It sure appears that Nashville has taken full control of this division. They've now won the division four straight seasons and last season took it one step further and won the World Series. Tampa Bay, a franchise that dominated the division the previous seven seasons has now taken a back seat to the World champs in the south. They have just missed out on the post season four straight seasons now, even though they have put up some very good win totals. The New Orleans franchise owned this division the first four seasons of the league, but have only seen the playoffs twice since. They have put up respectable win totals in their rebuild process and aren't a bad team. They just haven't been playoff caliber. The franchise in Austin has only made the post season one time and that was as a wild card team. They have finished in the basement of the division seven seasons in a row and have been hovering around the 60 win mark for the past five. This team is in need of a really good season to show the fans that they are doing the right things.
Season 15 record- 112-50(AL South Champs, World Series Champs)
5 year record- 490-320
Offense- Average-1st(.292), OBP-1st(.369), Slg-1st(.473), Runs-1st(1064), HR-5th(236), SB-14th(66)
Defense- Fielding %-2nd(.987), Plus Plays-1st(83), Minus Plays-1st(12)
Pitching- ERA-4th(3.94), OAV-3rd(.247), SO-3rd(1092), Saves-2nd(47/53)
Key Losses-3B Omar Siqueiros(FA)
Guys, here is your season 15 World Champion. This team dominated from day 1 last season and never let up. Ownership has really built a champion and they should continue to challenge for seasons to come. Last season was an impressive, 8th straight season in which the team improved their record from the previous season. Ownership is excited about what this team has to offer and have big plans of defending the championship and repeating. This is a very young team that will be tough to knock from their perch over the next few seasons. Offensively, this team was matched by none other last season. The only thing they lack is speed and it doesn't hurt them at all. They should be right where they were last season offensively if not better. The addition of slugging rookie John Pong will make this team a true power house. The defense was also among the best in the league. I don't think that will change much either. The defense is very good. The pitching may have been the weakest link on this team, but that's not saying much since they were also among the best in the league in pitching. The rotation is very good and the bullpen is very solid. They may not be great, but the pitching is still a top 5 in the league. My prediction is that this team will be very tough to beat this season and they are my early favorite to win the championship.
Tampa Bay Thunder
Season 15 record- 85-77
5 year record- 440-370
Offense- Average-4th(.274), OBP-4th(.338), Slg-9th(.432), Runs-7th(803), HR-11th(202), SB-4th(180)
Defense- Fielding %-8th(.983), Plus Plays-15th(31), Minus Plays-14th(58)
Pitching- ERA-7th(4.54), OAV-6th(.264), SO-2nd(1119), Saves-7th(44/60)
Key Losses-LF Justin Walters(FA)
This has been one of the more impressive franchises in Pine Tar. They've never had a losing record and have posted eight 90 win seasons. The franchise has missed the post season each of the last 4 seasons even though they have been one of the better teams in the AL. It seems like so long ago that this team was in 4 out of 5 World Series and winning 2 of them. Ownership still has that winning mentality though and will try to get this team back to the top. Offensively this team was built on contact and speed and finished last season toward the top of the league in both categories. They didn't show much power and finished pretty average in runs. It's pretty much the same thing heading into this season. The defense last season was average to below average. The team made no real changes here. The defense is average at best. The team was also average in pitching last season. The rotation is good and they have some good relievers as well. I think the defense hurts the pitching staff as I believe they are a good staff. The team should challenge for the post season again this season, but I don't think they are on Nashville's level and don't have much a shot at winning the division. I think they can win close to 90 games and if they can improve the defense they could finish even better.
New Orleans Nighthawks
Season 15 record- 75-87
5 year record- 381-429
Offense- Average-5th(.271), OBP-10th(.327), Slg-7th(.444), Runs-5th(831), HR-8th(220), SB-3rd(184)
Defense- Fielding %-10th(.982), Plus Plays-10th(50), Minus Plays-4th(27)
Pitching- ERA-12th(5.08), OAV-11th(.278), SO-12th(1012), Saves-7th(44/53)
Key Additions-2B Jeremy Stanley(FA), RP John Chen(FA), RP Ron Bowen(FA), RP Victor Daly(FA)
Key Losses- CF-Louie Caballero(FA), RP Vitas Perez(FA)
Last season the Nighthawks appeared to be on their way up. They improved their record and showed improvement from the previous season. Youngster Sam Slotnick added some life to this team and made them respectable offensively. The team still has some older players around that will help them out, but they have brought in some youth that will help them out. Last season this team was average to slightly above offensively. The addition of Stanley will help them out some. They aren't a very good contact team, but they have a little power and plenty of speed. The offense should be a bit above average this season. The defense was below average last season. I like the shortstop Hernandez, and the defense isn't bad. I think the defense will be decent and won't hurt the team. The pitching for this team was bottom of the league last season. They made some moves in the off season to upgrade it, but mostly to help the bullpen. The rotation isn't very good, but the bullpen is pretty good. It will be interesting to see how it plays out with this staff. If the starters hold up enough the bullpen should get them through the game. I think this is a decent team that has made some improvements. They should be able to win 80 games this season and could be a few starting rotation additions away from being a playoff team.
Season 15 record- 62-100
5 year record- 307-503
Offense- Average-11th(.262), OBP-14th(.321), Slg-11th(.419), Runs-12th(761), HR-13th(193), SB-1st(232)
Defense- Fielding %-16th(.976), Plus Plays-16th(16), Minus Plays-16th(66)
Pitching- ERA-13th(5.16), OAV-12th(.279), SO-1st(1151), Saves-15th(35/55)
The team in Austin has now been in a stretch of losing for 7 seasons. By now they should be making a turn for better times and bringing in some youth that they've built up through the draft over this time. They do have a younger roster as only 3 players are 30 or older. The team does have some young talent on the roster. Is this the season that the fans in Austin finally have reason for hope? Offensively last season this team was in the bottom portion of the league in all but stolen bases. They finished first in steals and have plenty of team speed. The team lacks real contact throughout the lineup though and have little power to threaten with. The defense last season was just awful. Without a real shortstop or centerfielder I have no reason to believe that will change. The pitching staff was one of the worst in the league as well last season. Looking at what they have, I believe they may have the worst pitching in the AL. The team doesn't look good for this season, but they do have some young talent coming through the minor leagues and could be just a season or two away from making a push up the ladder. It will be a long season again in Austin, but if the stick to the course, it shouldn't be long until they are able to compete.
Nashville is a very tough team and should run away with the division this season. They are the reigning world champs and could very well repeat as champions. Tampa is a good team and could be a playoff team. New Orleans appears to be making strides and could be much better with a few moves during the season if they are competing. Austin isn't a team that will do much this season but they at least have some hope for the future.
2. Tampa Bay
3. New Orleans