SEASON 14 AL SOUTH PREVIEWS
Last season this division was won by Nashville with a narrow margin over Tampa Bay of 3 games. It was a close race and Tampa Bay had a real shot at winning the division late in the season. Nashville, with the division title, earned a first round bye, then were embarrassed with a sweep by the #6 seed Ottawa. New Orleans stayed average for a second straight season. Austin had another rough season. This was the second best division in the Al last season and had it not been for the teams in the north then they would have had 2 teams in the post season.
Nashville Nala Bears
Season 13 record- (96-66, 1st division)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-1st (.294); OBP-1st (.367); Home Runs-4th (271); Runs-1st (1024); Steals-14th (81) Pitching(AL) ERA-5th (4.55); Opp Avg-5th (.262); Strike Outs-4th (1086); Saves-12th (34) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-5th (.984); Plus Plays-2nd (78); Minus Plays-1st (10)
Key Losses- OF/1B Ben Morton(FA)
So how do you improve a team that was toward the top of the league at nearly every important category last season? They were the top offensive team in the AL, one of the better pitching teams, and one of the best fielding teams. Well, even with all those accomplishments, this team didn't even make the ALCS. They were even swept by Ottawa in the DCS. Case of bad luck maybe? Well it seems like ownership feels that way. The only major move for this team in the off season was losing Ben Morton. Morton was an offensive force and will be hard to replace. This is a very young team though with quite a few young stars. They also have some talent in the minors that could be ready to make the move up to the majors this season that should instantly help. Juan Latos, Jose Fernandez, and John Pong, just to name a few, are future stars for this team. I don't see them going anywhere but up and the loss of Morton was a loss they could afford to let happen. Having such a young team has allowed ownership to keep a low payroll and given them room to keep building this team for the long run. This is a team that could very well win the AL this season and possibly the World Series.
Tampa Bay Thunder
Season 13 record- (93-69)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-3rd (.288); OBP-4th (.356); Home Runs-13th (198); Runs-4th (938); Steals-1st (202) Pitching(AL) ERA-6th (4.61); Opp Avg-6th (.264); Strike Outs-2nd (1118); Saves-2nd (52) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-3rd (.986); Plus Plays-5th (56); Minus Plays-11th (55)
Key Acquisitions- RP Osvaldo Tatis(FA), RP Harry Paz(Resigned), 2B Nate Van Pelt(Rule V),
Key Losses- IF Ricardo Ibanez(FA), 1B Stewart Bryant(FA), RP Erubiel Bennett(FA)
This team had a very good season last season and just missed out on the post season. They improved their record by 12 games from the previous season and made a run but came up short. Ownership in Tampa has had the ability to keep this team competitive every season as they have never had a losing season. They ranked in the upper tier of the league in offense, pitching and defense, which led this team to have such a good season. It was somewhat of a surprise that they were unable to get into the post season after putting up such good numbers. They have a fairly young team, but the better players have crossed the age of 30 and could start to decline in the next couple seasons. Tampa lost a few good players in the off season, but picked up a couple players that should help the team this season. I think this team has a good chance of putting together another good season, but I don't think they can win this division. One of the wild card spots is not out of the realm of possibility though. They should battle for a spot in the post season.
New Orleans Nighthawks
Season 13 record- (81-81)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-11th (.269); OBP-13th (.326); Home Runs-15th (181); Runs-12th (818); Steals-2nd (182) Pitching(AL) ERA-7th (4.69); Opp Avg-8th (.274); Strike Outs-5th (1075); Saves-6th (46) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-7th (.983); Plus Plays-6th (54); Minus Plays-5th (29)
Key Acquisitions- P Jake Canseco(FA), RP Lonny Sojo(FA), LF Sam Slotnick(Promoted)
Key Losses- SP Barry Gibson(FA), RP Carlos Perez(FA), CF Rob Michaels(FA)
In season 13 New Orleans finished at 500 for the second consecutive season. It makes sense since they were a pretty average team last season. They finished in the middle of the league in pitching and defense, but they were below average in hitting. That would be a spot of concern for this team. They didn't do much to upgrade but they did promote Slotnick who is a very good prospect. His best seasons may be ahead of him though. The teams losses may have just been offset with their additions, but I do think Sojo will help this team out. This team doesn't have much help on the way from the minors and didn't do enough in the off season to compete for the playoffs. I can see another 81-81 season with the possibility of being a few games in either direction.
Season 13 record- (61-101)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-14th (.262); OBP-14th (.324); Home Runs-11th (222); Runs-14th (793); Steals-4th (168) Pitching(AL) ERA-14th (5.60); Opp Avg-15th (.295); Strike Outs-13th (1017); Saves-10th (37) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-14th (.978); Plus Plays-16th (13); Minus Plays-16th (85)
Key Acquisitions- SP Barry Gibson(FA)
Key Losses- IF Manuel Ozuna(FA), RP Reagan Washington(FA)
This is a team that has stayed close to the bottom of the league for 5 seasons now, and has only made the post season 1 time in team history. They do have a few young players in the majors, but they have quite a few older veterans that really don't help the future of this team. They have a few players in the minors that can help this team in the future, but nobody that is on the verge of making the majors. The team didn't make many off season moves and really that is probably best for them. The teams fielding is horrible, but they do have average pitching. The problem with that is, a bad defense will kill the teams pitching numbers. The offense isn't good, but it isn't as bad as last seasons numbers suggest. Looks like it'll be another long season in Austin.
This division is certainly top heavy. They have one of the best teams in the league, Nashville, and another very good team in Tampa. New Orleans, while average, doesn't quite stack up with those 2 teams, and Austin is a team that is in rebuild mode. Nashville should take this division and should be one of the top teams in the league this season. Tampa Bay, will be battling for a wild card and could give Nashville some competition, but I just don't think they have the team to win the division this season.