Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NL North Preview (courtesy of cnsmuck)

NL North is composed of the: (Big Ten Division)

Chicago Illini
Columbus Buckeyes
Detroit Wolverines
Iowa City Hawkeyes

Starting Pitching Division Rank

1. Iowa City
2. Detroit
3. Chicago
4. Columbus

Iowa City - Projected Rotation: Lopez, Hardy, Carlyle, Loux, Karnuth. Despite having no real standout Cy Young type Ace, the Hawkeyes have 5 very good pitchers. All of them have great splits, and excellent control, but pitch ratings are only average. Durability also looks to be in check, Health does remain as a concern as there is little depth that can come up from the minors. The Hawkeyes have adequate starters in the minors to call up if a big leaguer goes down, but they will see a significant drop off in production should that happen.

Detroit - Projected Rotation: (The Wolverines Major League roster is currently incomplete, and some of these players I am projecting on the ML roster could stay in the minors.) Cooper, Osborne, Young, Sosa, Thompson. The Wolverines have a solid staff, with above average splits, and a couple of pitchers with great pitch ratings. Control could become an issue for a couple of starters and health is a major concern for the staff. However, there are a couple of starters in the minors that could be called up in the event of an injury and the Wolverines wouldn’t see too much of a drop off.

Chicago - Projected Rotation: Cyr, Wilkins, Damon, Espinosa, Lira. Chicago has more options for their starting five than any other team in the division, but the quality of those starters doesn’t equal up to the quality of IC and DET. Several of the starters have below average splits, and may struggle against the more powerful lineups in the NL. While a few starters may have durability issues, it shouldn’t have too much of an impact because the Illini have so many pitchers that can be plugged into the rotation. Control and pitch ratings are the strength of the staff, but it remains to be seen if that can overcome some of the low splits.

Columbus - Projected Rotation: Nelson, Welandia, Walton, Feliz, Hernandez. Concerns seem to be the highlight for the Buckeyes starting five. They have no one to anchor the staff, and should they suffer an injury, there is very little ML ready talent available to be called up. Health is only a mild concern, and Durability should be ok, but with the below average splits of all five starters this staff will struggle mightily. Control shouldn’t be a major factor as 4 of the 5 are adequate in this department, but at the same time 4 of the 5 have average to below average pitch ratings.

Relief Pitching Division Rank
1. Detroit
2. Iowa City
3. Columbus
4. Chicago

Detroit - LR: Martin, Rothschild, Navarro. SU: Black, Paul, Mallory. CL: Cabrera. The backend of the bullpen is a strength for the Wolverines, but poor control from their middle relief could cause major issues. If Cabrera can stay away from the walks he will shut down most teams in the 9th with extremely high pitch ratings. Durability and average at best pitch ratings could also pose problems for their long relief staff. The strength of the bullpen lies in the strength of their set up men and their closer so if their starters can go deep in games the Wolverines will see success.

Iowa City - LR: Sears, Lewis, Banks. SU: Small, Reynolds, O’Connor, Moraga. CL: Townsend. The strength of this staff lies in their splits, but other concerns keep them out of the top spot. The biggest concern for this group is their durability, if the starters struggle for consecutive days this staff could get depleted in a hurry and as we all know 0(0) pitchers are not conducive to winning. The strength of this staff will rely solely on the ability of the starters to pitch deep into games, and to do it consistently. The good news is their starters are capable of doing just that. The 8th and 9th innings should be locked down for this staff as Small and Townsend are excellent, however the health of both could become a problem, the Hawkeyes will need to have big seasons from Reynolds and Banks if their starters struggle too often.

Columbus - LR: Cota, Deshields. SU: Mercedes, Fernandez, Cela, Kendall, Berry, Ward. CL: Priest. The bullpen for the Buckeyes may not jump out as overwhelming, but they should be fairly consistent. No standouts, and they will struggle at times, but they will also get the job done at times as well. Durability for this group is great, but the lack of quality long relief could pose a huge problem, particularly when you consider their poor starting pitching. Good new is there is help in the minors from Douglass and Kennedy.

Chicago - LR: Crosby, Harang, Morandini. SU: Hayes, Miller, McClellan. CL: Bickerton. The strength of the Illini staff should be their ability to eat up the innings and not suffer too much in the stamina department. The relievers have good control, and much like the Buckeyes, they should be consistent. The Illini can’t count on them to completely shut down teams, but they should be serviceable in holding leads. Like the starters on this team the Illini are hoping that strong pitch ratings will overcome average to below average splits.

Overall Pitching Staff Rank

1. Iowa City
2. Detroit
3. Chicago
4. Columbus

Position Players- Offensive Lineup Rank

1. Iowa City
2. Detroit
3. Chicago
4. Columbus

Iowa City - Projected Starters: C-Gonzales, 1B-Payton, 2B-Sweeney/Lombard, 3B-Allen, SS- Alvarado, LF- Dunham, CF- Lombard/Sweeney, RF- Bailey. It will be interesting to see how this team performs this season, it should also give everyone a good indication as to what is more important High CON/PWR ratings or High L/R splits. This team is average at best when it comes to their CON/PWR ratings, but their splits are incredible. A key concern could be getting enough base runners for their monster power hitters. Everyone in their starting lineup has a POW rating over 50, and 4 of them are above a 79, but their CON ratings are nothing special. The Hawkeyes could set a record for the most solo home runs in a season. Their L/R splits are incredible as most of their starters are above 60 on both. The starting 8 should also fair well in the walk department as most of them are pretty picky when it comes to waiting for a good pitch to hit. This line-up should put up a bunch of runs. As for the minors, there are a few ML ready players that could step up if the injury bug bites, Rivera, Nunez, Guerrero, and Levis, all have similar ratings as those that are ahead of them.

Detroit - Projected Starters: C-Charles/Key, 1B-Bates, 2B-Hansen, 3B-Stark, SS- Hurst, LF- Benton, CF- Black, RF- Owens. The starting lineup has several stud hitters but they do have a couple of holes and that’s what puts them slightly behind the Hawkeyes. Black should be a stud at lead off, and several players will be able to supply consistent power, but no one will challenge for the HR lead. The Wolverines are weak at the plate with their catchers, but help is on the way with stud prospect Moran just waiting to be called up. This team should perform well vs. rightist, but lefties could give them some serious problems. Another point of concern is the lack of depth should one of their starters go down to injury, and their lack of patience at the plate will spoil some run scoring opportunities.

Chicago - Projected Starters: C-Schneider, 1B-Cox, 2B-Owens, 3B-Scott, SS-Mientkiewicz, LF-Suzuki, CF-McDill, RF-Tomiln. Great balance here with several table setters in Owens, McDill, and Tomlin, as well as the mashers to bring them home in Schnieder, Scott, Mientkiewicz, and Suzuki. However the splits are a little less than average, and the Illini could see some consistencies issues because of that. This team will struggle to make solid contact vs. lefties, but they have solid depth and will not see too much of a drop off in offensive production if they have a couple of injuries. Stud prospects Melendez and Duran should see an early season call up at 1B and C respectively if the team has early season offensive woes.

Columbus - Projected Starters: C- Martin, 1B- Figueroa, 2B-Gray, 3B-Yang, SS-Corino, LF-Kinney, CF-Castro, RF-Christiansen. Too many holes in this line-up to scare the top pitching staffs, only two players with significant power, and both of them will be pitched around delicately in pressure spots. Splits are poor and so the consistency will be lacking. Immediate relief from the farm system is not available, so it is looking like a rather long season in Columbus.

Defensive Rank
1. Detroit- Very solid defensively up the middle, could be a problem with very limited range over at 1st base. Excellent defensively from the catchers.

2. Chicago- Also very solid up the middle, but 3 of the four corners will be of concern. Average defensively behind the plate.

3. Columbus- Average up the middle as well as on the corners, little in the way of standouts defensively, but very adequate. Step above Iowa because of their talent behind the plate.

4. Iowa- No major liabilities on defense with the possible exception being CF, but no real defensive studs either. Defense behind the plate could become a major problem along with average or worse pitch calling, but man can they hit.

Overall Projection
1. Iowa City- Possible Wild Card if they do not win the division.
2. Detroit- Could give Iowa quite a run if their pitching holds up, should be in wild card race.
3. Chicago- Middle of the pack in the NL.
4. Columbus- Looking for a high year 2 draft pick.

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