This is a division that just 2 seasons ago seen the division winner have a losing record. Last season was a big improvement for the division. They actually had 2 teams finish with winning records last season. Even with the success from last season they only had one owner return. The team that won the division, Salem, changed owners and picked up and moved to Vancouver. The team in Vancouver, changed owners and moved to Cheyenne. Arizona is the team that stayed in place. Then the team in Anaheim changed owners and moved to Las Vegas. It'll be interesting how things finish in this division with the changes that have been made and to see if any of the teams make a push or start to build for the future. It's been hard for any of the teams to build up for the long term since each team has seen many different owners.
This is a team that has won the last two division titles, and improved 18 games last season. That now gives the franchise 6 post season appearances, all of which came from division titles. Hard to imagine since they are now on their seventh owner. They also have a World Series title, winning it back in the leagues inaugural season. New ownership has stepped in and looks to continue the teams divisional success. Last season they finished 3rd in hitting(283), 3rd in obp(348), 7th in hr(214), and 3rd in runs(906). They finished 2nd in fielding(988), 3rd in plus plays(68), and 1st in minus plays(19). They finished 4th in ERA(4.41), and 2nd in opponents average(253). Overall they were a very good team in all of the main categories. So one is left to wonder why they had so much turnover in player personnel. They let C Clay Henderson, and defensive catcher Curt Dresden walk in free agency. They released 3B Lawrence Howington, and RF Greg Cash. They traded away 1B Trent Lange. They did resign 1B Vicente Lopez. They received 2B Felipe Tapies, LF Troy Jefferson, C Benny Linton, C Tom Gonzales, and 2B Carson Crabtree, in trades. The guys returning offensively are RF Reggie Creek, SS Pedro Cordero, 1B T.J. Harding, CF Alfredo Price, and 3B Bret Schneider. So while they made some moves, they did keep the core from last season together offensively and should still be a good offensive team. They also should still have a good defensive team as well. The redone pitching staff is what leaves many questions to be answered. They traded away RP Carlton Harding, SP Jose Bravo, SP Benito Terrero, and RP Bernard Hoffman, all very good pitchers. They let SP Joshua Meyer, SP Darron Herndon, and RP John Chen, walk in free agency. It would seem that they are replacing an entire pitching staff with these moves. The traded for SP Bud Donnels, RP Jack Rooney, RP Chico Guerrero, RP Felipe Lee, and SP Ronnie Washington. They are returning SP Desi Fernandez, who is a pretty good pitcher. Management has said that they are trying to rebuild the farm system, while still trying to compete this season. They also said they want to reduce salary and get younger, which would explain all the moves this team has made. They should still be a good team this season, but reaching the win total from last season is going to be highly unlikely. One thing is for certain, this owner is building this team for more long term success and does have a plan. Whether that plan helps them win this season remains to be seen.
After a 5 season run at the top of this division, things haven't gone their way in the last 3 seasons. They did manage to finish 82-80 last season, which was good for second place though. Even when this team was at the top of the division they still weren't able to get to the ALCS, so it was a limited success. They are on the 7th owner for this franchise and for the fifth consecutive season they have had new leadership at the helm. That isn't a very good recipe for success. Fans in Cheyenne are hoping that they have a team that will stick around a while and bring them something to cheer about. Last season they finished 8th in hitting(274), 6th in obp(342), 14th in hr(188), and 7th in runs scored(869). Very respectable numbers, but lacking in power. They were 12th in fielding(981), 15th in plus plays(22), and 14th in minus plays(51). They were 14th in ERA(5.39), and 13th in opponents average(285). Pitching and defense really hurt this team. That was two areas this team needed to improve in order to be a contender in the division. Gone are the likes of 1B Stewart Bryant, and C Tyler Torres through free agency. But, that is about all they lost. They signed C Roy Ashby who should be a good boost for the offense. They promoted 2B Felix Lloyd, and SS Juan Santiago. Returning are 3B Jay Knotts, 1B Jim Byrne, 2B Jesus Rogue, DH Hack Rucker, LF Bill Maurer, and SS Donne Wells. The offense looks upgraded but defense is still a question mark with this team. The pitching rotation isn't a strong point on the team. The are led by Kevin Xaio who the team resigned in free agency. They also signed SP Albert Farnsworth to help the rotation, but he has been largely ineffective in his career. They signed SP Patsy Cummings who has had his moments in his career but is not a fix for the staff. Ron Sweeney is still there and he is a good starter. The bullpen is a little better than the starters with Eli Mercado, Chili Mussina, and Chick Linden. Overall the team is still not a top team in the league, but they should manage to get close to another 500 season. They didn't really fix what was wrong with the team but they did upgrade the offense. Unfortunately this team doesn't have much on the way from the minors. As ownership put it, this farm system is in disarray.
This team has only been in the post season two times in there history. Going into the 4th season with bartkowski running the team they have the talent in place to make a run in the division. At 75-87 last season the team showed little improvement over the previous season. Last season they finished 8th in hitting(274), 9th in obp(341), 8th in hr(212), 10th in runs(846), and led the league in steals(215). The offense wasn't great but they were pretty solid. They sacrificed defense for offense though. They finished last in fielding(978), they were 8th in plus plays(52), and 12th in minus plays(49). They were 12th in team ERA(5.17), 14th in opponents average(289), but did convert 41 of 45 save opportunities. While they bullpen didn't blow many saves the overall pitching was poor. Offensively the only losses they had in free agency was 1B Tony Cummings who was a run producer for this team and 2B Jamie Kojima. They promoted 1B Neifi Mathews, and CF Albert Quintanilla, both of whom should help the team. Returning are 3B Freddy Cuddyer, LF Andre Fleming, SS Rex Billingsley, C Tony Olmeda, RF Hal Burns, and 2B Francisco James. That is a pretty good group of players that they have. The offense should be good this season, and the defense shouldn't hurt them although they are still not a defensive juggernaut by any means. The rotation is led by the under performing Vinny Evans who has the ability but just hasn't put it together for some reason. Free agent pickup Charles Aven is the #2 guy in the rotation. SP Shane Thurman, SP Daniel Cannon and long reliever Ruben Bolivar round out the rotation but they don't add much to this team. The rotation is looking really rough right now. They promoted RP Javy Mendoza in the offseason to help the bullpen. Omar Siqueiros can start but they have him in the bullpen where he will really help. Closer Flip Buck is one of the best in the league at finishing games. RP Rondell Kirwan is a pretty good setup man as well. The bullpen is really where this teams strength is. I like this team except for the rotation and a team can only go as far as their rotation will take them. They didn't do much in the offseason to help the rotation and that could be the downfall of this team.
Las Vegas ramblin & Gamblin
This franchise has never won the division and have only tasted the post season one time. At 60-102 last season they decreased the win total for a second straight season. 5 owners in 5 seasons can do that to a team though. Last season they finished 12th in hitting(272), 13th in obp(333), last in hr(168), and 15th in runs(741). They were a very bad offensive group and had a lot to do to improve. They were 7th in fielding(983), 11th in plus plays(44), and 6th in minus plays(33). All those numbers were above the league average and they were a very solid fielding team. That however did not help the pitching staff above league averages. The team ranked 13th in ERA(5.24), and 10th in opponents average(281), they only saved 33 games and blew 18 saves. The pitching was just about as bad as the offense which is why this team has the first pick in this seasons draft. Offensively this team lost 3B Charley Shelley, and LF Neifi Romero. They signed a defensive catcher Juan Ramirez, and 1B Bryce Hatcher. They didn't do much to upgrade the offense and actually appear to be worse. 2B Edgardo Castro, LF Austin Coleman, and C Cleatus Simon are the only real threats offensively. Defensively this team is still fairly good though. The rotation is led by Rafael Pichardo, and that's about all they have in the rotation. RP Herm Redman, RP Phillip Savage, and closer Anthony James are decent pitchers out of the pen. RP Patrick Wilson(22), is young and should be a good reliever for them, but has control problems. This team does have some young players in the minors that should be able to help them down the road, but this is going to be a very long season in Vegas.
This division is wide open for the taking. All of the teams have weaknesses and none really stand out. The top 3 are tough to pick, but the bottom team stands out as the team that really is going to need to continue building. I don't see a wild card team coming from this division, so it's win the division to get in the post season or your out.
4.) Las Vegas