Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NL South Season 14 Preview

Business as usual in the NL South last year, with the Apologists winning their 11th division title and Mexico City challenging for most of the year and finishing with 99 wins. This may finally be the year things tighten up: Memphis and the Desperadoes both took big free-agent hits, while El Paso and Austin keep bringing up more young talent.


Memphis: The Mudcats' predecessor Apologists punched in 3rd with 825 runs last season, but are sure to miss departed free agents Maximo Cota and Valerio Benitez (360 hits and 219 RBI to replace). They'll try Davey Molina at SS (who will at least be a defensive upgrade) and some combination of Kennie Hamilton, Johnny Hernandez, and Ramon Iwazaki in LF. It's still a potent lineup, with the likes of RF Danny Perisho (averaged 49 HR's over the last 4 seasons), 2B Sammy Reyes (41 HR, 108 RBI last year), C Andre Brownson (.297/21/86), and 1B Nash Brooks (.307), but they're likely to back up a little. Trend (-)

Mexico City: 761 runs last season, good for 7th. The free-agent reaper hit hard, claiming Matty Marrero, Ryan Shelley and Pedro Guerrero. The Desperadoes will count on 1B Dicky Hudson, LF Damaso Castillo, and CF Charles Perez to do most of the damage, but they might go through some scoring draughts this year. Trend (-)

: Disappointing Season 13 with 733 runs (9th), but help is on the way. The Chaloupas gutted their farm system and moved fan favorites Marty Daly and Felix Koh to get thumpers Kevin Grabowski and Richie Scheffer, and C Pat Ramirez. FA Ryan Shelley takes over at 2B for Koh. Trend (+)

El Paso
: The Nine plated 671 last year for 15th. C Eddie Garciaparra improved nicely in his second year with 29 HR's and 78 RBI, and Harry Rodrigo (.260/31/87) was one of the year's best bargains at $890K. Ryan Adcock (the other half of the C platoon) crushes lefties. Beyond that, their best hitters might be in AA (Kenneth Scoroposki
and Graham Black). Trend (even)


Memphis: 4th at 3.85 last year - lost Kaz Lim to free agency. Pat Thomas moves into the rotation, which is suddenly looking vulnerable. Jose Romo may be the best starter now. Pasqual Tabaka is an absolute workhorse setup man, and Lawrence Simpson remains a top closer - both could see new addresses by midseason. Trend (-)

Mexico City
: Led the league with a 3.54 ERA last year. Lost Jesus Javier and Jacob Martin to FA, and still have 2 ace-caliber starters (Pedro Encarnacion and Cy Young winner Luis Redondo) plus Belle's career strikeouts leader (Cory Mitchell) in the rotation. The Desperadoes need (and so far are getting) great things from 3rd-year man Cesar Morales and rookie Peter Itou. Yamil Manzanillo and Tony Rodriguez anchor a huge (8-man) bullpen. They might slip a little, but it's still a deep, quality staff. Trend (-, but just a little)

Austin: 13th with a 4.48 last year, the Chaloupas hit free agency hard and landed Jesus Javier, Terry Pote, Theodore Curtis and Felix Cortes. Prospects Omar Chavez
and William Kim have made roster - blue-chipper Rafael Aquino was being shopped around for another ML starter, but suffered a career-threatening injury. Trend (+)

El Paso
: 6th at 4.11 ERA last year; lost Terry Pote and Pedro Fernandez in FA. The Evil Nine rotation features a trio of promising youngsters: Vince Cross and Midre Jose debuted last year; Alex Russell makes the jump this season. The bullpen hierarchy is unclear, although Rick Miller seems set to retain his closer job. Trend (+)

1) Austin wins its first division title since Season 3
2) Mexico City's pitching carries it to 2nd and wildcard contention
Memphis still has enough to take 3rd
4) El Paso's pitching progresses, but oh, that O isn't enough - 4th.
5) Rookie Watch: Mexico City's Peter Itou, Austin's Omar Chavez and El Paso's Alex Russell
6) Vets on the move: Memphis relievers Tabaka and Simpson

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