Monday, October 18, 2010

AL Season 13 Preview - North

AL North

Season 12 Recap:
The White Sox started slow but rallied to win 93 and take their 3rd straight crown. Toronto and Minnesota kept with recent trends, but the Tigers dropped 21 wins from Season 11 to bring up the rear. The Sox made the playoffs as the 4th seed but lost in the first round to Texas.


Season 12 Rankings: Runs - 6th, Team ERA - 4th, Fielding % - T 6th
Sayonara: RP Austin Coleman (FA), RP Curtis Rogers (trade), SP Enrique Crespo (trade)
New Faces: none by trade or FA
Rookie Possibilities: Season 9 IFA Virgil Trinidad is poised to step into the rotation, and Season 9 overall #1 Artie Myers will almost certainly debut soon. AAA RP's Albert Saenz and Flash Tessmer are ready to contribute but may not be able to crack into the ML bullpen.
OUTLOOK: Excellent young team that's only getting better. On offense, they use a lot of platoons and substitutions - rookie 2B Brace Watkins was their only truly full time player last year (and he led the team with 41 HR's and 113 RBI). Watkins is the main power threat and is complimented by 1B Julian Torres (28 HR), SS Walter Phillips (24 HR), OF Luis Parra (23 HR) and 3B Esteban Carrasco (22 HR). C Pat Itou and Torres appear to be the best options for the top of the order; Phillips (35 SB) and Parra (25 SB) are the primary speed threats. Alan Long (3 straight 16-win seasons) heads a very effective 5-man rotation. The already-excellent bullpen seems set to open the season with Artie Myers in a prominent role. Myers may have the best stuff of any pitcher in Kinsella not named "Hernandez"; it's not clear what his role will be but you can bet the Pale Hose will try to get him 150 innings

Season 12 Rankings: Runs - 12th, Team ERA - 11th, Fielding % - 13th
Sayonara: RF Carlos Cruz and CF Tony Merced (trade), 3B Jerry Kaline (season 12 trade), RP Buster Dingman (released)
New Faces: LF Ching-Lung Chang and CF Scott Perry (trade)
Rookie Possibilities: Season 10's overall #1 pick, Wally Barton, is set to open the season at 3B.
OUTLOOK: The Jays gave up power prospect Sean Pearson (along with Cruz and Merced) to get Ching-Lung Chang and Scott Perry, a move that should boost their offense considerably. Perry is a competent hitter for a CF, and Chang should be a vast improvement over the powerful but inconsistent Cruz. Speed will clearly be a bigger part of the Toronto attack this year - Chang has 4 straight 40+ steal seasons and rookie 3B Wally Barton seems capable of similar totals. While they're running, the Jays will rely on old pro J.J. Perez (34 HR), 2nd-year 1B Pascual Guillen (.271/27/87 rookie campaign) and OF Max Padilla (.307/20/70) for run production. They return the rotation intact and that's a problem - only Derrin Politte posted an ERA under 5.00 last season (although all have in the past...maybe last year was just bad luck). Half the bullpen (Diaz, Juarez and Pratt) is solid; if they can keep the other half seated (a possibility if the rotation improves), they'll be better.

Season 12 Rankings: Runs - 15th, Team ERA - 9th, Fielding % - 11th
Sayonara: 1B Stump Cambridge, SP Sammy Lyon, IF Brian Ferguson, RP Ronald Barr, SS Ramon Martin (free agency); P Frank Inoue, P Max Diaz, OF Davey Weston, IF Sean Hill (released);
New Faces: SP Donn Sisler, DH Daryl Whitaker, RP Turner Mordecai, DH Al Perez, LF Roberto Molina, RP Craig Grace (free agency)
Rookie Possibilities: Season 9 supplemental pick Pablo Cortez may win the 3B job. Season 9 1st-rounder John Pryce could get a shot at the rotation early on. Season 10 IFA Juan Sivilla seems ready to step up to the ML bullpen.
OUTLOOK: The Twinkies have probably done more housecleaning than any team - at minimum they've gotten a lot younger, but they should also be better. One of their biggest flaws last year was the woeful lack of power - 153 dingers was good for last in the AL. Whitaker, Perez and Molina may not be the ultimate solutions, but they will definitely add some pop to lineup (and they're CHEAP). 2B Junior Chen, CF Leon Rogers, and OF Brady Sierra are the best table-setters. OF Yamil Saenz is the primary speed/SB threat, although with the addition of Molina his playing time is at risk. Jesse Cook has a pair of 15-win seasons in his first 3 years and is a sold #1 SP. Pryce may well step in as the #2. Howard Sweeney has the stuff to be a top-quality closer - look for a big step forward this year. Although Eric Houston pitched well in 40 innings last year, Minnesota needs a better setup man to keep the late innings close. FA's Sisler, Mordecai, Grace and rookie Sivilla will vie for that role.

Season 12 Rankings: Runs - 13th, Team ERA - 14th, Fielding % - T 7th
Sayonara: P Perry Harvey, 1B Pascual Martin, DH Charles Pan, C Bryan Reed, IF Albert Borbon (free agency)
New Faces: none via free agency or trade
Rookie Possibilities: Season 9's #1 Chad Hawkins had a promising cup of coffee last season and starts Season 13 in the rotation.
OUTLOOK: Let's start with pitching, where the Tigers imploded last year (Team ERA went from 4.23 to 5.19). Carson Graves had his every-other-year off year, so look for a return at least to Season 11 form, and possibly Cy Young candidacy. Relievers Christian Simmons and Hideki Yang both had inexplicably poor seasons...their worst as ML'ers by far...strong rebounds highly likely. Clemens, Greer, Hill and Wright also had terrible seasons. In a pitcher's park like Comerica, odds are at least a couple of these guys are better this season. So let's write off last year's pitching as an aberration. The offense, on the other hand, is a legit mess. Glendon Allen is way over the hill, it's not clear who will play 1B, and there are currently no SS's on either the ML or AAA rosters. Both 32, Bing Miles and Damian Chen remain dangerous hitters. Rick Griffin (32) and Eric Brumfield (34) are at least adequate major-leaguers. After that...?


White Sox
win the division comfortably. The Twins, Jays and Tigers will all improve...somehow I think Minnesota will emerge from that pack and take second. Detroit is the real joker here...their pitching is potentially good enough for them to contend, but I can't see them scoring enough to challenge Chicago or get into the wild card race.

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