Wednesday, January 19, 2011

AL North Season Preview

Here it is at long last---our first divisional preview for Season 13!

We're starting with the AL North---the bunch that is more likely to excel at hockey than they are baseball, but that always seems to produce heavy competition near the top.


Buffalo Sunshine
Owner: frp1981
Previous Season Record: 91-71
Best Player: Cy Cashman
Key acquisition/loss: Traded for Kent Gipson
Random Trivia: The average temperature in Buffalo is 47. Apparently Buffalo likes wishful thinking in their nomenclature.

Taking over the banner franchise for the AL North, new owner frp1981 apparently has his sights set on something the previous owner hasn't done since way back in Season 8---having a payroll below $100M. By allowing some high-priced free agents to hit the road and having a relatively tame free agency themselves, the Sunshine are looking to do it on the cheap this year.

Just because the budget is nice and shiny doesn't mean the outlook is not---making a huge splash early on in the trade market and bringing in masher Kent Gipson and "Comeback Player of the Year" hopeful Kiki Jose (who posted a .711 OPS, a whopping .172 points lower than his career average), the Sunshine are going to be looking to make it rain on AL North pitching this season.

While the lineup blossoms, however, the rotation wilts a bit from last season. While they posted a virtual league-average 4.37 ERA last season, the Season 13 version of this luminous team gives up 13-game winner Cristobal Cruz, but restructures the staff to keep all the faces familiar---every pitcher in the rotation this season started at least 15 games last season. The question is whether this staff will gel together to produce the same results as last season. All I know is....everybody needs to put on their sunglasses, because the outlook for this team is bright.

Predicted record: 95-67

3B Raphael Moreno
LF Deivi Guerrero
1B Kenny Byrne
RF Kent Gipson
C Yeico Izquierdo
2B Kiki Jose
DH Antonio Duran
SS Zach Bonds
CF Ben O'Malley

Cy Cashman
Bruce Collier
Justin Washington
Matty Santana
Lon Venafro

Sean Taylor

New York Blue Devils
Owner: dukediggler5
Previous Season Record: 87-75
Best Player: Andy Taylor
Key acquisition/loss: Ricardo Johnson
Random Trivia: The Blue Devils are jumping feet-first into the AL North race. Wait...better not say anything about "feet" too loud---Rex Ryan lives in New York too.

With an extremely active free agency, spending a little bit over $25.1M, the Blue Devils are looking to make a run in the AL North this season. Although they lost righty stud John Payton to free agency, they did manage to resign Raul Osuna, and with the call up of young flamethrower Frank Fonville, the rotation anchored by Andy Taylor should maintain their Top-5 standing in team ERA this season.

The signing of slugger Ricardo Johnson looks to bolster a lineup that finished in the bottom 1/3 of the league last season, while the callup of speedy young center fielder Max Rollins, moving Sid Bynum to right field, looks to be an effort to improve an already fantastic defense (88 plus plays, 17 minus plays last season).

The Blue Devils are clearly gearing up to make a run, but will they have a prayer against the shining force in the AL North?

Predicted record: 95-67

LF Mark Sanders
2B Neifi Tejada
3B John Leonard
C Jaime Shea
DH Ricardo Johnson
1B Charlie Graves
RF Sid Bynum
CF Max Rollins
SS Tony Fernandez

Andy Taylor
Raul Osuna
Jose Duran
Frank Fonville
Josias Julio

Wolf Guerrero

Chicago Mutant Mules
Owner: kelly_mccann
Previous Season Record: 69-93
Best Player: Stephen Newman
Key acquisition/loss: Trading for Derrik Sierra
Random Trivia: The Mules aren't the only thing that mutated in Chicago. Have you seen the Bears? They turned into a real football team!

In what is clearly an effort to improve a bottom-quartile offense last season, the Mutant Mules went on a youth movement and snatched up speedy 2B Derrik Sierra and CF Tony Arias. Added to an already potent lineup including young star Stephen Newman and young DH Curtis Crandall, this youth movement looks to inflict some damage on what appears to be a stacked AL North.

With a league-average pitching staff last season that adds finesse aging righties Malachi Plant and Alberto Dominguez to the rotation, the Mutant Mules clearly don't believe in the same youth movement with their pitchers as they do with their position players.

Predicted Record: 81-81


Ken Wood

Toledo Tigers
Owner: lcarmona76
Previous Season Record: 57-105
Best Player: Rich Jefferies
Key acquisition/loss: Signing Raul Diaz
Random Trivia: "Spud" is the favorite name in Toledo

With a team that is much more suited to Boise than Toledo, the bi-Spudal Tigers look to rebound from a 57-105 campaign in Season 12.

The problem is, they just don't have the taters to do it.

With 0-9, 6.90 ERA Alex Guerrero being the only pitcher in the starting rotation back from the Tiger's Season 12 campaign, the addition of Paxton Garcia and Raul Diaz looks to patch up a staff that hemorrhaged runs for the entire season.

Coming off of a Season 12 lineup that produced 300 fewer runs than their pitching staff gave up, the Tigers add Rule 5 pick and the king of redundancy king, Stewart Stewart---and not much else. There are no "new" faces in the starting 9, only guys who will be increasing their role in the upcoming season.

Predicted record: 51-111

C Trevor Bowles
1B Patrick Blume
2B Spud Abbey
3B Rich Jefferies
SS Al Sanchez
LF C.C. Webster
CF Don Elarton
RF Stewart Stewart
DH Bo Conroy

Paxton Garcia
Raul Diaz
Dan Kirby
Alex Guerrero

Spud Olerud

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