Mar 5, 2008

Atlantic Division Preview

All-Star Team

Kenji Johjima, Jive. 1B—Mark Teixeira, Jive. 2B—Chase Utley, Pilots.
SS—Jimmy Rollins, Jive. 3B—David Wright, Razorbacks. LF—Curtis Granderson, Jive. CF—Grady Sizemore, Pilots. RF—Vladimir Guerrero, Pilots. DH—Ryan Braun, Fishermen.

SP—Brandon Webb, Jive. SP—C.C. Sabathia, Jive.
SP—Aaron Harang, Fishermen. SP—Ted Lilly, Fishermen. RP—Matt Capps, Fishermen.

Selections are based on players' win shares totals for the 2007 season, as per The Hardball Times. Win shares account for batting, pitching and defensive prowess, while also rewarding durability.

Cary Fishermen
Record: 74-88 as Grand Rapids Shlabotniks, finished 3rd in Western Division

Key Addition: 3B Ryan Braun
Key Departure: 2B Placido Polanco

C—Mike Napoli, Michael Barrett
1B—Sean Casey*, Scott Thorman*
2B—Ian Kinsler
SS—Bobby Crosby, Cristian Guzman#
3B—Ryan Braun
LF—Hideki Matsui*
CF—Shannon Stewart
RF—Reed Johnson, Eric Hinske*
DH—Pat Burrell
UTIL—Chad Tracy*

SP—Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly*, Tom Gorzelanny*, Aaron Cook, Robinson Tejeda, Todd Wellemeyer
RP—Matt Capps, Brad Hennessey, Casey Janssen, Mike Grabow*, Taylor Buchholz, Joel Zumaya

On The Farm: SS Asdrubal Cabrera#, LHP Aaron Laffey*, OF Ben Francisco, RF Nate Schierholtz*, LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith*

Cary has a long year ahead in the Atlantic Division as they rebuild a franchise that has only one winning season in the past nine years. Although the team's pitching will keep them competitive, the offense and general team defense make a winning season a far too lofty goal.

The Fishermen inherited a solid pitching staff fronted by Aaron Harang. The fifth starter spot is a big problem and will be shared by Robinson Tejeda, Taylor Buchholz and Todd Wellemeyer until rosters expand. Good seasons from Matt Capps and Casey Janssen give the bullpen useful depth and should allow the team to win some close games.

The Cary offense is not only below average offensively and defensively, but also quite old. Recent draft picks Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler, and the third overall pick of the 2008 draft, Ryan Braun, are the only youthful bright spots in the 2008 lineup. The roster is filled with players known for their inability to play even average defense. Braun, Hideki Matsui and Shannon Stewart are full-timers with a rating worse than 3. Pat Burrell is mercifully moved to DH. Four positions require a platoon or committee of players to fill at-bats.

Dacula Dazzlers
Record: 83-79, 3rd in Midwest Division

Key Additions: C Gregg Zaun, 3B Akinori Iwamura, RHP Micah Owings, LHP Rafael Perez, RHP Matt Herges

C—Ramon Hernandez, Gregg Zaun#
1B—Conor Jackson, Lyle Overbay*
2B—Alfonso Soriano
3B—Akinori Iwamura*
SS—Michael Young
LF—Matt Diaz, Ryan Raburn
CF—B.J. Upton, Ryan Spilborghs
RF—Casey Blake
DH—Kevin Mench, Emil Brown

SP—John Maine, Micah Owings, Curt Schilling, Nate Robertson*, Jarrod Washburn*, Paul Byrd, Claudio Vargas
RP—Brad Lidge, Rafael Perez*, Matt Herges, Darren Oliver*

After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2007 with a mediocre record, the Dazzlers look for much of the same in 08. There is a lot of starting pitching depth, but no real ace to depend on. The everyday lineup won't really scare anyone, but should be able to produce enough to keep the Dazzlers in games. If the Dazzlers can get into the 7th inning and later with a lead, the bullpen should be able to close out most games. It looks like this will be a year to build on for the future.

Mohawk Valley Jive
Record: 96-66, won Midwest Division. Playoffs: Defeated St. Louis (4-2) in first round; lost to Bethlehem (4-2) in the second

Key Additions: 3B Brandon Inge, OF Travis Buck, LHP C.J. Wilson, C Rod Barajas, RHP Jensen Lewis
Key Departures: RHP Jose Contreras, OF Chris Denorfia, RHP Juan Rincon, C Toby Hall, 1B Shea Hillenbrand

C—Kenji Johjima, Rod Barajas
1B—Mark Teixeira#
2B—Kelly Johnson*, Freddy Sanchez
SS—Jimmy Rollins#
3B—Brandon Inge
LF—Adam Dunn*, Travis Buck*
CF—Curtis Granderson*, Chris Young
RF—Austin Kearns, Mark Teahen*
DH—Rickie Weeks
UTIL—Omar Infante

SP—Brandon Webb, C.C. Sabathia*, Dustin McGowan, Zack Greinke, Paul Maholm*, Chad Gaudin
RP—Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Corpas, Chad Qualls, Aaron Heilman, C.J. Wilson*, Jensen Lewis

On The Farm: SS Erick Aybar#, 3B Ian Stewart*, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Jonathan Sanchez*, RHP Billy Buckner

Mohawk Valley appears well-positioned to make a run at a third straight division crown—this time in the newly-formed Atlantic Division instead of the Midwest. Yes, fortunes have changed for the once sad-sack Jive, who from 2002 to 2005 went 215-433 (.332) and finished as many as 58 games out of first.

RHP Brandon Webb and LHP C.C. Sabathia return to lead a deep Jive pitching staff that finished third in the league in ERA last season. And this time they're bringing young-gun RHPs Dustin McGowan and Zack Greinke. Sure, the back end of the rotation is susceptible on days LHP Paul Maholm and RHP Chad Gaudin take the mound, but Mohawk Valley's tough bullpen, fronted by RHPs Jonathan Papelbon and Manny Corpas, can make life difficult for opponents if they don't pull up their socks and get after the starters.

Though the Jive's offensive attack is closer to average than elite (11th in runs last year), they do boast three players who rank among the best at their positions: SS Jimmy Rollins, the NL MVP; 1B Mark Teixeira and CF Curtis Granderson. While it's true Mohawk Valley gives away a lineup spot with 3B Brandon Inge, his strong hot-corner defense provides insurance for the pitching staff. And the club's up-the-middle defense is airtight, with 1's and 2's available all around, complemented by C Kenji Johjima's -2 arm.

Rochester Pilots
Record: 88-74, won Northeast Division. Playoffs: Lost in first round to Miracle, 4-1

Key Additions: RHP David Bush, RHP Matt Lindstrom, RHP Kevin Gregg, SS Ben Zobrist
Key Departures: LHP Barry Zito, RHP Boof Bonser, RHP Scott Linebrink, RHP Jason Isringhausen, 3B Aubrey Huff, 2B Felipe Lopez

C—Miguel Olivo, Javier Valentin#
1B—Casey Kotchman*
2B—Chase Utley*, Jeff Kent, Howie Kendrick
3B—Adrian Beltre
SS—Miguel Tejada, Ben Zobrist#
LF—Jason Kubel*, Luis Gonzalez*, Matt Murton
CF—Grady Sizemore*
RF—Vladimir Guerrero, Cliff Floyd*

Jeremy Bonderman, Brian Bannister, Orlando Hernandez, David Bush, Kevin Millwood, Jon Lester*, John Danks*
RP—Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom, Jon Rauch, Scot Shields, Michael Wuertz, Kerry Wood, Fernando Rodney

On the Farm: RHP Homer Bailey, CF Adam Jones, 3B Andy LaRoche, CF Felix Pie*, C Miguel Montero*, LF Delwyn Young#

The Pilots should contend for a wild card berth this year, especially if the team's pitching holds up. The starters will have to prove themselves in a league dominated by offense. A strong corps of relievers, led by new closer Kevin Gregg, should be capable in the late innings.

The strength of this team will be its offense, which goes a strong 1-8. Chase Utley and Vladimir Guerrero will pace the attack, with Grady Sizemore and Jeff Kent setting the table. Defensively, Sizemore, Adrian Beltre and Casey Kotchman bring 1's to the field, but the corner outfielders often lollygag, allowing extra base hits to fall in while they preen themselves.

Wilmington Razorbacks
Record: 74-88

Key Additions: For this year, nothing. For the future, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.
Key Losses: Luckily, when you are bad there are no key losses.

C—Yadier Molina, Ramon Castro
1B—Travis Hafner*, Adam LaRoche*
2B—Jose Castillo, Alex Cora*, Chris Gomez (Ugh)
3B—David Wright
SS—Khalil Greene
LF—Frank Catalanotto*, Brad Wilkerson*, Greg Norton#
CF—Cory Sullivan*, Rocco Baldelli
RF—Matt Kemp, Jacque Jones*

SP—Felix Hernandez, Chris Young, Jeff Francis*, Matt Belisle, Sean Marshall*, Others
RP—Joe Borowski, Dave Weathers, Derrick Turnbow, Kameron Loe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Macay McBride*

I thought my team would be decent last year... and that didn't turn out so well. I'm pretty confident things are going to be worse this year. We have some impact players but the bench is not deep and the bullpen is very thin. Unfortunately, we'll probably be good enough to get another mid round draft pick.

Next year could be very good though. If my top 3 starters stay healthy and productive, Adam Loewen is coming back, Andrew Miller could be good, Maybin might do well in CF and hopefully Hafner and Jones will bounce back with good seasons.

So, as usual, the Razorback management continues to ask its fans to look to the future. The fans comment that emulating the Tampa Bay Rays team management style is not a sign of high intelligence and doesn't create confidence in the future. But, we'll show them! Someday....



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