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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NL North Preview – Season 7

NL North should look similar to last season but much more competition is on the horizon for New York and it should not be a cake walk to the division championship this season.

New York – Shea It Ain’t So
Last Season: 90 – 72, NL North Champs, NL Pennant

Ballpark: Shea Stadium

Pitching carried this team to an NL pennant last season and looks to do the same again this year. The staff is lead by Ace starter Ramon Jiang and Stud closer Eddie Webster. Jiang should post another 240+ innings. Geraldo Ortiz will be back looking to post 10 wins for the 7th straight season.
Free Agent Signee Howie Taylor should provide some needed offense to a team who finished 10th in the NL in runs scored in year 6. Mateo Cordero will also need to step up in order to reverse the poor offensive output from last year. Not a whole lot of trade bait in the minors but I would not be surprised to see Shea It Ain’t So make a trade deadline move for another power bat.

Defense and Pitching should keep this team at the top of the division but the lack of impact bats might hurt their chances of a real playoff run.

Prediction: 1st place in division and another pennant run.

Kansas City - Bears
Last Season: 78 – 84, Second in division
Ballpark: Kauffman Stadium

Offseason additions are the story for Kansas City. They added Star RF Adam Lawrence, Starting Pitcher Sam Romano, and setup man/closer Shane Servais.

The Bears had an average year offensively last season and with the addition of Lawrence and the return of rookie of the year Stevie Williams they should be very explosive at the plate. There is plenty of power on this team if they can get men on base for their sluggers it will be an exciting year at the dish.

Pitching was what held this team back a year ago. A staff OAV of .282 and OBP of .342 is not a winning formula. However, there is reason to be optimistic. The long term signing of Omar Gonzalez and free agent signee Sam Romano sure up a solid rotation. The bullpen lacks a proven “closer” but the addition of Servais should help.

Kansas City may have paid a lot for free agents this offseason but they defiantly sent a message to New York that they will compete for the division this season. This team is capable of great things but their bullpen will hold them back slightly. Look for this franchise to make their first ever playoff appearance.

Prediction: 2nd in division and wild card berth.

Minnesota – Boomba Clots
Last Season: 70 – 92, Third in division
Ballpark: Humphrey Metrodome

Minnesota brings a very exciting team back from last season that lead the National league in HR but also allowed a ML leading 604 walks.

Coming back on offense will be season 6 silver slugger at 1b Randy Patrick and 40+ HR guys Doug Williamson and Miguel Estrada. While the big hitters are out scoring runs without the long ball proved to be the offenses Achilles heel. The promotion of Midre Maradona should provide another dimension to their offense.

Damion Towers will be back from a career year last season but the pitching staff needed help this offseason and did not get it. They added Mariano Sosa in FA. Almost 4 million a year for a guy who has about 30 innings of big league experience. They also wasted 3.8 million a year for Ralph Wider who is no longer with the team. Howard Dye has been promoted to the big leagues at age 21 and a lot will be riding on him if this team is to turn around. Still many people believe he is not ready for big league duty and the Boomba Clots are pitching him into the fire.

Minnesota’s offense should carry them to around the same win total as last season but more pitching is necessary for this team to become legit contenders.

Prediction: third in the division and slipping.

Boise - Barnstormers

Last Season: 67 – 95, Last in Division
Ballpark: Memorial Stadium

The Barnstormers had a rough year last year finishing with their lowest win total in 6 years and struggled to keep opposing hitters grounded, allowing 219 home runs. The offense was not much better, slugging only .391.

They signed Lonnie Morton to a long term deal this offseason and added Matt Malloy at 1B to bring in some power. However, only modest improvements to the offense can be expected with a majority of the hitters returning from last season’s debacle.

The brought in Jeremy Washington and Richard Cox this offseason for modest salaries. They will see average return on these players. The pitching staff will rely heavily on Jarrod Mercedes and Walter Kaye. It seems like a rebuilding year this year with Washington and Cox looking to be stop gaps for young talented players like Pedro Gomez and Dan Monroe.

This team is changed little from a year before and while they should surpass their 67 wins from last year I would not expect much more from this club till some of their talented prospects are ready for the show.

Prediction: Last in Division

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