Tuesday, August 28, 2012

S3 NL North Preview

S3 NL North Preview

Can Detroit Be Stopped?
S2 didn't provide much anticipation as the Detroit Wolverines flew away with the division by a commanding 30 games after claiming the division in S1 by just a game.  Can division mates close the gap and make things interesting like S1 or will this be another runaway?

Detroit Wolverines
S2: 107-55; Claimed NL North by 30 games
Payroll: $97.3M

From the lack of offseason moves it looks like the Detroit Wolverines and management were satisfied with last season's results and didn't feel the need to shake anything up.  They didn't lose or pick up anyone significant in free agency this season, which when you finish tied for 5th in batting avg, 6th in team era and tied for 5th in fielding percentage, why mess up a good team?  Darby Bukvich remains not only the top offensive threat on the team but in the majors after hitting 70 homeruns and driving in 185 rbi's last season.  Andre Kerr will help alleviate some of that pressure of Bukvich, looking to increase his 30 HR/100RBI streak to three consecutive seasons and Benito Wilfredo looking to get to the 50HR/150 RBI club that he's flirted with the last two seasons.  Alex Yamamoto will lead the pitching staff, throwing in his final contract season for the Wolverines with no press conference scheduled yet to talk about any extension.

Owner mexd781 has put together a solid club here in Detroit, jumping from 88 wins in season 1 to 107 in season 2.  A lot of the players mentioned above are playing in their final contract season so Detroit may have one final shot at the playoffs where they lost 4-2 in the NLCS last season.  The Wolverines have the bats and defense to compete with any team this season, and while their starting pitching looks a little weak, having great defense and a powerful offense, along with a solid bullpen can help hide that.

Iowa City Hawkeyes
S2: 63-99 (3rd in NL North)
Payroll: $51.9M

Fans of Iowa City may be confused as they fill up the stands of the Hawkeyes' stadium come opening day, wondering if they are in the right place as the lineup is announced.  Seven major league players from last season decided to file for free agency, 5 pitchers and 2 position players, the most notable Preston Holmes who hit 40 home runs and 99 rbi.  Charlie McMillan and Miguel Lee (Rule 5 pickup) will get the call up from the minors to help fill the void, along with free agent signings Emil Sanchez Alan Montgomery and Del Dawley.  McMillan should help fill the gap that Holmes will leave, but the Hawkeyes finished dead last in batting average last season so they're going to need some other players to step up.  They do have some help in the minors this season with at least 3 players I could see getting the call up depending on how the season goes for them, but this looks to be another rebuilding year as most of the vets from last season are putting on a different team uniform this season.  The top 3 rated players in the majors are 22, 23, and 24 years of age and with the other 3 players in AAA, I don't expect the Hawkeyes to be down for long though.

Columbus Buckeyes
S2: 77-85 (2nd in NL North)
Payroll: $56.3M

While Hawkeye fans will be busy reading the team program, Buckeye fans will find all familiar faces this season on opening day.  Finishing 30 games out of the division, although in 2nd place, remains to be seen whether the fans will be relieved or disappointed.  The offseason was a quite one for owner anml34, allowing a bullpen pitcher to leave for free agency and picking up Hong-Jin Tamura to fill the void.  The Buckeyes will once again lean hard on youngsters Gerrit Cornelius Terry Peterson and Henry Beech to put up big numbers on offense.  Starting pitching seems to be the weakness for this team so the trio is going to have to put up some big numbers, although defensively they should be solid.  They've got a couple solid arms coming up in the minors, but it looks to be a few seasons before we'll see them in the majors.

Scranton Nittany Lions
S2: 61-101 (4th in NL North)
Payroll: $30.4M

Scranton Nittany Lions were in the press this offseason but with the investigation still pending, little is known as to what happened.  Manager rcktchamp managed to pull off one of the few trades in a relatively quite offseason, only to have lost them in the rule 5 draft.  A quick apology was issued by rcktchamp but reports off beer, chicken, and video games have been swirling around in hushed whispers, along with an anonymous source saying that management's office was under "reconstruction" after shouting and sounds of objects breaking could be heard from within.  The team will have to continue on, although in a bright spot they finished near the middle of the pack in both fielding and pitching last season.  Also it will be hard to repeat the 15-32 record in 1 run games, which I see improving and also meaning they were in 32 games that could have gone either way.  They find themselves much like the Buckeyes in that there is some help in the minors, just not for a few seasons.

With the Buckeyes and Lions putting out most of the same roster from last season, and Iowa City completely shaking things up in their organizations, I'm going to have to stay with the Detroit Wolverines winning their third consecutive NL North title.  Depending on what happens with their mass of free agents next season, the NL North could be up for grabs but that's still a season away.

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