Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AL North Season 18 Preview

Scranton Red Barons

Key additions: Stevie Reed, Luther Broome, Louis Gibson, Harry Mateo
Key losses: Eddie Marshall, Tex Parnell, Clem Smith, Fred Lieberthal

Although this franchise won 87 or more games each of the past 3 seasons, they missed the playoffs each year, and new owner pgburner realized some moves were necessary to push them over the hump and land their first playoff berth since season 14. Gibson and Mateo were signed to small 1-year contracts to provide an offensive burst, and newly promoted Phil Hampton should provide some pop from a corner outfield position. The starting rotation looks pretty solid, but the bullpen will probably need more help than just newly signed Reed and Broome. Prediction: 95-67

New York Juicers

Key additions: David Ontiveros
Key losses: Gabe Douglass, Hector Beltran, Erubiel Martin, Ismael Santiago

The Juicers underwent a tumultuous off-season that could cause them to lose their 6-season hold on 1st place in the notoriously tough AL North. The biggest loss was 2-time MVP Beltran, who left to sign a 5-year, $102 million contract with Colorado Springs. The bats of Martin and Santiago will also be missed, but Ontiveras, acquired in a trade with Salt Lake City, will greatly help the lessen the blow. Along with Emmanuel Machado and on-base machine Hideo Hujimoto, this offense still has the capability to put up lots of runs. And the 1-2 punch of Raymond Buckley and Daisuke Kimura will probably keep the Juicers in playoff contention all season. Prediction: 94-68

Cincinnati Red Stockings

Key additions: None
Key losses: Matty Oliva

Not much changed over the off-season for the Red Stockings, who look to return to the playoffs after a first round exit last year. There's no doubt that the offense will be solid, led by Tony Shannon and Mack Webster. The real question is whether the pitching staff will repeat its performance last season, when SP's Tomas Alomar, Ken Gehrig, and Tuck Sweeney all posted 16 or more wins and ERA's of 3.45 or below. My guess is the staff will take a step back this season. Prediction: 86-76.

Milwaukee Brewers

Key additions: Eugene Nicholson, Luis Nieves, Vladimir Bautista, Stuart Kirkland
Key losses: Darrel Young, Bret Gagne, Jimmie Morales

Last season, the Brewers won 88 games...and finished in dead last in the division. Their off-season plan appeared to be replacing departing old pitching with some fresh old pitching from the free agent market. However, their pitching staff appears to be stronger than last season's staff, provided injuries and aging don't strike too hard. The offense is once again led by Bosco Hyers and a solid, but not spectacular, supporting cast including Adam Gagne and Albert Lugo. The season likely depends upon incoming SP Nicholson's ability to stay healthy. Prediction: 84-78

NL North Season 18 Preview

Ottawa Rough Riders

Key additions: Jay Hughes
Key losses: Carlos Fernandez, Lonny Aguilar, Neil O'Neil

The Rough Riders have done a real nice job staying competitive with a small payroll in recent seasons, and this season should be no different. With a payroll under $50 million and no huge losses following a 93-win season, the Rough Riders look to compete for the division title once again this year. The offense is led by former ROY winner John Murata and fellow young slugger Sawyer Delmonico, and the rotation, though it features no true ace, is solid and should keep the team in games enough for the offense to push the Rough Riders to the playoffs. Prediction: 90-72.

Tacoma Mountain Men

Key additions: Buddy Cepeda
Key losses: Jimmy Springer, Tomas Concepcion, Vladimir Bautista, Donne Higginson, Jamie Risley, Peter Chong

After 17 years of unmatched success, including 8 (eight!) World Series titles, including one last season, it might finally be time for Tacoma (formerly the Rochester Big and Tall juggernaut) to return to the pack. Although a lot of talent was lost during the offseason, the Mountain Men still boast a strong starting rotation led by Robert Walton, and a few good middle-of-the-lineup bats, led by Benito Perez. They aren't my pick to repeat, but I think they have a chance at making the playoffs despite all the off-season losses. Prediction: 87-75.

New York Stink Palmers

Key additions: None
Key losses: Dennys Hayes

We've all heard a lot about New York's rebuilding plan, and now it's time to see if there are going to be results. The offense is led by Ben Bickerton and young Javier Santana, and the pitching staff is led by Mark Cox. Owner joshcarolina obviously feels he has enough young talent on this franchise to make a run at the playoffs this season, but a weak starting rotation and a mediocre offense will probably lead to a finish in the bottom half of the division. Prediction: 74-88.

Madison Cheeseheads

Key additions: Carlos Fernandez, Freddy Dixon, Michael Lee, Neil O'Neil, Eddie Marshall
Key losses: Charles Suzuki, Grant Kapler

After a disappointing 89-loss campaign last season, the Cheeseheads set out to improve their pitching through free agency, and they did just that, inking SP's Dixon and Marshall and RP's Fernandez and Lee. However, without a true ace atop the rotation or top-notch slugger in the middle of the lineup, the Cheeseheads will probably disappoint this season as well. Prediction: 73-89.