Sunday, February 13, 2011

Season 20 Preview: AL North

Syracuse Snow Belt
Season 19 Record: 99-63
Budget for players: $99m with $2m left in cap space at the moment.
Pitching Staff:  6 of 10
Offense:  7 of 10
Bench:  5 of 10
Defense: 7 of 10
Minor League Grade: C+
Divisional Finish: 1
Notes:  The on certainty in this league, Syracuse will win the division.  Last season was only the second time the team has not reached 100 wins in a season since the league began 20 seasons ago.  1b,3b, RF are all 34+ year old sluggers.  The defense is above average at C, SS and CF while below average at 2b and the corner OF positions.  The offense is driven by power and will hit plenty of HR.  The bench offers an offensive dropoff over the starters but a defensive upgrade.  Two true DH will platoon.Gail Latham is the highlight of the pitching staff.  6 members of the staff are 30+ years old.  The key beating them appears to be to load up with left handed bats.  This is a solid staff but not spectacular.  That said, no one gets as much from their pitchers as schedule1. The minor league system is incredibly deep considering the success of the franchise. 

 Ottawa Braves
Season 19 Record: 93-69
Budget for players: $85m with little room for movement.
Pitching Staff:  8 of 10
Offense:  6 of 10
Bench:  5 of 10
Defense: 9 of 10
Minor League Grade: D+
Divisional Finish: 2
Notes:  The team has some strong offensive performers.  Oswaldo Franco over a full season will add a few wins but hoping Shane Forrest will be anything other than mediocre is delusional.  The weak bats worry me more than the strong bats excite me.  The defense is the best I have reviewed so far.  The bench ios defensive insurance and there are no pinch hitters.  The pitchers are above average across the board.  I only see one guy I do not like and there are likely enough innings without him.  The minors are thin but there are a couple fringe guys.

 Cleveland Armpits
Season 19 Record: 91-71
Budget for players: $82M, about $20m in cap space.
Pitching Staff:  7 of 10
Offense:  7 of 10
Bench:  6 of 10
Defense: 4 of 10
Minor League Grade: C+
Divisional Finish: 3
Notes:  Only one catcher on the roster and he can only be expected to play about 75% of the games.  I assume the DH is a backup. Desi Arroyo is a ROY candidate and the Of is better than most.  The starters at the corner IF and OF spots have some defensive short comings and Arroyo's glove has room to grow.  The bench offers defense a few decent AB there as well.  The pitching staff is very good, a few all stars, but no dominating hall of famer.  Multiple pitching prospects and Peaches Knight is special.  The amazing thing about Knight is he was the 27th pick of the first round. No full time starters on the offensive side of things.

 Chicago Black Soxs
Season 19 Record: 88-74
Budget for players: $57m about 16 still available
Pitching Staff:  5 of 10
Offense:  7 of 10
Bench: 9 of 10
Defense: 7 of 10
Minor League Grade: B+ (the depth of arms was too good to overturn the lack of positional types)
Divisional Finish: 4
Notes:  This team has no rsotered players listed as primary 1b or 2b and the RF are not really corner OF.  Defense is a focus here.  The offense is pretty solid, no weaknesses.  The most difficult part is trying to figure out who plays where.  No real backup for SS, CF or C (the backup C is listed as a C but is truely a DH).  There are 4 players with 80 plus power or projected to at least.  On the mound Tony Plata is nice.  Past him there are some decent arms and a few #5 starter types.  This is where this team is a level below the other 3 in the division.  In the minors there are at least 13 arms that will one day be in the majors including some very good all-star and hall of fame potential players.  The offensive stockpile is meager however with 3 potential major leaguers and no all star types, unless you include Buddy Bacsik who was an all star at one point.

 This was the best division I have seen from top to bottom so far and really if you flipped my predictions would not be overly shocked, well despite the shock of someone other than Syracuse winning for the first time.

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