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2009 SHL Draft Preview... Part One
By Thomas P. Lavin
Staff Writer

The 2009 SHL Draft is scheduled for February 21, 2009.  That is only a little over 2 weeks from now.  Part One of this preview will be team needs in the Local division.

FHoD - The defending SHL Champions go into the draft with very few holes to fill.  The rotation is set, the bullpen is almost completely set, and offensively they are good, but could improve. 

They could use a lefty out of the pen, although holdovers George Sherrill and Hideki Okajima are serviceable.  If any of the good lefty relievers fall in the draft, FHoD would be very tempted to snatch one up and improve and already great bullpen.

Offensively they come into the draft looking to upgrade 1st base and centerfield.  Ryan Howard is not what most hoped he would be and Aaron Rowand took a major hit in offensive value.  Look for FHoD to go into the draft wanting to fill those 2 needs starting with their 1st pick, #24 overall.

Green-Wood - The Guardinas had a great 2008 draft and will look to do more of the same in this years draft.  Last year they came away with Curtis Granderson, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Werth, Yunel Escobar, Kurt Suzuki, and Shane Victorino.  Hmm, that kind of looks like a good part of the core of this team.

This year Green-Wood will need to have the same kind of draft, only with pitching this time.  The rotation is solid and could use 1 or 2 quality arms to help compete.  The bullpen is another story.  Takashi Saito and Scott Downs are the only holdovers and the Guardians will need to add both quality and depth.

Offensively the team is solid everywhere but 1st base.  The team lacks power outside of Carlos Quentin and A-Rod, so look for them to try to add power at 1st base early in the draft.

Staten Island - This is a solid ballclub, with sleeper written all over it.  The team has some holes, but it also has 5 picks in the 1st 2 rounds, so look for them to fill those holes.

The rotation is solid, certainly not spectacular.  1 or 2 quality starters could be added to help bolster the staff.  The bullpen is, well, terrible.  All of the holdovers have flaws, and an upgrade is seriously needed if the team wants to be a contender.  However, after last years fiasco with Rafael Betancourt, look for them to be very cautious in their approach.

With Hanley Ramirez, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman the offense is solid.  An improvement in either center or right is needed, depending on where they want to play Ichiro.  3rd base is a need as Chone Figgins will not be the same player he was last year.

Wooley Swamp - After a disappointing 2008 season, Wooley Swamp will start 2009 with many changes.  The biggest change is on offense.  This team will not be outslugged by any team in the league.  With some pitching help, this could be the team to beat in 2009.

Wooley Swamp has 3 of the 1st 4 picks in the draft, and all 3 should be pitchers.  The bullpen needs at least 3 quality arms and the rotation has another 2-3 holes in it.

On offense this team is a beast.  They boast the leagues only "30 HR" outfield, have power at both corner infield spots, have great defense all over the infield and possess the leagues best catcher in Joe Mauer.  Only backups and situational hitters are needed to round out the offense.    


2009 SHL Draft Preview... Part Two
By Thomas P. Lavin
Staff Writer

Part two of the Draft Preview will be a look at the Express Division.  Some observers, well actually most observers, feel that the talent in this division is inferior and that the team that wins the division would be lucky to finish 3rd in the Local Division.  Upon further examination, there really is some talent in this division.

Hanoi - Last this team won the division based solely on timely hitting, good defense, and solid pitching.  A trade deadline deal for Troy Percival helped the bullpen dramatically, and in turn a deal for Ryan Church helped the offense.  In order to repeat this team will need a solid draft to fill many holes.

To start with the Helicopters need an ace in the rotation.  Last year's ace, Fausto Carmona, will be lucky to make it out of Mongolia this year.  Aside from an ace, the rotation could use another starter or two.  In the bullpen the team needs help.  Billy Wagner and Matt Capps are good, but the team will need at least 3 and most likely 4 more arms to fill out the bullpen.

Offensively the team is good, and in the case of 1st sacker Albert Pujols, great at some positions.  Defensively the team will hope that some players go the whole season untested.  Their are holes all over the defense, especially at 3rd base, 2nd base, catcher, and left field.  3rd base and left field will be positions the team looks to upgrade.

Oshkosh - Owner Adam Goldberg has been reinstated by the organization, following a hiatus last year due to a lack of interest.  The team had a surprising 2nd place finish and seem to be a division favorite this year with few holes to fill.

The Aviators will go into the draft not having to draft a starter, but may do so anyway as the 5 they have are good, certainly not great.  The bullpen, as it stands right now, ranks near the bottom in the league.  Huston Street and Brian Fuentes are good situational guys, not guys that can be counted on all the time.  Not having a 1st or 2nd round pick will seriously hurt this teams chances of finding enough good bullpen help to push this team to a division title.

Without question Oshkosh boasts the divisions best offense.  Jose Reyes, Brian McCann, B.J. Upton, Mark Teixeira, and Aramis Ramirez will pace the team.  The only serious need may be in left field.  Can Raul Ibanez and Randy Winn be productive enough, or most likely, do the Aviators look to upgrade that position through the draft???

Las Vegas - Everything was in place for this team to represent the division in the World Series last year....on paper.  Funny thing is you have to play the games and honestly this team just couldn't get it done.  The problem, outside of Walter Johnson winner Rich Hill, was starting pitching.

In the offseason the Jokers traded for Matt Cain, who will fill the #2 spot in the rotation behind fellow holdover James Shields.  After those 2 guys their is.......
NOBODY.  Yes, Las Vegas will make this a pitching heavy draft for themselves, considering the bullpen is probably in worse shape that the rotation.  Russ Springer and Damaso Marte are good in certain situations and will need serious help that they may or may not get.

Chase Utley, Prince Fielder, and Vlad Guerrero will pace the offense.  Outside of those 3 guys everything is up for grabs.  The team has marginal hitters at shortstop, left field, centerfield, and at 3rd base.  With the exception of left field, the club does have good glove guys at those positions, so at least they won't be killed on defense from those positions.  Benjie and Yadier Molina are excellent glove guys behind the plate who will hit just enough to help the team get by.

Hawaii - A true expansion team in every sense of the term.  The team stunk last year, and it came as a surprise to nobody.  They will be better this year, and could compete with an excellent draft.

The Pineapples will go into the draft with 8 candidates for the rotation and are determined to pick 5 guys out of that lot.  Ervin Santana, Zach Greinke, and A.J. Burnett man the 1st 3 spots, with the other 5 fighting for the final 2 spots.  The bullpen might be the worst in the league, for now.  Brandon Morrow and Francisco Rodriguez are situational guys, if even that.  An upgrade will be needed, to say the least.

Offensively Hawaii is a young and determined group.  Led by the captain, Kevin Youkilis, theis team will hit.  Josh Hamilton, Justin Morneau, and Dan Uggla will give this team some thump; and excluding Uggla, they will also provide good defense.  Hamilton will most likely play center, which means the team will have to draft a left fielder and right fielder.