Friday, May 6, 2016

Season 34 NL North Preview

Montreal Expos
Season 33: 93-69, lost to Houston in Round 1
GM: EasyE7273

The Offseason:  Lost starting catcher Robert Roberts and some quality pitching in Sam Lynn  and Joe Roenicke in free agency.  Looks like they're replacing all with internal promotions - they may not be quite as strong starting the season, but they'll be younger and cheaper.    

Outlook: Until their division mates show signs of emerging from rebuilds, they're the continuing odds-on favorite to win the division.  The big question is whether they can make playoff headway against the 2 monsters in the South and the emerging East powerhouses.  Leonardo Grimm (.290/22/86) quickly made Expos fans forget Freddie Lanning, and ace Jim Colin returns after missing half of last season to injury.

Chicago Cubs
Season 33: 62-100
GM: helop

The Offseason:  No significant signings or losses in free agency, the Cubbies are taking the classic promote-from-within route with their rebuild.  OF Steve Mench (Season 30, #10) should be this year's early addition.

Outlook:  Still rebuilding.  With the promotions last year of Kennie Grilli and Rocky Clinton, the rotation has a decidedly competitive look.  But the offense was subpar last year (577 runs) and needs way more help than Mench can offer.  And the bullpen is still comprised mostly of minor-leaguers.

Milwaukee Brewers
Season 33: 60-102
GM:  bfunk

The Offseason:  The Brew Crew had a couple of notable FA losses in SP Nigel Lee and C Patrick Boyer.  Unlike their fellow-rebuilding Cubs and Reds, they addressed the gaps with 8 free agent signings - no big splashes but pitchers Alvin Polonia and Colvin Hume could be improvements.  Paulo Tellis (Sea 30 #24) and Jarrett Boyd (Sea 28 #21) enter Spring Training as the COF starters in a big departure from the all-SS's lineups of recent years.

Outlook:  Milwaukee should improve at least a little on its 577 runs scored last year.  Last year's staff was last in the NL in ERA so they have nowhere to go but up.  Despite the wholesale replacements, though, we shouldn't be looking for vast improvements.  Milwaukee fans have a pair of young OF's to cheer for, but they're looking at some more rebuilding seasons.

Cincinnati Reds
Season 33: 66-96
GM: wrecks

The Offseason:  Cincy said goodbye to a boatload of free agents (non of great impact) and traded Andres Almora.  They didn't add any free agents, so they're going all-internal-promotion to fill out the roster during Spring Training.  The big move will probably be the promotion of Seas 31 #1 overall pick Stan Robinson.  At the moment, their ML Payroll is only $14.7MM, so they're well-positioned for a big IFA this year and they have more moves to make to fill the roster (currently 9 position players).

Outlook:  Of the North's rebuilders, the Reds already have by far the best farm system (plus #'s 2 and 3 this year), so they're way ahead on the rebuilding game.  This year will certainly be another rebuilding season - with a possible flirtation with the MWR - but when the future arrives in Cincy, it's going to arrive big.

The Division Race: no intrigue again this year - The Expos win big.

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