Monday, February 21, 2011

AL North Preview

The season is underway, and if you need a little help handicapping the division races, the ULB Times will be taking a look at each of the 8 divisions over the next 8 days. Up first, the AL North!

Toronto Mounties

The Mounties roll into Season 1 with a mix of veteran talent and some young arms. They will be led this year by 31-year-old, slugging LF Clark Walsh and CF Heath Olmos. Anchored by Closer Bruce Ruffin, the Mounties will hope that their starters can turn the game over to him with a lead more times than not.

The Mounties will have concerns surrounding their starting rotation as they field no clear ac- on their staff. They will be putting a lot of weight on the young shoulders of 24-year-old Vic Rosales and 21-year-old Jose Lind. Rosales and Lind are being counted on as the building blocks for this franchise for years to come.

Toronto has hopes of being a playoff contender this year, but it is hard to project where they may finish record-wise. During the offseason the Mounties were very quiet in free agency and on the trade front. Management chose to not sell out the future talent for a win now team and chose to let the season play out and evaluate as they go.

Cleveland Crows

Quite frankly it is difficult to predict how the initial season will go for the Crows. The overall talent level of the team is below average but that seems to be the consensus of most owners in the league. The Crows decided to trade off most of their high-priced players and pending FA. Most deals resulted in younger prospects coming back. Some stop gap FA were signed to plug gaps while they wait on those prospects. The goal appears to be building the widest competitive window they can. The best players on the team are prospects SP Tim Jackson and OF Dan Ramirez, both in their early 20’s. The game plan is to keep the top prospects in the minors for the first part of the season to postpone the arbitration years. After the first 25-30 games, if the Crows look to be competitive, Jackson, Ramirez and other top talents could be called up to make a playoff run. If the team dives to the cellar out of the gate, the Crows may choose to wait until next year to promote their top talent.

The Crows do still have some good MLB talent with players such as Mat Dunham, Brandon O'Neill, and Harry Benson. While they would love to win the AL North, the Crows would be happy to get to .500 this season.

Montreal Hilltoppers

The Hilltoppers expect to field a competitive team this season but are expecting bigger things in the near future. Currently our top players are left-handed SP Don Chenand slugging 3 Michel Carreras; both players will be serious all-star contenders. Top rookie prospects are Buck Holmes, Tomas Tejeda, Jim Dougherty, Jamey Stockton, Jeff Doumit, Les Stratton, Che-Bang Hukata, and Hector Tapies. All enjoyed a solid spring season. Another top prospect, Francisco Matos, is presently in AAA but is expected to be called up to the big club once he gets a few more at-bats. Matos has the skills to be a five-tool player.

Tejada, Chen, and Sammy Stammen are the anchors of a solid but very young rotation. The Hilltoppers also enjoy a strong bullpen, as well as good team speed and defense.

Buffalo Mammoths

A rebuilding team with a lot of promise on the horizon, the Buffalo Mammoths will likely struggle to make the minimum win totals set by the league, but if they can hold out hope for a few seasons, there are plenty of promising arms in the system. The big league squad is anchored by ace SP Louis Cochrane, star-in-the-making C Charlie Rhodes...and not much else. This team will struggle to score runs and other than when Cochrane is on the mound, they will struggle to prevent runs.

In the low minors however, the pitching is stocked and developing. The threesome of SPs Rob Eischen , Luis Nunez, and Phil Riggs is the future top of the Mammoths' rotation. The bullpen arms include future lights out Closer Carlton Wood and Neftali Alvarez. The position player prospects are weak throughout the system but the Mammoths hope to work on that through the draft, thanks to the #2 overall pick, and the international market.

In short, the present will not be pretty in Buffalo, but the ownership group is asking fans to be patient because the future promises better days ahead.

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