I want to preface this post by saying this is for entertainment purposes only... however, if I manage to get any of these predictions right, I may immediately book a trip to vegas.
Here we go...
The defending World Series Champions have finally decided to tear the dynasty apart (kind of). With massive offseason trades heading in the direction of a complete rebuild, we saw Tom Kershner (FA signing by Har), B.C. Canseco (traded to Chr), Pascual Rodriguez (traded to Chr), Adam Halladay (traded to Chr), Elston Park (traded to Sal), Osvaldo Guillen (traded to Sal), Raymond Pierre (traded to Pit), and Orlando Familia (traded to Pit). Through all the offseason turmoil, Montreal managed to keep players like Vince Easley, Tony Franco, Chuck Ankiel, Rico Brito, Slick Rolls, Armando Coronado, and Trent Hernandez. This is still a pretty good haul for a ML team. I expect Montreal to make several other mid-season moves, but if he keeps this team together, then I think he has a great shot to repeat in a traditionally weak division.
Prediction: 85 - 75
Chicago Holy Soxs
As a new owner looking to rebuild, kwheeler has done a good job of shedding bigger salaries like Jason Butler, MattSottlemyre, and Macbeth Parnell while getting a decent return enabling them to compete right away. The problem that I see with Chicago's team is the lack of star power. He added Matthew Serrano, Rigo Valentin, and Len McGowan but there isn't enough there to compete for this division this year.
Prediction: 70 - 92
On paper, Detroit has good potential. The problem is that they are a very young team that hasn't reached their potential yet. They have the youngest team in terms of ML Service time in the AL. Last year, Detroit was 70 - 92 and made no major additions to their ML team. They did lose Eric Husky to FA and did not replace his solid bat. For the reasons listed above, I don't see much improvement.
Prediction: 66 - 96
Burlington Green Mountain Boys
Burlington has a couple of star players, but I don't see enough on this team to compete for the division or make a playoff run. They have a couple of horses in their staff with Marcus Grove and Bruce Loretta, but not much depth after that. They also have a couple of nice position players with Polanco, Burks, Rivera, and Santana, but the one thing I question is the Luis Santana signing last year. Burlington paid him a max deal, and then one season later decided he was in rebuild mode and wanted to trade him. Santana's value lies within his fielding which took several hits, with his makeup of 54, and only investing $11M in training in S17 and S18, he should continue to see declines. Overall, no key additions or subtractions, so I expect a similar record as to last year.
Prediction: 70 - 92
The Hartford Bulldogs severely underperformed last year, and I expect a much improved record in Season 18. Hartford added key players like Tom Kershner, Wilfredo Hernandez, and Edgardo Izquierdo. Since they didn't lose much, and still have major star power with Auerelio Arias, Brent Valdes, and Daryl Berg, the Bulldogs should continue their domination of the AL East with their 7th straight division title.
Prediction: 95 - 67
New owner mmeier takes over an Augusta franchise thats seen 3 owners in 3 years. With all that turnover, it makes it difficult for a franchise to have a single direction. There are some nice pieces on this team with Miguel Gutierrez, but the problem with this team seems to be starting pitching. Until there are some good arms in Augusta, I don't see much improvement occurring.
Prediction: 68 - 94
Pittsburgh Rust Rangers
With the exception to maybe Charleston, no team improved their ML roster, in the AL, more than Pittsburgh. Ole bgood finally decided to make a huge splash by trading for and signing the likes of Hal Duran, Garret Martin, Don Hiljus, Raymond Pierre, Orlando Familia, and Vladimir Julio. With these additions, Pittsburgh will finally get back to competing the way his franchise once did. The trio of Mercado, Duran, and Pierre should provide some stability in the rotation while the move to Pittsburgh from Louisville will also help pitching numbers. There is only one problem with Pittsburgh winning the AL East this year... HARTFORD!
Prediction: 80 - 82
There is one question that everyone will be wanting to know about the Trenton Primetimers this year... when will we see Vic Wallace. The guy is an absolute stud and is in AAA this year. The ML team however will struggle without an influx of quality starting pitching. There are some solid position players on this team and the addition of Charles Garcia was a very nice pickup.
Prediction: 70 - 92
The reigning AL South Champ and owner of the best record in S17 has the majority of the pieces from last years team. There were some key losses in the offseason with Del Armas, Edgardo Izquierdo, and Shin-Soo Shida; however, there were some small but effective FA signings and internal promotions that should make up for those losses. With the improvements to Charleston and Jacksonville, Atlanta won't reach their 103 win total from S17, but they will get close. The biggest addition that Atlanta will see is the return of Felipe Barrios. A health Barrios is better than any FA signing Atlanta could have made. Expect big things from Atlanta this year.
Prediction: 98 - 62
I'll attempt to be as objective as possible, but I expect BIG things out of the Charleston franchise this year. Next to Salem acquiring Osvaldo Guiellen and Elston Parks, the biggest trade in the AL this offseason involved Montreal and Charleston. Emptying their farm system, Charleston traded its best 3 minor league prospects to acquire 2 time CY Young winner and 5 time all-star Adam Halladay, 3 time Silver Slugger and 5 time all-star B.C. Canseco, and all-time saves leader Pascual Rodriguez. With these additions, Charleston boasts the best starting rotation in High Fives with Koji Chang, Adam Halladay, Bob Moreno, and Jerad Taylor. Charleston will employ a defensive catcher strategy to replace the loss of Charles Garcia. I'm predicting Charleston to win only its 2nd division title in franchise history.
Prediction: 100 - 62
Jacksonville addressed it's biggest offseason need: OFFENSE. Last year, Jacksonville had a run differential of +51 compared to Atlanta's +222 and Charleston's +149. Jacksonville addressed those needs by trading for Jason Butler, signing MacBeth Parnell, and signing Bob Swisher. Adding that offense to Dion Stokes, Howard Cox, Vince Mota, and Del Armas makes Jacksonville a serious playoff contender... the best money can buy!!! With all that being said, the AL South might just be the toughest division in High Fives.
Prediction: 97 - 63
Durham's rebuilding project is almost complete. Joepa has most of his minor league studs waiting in AAA. He has several major power hitters that will play well in his ballpark. He has a decent amount of pitching to go with it. The only problem I see with Durham regaining its prowess it had when they won 3 straight world series titles (S7 - S9) is the rest of the teams in this division. Eventually, Jacksonville might need to rebuild but Charleston and especially Atlanta are built for the long-term. If there is any owner in this league that knows how to win championships, it's Joepa. He'll need to make sure he abides by the new win rule this season, but that won't be an issue for much longer
Prediction: 52 - 110
Salem has enjoyed 6 straight division titles but loses the ace of his staff in Dave House. The worst part about it, his biggest rival in Tacoma signed him. Salem, as all good owners do, immediately replaced House by trading for Elston Park. In addition to losing House, Salem lost key contributers Calvin Kwon, Alberto Bennett, and Vinny Cho. Once again, Salem added almost more than he lost by also trading for the best catcher in the game, Osvaldo Guillen. Guillen returns to the franchise that signed him as an IFA. The additions of these two studs along with what Salem returns: Dee Piper, Dante Galub, Rip Harper, and Cy Harris means Salem will be a playoff contender once again.
Prediction: 97 - 65
I think Tacoma finally realized, "if you can't beat them, then steal their players." Tacoma made big FA splashes by signing Dave House and Calvin Kwon away from Salem. In addition, Tacoma added Hank Boskie and Matt Stottlemyre. Adding these guys to Benito Franco and Carter Edwards, signed in S17, means that Tacoma will finally have some offense to go with their pitcher friendly park. I think this is finally the year Tacoma overtakes Salem. The AL West division crown will come down to the final series where Tacoma hosts Salem. They win the series and the division.
Prediction: 99 - 63
Portland lost one of the best closers in the game in Ruben Jose but will replace him with Ralph Wells. There were 2 key additions with 3B Ruben Bocachica and SP Humberto Moreno which will help Portland compete in the wild AL West. LF Matty Martinez continues to be one of the league's premier leadoff hitters. Add in Tito Chang and Cliff Fischer and you have some solid pieces... however, there is just too much fire power with Salem and Tacoma for Portland to win the division this year.
Prediction: 68 - 94
This franchise has been one of the most intriguing to me in the AL. They have been rebuilding for quite some time and built up quite a bit of position player talent; however, starting pitching has not been a real focus. Names like Jimmie Fonville, Enerio Perez, Timothy Brea, Richard Lawton, and Archie Omlansky make you think Oakland can compete with anyone. However, the starting pitching cannot compete with the big boys. There is a lot of talent on this team and new owner chrisjanning has 4 WS titles to his name which makes me have confidence he can turn this franchise into a winner. I just don't think it will be this season.
Prediction: 60 - 100
AL Playoff Preview
6. Jacksonville / Salem