My Take: Another solid division with a lot of good talent. Season 10 NCAA champion, Fargo, resides in this division and looks to take home the division again. Portland looks to lays a couple of small building blocks on top of the big step forward they made last season. Minnesota made several big time FA acquisitions and trades to try and compete now while not leveraging the future. The Bearcats are in the able bodied hands of veteran allright who continues to put that team on the right track. This should be a very competitive division right out of the gate. I see the Bison taking home the divisional crown although I'll be surprised if they get to 102 wins as mikejuggalo expects, there are just too many good teams in the AL. Portland and Minnesota should be battling for a WC spot the whole season as Cincy continues to rebuild.
Key Player Added: Vic Redmond and Bill Meacham. Not sure if we can say that they are key players, but they may help my pitching staff this season.
Key Player Lost: None.
Key Transaction: No huge trades, but Omar Urbina and Darrell Guerrero have been acquired to add some deep to Portland’s farm system.
Rookies: Vic Keefe may start the season why the big team.
Outlook: The AL North division did better last season, and Portland has improved his records to 89-73, playing over .500 for the first time since the sixth season. The Ducks will try to do as well as last season.
To reach that goal, they count on guys like, Dave Ramsay, Bingo Speier, Ernie Helton and Boots Lundquist who are the heart of Portland’s lineup. Ramsay has still a lot to do to worth his salary, but has a huge potential. Bingo Speier should do better than last season. We are hoping to see Ernie Helton and Boots Lunquist continue to run on the bases.
If we look at the pitching staff, Einar Arias and Alvin Barnes already have their spot in the rotation. Therefore, Chris Knight and Gene Wise may be sent to bullpen. Also, a young arm in Vic Keefe may join the Arias and Barnes in the rotation. Portland was hoping to get an ace from the free agency, but was not able to sign the guy they were looking for in Don Bong. We may look later in the season for a pitching ace.
Richard Vanguri is still the closer for the season. He has proven that he can do the job. Bob Serrano and Vic Redmond may replace him if needed.
Departures: Wendell Justice(Demotion), Edgar Eusabio(FA), Phillip Larson(FA), Phil Nomura(Trade), and Britt Glynn(Demotion).
Additions: Corky Buckley(waivers), Mitch Huckaby(Rookie), Ralph Mora(Rookie), David Cox(Trade)
The Fargo Bison should be stronger this season than we were last year. We played very well down the stretch and in the playoffs. The addition of Cox to our bullpen and Mora to the rotation should both help upgrade the pitching here in Fargo. The hot corner should be much stronger defensively with Huckaby taking over and that allows us to move Everhart to RF and that should strengthen that position defensively compared to last year.
We have an extremely young team, and even with the deep run in the playoffs last year, they are relatively inexperienced at the ML level. We are hoping that with another year of experience they will continue to improve their skills as individuals and that will lead to an improved team.
Expectation: I expect this team to win the division and hopefully be a #1-2 seed in the AL.
Cincinnati is poised to continue the next step in improving what had been a sinking franchise. Last season's second half improvement was the first step. FA signings Stretch Bailey (P), Hector Jimenez (P), Wolf Langerhans (P), and Carl Riggan (OF), added to the trade asquisition of Tomas Navarro should help the Bearcats take one more step up the ladder. If top rookie catching prospect, Omar Andujar, can make significant contributions, maybe another rung up the ladder is possible. The team still needs a real ace on the staff and more pop in the lineup to be a top contender; but, moving to the middle of the pack should be no problem
UPDATE: Stretch Bailey , FA signee counted on to bolster the pitching staff suffered a season ending spring training injury, leaving the Cincinnati team with a huge starting pitching void. Bailey's loss suggests that the Bearcats climb toward mediocrity suddenly becomes less likely. TTWIG.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Key Additions: SPs Adrian Cora and Roger Karnuth, RP Nap Hollins, OF Jerry Seabol, and 3B R.J. Vargas
Key Losses: 3B Chuck Andrews and RP Pete Young
Rookies: RP Jay Rhodes (former #5 draft pick), DH Jorge Cordero, CF Theo Franco, OF Davey Albaladejo could all make their debut this season.
Outlook: This should be a very interesting year for the Golden Gophers. Despite a run to the World Series in season 9, that team was far from becoming perennial contender. After a down year in season 10, the Gophers were aggressive in the free agent market this year in an attempt to compete for a playoff spot at the ML level this year, while maintaining the financial flexibility to continue to add talent to the minors. It remains to be seen whether this balancing act can be pulled off. Worst case scenario is that the Gophers hover around .500, while at the same time lack the prospect payroll to sign impact IFAs. On the flip side, the short term FA signings could pay off with a playoff birth while simultaneously bridging the gap between the present and homegrown future.