Tuesday, December 16, 2008

N.L. South Division Predictions

Last season, the Long Horns surprised a lot of people and not only ran away with the N.L. South division title, but they amassed the best record in the National League, while surpassing their Season 9 win total by 21 games. This season, drichter's club is on everyone's radar and there's no one less impressed with the Long Horns rise last season than the welsh5's Florida Lockdown.

Season 10: 3rd Place (83-79)
Season 11 Prediction: 1st Place

The Skinny:
3-time World Series winners don't rebuild, they simply reload. And that's exactly what Florida has done. Their most notable move was the trade with Charlotte which brought them Bronson Gibson and Zoltan Bernero (now with the Polish Hammers via the Rule 5 draft). Gibson is due to have another breakout season, similar to when he arrived in St. Louis in Season 6. Florida also brought in a pair of sluggers with the free agent signing of Carlos Gonzalez and the trade for Grady MacFarlane from Oklahoma City.
After trading away a couple valuable starters in Mark Parker (Charlotte) and James Bradshaw (Oklahoma City), the Lockdown signed Ricky Banks who will replace one of the aforementioned starters. However, Banks will probably fit in toward the back end of the rotation as they still have 19-game winner Ned McInerney and Lucas Milliard at the front end. While the pitching isn't terrific, there's enough pop in the lineup (see Elmer Coleman and Cam Lincoln) to return this team to the top of the standings in the N.L. South.

Season 10: 1st Place (99-63)
Season 11 Prediction: 2nd Place

The Skinny:
Having won 99 games last season, Texas didn't need to do much in the offseason. Most pieces are already in place. One area they looked to solidify was the bullpen and they did so by signing former Portland closer, Nick Smith. Smith tallied 109 saves over the last 3 seasons and should find himself in the closer role here in Texas as well. The rotation remains in tact from a season ago, however, Kirt Daniels and Luis Henriquez may find themselves battling for that final spot early on in the season. The best of the bunch would be Gregory Williams, a 19-game winner from a season ago.
Offensively, the Long Horns have a trio of hitters who could surpass the 100 RBI mark this season. Both Carlos Aguilera and Ted Hunter reached the mark last season and I would add Domingo Gonzales to the list provided he gets enough at bats. The catalyst of the Long Horns lineup is Gary Blake though. Blake had a monster Season 10 compiling 215 hits, 111 runs scored, 93 RBI and batting .369 while winning the Silver Slugger award for center fielders.

Season 10: 2nd Place (85-77)
Season 11: 3rd Place

The Skinny:
Like Texas, Louisville liked the team they had in place and didn't do too much in the offseason to upset the balance. Also like Texas, their biggest offseason move was acquiring a closer. In Louisville's case, they brought in one of the all-time greats, Joseph Yoshii. Yoshii ranks 2nd all-time with 255 career saves, the majority of which he earned for the Seminoles. The Beaners also signed rookie starting pitcher Pedro Camacho by way of Oklahoma City. Camacho will have an opportunity to learn from some of the best in 144-game winner J.R. Barkley and veteran Theo Roa.
The offense is led by shortstop Brian Tamura (41 HR, 120 RBI), but he should get a nice boost this season from 22-year old rookie 1B Roland Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald put up moster numbers in the minors, but he's prone to getting injured so his ability to stay healthy could affect where this team finishes.

Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City Power Failure (NL)
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Season 10: 4th Place (75-87)
Season 11 Prediction: 4th Place

The Skinny:
Oklahoma City was involved in a few trades in the offseason which brought them a a pair of solid starters and a pretty good young outfielder. As noted above, the Power Failure acquired James Bradshaw and slugger Howard Christiansen from the Lockdown in a deal that instantly brings some credibility to the pitching staff. With Bradshaw, Mateo Estrada and Sammy Piedra (acquired in trade from Washington), this staff is shaping up to be a good one. They should still look for one more starter and they need some bullpen help, but these trades certainly have the staff headed in the right direction.
Offensively, Chili Chen is still here although he could be a great bargaining chip around the all-star break. Chen's got a manageable contract and has really played well for the Power Failure over the last few seasons. The most dynamic player on the team may be Kip Sosa. The 25-year old Sosa is a 5-tool player who has yet to reach his potential. With the 24-year old Howard Christiansen aboard, these two could be a formidable duo for the next several seasons.

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