Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Season 1 AL South Preview

by Kingdime1332 (Originally published in HBD forum 10/12/07)

Predicted Finish:
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Kansas City Royals
Texas Rangers
Charlotte Knights

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Tampa was a big time player in the trade and free agent market this off-season. First, the signing of perennial All-Star Jose Pichardo was considered a giant move in the right direction. This was followed by a solid starter in David Aoki and the likable Rob Kennedy. Tampa Bay also rounded out the free agent class by signing to great pitch-calling catchers. Tampa Bay then sent some great young talent to Toronto to pick up pitcher Louis Donahue. Between the tandem of Donahue and Aoki it should be a very good starting staff.
Tampa also has quality leadoff combination of Ruben "Sandwich" Johnson and Will Martin who will play adequate defense in center and right. Orber Julio will provide some pop from left. Overall the lineup seems to be built around the top and may struggle in after the 4 of 5 spot.
The pitching is a definite strength for the Devil Rays. Ramiro Diaz should contend for the Cy with Aoki. The backend of the bullpen is a great strength too with Larry "I'm not" Scharein.
Overall it should be tough to combat the strength of the starting staff from Tampa and their upper half of the order.

Texas Rangers

Texas started this off-season by putting the most hated man in Kinsella Jerrod Baxter on the trading block. After getting rid of his bad contract that he somehow negotiated the team seems to be coming together more. Jerrod Baxter is the one of the ill-fated banana-cream pie incident that cannot be reported in a forum like this. The Rangers made some pickups for the bullpen with Kerry Dispenza, Don Lyon, and Grant Snavely. These all came through trades and they may cost the team in the future. The one big free agent signing was starting pitcher Jeff "Kevin" Nash. Nash should really help the meek starting staff of the Rangers.
The Rangers offense is led by speedster Judy "Don't call me Judy" Romano and is a solid group top to bottom. Even some of the bench players should have some success with the bat. Shep McNeil should be the best offensive player and Thom Stewart will deliver some pop. This offense should really click in the Texas ballpark.
The Starting staff of the rangers has questions all over the place, but the bullpen should be a great strength. The biggest problem with the starting staff is the length at which they can pitch. They do have some good pitchers in Geraldo Gonzales and Jim Philips but they do not have the stamina to go deep into games. The bullpen though will start from the back with Don Lyon playing the stopper. Dispenza and Snavely should combine for a quality set up combination.
This team does have a chance to be good or have the starting staff struggle and bring the team down with them.

Charlotte Knights

The Knights were not a big player in the free agent market picking up Junior Pena to play some center field defense and some other lesser players. They also decided to not participate in the trade frenzy.
The lineup for the Knights consists of the superstar B.C. (Byron Charles) Javier. He will really carry this team. He will get some help from Ted Perisho, Horace Henderson, and Jose "My name is not Raul" Mondesi, but this team does not seem to have enough to get through the long baseball season. A lot of the players in the starting lineup have health issues and that will end up being bad news for the Knights.
The other problem with the Knights lies with the pitching. After All-Star starter Banana Klein they will have some real problems getting back to him in the rotation. The bullpen does seem to have a good core of guys with Chief Collier and Ricardo Uribe at the end. But the lack of some other starters will really dampen this team’s hope.
This team does not seem to have the fire power on offense or pitching to put together a consistent year, and may be in for a long season if some of their regulars go down to injury.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals came away with one of the prizes of the trade market with Patrick Rivera. It definitely cost them but he will pay immediate dividends and put them in a great place to succeed now. The Royals also came away with another great starter in Stephen Fischer. Both of these pitchers will give a 1-2 punch that will put them among the elite. They also got Philip Grey to hold down their DH spot, who has some great pop for a young kid. He will be a ROY candidate. Tito Holmes was signed in free agency and should give the Royals a great leadoff batter and center fielder. Willie Alvarez, who also can man the leadoff spot and play second, was signed in the free agent market.
As good as the pitching in KC is the Royals may have some problems giving them some support. Danny Alexander and Sandy Valentin are the two big players in the KC offense. They are All-Stars for sure but the team may have some problems after that. Alejandro Martin is a good contact hitter at catcher but lacks any real pop, Hector Joseph is in that same boat. Rich Coppolecchia will provide backup behind Alexander and Valentin but this team may struggle at times unless some lesser players can really step up.
The reason why the Royals could win this division is their pitching. Behind Rivera and Fischer they can boast a very good number three in Louis Bottalico. They have a top-tier closer in Vic Castillo and a very good setup man in Wes "Eleanor" Roosevelt.
This team should contend heavily with the Rays, but their offense may do them in in the end.

Pre-Season All Division
SP Patrick Rivera (KC)
RP Larry Scharein (TB)
C Jimmie Ruiz (TEX)
1B Shep McNeil (TEX)
2B Earl Jorgensen (CHA)
3B Harry Lee (TEX)
SS Danny Alexander (KC)
RF B.C. Javier (CHA)
CF Jose Pichardo (TB)
LF Orber Julio (TB)
DH Rich Coppolechia (KC)

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