Season 13 Preview: National League
Ottawa Rocks (92-70)
With 326 stolen bases last season games turned into track meets on a regular basis. A rock solid pitching staff led by starters Elmer O’Toole, Brad Adams & closer Grover Daley. Larry Brown, Lance Blume & Rich Buhner collected 260 of last season’s SB. Yet even with a high octane offense and quality production from their pitching staff they only took the division by 1 game most likely caused by a losing record in 1 run games. Without fixing a bullpen that blew 26 saves last season it will be tough for the Rocks to again hold off Scranton.
Toronto Make Believers (87-75)
Can this be the year? It’s been 8 yrs since Toronto’s last playoff appearance and they have never finished 1st. Getting a wildcard berth isn’t easy in the NL so winning the division may be their only hope. 4 players hit at least 30 homers and 3 players drove in at least 100 runs so there is some offensive firepower. Jeromy Thompson is the real deal and if his sophomore season is as good as last year he should be an allstar soon. Mid-season pick up Fausto Rivera will be around all year and take some of the heat off of Thompson. The bullpen only converted 33 of their 47 save opportunities and cost the team a shot at the division title. The pitching staff could still use a little tweaking to help out an offense that was strengthened by the late season acquisition of Dan Franco.
Scranton Salt Dogs (Last yr 91-71)
Pitching and defense allowed the Dogs to overcome scoring fewer runs than they allowed. Horacio Martinez had a big year with 18 wins and a 3.05 ERA, but that was overshadowed by the work Vladimir Sierra out of the bullpen who recorded 50 saves in 53 opportunities. The shortfall in runs could in no way be blamed on Angel Carrara (57 HR, 151 RBI) or Eddie Jodie (42 HR, 119 RBI). In a curious move Scranton is hoping Rodrigo Unamuno will bounce back after losing 23 games and putting up an ERA over 7 last season for Philly. With the top three clubs bunched so close together last season it is hard to pick a clear winner so any misstep by any of them will drop them to 3rd in the divison.
Portland Showers (75-87)
Tom Torres slugged 48 HRs last season with Tyrone Kennedy, Luis Limon & Bubbles Jerchower each adding at least 30 bombs a piece. More consistent hitting is what the showers need to help boost them out of last place in this very competitive division. On the mound Jerry Walker posted 17 wins but no other Portland pitcher reached the 10 win mark. Billy Ratliff is a more than capable closer that suffered last year from a lack of save opportunities with only 33 chances. Changes on offense and defense will need to be made if the Showers hope to pass any of the teams that finished ahead of them last year.
Syracuse Saltine Warriors (102-60)
Scoring 200 runs more than you allow makes winning 100 games look simple. Syracuse used strong pitching, defense and timely hitting to surpass the 100 victory plateau for the 2nd time in team history. Unfortunately the 42’s have owned this division the past 3 seasons. The Warriors had 4 starters pick up 10 wins or more, led by Alex Guzman’s 19. The big question for the pitching staff is will 39 yr old Luke Gordon be able to continue converting saves (40/45) at the same pace for another season. On offense 5 players finished with more than 20 HR and 80 RBI. It’s unknown how the 42’s will adjust to their new home so this may be Syracuse’s chance to again finish 1st in the division.
Burlington 42’s (106-56)
Can the 42’s repeat their 106 win season of last year and hold off a very talented Syracuse team again? Those are 2 of the questions to be answered as is how this team will adjust to its new home. Starters Jose Johnson (18 wins) & Sammy Henriquez (17 wins) return as do bullpen stalwarts Mendy Griffin (19 wins) & Wilfredo Lugo (33 saves). Offensively this team is loaded with sluggers like Tony Castillo & Bert Hughes. Last year’s team posted the #1 defense & pitching staff while the offense was not far behind at #4. The biggest question is can they repeat these awesome numbers in a new location?
New York Highlanders (78-84)
Workhorse pitchers Rich Romero & Winston Surhoff lead a deep pitching staff that also includes the Brown’s, starter Bruce & closer Haywood. Last season most of the offensive fire power was provided by Sal Simmons & Olmeda Aguilera. With only a brief stint with the ML squad last season Benji Valdez is being counted on to help them out. Big improvement to both the offense and defense will be necessary if this team wants to compete with the 42’s & Saltine Warriors.
Philadelphia Flying Fish (59-103)
After a disastrous season the Fish will try to rise from the dead. Pitchers Matty Castillo & Joaquin Oliveras were rushed through the minors with the big league club struggling and not surprisingly they had their problems. Timo Coleridge is a legitimate star and could use Joaquin Bocachica to bounce back to form after last years knee problem. The roster is in a state of constant flux as management tries to bring in fresh talent. More needs to be done and older players need to be moved to make way if this team is going to escape the cellar anytime soon.
New Orleans Pelicans (78-84)
The Pelicans were able to hold on to win a division title no one wanted. With only 2 players over 30 it is hoped this team will be able to grow together into a winner. Pitchers Vasco Urbina & Stephen Cunningham have established themselves at the ML level. Young guns like Don Lee & Pedro Rijo should be able to lead the offense for many years to come. Last year’s team struggled offensively holding the team back and causing them to finish under .500, with another years experience under their belt that should start to change.
Louisville Sluggers (74-88)
This is seemingly a tale of two teams with a very mature pitching staff hoping to stave off the affects of lots of mileage as their young stars push across runs as they develop their skills at the big league level. Vasco Hernandez has been added to the potent bats of fellow outfielders Alex Abreu & Morgan Burnett. Management came in and moved some valued vets with an eye to the future. Several prospects will be expected to contribute in the near future as some stop gaps have been added to keep the team competitive in a weak division. Questions to be answered are have the changes that were made hurt a strong pitching staff and aided a weak offense.
Nashville Music (74-88)
An interesting of young and old, experienced and youngsters learning on the big stage has Nashville looking for better days ahead. Richard Scoroposki was acquired in a trade to lead the staff and mentor young stud Brian Fordyce who should develop into a top #1 or 2 starter. Javy Carrasquel & Vic Gonzales could you some more support to lessen the load on these very talented players. If not for the fact they play in the South this team would be again looking to the future with a month to play however in this division anything is possible. The Music are definitely headed in the right direction but to seriously bid for a championship more upgrades will need to be added.
Oklahoma City Rams (73-89)
The Rams pitching and defense struggled last season and with their offense hovering around the league average this team had to fight for every victory. Andrew Rehfield is the pitching star while Gerald Franklin & Emmanuel Bennett spearhead the offense. Major changes are needed to shore up the pitching staff, defense & offense to allow the Rams to turn into a yearly playoff participant.
Anaheim Bombers (85-77)
Nicknamed the Bombers there are some big bats to help this team live up to their name. Hades Tyner will be counted on to continue to produce big numbers even at the ripe old age of 34. Bryan Brown and Phil Murphy will need to again help power this team if they are going to make the playoffs. On the hill the rotation is stacked with the quality arms of Dante Edmonds, Ernie Alexander, Miguel Sosa & Mule Black. The pitching & defense will keep Anaheim in games. The success of this team will depend on the offense’s ability to produce more runs than last season.
Arizona Tuques (71-91)
With a need to add more offense the Tuques went out and signed the biggest bat on the FA market, DaRond Neal. If he can bounce back from last season’s injury it will take some of the pressure off Bill Rollins & Al Baerga while possibly adding to the already impressive amounts of runs scored by the electrifying Marv Wilkins. Defensive shortcomings last yr put a strain on both the pitching staff and offense and unless that is fixed Arizona will need to wait a while longer to knock Anaheim off their throne.
St. Louis Cardinals (68-94)
It’s been 4 long years since the Cards finished with 90 wins, since then only once did they come close to reaching .500. The offense was a major disappointment last season as they scored the 2nd fewest runs. While the team’s ERA was respectable the bullpen blew 27 saves wasting good efforts by the starters. Starter Todd Maxwell & closer Andy Belitz lead the pitching staff and had decent seasons. Ricardo Lopez spent a full season in the majors and proved that decision to be a good one by hitting 38 bombs and driving in 102 with a .446 OBP. This will prove to be another tough season for the St. Louis faithful, things will get better as the talent in the minors starts to continues to move onto the ML roster.
Salt Lake City Polygamists (63-99)
The Polygamists were able to avoid losing 100 games last season. Their offense struggled to score runs however their pitchers had no trouble allowing runs and finished the season with 200 fewer runs scored than allowed. Adding JP Rodriguez should help the beleaguered staff however more changes are necessary to allow this team to compete. Ronnie Kirkland & Alan Vickers will need the rookies brought up this year to start producing immediately to narrow the gap between runs allowed and runs scored.