Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The NL North- Chicago's domain for now

Chicago Boomtown (S7: 92-70 1st S8: 111-51 )
Shakazulu5- 7th season (5 first place); $85.4 M Player Salary

Key Additions: Fernando Ordonez (C), Javier Uribe (P), Ted Walsh (P), Keith Rando (P), Juan Bennett (2b), Robert Kerr (P), Kevin Perez (P),

Key Losses: Stew Grace (power RF, 38 hr, 101 RBI, due 4.1 M) John Banks RF (contact hitter, 300 ab s7, due 1.7M), Rabbit Buck SS( due 5.3 M, not worth it), Lonny Sinclair RP, Dustan Brown SP, Tommy Branson SP, Darren Burke SP

Outlook: Chicago was one of the most active teams in the league this offseason as he retooled his pitching staff and declined some options. Molitor and Durbin are almost carbon copies of each other on offense and are the keys to the defense as well. The key to the offense however is Matty Dotel. Dotel will be in the running for the MVP this season. The lineup as a whole is good but lacks a little depth, they will miss former Armstrong Stew Grace.

The rotation is where the biggest changes took place with three of last years starters being shipped out. Bryant, Walsh and Rando could all be in the running for the Cy Young with Bryant being the true team MVP by starting close to 50 games and logging over 300 ip. He likely won’t last over 5 ip in many starts but that’s fine because the bullpen is solid. There is not a weak link in the group. This is a strong team that retooled and got stronger. Shakazulu5, team owner, has stated that anything short of a World Series appearance would be a disappointment. He very well could get his wish. If it is going to happen though it needs to happen soon as the 3 best starters are aged 36,35,33. Two major parts of the bullpen are also on the wrong side of 35.

X-Factor: Closer Kevin Perez may hold the keys to the post season dreams here. He is 38 and has begun to see some performance slippage. If he can make it through another season like last year, or even better the season before, good things will happen.

Augusta Gnomes (S7: 77-85 S8: 68-94 )
Norbert, 8th season (2 first place); $98.6M player salary

Key Additions: Damian Gabriel (RF, promotion), Julio Johnson (LRP, promotion), Brutus Christians (LRP, Promotion)

Key Losses: None worth mentioning

Outlook: Augusta’s offense is decent. There are no standout MVP types but there are also no slugs. The two offensive keystones are 2b Don Livingstone and 3b Brian Morris, both of whom are 32. The one area I think this team could really improve is at 1b. At a position where most of the league has great hitters Augusta is relying on a mediocre Chad Holden. He is not awful, or even bad just not the all star caliber player other teams have. What is the biggest mystery to me is why the teams best hitter, Ron Blair, is sitting in AAA,

On the pitching side Mitch Fox and Tommy Olerud should be the anchors of a solid rotation. Sadly both are going to have a difficult time making a start every 5 days. Fox is actually set up as the long A right now. Wouldn’t surprise me if he replaces Russell in the rotation before to long. Another players to watch are Johnson and Calloway who, on paper, seem better than the current 4 and 5 starters, but a notch below Olerud. Past them however the bullpen is shaky and will struggle holding leads. One potential solution there is the reliable looking Dennis Simpkins, waiting for the call in AAA.

This will be a tough season for August, as they will struggle to match last years out put. I think there are some useable chips on this team and it would help them if they couls spin them off for some solid pitching prospects.

X-Factor: C Trevor Wilkinson will be asked to do a lot to keep this team together. He is a solid bat n the lineup and calls a heck of a game. How he does at both tasks may determine how successful this team is.

Portland Cannons (S7: 77-85 S8:88-74 )
Jway11- First season; $58.6 M Player Salary

Key Additions: Bryce Stewart SP, Felipe Franco CF, Danys Cortez, Tony Collier, Abdullah Barnes

Key Losses: None that I saw.

Outlook: Portland’s offense has got some pop. They will hit a lot of home runs as a team this season. SS Calvin Kline will be fun to watch. He is silky smooth in the field and his swing is like fishnet stockings, full of holes but always a sign of a potential round tripper. He has the chance of hitting 40+ homeruns but he may also bat under .225. 2b Matt Nunnally is the heart and soul of the lineup and will provide a veteran presence in the clubhouse. One of the big strengths of this team is defense with Kline and two other SS Bierbrodt and Kennedy all vying for playing time. Before the end of the season all will be playing regularly somewhere on the field.

The pitching in Portland is solid I count 7 above average starters on the major league roster with Lee(34), Latham (21), Riley(27), Duckworth(34), and Chance (23) being the best of the bunch. Duckworth and Lee’s health make the presence of Mordecai and Stewart important. Sherman is the closer but Gentry and Collier are all solid enough that they should get their chances.

Portland should improve on last year’s record and push themselves into second place. They still have a little ways to go to catch Chicago. There does not look to be much help available at AAA but there are enough young guys at the ML level to explain why. This team has a great core of players that in two season they should be taking the division from Chicago, who is aging quickly

X-Factor: Gail Latham is a special player and potential Cy Young winner in the future. He was a 15 game winner as a rookie last year and should be able to improve on that this season.

Montreal The Greenies (S7: 59-103 S8: 48-114 )
Wolvie14- 8th Season; $85.3M Player Salary

Key Additions: None

Key Losses: None

Outlook: The Greenies of Montreal are a team that can hit. They do not have a ton of power but they do know how to get the bat on the ball. Mark Perez and Ricky Kent are the best of the group and both provide the main power in the lineup. The defense is a a potential downfall for this team as there is neither an above average defender at SS or CF nor a bench player who could come in late as a defensive replacement. When they get to the ball they do a decent job fielding it, they just might not get to as many as the pitchers would like.

On the pitching side things do not look so good. One time phenom Josh Moore is the anchor of the rotation. Bill Harvey is decent but getting older and Yosida will be ok against righties but get pounded by lefties. Past them I do not have much confidence in the staff. Kiki Estalella may have the stuff to be closer as far as getting people out but he also has suspect control and has only averages 37 ip for the past 4 seasons.

Down on the farm Mark Patterson and Albert Cairo are ready to step up when called on however both are 3b and will be competing against each other for ab. Richard Lee is also eager to get the call and would provide that defensive spark the Greenies may need at ss. Travis Fiore is the most polished pitching prospect at AA but he would be better served learning to trust his stuff at AAA

X-Factor: The GM. The is going to be a long season in Montreal and there is nt too much hope at the AAA level. There are some good offensive players in Simms, Donald Lee, Piper, Peron, Prinz, and West who are all on the wrong side of 0. They are running out of chances and could help another team. The question to me is not should they be traded but instead what can Wolvie14 get in return.

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