The LAA@A were 8 games underwater last season, and most of that was without an oxygen tank. At first glance, last season's record indicates regression from the prior season's team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Closer analyses suggests just the opposite. Last season's team was better than the one before, in spite of the poorer record. " How is that"?, you say. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, more precisely in the flame throwing dragons that patrol the National League west. Once know as "The Patsie Division", it is now one the League's strongest and promises to get stronger this season. Keeping up with the Jones' will take more than a leap of faith, it will also take a leap in talent. The Angels have read the tea leaves, or maybe the handwriting is on the wall. Either way, an improved Angels team is ready for the challlenge. The expected improvement comes from within the organization. Bullpen addition A. Perez is the only rookie expected to make the opening day roster; but, continued development of last year's solid rookies, like O. Parris, J. Melendez, A. Bryant, and D. Shields bodes well for the Angels.
The loss (via trades for promising minor league pitching) of P. Bob Tulowitzki, catcher C. Palmer, and the team's OBA leader, H. Brock, will mean the sophomores will have to step up and it is expected that they will, though growing pains are expected.
The team is deep, with talented players plentiful. It will be better this season and will have to be to be above water. The Angels offense is solid; but it is not spectacular. The starting rotation needs improvement. Budget flexibility, outstanding prospects in AAA, and another year of maturity for the current roster means that next season should be the Angels better one. This season, because of division strength, the Angels will have a long row to hoe in order to make the playoffs.
Atlanta is returning a very similar team as last season's WS champs, but made a couple key additions. 1B Pete Malone will add a much needed bat to the middle of Peaches lineup and should greatly improve the offense this year. Trenidad Tejada was also added to round out the starting rotation. We are hoping that these 2 upgrades will help us to defend the title!
Charleston River Dogs
The River Dogs are tired of losing and made some big moves with the target of getting back to the top of the NL South. Last season we planned on continuing the rebuilding process, but the NL South was so weak (again) that we found oursleves in the thick of the playoff race which we eventually lost by a few games.
We had a protected first round pick and after surveying the free agent market we decided to target several top end pitchers and ended up acquiring Carlton Nelson (former first round pick of the River Dogs who was traded away for Bruce Casanova) and Brendan Lobstein (former #1 pick of the first season). Both have had solid careers and were signed at very attractive prices.
Two good rookies will also be joining the team in former first rounder Jason Tracy who should hit a ton and also Charlie Woods who will be the last piece of the Al Castro deal to make his major league debut. Big things are expected of each.
We are definitely shooting for an NL South title, but we're excited about the young core and pieces we added this season.
El Paso Diablos
The El Paso Diablos decided to focus on Starting Pitching this offseason. With a plethora of young players, payroll has not been an issue this season. We signed 3 free agent SPs who we hope will help turn around this franchise. With only 1 winning season in the existence of the franchise we are hopeful that this season we can come in around .500 or slightly over.
Not too many changes; with luck we'll perform a bit better than last season.
After an absolutely miserable season last season, the Steamboats wanted to make changes…those changes didn’t exactly come to fruition. A decently rebuilt rotation, and some more power for the offense should help. Losing Steamboat home run leader Kevin Zhang has the potential to hurt, but his replace, Bobby Ray Mercedes should perform better overall. Added a good defensive CF in Henry Franklin and will be bringing SS Tom Masterson up to take over after 20 or so games. Hopefully he’ll add some pop to this offense. The pitching staff is mediocre and hopes to take advantage of a good infield defense by inducing a lot of grounders.
Montgomery shocked some people last season, winning 90 games for the first time in franchise history, and winning the AL South Division Title for the first time since Season 1 with a record of 94-68.
The Hornets were extremely quiet this off season, bringing in veteran relievers Davey Andrews & Nick Offerman to stabilize the bullpen. So Montgomery will go to battle with essentially the same team that won 94 games last season. “We felt like we had the pieces in place to compete on the field”, GM Kelly McCann said, “and we wanted the club to be able to compete in the International market as well, so we were pretty conservative.”
Former #1 overall pick Dennis Bohanon has a full year of big league experience under his belt and the Hornets need him to turn his game up a notch if they want to be in a position to win playoff games. CF Darrin Rossy is in a contract year and has made it clear thru his agents, Big Money Ballers LLC, that he is playing his final year in Montgomery and will sell himself to the highest bidder this off season. 24 year old, former #4 overall pick, Denny Spencer will play his first full season in the bigs after appearing in 108 games last season. 36 year old Hal Thompson, will look to cement a spot in the HOF this season, as his career winds down.
The starting rotation remains the same with Todd Schmidt and Darrell Taylor anchoring the top. Former Rule-5 pick Hub Merritt saved 41 games last season and was even in the running for the Cy Young.
The Hornets expect to win 90 games again this season, and are hopeful that they have the stuff to win their first playoff series in franchise history.
New York Highlanders
The NY Highlanders are looking forward to a much needed bounce-back season. The season 14 roster looks very different than last season due to a glut of FA signings and trades. The middle of the infield has seen a dramatic change with the move of veteran Lou Coleman over to the second base side of the bag to make room for newly acquired slick fielding SS Alex Posada. This trade will allow NY to keep Coleman’s bat in the lineup while making his somewhat diminishing defensive skills a positive attribute at 2B. The addition of FA bat Victor Vargas at 1B, will give the middle of the lineup the “pop” that was missing last season. The much maligned rotation from last year has been significantly boosted by the addition of veterans Ken Saunders and Bob Tulowitzki (thru trade) and FA signing Shou Zhang. Returning veterans Reed Carlson and Sherman Feldman should remain solid contributors. The starting rotation will be rounded out by the continued development of “wild thing” Heath Smith. Finally the bullpen was strengthened immeasurable by the FA signings of set up man Louis Izquierdo and potential closer Justin Ross.
Not sure what to make of this season - previous success for this franchise had been built around pitching, and heading into last season that was still the plan. After sputtering through the first half of the season I dealt my top two SP for a combination of bats and prospects.
Logically, we went on a tear from there, fueled by a lineup of power bats (and not much else). So I figured why not load up on those guys and see what happens this year. Honestly, this team would be perfect for Colorado: my 1-8 hitter have power ratings of 74, 99, 91, 98, 85, 99, 99, 99 (with only a 29-power SS missing the mark). Gotta be the first time i've put together a lineup in which a guy with 98 power has the 5th highest rating in that category.
The other offense skills are averagish, with some obp in there, but mostly we are going to rely on power. The pitching, on the other hand, should also provide power but for the other team. I expect some football scores this year, as we lack anything resembling high-end SP. Hopefully the offense can outscore whatever the pitching allows. Should be fun to read the box scores at least...
I predict something around .500, but if the bats go off (or go cold), it could swing significantly one way or the other.