Tuesday, July 12, 2011

S2 NL South Predictions

NL South

St. Louis    86-76
Houston     84-78
Florida       81-81
Atlanta       75-87

-- St. Louis stole a very competitive NL South title late from the Astros en route to an ALCS appearance. The  pitching staff largely carried the team as the offense could only muster subpar numbers. Houston went into the offseason with a sour taste in their mouth after a fairly consistent regular season performance. Although Florida and Atlanta occupied the lower half of the division both teams have to feel like they are not that far off from a title. All four teams made some sort of upgrade during the offseason and it may be that the team that had the most effective upgrade takes the division. I fully expect this division to be very competitive again without much separation between the top and bottom. This will be an interesting division to watch in Season 2.

Predictions:

Florida
St. Louis
Atlanta
Houston



St. Louis Cardinals

As a group the numbers for the Cardinals offense were disappointing. Despite being in the top 5 in team home runs they were in the lower half for runs scored.Clay Austin and Wayne Rhodes, however, were not disappointments and combined for 77 homers and 196 RBI as well as hitting .316 and .338 respectively. Jamie Lo and Kevin Kwon were inconsistent at the plate and will need to step up like they did during the post season. There doesn't appear to be any changes to the lineup for Season 2 and unless they have another S1 disappointment there should be enough runs to support a solid pitching staff in St. Louis.

The Cards pitching staff is reasonably deep and performed well last season, only allowing opponents to hit .259. SP Stan Barrett had a major issue with this command last season and is capable of a better performance. SP Dean Zimmerman threw 212 innings last season with 2.50 ERA and 1.12 WHIP as the teams most consistent pitcher. However, he was only rewarded with 9 wins, something that must change if the Cards want to repeat as NL South champs.

With the 20th overall pick the Cards took SS Pat Chong who will likely move to third base by the time he makes to the bigs. Their SP prospect depth is enviable and they can count no less than five potential ML quality starters in their system including future Cy Young Matty Canseco who is on schedule for a Season 4 debut. Uber SS/3B prospect Dan Wilhelm is on track for a similar debut date and will definitely supply runs to back Canseco's starts.

Individual Awards:

All Star
    C Clay Austin

Silver Slugger
    P Dean Zimmerman
    C Clay Austin

Gold Glove
    P Dean Zimmerman
    C Clay Austin



Houston Astros

First baseman Vicente Chavez had a great year for the Astros, leading the way with 42 dingers and 110 batted in while hitting .306. All Star Tony Valdez and Albert Dykhoff also made major contributions to an above average ranked offense. Only one part of last years lineup has departed, COF Juan Aguilar, who shouldn't be missed all that much after hitting .254. Chavez should lead this Astros offense back to a successful season and maybe the Astros can score enough runs to challenge for the division title.

To bolster the pitching staff talbott has promoted three guys, SP Shawn Sewell, RP Rico Mateo and RP Miguel Rijo. Sewell will immediately come in and throw somewhere in the top three spots of the rotation. SP Dennis Charles, Houstons best pitcher in S1, will welcome the addition, which may be the added punch this team needs to win the division. RP Luis Cortez was solid as a rookie and should continue to build on his success and maybe even take a few save opportunities away from last years closer AJ Martin.

It would be a surprise if SP David Borbon was not called up after the arbitration cutoff. Although he begins the season in AA he already has 5 pro years under his belt. P.T. Cobb is another bright SP prospect in the 'Stros system and could make his ML debut late this season with an aim to be a full time ML'er next season.

Individual Awards:

All Star
    3B Tony Valdez

Silver Slugger
    3B Tony Valdez



Florida Marlins

I predicted that the Marlins would have one of the better offenses in baseball last season but they underperformed, even when you adjust for the park they play in. Free swinging SS Vinny Baez went yard 49 times and drove in 132 but could have hit for a better average (.281). Rookie first baseman, and your AL ROY, Diory Jose also had a 40 homer year with 45 and 123 ribbies. Rootgargle will return the same lineup and hope for some better AB's this season.

SP Will Granderson had a very solid season as the ace for the Fish and posted a 2.69 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Unfortunately for Granderson he only went 13-11 though he held opponents to a stellar .213 average. Rookie RP's Jordan Meyer and Martin Scholl proved to be pretty dependable but had to come in too many times to back poor starts by the starters. Opie added solid reliever Burt Case but needed to have added some SP talent for a sure shot at the title.

A trio of guys who will upgrade the current rotation continue to develop in the Florida minor league system. Tony Urbina, Hayes Leary and Seop Mori will one day be the faces of the rotation but all three still have some developing left to do. Big time international signing Yovani Mujica could be a fringe starter but may do his best work as a very durable closer or setup man. Left field prospect Joe Bush will provide a spark to the lineup once he reaches the bigs in S5 or so.

Individual Awards:

All Stars
    P Martin Scholl
    SS Vinny Baez

Rookie of the Year
    1B Diory Jose

Silver Slugger
    SS Vinny Baez



Atlanta Braves

It was the offense that let the Braves down last season, ranking toward the bottom of the barrel in most offensive statistical categories. Help is on the way in S2 as rookies Quentin Langerhans and Alan Voigt look to bring some energy to the team and some quality to the lineup. Langerhans in particular is a COF who should hit for a steady average and is capable of hitting 20-25 homers. This is welcome news to Braves fans as no player on the team last season had a performance worth mentioning.

The Braves staff looked dependable on paper last season and ended up being a pleasant surprise. This season they add promising rookie reliever Clarence Sanders to the ML squad. Though he only has two seasons of pro experience he is already major league ready yet still has a huge upside. Starters Neifi Soto and Jeremy Estes put up very solid seasons but the lack of offense was clear as the only recorded a combined 15 wins.

The Braves drafted SP Jaime Trammell with the 14th overall pick. Trammell may not be able to throw enough innings in the majors to be a true starter but he could end up being one of the best spot starter/LR's in the majors once he gets there. RP Edinson Navarro has the potential to be a lights out closer but is still at least two seasons away from his ML debut.

Individual Awards:

All Star
    P Jorge Cortes
    2B Duke Diaz

Gold Glove
    RF Albert Rodriguez  

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