Monday, April 1, 2013

AL North Season 23 Preview

The days of dominance in the AL North look like they've come to an end. Dover has risen to the top of the division and have won 3 of the past 5 division titles. They dominated the division last season and won it by 11 games while matching the second most victories in franchise history. The Kansas City franchise made it to the post season for the 13th consecutive time, but dropped 11 victories from the previous season. With new ownership in place, they will have to find a way to get younger and cut salary. The Syracuse franchise has also found new ownership and now have had 6 owners in 5 seasons. That has led them to 4 straight seasons of missing the playoffs. While they haven't gone into full rebuild mode, it may be time for that. The New York Damage Controllers have now finished fourth in the division for the past 5 seasons. Last season showed some improvement and they are a team that is on the way up.

Dover Dinklebergs
Average.2727Fielding %.9901ERA4.084
Home Runs2394Double Plays38610Opp. Avg..2522
Ops..7985+ Plays823Strike Outs11054
Runs8933- Plays406Saves484

Season 20 Record- 101-61(AL North Champs)
Last 5 seasons- 485-325

Key Off Season Moves
Extended the contract of 1B John Pong
Extended the contract of P Enrique Santiago
Signed SP Ivan Bautista
Signed SP Darren Miller
Signed SPWoody Sheridan
Signed SP Lou Offerman

Offense-Dover ranked in the upper half of the AL offensively in season 22. They hit for good power, had a decent average, decent speed and finished third in runs. They have some pretty good hitter with good power for sure. Armando Mota was the league MVP and is a great player to have in the middle of the order. John Pong is another great hitter as well as Jim McCormick. Christopher Herman is another good hitter, but he is even a great defensive catcher as well. They didn't add to the offense this off season, but the extension to John Pong was needed and will keep him around longer to continue to help this offense. Dover has a pretty good offense though and should finish near the top of the league again.

Defense-Dover had a great defense last season. They were the best in the league with the glove and even showed really good range. They have 3 really good options at short with Fritz Dydalewicz, Jolbert Alomar, and Santos Guevara. Alomar played mostly center though last season and won a gold glove there. Dydalewicz played third and also won a gold glove. I would assume that one of them goes to short with rookie Brent Summers moving to centerfield. Realistically this team has so many options that they can do in the field that would all work out well for them. This team is a top defense still and will likely be at the top again after this season.

Pitching-As with everything else, they also had a really good pitching staff last season. Not content, the team made some moves in the off season. The loss of Karim Ontiveros really hurt, but they did keep the rest of the rotation together. Valerio Duran and Sammy Johnson are both top of the rotation starters. Enrique Santiago is a great middle of the rotation guy. They have many options for the back of the rotation, but I think Woody Sheridan and Ivan Bautista are the best fits. The bullpen features Carlton Redman as the closer and he should be pretty good in that role. Chuck Linden is pretty solid out of the bullpen as well. This pitching staff may not be as dominant as last season, but the rotation is pretty good and has plenty of options. I think they are still a top pitching team

Projection-Dover is a well rounded team and they have plenty of depth at important spots. Offense, check. Defense, check. Pitching, check. They have it all. This team should win the division and at the very least make a challenge for the league title. If things broke their way, they could win it all.

Owner Interview-
Me-Dover has put together a pretty successful fun over the past 5 seasons. The post season hasn't gone so well though except for season 19. What do you feel like this team is lacking to get them to that next level? Did you fill the holes in the off season? What are your expectations for this season? This season is a failure if you don't reach what goal?

tmfran-Thanks, yeah I came into this world with the idea of building a team around 2 big time hitters and defense. Pong and Mota have done very well. Not being able to bring Karim Ontiveros or Ruben Pelaezback will hurt for sure, but both brought Type A comp. I think starting pitching will be what brings us down. I still expect to compete for the division title and a playoff run and once you get in the playoffs anything can happen. To answer your questions a bit better, no I don't think I did a god job filling the holes left by free agency. If my core players are healthy and I don't win at least 85 games, I feel it will be a failure.

Kansas City Hotsteppers
Offense 1 Defense 1 Pitching
Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank Category Stat Rank
Average .287 2 Fielding % .976 15 ERA 4.35 5
Home Runs 246 3 Double Plays 414 8 Opp. Avg. .270 8
Ops. .814 3 + Plays 28 16 Stike Outs 1056 8
Runs 860 6 - Plays 56 13 Saves 47 5
Steals 26 16 1 1 1 1 1 1
Slugging .466 3 1 1 1 1 1 1

Season 20 Record- 90-72(Wild Card)
Last 5 Seasons- 487-323

Key Off Season Moves
Signed C Ivan Uribe to an extension
Re Signed OF Andre Fleming

Offense-This team was really good offensively last season. They hit for average and power. The loss of JJ Kramer will hurt and some of these players are getting older and losing some power. The still have some good hitters in the lineup though. Craig Adkinson is a great middle of the lineup hitter. Peter Cheng is the type of guy that gets on base that teams love at the top of a lineup. Tino House, Andre Fleming, and Yorvit Ortiz are also some good hitters. This offense likely won't be where they were last season, but they should still rank in the upper half of the AL.

Defense-This defense was a mess last season. They ranked near the bottom in some key categories. That's surprising considering that Yorvit Ortiz is a very good shortstop. The problem is that this team lacks quality gloves at other positions. They really lack a quality centerfielder and I don't see a player that is really a thirdbaseman. This defense will likely struggle again this season.

Pitching-Even with the defensive woes, this team had solid pitching last season. They finished fifth in ERA, and saves and were average to above average in most other categories. As with the hitting, this is an aging staff. Future Hall of Famer, Cyrus Torres, is still a quality ace though. Jeremi Rice, Omar Blanco and Enrique Herrera are all solid starters. Dock King has been pitching in the bullpen the past couple seasons, but he makes a better starter, even with his low stamina. Omar Gabriel has been a dominant closer for a long time and still has some left in the tank. Bart Hamelin is a really good setup man. This pitching staff is still really good and should rank in the upper half of the league. I'm just not sure if they are good enough to overcome the poor defense though.

Projection-Kansas City still has a solid team even though they have an old team. The offense is solid, the pitching is good, but the defense is bad. I'm not sure that the pitching and offense will be enough to overcome the weak defense. I think they should still have a winning record, but I don't think they have enough to contend for the division. A wild card is possible, but that depends on how tough the rest of the AL is going to be.

Owner Interview-
ME-Welcome to the league. You're taking over a franchise that has won 3 world championships in Pine Tar. They've been to the post season for 13 straight seasons. They have a fairly high payroll. The team still has some good talent though. What is your plan for this season? Can this team continue the playoff streak? What kind of team is your ideal team(power, contact, fielding pitching)? Give me a prediction for this season.

italinajt-My plan for the season is to retain one of Pine Tar's top players (Peter Cheng) but to greatly reduce payroll and look to the draft for talent. I never have bought into the notion that you can buy a World Series ring. I don't know if the playoffs are readily attainable this year as it's such a drastic philosophical change to the team makeup as well as the number of high talent, high salary players that were released. My ideal vision for the Hotsteppers is a team composed of strong finesse Starting Pitchers and decent fielders at key positions (SS, CF, 2B). I'm predicting a Wild Card finish this year for the Hotsteppers.

Syracuse Crunch
Average.24915Fielding %.9864ERA4.506
Home Runs13615Double Plays38011Opp. Avg..2655
Ops..67816+ Plays685Strike Outs103011
Runs71413- Plays263Saves3512

Season 20 Record- 78-84
Last 5 Seasons- 392-418

Key Off Season Moves
Signed SP Gary Brede
Signed SP Luis Manuel
Signed SS Duke Henderson
Signed CF Fred Danks

Offense-Syracuse just wasn't a very good offensive team last season. They finished at or near the bottom in most categories. They did have solid speed on the bases though. They have a couple of really good hitters in Howard Atkins and Red Smith. Cozy Adams is also a pretty solid hitter as well. The big problem with this team is that those are their only real good hitters. That is why I'll label them as a below average offense

Defense-They sacrificed offense for defense on this team in season 22. The defense was among the best in the AL. They have a really good shortstop in Harold Iannetta. He's not quite gold glove caliber, but he's real close. Fred Danks was brought in to play centerfield and he's got solid range and a decent glove. Besides these guys, the team has solid gloves at all other positions as well. While I don't think they can repeat last seasons performance, I still think they are a good defense.

Pitching-This team was pretty good when it came to pitching last season. They ranked in the upper half of the league. I think some of that had to do with the defense and some had to do with pitchers having really good seasons. The rotation is not particularly strong. The addition of Gary Brede is a nice addition, but he's not an ace, which is what will be asked of him to be. Luis Manuel is a solid addition as well, but he's not a game changer either. Nobody in the bullpen really stands out to me. Lyle Stoddard could be solid as well as Cy Beltre. This pitching staff has plenty of red flags for me and I can't see them repeating last seasons numbers. This looks like a bottom half of the league pitching staff.

Projection-Syracuse is under new ownership, and it can't be expected for them to take a train wreck and make something great out of it. This team needs a steady ownership that can bring them out of the funk and get them back on track. This season will be much of the same that has been going on for the past few seasons. It will be a struggle to reach .500.

Owner Interview-
Me-Welcome to the league. You're tanking over a team that has been down for the past few seasons. What's your plan with this team? You are now the 6th owner in 5 seasons with this team after we had a replacement take over in season 21. That will leave a team a mess since there are many different directions taking by different owners. What direction are you going(rebuild or compete now)? What is your ideal player to build a team around? What can we expect from Syracuse this season?

displacednyr-Thanks for the welcome. Not sure how I am going to handle this team yet. I have plugged a few holes at the ML level, but am still hurting in the minors. At this point it looks like a rebuild is in order. There are a few pieces to help the team be competitive on a daily basis, but that is about it. We will be playing this season as a "Team review in progress"!!

New York Damage Controllers
Average.25114Fielding %.97914ERA5.3315
Home Runs17512Double Plays4612Opp. Avg..27512
Ops..70513+ Plays4912Strike Outs94816
Runs77212- Plays5611Saves3115

Season 20 Record- 59-103
Last 5 Seasons- 292-518

Key Off Season Moves
Signed C Gregory Singleton to an extension
Promoted C Salvador Gallardo
Promoted SP Clyde Meusel
Promoted OF/1B Gus Justice

Offense-New York didn't have much going for them offensively last season. What they did have though was Gregory Singleton and they did the smart thing by locking him up to an extension in the off season. He's a really good offensive threat and they need him in order to get this team turned around. The promotion of Gus Justice should really help this offense, as he is a guy that can get on base and hit the long ball. Mix those two in with Storm Mahoney and rookie Salvador Gallardo and this team should see some improvements with the offense this season. I like the direction this offense is going and they are only a few players away from being really good. For now they are right about average though.

Defense-The defense also was not very good last season. Jim Marte is the shortstop, but his glove is below average. He won't make many mistakes with his throws though as he's one of the best in the league with the arm. They really don't have a good option for centerfield, secondbase, or thirdbase. Defense is not a strength in New York. I think they will rank near the bottom of the league again.

Pitching-Pitching is also an area that the team struggled with. I think they have a few pitchers that can be good though. I like Timo Lee, Ignacio Torres, and Lee Coveleski. They are solid pitchers that should not be bad. The team really doesn't have much else though except some average to below average pitchers. Overall this pitching staff still needs some work.

Projection-New York should see some improvement this season. They struggled in almost everything last season, which is why they have the #1 pick in this seasons draft, but things are looking up. The promotions made in the off season should at least add a few wins to their total. I think they are still far off from competing but the team should start to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel this season.

Owner Interview-
Me-Well your first few seasons have not gone too well. You did take over a team that was on the decline when you came aboard though. What has been the toughest part of rebuilding this team? Are there any players in the system that you think are going to be difference makers for you? You brought up some good players to the majors for this season. Are there more promotions coming or is that it for now? What are the expectations for this season?

skuff730-It is tough to rebuild a team and I can think of a few things that make extremely difficult in this case. First, I want the team to be competitive. Personally having a bottom feeding squad is agonizing, so trying to find a balance of picking up good player without over spending and committing to many guys to long term contracts is a big part of that. The second part is finding the right guys that are going to fit our system and knowing when to give those young guys in the minors a chance to prove themselves. I think we have gotten a bit younger and this season we called up some young guys that could possibly make a positive difference for us. Gus Justice a 23-year-old right fielder out of Southwestern Christian College is looking good so far in spring training. He has 11 hits in 8 games with 3 HRs and 9 RBIs. He was a #1 pick in season 20 and we are going to lean on his offense production this season. I hope that he pairs well with Storm Mahoney a guy he will eventually replace. Clyde Meusel a right-handed pitcher out of Delta College was drafted pick 29 in season 20. I hoping he can be an improvement to our pitching staff, which has been a major weak point for us in the past. I debated whether to have him continue through the farm or bring him to the bigs this year. I did not want to rush his growth, but I think he is ready to contribute to our Big League squad. I have a few more guys I am going to keep my on early into the season. I am still trying to get guys on the field in spring training. Closer Louis Post is a guy that I am watching and Vinny Hill, another outfielder who has a good bat good get a call up to the majors this season. In terms of expectations this season, any improvement to the last few seasons would suffice. I intend to compete. We had the worst record in the Major league last year and I plan to change that this season. As much as I like having the first pick in the draft, but I will not have it come season 24. I am going lean for a 75-87ish type of season. I will gladly accept more wins, but I know how brutal the AL can be.

Dover is the team to beat this season. I really don't think they'll have much competition in the division and I predict that they'll run away with the division crown. I think they are a real threat to win the AL title as well. I don't think they are the favorite, but they should at least have a chance to do so. Kansas City is an aging overpaid team, but they still have some good talent on the team. I don't think they'll be able to challenge for the division crown, but should be in the wild card race this season. 90 wins again isn't out of reach. Syracuse is a team that has had no direction lately. They are starting to pay for that now and will likely struggle this season as ownership is trying to put together a team that they like. I don't think they'll contend this season. New York is another team that has had it rough for a while now. They are starting to make some promotions of players that are going to help this team improve now. They still have plenty of holes to fill, but they are starting to fill them. They are still a couple seasons away from being a threat though.

1. Dover Dinklebergs
2. Kansas City Hotsteppers
3. New York Damage Controllers
4. Syracuse Crunch

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