9, 2018 (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)
having won four of the last five championships, are clearly
established as the league's preeminent team. After a shocking
series loss two seasons ago, the Tritons responded by recapturing
their title last season.
Water Dwellers have developed one of the league's best hitting lineup.
MVP Calvin Rayburn, former batting champion Zac Miller, former MVP Jay
Warman, and all-star Chris Marrero anchor a
proficient and prolific offense. A pitching staff built around Rayburn, John Hardardt, Eric
Silverberg, should continue to be among the loop's best, although
not its deepest.
The infield defense remains rather
inconsistent. If the Sons of
Poseidon get hold out pitcher Matt Arlick back, they
would be the odds on favorites to repeat.
It has become
hard to doubt the boys, so, at minimum, they will be expected to reach
the Championship Final Series again.
The Tritons will start the campaign without
all-star slugger Mike LaManna and valued backup catcher Jon
Goldsmith on the roster.
place, lost in semi-finals)
The second tenure of Anthony DeFillipis as Goliaths' manager has
ended and former Sentries' skipper Phil Laufman has taken over.
This will be a better than average lineup. Andres Gomez won the
batting title last season and he returns along with top hitters
Paul "The Fork" Tunink, Marcelino Gomez, and Chris
Jones. Newcomers A.J. Alexio and Engels Vargas will be counted
on as well. The pitching should be solid as well as strong armed
Jose Batatino and touted prospect Xavier Rodriguez join a deep staff.
With Laufman, newly acquired Elijah Rodriguez, and Paul Nolan,
the G-Men boast the league's deepest catching corps.
Overall defense is average, although
Alexio and Vargas will help. The bullpen could use a little more
Goliaths have enough talent on their roster to contend, and
Laufman should get the most out of them. Don't be surprised if the
Philistines are one of the league's best teams by season's end.
The team is
trying to coax former ace Matt Leban into returning this season.
If Leban rejoins the team, the Goliaths would be legitimate
(3rd place, lost in Play-In Round)
The Sentries put together a strong roster
last season, but were shocked by a walkoff loss in the Play-In
game. The Gatekeepers have the depth, if, perhaps, not the
frontline talent, to be considered as reasonable challengers to
pitching staff is loaded with reigning Best Pitcher Award winner
Raul Ascanio, top prospect Ralph Morel, and versatile David
Although the team has some power in the
lineup with sluggers like Bennys Acosta and Rob Wiley; and
speedsters like Dan Heaton and Steven Carles, there is not enough
of either to match runs with the Tritons.
pitching performs up to expectations, the Gatekeepers will be
able to stay in contention all season long. If the offense exceeds
expectations, the Guardsmen can entertain thoughts of a deep
Player/Manager Dave Munguia has developed
into one of the best pinch hitters in league history.
Last Season: 20-20
Teo Zorrilla passed the
managerial baton to Ishy Demoya at the conclusion of last season,
only to unretire as a player and rejoin the team, as a player
only, at the end of
The Stars will have a pretty productive lineup led by
Demoya, a former MVP all-star Osvaldo Capote. Dependable veterans such as
Zorrilla, Lee Gonzalez, and Chris Contreras will be joined by promising newcomers like
Luis Cepeda and David Cruz.
Although Rafael Lara is a workhorse, lefty
Brandon Von Achen shows promise, but the rest of the pitching
staff is wafer thin. Team defense is iffy.
The Stars, who
made a late run at the playoffs last season, may
take a small step back this season, unless they can upgrade the
mound corps as the season progresses.
The Stars remain hopeful that they can add
holdouts like pitcher Jorge Castro, infielder Matthew Rodriguez,
and slugger Erick Mass before too much of the season ebbs away.
1. Sunrise Sunsets
(1st place, lost in Championship Final Series)
Twilighters stormed through the opposition during the regular
season, only to succumb to mounting injuries and inconsistent play
in the Championship
Final Series. The Sunsets will start the campaign without top
players such as outfielders Anthony Garcilazo and Anthony Izquiel,
shortstop Justin Dages, catcher Chris Craig, first baseman Javier
Aguilar, and pitchers Zach Margules and Dustin Hanley. Few teams
could handle that kind of attrition, but the Sunsets have enough
talent and experience to still be the Senior Circuit front
If healthy, the
'Sets will still have a very good pitching staff. Veterans like Tommy Tritz, Jason Van
Tol, Brant Spring, and the newcomer Camron White lead the way. The lineup
still packs some punch, too. Chris Price, Nick Arata, Ted Maceda, and Jimmy
Schariest will anchor the order, augmented by powerful rookies
Hairold Salce, Raphael Andrades, and Ender Vargas. Team speed is
better than average.
the middle defense will be a concern. Player/Manager Hull will
have to move behind the plate and the team will be breaking in a
new shortstop and new second baseman.
The Sunsets should pitch well and hit
well enough and field well enough to be title contenders again.
Sunset Grillings: The
Twilighters enter the season actively searching for another
catcher in the trade market.
2-28 (4th Place)
The major rebuild that started last season
will take another giant leap forward this season if the new
injection of young talent plays up to its potential.
'Cats, depending on how Frady deploys his rookies, may have the
best outfield in the league. Newcomers Jan Sanchez, Evan Parana,
and Michael Deeb could be an all-rookie outfield if Sanchez
doesn't move to the infield. Rookie Infielder Willie Castillo has
a chance to be another Best Newcomer candidate. The Whiskered Fish
will probably boast the loop's fastest team.
The team's pitching staff lacks depth.
Veteran Joe Feller is an innings eater, Lefty Joe Adair is a solid
reliever, and Andrew Razack has potential, but the teams lacks
a true ace and there are few other established options in the bullpen.
If they hit
like they are capable and get any kind of consistency from their
pitching staff, they have a chance to not only challenge for a
post-season berth, but to advance.
All-Star catcher Jamaal Thelwell is
scheduled to be activated by the second week of the season.
(3rd place, lost in semi-finals)
After enduring a
19 game losing streak and a last place finish two seasons ago the Twins
got a taste of the playoffs last season despite starting strong
and fading late. A more consistent showing is the goal this
Twins will have a drastically improved lineup as former all-star
SS Manuel Blanco returns. Top outfielder Giovann Texiera should
be around for the whole campaign and all-stars Esteban Reinoso
and Ruben Aguilar return. Newcomers Aramis Cruz, Mitchell
Bradley, Colin Byrne, Daniel Gomes, and Luis Horta will all vie
for playing time. Slugger Jeff Lynch, shortstop Sergio Perez and
third baseman Jehiel Russo round out the lineup.
Despite the presence of workhorses like
Campbell and Doc Guida, the pitching staff is going to be a
they find some additional options, the mound staff will be the
team's Achilles heel.
The Twins have
an opportunity to climb in the standings based on their lineup,
but if the pitching staff doesn't improve enough to keep them in
games, they may revert to sitting out
the playoffs again.
Twin Peeks: The
Twins have an excess of outfielders and second baseman that they
might be inclined to deal in their search for pitching help.
Last Season: 16-22
(2nd place, lost in Play-in Round)
The Story: Last
season, the Cubs started strong, but wobbled to the finish line
before stalling in the Play-In Round in former manager Burke Fox's
final season before his retirement. Cory McEwen was a surprise
choice to take over for Fox, considering the mercurial McEwen will
be tasked with a rebuilding job.
After suffering through a powerless
campaign last season, the Cubs traded for slugger Reol Alvarez,
speedy outfielder Jorge Caballero, and signed top catching
prospect Diomedes Castillo. Add these players to SS Ricky
Quintero, veterans like Rick Hernandez, Jamie Bobrow, Omar Garcia,
and McEwen and, suddenly, the lineup might not be half bad. Any pitching staff that can send
Pitcher Award winner Chad Volbert to the mound for a regular turn,
has to be, by definition, a strength. There aren't a ton of arms
behind him, though.
Team speed is limited.
Infield defense can be an issue. The outfield has a hole in right
field, and the bullpen needs help.
The Cubs could
surprise if the pitching delivers, but anything above third place
would be a downright shock.
The Cubs are
keeping the interim label
on McEwen this season. Depending on how he does, and whether or not he
enjoys managing, the club will assess maintaining McEwen as manager as
the season progresses.
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