Saturday, December 13, 2008

N.L North Division Predictions

The N.L. North was the most fiercely contested division last year as only 8 games separated 1st place from 4th place. However, while it was fiercely contested within the division, only one team finished with a .500 or better record and that team was the Minnesota Mighty Men. And Minnesota is where we start our N.L. North predictions.

Season 10: 1st Place (82-80)
Season 11 Prediction: 1st Place

The Skinny:
While they finished with 82 wins last season, expectations are much higher this year as some of Minnesota's young talent starts to come of age. The "Mighties" boast a sweet crop of youngsters that are ready to make a name for themselves. 3B Bill Hewson is probably the best of the bunch, but he'll have a lot of support from the likes of short stop Miguel Mateo, 1B/DH J.J. Taylor and OF Willis Bonilla. 1B/DH Hector Maduro looks like he's arrived from AAA ball for the entire season as well. That's a very potent lineup and not one of those players is over 25 years old! Expect a lot of runs to be scored by this lineup.
While the lineup is excellent, the pitching staff needs work. Mitch Tanner is a decent inning-eater to have at the top of the rotation and B.C. Tatis has great stuff, but the rest of the rotation needs to improve. Of course, if they can survive long enough to hand the ball to Don Yoshii, they'll be just fine.

Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls Canaries (NL)
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Season 10: 3rd Place (78-84)
Season 11 Prediction: 2nd Place

The Skinny:
There was no one more active in free agent signings than yoker70 and his Sioux Falls Canaries. Did the offseason hard work pay off? I think it did, but I still had a hard time sliding them into a 2nd place prediction. The biggest name heading to Sioux Falls is definitely starting pitcher Paul Ishii. Ishii's a very nice addition to any rotation simply because he'll guarantee you about 220-240 innings pitched every season, but he's not a dominant pitcher (101-101 career record) by any means. A couple of seasons ago, Steve Floyd would've been a huge name in free agency, but he's a little past his prime. Floyd can still pitch though and that is why Sioux Falls is bringing him in as well. The Canaries didn't have to look far for the next addition to their pitching staff. They nabbed Junior Valentin away from division rival, Minnesota. However, even will all the new additions, the best pitcher on the staff is probably 23-year old Charlie Nelson (9-9, 4.09).
While the Canaries spent some money on the pitching staff, they also took out the checkbook for the offense as well. Scott Rose comes over from Detroit and will see time at DH and 1B and Brad Moyer makes his way to Sioux Falls via Wichita. With all these changes, I still believe the Canaries will need Omar Rivas to put up better numbers than he did last season in order to compete with Minnesota.

Montreal Mother Canuckers (NL)
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Season 10: 2nd Place (79-83)
Season 11 Prediction: 3rd Place

The Skinny:
The biggest change for the this club is the move from Rochester to Montreal (I'm a big fan of the team name, by the way), but there were also a lot of free agent signings here as well. I just don't think they made out as well as yoker70 (aka Mr. Moneybags). The free agent signing who should make the biggest impact is outfielder Valerio Palmeiro who arrives from San Diego/Vancouver. Aside from the free agent additions, the best move here was certainly the trade for Pedro Cruz. Cruz was 15-8 last season splitting time between AA and AAA ball, but he'll make his rookie campaign in the majors this season.
While I think the team will take a step back this season, they've still got some talent in the likes of Bobby Ray Palmer and Fernando Sanchez. And even if they stumble a little this season, all eyes will be on James Barnes and his quest to become the first player in Mantle World to reach 2,000 hits. He currently stands at 1,813 hits and tallied over 201 last season so there's a good chance he could reach that monumental number this season.

Season 10: 4th Place (74-88)
Season 11 Prediction: 4th Place

The Skinny:
One wonders how long Sherm Roberts will remain in Trenton. The 2-time MVP is a great bargaining chip and could probably bring in some excellent prospects if Trenton decides to look toward the future. It would be a tough decision to move him because this division was up for grabs last year, but if Minnesota and the others pull away early, let's just say the trade rumors started here! Can I add Cam DeRosa to those rumors as well? These 2 guys have been the foundation of Titans offense for so long, but the pitching staff has never been up to snuff and it doesn't look like that has changed this season either. It's not for a lack of effort on the part of KGS77 because he's always looking to trade for pitching. There's just not much that's been made available.
As for the current rotation, Cristian Torres is a decent starter and Shannon Ojeda will get some people out, but there's a major arms need here in Trenton. In fact, the best arms are in the bullpen in Al Vargas and newcomer Ronnie Brooks. Add those guys to Enrique Lee and the bullpen is pretty solid.

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