Thursday, October 10, 2013

Season 25 Preview- AL South

AL South
Back on top of the AL South for a third straight season was Tampa Bay. It was the franchise's 10th division title. They were beat out in the ALCS, but it was the 8th time that the Thunder have made the league championship series. Finishing in second place was San Juan. With 90 victories they won the second most games in franchise history. They are still a team in search of their first division title, but last season they secured a wild card for just the second time. This is a rising time that should be battling for a playoff spot for a while. New Orleans took a small step back last season by winning 3 fewer games than their wild card season in season 23. The 87 victories were not enough to get into the post season, but they will be trying to get back. Nashville has gone into full rebuild mode and seen their win total drop for a sixth consecutive season. After winning this division for 10 straight seasons, they've now finished last in the past 3.

Tampa Bay Thunder
owner- rxw1
Season 25 record- 98-64(AL South Champ)
Last 5 Seasons- 454-356

The Thunder ended last season as the runner up for the AL championship. The next step for this franchise is to win that championship. Complicating that is the fact that they lost some key hitters in the off season. To combat that, the team made a huge free agent signing for relatively cheap in Rico Tatis. It may be the biggest free agent steal I've seen in this league. Another off season move worth noting is that the team locked up Junior Yang to a 5 year extension. They aren't really what I'd call a young team, but they do have some really good young talent. This is a team set up to win now though and they'll be aiming for the league title again.

This team had an above average offense last season. They hit a .273 with a .343 obp and .461 slugging. They also hit 250 homers with 849 runs scored. The team brought in Tatis, a player that hit 55 homers last season and has 40 + the past 4 seasons. The offense will go as he goes. Jim McCormick is a really good hitter coming off a season in which he hit .299, with a .415 obp, 28 homers and 68 RBI for the Thunder. Yang hit .268 with a .323 obp and 35 homers to go with 106 RBI. Another power threat is Robert Wallace, who hit 33 homers last season with 91 RBI. The Thunder should be a really good hitting team this season and have good power. This team should finish among the better teams in the AL this season.

This wasn't a very good team with the glove last season. They had a .982 fielding pct and 58 + plays to 32 - plays. The plus and minus weren't bad, but they made too many errors. The fielding usually goes through the shortstop position and with this team it was no different. Fautino Guerrero is only and average shortstop at best. He has a good arm, but his glove is below average. Bengie Romano plays second and he has really good range for that spot. His glove is solid for the position as well. Yang is a really good thirdbaseman. Elroy Epstein is a decent centerfielder. This team has a solid defense all around, but the glove at shorstop brings them down a bit. This should still be an average defense.

Pitching is a real strength for Tampa Bay. They led the AL in ERA with a 3.93 and WHIP with a 1.33 last season. Claude Collins is the ace of this team and he has all the tools to be that. Last season he went 13-9 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, which were numbers that are not up to his standards. I'd expect a bounce back this season. Curtis Bannister is a good mid rotation starter and he went 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.25 WHIP last season. Bo Carter and Oscar Osterbrock round out a really good top of this rotation. The bullpen is among the best in the league. Frank Murphy had 31 saves in 39 tries with a 4.40 ERA and 1.19 WHIP last season. Tony Zapata had a 3.36 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 70 games. Joaquin Gallardo had a 3.25 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 58 games. The Thunder should have a really good pitching staff again this season.

San Juan Pollos Hermanos
owner- soxfan_9
Season 25 record- 90-72(Wild Card)
Last 5 Seasons- 409-401

San Juan made huge strides last season by making the post season. With a young roster this team should continue to grow and make another run this season. They stayed fairly quiet in the off season. They are seeing their payroll rise as some of these youngsters hit arbitration over the next few seasons and these guys are going to tie up quite a bit of cash due to their talent.

Last season San Juan finished near the top of the AL offensively. They hit .283 with a .350 obp and 262 homers with 966 runs scored. There was only one team better than them offensively. They are returning pretty much the same offense this season. They are led by young phenom Ralph Hatcher who hit a .323 with a .387 obp and 45 homers with 129 RBI. Masao Saitou adds 43 homers, 134 RBI, 109 runs scored, a .273 average and .329 obp to the lineup. John Davidson hit 36 homers with 25 steals last season plus 97 RBI and 116 runs scored. These 3 young players are going to carry this offense for quite a while. They are 3 great players. This offense will once again finish near or at the top of the AL this season.

This team gave up defense for the offense though. They were really bad defensively. They finished with a .978 fielding pct and 14 + plays with 63 - plays. They signed Dante Ueno to play shortstop, which is an upgrade over last season, but his glove isn't very good. Charles Yoshii is the centerfielder, but his glove is below average and he doesn't make up for it with his range. This is an improved defense with Ueno at short, but this is still not a good or even average defense. They'll likely finish near the bottom again this season.

The pitching was below average in San Juan last season. They finished with a 4.90 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Shane Osik is the ace of the staff. He went 13-5 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.37 WHIP last season. I think he can improve upon those. Gerardo Morales is a solid mid to top of the rotation guy and he went 13-10 with a 4.39 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. I expect Giovanni Magnuson to pitch much better than his 5.26 ERA and 1.67 WHIP from last season that led to his 5-8 record. The rotation is above average. The bullpen is as well, but they have a couple players that I really like. Willie Fisher had 10 saves in 15 tries last season with a 5.27 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, but I think he's much better than that. Mike Franklin also had a bad season and should rebound from his 5.21 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 73 games. Overall this is an average pitching staff and in a pitchers park that is what puts them below average.

New Orleans Zephyrs
owner- Fantasy Frea
Season 25 record- 87-75
Last 5 Seasons- 418-392

I'm guessing this ownership group wasn't very happy with last season. They may have been the most active team in the off season. They've made some trades, some promotions and free agent signings. The biggest move they made though was re signing Sam Slotnick. The 4 time MVP was actually signed at a bargain price and allowed this team to make other moves. The promotion of Howie Osborne brings them some more fire power on offense. This team is geared up and ready to make a push in the division.

The offense in New Orleans was above average last season, but the team batting average and obp were below average. They hit a .269 with a .338 obp, but the team hit 260 homers and scored 890 runs while even stealing 140 bases. This team is built around MVP Sam Slotnick and he didn't let them down last season. He hit a .293 average, .364 obp, .647 slugging, 60 homers, 143 RBI, 121 runs and even stole 21 bases. The addition of Coco Stratton adds a really good hitter as he brings his career .286 average to the team. The promotion of Osborne just adds even more power to a pretty powerful team. The offense looks like they will be among the best in the league again, but they will probably once again be an average to below average hitting offense.

This is not a team that gives up defense for offense either. They had a really good defense last season. They finished with a .988 fielding pct, 109  + plays and 15 - plays. They signed Yorvit Ortiz in the off season to play shortstop, but he lacks good range or arm strength for the position. Vin Hernandez also plays the position but it looks like they'll use him as a utility guy this season. He has is a better defensive option than Ortiz though. Osbourne has the glove to play centerfield but not the range. He'll fit better as a great left fielder. This defense has good range at other positions and solid gloves. I don't think they are a great defense, but they are a good defense.

The pitching was below average for the Zephyrs in season 24. The finished with a 4.89 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. The rotation is led by Everth Benitez, and he's good but not quite a true ace. He went 17-8 with a 4.57 ERA and 1.41 WHIP last season. I'm really not too thrilled with any of the other starters in this rotation. They are mostly back end of the rotation type pitchers. The bullpen doesn't get better either. This looks like a bad pitching staff.

Nashville Nalas
owner- bnags
Season 25 record- 68-94
Last 5 Seasons- 409-401

This is a team that is rebuilding and in the process of that they are watching the aging stars from the championship teams of past walk away or get traded away. They have set up the budget to completely rebuild this team and should be in line for a good draft pick and possibly a good IFA or two. Match that with some of the prospects they've been able to acquire and this team should be really good again before long.

The offense was slightly above average last season. They finished with a .273 average, .347 obp and 220 homers with 853 runs scored. The loss of Heinie Rice will cause them to take a hit. The best player left on offense is youngster Wolf Dodd and he's a good player to start building around. He hit a .282 average, .339 obp, with 27 homers, 66 RBI and 69 runs last season. Alex Bazardo is another young player that can hit a bit. He hit .270 with a .404 obp and 15 homers last season. This offense is going to struggle this season, but they do have some young players that will help this team moving forward.

The defense wasn't very good last season. They had a .983 fielding pct with 40 + plays and 49 - plays. I doubt it's going to get any better. Neftali Siqueiros is the shortstop and he has good range and a really good arm, but he'll make too many errors. Besides him the team really doesn't have good or average defenders at most positions. This is likely going to be one of the worst defenses in the league this season.

The Nalas pitching was one of the worst in the league last season. They finished with a 6.18 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. Al Galvez is a solid  rookie pitcher, but his lack of control is going to hurt him. Harry Munson can rack up innings for the team, but he's a below average starter. He went 13-16 with a 5.31 ERA and 1.48 WHIP last season. The bullpen doesn't offer much help either. This pitching staff will struggle this season.

Tampa Bay is the reigning division champ and they look poised to make another run. They have a great offense, average defense and good pitching. That should be enough to get them into the post season and they should be able to make a run once there. San Juan is a solid team with a great offense. The offense is a real strength for them, but the defense and pitching bring them down. They should still be able to make a strong push for another post season appearance, but I don't think they have enough to take over the division. New Orleans will have the offense and defense to make a good run this season, but the pitching staff looks like they could hold them back. I think they can make the post season, but I just don't see them taking the division title. Nashville is a team that is rebuilding and won't make much noise at all this season. I expect them to be battling for the #1 pick in next seasons draft.

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

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