Thursday, April 03, 2008

2008 NL East Preview

Realized I still hadn't completed the Inferior League preview, so here goes the East.

The Fish traded away their two best players to the Tiggers, which leaves stud SS Hanley Ramirez as the biggest threat in the lineup to score, with some pop provided by 2B Dan Uggla, 1B Mike Jacobs and OF Josh Willingham. The staff boasts three southpaws, including journeyman Mark Hendrickson and youngsters Andrew Miller and Scott Olson, as well as righties Ricky Nolasco and Rick VandenHurck (no, you've never heard of any of these guys, except maybe Olson). Kevin Gregg returns as closer. The Fish once again are in their favorite position of having the youngest roster in the majors.

In Tomahawk land, the rotation again appears to be the strength of the team, starting with John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, the return of Tom Glavine from the Stupids, the return of Mike Hampton from the hospitial, and new kid on the block Jair Jurrjens (how many J's can a guy have in his name?). Last year's bullpen import Rafael Soriano gets the closer job, and the sticks have some new thunder in the cleanup spot with new import 1B Mark Texeira from the Sherrifs. Although they lost the Jones boy in center to the Brooklyners, the one at 3B stayed put and will likely put up those nice 30/100 numbers again. C Brian McCann and RF Jeff Francoeur also provide some pop down the lineup in the five and six holes, respectively.

Moving northeast to the nation's capital, the Senators boast a shiny new taxpayer funded ballpark, and some new arms in the rotation, including much traveled Odalis Perez, former Space Cadet Tim Redding (who pitched a gem last night) , young lefty Matt Chico, fellow youngster Jason Bergman and Sean Hill. Chad Cordero returns for the ninth, with Luis Ayala and Jon Rauch setting up. The lineup is built around 'franchise face' 3B Ryan Zimmerman (he of the opening day walk-off dinger) and former Yank 1B Nick Johnson, former Cincy OF Austin Kearns, former Stupids OF Lastings Milledge, former Twinkie SS Christian Guzman, along with former Brooklyn C Paul LoDuca - you get the point. While many of these guys are cast offs, they do have some talent with the sticks. Offensively, the team should be better, particularly with Johnson healthy.

On to the Quakers, who answered my faith in them last year by stealing the division right out from under the Stupids, which made me very happy. They have a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation with Brett Myers and lefty Cole Hamels, with wizened southpaw Jamie Moyer, former Priest Adam Eaton and youngster Kyle Kendirck filling out the rotation. Former Korsair/Stupid/Bird Kris Benson is also signed in case anyone falters. The team signed former Space Cadet closer Brad Lidge for the pen, but he starts the season on the DL, leaving Tom Gordon to finish games for the first week or so. The lineup is still pretty fearsome, led by 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley and LF Pat Burrell providing power, CF Shane Victorino providing some speed and SS Jimmy Rollins providing both. Former Brew Crewer Geoff Jenkins takes over in RF and former Midget Pedro Feliz takes over at the hot corner. Expect lots of scoring from this bunch, they led the Inferior League in runs last year and I see nothing to make me think they won't repeat the feat this season.

Then there is the Stupids, who have oodles of talent and idiots running the front office. They desperately needed pitching last season but never made a move for anything, lost the division and then sent a ton of prospects in the off season to go get the best pitcher in either league from the Twinkies in Johan Santana. Then in the second game of the season Pedro went down with a bad hammy in his first start. Brilliant! Youngters John Maine, Mike Pelfry, journeyman Oliver Perez and Nelson Figueroa fill out the rotation until the return of the oft-injured one. Billy Wagner returns to close ahead of setup guys Aaron Heileman and Jorge Sosa. The sticks are also fearsome - 3B David Wright, CF Carlos Beltran, 1B Carlos Delgado are all quality lumbermen, and SS Jose Reyes is still a base stealing king, and the #2 hole in the lineup has been filled nicely with former Twinkie/Fish Luis Castillo. CF Ryan Church also arrived from the Senators.

The popular choices are the Stupids and the Qakers, who both can mash, but I believe the Tomahawks may reassert themselves this year given the fact they can mash pretty well themselves and have a real staff. The Senators are improving, but I think a year or two away yet to develop. The Fish are pretty much in their one good team a decade rebuilding mode again, so see me in 2011 or 2012.

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