Last but not least, the AL South. At one point, the dirty south was rich with talent and strong teams. But the division has fallen on hard times. Texas has ruled this division for the past five seasons, and has seven consecutive years as a playoff team. Only Charlotte has made a playoff appearance during the Rangers reign of terror. That doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.
The predicted standings for this season are:
Texas Rangers 88-74 (Division Champ)
Tampa Bay Rays 81-81
Charlotte Knights 80-82
Kansas City Royals 68-94
Texas Rangers (akgsports, *22nd season Founding Member)
Last Year: 99-63
Runs Scored/Allowed: 833/655
Players Added: cf – Les Carter (tb), c – Chili Neal (pit), 1b – Andres Nieves (Mon), cf – Luis Rodriguez (mon), sp – Clint Brocail
Players Lost: cf – Sam Morris (fa), 1b- Trevor Lewis (Tor), lf – Milt Howard (NYY), sp – Eugene McMillon (LAD), sp – Joe Vaughn (fa), Cf – Joe Hoffman (mon)
Preview: Texas has always been a force under owner AKG. The owner, who has founding member status being with Kinsella since season 2, has been one of the more consistent teams in the world and a two time World Series champ. The AL South went from one of the tougher divisions to a wasteland in recent years with the other three teams struggling to hit .500. Much of that has to do with the dominance of Texas and the team they bring to the ballpark every day.
The Rangers lost a ton of production this season. Gone are Sam Morris (65 rc), Trevor Lewis (94 rc), Milt Howard (62 rc), and Joe Hoffman (54 rc). Some players will obviously step up to fill those holes. But the biggest is Lewis, but since Lewis really outperformed his scouting someone else should be able to step into that role with similar production.
The pitching staff is good, but not great. And once again, they lost two key members. Gone are Eugene McMillon and Joe Vaughn have moved off leaving holes in the rotation. Clint Brocail was picked up for very cheap and should fill the back of the rotation.
Overall: The Rangers don’t look like much of a sure thing anymore. They have lost productive key pieces to the offense, and have to replace some of their starters. For the first time in years, the Rangers are vulnerable.
Tampa Bay Rays (dodgersgale, 6th season)
Last Year: 74-88
Runs Scored/Allowed: 650/758
Players Added: 1b – Jolbert Ortiz (mon), ss – Warren Parker (ATL), of – Michael Nix (CWS)
Players Lost: sp – Justin Spencer (fa), sp – Duke Duvall (fa), sp – Mendy Mathews (CHA), rp – Ramon Wang (fa), Al Soto (fa)
Preview: Every year the Rays say they are “rebuilding” only to make a few last minute signings and trades. This year is a little different. Payroll was slashed thanks to young players coming into their own, and the loss of several overpriced veterans. The team picked up superstar Jolbert Ortiz from Montreal, and shortstop Warren Parker from Atlanta. Four former first round picks will now be starting for the Rays; pitchers Brett Dixon (season 21, 3rd pick), Clarence Kirby (season 20, 18th pick), catcher Dennis Drese (last year 15th pick), and Harold Spencer (season 18, 43rd pick). Add in internationals Al Guerrero and Yunel Park and suddenly the Rays have a team built to make a playoff push.
Overall: Young guys always seem to struggle in their first year. With so much youth on this team, it’s impossible to say exactly how they will perform. Dixon and Kirby are the keys to a pitching staff that allowed 758. Improved defense at short, and moving Rincoln to right field will help. But not enough.
Kansas City Royals (somtom, 2nd year)
Last Year: 75-87
Runs Scored/Allowed: 688/818
Players Added: of – Prince Bates (ruleV, Phi), C – Ronnie Wilkens (ruleV)
Players Lost: sp – Stewart Daniels (fa), rp – Carlos Redondo (fa), rf – Tom Miller (fa), ss – Ralph Lowell (fa)
Preview: At least they didn’t finish last. It was a tough year in KC as their offense only produced 688 runs. Owner somtom is finding his way in Kinsella, and if there is a division where you could make some headway it’s this one, this year.
A lot of young players are coming up to help out. They have some TRUE ROYALTY in Prince (Bates), and a King (Bittle). King Bittle is only 23 and if he gets playing time he could be quite handy (predicted 75 rc w/500 ab). But the rest of the group has two things in common 1. Not particularly fast 2. No power. This is a team that might struggle to improve their offense over last season.
Carlos Redondo was a huge loss for the bullpen. While Al Saenz and Buddy Caufield are solid, those 89 innings will be hard to make up.
Overall: The Royals are a team I really want to like. But without a masher it all comes down to pitching and defense. The Defense helps, but only if you have high FIP pitchers. Which the Royals are lacking.
Charlotte Knights (bignr37, 12th season)
Last Year: 78-84
Runs Scored/Allowed: 759/840
Players Added: sp – Mendy Mathews (TB), rf – JP Cabrera (t-Oak), rf – Wilt McGehee (aaa), sp – Ajax Wulf (ruleV, min)
Players Lost: sp – Jonathan Plesac (PIT), rf – Perry Adams (t-Oak), rf – Sammy Conception (fa), 1b – Jose Lopez (fa)
Preview: Things were a little rough in the Deep South as the Knights pitching staff got rocked to the tune of 840 runs. Despite a poor pitching staff, they still managed to win 78 games. With a little help on the bump, the Knights could make some noise.
The Knights’ first move was to go after young pitching, and they got it from Oakland in the form of Alberto Martinez who projects into a solid #2 or #3 starter with imminent risk of injury (due to his 58 health rating). They also dealt away outfielder Perry Adams (647 pa, -0.9 WAR) and got JP Cabrera (566 pa, 0.3 war) in return with rookie Wilt McGehee (former first round pick) competing for the job.
The pitching and defense are solid. Omar Bonilla (.279/.365/.576, 6.6 war, 114 rc) is the best hitting catcher in the league. Two time MVP Placido Santana returns and looks to build on his amazing season (.310/.370/.565, 7.0 war, 117 rc). Pedro Santiago might hit 40 or more homeruns. Cory Fogg (5.4 war) is the quiet leader of this team and a threat to steal 40 more bases this year. With all of this star power the Knights should break the 800 run mark.
Pitching was the Achilles heel. 840 is a lot of runs to give up. Their best pitcher (Plesac) is replaced by a similar good pitcher (Mendy Mathews). But overall, the team struggles in FIP, especially the innings eaters.
Overall: The Knights will have to slug their way out of poor pitching. But it won’t be enough to fetch a division crown or playoff spot.