Thursday, July 10, 2014

NL North Season 28 Preview

Iowa City Hawkeyes
owner- tk21775(12 Seasons)
Season 27 record- 94-68(NL North Champs)
Payroll- $92.5

The Hawkeyes have not been known as a very good offensive team, but when taking the park into account, they aren't as bad as the numbers look. I'm not going to say they are anything better than average, but they aren't bad. The trade for Rickie Halama added some serious power to the team. Halama is much more than a power hitter though. He can hit and draw walks pretty well also. Joakim Valbuena has been a good hitter for the Hawkeyes and he has good power and the ability to steal a few bases. Octavio Armas is really good at getting on base and he'll hit for decent power as well. Edwin Reese is the best stolen base threat on the team, but he doesn't get on base enough. This offense is not among the best in the league, but they are close to average. Depth is a real issue that holds them back.

Defensively the team looks pretty good. The loss of Eduardo Ortiz to injury is going to hurt, but Daryl Robertson is a solid backup option. Ruben Manuel is a really good second baseman with solid range and a great glove. Edwin Reese is a former gold glove outfielder and has really good range for centerfield. I really think this team is good defensively, but I'm not sure they rank among the top 5 in the league.

Pitching has been what's carried this team for a while now. The team traded away Sticky Farquhar to acquire some hitting, but the rest of the staff in still intact. Brendan Taylor is a Cy Young reliever and he'll eat up innings. Dennis Coleman isn't far behind him in his abilities.Victor Waner and Rondell Kirwan round out an excellent bullpen that is likely the best in the league. The rotation is solid, but not great. None of the starters really stand out as an ace, but this team can get by with average starters when they have a bullpen this good. This is a good pitching staff and should be among the best in the league at seasons end.

Iowa City should still have a pretty good team this season. I feel like the offense isn't a strength, but it's got some really good pieces. The defense is good and the pitching is looking really good again. Iowa City should be in the running for the division title and if not then at least the running for a wild card spot. I could see them winning 90 games or more.

Player to watch- Rickie Halama- Halama is a great young hitter. He has some great power and will still hit for a good average. I actually think he hasn't performed as well as he should yet in his career. He has the ability to hit 50+ homers and hit for a .280+ average every season. This could be the season he breaks out. If so, then Iowa City will have a real shot at taking home another NL crown.

Helena Copper Kings
owner- pinetaar(2 seasons)
Season 27 record- 90-72(Wild Card)
Payroll- $73.7

On paper, Helena looks like they should be an average offense this season. I really like the hitting abilities of J.A. Stanley. He hits for average, with a good obp and some great power. Vladimir Molina is a player that gets on base and will use his speed to swipe some bags. He also has decent power. Jim Hawpe has a really good mixture of power and speed as he was a 30/30 man last season. Alex Suzuki will hit for power, but he's not very good at getting on base. This offense has good power and some decent speed. They lack the guys that will get on base enough though. With a couple of high obp guys on in front of the power hitters this could easily be a top 3 offense, but right now they are about average.

This team isn't very good defensively. The shortstop position is a hole for them. Jim Hawpe is a below average shortstop, and would be better suited for second or thirdbase. Lyle Tipton has decent range and glove, but his arm isn't good for the position either. He makes for a solid utility player though. The team lacks range in centerfield and they don't have a great glove that makes up for the lack of range. Right now this team looks like they'll rank near the bottom of the league defensively.

The pitching staff is really hard to grade. The bullpen is really good. The rotation is bad. Jose Goya is a great young arm in the pen that should be one of the better closers in the league. Tom Leonard is a great setup man. Victor James, Rigo Jimenez, and Kareem Gold are all solid relievers. The only pitcher in the rotation that I really like is Geraldo Molina, but his stamina will tax the bullpen and cause him to miss out on qualifying for some victories. Overall this staff is below average because the bullpen will be called on way too often to really be effective.

Helena looks like an average team to me. I like the offense, but the defense is bad and the pitching is just below average. I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish 81-81, but I'll put the +/- of that at around 5 either way.

Player to watch- J.A. Stanley- This teams season could go the way that Stanley does. I think he hasn't performed to his abilities and should hit closer to 50 homers, but he hasn't quite come close yet. If he does, then this team could finish better than I anticipate. If he has a down season then things could go much worse for this team.

Fargo Wood Chippers
owner- Starbuckdc(27 seasons)
Season 27 record- 86-76
Payroll- $82.5

Fargo is not a team that will hit for a high average, but they do have an above average offense. Power hitters Tony Caballero and Zip Sullivan are a couple of the better hitters in the NL. Zip Sullivan is the 2 time MVP, but Caballero is the better all around hitter. They can make any offense good. Junior Shigetoshi has a great eye and should hit for a really good average as well. Harlold Munoz is in his second year and should improve. He should be able to get on base enough to be a speed threat once he's there. Olmedo Johnson is an ideal leadoff man. He can get on base and hit for average and then he'll steal a lot of bases. Alexei Marrero has decent power and should get on base a lot. If this team had better depth then I'd think really hard about putting them at the top of the NL offensively, but for now I rank them as one of the top teams.

Defense is not an issue for this team. Adam McCorley and Trent Canizaro are a couple really good shortstops that will split time. Zip Sullivan has one of the better, if not the best, gloves at secondbase in the NL. Olmedo Johnson plays a really good thirdbase. I see the issue as being centerfield. They lack a really good centerfielder. That is the only reason I can't put them near the top of the league in defense. Right now I think they are just above average due to that.

Pitching is pretty solid for the Wood Chippers. The top of the rotation is where they excel. Benny Vilano and Aurelio Ozuna are a great one-two punch at the top. Emil Martin is a really good middle rotation starter as well. Ismael Duran and Harold Dillon are decent back end starters. The rotation together is really good and among the best in the NL. The bullpen is what holds this team back from greatness. It's just not a very good bullpen. I still think that Fargo has a good pitching staff overall.

Fargo is going to be a tough team this season. The offense is good and has the potential to be even better than that. The defense is really solid and is a piece away from being one of the best in the league. The pitching has a bullpen weakness, but the rotation is pretty good. I think Fargo should blow by their last season win total and could win 90+ games this season. Right now, this looks like the team to beat in the NL North.

Player to watch- Tony Caballero- This guy is one of the best hitters in the NL and has the potential to do even better than what he's already done. I'm not just saying this is a guy to watch this season, I'm saying he's a guy to watch throughout his career. When he's done, he could very well hold quite a few league records and end up in the Hall of Fame. For this season, I'd say he has the shot at winning an MVP.

Scranton Red Barons
owner- reggie988(5 seasons)
Season 27 record- 70-92
Payroll- $36.8

Scranton has an average offense this season. I think they have some good players, but they are a low contact team. That usually doesn't hold up well. Youngster David Uribe wasted no time making his mark on the league last season. He has good power and should get on base a lot. His low contact means that he'll strike out quite a bit too though. F.P. Gentry is a solid hitter, but I expect him to hit better than he has up to this point in his career. This team has plenty of depth and some solid power, but they just don't have the look of a top offense. That's why I'll say they are average and let them prove me wrong.

Defense is an area of concern for Scranton. The best option at shortstop is L.J. Stowers, but his glove isn't what you'd like at that position. They don't have a centerfielder either. The lack of players that can play those positions really puts other players on this team out of position. I wouldn't be surprised to see Scranton finish among the worst defensive teams in the league.

The pitching is looking a bit above average. Young starter Julio Valdivia is a great starter and won a Cy Young award in just his second season after signing as an IFA a couple seasons ago. Youngster Gustavo Santos is good for a middle rotation starter. Babe Conroy and Alfonso Puig are a couple of average arms that fit nicely at the back of the rotation. The rotation as a whole is average. The bullpen features closer Mitch Mota, who hasn't pitched very well the past few seasons, but I expect he'll turn it around. Enerio Granados, Augie Kim and Ricardo Johnson are pretty good setup men. The bullpen looks pretty good this season and should be able to hold some leads.

Scranton is an improving and young team. They are on their way up in this division and are real close to putting it together. The defense is a major concern and is going to hold them back from being serious contenders. The pitching and offense are looking good enough to put this team into contention for a post season spot, but the defense will likely keep them out. I could see them winning around 80 games this season.

Player to watch- Julio Valdivia- This guy is a great young starter. If he had better stamina then this guy would be one of the best in all of Pine Tar. After winning the Cy Young last season, I'm interested to see how he follows up that campaign. Can he continue to pitch like a future Hall of Famer or will he come back to the pack some?

Iowa City still looks like a good team to me. I'm not sure that they will win the division again though. I think they will put up a fight for it and will likely end up in the wild card. Helena is a solid team, but I don't think they are on the level of the top teams in this division. They could fight for a wild card spot, but I can't see them winning the division. Fargo is the team to watch this season. I think they are the most complete team in this division and have a real shot at the NL title. They are my pick to take the division. Scranton is a team that is getting better and they are really young. I think they'll improve and maybe even fight for a wild card spot, but in the end I think they'll miss out and finish close to .500.

1. Fargo
2. Iowa City
3. Helena
4. Scranton

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