In the south last season, Nashville continued the reign of dominance they've had for 5 seasons now. They led the league in victories as they put together a good run that fell short in the ALCS. Back to back championships wasn't meant to be. New Orleans has continued to improve the past couple seasons as they improved to 80 victories and a 2nd place finish. Tampa Bay dropped off a bit and dropped to lower than 2nd for the first time in 12 seasons. It was also the the first time that the franchise finished with a losing record. It was a nice 15 season run. The team formerly of Austin, continued to struggle, but improved by 9 games over the previous season. With it seeming that things were turning around the owner of the franchise left and the new owner moved the team to San Juan for a fresh start.
Season 16 record- 111-51(AL South Champs, ALCS runner up)
5 year record- 519-291
Offense- Average-1st(.289), OBP-1st(.363), Slg-1st(.471), Runs-1st(1004), HR-6th(236), SB-6th(148)
Defense- Fld %-3rd(.987), Plus Plays-2nd(101), Minus Plays-3rd(19)
Pitching- ERA-2nd(3.77), OAV-1st(.243), SO-4th(1110), Saves-3rd(46/61)
Offense: Well it's hard to find an actual strength for this team since the are so good at so many things. The team led the league in most offensive categories last season. The true strength here is depth. They have many good hitters on this team. They are led by reigning MVP Heinie Rice, allstar/silver slugger/ gold glover Juan Latos, and John Pong. The loss of Tino House hurts, but they have plenty of depth to make up for it.
Defense: Not only was this team great offensively last season, but they were defensively as well. Ismael Morales is a really good centerfielder. The loss of House hurt offensively, but they were able to bring up a better fielder at short in McKay Payton. Juan Latos brings great range to rightfield. This defense will have the gloves to remain near the top of the league this season.
Pitching: The top of the rotation. Alex Martis is a top young pitcher in the league. Dan Siebert is another good young rotation piece. Jeremi Rice is the #3 guy on this staff but could be a #1 on many other staffs as he is the reigning Cy Young winner. The top of this rotation is great.
Offense: Don't get me wrong by this, but the team is a bit short on power. That's not saying much because they do have power, but they could use a bit more. Rice is the only great power threat they have, but they do have plenty of it. I'm just trying to find something here.
Defense: I give up. I can't really find a weakness here. Not even a slight one. This team is really good defensively.
Pitching: Stamina in the rotation. Even the top arms in the rotation lack this. It means that the bullpen will be used quite often and that could wear the team down. It's a good bullpen, but I'd hate to see the bullpen cost these starters some guys if they are fatigued.
Summary- Nashville is a very good team and probably the most well rounded team in the AL. I think they will give it another go this season in trying to make the World Series. Right now this team is my pick to win it all.
New Orleans Nighthawks
Season 16 record- 80-82
5 year record- 386-424
Offense- Average-10th(.263), OBP-14th(.322), Slg-12th(.419), Runs-8th(800), HR-11th(204), SB-3rd(196)
Defense- Fld %-15th(.980), Plus Plays-4th(72), Minus Plays-8th(39)
Pitching- ERA-10th(4.58), OAV-9th(.268), SO-3rd(1115), Saves-4th(45/54)
Offense: This is an average offense really. The true strength they have are certain players. Young power hitter Sam Slotnick is a rising star in the league. Veteran Jeremy Stanely is still a pretty good hitter. Josh Tanner is a proven power hitter that can drive in runs and hit for a decent average. Justin Johnston is another good hitter to add to the mix.
Defense: This team has a really good fielding shortstop in Vin Hernandez who is young and should be around a while. That is pretty much the biggest thing this defense has going for them.
Pitching: George Eaton is a really good closer. He underperformed last season, but he has been pretty good the rest of his career. Darren Miller is a pretty solid reliever. Add Ron Bowen to that mix and they have the makings of a pretty good bullpen.
Offense: Contact. This team doesn't make enough contact to be among the better half of the league in hitting. As you get down the lineup, it's not very good at all and the bench won't produce much either. Outside of the hitters I listed above, this offense has some holes.
Defense: The lack a true centerfielder and the gloves overall aren't very good outside of starting shortstop Hernandez. The team finished near the bottom last season in fielding percentage and will be a little bit better with Hernandez playing every day, but not enough better to finish in the upper half of the league.
Pitching: The rotation. They added Ruben Cruz to boost this in the off season, but he isn't the answer. They also added Ben Hogg who is good, but not a true top end pitcher. This team could use some top end of the rotation pitchers.
Summary- New Orleans has been an improving team the past couple seasons, but still are a ways off from competing in this division. With the likes of Nashville running things in the South, New Orleans is going to have a tough time this season. They still have too many holes for me to consider them a contender. They should still be decent and another 80 win season isn't out of the question.
Tampa Bay Thunder
Season 16 record- 76-86
5 year record- 427-383
Offense- Average-4th(.271), OBP-5th(.337), Slg-12th(.419), Runs-9th(797), HR-14th(188), SB-7th(144)
Defense- Fld %-10th(.981), Plus Plays-16th(32), Minus Plays-14th(54)
Pitching- ERA-7th(4.39), OAV-7th(.263), SO-2nd(1119), Saves-16th(31/46)
Offense: Last season this team was above average offensively, but had trouble scoring runs. It was probably due to the lack of power that they showed while ranking 14th. This team is still a pretty good hitting team though. They have players that can hit for a good average. Kevin Messmer is getting up there in years, but can still hit. Sammy Buchanan is another veteran that can flat out hit. Will McCarthy had a really good season last year and should be expected to do so again. That is just a few of the guys this team will count on, but they aren't all they have. I expect this team to hit well again this season.
Defense: Last season this team was below average to just bad defensively. The addition of Buster Starr will help, but he's lost some range and won't cover ground at short like he once could. Louie Caballero is a great glove at second and makes this team solid up the middle in the infield.
Pitching: This team has a really solid staff top to bottom this season. Youngster Claude Collins is a good piece in the rotation to build around. Ivan Silva helps out the top of the rotation as well. Frank Murphy is a great setup man. The closer role belongs to Harry Paz and he should be great as usual.
Offense: The team still lacks good power hitters. The addition of Christian Lee helps that, but most of the guys that will hit the ball out have low contact and likely won't hit enough to be a real threat.
Defense: The team lacks an ideal centerfield with a good glove. They also lack range at shortstop. This is a solid defense, but they also lack depth.
Pitching: I think this team has good pitching. It's hard to find a flaw with them. They may not have the best staff in the league, but they are solid top to bottom. I would be shocked if they finish worst than a top 5 pitching staff.
Summary- The team does have some holes, but I really like the roster overall. This team should at least give Nashville a threat. I don't think they have what it takes to get to the top spot, but I would be shocked to see a repeat of last season. This team should win close to 90 games and challenge for a wild card spot.
San Juan Pollos Hermanos
Season 16 record- 73-89
5 year record- 319-491
Offense- Average-8th(.268), OBP-8th(.331), Slg-7th(.438), Runs-10th(793), HR-10th(208), SB-5th(151)
Defense- Fld %-16th(.973), Plus Plays-15th(33), Minus Plays-15th(72)
Pitching- ERA-16th(5.65), OAV-14th(.293), SO-8th(1046), Saves-9th(40/57)
Offense: This team was average last season offensively. They appear to be about average again. They have some good hitters with the young Alexander Williamson, David Reyes, and with the addition of Efrain Matsumoto. The offense has some talent and won't be a pushover.
Defense: I like this defense. Last season they were terrible, but I think they've improved. The additions of Matsumoto and Gerald Aaron gives them options at shortstop. Horacio Blanco is a very good centerfielder also. Julio Silva plays third for them and will be able to lock down the hot corner. This team is improved defensively.
Pitching: The addition of Ezdra Johnson has locked down the closer role for this club. John Chen will lock up the setup role. The bullpen has some good arms and should be much better this season.
Offense: Depth and power. The team doesn't have much depth down the lineup and the bench could use a little help also. The power on the club is limited to Reyes and while they have some guys that will hit homers, this team really isn't a threat with the long ball.
Defense: The defense looks pretty good this season. They have the gloves to be much better. Maybe depth is the problem here too, but they have a backup at short that could play pretty much anywhere. This team is solid defensively.
Pitching: Depth is also an issue here. Specifically in the rotation. They have options for the back end of the rotation, but they aren't real good options. Once you get about 7 or 8 pitchers deep on this team the talent falls off.
Summary- Ownership has stated that this is potentially another rebuilding season for this franchise, but they've managed to move some contracts and made some good additions in the off season. This team should be much improved, but they aren't ready to step it up to the big time yet. I would put the teams expectations close to winning .500 and go from there. I really think this may be one of the more improved teams this off season.
With the powerhouse in Nashville running this division it is going to be tough going for the competition. Nashville is still in a good position to be for the next few seasons. They are my World Series favorites from the AL at this time. New Orleans is a better team these days, but they aren't up there with Nashville. I have them falling out of the 2 spot in my predictions, but they should still have a good season. Tampa Bay looks good and should be battling Nashville for a while, but I think they are more in position to take a wild card spot. San Juan looks a whole lot better than last seasons team and should move up the wins ladder this season, but I don't see them challenging for a playoff spot.
2.) Tampa Bay
3.) San Juan
4.) New Orleans