In season 1, each of the four teams spent at least a brief moment at the top of the standings and the jockeying continued for quite some time. Detroit's lack of run production (3rd lowest in the majors) began to show by midseason, and Chicago's pitching staff became a MASH unit. At the end, Toronto's pitching was enough better than the rest of the division to secure the division title. Here is the preview for season 2:
(CHICAGO WHITE SOX)
Key Losses: Mostly insignificant, losing 3 aging pitchers to free agency and LR D.T. Vining was sent away in a trade.
Added free agent SP Brandon Saunders and SP Red Cornelius, projected to fill the #2 and #3 spots in the rotation. The #4 spot will probably go to SP Julio Javier, acquired from S. Francisco in a spring training trade. To avoid a repeat of the season 1 pitching debacle, the White Sox acquired two more SP/LR for insurance: Charles Wang in the Rule 5 and FA Glen Bunch. On the offensive side, the only notable signings were FA C Jhonny Ontiveros and 3B/COF Gregory Courtney, acquired in the Rule 5.
Rookies/prospects to watch: RP Sticky Cook will join the two Rule 5 pick-ups as the only rookies on the ML roster. Sticky performed well after roster expansion last year and looks to be the set-up man.
Outlook: Last year's team was poised to make a playoff push last year had the starting pitching held up. When 3 of the starters hit the DL, the lack of depth was horribly exposed. There were pitchers in the major league rotation who might have struggled at AA. Byers61on his chances: "With the pitching additions and a full return of the offense with another year of experience, I expect to compete for the division title."
Key losses: Closer E. Beckham and his 34 saves. RF Footsie McKinley, who batted .309 with some power.
Added: 3B/COF Mario Ortiz.
Rookies/top prospects: RF Juan Aguilera should become a fixture in the middle of the lineup. C Jose Castilla should have a good bat but is weak defensively. RP Willie Aldridge will probably get a mid-season callup.
Outlook (no quotes from Arte): Despite the quick start, not much was added in free agency or the Rule 5 to improve the team. Unless a few younger players make big strides, Detroit will probably not improve on the 64 wins from season 1.
Key players lost: 1B Freddie Hackman (21 HRs, 108 RBI), age played a factor in not re-signing..same with OF Rudy Campbell (.287 avg, 22 HRs)
Only "major" addition was the FA signing of 3B/COF Tex Barker (2 yrs-$4.2M)
Rookies this year that should contribute: P Scott Kent, P Nerio Hawkins and OF Richie Truman. Truman gets the starting nod in CF..while Kent & Hawkins begin the year in the bullpen before eventually earning spots in the starting rotation.
Outlook: Looking to improve on Season 1's second place finish and at least clinch a wildcard spot. After a slow start, the pitching stablized as the season went on. According to Iceman: "Pitching once again will be a key component. MVP candidate Pat Dunston should once again put up big offensive numbers. I expect OF Ernest Burroughs to bounce back from a disappointing season. Burroughs and a full season from C/DH Trent Cambridge should help compliment Dunston in the lineup."
(TORONTO BLUE JAYS)
Losses: The big loss was Ed Parkinson, who now plays for Texas. He was lost to injury and is still 133 days from being back so it was an easy no-sign..
Mitchrapp on his additions: "I added plenty, especially pitching. Nothing spectacular but Ben Wooten and Bill Conti highlight the FA pitching class for me. Hitting, Albert Belliard, a poor catcher who will DH for me is my prize FA pickup and i use the term loosely. Also added a power hitting RF in Bob Hanson."
Mitchrapp on his rookie and prospect situation: "The team still revovles around Rolando Cairo, my big hitting CF and pitching. I'm hoping last years rookie of the year for Toronto, Santos Valentine, continues on what he did in season 1. I don't currently have any rookies on my teamor anyone who will play a significant role for a couple years."
Mitchrapp on the team's outlook: "I won 86 in season one, good enough to win the division. I was expecting 56. Toronto needs a lot of luck and though they might seem a bit better on paper, I predict somewhere between what I thought and where I ended up, last season. Prediction: 72-90."
DIVISION OUTLOOK by byers61:
I think mitchrapp is downplaying his role as favorite to repeat. The franchise rankings have him ranked highest on both pitching and overall. However, it could be a real close 3-team race until the end. Detroit will continue to rebuild through the draft. I see three teams with better than .500 records, Toronto the favorite, and my White Sox possibly pulling a 3rd to 1st upset.