Saturday, December 13, 2008

A.L North Division Predictions

Season 10: 1st Place (106-56) - World Series Champion
Season 11 Prediction: 1st Place

The Skinny:
I could just cut and paste what I wrote about this team at the start of last season (minus the Bucky McDonald mention) because I really have the same thoughts on the Bad Seeds. They have excellent bats led by Season 10 MVP Sammy Shumpert and Ismael Estrella and they have veteran pitching in guys like Dustan Connelly and Rudy Brown (who combined to go 37-14 last season, by the way). And if those guys aren't veteran enough at 37 and 33 years old, they brought in 41-year old Vinny Clement to help out in the bullpen. There is some youth in Detroit though and we think it's only a matter of time before Wesley Downing becomes a regular in the starting rotation. While I give the edge to Detroit here, I see Wichita giving them a run for their money as they did last season.

Season 10: 2nd Place (97-65)
Season 11 Prediction: 2nd Place

The Skinny:
There's a buzz in Wichita this season and with good reason. Red Sherman has arrived. He didn't spend a lot of time in the minors and he didn't need to - this guy can flat out rake it. Sherman may not play every day, but he'll be in the lineup more often than not and the Wranglers are expecting him to provide some needed pop to the lineup. Wait, there's more. Slugger and slick-fielding center fielder Johnnie Adams will be joining Sherman in the majors as well this season. Adams has a sweet glove and can run the bases a bit, but he's also accustomed to jogging the bases (34 HR's in AAA last season). On the pitching front, the Wranglers signed former Blizzard starting pitcher Angel Cruz. I'm not sure if Cruz will be in the rotation or coming out of the 'pen, but either way, he's a solid addition to a great staff led by 4-time all-star and former Cy Young winner Brent Meche. If Apollo Tam and Tony Galvez can produce like they did last season, I expect the Wranglers to be in the playoffs again this season.

Chicago Black Sox (AL)
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Season 10: 3rd Place (89-73)
Season 11 Prediction: 3rd Place

The Skinny:
I thought this team would be better last season, but what I can say - it's the A.L. North where 89 wins is only good enough for 3rd place and causes you to miss the playoffs by 1 game. The offense has some big-time talent in Derek Taylor, Rob Becker and Julio Valenzuela. Will Hull (Rule 5 waiver claim) and Russell Smith (promoted from AAA) will provide even more pop to the lineup. The Black Sox have a very strong bullpen also as they've clearly focused on improving that aspect of the pitching staff over the last 2 seasons. Jack Abercrombie had an outstanding rookie campaign (12-5, 2.84) and Roscoe Nation and Dick Orosco are back as well. The big question mark for the Black Sox is their starting pitching. Joel Baldwin is steady and Mikey Cook should have a better season, but the depth isn't there which is why I'm predicting a 3rd place finish.

Season 10: 4th Place (82-80)
Season 11 Prediction: 4th Place

The Skinny:
The good news in Scranton is that the Apollos finished over .500 and that was an 11-game improvement over the previous season. The bad news is I still see the Apollos finishing in 4th place. The Apollos bring in 2B Shea O'Connor from Richmond and also traded for Jesus Abreu, but neither player will make a major impact although Abreu can pitch until his arm falls off. Geronimo Franco, a Rule 5 draftee with gaudy minor league numbers, will get a chance in the lineup also, but they're still a little short on talent compared with their division rivals. Dan King and Pat Masao form an excellent offensive tandem and they're both young so the future looks pretty good offensively. The pitching staff needs a major upgrade though. Tyler Taylor is the best of the bunch and he's only 24, but I look at his health and wonder if he'll make it to 25! Marshall Whitney is another young pitcher (promoted from AA) who looks like he'll get a shot, but he's still a few years away from reaching his potential and the jump from AA ball to the majors may be tough for him.

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