Friday, April 10, 2015

NL North Season 31 Preview

Scranton and owner reggie988 dominated the NL North, winning 102 games and securing their third straight division title.  The Red Barons fell one game short of making a return trip to the World Series, as they lost to Albuquerque in game 7 of the NLCS.  Iowa City and Fargo tied for second place, but finished 29 games behind first place Scranton.  Hawkeyes’ owner tk21775 traded away some offensive stars for prospects and ended the season with 12 fewer wins than in Season 29.  Fargo moved to Minnesota, where first-year owner ranscott64 hopes to get the Huskies’ franchise on the right track after two years of rebuilding.  Helena finished in fourth place and is openly rebuilding, as owner pinetaar dealt a bunch of high-priced talent during the offseason.

Helena Copper Kings (pinetaar - 5th season)
Payroll: 39.8M
Draft Pick: #5

Season 30 Record: 67-95 (4th place)
S30 Runs Scored
S30 Team ERA
S30 Fielding Percentage
705 (8th in NL)
5.04 (16th in NL)
.980 (14th in NL)

Offense:  Expect the Helena offense to go from average to one of the worst in the league with the losses of Benito Rodriguez, J.A. Stanley, and Alex Suzuki.  Bengie Romano (.267 BA, 53 RBI, 27 SB) has a nice blend of contact and speed, and Ian Langston (.286 BA, 22 HR, 58 RBI) should drive in some runs.  However, the Copper Kings need much more to be competitive.  Keep an eye on the following AAA players, who could contribute if they get promoted: Vin Volquez, Matthew Rivera, and Mike Lawson.

Pitching: The Copper Kings should again see themselves near the bottom of the league in pitching, after finishing dead last in Season 30.  The starting rotation will struggle, led by veteran Miguel Rivera (3.96 ERA, 1.24 WHIP), who might be better suited for the bullpen with his stamina.  The bullpen has a couple of promising youngsters in Rigo Jimenez (3.87 ERA, 20 saves) and Luigi Duran (3.69 ERA), but could use a few more solid arms in order to preserve leads.

Fielding: Helena’s middle-infield is decent as Bengie Romano is one of the best 2B in the league.  Jerry Greenwood will hold his own at SS, although his arm strength could be a deficiency.  The Copper Kings lack a true CF and have an average catcher in Delino Fuentes (31% CS).  I predict that they will rank below average, but not bottom of the league like last season.

Iowa City Hawkeyes (tk21775 - 16th season)
Payroll: 48.0M
Draft Pick: #14

Season 30 Record: 73-89 (tied 2nd place)
S30 Runs Scored
S30 Team ERA
S30 Fielding Percentage
529 (16th in NL)
3.39 (2nd in NL)
.989 (1st in NL)

Offense: Iowa City looks to improve upon a ranking of dead last in runs scored during the previous season.  The Hawkeyes return Alexei Marrero (.380 OBP, 27 HR, 72 RBI) and Max Barrios (.298 BA, 20 HR, 84 RBI), who should be their top offensive threats.  They also acquired contact-hitter Elroy Epstein (Cincinnati) and power-hitter Eugene Harvey (Scranton) in the off-season.  Iowa City should have an improved offense, but still slightly below average in my opinion.

Pitching: Iowa City has definitely played to their ballpark, as pitching was once again a major strength last season.  The rotation should be above average with 4 dependable starters, including Sean Shipley (2.98 ERA, 129 career wins).  The bullpen currently consists of zero players with major league experience, so I’m not sure what tk21775 is planning.  Look for AAA relief prospect Junior Martin to be a star when he gets called up to the bigs.  I expect the pitching to drop to average, due to the bullpen.

Fielding: The Hawkeyes led the NL in fielding percentage last year, and should be near the top again this season.  Cam House (21 plus plays) finally got recognition for being one of the best shortstops in the league with his first gold glove award.  Iowa City returns its catching duo, who threw out 41% of base stealers last season.  I only see slight deficiencies in range at CF and 2B.  Overall, this should be a solid defensive team.

Minnesota Huskies (ranscott64 – 1st season)
Payroll: 62.2M
Draft Pick: #13

Season 30 Record: 73-89 (tied 2nd place)
S30 Runs Scored
S30 Team ERA
S30 Fielding Percentage
639 (13th in NL)
4.29 (11th in NL)
.978 (15th in NL)

Offense: The offense had a major decline last season, after the previous owner traded a number of stars in order to rebuild.  Minnesota’s offensive strength is speed, as they have multiple base-stealing threats including Octavio Espinosa and Geoff Weems.  The Huskies lack enough contact and power hitters to improve upon last season’s low ranking.  Junior Shigetoshi (.418 OBP, 65 RBI) is the exception, and should be the Huskie’s top offensive player.

Pitching: The Huskies pitching was below average last season, and could get worse with the trading of star pitcher Aurelio Ozuna.  As a group, the starters will struggle, as most are bottom-of-rotation guys.  Ben May (25 years-old, 13 wins) and Emil Martin (26 years-old, 3.86 ERA) are exciting young starters who will continue to receive the opportunity to showcase their skills.  The bullpen has a dependable closer in six-time all-star Rickie Metcalfe (37 saves), but I’m not sure that they have the setup guys to send the game to Metcalfe with the lead.  Overall, I predict that the Minnesota pitching staff will rank near the bottom of the NL.

Fielding: The Minnesota defense has the potential to improve upon their low Season 30 ranking, where they finished 15th in errors and last in plus plays.  Jhonny Castro is a good shortstop with great range, who will make some spectacular plays for the Huskies this season.  The catching will be solid, as the duo of Jonny Lincoln and Shigetoshi nailed 35% of steal attempts last year.  The big question will be who plays 2B and 3B?  If Lazy Barkley and Darren Hogan are in the lineup on a daily basis, then I believe that this defense will be average, if not better.

Scranton Red Barons (reggie988 - 9th season)
Payroll: 64.7M
Draft Pick: #31

Season 30 Record: 102-60 (1st place – Lost in NLCS)
S30 Runs Scored
S30 Team ERA
S30 Fielding Percentage
851 (2nd in NL)
3.49 (3rd in NL)
.987 (3rd in NL)

Offense: Scranton should again have one of the best offenses in the league, as they have a successful blend of hitting and power.  The Red Barons return season 30 MVP Eugenio Canseco (.321 BA, 38 HR, 124 RBI), all-star selections Jim Hawpe and F.P. Gentry, and ROY runner-up Luis Cruz (.282 BA, 23 HR, 90 RBI).  The speed is lacking, but that didn’t seem to hurt them last season.

Pitching: The Red Barons have a deep rotation, with three starters returning who had at least 15 wins last season.  Gustavo Santos (17-5, 2.49 ERA) has established himself as an effective ace, and finished second in Cy-Young voting.  The bullpen has a number of strong arms, and should be able to hold leads.  Veteran Alberto Blasco was signed in free-agency to go with Avasail Soto and Mitch Mota (28 saves, 2.34 ERA).  Expect Scranton’s pitching to rank near the top of the league again, where they finished 3rd a season ago.

Fielding: Scranton’s fielding should be above-average, but not at the top of the NL like last year.  The strength of this team is their outfield, which lets very few balls drop due to their outstanding range.  Gold glove winner Vladimir Toregas (30 plus plays) has also been great at 3B.  The weak spot for the Red Barons defense is the shortstop position.  They don’t have a true shortstop, and last season Jim Hawpe struggled with 23 errors and 11 minus plays.


If Las Vegas generated odds for HBD, then Scranton would be about a 1-10 favorite to win their fourth consecutive NL North title.  The Red Barons should win the division easily and be able to make a serious run at the pennant.  Scranton should enjoy their success now, as some of their young stars are about to become very expensive with arbitration.  The remaining three teams have been rebuilding and are not yet ready to contend.  I expect Iowa City to finish second in the division, and come close to a .500 record.  The Hawkeyes have great defense, respectable pitching, and an improved offense.  Minnesota and Helena are in a much deeper rebuild.  Not only will they be in a neck-and-neck race for last place in the NL North, but also for the #1 overall draft pick.  I believe that Minnesota will finish a few games ahead of Helena, due to slightly better fielding and pitching.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment