Wednesday, December 17, 2008

N.L. East Division Predictions

After a bit of a slow start, the Monarchs ran away with the N.L. East last year winning the division by 19 games as no other team finished above .500. Unfortunately, I think history will repeat itself for the most part. I say 'for the most part' because I think one of the other teams in the division just might finish at .500 or better.

Kansas City
Kansas City Monarchs (NL)
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Season 10: 1st Place (92-70)
Season 11 Prediction: 1st Place

The Skinny:
While Kansas City's offense doesn't really excite me (with the exception of Erick Hatcher), it's serviceable. And frankly, that's all it really needs to be in this division because (1) the other offenses in the division aren't any better and (2) the pitching staff here is pretty good. After winning 92 games a season ago, the Monarchs didn't make many changes. Really the only significant free agent signing was center fielder Tomas Blasco who left Syracuse/Washington DC and will replace J.D. Acosta who left for Colorado. While Blasco will be patrolling center field, 23-year old Patsy Owens is in right field. Owens had a stellar rookie campaign last season batting .313 with 113 RBI and 82 runs scored. Owens should provide some protection in the lineup for last year's National League Most Valuable Player, Erick Hatcher. Hatcher's the real gem of the offense as he hit 59 HR's, racked up 171 RBI, scored 135 runs and batted .363. Note to the other Monarch hitters - if you get on base, E. Hatch will drive you in.
The rotation has some lively young arms including Pablo Pena (29 wins over the last 2 seasons) and Jim Aurilia (12+ wins in 4 straight seasons), but Carmine Holmes (32-18 record from season 9 to present) is still the ace of the staff in my book. With these guys in the rotation, look for Kansas City at the top of the standings in Season 11.

Season 10: 3rd Place (70-92)
Season 11 Prediction: 2nd Place

The Skinny:
The Metros did a lot of wheeling in dealing in the offseason, but their big play was signing 38-year old Horace Gulan. Gulan doesn't have the stamina to start anymore, but he should be a great addition to the bullpen. Gulan's career record is 143-67 with a 3.78 ERA which tells you all you really need to know - the guy can pitch. Dennys Franco is back for his 3rd season in the rotation and he's just 22-years old. While Franco didn't have the best of seasons last year, I expect big things in the future. His splits are incredible and he's got pretty good offspeed stuff. He should up his win total from a season ago. Another pitcher to keep an eye on is Victor Rizzuto. Rizzuto (currently on the DL) has pitched pretty well in New York and his ability to keep the ball on the ground is a big reason for that. Closing the door for these guys is the steady Yogi Coleman. Coleman hasn't had as many chances as he would like, but when called up, he gets the job done. Wait a minute...with guys named "Rizzuto" and "Yogi", shouldn't this team be playing at Yankee Stadium?
While the Celtics have a Big 3 in Boston, the Metros offense has a big 3 as well. Steven Bonds, Philip Ray and Russ Feller make up the Metros Big 3. Last season, all 3 players hit 40+ home runs, drove in 100+ runs and scored 85+ runs. While those numbers are spectacular, the team batting average was just .262 and the on-base percentage was a woeful .327. If the Metros can improve those numbers, this team will finish better than .500 this season.

Season 10: 4th Place (66-96)
Season 11 Prediction: 3rd Plac

The Skinny:
Chicago's finished in the cellar in back-to-back seasons, but I think they have a chance to move up a spot! However, I really don't see them winning many more games than they did last season. It's a widely known fact that the Old Style are in rebuild mode. That hasn't changed. They're not trying to contend at the major league level right now. They've never even had a winning record in their history (80-82 in Season 4 won the division for them).
Having said that, I'm not even going to focus on the major league team. Let's talk about the future. The Old Style are grooming some pretty talented players and it starts with Jose Morlan. The 21-year old short stop is currently hitting ,375 in AA ball. Napoleon Conti, a teammate of Morlan's, is struggling a bit right now, but he's also going to be on a major league squad in the near future. The Old Style also have international free agent signee, Ricardo Garces, in AA where he's batting .324 with a 1.074 OPS. The more I look at this AA team, it's very clear to me that they would beat the Major League team! The rotation includes Chico Rodriguez who has yet to lose a game in his minor league career. If I dig deeper and head down to High A ball, Chicago has even more talent there (see Ugueth Cortez or Mitchell Perry). So while the big league team will struggle, there's help on the way in Chicago so grab a deep dish and relax!

Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. Commuters (NL)
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Season 10: (73-89)
Season 11 Prediction: 4th Place

The Skinny:
There's so many names and so much activity on the Commuters' transaction list, it resembles the Declaration of Independence. However, based on all that activity, it looks like the team wanted a clean break upon its departure from Syracuse. The Swingers swung and missed.
With new ownership, the team now resides in Washington DC. And with some of the more talented players being traded away, there's hope that mengel2 may stick around for awhile and tried to rebuild this franchise that's had 5 owners in its last 5 seasons.
The District traded away a trio of major leaguers including J.P. McEnroe, Sammy Piedra and Cyrus Stanley, but they received some nice prospects in return. Rafael Gil is currently hitting .314 in AAA; Phil Cohen is batting .333 in AAA; and Vasco James awaits a chance to pitch in AA ball.
The big league club will probably be led by 3B Darryl Boone and 1B Tony Borders, however neither has been anything more than a role player in the past. The best arms of the pitching staff are starter Walt Restovich and former Blizzard reliever Hideo Gonzales. Like the Old Style, the Commuters ownership will probably spend more time watching his minor league players grow than watching his major league team struggle.

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