Apr 20, 2008

S7 Recap - NL North

Fargo Fuzznuts
What went right: Fargo took the top seed in the NL playoffs with a 107-55 record and ran with it all the way to the World Series. The Fuzznuts provided a lot of excitement during their run, taking each series to the full allotment of games, including an extra-inning thriller vs. New York in the NLCS…Much ballyhooed 2B prospect Ignacio Gandarillas made his debut and torched opposing pitching in the postseason with a .338/.417/.581 line.

What went Wrong: SP Zachary Spradlin was ridden hard during the regular season and had little left in the tank when the playoffs rolled around. As a result of frustration stemming from Spradlin's post-season blunders (including a 2.03 WHIP and 8.03 ERA), the 29-year old right hander has exchanged a series of barbs with management in anticipation of his upcoming arbitration hearing.

Season 8 Outlook: A full season of Gandarillas alongside other Fuzznut offensive stalwarts Yamid Morales and Al Javier should provide continued plenty of firepower in support of strong starting pitching. Gandarillas and friends will have to perform, as Cincinnati and Tacoma look to build upon their S7 success and challenge for divisional superiority.

Cincinnati Centipedes
What went right: Pat Funaki’s breakout season led an exciting late-season playoff run and netted the Centipede backstop the NL Silver Slugger… Young right-hander Rolando Cordero showed his impressive Season 6 debut was no fluke, following up in Season 7 with a 1.20 WHIP and limiting opposing hitters to a paltry .394 SLG…SS Jack McInerney strongly anchored the infield defense while holding his own at the plate posting a .364 OBP.

What went Wrong: Cincinnati’s surge surfaced too late in the season, and the ‘Pedes were unable to catch the faltering Twisters for the last NL Wild Card slot.

Season 8 Outlook: 3B/RF Vince Stevens appears ready to join the big club in Season 8 and could be an exciting addition in the lineup alongside Funaki…Dislodging the Fuzznuts from the division’s top perch seems like a longshot, but Centipedes fans have to be excited about their playoff prospects nonetheless.

Tacoma Appleseed (S8- Chicago Cubs)
What Went Right: Tacoma was finally able to parlay their strong farm system into success at the big league level, posting an 83-79 mark – the franchise’s best in 5 seasons…Rookie Tomas Rincon socked 58 extra base hits, including 30 HRs and was nominated to NL All-Star Team. Rincon was also named Rookie of the Year…Tacoma was in the mix until the end of the season for a Wild Card berth.

What Went Wrong: The Appleseed failed to sign their first round draft pick Will Milner…Tentative handling of the farm system by the previous manager got Tacoma’s late season surge started too late in the season to claim a Wild Card spot.

Season 8 Outlook: Seasoned manager erffdogg moved the team to Chicago and renamed them the Cubs. These Griffey Cubs have a deeper farm system than their MLB counterparts – three Appleseed pitchers made the AAA All Star team. Of these Juan Santos and Bernard Titan look ready to contribute in Cubbie blue in Season 8. With added support in the rotation, fans in Wrigleyville can look forward to 85+ wins, but it’s not clear if that will be adequate to pass a rejuvenated Cincinnati team.

Syracuse Swingers
What Went Right: A bold trade with Montgomery to land Sam Stewart and Kevin Swift yielded immediate dividends, as Stewart posted a monster hitting streak and a .388 OBP, and Swift belted 48 HRs…Brendan Singleton posted a solid season as the team’s closer, notching 33 saves.

What Went Wrong: The acquisitions of Stewart and Swift were not enough to keep the Swingers from the divisional cellar. As a result, the Swingers were forced to deal fan favorite SP Dwight Watkins for a trio of prospects.

Season 8 Outlook: The Watkins trade landed Syracuse a few decent prospects to replenish an aging squad. Carlos Posada is an on-base machine who can man an outfield corner slot; Dweezil Incaviglia is a solid, inexpensive back-of-the rotation pitcher – both appear ready to contribute in Season 8. However, whether they can off-set the loss of a perennial Cy Young candidate is questionable, especially given the strides made by the other three teams in the division. More importantly, the Incaviglia acquisition could allow Syracuse to feature a dual Dweezil attack this season (Dweezils Henson and Incaviglia).

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