AL SOUTH PREVIEW
The AL South is going to be a very interesting division again this season. Sante Fe looks to return to the World Series again this season. They came up short last season, falling 4 games to 1 to Syracuse. With a gel of young talent and very solid veterans that could be the case again this season. I am sure St.Louis, Charleston and Charlotte will not let them just cash in the ticket not just yet!
SANTE FE BLUES
Sante Fe is coming off a 101-61 season where they went to the World Series last season. They have a very nice young core of talent as well as veterans on the team. That being said, they did not lose anyone to free agency that could hurt them. The bad news for the rest of the division is that they signed some free agents to help them out even more. Greenwood hit 25 homers drove in 87 and had an .399 OBP and .940 OPS last season. Rios hit 15 homers and had 88 RBI'S .408 OBP and a .923 OPS last season. Barfield had 19 homers 85 RBI'S .387 OBP and a .907 OPS last season. Broxton had 32 homers 124 RBI'S .379 OBP and a .928 OPS. Loretta 19 homers 85 RBI'S. Harris 21 homers 87 RBI'S Neal has 19 homers 88 RBI'S and Moses had 24 homer 82 RBI'S. The law of averages is that when you have men on base all the time they should score some runs. Last season they did, and this will be no different. Now we can not forget to mention the staff either. Gandarilla was 22-4 last season. That is the second 22-4 mark in the last 3 for him. I am sure his Sinker ball will be in rare form again this season. With Estrada and Walter eating up more than 200 innings a piece and Meredith at the end of the game(37 for 44 in saves) . The pen will be very good again this year. They also added Gamel, Burns and Roosevelt to finish out the bullpen. Burns could also be the closer there if they decide to go a different route. Meredith could be the set up man for him. Anyway they will be top dog again in the AL SOUTH!
PREDICTION 104-58 FIRST PLACE!
St. Louis is coming off a heat breaking season. They finished 87-75 and lost a wild card birth by finishing tied with New Britain. St.Louis made some moves this off season to help them over come the same fate this season. They signed Bonilla who is a great pitch caller for the rotation. Foster, Jordan (19-7) Martin and Ventura all pitched close too or over 200 innings last season. If they repeat the performance it could be a another season where the pen in not over used. Mullen was also signed to the roster(probably for some added power). The only question is will they try a closer by committee as they seemed to do last season. With Stafford and Sorrento leading the offense again this season, they should score some runs . That being said I believe they continue the second place trend.
PREDICTION 85-77 SECOND PLACE!
CHARLESTON TOBACCO FARMERS
Charleston is coming off a season where they just missed the last wild card spot. They finished 86-76 and just missed the ticket to the playoffs. Charleston made some moves in the off season to make sure that does not happen this season. They lost Gabriel( 9 homers 63 RBI'S) Rodriguez (7-4) Kipling ( very good defensive player) and Green(trade) from last years roster. They did manage to get Brantley in a trade (68 HR 174 RBI'S last season). Brantley was the NL MVP last season. They promoted Catching prospect Duffy to the ML. He had 20 HR 86 RBI'S in AAA last season. They signed Guzman and Wood to help them out on the defensive side of the field. They got Barrett (P) in a trade from Minnesota. Barrett was 8-8 last season for Minn/Phl. He has the potential to be a solid starter who eats some innings.... With the addition of Reimold ( who could be really decent if he stays healthy) Charleston is poised to better themselves this season. The problem is they are in the same division as Sante Fe. I see them fighting for a wild card spot until the end of the season.
PREDICTION 83-79 THIRD PLACE!
Charlotte finished last season 72-90. It is not clear what the intentions are this season. They traded for Almonte (offensive catcher). They signed Wang, Wood, Larish and Nathan for the pitching staff. They seem to be 'fillers or Journeymen". They still have Hudson anchoring the bullpen(39 for 40 in saves last season). Glynn, Tolar and Winn all ate up more than 200 innings last season. I believe this is the reason for the 'fillers' signings. They could help eat the remainder of the innings that LeCroy and Fernandez did last season. Both of them left for free agency this off season. In the division Charlotte seems like the kid you always want to beat up at school. They don't do anything wrong, but they are just there. I see them finishing at the bottom again this season. Baez and Owen lead an offense where 11 players were in double digits in homers last season. The problem is that with only Owen and Baez driving in over 75, runs will be hard to come by.
PREDICTION 66-96 FOURTH PLACE!