Season 30 Standings
Nashville Merchants 104-58
Florida Retirees 69-93
New Orleans Zephyrs 66-96
Tampa Bay Thunder 61-101
Nashville took the division last season after winning 100+ games for the seventh time in franchise history. It was a second straight division title, but once again they came up short in the post season. They are a rising team that should be tough again this season. Florida came in second and finished well out of the division race. With that they changed ownership and moved the team to El Paso and renamed the team to fit the city. New Orleans finished in 3rd and missed the playoffs for the second straight season since their last division title. With that, they also changed ownership and switched cities to Huntington. Their new team name has nothing to do with the city choice and I believe it has more to do with how the club plans on handling each loss this season. Tampa Bay finished in last place with the worst record in franchise history last season. Three straight last place finishes and sub 70 win seasons have never been experienced by this franchise before.
Last 5 seasons- 363-447
The Merchants had the second best offense in the AL last season. 2nd in runs scored, 2nd in average, obp and slugging. They didn't have much speed but they had plenty of pop. You'd think that the trade of Bubbles Conger would hurt the offense, but it just made room for the young prospects Angel De La Rosa and Abraham Logan. Adding those 2 to a lineup that includes the phenom Phil Yamamoto will only make this a much better offense. This team has power, contact and good eyes at the plate. Nashville will challenge to be the top offense in the AL this season.
Nashville had an average defense last season. They did have some really good range and finished 2nd in plus plays. They really lack an ideal shortstop. They have some solid gloves at other positions, but they are not strong up the middle. I expect them to be in the bottom half of the league this season.
This team had a pretty strong pitching staff last season and finished among the top teams in the league. The rotation isn't particularly strong, but the bullpen is. The team added Ernesto Ozuna and Derrick Jacquez through trades in the off season and Enerio Granados by free agency. They add them to Jose Goya, and Alex James. They are 2 of the better relief pitchers in the league. This bullpen will be tough this season and they have depth. Even a weaker rotation will be aided by these guys and the team should finish in the upper half of the AL.
El Paso Arfydillos
owner-buffalo_rob(1st season, 4th overall)
Last 5 seasons- 385-425
El Paso was among the worst offensive teams last season. There wasn't very much they did well on offense. They didn't do a thing in the off season to change that. Vic Ward is a good hitter and Masao Saitou can provide the long ball, but this lineup won't have much else going for it. I'd expect El Paso to finish near the bottom of the AL again this season.
The defense was right about average. If you add in their lack of range then they were really a below average squad. Nothing has changed here either. They lack a true shortstop although they do have a few solid gloves on the team. Just none of those players can play a decent shortstop. I'm not expecting much from this defense as they are below average.
The pitching was below average last season. They did make some moves in free agency to sign pitchers but most of them are roster filler type players. The rotation does not look very good and they lack a top end or even mid rotation type starter. The bullpen is solid with the additions of Marco Russell, Jesus Amezaga, and Alex Martis. Adding them in with Omar Colon and Willie Fisher will make for an average bullpen. Overall the pitching staff lacks starters and that will tax these relievers early and often. I expect them to finish near the bottom of the league in pitching.
Last 5 seasons-404-406
This was the worst hitting franchise in the AL last season. Strangely enough, they were above average when it came to scoring runs. My guess is that they scored runs thanks in part to the long ball. They were above average when it came to hitting home runs. The addition of Shouta Wang will add some pop this season. Howie Osborne and Peter Komatsu will hit some homers, but they lack the ability to hit the ball enough to take real advantage of their power. Sam Slotnick can still hit a bit but his age is catching up to him and his power numbers are going to keep dipping. This team has a below average offense and I'm not sure they'll be able to put up the runs again this season.
The defense for Huntington was slightly below average last season. They have an average shortstop in Diory Encarnacion, but nobody else on the roster that can play the position well. Mark Millwood played shortstop last season, but he's better suited for second base. Ed Darnell would also make a good second baseman and he can also play some centerfield. Overall this team really is just an average defense, but the depth isn't there and they could end up near the bottom of the league.
Last season this team had the worst ERA in the AL. The addition of Miguel Zumaya will help some. Everth Benitez is solid but he's more of a mid rotation starter. This team lacks top end talent in the rotation. The bullpen added Frank Murphy in the off season and they promoted Willie McDonald. The bullpen is looking about average. Overall, I think the pitching staff looks below average but better than last season.
Tampa Bay Thunder
Last 5 seasons- 378-432
Tampa had an average offense last season. They were light on power though and that led to them being below average in runs scored. This off season the team added some power. Phil Shibata should be a nice addition to go with Ron Atkins and Junior Yang. I'd expect this team to hit for more power this season. They are still an average team at getting on base so the added power should make them an above average offense.
This team had one of the worst defenses in the AL last season. The team has Jesus Esposito, who is an average to slightly above average shortstop. Ideally, Junior Yang should be the thirdbaseman and Anthony Wiltse playing second. That would make for a pretty good infield which just leaves the problem of them missing a centerfielder. This is a team with little defensive depth and just not enough to bring them up. I think they'll finish near the bottom again this season.
The pitching for Tampa Bay was near the bottom last season as well. The rotation looks pretty weak to me. Vinny Chang and Bo Carter are solid mid rotation starters, but this team doesn't have much besides them. The bullpen is a bit better than the rotation, but not by a lot. This staff is going to struggle this season and will likely end up near the bottom again.
Nashville is the team to beat in this division and I doubt it'll be close. They have the offense to make a serious run at the AL title, but the rotation and defense will likely be their achilles heal. El Paso looks like a team in the middle of a rebuild and only finished second in the division last season because somebody had to. They are weak in too many areas to make a run at anything this season. Huntington is a close to average team, which is better than what they were last season. I think they'll improve this season, but I don't count on them being a threat. Tampa Bay has improved the offense, but the defense and pitching are going to really hurt them. They are a team that is clearly rebuilding and will likely finish close to where they were last season.
3. Tampa Bay
4. El Paso