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Monday, December 29, 2008

Season 7 AL North Preview

Season 7 AL North looks like much of the same. Ownerships have changed for a few franchises and some of the teams have moved but the outsome will again be a run away league champ.

Prediction: 1st in the Division (Possible AL Champ)
Last Season: 1st in Division (102-60)
New ownership takes over this perennial powerhouse and brings a desire to get this team back over the hump in the post season. They also take a move Cincinnati. But, How much do you have to change when you have averaged 105 Wins per season over the last 5 seasons? If you ask mwhelan just enough! They went in and openned the vaults a bit in signing Darrel Collins and then trading him off!! They picked themselves up a role player in Deivi Javier who will have a small role but is probably overpaid at 4 mil. How do you make a great team better? Add Emil Sardinha, even at 13 mil he may be worth it because they can afford him. Vernon Hubbell was traded away after a "sub-par" 39 HR season, however they only received Louis Nye in return, bad deal for them as he is only a marginal ML pitcher. They also picked up Walter Gabriel (who is worse then Hubbell) with his 14.6 mil salary and gave up Newly Signed Collins isn't a big loss, and some marginal prospects. Marino Moreno got my predicted 40/40 and may repeat it, super hitting stud Catcher Sean Moehler could also repeat his 50 HRs. The rotation is anchored by Former Cy Young Winner Lonnie Hammonds who is getting older but will still be a huge force. Stan Lewis returns but his role moves to that of closer and he may become the best in the league. They also welcome Tom Benjamin, Chuck Reed (stud hitting 1B), Giomar Pena (stud 3B), and Tony Trajano (future CY Young candidate) to the majors for full seasons.

Prediction: 2nd in the Division
Last Season: 2nd in Division (70-92)
Toronto made only 1 free agent signing and it was a questionable signing of Rudy Winn who has ok defense but can't hit for his life and at 3+ mil you would hope for more. They were the shocking recipient of a pair of in-divison trades picking up Cy Young Contender Pepe Perez while trading away Ted Benson. Benson is a good slugger (with mediocre contact) but Perez is GREAT. An AWESOME trade for them. 1b's are a dime a dozen, Cy Young winners are few and far between. Marc Pressley for Vicente Valdes was a good pick-up as Pressley is a great offensive talent and Valdes won't be a big impact Major League Pitcher. Lou Hunter lived up to his billing (1.92 ERA) but is making 13.5+ mil which is crazy for a closer.
The question is asked again this season Can Jumbo Cerveza become a 50/50 guy this year? I predict he finally hit his 50 HR's but will come up just short with 45 or so SB's. Overall they have some incredible young hitting talent. And, Can Ralph Mora continue his growth and be the #1 starter that they need to reach the next level? He may get over the hump a 16-17 win season isn't out of the question. They will also need Calvin Yo to wake up and give them more then an ERA of 7+ this season.
They sport some AWESOME young guys called up at the end of last season that will make a huge impact: Al Montero, Al Spencer, Paul Chen, Turner Cook, and Wascar Cabrera.
They will close the gap and getting above .500 isn't out of the question for this squad.

Prediction: 3rd in the division
Last Season: 3rd in the division (65-97)
New Ownership takes over this season and last year I predicted "Next year may be their season as they have some great young talent now maturing in the majors." They also move over to Salt Lake City. This off-season killed them. They were very active but were However, They made a horrible free agent signing of Graeme Hutton for 3.6 mil, he can't throw a strike for his life and was a complete waste, paying 3 mil for Benny Heredia who wasn't even signed by a team last season is another wasted roster spot, Calvin Brown is a semi-power guy with a bad eye who will hit.250 and 10-15 homers which makes him not worth his 2.8 mil salary, Barry Parrish is another 3.2 mil HUGE waste, he averages nearly 7 WALKS PER 9 INNINGS and is 36 years old..., Adam Shelley is a very strong hitter but he will only be worth his 5 mil if he plays dh because he is a brutal defensive catcher, Reid Russell is a good guy to get, solid but not spectacular numbers but he should be a good pick-up however at 7 mil/yr he needs to perform. Mike Fassero is a stud and at 23 he is by far their best player. We also mark the arrival of Will Stechschulte who will take over at closer (but he can't throw strikes so we will see how that works out...), Mike Youkilis (a future STUD), Crash Higgins (who brings speed and contact), and Omar Cruz (via trade) whose future is destroyed by being placed in the majors at 19. He could be the best in league history at his position if given time to mature in the minors.
They were also very active in the trade market trading away STUD Micah Hill and Cy Young Contender Tony Costilla . Another Cy Young Contender Pepe Perez was traded away for Ted Benson. Benson is a good slugger (with mediocre contact) but Perez is GREAT. A horrible trade regardless of need. 1b's are a dime a dozen, Cy Young winners are few and far between. Hill picked them up some great prospects Willie Tabaka and Rick Parent. Andres Gutierrez retiring is a SHOCK as he was still a shut down closer who was in his prime.

Prediction: 4th in the Division
Last Season: 4th in Division (62-100)
I repeat my song from last season when I said "I wish I could say that the winds have changed but I just don't think that is the case." They made no trades during the off-season which were very needed. The only free agent signing Tanner Westbrook is a decent player who at 24 is slightly overpaid at 5+ million. They have a lot of work to do and may be seasons away from making a dent in this division. Their best player is still the now 38 year old pitcher Gerald Lim is still a stud but is nearing the end of the round. Rodney Grove had another year to mature and at only 24 he has a bright future ahead of him. AJ Castillo being rushed to the majors last season at only 19 years old worked out alright but in the long-term he won't be the player he otherwise would have. This year the problem is Kiki Rijo as the #3 starter at 20 years old, Javier Garces as the #4 starter at 21 years old, and Cord Fossum as your #5 starter at 19 years old. That could be good things for the future, but that is most definetely not now.

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