML debut in season 20.
Trevino is another stud player who will have a big impact on this team. He can cruch lefties and he should be a stolen base threat. Fargo has some very good power in Luis Barrios, Geraldo Martin and Herm Terrell who are all under the age of 27. Offensively this team does have needs but they are being adressed with young good prospects every year. Grade C

Pitching is another weak spot for Fargo. This team has a lot of needs in the rotation and the bullpen. Orlando Nieves was a bright spot for the Chipper is season 19. He finished with a 13-16 record but he can still be a part of quality rotation. Jamie Saito made his ML debut last season. Saito had a down year last season and looks to rebound in season 20. Overall this team has a good bullpen which will help them win close games. This teams rotation is in need of some help which will probably be worked on through the draft as Fargo continues to rebuild. Grade C

Fargo had a very bad defense last season. Ranked almost last in plus plays, minus plays, and fielding percentage. This team lacks a true short stop and second baseman. Julian Prieto should grow into a very good middle infielder but he is still young and isn't ready to field at a high level right now.  The loss of Vic Diaz in free agency hurts Fargo defensively and he is hard to replace. The Wood Chippers should be about the same as last year defensively. Grade D

As Fargo continues the grueling rebuilding process the major league team looks to be in the bottom of the league once again. This team is in full on rebuilding mode and wont make any noise in the National League in season 20.

Montreal Leaf Blowers
Season 19 Record: 59-103
5 Season Record: 351-459
Owner: optistrat

Offense 1 Defense 1 Pitching
Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank
Average .262 17 Fielding % .977 28 ERA 4.83 25
Home Runs 166 27 Double Plays 364 28 Opp. Avg. .287 29
Ops. .725 26 + Plays 22 31 Stike Outs 989 28
Runs 674 29 - Plays 101 31 Saves 42 21
Steals 81 21 1 1 1 1 1 1
Slugging .402 26 1 1 1 1 1 1

Key Additions- OF Garland Easley(tr-lou), C Harry Mateo(FA)

Key Losses- RP Carlos Flores(tr-lou)

Formerly the Detroit Tigers, the Montreal Leaf Blowers look for a new start under new ownership and a new city. Optistrat's first season in Pine Tar with Montreal will likely be a dull one. This team has been on the decline since season 14 and is in desperate need of a rebuild. Montreal has the third pick in Season 20's draft which will help them get into the rebuilding process.

This team had a decent offense last year. The new ballpark will be a huge help in making this team produce some runs. Detroit's Comerica Park is more of a pitchers park which made this teams offensive numbers look a lot worse then they should of been. The addition of Julio Silva last season helped Montreal in a couple ways. Silva had 32 homers and 105 RBI's, not bad in a pitchers park. Stud prospect Houston Graves had a big second year in the majors also, he had 19 home runs and 56 RBI's while batting a .275. Graves played in all 162 games in season 19. Montreal does have one big power hitter too, Don Masato. Masato only played in 44 games last year and only hit four long balls. Look for him to have a come back year is season 20. Overall this team has some solid hitters and some young players who will contribute. Given the new ballpark I think this team will improve offensively. Grade C+ 

Montreal has a pitching staff that is in need of some help. The rotation only has one pitcher who is above average, Mat Stults. This team does have setup man Mike Clinton who will be some much needed help in the bullpen. Clinton will be a rookie in Season 20 and a bright spot in the pitching staff. This franchise didn't add much this off season to improve the rotation or the bullpen so i wouldn't look forward to any major improvements.  Grade C-

Defensively this team should be solid in season 20. Managment traded for Garland Easley who is still young an he might grow a little more. Easley isn't a great fielder but he is still an upgrade. Jorge Lopez will be a very solid infielder who will help the defense a lot. This team doesn't look to be above average defensively in season 20 but they should be solid. A couple moves this season to improve the defense would be a big help.
Grade C

Montreal looks to keep rebuilding in season 20 and more then likely will be at the bottom of the NL North. This team is a couple seasons away from being a contender but they are heading in the right direction.. Young players and a high draft pick will be the highlights for season 20. Overall this team looks to be in the bottom of the National League and won't be in a playoff race.

The NL North is a tough division with two top tier teams, Trenton and Iowa City. Trenton looks ready to defend their division title this season and more then likely will. Iowa City is a very good team with loads of talented players but they don't look ready to take the division crown. The Hawkeyes look poised to take a wildcard spot and make some noise in the playoffs. Fargo is going to continue to rebuild and is still a couple seasons away from competing. Montreal is a very young team and will continue the rebuilding process.

2.Iowa City

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