Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Season 24-NL North Preview

In this division, it was Iowa City taking the title for a third straight season. One season removed from winning the World Championship, they had a post season let down in the DCS against Houston by losing 3 games to 0. Even though, there was a time when that franchise would have been happy to just make it there and now this team has established themselves as a true force in the NL North. Fargo continued to take steps back up the ladder in the division by finishing second. A team that once made 15 straight post season appearances have now been left out of the playoffs for the past 8 seasons. Things are looking up for them though and they are close to being ready to move back in. Montreal is another team in this division that is on the move up. In season 23 they won 79 games, which is the most they've had since also winning 79 back in season 16. They will be looking to end a 9 season playoff drought this season. Only a few seasons removed from winning the division and putting together a 6 season playoff streak, this team was left in shambles last season. The past 2 seasons haven't been very kind to this franchise and it now looks like they will have to rebuild some of this team.

Iowa City Hawkeyes
Average.25311Fielding %.9882ERA3.241
Home Runs18910Double Plays36310Opp. Avg..2342
Ops..71413+ Plays745Strike Outs107311
Runs71211- Plays225Saves4211

Season 20 Record: 94-68(NL North Champ)
Last 5 Seasons: 470-340

Elite Glove- Bert Biggio- Biggio to my surprise has not won a gold glove, but he has been one of the best shortstops around over the past 6 seasons. He has a career .977 fielding percentage, and 5.25 range factor. Likely the most impressive of his numbers is the 100 career plus plays compared to the 1 minus play. Biggio has been elite in the field and I have to think a gold glove is eventually going to come for him.

Million Dollar Arm- Brendan Taylor- Really he has a 10 million dollar arm since that is what he's getting paid this season. Taylor has earned that though. For each of the past 4 seasons he has appeared in over half of the teams games and is racking up innings like some starters. With a career .199 OAV and 1.99 ERA, it's hard to argue that he's the most valuable relief pitcher in the league. In season 21, Taylor earned the Cy Young award, which is extremely rare for a relief pitcher. At just 28 years old, Taylor enters the first year of a 50 million dollar contract that will pay him through the age of 32.

Offense- Iowa City isn't really a team known for big offense. Last season they were below average and lacked, power and speed in the lineup. The addition of Joakim Valbuena adds some needed pop. The best hitter in this lineup though, is Octavio Armas. At this point in the season, the offense is hitting better than last season and are showing a little more power. They are improved over last season and should likely finish a bit better.

Defense- This is a strength for this franchise. They featured one of the top defense's in the league last season. The numbers are actually a bit down this season. They feature one of the better shortstops in Biggio. Ruben Manuel is a solid centerfielder, but he lacks really good range. Julio Silva is a good thirdbaseman and Hank Roling is an average secondbaseman. The team is solid in the field, but not quite great. They do have some good depth on the bench that might feature better gloves than some of the starters.

Pitching- Pitching is the strength of this team. They were one of the best in the NL last season and their numbers are looking better this season. Sticky Farquhar is a real ace of the staff and really sets the pace. Patsy Ainsworth and Dan Siebert are great 2 and 3 starters. Coming out of the bullpen is Taylor, who is likely the best reliever in the game. Dennis Coleman is a pretty good reliever as well. Then add in Victor Waner and Rondell Kirwan and this team has what is likely the best bullpen in Pine Tar. This is a great staff.

Projection-Up to this point in the season, they are in a 3 way battle for first. The division is looking tougher this season, but this team has a great pitching staff that should help them pull it out in the end. They should still be the team to beat in the division, but with the other teams closing in a  wild card spot should be attainable if they don't win the division title.

Fargo Wood Chippers
Average.2635Fielding %.9858ERA4.2512
Home Runs2323Double Plays3708Opp. Avg..26111
Ops..7644+ Plays657Strike Outs10819
Runs8033- Plays213Saves467

Season 20 Record: 84-78
Last 5 Seasons: 352-458

Cleanup Hitter- Tony Caballero- In just 2 full seasons in the majors Caballero has established himself as a true power threat that can hit for average and drive in a lot of runs. In his rookie season he drove in 142 runs while blasting 60 homers. He followed that up last season with 125 RBI and 53 homers. Caballero may be the most lethal hitter in the league right now with his ability to hit for power and hit in the clutch.

Future is now- Aurelio Ozuna- Ozuna is an up and coming ace in this league. He's the type of pitcher that should be in the Cy Young race every season. At just 22 years old, he already has established himself. Last season he went 19-11 with a 3.77 ERA while holding opponents to a .236 average in 214.2 innings. His numbers should only continue to get better each season. Ozuna is going to be a great pitcher for a long time.

Offense- Fargo had one of the better offense's in the league last season. So what do they do about that? They made it better by adding one of the best hitters in the league in Caballero. Adding him to a lineup that already features power hitters like Zip Sullivan, Geraldo Martin, J.A. Stanley and Rafael Hernandez gives this team some serious power. They also have the guys like Houston Graves and Orber Beltran that will be the table setters for the big hitters. Right now the teams numbers are on pace with last season, but I think they'll continue to pick up steam and finish much better this season. This is likely the best offense in the NL.

Defense- Last season this team was slightly above average defensively. They are off to a really good start this season. Chun-Lim Li is the shortstop and he's pretty good. He has a decent glove, good range and a really good arm. Zip Sullivan is a great glove at second. Raymond Franco is solid in centerfield. The team is pretty solid defensively, but I think they've over achieved a bit so far. They'll likely come back to the pack some and finish close to last season.

Pitching- Pitching has not been this teams strong area. The rotation does feature Ozuna at the top of it, but they aren't deep. Steven Hernandez, Jeremi Rice, and Buddy Jackson are all mid to back end of the rotation pitchers. The bullpen isn't especially strong either. Rickie Metcalfe is a pretty good closer, but he's all they have in the pen. The staff has performed among the best in the league so far this season, but they don't look like a team that can continue that trend. This team looks like they have below average pitching.

Projection-Fargo features a great offense and solid defense. The pitching doesn't look very good though, even though they have put up the numbers. Right now they are on top of this division and should make it a good race all season long. If nothing else they are a for sure wild card team. Even with a less than ideal pitching staff, this team should win over 90 games.

Montreal Leaf Blowers
Average.24813Fielding %.9882ERA3.999
Home Runs2008Double Plays3669Opp. Avg..26010
Ops..71014+ Plays5014Strike Outs102014
Runs7259- Plays171Saves4310

Season 20 Record: 79-83
Last 5 Seasons: 337-473

Hot Corner Slugger- Alex Suzuki- Suzuki is developing into a real power threat for this team. In his first 2 seasons he hit 25, and 29 homers, but then he had a breakout season with 44 in season 23. I haven't noticed very many slugging thirdbaseman in the league while doing these previews, but this guy is a pretty solid fielder as well. Suzuki has great durability and is the kind of player that this team will get 155 games out of if he can stay healthy. That will allow him to continue putting up power numbers in line with last season.

Doubles Machine- Rickey Masterson- Masterson is off to a pretty good start in his career overall. He hits for a good average, steals bases and hits some homers. The thing that stands out about him though is his ability to rack up the doubles. He has 6 straight seasons of 35+ doubles maxing out at 47 in season 18. He has surpassed 40 doubles 3 times and is well on his way to doing it again this season. Masterson has been a very well rounded player, but he is a double machine.

Offense- Last season, Montreal featured a pretty average offense. The team is off to a really good start this season, as they are on pace to hit more homers and score more runs. They are also hitting better and getting on base at a better rate. The offense features, Rickey Masterson, Alex Suzuki, Nate Carter, and Jim Hawpe. This is a pretty good offense that should continue the pace they've set early on. I think they are a top 5 offense in the NL.

Defense- This is an area that the team was pretty good last season. They didn't commit very many errors and didn't make minus plays very often. They could've used a bit better range though. Walt Phillips has the ability to be a gold glove caliber shortstop, but he's stuck in a reserve role. The team favors Jim Marte in that spot, and he's good, but he'll make more errors with the glove. Nate Carter is a really good glove to have at third. Jim Hawpe is the centerfielder and he's just average. Overall, the team isn't great defensively, but they are better than average.

Pitching- Montreal featured an average pitching staff last season. They are actually doing worse this season. Bret O'Leary has been a great addition to the rotation, but the rest of it is pretty weak. Benny Villano is pretty average and fits a middle rotation role. The bullpen has a few better arms in it. Tom Leonard is a really good closer. Mike Clinton and Cozy Lawrence are a couple of good setup men as well. The bullpen is the strength of the staff. Montreal has solid pitching when put together, but they aren't better than average.

Projection- Montreal is an improving team and they have the record to prove it. The offense is really good and a real strength for this team. The defense is pretty solid as well. The pitching staff could use some help though. If this team could find a way to improve the rotation, they would be really dangerous. As it is now, they'll challenge for the division title and a wild card spot, but I don't think they'll be able to pull it off. A huge accomplishment for them would be winning 90 games this season and cementing themselves as a real challenger.

Madison Melons
Average.2549Fielding %.98311ERA8.5316
Home Runs2155Double Plays4221Opp. Avg..32216
Ops..7348+ Plays862Stike Outs68516
Runs72410- Plays247Saves2416

Season 20 Record: 46-116
Last 5 Seasons: 415-395

5 Tool Player- Raymond Petrov- There aren't many 5 tool players in the league, but Petrov is definitely one of them. He has a great glove, good arm, good speed, the ability to hit for average and power. In his 5 seasons in the league he has displayed his ability to do all of those things, but his one tool that stands out the most is his speed. Petrov has 278 steals in his 5+ seasons in the league which has helped him score 627 runs. When he gets on the bases, he scores.

Rare Abilities- Benito Rodriguez- Rodriguez brings some rare abilities to the table. He has great contact, really good power and blazing speed. In each of his 3 seasons he has hit 20+ homers, 85+ RBI, 85+ runs scored and 20+ steals. I'm not even sure he's had his breakout season yet. I expect that he should be able to hit 30+ homers, 100+ RBI, 100+ runs and steal 40+ bases. He has that kind of ability.

Offense- Madison was slightly below average offensively last season. They did rank in the top 5 in homers and steals though. They are off to a much better start this season, but they aren't stealing as much and are also off of the homer pace they set last season. They are scoring more runs and getting on base more though and that's a positive. Petrov is the center piece of the offense. Fausto De La Vega can hit as well and provides some power. Angel Martin and Benito Rodriguez are also nice weapons to have in the lineup. The offense does look pretty solid and should stay on pace with how they've started. That only makes them a slightly better than average team though.

Defense- The defense was pretty bad last season, but they did show some good range. They look pretty much the same this season. Petrov is the shorstop, but he lacks ideal range and arm accuracy. Les Worrell is a pretty good centerfielder though. Eugenio Frieri and Thom Blair have shared duties at second and both are pretty good fielders their. I think this defense is solid and won't cost them any games, but they aren't a top tier bunch.

Pitching- The pitching was awful last season. Quite possibly the worst ever. That's what happens when an owner abandons a team though. Of course, they can't be as bad this season. It's not even possible with triple A pitchers. Really though, they are actually pretty solid this season. Bill Kydd was a nice addition in the off season to the rotation. Rudy Parker is pretty solid as well. Neither are aces though and the rest of the rotation just isn't very good. I really like the bullpen of Mitch Mota, Ricardo Johnson, and Victor James. They are all really good. The 3 of them boost this staff up from bad to slightly below average.

Projection- Madison has a good offense, solid defense and below average pitching. This isn't going to win them a division or a wild card spot. They are a team that needs quite a few pieces to be able to contend. They do have some really good pieces in place though and could choose to not go the full rebuilding route. I'll be interested to see what direction ownership decides to take them in a really tough division.

Iowa City is the defending champ and they have a really good pitching staff. They've improved offensively and should be able to repeat at the top. Fargo is getting better every season and the offense they feature puts them up there near the top of the league. They aren't very many pieces away from being a top team in the NL once again. Montreal is another team on the way up in the division and they continue to get better each season. They are going to push the other teams in the division and could possibly sneak into a wild card spot. Madison just doesn't have enough pieces to really contend in the division. They aren't a bad team, but they aren't good enough to contend for a post season spot either.

1. Iowa City Hawkeyes
2. Fargo Wood Chippers
3. Montreal Leaf Blowers
4. Madison Masterblastas

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