Our trip around the league finds us in the AL South today. The division currently has the Nashville Sounds at the top at 12-8, the Monterrey Sultans close behind at 11-9, the Durham Entombed Spiders (someone needs to explain that one to me) at 8-12, and the Texas Double Trouble in some trouble at the bottom with a record of 7-13. Will this continue, or will we have a change at the top? We'll get to that at the end, and we'll start by looking at the position players.
-We begin south of the border in Monterrey. The Sultans not only have a good lineup they also have solid defensive players at key positions. CF Benito Tavarez is the X-factor in this lineup at leadoff- if he can get on base, he's got plenty of help behind him in the order. 3B Moose Coleman has MVP potential, and Felipe Ortiz, LF Haywood McDonald, and SS Sammy Castro are solid hitters behind the Moose. Tavarez, Castro, and C Bum Casey are very good defenders; Casey may not hit much but his defense and pitch calling make him well worth penciling into the lineup.
- Nashville should score its share of runs. 2B Gregg Black also has potential to put up MVP type numbrs, and 1B Midre Santiago, 3B David Lyons, and Tyler Post should help Black drive in runs.
- Durham and Texas are a toss-up at 3rd- I'll take Durham. Their middle of the lineup is solid with 1B Davey Barrios, Ricky Beech, C Peter Sosa, and 2B Ed McConnell. SS Alex Adams and CF Juan Sosa are very good defenders.
- Texas's offense could waver at times. They do have 2-way player SS Alex Li at the top and slap hitting CF Hal Bryant followed by CF Pete McGowan and C Emmanuel Guzman; those 4 are the beginning of a good lineup. The next 3 hitters, Chavez, Zurbaren, and Nelson, have home run capabilities but could also kill rallies at times with lack of contact.
On to the pitching staffs.
- Monterrey has a lot of depth both in the rotation and out of the bullpen. Staff ace R.J. Toca was the staff's big acquisition this offseason, but he has plenty of help in Phillip Allensworth, Dennys Fox, Albert Gonzalez, and York Watson. If they can't finish the game, they have Larry Stokes closing and should be set up by Vern Baez, Parker Mashore, Pat Sullivan, and Ed Atkins. This is possibly the deepest pitching staff in The Bigs.
- Nashville checks in next, with 3 solid starters at the top. Ham Bruske is probably a solid #2 (maybe not a true ace), and Damon Thompson and Jesse Bridges should give quality innings. Mendy Richardson may struggle to get out good hitters. Enrique Chantres is a question mark to close out games, but long man Miguel Gonzalez should be a bright spot.
- Durham has Esteban Diaz and Lenny Durham to anchor the staff. Lenny Bradley is a pitcher who could use another year in the minors, but he's a Rule 5 guy. Banana Stein is the closer, but might struggle against lefties. Cristian Lyons and Clay Bell are decent arms out of the bullpen.
- Texas has few pitching options. Mendy Blackley and York Burnett are possibly the only two quality arms. Tiny Mayne would be very solid if his fastball was a little better, but he might be able to get outs. Don Tyson is the closer but his control maybe an issue.
Predictions (Don't hold me to any of this):
1. Monterrey takes the division. Way too much talent.
2. Nashville stays in the wild card race, although I'd feel much more comfortable about penciling them in as a playoff team if they had another arm or two.
3. Durham beats out Texas for 3rd.
4. Miguel Gonzalez ends the season in Nashville's starting rotation.