20, 2017 (Federal League Wire Service)
Here's how the editors of South Florida Baseball Report
see the races shaping up:
1. Tri-Cities Tritons
place, won League Championship)
firmly established themselves as the league's preeminent team last
season. The Water Dwellers cruised to the loop's best record
before capturing their second consecutive league championship.
Water Dwellers, as always, will go as far as their pitching will take them.
Rotation anchors John Hardardt, Eric Silverberg, and Tre Dingus
will start the season without reliever Jose Marcano, but Orlando
Fallas is still in the bullpen. The lineup is balanced and
productive. Jay Warman, Chris Marrero, Zac Miller, and Julian
Faria lead the league's best offense. Newcomers, outfielders Adam
Seif and first baseman Sean Vance, are expected to contribute.
Other than the dependable Warman at short,
the Triton defense is, at best, unsettled. Playoff MVP Chris
Marrero moved from second base to the hot corner during the
post-season and that paid dividends, but it created a hole at
second that was not addressed in the draft.
The Sons of
Poseidon remain the league's dominant team and are the pre-season
favorites to claim a third straight crown.
The Tritons are hoping their top lefty
reliever, Marcano, who is still holding out, will sign sometime
during the season. The team has said that it is trying to
construct a deal that will bring the mercurial hurler back to
Last Season: 18-22
(3rd place, lost in semi-finals)
to improve, the Stars completely re-tooled their roster after
bowing out of last season's playoffs. Player/Manager/Staff ace
Matt Leban took a leave of absence and former manager Teo
Zorrilla is, once again, running the show. Much of the Stars'
story will be told by how well they are able to replace Leban's
Veteran Andres Borrego, who missed
last season, and newcomer lefty Jose De La Cruz will join Adryan
Pedraza and all-star Ishy Demoya to form a strong mound staff,
despite the absence of Leban. Rookie catcher Luis Loyola,
all-stars Osvaldo Capote and Ryan Gordon, and Demoya form the
basis of a strong batting order.
The Stars need to improve their overall
defense, particularly in the outfield. Trading away
centerfielder Johnny Saiya weakens a potential sore spot even
should, once again, reach the playoffs, and, could advance if
the find some bullpen answers and tighten their defense.
The Stars reacquired slugger Reol Alvarez
from the Twins in the off season, after dealing Alvarez to the
Twins during last season.
6-34 (4th place)
The Goliaths endured a season of self destruction and wound up
in last place as a result.
The Goliaths will score runs. Getting Vijay Patel back in the
lineup will certainly help the offense. Newcomer Nicholas
Grassetti joins established stars such as all-star Kenny Neale,
Anthony De Filippis, Jehiel Russo, Jorge Caballero, and
player/manager Tony Krahwinkel to form the core of a solid
lineup. The acquisition of catcher Kyle Noel (via the draft) and
the versatile Jarrod Rubistein (via free agency) seriously
upgrades the Philistines' depth.
The Goliaths will concede runs. The
pitching staff is thin. Seth Natal and Paul Tunink are more than
adequate at the top of the rotation, but there are few proven
options behind them.
need to address their lack of pitching depth if they hope to
challenge for a playoff berth.
The Goliaths traded for rookie
righty Victor Sam during spring training in hopes of addressing
their pitching concerns.
place, lost in play-in round)
The Sentries had a bounce back campaign last
season and finished a solid, if not surprising, second.
Sentries, for the first time in a long time, might be one of the
league's speedier teams. Newcomers like shortstop Adrian Pou,
second baseman Rainell Hernandez, outfielder Jameel Nairne, and
infielder Kevin Morales, along with recently acquired
centerfielder Johnny Saiya, should inject some quickness into
the offense. The middle of the order, featuring sluggers Rob
Wiley, Andres Acosta, and all-star third baseman Paul Gonzalez,
should be fine.
Pitching depth behind all-star hurlers
Alex Rodriguez and Joe Feller is sorely lacking.
Gatekeepers are clearly in rebuild mode and, as a result,
pre-season expectations are understandably tempered.
The Sentries are unsure regarding the status
of all-star centerfielder Cody Stauble, who was optioned to the
Frontier League. Stauble may, or may not, return to the Guardsmen
by the end of April.
1. Sunrise Sunsets
(3rd place, lost in Championship Final Series)
After a very
slow to start last season, the Twilighters rebounded and barged
their way through the playoffs before falling to the Tritons in
the Championship Final Series.
A prolific and deep pitching staff that includes veterans Tommy
Tritz, Ryan Thompson, Brant Spring, and rookie Michael Fox. The
Twilighters boast the league's best catching tandem in Igor
Molina and Chris Craig. New shortstop Justin Dages anchors a
vastly improved infield. The team boasts significant power with
Molina, Craig, rookie Carlos Vazquez, versatile Jordan De Los
Reyes, and Ted Maceda. The bench depth is strong with Romulo
Matamoros and rookie George Negron.
the starters are pressed into bullpen duty, the relief pitching is
The Sunsets should not have any
trouble returning to the post-season, but replicating last
season's championship run will prove slightly more difficult.
Still, the Twilighters enter the season as the favorites
in, what is likely to be, a tight divisional race.
Ace pitcher Michael Cimilluca
will start the season on the disable list with tendonitis, but the
league's only 300 game winner expects to return to active duty by
Last Season: 23-17
(2nd place, lost in play-in round)
The Story: The
Cubs were in contention for the Original Division flag
for most of last season, but after failing to advance in
the post season, the team saw a number of veterans leave
the team through free agency or by holding out. If the
Bruins experience success this campaign, it will be via
the efforts of many new faces.
Any pitching staff that can send Chad Volbert to the mound for a regular turn,
is, by definition, a strength. Behind Volbert, the Bruins boast
veteran lefty Jesus Pina, veteran righty Burke Fox, and rookies
Jacob Becks and Brian Ross in the loop's deepest mound staff.
Newcomers Joseph Paniagua and Gabriel Franzese join veterans Jamie
Bobrow, Mike Robbins, and Omar Garcia to form the nucleus of, what
should be, a dependable lineup.
Other than newly acquired Thomas
Doenig and rookie Paul Belmonte, team speed is mostly absent.
Infield defense could be a looming problem unless the team gets
holdout shortstop Ricky Quintero to sign.
enough pitching to compete for the flag, but will they
develop the chemistry needed to be an elite team?
The Cubs released future
first ballot hall of famer Keith Nicoll from their reserved list.
Nicoll retired prior to last season.
place, lost in semi-finals)
The Story: The
Mudcats overcame a miserable late season losing streak to
capture the Senior Circuit flag, but bowed out in the play-in
round of the playoffs. Even so, the 'Cats largely stood pat in
the off season.
Mudcats have, potentially, the league's best offense. Proven
hitters such as batting champ Pete Maestrales, Alejandro
Caboverde, Amed Martinez, Cory McEwen, and Chris Jones headline
as good of a lineup as there is. The Whiskered Fish also have
excellent role players in Lenin Lopez and Jose Ayala.
The pitching depth is highly questionable.
Workhorse Gus Maestrales has been up and down the past few seasons
and the rest of the staff has been, mostly, under whelming.
Newcomer Nick Baker, a successful closer at the college level,
will help, but not if the starters do not provide him with leads
last season, the Sunsets, Cubs, and Mudcats could be embroiled
in a season long pennant fight. The Mudcats lack of a front line
mound staff leaves them a notch behind.
Veterans, outfielder Gary Frady and
designated hitter Luis "Pee Wee" Rodriguez will both
start the season on the disabled list, but both are expected to
return by mid-season.
have handed the managerial reins to the stern, but popular, Brent
Campbell and are expecting some positive results.
Twins, surprisingly, could wind up as the best defensive team in
the league. They also have some of the best young talent in the
league. Shortstop Carlos Guzman, outfielder Giovann Texiera, and
catcher Elijah Rodriguez may not only be the best rookies at their
positions, but, by season's end, might be simply the best players
at their positions, regardless of amount of service time. Another
rookie, Malcolm Cepeda, has flashed tons of potential as well.
Speedy Casey Kountz and sure handed Ornan Toledo might also earn
starting assignments as newcomers.
The Twins have a much deeper pitching
staff than last season, but the overall effectiveness of the
staff is still a major concern.
The Twins will
continue to experience some growing pains as they search for the right
combination of talent. This is a tough division and the playoffs
might still be out of reach, but this should be a much improved
Twin Peeks: The
Hallandalers acquired versatile veteran Mickey Tanyi on draft day.
Players like Tanyi, Javier Oliveras, Jeffy Lynch, and pitcher Joe
Adair will not only be counted on for their own contributions, but
will also be instrumental in mentoring the team's phalanx of young
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