2024 Eastern Division Analysis

 

Philadelphia Black Sox

Starting Staff:

Anchoring the staff is Kyle Bradish (B-Z 30 GS 169 IP), arm issues did not deter the Black Sox from selecting him in the first round. Slotting in at # 2 is the veteran Justin Verlander (B-Z 27 GS 162 IP). ‘Ole Reliable' Charley Morton (B-No Z 30 GS 163 IP) is next with the back part of the rotation being filled by some combination of Tyler Wells (B-No Z 20 GS 119 IP, Eury Perez (B-No Z 19 GS 91 IP) and Joe Ryan.(C-Z 29 GS 162 IP), the latter received some trade overtures but Philly remains very high on his upside. Rounding out the starting pitchers is Yu Darvish (C-No Z 24 GS 136 IP), probably destined for just mop up duty. Down on the farm hoping for some career resurgence are Chris Sale (C-No Z 20 GS 103 IP) and James Paxton (C-No Z 19 GS 96 IP) who both are having promising Spring Training results. Josiah Gray (C-No Z 30 GS 159 IP), Bryan Woo (C-No Z 18 GS 88 IP), Taj Bradley (D-No Z 21 GS 105 IP and Chase Silseth (C -No Z 8 GS 52 IP) will bide their time while awaiting some low leverage work when the rosters expand. Triston McKenzie (D-W 4 GS 16 IP) will continue to rehab his injury.

 

Bullpen:

The candidates to close are all Grade A*-Z’s, Raisel Iglesias (56 IP) who imploded in their first series of the season but will get a chance to redeem himself along with Jason Foley (69 IP) and Yennier Cano (73 IP). Josh Hader (A&B*-No Z 56 IP) is the highest graded reliever but without the “Z", he probably will not be asked to close out many games. This deep group also boasts Kevin Ginkel (A*-No Z 65 IP) and Robert Stephenson (B*-Z 52 IP). In the minors are Jeff Hoffman (A*-No Z 52 IP) and the injured Frankie Montas (A&B*-W 1 IP), although he appears to be healthy this Spring.

 

Catchers:

Most early Mock Drafts had the "Sox" picking Yainer Diaz from Houston to settle their chronically weak catching situation but the Philly skipper said they never prioritize that position. They traded for bat-first Mitch Garver (C-6 .870 OPS) and then drafted Jake Rogers (C-7 .732 OPS) and are content to go forward with this duo as they did not add another receiver during the draft.

 

Infield:

Christian Walker (1B-5 .830 OPS) is at one corner and Nolan Arenado (3B-5 .774 OPS) is across the diamond at third base, both were acquired via the trade route. Up the middle a potent double play tandem of Corey Seager (SS-9 1.013 OPS) and Jose Altuve (2B-7 .915 OPS) are the club's best two hitters. The reserves are Jeff McNeil (2B-8 OF-2 .711 OPS) and Jose Caballero (2B-6 SS-8 <3B-4 .663 OPS). In the minors are Ty France (1B-4 .703 OPS) and Brett Baty (3B-3 .598 OPS), the latter was added post draft after a roster issue emerged. He did fail miserably last year with the NY Mets but Philly management thinks they can straighten him out.

 

Outfield:

The outfield has a pair of OF-3’s in Adam Duvall (.834) with his 44-6 and Brandon Nimmo (.829) the other spot will be manned by one of these defensively challenged personnel, all OF-1's, in Kyle Schwarber (.817 OPS), Harold Ramirez (.813 OPS) or Charles Blackmon (.803 OPS). Some one from this trio will be the designated hitter. On the bench is Masataka Yoshida (OF-2 .783), his undeserved OF-2 IMHO he should be an OF-1, might push him into the “grass” in lieu of either Blackmon or Ramirez with Schwarber remaining as the DH. Down on the farm are Taylor Ward (OF-2 .756 OPS) and Un-carded Walker Jenkins.

 

Draft Analysis:

The Black Sox, via the Lottery, had the # 3 pick in the draft. Their recent incredible luck in the lottery has promoted whispers of an illicit relationship with the Lottery Mistress, which was quickly refuted, although the Black Sox skipper has been quoted as saying that with their luck in the “event" that it is a "Logical Assumption". With their # 1 pick they selected Kyle Bradish a B-Z, forgoing any offensive help. In the second they continually added more pitching with two A*-Z’s in Yennier Cano and Jason Foley. They had no 3rd but in the 4th, with two picks, they grabbed Adam Duvall before going back to pitching with the selection of Bryan Woo. The 5th netted them a fine utility player in Jose Caballero. More pitching was taken in the 6th with Kevin Ginkel. They went un-carded in the 7th with Walker Jenkins. In rounds 8,9 and 10 it was back to more mound help as Chase Silseth, Jeff Hoffman and Robert Stephenson arrived in that order. They passed in the 11th before returning in the 12th with a flier on James Paxton and then added catcher Jake Rogers in the 13th. A post draft roster snafu gave them Brett Baty to legalize their roster.

 

Synopsis:

They are still the second oldest team in the division with their practice of adding veteran offensive pieces.  A strong bullpen, the 3rd best lineup in the East and a better than average rotation should get them a playoff berth. Defensive challenges with Altuve and if they go with an OF-1, it may keep them from challenging for the pennant. They appear to be easily one of the best three teams in the Division. Start printing play-off tickets.

 

Sherwood Forest Machine

Starting Staff:

Sonny Gray (A-No Z 32 GS 184 IP) is the ace of this group. Brandon Woodruff  (B-Z 11 GS 67 IP) despite his limited innings starts the season in the rotation. Next up is Julio Urias (C-Z 21 GS 117 IP), who was released by Amsterdam due to his ongoing legal issues. The Machine prefer to use their "partial inning starters” early in the year so the likes of Corbin Burnes (B-No-Z 32 GS 194 IP) and Matt Manning (B-Z 15 GS 78 IP) will begin the campaign in the minors. Holding the fort down until those two are promoted will be Pedro Avila (B-No-Z 6 GS 50 IP) and Jose Quintana (B-No-Z 13 GS 76 IP), the latter was shockingly released by the Cleveland Naps. On the farm one of the first calls will be to Joey Lucchesi (B-No-Z 9 GS 47 IP), one of the many Machine players to return to Sherwood after a year or two sabbatical in free agent limbo. Joining him will be Sawyer-Gipson-Long (A-No-Z 4 GS 20 IP).

 

Bullpen:

A late trade addition in Chris Martin (A&B*-ZZ 51 IP) will be the closer. Justin Topa (A*-Z 69 IP) another “returnee" will be the setup guy. Jesse Chavez (A&C No-Z 36 GP 1 GS 35 IP) yet another hurler to don the Sherwood uniform multiple times will help out in the pen. Ryan Pressly (B*-Z 65 IP), Jordan Romano (B*-No-Z 59 IP) and Brock Burke (C*-ZZ 60 IP) fill out the rest of the pen. Josh Winckowski (B-No-Z 60 GP 1 GS 84 IP) will be in the minors.

 

Catchers:

The Machine have a solid receiving corp in Will D.Smith (C 8 .797 OPS) and Willson Contreras (C 8 .825. In the minors is newly drafted Ivan Herrera (C-7 .760 OPS) who they are very keen on.

 

Infield:

Long time Machine first baseman Rhys Hoskins was dealt away so the converted outfielder Bryce Harper (1B-3 .900 OPS) will be at the “cold corner" to ease his recovery from TJ surgery although it looks to be a permanent position switch. Yandy Diaz (1B-4 .932 OPS) will have to DH since he no longer qualifies anywhere else other than first base, although he could switch positions with Harper. Ryan McMahon (3B-5 2B-8 .753) will be at the other corner again. Jonathan India (2B-7 .745 OPS) will operate at the keystone position and Wander Franco (SS-9 .819 OPS), at least for this season with his murky legal problems, will be his DP partner. The reserves are J.P.Crawford (SS-9 .818 OPS), Geraldo Perdomo (SS-9 2B-7 3B-4 .712 OPS) and Cavan Biggio (2B-8 3B-4 OF-2 1B-3 .710 OPS). Also on the bench is the on base machine Ryan Noda (1B-3 .770 OPS). Down on the farm is Trevor Story (SS-8 .566 OPS) still trying to rebound from a string of injuries, Luis Urias (3B-4 2B-7 .636 OPS) and Dan Vogelbach (1B-2 .743 OPS). Un-Carded Adaele Amador will also be in the minors.

 

Outfield:

Aaron Judge (OF-3, 1.019 OPS) and Nolan Jones (OF-3 .931 OPS) are the studs of this group. Completing the fly-chasing trio is T.J.Friedl (OF-3 .819 OPS). In reserve is Connor Joe (OF-2 1B-3 .750 OPS), finally making a ZSABL appearance after years on the bubble and newly drafted Wilyer Abreu (OF-2 .862 OPS 76 At Bats). In the minors, the ubiquitous roster presence of Joey Gallo (OF-2 .741 OPS) never eludes the Sherwood higher-ups. Jesse Winker (OF-1 .567 OPS) and un-carded Zac Veen round out the roster.

 

Draft Analysis:

They didn’t select until the 2nd round and there they took Justin Topa an A*-Z after a one year hiatus as a free agent. In the 3rd to the surprise of no one they selected 1B Ryan Noda. The 5th saw them grab young catcher Ivan Herrera. With a pair of picks in the 7th they selected OF Wilyer Abreu and when Cleveland dropped Grade B-No-Z starter Jose Quintana, Skipper Tarantino proved he was paying attention by swooping in and grabbing him with their other pick. Troubled SP Julio Urias was taken in the 8th. They had no 9th but in the 10th the "Prodigal Son" Joey Lucchesi was welcomed back to the fold. Another former Machine Jesse Chavez returned to the team in the 11th. Josh Winckowski in the 12th and Connor Joe in the 13th were the next two additions. Sawyer Gipson-Long despite some confusion on his real first name, his APBA card says “Alec", was drafted next. Pedro Avila arrived in the 15th and then with the picks carrying no official round designations they took un-carded Adael Amador and Jesse Winker.

 

Synopsis:

Their offense definitely puts them in the top three in the East. Their piece-meal approach to pitching with all the partial-inning guys poses a problem but nothing Skipper Tarantino hasn’t tackled before. The length of the lineup, the bottom portion consisting of India and McMahon, needs to be implemented in a way to allow it to flow with the “top dogs" so lineup construction could be an important part to maximize the overall effectiveness of the offense. The pennant is up for grabs but the Machine should clinch a post-season berth relatively easy.

 

Chicago Hawks

Starting Staff:

Max Fried (A-Z 14 GS 78 IP) is their best starting pitcher but Manager Lutz has designated him as the closer so it will be up to Seth Lugo  (B-Z 26 GS 146 IP) to become the Hawk’s "Ace". Michael Wacha (B-No-Z 24 GS 134 IP) is the # 2 with limited starters such as Ryan Walker (B-No-Z 49 GP 13 GS 61 IP), Javier Assad (B-No-Z 32 GP 10GS 109 IP), Nick Martinez (B-No-Z, 63 GP 9 GS 110 IP), Cole Irvin (C-Z 12 GS 77 IP) and Julio Teheran (C-Z 11 GS 72 IP) expected to pick up the slack. Marcus Stroman (C-No-Z 25 GS 137 IP) will have to be utilized despite his lack of control because of the dearth of innings among Chicago's pitching staff. It remains to be seen if he will get the bulk of his work in the rotation or long relief.  The same can't be said for Carlos Rodon (D-No Z 14 GS 64 IP) although he has been only used in mop up situations thus far in this young season. It is foolhardy to throw a D-No-Z in the ZSABL with all the high-powered offenses but the construction of the Hawks roster leaves them with no choice and all of Rodon's innings will be desperately needed to get through the season. In the minors are Jordan Wicks (C-No-Z 7 GS 35 IP) and non-carded hurlers because of injuries, Walker Buehler and Lance McCullers Jr.

 

Bullpen:

As previously mentioned Max Fried will be the closer, in a support role it will be Bryan Abreu (A&C*-No Z 72 IP) and Jhoan Duran (A*-No -Z 62 IP). Joining them will be Ian Hamilton (A-No Z 58 IP 3 GS), who will probably be asked to use those three starts. The remaining bullpen innings will come from the above group of starting pitchers.

 

Catchers:

Francisco Alvarez (C-7 .721 OPS) and Luis Campusano (C-7 .847 OPS) are the backstops with Alvarez seeing most of the action with the latter only having 163 At Bats.

 

Infield:

(1B-5 .810 OPS) Paul Goldschmidt will start at first despite having a down year at the plate, across the diamond at the hot corner will be Gunnar Henderson (3B-4 SS-8 .814 OPS) acquired from USMC via the trade route.

Nico Hoerner (2B-9 SS-8 .729 OPS) is at shortstop with Brendan Donovan (2B-7 1B-3 OF-2 .787 OPS) at second base, Backing them up will be Ezequiel Duran (SS-8 3B-3 OF-2), surprisingly cut loose by Las Vegas but quickly picked up by the Hawks in the draft. On the bench Jeremy Pena (SS-9 .705 OPS) gives them the flexibility to shift Hoerner to second late in the game. Jeimer Candelario (3B-4 1B-3 .807 OPS) will see some time at DH and add some insurance at the infield corners.

Their minor league system is stacked with infielders. Un-carded players such as Tyler Black, Termarr Johnson and Carson Williams are not far away from their MLB debuts. Vaughn Grissom  (SS-7 .660 OPS) and Ron Mauricio (2B-7 .643) both got a taste of the big leagues, although the latter may miss the season with a torn ACL The farm club also includes veteran Anthony Rendon (3B-4 .679 .OPS) (Even though he says Baseball is not a priority in his life, just a job) and Brendan Rodgers (2B-9 .701 OPS). This group of minor league infielders makes for an impressive depth list.

 

Outfield:

Evan Carter (OF-3 1.058 OPS) seemed to be the # 1 free agent in the draft on mostly everybody’s list. Somehow he slipped to #6 where the Hawks pounced on him despite him having just 62 At Bats. He looks like the Real Deal. Julio Rodriguez (OF-3, .818) however is the creme de la creme of this group. Flanking him will be Christian Yelich (OF-3 .817 OPS), the other outfield spot will be patrolled by Duran and Donovan, both listed with the infielders or Jorge Soler (OF-1 .853 OPS) although he will probably be employed more as the DH.  Jasson Dominguez (OF-2 .980 OPS 31 at bats) made the squad with his triple ones as a potent game-changing pinch-hitter. There is not a lot of depth on the grass so Donovan may see regular duty there with Hoerner shifting to second and Pena being installed at short. In the Minors is the only other true fly chaser on the roster, George Springer (OF-3 .732 .OPS). Un-Carded phenom, Jackson Chourio, who the Chicago Front Office envisions teaming up with Carter and Rodriguez to form a dream outfield next year along with Un-Carded Bryce Eldridge round out the farm system.

 

Draft Analysis:

Nabbing Carter in the 1st round was of course their highlight of the draft. Their next pick was in the 3rd and they selected P Javier Assad. Ezequiel Duran was a nice get in the 4th. Jeimer Candelario was a steal in the 5th round after he was procured form the Las Vegas team envelope as he was mistaken for Junior Caminero. Un-Carded 2B Termarr Johnson in the 6th and P Ian Hamilton in the 7th were solid picks. They took P Ryan Walker in the 8th and went un-carded with their other pick in this round with Bryce Eldridge (Position to be determined, he pitches and plays 1B and OF). They went Un-Carded again in the 9th with SS Carson Williams. P Jordan Wicks arrived in the 10th. Inf Ron Mauricio was added in the 11th despite him being out all season with an ACL injury. They had an additional 11th round pick and took P Julio Teheran before finishing up with 3B Tyler Black (Un-Carded) in the 12th.

 

Synopsis:

A tightly packed top three of the division will make it tough for the Hawks who by most metrics rate as the 4th best in the East to make the post season. Manager Lutz's APBA savvy may be enough to keep them in contention but an admitted mistake in not drafting enough pitching will be their downfall. If the mounds men falter it could send the Hawks into the lower rungs of the Division.

 

Rochester Rockers

Starting Staff:

As usual the Rochester manager has mapped out all 136 of their starts for this season. They will go with a four-man rotation with Gerrit Cole (A-Z 209 IP) leading the way. Clayton Kershaw (A-No-Z 24 GS 132 IP), Nathan Eovaldi (B-No-Z 25 GS 144 IP) and Chris Bassitt (B-No-Z 33 GS 200 IP) are fine for a four-man staff but they don’t have enough starts or innings to maintain that pace for the entire season, enter what Skipper Schall calls the “partial starters”. This group includes Austin Pruitt (B-Z 6 GS 48 IP), Caleb Ferguson (B-No-Z 7 GS 60 IP), Joe Boyle (A&C-No-Z 3 GS 16 IP) and Tyler Mahle (B-Z 5 GS 26 IP). John Means (A-Z 4 GS 24 IP) can go either way (Literally not Figuratively), starting or working out of the pen. In the minors is Miguel Diaz (A&B No-Z 3 GS 14 IP)

 

Bullpen:

It is hard to distinguish where the line of demarcation is concerning starters and reliever with the Rockers. Shawn Armstrong (A&B-Z 6 GS 52 IP) should be the closer but with his 6 games started they may be tempted to use some of them. Tom Cosgrove (A&C* No-Z 51 IP) and Harvey Hunter (B*-Z 61 IP) will definitely be in the pen since they are sans a Game Started. Shelby Miller (A&C No-Z 1 GS 42 IP) and Carmen Mlodzinski (A-No-Z 1 GS 36 IP) will spend most of time in the pen but the will each make their one start at some point in the season. In the minors the true relievers are Jonathan Loiasiga (B*-ZZ 18 IP), Caleb Thielbar (B*-Z 31 IP) and Giovanny Gallegos (C*-Z 55 IP).  The swingmen are Jacob Junis (C-Z 4 GS 86 IP), Brennan Bernardino (B-No-Z 6 GS 51 IP) and J.T.Chargois (B-No-Z 5 GS 42 IP).

 

Catcher:

Behind the dish, Cal Raleigh (C-8 .762 OPS) and Tom Murphy (C-7 .873 OPS 145 AB’s) are more than enough.

 

Infield:

Wilmer Flores (3B-3 1B-3 .864 OPS) will start at the hot corner because the Rocker management is reluctant to use Manny Machado (3B-5 .781 OPS) with only three power numbers and a bunch of “dips”. Brandon Drury (2B-7 1B-3 .803 OPS) procured from Hartford will be at the keystone spot. Brandon Belt (1B-4 .869 OPS) acquired also by trade will be at first base. Orlando Arcia (SS-8 .741 OPS) will be the short stop. The versatility of Luis Rengifo (2B-8 SS-7 3B-4 OF-2.783 OPS) who covers all the back up needs except first base is invaluable. In the minors are D.J.Lemahieu (3B-4 1B-4 .717 OPS) and Un-carded SS Justin Crawford.

 

Outfield:

Cody Bellinger (OF-3 1B-5 .881 OPS) is the most trusted player of this outfield group, Mike Trout (OF-2 .857 OPS), showing his age with just 308 at bats and a decline in fielding will be another starter for the most part. The third outfield post will be either Marcell Ozuna (OF-1 .904 OPS) or J.D.Martinez (OF-1 .893 OPS) with the other doing the DH honors. Dominic Fletcher (OF-2 .791 OPS) is the main reserve. The minor league bus is filled with fly chasers, Bryan Reynolds (OF-3 .790 OPS), Hunter Renfroe (OF-3 .713 OPS), Kris Bryant (OF-2 .680 OPS) and Jake McCarthy (OF-2 .644 OPS)

 

Draft Analysis:

They had no 1st round pick but in the 2nd they got their big bopper in Marcell Ozuna. In the 3rd they selected their closer Shawn Armstrong. They had no 4th but the 5th netted them their back up catcher Tom Murphy. No 6th round pick but in the 7th they added P Tom Cosgrove. The next two picks were also relievers in Shelby Miller and Austin Pruitt. OF Dominic Fletcher was their 10th round selection. They got their starting third baseman Wilmer Flores in the 11th. Rounds 12,13 & 14 provided more pitchers for the Rocker strategists to deploy, Carmen Mlodzinski, Caleb Thielbar and Tyler Mahle arriving in that order. The 15th gave them a rare un-carded player in Justin Crawford.  The ensuing picks were all labeled as Round 15+, Orlando Arcia who became their starting shortsop was still on the board this late in the draft, Brennan Bernardino, Joe Boyle and Miguel Diaz were their last picks as the Rockers hope that they are the missing links to the Rocker jig-saw puzzle of pitching alignment..

 

Synopsis:

A turn over of 16 players usually means a team is in a re-build mode, but the Rochester management seemed to make it work as the draft was kind to them with Ozuna, Armstrong, Flores, Murphy and Arcia who all will be counted on to make key contributions to the Rochester season. It looks like a three team race in the East and the Rockers are one of those teams.

 

Las Vegas Crazy Horse

Starting Staff:

Only a year removed from a Championship, they are in a re-building process. The closest thing to an “Ace" is Tarik Skubal (B-Z 15 GS 80 IP). Cole Ragans (B-No-Z 12 GS 96 IP) is their next best followed by Bryce Miller (C-Z 25 GS 131 IP). After them there are “slim pickins", veterans Max Scherzer (27 GS 153 IP) and Lance Lynn (32 GS 184 IP) are both Grade C-No Z’s. The remainder of the starting staff shares that borderline passable rating in Reid Detmers (28 GS 149 IP), Mackenzie Gore (27 GS 136 IP) and Brayan Bello (28 GS 157 IP). Edward Cabrera (C-W 20 GS 100 IP) completes the starters although by carrying just three relievers some of this group will be working out of the pen. Down on the farm is Tommy Henry (C-No-Z 16 GS 89 IP) and AJ Smith-Shawver (C-No Z 5 GS 25 IP), who is probably first in line to replace any of the Atlanta Brave starters who falter.  MLB playoff star Brandon Pfaadt (D-Z 18 GS 96 IP), LA Dodger hopeful Michael Grove (D-Z 12 GS 69 IP) and Nestor Cortes Jr. (D-No-Z 12 GS 63 IP) who is coming off an injury filled season round out the carded hurlers. The Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamota is Un-carded and time will tell if it was a warranted # 1 selection.

 

Bullpen:

Abner Uribe (A&C*-W 31 IP) is the default closer, supported by D.L.Hall (B*-Z 19 IP). Cionel Perez (B*-No-Z 53 IP) is the only other reliever on the roster. The C-No Z’s from the starting group will have to fill in the void for innings.

 

Catchers:

They traded for Bo Naylor (C-7 .809 OPS) but he only has 198 At Bats, Logan O'Hoppe (C-7 .796 OPS) only has 182 AB's so you assume they will rotate the chores behind the plate. Brought in for some minor league depth is the veteran Yasmani Grandal C-8 .648 OPS).  Harry Ford remains Un-carded.

 

Infield:

They traded Freddie Freeman for Triston Casas (1B-3 .857 OPS) who is 11 years younger than the former. Gleyber Torres (2B-8 .800 OPS) survived the roster shakeup and will handle second base duties They dealt away long time shortstop Xander Bogaerts and installed C.J.Abrams (SS-8 .712 OPS) as his DP partner. Manning the hot corner will be Eugenio Suarez (3B-4 .714 OPS), who was acquired via the trade route, and Noelvi Marte (3B-3 .822 OPS 114 AB’s). He was hit with an 80 game PED suspension to start the season. In reserve is Justin Turner (2B-6 1B-3 .800 OPS), in his age 40 season he is no longer a factor at third base but the Crazy Horse had a change of heart during their roster purge by dealing him away and then re-acquiring him later. Rookie Masyn Winn (SS-9 .468 OPS) also makes the squad as a backup. In the minors are Top Ten prospect Junior Caminero (3B-3 .641 OPS) and Michael Busch (3B-3 .539 OPS), a long time Dodger prospect traded to the Cubs who hope to employ him at first base. A pair of Un-carded players, Brady House and Jackson Merrill,who apparently has transitioned to the outfield and looks like he will be the opening day center fielder for the Padres, will join them.

 

Outfield:

Mookie Betts was traded away but Juan Soto (OF-2, .929 OPS) remained to headline this fly chaser crew. Brandon Marsh (OF-3 .830 OPS) and Michael Harris (OF-3 .808 OPS) look likely to complement him. Lars Nootbar (OF-2 .785 OPS) is the main back up but the two bat-first outfielders (Read: OF-1), Brent Rooker (.817 OPS) and Matt Wallner (.877 OPS), who are penciled in to a time-share as the designated hitter may see some time on the grass. In the minors is Jordan Walker (OF-1 .787 OPS), whose play in the outfield last year was a great misadventure.

 

Draft Analysis:

They threatened to take Yamamota in the first round early in the off-season and they made good on their threat. Their other 1st rounder was the highly regarded Caminero, not to be confused with Jeimer Candelario, although Manager Bell did just that possibly with the help of adult libations. The 2nd round gave them two promising pitchers in Bryce Miller and Cole Ragans. Matt Wallner, a great APBA card, arrived in the 3rd with Masyn Winn coming in the 4th. Their productive draft procured two more promising players in the 5th in Jackson Merrill and AJ Smith-Shawver. D.L.Hall was their selection in the 6th. They had no 7th but in the 8th they grabbed Arizona playoff star Brandon Pfaadt and in the 9th they continued their strong draft with Michael Busch. The 10th saw them veer away from youth and take Brent Rooker. No 11th but Tommy Henry joined Las Vegas in the 12th. They added Brady House in the 13th, hard throwing Abner Uribe in the 14th, Cionel Perez in the 15th before finishing up with Yasmani Grandal, apparently to lend some veteran mentorship to the youngest team in the East. It was an excellent draft by the ‘Vegas” management.

    

Synopsis:

They have no playoff aspirations this year but after tearing apart their Championship team of a year ago they have re-tooled with some shrewd trades and drafting to place themselves in a position to contend next season. They told Hartford, who has never defeated a Billy Bell led squad, that if the Hurricanes don’t do it this year they never would.

 

Queen City Rojos

Starting Staff:

The plethora of Grade A pitchers that one graced the Rojo’s rotation has disappeared. The “Ace”, and that term is used loosely, is Sandy Alcantara (C-Z 185 IP). After him there are six Grade C-No-Z's starters, four in the majors and two in the minors. The Major League rotation after Alcantara will be Spencer Strider (32 GS 187 IP), Dylan Cease (33 GS 177 IP), Mitch Keller (32 GS 194 IP) and Martin Perez (20 GS 142 IP). Down on the farm are Andrew Abbott (21 GS 109 IP) and Reese Olson (18 GS 104 IP). Alek Manoah (D-W 19 GS 87 IP) whose star has faded and Shane Baz, who has no card due to TJ surgery will also occupy roster space on the Rojo's minor league roster as will Un-carded Rhett Lowder.

 

Bullpen:

The bullpen is in much better shape than the rotation but they will be called on early and often and they are a little light on innings. The closer will be, at least in the early goings, Jay Jackson (A*-Z 30 IP), Trent Thornton (A*-Z 31 IP) could share the duties with him. Brock Stewart (A&B*-No-Z 28 IP) could also help out. Their go-to guy early in the season has been Hector Neris (A&C*-No-Z 68 IP), at his current pace his innings will be depleted before they reach Section Two of the schedule. Nick Anderson (B*-Z 35 IP) will be a valuable asset if used judiciously. Tommy Kahnle (A*-No-Z 41 IP) is in the minors. Skipper Lane after trudging to the mound to replace his starters early in the game so many times this season saw a need for more arms and made a roster move summoning Andrew Abbott to pitch some garbage innings.

   

Catchers:

Christian Vazquez (C-8 .598 OPS) will be the primary receiver with Freddy Fermin (C6 .782 OPS) spelling him occasionally. Tyler Soderstrom (C-6 .472 OPS) considered a "butcher" behind the dish and not much of a threat at the plate hopes to straighten out his career in the minors.   

 

Infield:

Ryan O’Hearn (1B-4 .802 OPS) and Joey Meneses (1B-3 .722 OPS) will probably split first base duties. Across the diamond at third base Alex Bregman will hold down the fort. Elly de la Cruz (SS-8 .710), a Rojo fan favorite, will be at shortstop. His rookie numbers for strikeouts and errors were alarming but his youthfulness and talent may be enough for him to overcome these shortcomings or he could end up as just another shortstop moved to the outfield. Covering Second base will be Andes Gimenez (2B-9 .710 OPS) or if they opt for some better offense they could use Willi Castro (2B-6 3B-3 OF-2 .750 OPS). The latter will play somewhere with his speed. Amed Rosario (2B-8 SS-8 .683 OPS) is the main reserve. The DH should be Christian Encarnacion-Strand (1B-2 .805 OPS) or “CES” as he is known because of the many reported cases of carpal tunnel caused by writing out his full name. He only has 222 at bats so a DH partner will be needed. In the minors is Thairo Estrada (SS-7 SS-8 .731 OPS). Jake Cronenworth (1B-4 2B-8 .690 OPS) still trying to justify his seven-year contract given to him by San Diego and Munetaka Murakami, a Japanese player expected to be posted next year.

 

Outfield:

The “studly” Luis Robert (OF-3 .857 OPS) leads the way with this group. Will Benson (OF-2 .863 OPS 287 at bats) will see plenty of action, possibly as a DH partner for “CES”. Trent Grisham (OF-3 .667 OPS) has seen most of the starts in centerfield because the Rojo higher-ups like his defense and on base capabilities. Lourdes Gurriel (OF-3 .772 OPS) has seen sporadic playing time early in the season. Jazz Chisholm (OF-3 .667 OPS) is still waiting to put it all together once he is injury free. Mickey Moniak (OF-2 .802 OPS) is also in the mix despite having the dreaded 13-13 on his card. Jesus Sanchez (OF-2 .777 OPS) had to be jettisoned to the minors early on because they needed another arm for the pen. Riding the bus with him in the bushes is Leody Taveras (OF-3.733 OPS) and Henry Davis (OF-1 .653 OPS) who they hope will still blossom one day as a hard-hitting catcher. Un-Carded Jung Hoo Lee, signed to a mega-deal by the SF Giants, hopes to crack this crew next year.

 

Draft Analysis:

They traded most of their early picks so they didn’t select until the 3rd where they had a pair of them, first they went with Christian-Encarnacion-Strand or "CES" and then Will Benson, both Cincinnati Reds, to satisfy their fan base although both were solid choices. Mitch Keller arrived in the 4th, a puzzling pick with better pitching still on the board but the Pirates really like him. In the 5th a sorely needed catcher in Freddy Fermin was added. Andrew Abbott was taken in the 6th and with two 7th round picks they grabbed Ryan O’Hearn and Hector Neris not exactly building blocks for a struggling franchise but solid players to keep the fans interested. Trent Thornton in the 8th, Jay Jackson in the 9th and Tommy Kanle in the 10th were added to address the back end of the bullpen. They had another 10th round pick and took Mickey Moniak who the rest of the ZSABL seem to be avoiding like the plague with his non-on base ability. Nick Anderson came on board in the 11th along with Brock Stewart also in the 11th to add some much needed innings. Reese Olson was selected in the 12th, the Tigers are still very high on him and their final pick was Un-Carded Rhett Lowder.

 

Synopsis:

It is going to be a long season in the Queen City with only one C-Z in the rotation. Hopefully they have enough offense to avoid breaking Marakesh’s 33 year-old record of 105 losses. Their zest to play and all the right players to employ their favorite strategy, the hit and run, will relieve the monotony of a losing season.

 

 

Amsterdam Bulldogs

Starting Staff:

Zach Wheeler (B-Z 32 GS 192 IP) is the ace with Shohei Ohtani (B-No-Z 132 IP) following him. It falls off drastically from there. Jonathan Gray (157 IP), Kutter Crawford (129 IP), Brandon Williamson (117 IP) and Hunter Greene (112 IP) are all Grade C-No Z’s. In the minors are two more C-No Z’s in Mason Miller (33 IP) and Zack D.Thompson (66 IP). Hunter Brown (D-No Z 156 IP) and two Un-Carded starters in Paul Skenes and Ricky Tiedemann lend some hope for the future.

 

Bullpen:

The bullpen has no idea where the plate is because only A.J.Puk (C*-Z 57 IP) who is in their minors is the only pitcher on the roster besides Wheeler that has the control letter “Z". So they will open the year with Devin Williams (A&C* 59 IP), Jose Alvarado (A&C* 41 IP) and Bryse Wilson (A* 77 IP) along with Jordan Hicks (B* 66 IP), Ian Gibaut (B* 76 IP) and adding more fuel to the fire Alexis Diaz (B*-W 67 IP) all trying to navigate mid to late inning base runners. In the minors along with the aforementioned A.J.Puk is Un-Carded, because of an injury, Edwin Diaz.

   

Catchers:

There are five catchers on the roster; Alejandro Kirk (C-8 .692 OPS) has drawn most of the early starts. Riley Adams (C-7 .807 OPS) has the better stick but only 143 at bats. Victor Caratini (C-8 .710 OPS) will also be on the active roster. In the minors is David Fry (C-6 1B-3 OF-1 3B-3 .735 OPS) and the prepubescent Un-Carded Ethan Salas.

 

Infield:

Vladimir Guerrero Jr (1B-4 .789 OPS) is at first base despite his down year. Ketel Marte (2B-8 .843 OPS) and Bo Bichette (SS-9 .814 OPS) form a solid DP combination. Steady Jose Ramirez (3B-5 .831 OPS) is at the hot corner. On the bench is Jon Berti (2B-7 3B-4 SS-8 OF-2 .751 OPS) and Taylor Walls (3B-4 SS-8 .678 OPS) to back up the infield. Carlos Santana (1B-5 .747 OPS) adds depth at first base. In the minors are Un-carded Colson Montgomery, who will eventually be the starting SS for the White Sox and 1B Rhys Hoskins who was Un-Carded because of an injury.

 

Outfield:

Of course the incomparable Shohei Ohtani (1.066 OPS) will be the Designated Hitter. Randy Arozarena (OF-3 .789 OPS) will occupy one outfield post. Mike Yastrzemski (OF-3 .775 OPS) will be another with Austin Hays (OF-3 .769 OPS) probably the third. Johan Rojas (OF-3 .772 OPS) and Victor Robles (OF-3 .749 OPS) are the reserves. All five fly chasers are rated OF-3. In the minors is another OF-3 in Michael A.Taylor (.720 OPS) and Garrett Mitchell (OF-2 .761 OPS)

 

Draft Analysis:

They did not have a 1st round pick but they did have a pair of 2nd rounders and there they went Un-Carded for both of them in Paul Skenes and the yet to shave Ethan Salas. Bryse Wilson was taken in the 3rd and Riley Adams in the 4th. With no 5th they grabbed Brandon Williamson in the 6th. Jose Alvarado in the 7th became a Bulldog. Victor Robles in the 8th and Alexis Diaz in the 9th as Amsterdam continued to show no pattern to their drafting strategy. Taylor Walls was selected in the 10th. A pair of 11th round picks netted them Johan Rojas and Jordan Hicks. Three pitchers were chosen in the next three rounds, Kutter Crawford, Mason Miller and Ian Gibaut. Carlos Santana was their 15th round selection as the Bulldogs continued to vacillate between veterans and youth. Their final pick was David Fry to add to their surplus of catchers.

 

Synopsis:

The defending ZSABL Champs will not repeat with this roster. An absolute dearth of control pitchers is always a death-knell in the ZSABL. Of course Shohei Ohtani is a beast and will provide some pop. A curious draft sprinkling veterans with youth was puzzling. They may score some runs but the mounds men will have trouble holding down the opposition.

                                                                      

Division Wrap Up

1st Place: Philadelphia, a little weak defensively with Altuve at 2B and playing an OF-1 everyday unless they insert Yoshida in the lineup. They have a solid bullpen. Only two starters with control unless they use Joe Ryan a C-Z in the rotation. They are in a three-team race in the East with Sherwood and Rochester but should emerge on top.

 

2nd Place: Sherwood, has the best offense in the Division so line up construction could be a key. Managing the pitching staff will be a chore but Sherwood has done it before. The partial innings/starters have to be done precisely. Probably not good enough to capture the pennant but a playoff team for sure.

  

3rd Place: Rochester, a slow start non-with standing their offense has a lot of firepower. The outfield defense is a little shaky as will not having a SS-9. There is lots of control among their partial innings guys. Could come in second, the pennant is maybe a stretch.

 

4th Place: Chicago, 4th best in the Division is the worst spot to be in; No playoffs and a bad draft position. They look to be a pitcher or two short to be a contender but they are better than the bottom rung of the East. Their offense cannot match the top three and with their pitching shortage they cannot over come it.

 

5th Place: Amsterdam, they will score some runs but will lose a lot of games late with out any true closer.

 

6th Place: Las Vegas, A tough call neither the Crazy Horse or the Rojo’s have any pitching but the Crazy Horse will outscore them.  

 

7th Place: Queen City, They have the worst offense in the Division and with only one C-Z starter and limited bullpen innings that is the recipe for a last place finish and potentially the # 1 pick next year..

 

 

 Final Prediction

1-Philadelphia                                        

2-Sherwood

3-Rochester

4-Chicago

5-Amsterdam

6-Las Vegas

7-Queen City

 

 

Disclaimer:

This journalistic endeavor is just an opinion. Please, if you disagree with it, post your own predictions. I do take a lot of time analyzing the rosters etc. If you must comment, make it to the entire league, sort of like a Letter to the Editor. In the past I have been wrong and sometimes right on the money just like the Weathermen.