Nashville Nala Bears
This team went 90-72 last season which gave them the most wins in franchise history. It also marked the fifth straight season that this team improved its win totals over the previous season. It was the first post season appearance and first division title as well. So is this franchise heading into a period of long term dominance? They show improvement every season and they are doing it with a very low payroll. This owner seems to be doing something right. They have a very young and talented group. Last season they finished 4th in the AL in average(280), 4th in obp(347), 6th in hr(220), and 2nd in runs scored(907). Very good finishes offensively. They were 10th in fielding(982), 4th in plus plays(66), 5th in minus plays(25). Not bad defensive numbers overall. They were 5th in ERA(4.66), 6th in opponents average(271), and converted 52 of 68 save opportunities. This team has a great hitting C Wilfredo Aquino returning. They have one of the better shortstops in the league Tino House. 3B Pedro Gomez(23) is a good up and coming player for this team. CF Ismael Morales(23) is a good fielder and should help them out as well. DH/1B Heinie Rice(23) is going to be one of the top hitters in the league with some good power. LF Ben Morton has plenty of power. DH/1B Tommy Parker has good power as well and hit the ball at a higher than expected rate last season. This is a young group of hitters that should be at the top of the league again this season. They didn't add anyone to the group, but they didn't need to. These guys also bring some good abilities in the field as well. The rotation features Andres Park, Max Mateo, and youngsters Alex Martis(22), Darren Siebert(23), and Jeremi Rice(25). RP Antonio Wang should be a very good closer for this club. The bullpen is average for the most part, but with these starters they don't have to have the best bullpen in the league. This is a very young and very talented team. I will be shocked if they don't increase their win total again this season and cross the 100 win barrier. Things are just getting started for this franchise that could see plenty of World Series of the next 10 seasons. It will be tough for any team in this division to knock them off this season.
Tampa Bay Thunder
This is a franchise that had just their second non winning season in their history last season. They matched the lowest win total in their history by finishing at 81-81. They have never had a losing season. A run of 7 consecutive division titles came to an end last season as they finished tied for second. Last season they finished 2nd in hitting(285), 2nd in obp(358), 5th in hr(225), 1st in runs scored(944), and 4th in sb(170). This was not the offense of a 500 team. They had the offense of a team that should have made the playoffs. They were 10th in fielding(982), 9th in plus plays(51), 10th in minus plays(48). They were 7th in ERA(4.68), 7th in opponents average(273), but only converted 44 of 67 save opportunities. Looking at this teams numbers, it's hard to figure out why they only won half of their games. In the offseason they added Rule 5 pick, C Tomas Ortiz, and promoted CF Hank Jacquez, to help the offense. They add those guys to an already potent offense that features OF Sammy Buchanan, U Justin Walters, 2B Kevin Messmer, OF Hank Nelson, LF/1B Will McCarthy, C Einar Gil, and SS Efrain Matsumoto. They have a good mix of offense and fielding among the group. The only losses for the pitching staff was RP Chuck Carson, and RP Felipe Lee. They traded for SP Benito Terrero, and RP Dean Harvey, both of them should help the pitching staff. The rotation has Terrero, Clay Park, and Ivan Silva, all of which are solid starters. Closer Harry Paz should be solid finishing out games for the team. Last seasons closer Erubiel Bennett should excel in the setup role. Overall it is a pretty solid pitching staff. I don't see how this team will finish below or at 500 again as this is a pretty solid team. I don't think they can win the division, but they should challenge for a wild card spot.
New Orleans Nighthawks
This has been a fairly successful franchise over the seasons. They only having 2 losing seasons in their history. They have never made the World Series, but they have been to the playoffs 6 times. They also have 4 division titles but they haven't done that since season 4. Last season they improved their win total over the previous season by going 81-81 and finishing tied for second. Last season they finished 7th in hitting(278), 5th in obp(346), 13th in hr(201), 8th in runs(855) and 2nd in steals(187). The offense needed some improvement in the power and run scoring departments. They were 4th in fielding(985), 5th in plus plays(58), and 15th in minus plays(55). The defense was good but made too many minus plays. They were 11th in ERA(4.99), 9th in opponents average(280), and converted 44 of 55 save opportunities. The pitching wasn't very good, but they did close out games. On offense they let 2B Einar Tatis walk in free agency and traded away IF Felipe Tapies. They signed 3B Charley Shelley to make up for the losses. The offense returns SS Justin Johnston, 1B John Wolf, and C Al Bravo. It's not a very good offensive makeup overall, but the defensive looks pretty solid. They signed SP Charles Taylor, RP Phil Gardner, RP Walt Stark, and the aging Carlos Perez in free agency. All of those guys should help the pitching staff. They lost RP Rico Lee, and last seasons closer Luis Seguignol. They also traded away SP Bud Donnels. The rotation features Hunter Healy, Geraldo Domingo, Barry Gibson, Taylor, and Joe Keisler. It's not a rotation that will scare opponents but solid. RP Bob Stewart is a good setup man. Vitas Perez will be the teams closer and he should be good for them. The pitching staff is solid but not great. This team won 81 games last season, but I don't feel like they can repeat that win total. They are probably going to struggle this season as I don't think they addressed their weaknesses and the strengths of the team weren't really built upon.
This is a team that has never won the division. As a matter of fact, they only have finished 2nd three times. They have one post season appearance in their history. At 63-99, they improved the win total for a second straight season. This team finished 15th last season in hitting(258), last in obp(321), 9th in hr(210), 14th in runs scored(748), and 3rd in steals(181). They weren't very good offensively. They finished 14th in fielding(979), last in plus plays(11), and last in minus plays(75). The defense was as bad, if not worse, than the offense. They were 15th in ERA(5.54), tied for last in opponents average(292), and they were last in saves(30). The pitching was just bad. It's really a surprise that they didn't finish with the worst record in the league. Owner, sheepdog07, heading into his second season leading this team had a lot of work to do to get this team heading in the right direction. Offensively they signed C Dude McIntosh, and RF Daryle Moran. They let they main offensive weapon from last season, 1B Alan Krause, leave in free agency. They also let SS Rafael Cervantes walk. 2B Miguel Flores is the only offensive player that really stands out to me with this team. 1B Bing Maduro and 2B Sean Matthews have power but probably won't hit for a high average. I see this team as finishing at the bottom of the league offensively again this season. The defense looks pretty poor as well. SP Ruben Cruz, and SP Cory Edwards, head the rotation and can get guys out, but will walk too many guys to be truly top end starters. I like the long relievers they have Christopher Cora and Sandy Cambridge. They should be able to relieve some of the pressure on the bullpen. Closer Gabe Gorecki is decent and probably the best short reliever they have. The pitching staff is pretty weak overall. While the win total was low last season, I don't really see it getting much better if at all. For this team it's not about this season, it's about building the team toward a brighter future. The only way they can do that will unfortunately be with taking their lumps over the next couple seasons and trading what they do have for some young future talent and making some good draft picks as they are set up to do that.
This is another division that is very top heavy. Nashville seems to be set up to win for quite a while and will probably dominate this division over the next few seasons. Tampa Bay is a good team and should really challenge for a wild card spot in the league. New Orleans and Austin have some work to do in order to make those franchises respectable in the seasons ahead and probably both will be at the bottom of the league.
2.) Tampa Bay
3.) New Orleans