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Predicted order

1. Galapagos
2. Vernal
3. Emerald City
4. Jackson
5. Arizona
6. New York

The top four teams in this division are close, Arizona and New York will be rebuilding. There will be some excitement to see who can make the playoffs, one very good team won't make it.

1. GALAPAGOS TORTOISES-All of the sudden, the Tortoises are loaded again. They have an outstanding lineup, vs. righties AND lefties, good speed and a great bullpen. This year, we will find out if hitting or pitching will win this division, Tortoise hitting vs. Osprey pitching. If they cancel out each other then Vernal, who is above average, but not great, in both could take the championship. CF Carlos Gonzalez will be a star, and he is surrounded by pounders DH Jim Thome, RF Mike Stanton, LF Andre Ethier, and C Buster Posey. The starting pitching, led by SP Matt Cain and SP David Price gives the Tortoises a great righty-lefty 1-2 punch. The leagues's best bullpen (RP's Joaquin Benoit, Hong-Chih Kuo, Joel Peralta, and Carlos Marmol) will clean up the messes left by the 3 and 4 starters. Steve has a good chance to achieve the ultimate strato goal, the self-satisfying but somewhat anti-climatic "Play Yourself Series-Galapagos vs. Chesapeake". BEST DRAFT-DAY PICK-UPS: This team was rebuilt through the draft with Stanton, 3B Pedro Alvarez, 2B/SS Jed Lowrie, Benoit and Peralta all looking to be strong contributors to the 2011 Tortoise season.

2. VERNAL EQUINOX-The Equinox have a good chance to take the division as they combine an above average line-up with above average pitching. Hopefully that balance will carry them past hitting-rich Galapagos and pitching-rich Emerald City. Newcomers RF Chris Heisey and LF Jose Tabata will join CF Torii Hunter in the outfield, while the Golden Glove (-1) infield of 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 2B Brandon Phillips, SS Elvis Andrus will stop anything on the ground. 3B David Wright, C Ryan Hanigan and DH's Nick Swisher and Manny Ramirez complete the line-up. Vernal's 1-2 starters, SP's Tim Hudson and Brett Myers, will be followed by SP's C.C. Sabathia, Colby Lewis and Gio Gonzalez. The bullpen will be headed by RP Tim Stauffer, aided by RP's Alexi Ogando, Clay Hensley, and old vet Takashi Saito. This team does have a chance....BEST DRAFT-DAY PICK-UPS: Heisey, though he might have been taken too early, Tabata, Ogando, 1B Ike Davis, possible starting 2B Jonathan Herrera....Kim thinks a good draft for a team picking 7th.

3. EMERALD CITY OSPREY-Last year..SP Roy Halladay, this year...SP Justin Verlander, as the Osprey try to go for their first title. Add SP's Chris Carpenter and Tim Lincecum, and there are your four starters for 162 games. The Osprey also have the game's best hitter in LF Josh Hamilton. Will it be enough? Do SS Rafael Furcal, 1B Daric Barton, CF json Werth, 3B Adrian Beltre, and RF Jay Bruce have enough to support Hamilton? And can RP's Matt Guerrier, Matt Belisle, Darren Oliver and Jason Berken have enough to cover the late innings when the Big Four tire? I don't think Derek is done trading, and I KNOW he's not done drafting. It will be interesting to see what ECO does by March 25th. BEST DRAFT-DAY PICK-UPS: Verlander in a trade, much better than anyone in the draft. Also IF Danny Valencia and SP Mike Leake were good future picks.

4. JACKSON GUIDES-In all my number crunching, Jackson comes out with high numbers, but I still think he doesn't have enough to beat the other three teams for the playoffs. I tend to underestimate Paul's teams because they are streaky. Remember his start last year? It was enough to get him into the playoffs. Paul might be an over .500 team that doesn't make the playoffs, while an under .500 team in the Mays in a Haze Division could make it (Go Seahawks). The Guides' strength starts with 1B Albert Pujols, of course, but also RF Nelson Cruz and 3B Evan Longoria. Add DH Aubrey Huff, CF Colby Rasmus, RF Nick Markakis and SS Starlin Castro and Jackson has a steady, but not spectacular line-up. SP Clay Buchholz will be the staff ace, followed by LHSP's Johan Santana and Brian Duensing. We'll see how long these lefty starters can hang in there. RP's Chris Perez and Neftali Feliz head a strong bullpen, along with pullback RP Ryan Madson and un-drafted Brian Sanches, who should have been the closer or 2-man in Emerald City, Chesapeake, St. George, Washington, or New York. BEST DRAFT-DAY PICK-UPS: Castro, SP Kyle Drabek, C Hank Conger, IF Reid Brignac and OF/1B Chris Carter. That's a good strong future draft for Paul. It seems that Malibu, Chesapeake, and Jackson are always looking for the same types of players. I really thought Castro, Drabek, and Conger would be Malibu's first three picks. Notice that I did take a pitching prospect, shortstop, and a catcher with my first three picks (Chapman, Espinoza, and Jaso). Jackson got the better picks, by far.

5. ARIZONA HEAT-It's hard to figure out Arizona's direction. I think Steve has been burned by under-achieving D-Back players over the years, but he got a good one this year, SP Daniel Hudson. By far, the best hitter for the Heat is RF Shin-Soo-Choo. Support will come from CF Alex Rios, DH Lance Berkman, LF John Jay, 3B Chris Johnson and SS Stephen Drew. There is not much more. SP Brett Anderson will follow Hudson in the rotation, and will in turn be followed by SP's Johnny Cueto and Tommie Hunter. The bullpen is outstanding, with RP's Andrew Bailey, Billy Wagner and Sergio Romo. Steve might use a three-headed closer combination of RP extras, Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen. If they all have cards, they could be very valuable. BEST DRAFT-DAY PICK-UPS: LF Delmon Young in a trade, Sale, OF Dominic Brown, Johnson, OF Tyler Colvin, Kimbrel, Jansen, 3B Brett Morel. Steve had a good prospect draft.

6. NEW YORK KNIGHTS-January 2012...number one overall pick...Bryce Harper to New York! And that is the key to rebuilding New York back to their powerhouse glory days. DH David Ortiz and RF Jose Bautista are the best lefty-righty homerun combo in strato this year, but there is little support. CF Michael Bourn, 1B Martin Prado, LF David DeJesus, 3B Bill Hall, 2B Dan Uggla, C Brian McCann are all good players, but not great. SP Trevor Cahill is a legitimate ace, but is followed by four LHSP's: Madison Bumgarner, newly-retired Andy Pettitte, Jason Vargas and Barry Zito. They will only be effective against California and maybe Central Valley. A bullpen led by Joakim Soria is followed by a handful of relievers who wouldn't even be fourth best on most teams. BEST DRAFT-DAY PICK-UPS: Doug had a great draft of top major-league ready prospects. SP Jeremy Hellickson, 1B Justin Smoak, 1B/OF Mitch Moreland, 1B Freddie Freeman and OF Michael Saunders were all great picks and will join OF Travis Snider, OF Ryan Sweeney, SS Jose Reyes, and SP Chris Tillman in bringing New York back to elite status, possibly as early as 2012.
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My comments to Kim's predictions...

Great work by Kim and I do miss Wagstats. I wish Doug had the time still to do them. I always used the Wagstats as a reality check on what I had just completed. It was always a nice drenching of cold water on my unrealistic perceptions.

California being projected in the top half of anything surprises me considering the combination of lousy pitching and offense that have combined the last few years. The fans in CAD are itching for a great rotation again and ache for the years in the 80's when the ream regularly had a top five staff. I hated my draft this year and reached too far on some of the prospects. Many of you did better getting prospects that are more ready.

As long as Jackson property Desmond is at SS in Washington, Espinosa will be a 2b, so Malibu didn't really lose out on a shortstop.

HAL has always been a lousy manager and Doug does gain an advantage by taking time to customize lineups for series rather then sending out a whole month of generic righty and lefty lineups like I do. That said, there is always the option of learning how to use SuperHAL. I have always wondered how much better a manager SuperHAL would be.

I am glad that Galapagos is turning around and that a couple of my draft picks are helping (Cargo and Price). At least I can help others win. I don't know why I draft better for teams that I am helping with than I do for my own team.

Mike Harrison used to always say that some teams are built better for HAL than others. Arizona just may have been a team that needed more guidance than a HAL coached team can give. It seems that if you have a team that is platoon-lite hitting and pitching (cards that are more equal on both sides) it improves a teams results with HAL all other things being equal, like actual talent.

Kim, great job as always.

Anybody else have comments?

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I think Kim's Analysis is pretty spot on. However, I doubt seriously that Central Valley will be able to wheedle its way into the playoffs in 2011. The pitching will be continuously afflicted with a bad case of whiplash, jerking their heads around this way and that, at the crack of the bat! Watching those monster shots will leave a trail of destruction through the young pitching staff (except for old graybeard, John Lackey).

After Tommy-Gun Hanson and Jon Garlard, J.A. Happ and Stephen Strasburg will platoon as the 3rd starter to leave Edwin Jackson and John Lackey to man the 4th and 5th spots in the Rotation. Anyone scared yet?

Central Valley will have to rely on out-hitting their opponents this year and hope the bullpen has a lot of innings in them... and I mean A LOT!!! Meek, McClellan, Daniel (not Josh) Bard, Luke Gregorson, and Joe Thatcher (an extra-over 30 innings)will be expected to carry a lot of the pitching load, especially after the 4th-5th inning of games involving Jackson and Lackey.

The offense will score a lot of runs. The key will be to keep guys in the lineup. There will be some scary injuries to fill in for Kendry Morales and Scott Rolen, with substandard backups. Shortstop will also be a major concern as Jimmy Rollins will need GPS to find 1st base this year. Alcides Escobar and Everth Cabrera aren't much better.

The rest of the offense should fare well and put up the appropriate numbers to fight anyone in the division for the bottom 3 spots. The Condors will need a lot of breaks (splits), order to place in upper reaches of the division. Another year or 2 in the basement, several key players coming back from serious injuries, and good drafts/trades should make the Condors a team to be reckoned with in the future.
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Confused Bard's...oops, at least it wasn't Will...or El DeBard...or Roseanne Bard...or Sir Charles Bardly
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The Emerald City Osprey go into the 2011 campaign with guarded optimism. Even though they bolstered their Starting Rotation by trading for Justin Verlander, they still have holes that need to be filled either in the Supplemental Draft in March, or via trade(s). Perhaps the most glaring deficiency is the bullpen. I don't think I can count on 162 complete games, although I might try! Unfortunatly, we'll pin our hopes on the 2 Matt's acquired in the draft. I'm sure that any standout relievers will be gone by pick 11 in the March draft.

The catcher position is one that will need to be addressed as Mike Napoli will be a defensive liability. He is more suited to platoon vs. lefties. If anyone has a surplus of catchers, please feel free to contact me. I'm always willing to make a deal... right now the Napoli's back up is an unproductive Bengie Molina. Pablo Sandoval is not rated as a catcher.

The addition of Jay Bruce, to go along with Josh Hamilton and Jayson Werth, dramatically improves the offense and defense in the outfield over last year when ECO started 2 4's most of the season. Those 4's are now 1's and a 2. Hamilton will be counted on heavily to produce runs. There is a precipitous dropoff after these 3 in the event of injury. ECO might be rolling out Johnny Damon and Raul Ibanez to cover any injuries. Enough said.

The infield has been re-tooled and welcomes new faces such as Adrian Beltre for his first full year in an Osprey uniform. He brings a big bat and will be counted on to help Hamilton in the RBI duties. Free Agent pick up Daric Barton will hopefully be a factor in getting on base ahead of Hamilton and Beltre. FA Mark Ellis is a stop-gap at 2B as ECO is hoping that the nightmare that was 2010 is history for Brian Roberts and he returns to his old self. Rafael Furcal and Yunel Escobar form a serviceable platoon at Shortstop.

The bench is another area of concern as the guys riding the pine are riding it for a reason. Pablo Sandoval, Chone Figgins, David Freese, Raul Ibanez, and Derrek Lee all had off years and will add little production to the 2011 campaign. Placido Polanco and Casey Blake could see some platoon time. The likes of Alfonso Soriano, Tony Gwynn Jr. Christian Guzman, and Jake Fox may be replaced with other players once the cards arrive. Stay tuned!

Overall, there is a sense of optimism in Emerald City. The Osprey have enjoyed success the past 2 years and are once again on course to make a run at the playoffs. We look forward to another engaging season in the SLSL...

Overall, expectations are high in Emerald City as we enter the 2011 season.
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