Monday, February 2, 2009

Preseason Questions - AL North and East


Toronto FivT’s
Can they repeat?
Toronto comes into the year as the odds on favourite to repeat in Hometown. An epic playoff battle couldn’t slow down the FivT’s run and a repeat could be in the cards. Led by a balanced pitching rotation as well as good hard hitting lineup that is the only question Toronto will have to answer.

Will Lewis Tunkel emerge as a superstar?
Last year Tunkel finished with 37 homeruns but batted only 246. His power numbers have always been there through the minors and his lack of production last year was a surprise. Look for him to hit at least 50 this year and hopefully for the FivT’s 15-20 points better in average.

Minnesota Mudcats
Can they compete with the FivT’s?
The Mudcats had a fairly eventful offseason with a major trade moving a top prospect for Brandon Thompson. They made the playoffs last year with 97 wins an impressive season for any team but in the A.L. it was only good enough for the 6th seed. They will be in tough to compete with the FivT’s but a second place finish in the A.L. North will likely be in the cards.

Will Brandon Thompson be worth it?
The Mudcats traded Howard Fitzgerald and Nolan Hartzell for Brandon Thompson. A career 290 hitter, his last two seasons with Florida were average hitting 281. and 278. He will have to be better to help Minnesota compete with the FivT’s and push for a playoff spot. They gave up a similar player in Fitzgerald, clearly Minnesota wants to win right now. Thompson is in his contract year so look for him to perform this year.

Seattle Rain Drops
Where will they finish?
The last few years have been disappointing for the Rain Drops. A decent team stuck in a league with many teams that are just frankly better. Having to compete with the FivT’s and Mudcats doesn’t bode well and with Pittsburgh improving day by day it is only a matter of time before Seattle could be looking up from the basement.

Will Butch McPherson finally live up to his draft spot?
In season one Seattle drafted Butch McPherson 20th overall. He has been a productive pro but has yet to hit the All Star level. Seattle really needs him to be good, healthy and productive. I have a hunch that he will have a very good year.

Pittsburgh The Fish That Saved
With the rebuild going well can they compete with Seattle for third?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Pittsburgh has done a good job of drafting recently and got top tier talent for the assets that were moved. Carl Blue is an example of that as he was acquired for Mendy Knott. Pittsburgh talent level has been improving and this could very well be the year that Pittsburgh competes with Seattle for third in the A.L. North

Can Carl Blue win the Rookie of the year?
Blue had roughly 300 at bats last year and hit an impressive 303. He is the real deal and is one of the best rookies in the league by far. He is definitely my pick for Pre Season Rookie of the Year. If he stays healthy and for Pittsburgh sake let’s hope he does a rookie of the year could definitely be in the cards for this young promising ball player.


Boston Liberty
Can they win the division for the fourth straight time?
Last season Boston finished first by a handful of games and wasn’t seriously challenged for the East. The division is fairly balanced and if Boston can stay healthy there is no reason why they shouldn’t hang on to repeat as AL East champs. A four peat is likely, especially if you look at the last three seasons, Boston has improved by 6 games a year on average since season 4. If they stay healthy the Liberty will have their four peat!

How much does Vicente Lopez have left?
At the age of 37 most starting pitchers have already begun to decline and think about retirement. Vicente Lopez has been one of the best pitchers in Hometown over the last six seasons and is a major reason for the success of the Liberty. He has never not pitched two hundred innings in a season hasn’t had an ERA over four since joining Boston. However as impressive as all of that is he is 37 and Boston will go as far as he takes them. For Boston’s sake he better hold on for at least this year.

New Britain Lobsterbacks
Can they ruin the party and stop Boston’s streak?
The answer is unfortunately No. It is definitely their only shot a playoff spot because they will have no shot at the wildcard due to the depth in the A.L. They were above five hundred last season as they finished 82-80. However they just don’t have the depth to compete with Boston for the division. Maybe the move from Charlotte to New Britain will help but unfortunately a second place finish or third place finish without a playoff spot is likely in the cards for the Lobsterbacks.

How good will J.P. Cedeno be?
Cedeno is there best pitcher but he needs to be better if New Britain has any hopes of competing with Boston. He had a decent season last year with an ERA just over 4. The question will be can he up his game and break the four point ERA. New Britain is certainly hoping so.

Richmond Cavaliers
How good can Richmond be?
It’s certainly an interesting question, the team has some talent but don’t forget that they are in the A.L. which means playoff spots are hard to come by. Richmond and New Britian have been exchanging second and third finishes the last few seasons. It’s a toss up between Richmond and New Britain to who will finish second. But looking at tradition it is Richmond’s turn to finish second and beat out New Britain. And I think it will likely happen just because they have a little more overall talent, especially if Clay Mullens is able to have a comeback year.

Can Clay Mullens have a bounce back year?
Through seasons 3-6 Clay Mullens was one of the most productive batters in the league. Through those years he averaged a 262 batting average, 110 RBI’s and 42 Homeruns. Last season Mullens hit 222 with 33 Homeruns. Clearly he was a major reason for the team finishing below 500 in third place in the Al East. Mullens needs to be better he could be a huge star in Hometown, Richmond is praying that last year was just an off year and if Mullens returns to form a second place finish is almost a lock.

Louisville Whalers
Can they stay out of the cellar?
Louisville has finished in last place for the last five years. However they have been building talent and some of it is starting to reach the majors. Ira Munoz is an all star and Bruce Roberts will be in his first full year in the Majors and his potential is very promising. Look for a serious improvement from Louisville but they are still one or two years away from having the overall depth to compete in the A.L. East. With that being said though they have quite a bit of talent and they will likely compete with both Richmond and New Britain as Louisville will be much more competitive this season.

How good will Bruce Roberts be this season?
He was the franchises first pick sixth overall in seasons four draft and he is hitting the majors this year and looking to produce instantly. Last year he was called up and in 257 at bats he hit 249. I really like this youngster, he won’t hit many homeruns but should hit for an excellent average and left handed pitchers better very careful when pitching to him. Roberts should have a productive full rookie season but he will not be as good as Carl Blue. Hopefully Roberts will be in the top 5 for rookies this year and if that’s the case Louisville might be kissing the basement GOODBYE.