The South was once the proudest division in baseball. In total, the division has made 34 total playoff appearances. The second and third place teams were earning the wild card more than any other division. Last year Kansas City and Texas went forward, while Tampa Bay missed the playoffs (and failed to win the division) for the first time in eight seasons.
Now with a maverick GM, the Rays are trying to return to prominence. Texas and Kansas City will do their best to keep them from returning to their winning ways while establishing their own dynasties.
Key Players Returning: Hersh Taylor (AL MVP), Alex Suzuki , Rico Aquino , Armando Taveras , Sun Wanatabe , Mike Person , Wilfredo DeJesus , Stewart Daniels , Miguel Colome , Al Saenz
Key Players Leaving: Phil Hukata (WAS), Tito Yoon (MIL), Chipper Karros (FA), Jose Palmeiro (FA), Kyle Toombs (cubs)
New Additions: Albert Maradona , Jose Pizzaro , Pedro Fuentes , Carlos Redondo (SD)
Prediction: The Royals didn't lose anyone important, still have (arguably) the best hitter in the game, and their pitching/defense third in the AL in runs allowed (3.8/game!). Maradona gives them yet another strong arm in the pitching staff. Jose Pizzaro gives them a serious homerun threat. And Pedro Fuentes will give pitchers fits (despite his lack of power). The recent trade for Carlos Redondo really puts the pitching staff in an even better position.
GM Comment dodgersgale "This is the team to beat in the AL. Hands down. They have everything."
Key Players Returning: Yonder Manto , Julian Matos , Benito Rojas , P.T. Castilla , Joe Vaughn, Albert Rodriguez
Key Players Leaving: Greg Dougherty (SD), Donn Sisler (NYY), Sam Franklin (TB)
New Additions: Omar Zumaya (HOU), Earl Barclay (CLV), Carlos Valentin (LAD)
Prediction: A decent team, with a steady group of players that contribute. Biggest concern is the pitching staff. They didn't really get any help in free agency and have yet to call anyone up to help out. The team shouldn't regress, but they won't progress either. They should be fighting for a wildcard once again.
Last Season: 60-102
Key Players Returning: Justin Hitchcock , Joaquin Javier , Ken Lombardi , Jonathon Plesac , Gio Lopez , Brent Simpson
Key Players Leaving: Julio Lopez (FA),
New Additions: Ivan Villa , Carlos Gomez ,
Prediction: Last year their offense, defense, and pitching was non existent. The team finished 21 games under .500 and last in the South. Some of the young guys grew up a little bit (see Jonathon Plesac/ Gio Lopez). Not enough was done to improve this team and pull them out of the cellar. Hopefully, help will be on the way soon.
UPDATED: the call up of 22 year old SS Cory Fogg helps the offense quite a bit. Slight downgrade defensively, but he is a future perennial all star for the Knights and adds at least 4 WAR for the team. The team prediction has been updated.
Key Players Returning: Vic Gonzales , Bob Riggs , Harold Benson , Humberto Johnson , Wascar Santana
Key Players Leaving: Javier Valdes (FLA), Placido Santana (BALT), Scott Perry (cubs), Johnny Cressend (MIL), Buddy Forsch (FA), Luis Flores (LAA), Diego Wilfredo (SD), Fred Lewis (FLA), Santos Lorenzo (FLA), Bill Smith (LAA), Danny Diaz (FA), Tommy Gibson (HOU), Jim Rowan (mtl).
New Additions: Wilfredo Diaz , Rick Petkovsek (SD), Lou McDonald (BALT), Ted Lombard (FLA), Alex Romero (FLA), Duke Duvall (SD), Ramon Wang (BALT), John Shigetoshi (SD), Hank Sellers (FLA), Brad Jackson (FLA), Alberto Tarasco (SD), Sherman Coleman (SF), Eugene McMillon (CIN), Delino Rosa (rule5-chisox), Don Sipp (rule5-kc), Derrek Rivers (LAA), Andres Mota (CLV), Sam Franklin (TEX), Bernie Rivera
Prediction: A complete and total overall. Gone is the team that created the dynasty and barely missed making the playoffs for the 9th time in a row. Gone is Valdes, Santana, Lewis, Lorenzo, Wilfredo, Smith, Cressend, and Rowan. In comes a group built around three things: on base percentage, defense, and power. Pitching will be this teams achilles, but the defense should help that marginally. The pitchers all have three things in common...control, velocity, and the ability to induce groundballs. Most are journeymen, rule 5, and cast offs. This team is a team that Billy Beane would be proud of, and Bill James would study. If it works...the GM and Ownership will have a blueprint for success. If it fails (and it quite possibly could), then the actual rebuilding process would start. But instead of scrapping everyone the team would still have Gonzales, Diaz, Romero, Rivera, Shigetoshi, Lombard, and McDonald to build on for several seasons to come. We will see very soon if the maverick GM, the moneyball disciple, can return the proud franchise to it's rightful place at the top.