Sunday, February 8, 2009

Season 5 AL North Preview

The AL North is the home of the defending World Series champions, the Milwaukee Manic Maulers. They've won the division all four seasons, and their win total of 103 last season was actually their lowest in history. So does anyone in this division have the talent to upset what is arguably the premier franchise in this league?


- Milwaukee still has what is probably the deepest lineup in the league. CF Luis Martinez starts it at the top, and the heavy hitters like LF Burt Stevenson, 2B Bob Malone, 1B Andre Eckenstahler, and RF Harold Lewis follow up- Stevenson, Eck, and Lewis all drove in 110 last season. SS Eric Speier only hit .224 but still drove in 91. There really isn't an easy out in this lineup.

- St. Louis's offense will revolve around big-time hitter RF Benito Valdez- he finished 1 run short of driving in 100 and scoring 100. Besides Valdez, 1B Nick Hernandez is a speedy leadoff hitter and LF Pepe Martin can also drive in runs.

- Syracuse has no big-time hitter, but they have three solid middle of the order guys in DH Peter Sosa, 3B William Nomo, and LF Bret King, who is probably the best of the three. After that there is a pretty big dropoff in production, with (mostly) singles hitter C Galahad Paul being the best of the rest.

- Buffalo scored the fewest runs in the AL and it could very well happen again. OF Daryle Van Poppel, their leading run producer last season, will take his swings for Anaheim this season. CF Victor Gonzalez and 2B Jordan Ball will have to lead the attack- Ball in particular disappointed last season.


-Milwaukee has plenty of arms for this division. Vin Solano is coming off his 2nd Cy Young award, and he has stalwart arms in James Morton and Woody Hiller behind him. Alex Calvo was solid in his first season and figures to get better. The bullpen is just as stacked, with ace relievers King Burns, Buddy Titan, and Quinton Hughes shortening the game.

- St. Louis will likely go with Antonio Perez, Keith Cortes, and Benito Martin as the top 3 starters- all won at least 10 games last season (but none more than 13). In the bullpen, Carlos Carrasco had an All-Star season, saving 38 out of 40 with a 1.22 ERA. Frankie Lightenberg and Lloyd Freel will be counted on heavily to set him up.

- Syracuse doesn't have an ace, but they do have depth at starter. Tony Rowan, Louie Bolivar, Russell Newson, and Charlie Miller are all decent starters. The bullpen is questionable, however, with Jared McMahon's inconsistency as the closer and few options in the setup roles.

- Buffalo has a mix of journeyman veterans (Claude Jacquez, Hi Nolan) and relatively young, "AAAA" type guys (Chris Lowry, Steve Clay) in the rotation. Billy Spencer is probably the most talented of the group, but he won't be an all-star and his numbers will suffer on this team. Wesley Cora will likely be the closer- hard to believe he's still only 26.


1. Can anyone take down Milwaukee? In a word, no. Manic Maulers make it a 5-peat with ease.
2. St. Louis finishes ahead of Syracuse for 2nd- don't think either team can stay in the playoff hunt without making a move.
3. Buffalo's number 1 overall draft pick this season will be joined with a top 3 draft pick next season. Obviously, they finish last.
4. Bret King could be the biggest name dealt, but the guy you can pretty much count on leaving town is Victor Gonzalez of Buffalo.
5. Remember the name Yogi Anderson. Expect him to get a few starts for St. Louis at the end of the season and for him to be around in the league for a long time after that.

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