Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NL North Season 30 Preview

Chicago Orphans
Season 29: 90--72, won Division, reached NLDS & lost to Scranton

"Breakthrough" Means: A deep run in the playoffs. After a long stint of wandering through the wilderness, cretins finally regained the top spot in the division that used to feel like his own reserved parking space.

To Do That They Have To:  Tighten up the defense.  The hitting and pitching were both in the top 5 or 6 in most important categories, and the fielding percentage was about average, but their 74 minus plays easily led the league.

This Team Is Built On:  As befits a team in Wrigley, it is hitters first and foremost.  After 3 seasons of mediocrity, 1B David James regained his MVP caliber bat.  He is supported by C Pribanic who should be a fine top of the order hitter, Adrian Hendrickson who needs to move to a corner OF spot after a wretched season at 2B and CF.  SS Allie Cepeda is another guy whose glove demands a move off of SS, but there is no one else much better.  Rookies to keep an eye on: 3B Michel Fontana and RF Dernell Yearwood.  The Johnson/Goya trade shows that the team still is not as good as it will be.  Pitching-wise, they are led by Yamil Duran, Shannon Rivera, Cliff Floyd, Cristian Remlinger, Corey Booker and Peter Sonnanstine.

Player to Watch: First baseman James to see if he can be the hitter who posted a 1.071 OPS again or regresses to the season 28 version who had a .767 OPS.  The other player to watch is Goya should he make the show.  His bat would play right now.

Trades traded ML CF Harry Johnson, ML OF Ernest Stynes, ML RP Louie Lee and MiL P Emil Ontiveros  for MiL OF Yoslan Goya and MiL SP Darwin Thornburg
traded Mil RP Wil Gray for ML RP Jayson Faulkner

Free Agent Signings
SP Damaso Vazquez, C Phillip Pribanic

Scranton Express
Season 29:  88-74, Wild Card, got to NLCS and lost to Dover

"Breakthrough" Means:  Retaking the division  and a good playoff run.

To Do That They Have To:  First off overtake Chicago, then hold off Buffalo.

This Team Is Built On:  Another of those great balance teams last year, generally top 3-4 in offense and pitching with a solid D, but a somewhat odd combination of 85 + plays (2nd best to the crazy good NY defense) and 40 - plays (mediocre.)  Offensively, they lost some big bats in FA: Gary Person, Lewis Gilk
eyVladimir Henriquez and Wilkin Guerrero.  They still have a lot left though in Pedro Ortiz, Josh Garcia, Eduardo Franco,  and also Yoshinori Kyong, who has the most interesting batting ratings I've ever seen and looks to be very streaky. Newcomer Weinhardt will have a lot of slack to pick up, while SS Maeda is a defensive specialist.  There is not much help in the minors, but 2nd year man Kelvim Song should be in for a lot more playing time to show his massive home run swing (that also has massive holes.)  They do return their entire rotation led by Dustin McGee and Ivan Amezaga.  Their bullpen wasn't too good last year, but they do return Parker Walker who was the best of the bunch and the addition of Whitehill will help.  So the pitching should be as good or slightly better, The defense looks improved, but the hitting should drop to mid pack.

Player to Watch:  SP Almezaga has much better stuff than his numbers showed last season.

Free Agent SigningsRP Ken Whitehill, 3B Mike Weinhardt, SS Don Maeda, SP J.R. Blackley, SP Ned Shields

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalobuffalo
Season 29:  83-79

"Breakthrough" Means:  Getting back to winning the division.

To Do That They Have To: Hope that some of the young studs are ready to contribute now and that the younger players already on the roster are ready to step up. 

This Team Is Built On:  Youth sums it up nicely.  Credit cyben with amassing some fine talent while still being very competitive since his first season.  As low as his payroll is, he could have gone hard after some big FAs, but is instead still going with prospect acquisition while still winning.  This team is set up for some serious success for several years to come.  

Their offense is highlighted by 3B Cristobal Morales, sophomore SS Esmailyn Reynoso, 2B Charlie Moreno, 1B D.J. Randall and C John Harper.  Key potential callups are LF Carlos Valdivia and SS Jair Costilla.  The rotation headliners are Sam Gentry, Robinzon Mejias and Steve Davis.  Relievers Glenn Coste and Dioner Duran are the main guys in the pen.  With only Buddy Wells as immediate help on the horizon, a key FA might have been worth considering here.

Player to Watch:  SS Reynoso just scratched the surface of his capabilities last season.  While his glove would play better at 2B, his bat will be great for a MI.  Both Valdivia and Costilla in AAA will be monsters, but Costilla projects as an even worse fielder than Reynoso, and Valdivia is still just 20.

Pittsburgh Ellis D's
Season 29:  62-100

"Breakthrough" Means:  Get over the 70 win mark and start moving to respectability.  This was a dumpster fire of a franchise when rigby took over, and is making strides in that direction.

To Do That They Have To:  Well, there is room for improvement everywhere.  This was statistically a bottom three team in most categories.  Happily, it looks like they have made some smart moves to upgrade several positions while not breaking the bank.

This Team Is Built On:  Treading water until the kids start arriving.  Luckily the first life vest is floating close by.  Dan Keller is a AAA pitcher that may be ready to move up.  If he can crack the ML rotation, he will join Brandon Hoyt, Horacio Moya and FA acquisition Daniels to make a pretty decent top 4, which will likely be the team's strength. Willy Hardy is the most likely bullpen player to be anointed as the closer.  RF J.O. Albuquerque and CF Torey Bournigal are probably the best holdover hittters, but look for Bournigal to be moved out of center to make room for newly acquired Alex Prieto, who was the steal of the Rule V draft.
 Player to Watch:  Prieto is going to be an intriguing player to watch.  If his health holds, his only liability is lack of power.

Free Agent Signings
3B Joe Dipoto, SP Louie Daniels, IF/CF David Chang, C Albert Benitez

So who win this division already?  Look for the Buffalo (is that a herd of Buffalo?) team to make the jump from third to first, with both Scranton and Chicago falling back a little and Pittsburgh improved, but still lagging well behind.

Buffalo 91-71
Scranton 84-79
Chicago 81-81
Pittsburgh 70-92

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