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2017 Spring/Summer Season Forecast 

April 20, 2017 (Federal League Wire Service)

         Here's how the editors of South Florida Baseball Report see the races shaping up:

Expansion Division

1. Tri-Cities Tritons
Mgr: Mike Whittaker 
Last Season: 33-7 (1st place, won League Championship)
The Story: The Tritons 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.
Strength: The 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.
Weakness: 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.
Prognosis: The Sons of Poseidon remain the league's dominant team and are the pre-season favorites to claim a third straight crown.
Writin' Triton: 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 the mound.

2. Hollywood Stars
Mgr: Teo Zorrilla
Last Season: 18-22 (3rd place, lost in semi-finals)
The Story: Despite continuing 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 mound work. 
Strength: 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. 
Weakness: The Stars need to improve their overall defense, particularly in the outfield. Trading away centerfielder Johnny Saiya weakens a potential sore spot even further.
Prognosis: The Stars should, once again, reach the playoffs, and, could advance if the find some bullpen answers and tighten their defense.
Star Shines: The Stars reacquired slugger Reol Alvarez from the Twins in the off season, after dealing Alvarez to the Twins during last season.

3. Davie Goliaths
Mgr: Tony Krahwinkel 
Last Season: 6-34 (4th place)
The Story: The Goliaths endured a season of self destruction and wound up in last place as a result.
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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.
Prognosis: The Goliaths need to address their lack of pitching depth if they hope to challenge for a playoff berth.
Goliath Grunts: The Goliaths traded for rookie righty Victor Sam during spring training in hopes of addressing their pitching concerns.

4. Margate Sentries
Mgr: Dave Munguia 
Last Season: 29-11 (2nd place, lost in play-in round)
The Story: The Sentries had a bounce back campaign last season and finished a solid, if not surprising, second. 
Strength: The 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.
Weakness: Pitching depth behind all-star hurlers Alex Rodriguez and Joe Feller is sorely lacking. 
Prognosis: The Gatekeepers are clearly in rebuild mode and, as a result, pre-season expectations are understandably tempered.
Sentry Posts: 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.


Original Division

1. Sunrise Sunsets
Mgr: Brandon Hull 
Last Season: 18-22 (3rd place, lost in Championship Final Series)
The Story: 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.  
Strength: 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.
Weakness: Unless the starters are pressed into bullpen duty, the relief pitching is non-existent.
Prognosis: 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.
Sunset Grillings:
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 June.

2. Broward Cubs
Mgr: Ken Brown 
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.
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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.
Prognosis: They have enough pitching to compete for the flag, but will they develop the chemistry needed to be an elite team?
Cub Cribs:
The Cubs released future first ballot hall of famer Keith Nicoll from their reserved list. Nicoll retired prior to last season.

3. Delray Beach Mudcats
Mgr: Gus Maestrales 
Last Season: 24-16 (1st 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.
Strength: The 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.
Weakness: 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 to protect. 
Prognosis: Much like 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.
Mudcat Musings: 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.

4. Hallandale Twins
Mgr: Brent Campbell 
Last Season: 9-31 (4th place)
The Story: The Twins have handed the managerial reins to the stern, but popular, Brent Campbell and are expecting some positive results. 
Strength: The 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.
Weakness: The Twins have a much deeper pitching staff than last season, but the overall effectiveness of the staff is still a major concern. 
Prognosis: 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 club.
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 talent.


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