Tampa Bay Thunder
|Home Runs||221||7||Double Plays||422||6||Opp. Avg.||.255||4|
|Ops.||.784||5||+ Plays||55||6||Strike Outs||1095||4|
Season 23 Record- 92-70(AL South Champ)
Last 5 Seasons- 448-362
5 tool player- Junior Yang- Yang has all of the tools. He has a good glove, good arm, good speed, good hitting and power. Some of the tools are better than the others, but he has them all. Most of his time in the field is spent at thirdbase, but he could play shortstop in a pinch. In 3 full seasons in the majors, Yang has 102 homers, 48 steals and a .281 average. This guys is young and just getting started. You can expect a pretty good career from this guy.
Staff Ace- Claude Collins- Collins has the talents to be a regular all star and Cy Young candidate. Up to this point in his career that has happened much, but he is truly the ace on this staff. He regularly eats up over 200 innings. He has a great K/IP ratio and has held hitters at bay with a career .242 OAV. His 3.27 ERA last season was the second best of his career over a full season and could be a sign that this guy is starting to realize his abilities. At 31 years old, he still has plenty of time to rack up some hardware.
Offense- Tampa featured a pretty good offense last season and things are shaping up good for them again this season. They have some really good hitters in this lineup and even have some good power. The free agent signing of Brian Sveum will add to the potency. Yang, Christian Lee, Phil Shibata and Robert Wallace are just some of the names featured for the Thunder. They are going to be a tough offense to stop this season and they are a young group for the most part.
Defense-This is a weakness. The have good range at most positions and good gloves, but they lack an ideal shortstop or centerfielder. Fautino Guerrero is the likely shortstop and he lacks the ideal glove for the position. He has the arm to make up for it though. I don't see anyone that stands out as the centerfielder, but plenty of guys can fill the spot decent enough. This is an average offense.
Pitching-This team has a really good pitching staff heading into the season. Claude Collins, Bo Carter and Oscar Osterbrock will anchor the top of this rotation. Heinie Hutton, Curtis Bannister and Craig Tomlinson are pretty good back end of the rotation pitchers as well. The bullpen features Tony Zapata, Frank Murphy, Tony Perez and Joaquin Gallardo holding things down. This is a really good bullpen and mixed with the rotation, Tampa is going to be tough to score on this season.
Projection-Everything is looking good for Tampa Bay this season. The defense is the weakness, but it's solid enough that the strengths of this team won't be held back due to it. This team looks poised to take another division title and could challenge for an AL title even.
New Orleans Zephyrs
|Home Runs||259||3||Double Plays||448||3||Opp. Avg.||.275||10|
|Ops.||.783||6||+ Plays||95||3||Strike Outs||1039||9|
Season 23 Record- 90-72(Wild Card)
Last 5 seasons- 396-414
MVP- Sam Slotnick- Why does this guy get the title MVP? Well that should be obvious by now. Last season, Slotnick reeled in his third MVP award. He has also made 7 all star appearances and the guy is just 30 years old. He still has many productive seasons in front of him. With 446 career homers, he has a very good shot at becoming the all time leader when his career is wrapped up. Slotnick is a phenom and quite possibly the best overall hitter in Pine Tar.
Fireman-Jesus Amezaga- Amezaga has been a pretty good closer in his career. He has 250 saves in 313 tries. Over the past two seasons he has 72 saves in 78 tries, with 40 of those coming last season when he pulled in the AL fireman of the year award. Amezaga has put up some pretty good numbers in his career, but one number really stands out to me and that is his strike outs of 948 in just 964 career innings. This guy is a premier late inning arm.
Offense-New Orleans featured a pretty good offense last season, but the team average was the lowest in the AL. I'm not expecting much different this season. They lack really good hitters on this team. They do have some guys that will draw a walk and hit the ball out of the park. Slotnick is one of the best in the league at that. Mix in Henry Siddall, Braden Fussell, Ismael Morales, Samuel Wallace and Bernard Charleston and they have a pretty solid offense. This offense is pretty good, but they just won't hit for a high average.
Defense-The numbers indicate this was a top 3 defense last season. They have a really good glove at shorstop in Vin Hernandez and a good backup in Eduardo Tabata. Morales is the centerfielder and he lacks good range, but he makes up for it with a really good glove. The have good range all around the field and solid gloves as well. This is a really good defense.
Pitching-The pitching staff is a weakness for this team. Everth Benitez is the ace of the staff and he would be a solid #3 on a good staff. Orlando Sanchez, and Bucky Simpson are solid, but they are also pitching higher in the rotation than what should be expected from them. The bullpen does feature a shut down closer in Amezaga though. The problem is that they lack the setup guys to get it to him. This pitching staff has a few nice arms, but it's not a good staff when put together.
Projection-The Zephyrs took big steps forward last season and they have the defense and offense to continue that. They could really use some better pitching to combine with that though. This pitching staff could cause them to take some steps back this season. I'm just not sure how to project this team. They could be good enough to challenge for a wild card or bad enough to get a top 10 pick next season. It just depends on how things fall for them.
San Juan Pollos Hermanos
|Home Runs||246||4||Double Plays||468||1||Opp. Avg.||.282||12|
|Ops.||.796||3||+ Plays||26||16||Strike Outs||1120||3|
Season 23 Record- 79-83
Last 5 seasons- 397-413
Offensive Building Block-Ralph Hatcher- Hatcher is a young slugging outfielder. In 2 1/2 seasons in the league he has 99 career homers heading into this season and has 3 seasons of 30+. His career .268 average is expected to rise and his .356 obp is not quite what I'd expect from him either. At 26 years old, he is a really good central piece of a lineup to add extra parts around.
Golden Glove- Desi Vasquez- In 571 career games, the outfielder Vasquez has committed just 2 errors. 1 of those errors came in his first season while playing rightfield. The other was in leftfield. He has the glove to play centerfield, but he lacks the range. Without the ability to go back and check the records, I'm going to assume that the errors were on throws back to the infield since his arm accuracy isn't as good as his glove.
Offense-The Pollos Hermanos featured a pretty good offense last season that hit for a decent average and provided some fireworks. This is still a pretty good team offensively. Ralph Hatcher,Colby Rogers, Dennis Kirk, Masao Saitou, Harvey Merrick Allen Gruber, John Davidson, Chalres Yoshii, Fausto Espinosa and Desi Vasquez are all really good hitters and make this a dangerous lineup. This team is loaded with good hitting and should boast one of the top offenses in the AL.
Defense-San Juan sacrifices defense for offense. The ranked at the bottom of the AL last season and don't look much better this season. They lack a good shortstop and most positions are filled with players that will struggle in the field. Colby Rogers is the exception at secondbase. Desi Vasquez has a great glove, but he lacks the range to play centerfield. This is not a very good defense overall though.
Pitching-The pitching ranked near the bottom of the league last season. Shane Osik is a really good young pitcher at the top of the rotation, but he lacks the stamina to make it deep into games. Gerardo Morales is a solid starter as well and he underperformed last season. I'd expect more from him this season. Giovanni Magnuson is another good young starter that fits nice in the middle of the rotation. The rotation is solid, but not great. The bullpen features Willie Fisher and Mike Franklin, but little else. This is the true weakness of the staff. Overall, the pitching is close to average, but maybe a bit below.
Projection-San Juan is going to struggle to hang near the top of this division without an upgrade to the pitching staff. The defense is their real weakness though and even an upgrade to the pitching might not be enough without the gloves behind them to back them up. They do have a really good offense and that will likely keep them competitive. I think this team has potential, but this season looks like it may be another season hovering around .500.
|Home Runs||198||12||Double Plays||463||2||Opp. Avg.||.292||14|
|Ops.||.772||9||+ Plays||55||6||Strike Outs||984||13|
Season 20 record- 71-91
Last 5 seasons- 458-362
The Veteran- Heinie Rice-That label is putting it mildly. Rice is a veteran, but he is so much more. He has 536 career homers, 1548 rbi, 1186 runs and a .307 average. He's won a rookie of the year, a Home Run Derby Championship 3 times, 6 Allstar appearances, 2 World Series rings, and 2 MVP awards. Rice is very likely a future Hall of Famer.
Batter Eye- Juan Latos- Latos has been the model of consistency at getting on base. In 8 out of his 10 seasons, he has had an OBP of over 400. His career .411 is an amazing feat. He has also walked 800 times compared to just 623 strike outs. Latos is the ideal top of the lineup hitter.
Offense-Nashville may be rebuilding, but their offense still ranked above average last season. Rice is still the star of the offense, but they also have Juan latos, Chris Young, Jose Fernandez and David Lind. These players help give the Nalas a pretty good lineup.
Defense-Last season this team had an average defense. I don't think they even look average this season. They lack a true shortstop and a true centerfielder. This defense will likely rank among the worst in the league this season.
Pitching-The pitching staff is a wreck right now. The rotation features some below average starters and the ace looks to be Harry Munson. Munson is better suited as a mid rotation pitcher. The bullpen is better with Felix Nakajima, and Apollo Fletcher, but not much better. Outside of those two they don't have much help in the pen. This pitching staff is going to struggle this season.
Projection-Nashville is going to struggle this season, but ownership expects that. The team is in rebuild mode and they will likely stick to it for the next couple of seasons. The good thing for them is that they still have some good pieces to move if they want to try to pick up some more prospects.
This division seems pretty straight forward to me. I don't expect much to change from last season. Tampa Bay features the best team of the bunch and they look like a team that could even make a run at the AL title. New Orleans aren't too far off from Tampa, but they still have some holes that need fixed to be able to make a serious run at the top spot. San Juan appears to have the same issues as New Orleans, but they are a little worse off. Not too much worse though, as I expect them to have a close to even record and if things break their way could push them into a wild card race. Nashville is a team that is rebuilding and won't be challenging the other teams this season.
1. Tampa Bay Thunder
2. New Orleans Zephyrs
3. San Juan Pollos Hermanos
4. Nashville Nalas