AL NORTH PREVIEW
Last season Fargo took the A.L. East crown by 4 games over New Britain. New Britain got a slight revenge by making the playoffs as a wild card and lasting longer than Fargo did. This season should be a little different (but not much) from last season.
FARGO PRAIRIE DOGS
Fargo has done little to help or hinder their reign on first place. They did lose Galvez to free agency. He had 39 steals and a dozen homers for them last season...I am sure the 100 strikeouts will not be missed though. They re-signed Latos to help their rotation. Latos is coming off a bad season. Rumor has it he found the knuckleball again. The staff is anchored by Torcato (17-9) Scharein (15-14) and Mercado (13-8) last season. I expect the ERA's of all 3 to be back down to normal this season. They signed a couple of journeymen (Chang and Lidle) to fill the roster. They still have Herbert as the closer, who had 40 saves in 43 chances with a very good 2.22 ERA. If he can repeat the performance this season....So can Fargo !
Prediction 92-70 Division Champ!
NEW BRITAIN BRUINS
New Britain is coming off a wild card birth in last season's playoffs. They advanced to the 2nd round, where they were bounced by Rochester 3 games to 1. New Britain will have a tough time repeating the same feat this season. They lost Super Slugger Guerra to free agency. They will certainly miss his 40+ homers and 115 or more RBI'S. They also lost Sanches (p) to free agency . He was 8-7 last season. They managed to pluck 3 rule 5 draft players this off season. They should make up for Sanches with Cho and Hosmer (Rule 5 draft pitchers). The other was Arrojo who is a player who never played about High A ball as of now!. Carlos Gomez and Javy Ciriaco were signed to replace Guerra. They may platoon as one if left, the other right handed. They may combine for 20 homers 70-75 RBI'S still a far cry from the numbers Guerra put up. New Britain remain in second place....but falling farther behind!
Prediction 83-79 Second Place!
Hartford is coming off a third place 71-91 season. They did little this off season.....but the few moves they made were very solid. They did lose Torres (10-6 last season) and Rogers (injured most of the season). The 2 main players they got to help them this season were Yoshi and Richard. Yoshi is the super closer that was traded to Hartford from Scottsdale during the off season. Yoshi has been solid to say the least. In the last 3 seasons he has had a total of 12 blown saves......vs 11 homers given up in those 3 seasons. He was 37 for 39 in saves last season...and in the last 3 seasons he is 138 for 150 in save chances. They also signed Richard, who himself was a closer last season. He saved 43 of 50 games for Rochester last season. He did have a high ERA at 4.56. I think that Hartford has better themselves with those 2 bullpen arms. The offense is anchored by Lopez who hit 46 homers last season...They will struggle against the top 2 teams in the division....3rd place is another road it looks like they will travel this season!
Prediction 76-86 Third Place!
CHICAGO BLACK HAWKS
Chicago finished last in their division last season. They just finished 1 game behind Hartford for third place with a 70-92 record. Chicago lost Ruiz, Ciriaco and Duran (P) to free agency. They made a bold move by signing Jefferies to a 3 year 35 million dollar contract (7.5 was a signing bonus). Jefferies was 7-6 last season and 5 for 7 in saves. He pitched just over 80 innings, so he better hope his fast ball and curve ball make it worth while. The strength in the team is the offense. Piper is a stud 59 homers 136 RBI'S .320 average last season. They also have Sheridan who is looking to build on his rookie campaign of 17 homers and 58 RBI'S in 110 games). They will also have Aldridge back , who had 32 homer and 62 RBI'S before his season ending injury. He missed 65 games with a nerve injury. The offense should be the success of the team. The pitching staff is fairly young and not that experienced. They should again contend for third with the offense!
Prediction 75-87 Fourth Place!