AL South Preview
There was no real surprises in this division last season. Each team in the division finished in the same order for the third consecutive season. If anything could be labeled a surprise it would have been that Tampa, after finishing with over 90 wins for a second straight season, didn't make the post season again. They continue to put together good seasons and can't get into the post season. Nashville had a great season by running off 110 victories. They have a really young team and probably won't be going anywhere for a while. New Orleans took a step backwards last season. Austin continues to rebuild the team as they struggled once again.
Season 14 record- 110-52(AL South Champs)
5 year record- 449-361
Offense- Average-1st(.294), OBP-1st(.367), Slg-2nd(.485), Runs-1st(1023), HR-4th(252), SB-10th(113)
Defense- Fielding %-3rd(.987), Plus Plays-1st(87), Minus Plays-1st(13)
Pitching- ERA-4th(4.00), OAV-4th(.261), SO-15th(987), Saves-8th(42/60)
Key Losses- 1B Tommy Parker(tr-Atl), SP Max Mateo(tr-Jax), RF-Brian Tomlin(released), SP Orber Torres(FA)
Owner bnags heads into his 10th season running this franchise. After last season, this franchise has improved upon the previous season win total in 7 straight seasons now. I'm not sure if that streak can continue, but this is a very talented franchise and nothing can be ruled out. This team has it all, fielding, speed, hitting and pitching. The only weakness would be the bullpen and ownership has stated that they are looking at all options to add a true closer to the fold. In the offseason they didn't add any key players, but this young well rounded team didn't need anyone really. They did lose some good players, but I don't think any of the losses will hurt the team. Last seasons MVP snub Heinie Rice will come back looking to take the award in season 15. 3 time all star shortstop Tino House, will look to add another silver slugger to his cabinet this season as well. This is still a very young and very talented roster of players and should be contending for a while, but winning the division isn't the goal in Nashville. They have bigger aspirations and this could be the year.
Tampa Bay Thunder
Season 14 record- 92-70
5 year record- 445-365
Offense- Average-3rd(.287), OBP-2nd(.353), Slg-7th(.456), Runs-6th(871), HR-10th(216), SB-3rd(168)
Defense- Fielding %-10th(.981), Plus Plays-13th(34), Minus Plays-11th(56)
Pitching- ERA-5th(4.27), OAV-5th(.266), SO-2nd(1088), Saves-9th(40/58)
Key Additions-2B Roberto Flores(FA)
Key Losses- RP Osvaldo Tatis(FA)
Tampa Bay has had a rough go of things lately. Last season marked their third straight of being left out of the post season and the last two were after posting 90+ victories. This has still been an extremely successful franchise under the only owner they have had in rxw1. They've been to 4 world series and have won 2 of those. So it's probably only a matter of time before this team rights the ship and gets them back to the post season and possibly another world series. Choosing to stay quiet in the off season, ownership kept around the team they had last season and added a good player in Flores while only losing relief pitcher Tatis. While I wouldn't consider the players to be old on this team, the better players are over 30. They do have some young talented players mixed in with the veterans though, so it is a good mix overall. This team really struggled in the field last season. Outside of shortstop Matsumoto, the fielding on this team is just not very good. Offensively they have some good hitters, as evidence of finishing third in the AL in hitting last season, but they lack a real power threat. I like the speed that they bring to the game though. They have good pitching, but I can't put them at the top of the league in that category as they aren't dominant. Overall this is still a good team that could win 90 games again, but I don't think they challenge for the division title. This could be another season that Tampa is left out of the post season.
New Orleans Nighthawks
Season 14 record- 69-93
5 year record- 395-415
Offense- Average-9th(.272), OBP-9th(.332), Slg-9th(.442), Runs-8th(842), HR-6th(232), SB-6th(140)
Defense- Fielding %-15th(.977), Plus Plays-15th(24), Minus Plays-14th(70)
Pitching- ERA-13th(5.21), OAV-16th(.296), SO-11th(1014), Saves-7th(43/61)
Key Additions-SS Vin Hernandez(claimed), RP Miguel Sierra(FA), 2B Dennis Nomura(FA), SP Dave Grey(FA), RP Teddy Tracy(FA), C Cristobal Rodriguez(Rule V), OF Eduardo Sanchez(Rule V)
Key Losses-DH Al Bravo(FA), SP Phil Gardner(FA)
Last season this team dropped in win total for the first time since season 11. After putting together back to back 81 win seasons they dropped to 69 last season. Owner larryvegas heads into a fourth season as owner and wasn't willing to sit by in the off season without improving the team. The additions the team made are much better than what they lost. They added to the defense through the waiver wire by picking up shortstop Hernandez, that should really help bring this defense from the bottom of the league. The team already had some team speed that had them in the upper half of the league and I don't see that changing this season. they finished in the middle of the league in hitting last season, and I don't see that changing much. They have some power, but the guys that bring the most of it won't hit for higher averages. LF Sam Slotnick is young though, and should continue to become a better hitter over the next couple seasons to add to his power. Pitching was another sore spot for this team last season and looking at the team with the additions, I feel it will be better than last season. While the pitching isn't great, it will be improved and should be average to a little above average. I don't see this team taking the division title this season, but I do see them improving and possibly getting to or just above 81 victories.
Season 14 record- 60-102
5 year record- 291-519
Offense- Average-13th(.265), OBP-13th(.325), Slg-12th(.426), Runs-12th(752), HR-12th(200), SB-1st(198)
Defense- Fielding %-16th(.974), Plus Plays-16th(11), Minus Plays-16th(80)
Pitching- ERA-15th(5.37), OAV-13th(.287), SO-1st(1107), Saves-16th(29/43)
Key Additions-SP Alberto Castillo(FA), 2B Jimmie Gonzales(FA), 1B Jose Martin(FA), 2B Chris Oliver(FA)
Key Losses-RF Daryle Moran(FA), SP Mark Matsumoto(FA), SP Christopher Cora(FA), 2B Miguel Flores(FA)
The franchise in Austin has seen more struggles throughout their history than success. With owner sheepdog07 heading into a fourth season at the helm, hopefully they finally have found an owner with a direction that can get them some glory. It's been a rough first 3 seasons for the ownership, but it takes time to build a winner. The fourth season of a rebuild should usually be the time that a little bit of the plan starts to show. Well this is a pretty young team and hopefully for the fans they will see a little bit of that light shining through. Ownership didn't sit by idly in the off season. They added some good players to this organization. They also lost a few good players in the process, but I like the players that are replacing them much more. This team finished last in fielding in season 14, and I think they probably will finish close to that again. The team lacks a true shortstop or centerfielder and that hurts. They led the league in steals last season and I wouldn't be surprised if they repeated that feat. This team is fast. This team finished toward the bottom of the league in hitting last season, but I believe the hitting is improved and they will finish closer to the middle of the league. They also have a little bit of power on this team. The pitching finished at the bottom last season and I just don't think it'll be any different this season. The pitching overall just isn't very good. It looks like it could be another long season in Austin.
Nashville is the team to beat in this division and it will probably be that way for the next few seasons as this team is pretty young. Tampa Bay has a good team, but not great. They could be battling for a wild card spot again this season. New Orleans is improved, but not enough to get in the wild card race quite yet. Austin will continue the rebuilding process this season.
3. New Orleans