2024 ZSABL Western Division Analysis

 

 

Memphis Sound

Starting Staff:

They packaged injured starters Jacob de Grom and Jeffrey Springs to USMC in the off-season to open up some spots in the rotation. Joe Musgrove (B-Z 17 GS 97 IP), Shane McClanahan (B-No Z 21 GS 115 IP) and Shane Bieber (C-Z 21 GS 128 IP) are the holdovers from last season. Bobby Miller (C-Z 22 GS 124 IP), highly coveted by most ZSABL Managers and Zack Littell (C-Z 14 GS 90 IP) are the newcomers. Freddy Peralta (C-No-Z 30 GS 166 IP) another tradee, Patrick Sandoval (C-No-Z 28 GS 145 IP) and Nick Pivetta (C-No Z 16 GS 143 IP) will be the swingmen. The minors include Louis Varland (C-Z 10 GS 68 IP), Sean Manaea (C-No-Z 10 GS 118 IP) and a trio of hurlers procured via the draft or trade last year in Nick Lodolo (D-Z 7 GS 34 IP), who spent most of the year on the injured list, Brady Singer (D-No-Z 29 GS 160 IP), a huge disappointment to the Sound Management and Jack Flaherty (D-No Z 27 GS 144 IP).

 

Bullpen:

They spent a good part of the middle of the draft searching for a closer, it looks like they settled on Colin Poche (A*No-Z 61 IP). There are three B*-Z’s on the roster to support him in Will Vest (4 GS 48 IP), Emilio Pagan (1 GS 69 IP) and Danny Coulombe (51 IP). Erik Swanson (B*-No-Z 67 IP) and Michael Tonkin (C*-Z 80 IP) add some depth. Down on the farm is Randy Vasquez (B-No-Z 5 GS 38 IP). The Sound has half of their roster (20) made up of pitchers.

 

Catchers:

Adley Rutschman, (C-9 .809) will see the bulk of the back stopping duties, Yainer Diaz (C-7 .846 OPS) will be the DH and also back up Rutschman. They were really high on Diaz, trading up to get him with the 2nd pick of the draft. M.J.Melendez (C-6 .714 OPS)  is still listed with the receivers but his catching days appear to be over, will start the year in the minors.

 

Infield:

Matt McLain (SS-8 2B-7 .864 OPS), the # 1 overall pick in the draft will be at shortstop, supplanting long time Sound starter Carlos Correa (SS-9 .711 OPS) who will be reduced to a late inning defensive replacement. Bryson Stott (2B-8 .748 OPS) will cover the keystone sack with Austin Riley (3B-5 .861 OPS) at the hot corner. Peter Alonso (1B-4 .822 OPS) is at the cold corner. Jake Burger (3B-4 .828 OPS) a curious selection with Riley entrenched at third base will help out Diaz at the DH spot. Although in retrospect they needed a backup there because they are only carrying six infielders on their active roster. In the minors they have Nathaniel Lowe (1B-5 .774 OPS) and Jordan Lawler (SS-7 .335 OPS) who is still biding his time waiting for a spot to open up in Arizona. Injured No-Card Gavin Lux, whose defensive miscues in Spring Training has moved him from Short to Second and Un-Carded Kyle Manzardo round out the farm system.

 

Outfield:

Adolis Garcia (OF-3 .836 OPS), Riley Greene (OF-2 .796 OPS) and Nick Castellanos (OF-2.787 OPS) will start. APBA proofreaders missed the typo on Castellanos’s OF-2 rating or they did not watch a majority of Phillie broadcasts because he looked like an OF-1 IMHO. Garrett Stone (OF-1 .800 OPS) is the main reserve with the Captain Starling Marte (OF-3 .625 OPS) relegated to defensive duties as his career winds down. In the minors is a pair of Un-Cards in Wyatt Langford who has dominated Spring Training news in Texas as did James Wood in the Washington camp.

 

Draft Analysis:                                               

They went to the trade route to grab the first two picks of the draft to give them a total of four in the first round. Matt McLain and Yainer Diaz went 1-2 with the consensus # 1 pick Evan Carter being ignored. They conceivably thought Carter would be there at #7 or # 8 but Chicago foiled their plan by taking him at # 6. It is hard to figure Memphis’s strategy since they keep it so close to their vest. They still did all right in the first round with Bobby Miller and Wyatt Langford. With no 2nd they opted for Jake Burger in the 3rd. Surprisingly Un-Carded James Wood was still on the board in the 4th so he joined the Sound. Zack Littell was added in the 5th. Louis Varland in the 6th. They had two picks in the 7th and selected Emilio Pagan and Colin Poche. They went Un-carded in the 8th with Kyle Manzardo. Their last six picks were all pitchers in Nick Pivetta, Danny Coulombe, Randy Vasquez, Will Vest, Michael Tonkin and Max Meyer an Un-Carded hurler they later released.

 

Synopsis:

They have some glaring weaknesses, no true closer and not a very deep rotation plus some holes in the lineup but the future looks bright with some strong draft picks and with 20 pitchers on the roster some of them might come through. The West has too many other playoff contenders to include the Sound in the post-season. They will avoid the basement.

 

 

Norfolk Neptunes

Starting Staff:

Three solid B-Z starters headline the Neptune rotation, Logan Webb (33 GS 216 IP), Jose Berrios (32 GS 190 IP) and Bailey Ober (26 GS 144 IP). Framber Valdez (B-No-Z 31 GS 198 IP) and Griffin Canning (C-Z 22 GS 127 IP) fill out the staff. Gavin Williams (B-No-Z 16 GS 82 IP) has been used in relief early this season but will probably make some starts in lieu of Canning later on. In the minors they have Kyle Harrison (C-No-Z 7 GS 35 IP), Emmet Sheehan (D-No-Z 11 GS 60 IP) and Luis Severino (D-No-Z 18 GS 89 IP) who has seemed to regain his form since signing with the Mets. Un-Carded Jackson Jobe will join them.

 

Bullpen:

Skipper Groff always said you need two A*-Z’s in the pen to be competitive and he has them in Evan Phillips (63 IP) and Joel Payamps (71 IP). The deep bullpen also boasts Ryan Helsley (A*-No-Z 37 IP), a pair of B*-Z’s in Gegory Santos (66 IP) and Jo Jo Romero (37 IP) along with Camilo Doval (B*-No-Z 68 IP).

 

Catchers:

The catching duties are in the hands of Ryan Jeffers (C-8 .859 OPS) and Jonah Heim (C-9 .755 OPS). In the minors is Rene Pinto (C-8 .723 OPS) not to be confused with Josmil Pinto, a Neptune catcher from 2014, as the Commissioner did. Daulton Varsho will no longer don the “tools of ignorance”.

 

Infield:

The left side of the infield features Rafael Devers (3B-4 .851 OPS) and Francisco Lindor (SS-9 .806 OPS). Nolan Gorman (2B-7 3B-4 .806) and Ryan Mountastle (1B-5 .780) will start on the right side. On the bench is Brandon Lowe (2B-8 .771 OPS) who will spell Gorman at second and Mauricio Dubon (2B-8 OF-3 .720 OPS), who will see a lot of outfield action. Willy Adames (SS-9 .717 OPS) is the backup Shortstop/Pinch-hitter. Riding on the team's minor-league bus are Josh Jung (3B-5 .782 OPS), Vinnie Pasqauntino (1B .761 OPS), Andrew Vaughn (1B-4 .743 OPS) and Marco Luciano (SS-7 .641 OPS).

 

Outfield:

Yordan Alvarez (OF-1 .990 OPS) will be the DH and occasionally be on the grass. Chas McCormick (OF-3 .842 OPS) and Kerry Carpenter (OF-2 .811 OPS) will see plenty of PT. Max Kepler (OF-3 .816 OPS) and Esteury Ruiz (OF-2 .654 OPS) will be rotated in some days with Alex Kirilloff (OF-1 1B-3 .793 OPS) who will be appearing mostly as a DH but he will be filling in at first base occasionally.

In the minors are Byron Buxton (OF-1 .732 OPS) as his knees have really taken their toll on him, Daulton Varsho (OF-3 .678 OPS) his star has faded somewhat now that he no longer catches, Colton Cowser (OF-2 .432 OPS) and Peter Crow-Armstrong or “PCA" if one wanted to preserve ink or their typing fingers.

 

Draft Analysis:

They have vowed to never trade their # 1 pick again as they did this year. They did have a 2nd and here they grabbed Gavin Williams. Griffin Canning was their 3rd round choice. A pair of 4th rounders netted them Max Kepler, although in a post-draft discussion they lamented that they should have taken Jack Suwinski, and Esteury Ruiz.  Peter-Crow-Armstrong arrived in the 5th with Gregory Santos in the 6th. The 7th saw them select Jo Jo Romero with Colton Cowser being taken in the 8th. Rene Pinto was their 9th round choice and Emmet Sheehan was welcomed to Norfolk in the 10th. Versatile Mauricio Dubon was drafted in the 11th before finishing up with Un-Carded Jackson Jobe in the 12th.

                                                    

Synopsis:

The second best lineup in the Division two A*-Z’s and three B-Z starters all make for a playoff team. Is there another pennant in the cards? They will battle with Hartford for Division supremacy, although you cannot rule out Union Station, Billings or San Diego.

 

Cleveland Naps

Starting Staff:

Pablo Lopez (B-Z 32 GS 194 IP) and Dane Dunning (B-No-Z 26 GS 173 IP) are at the top of the Nap’s rotation. They will be followed by three C-Z's in Kyle Hendricks (24 GS 137 IP), Jameson Taillon (29 GS 154 IP) and Alex Cobb (28 GS 151 IP) if they need a 6th starter there is Kenta Maeda (C-Z 20 GS 104 IP). Mike King (A-No-Z 9 GS 105 IP) has been used exclusively in relief in the early goings but he can step in with a spot start. In the minors is Cody Bradford (C-Z 8 GS 56 IP) and Dean Kremer (C-No-Z 32 GS 173 IP).

 

Bullpen:

Tim Mayza (A&C*-Z 53 IP) is the closer. For setup men the aforementioned Mike King and Andrew Nardi (A*-No-Z 57 IP) will try to shorten the game. Their middle relief is just so-so with Clay Homes (B*-No-Z 63 IP) and Elvis Peguero (B*-No-Z 61 IP). Alex Lange (B*-W 66 IP) and Scott Barlow (C*-No Z 68 IP). The minor leagues include Pete Fairbanks (A*-No-Z 45 IP), A.J.Minter (C-No-Z 65 IP) and Andre Pallante ( C* 68 IP)

 

Catchers:

Keibert Ruiz (C-8 .717 OPS) and Danny Jansen (C-8 .786 OPS) will probably split the duties behind the plate. Jose Trevino (C-9 .569 OPS) provides some depth in the minors,

 

Infield:

Josh Naylor (1B-4.843 OPS) will be the starter at first base with Max Muncy (3B-4 .808 OPS) across the infield at third base. One of Cleveland’s better trades netted them Ezequiel Tovar (SS-9 .695 OPS he will pair up with either Whit Merrifield (2B-9 OF -2 .700 OPS) or newly drafted Jared Triolo (2B-7 3B-4 .785 OPS) at second base. The reserves are J.D. Davis (1B-3 3B-3 .737 OPS) and Jorge Mateo (SS-9 .607 OPS). Down on the farm is Xavier Edwards (2B-7 .663 OPS) and Michael Massey (2B-9 .655 OPS) acquired along with Tovar from Memphis. Nick Maton (2B-7 3B-3 .593 OPS) was a questionable addition with their #10 pick.

 

Outfield:

Two of their starting outfielders came from the draft, Spencer Steer (OF-2 1B-3 2B-6 3B-3 .820 OPS) and Lane Thomas (OF-3 .783 OPS). Bryan de la Cruz (OF-2 .717 OPS) has seen the bulk of the playing time early this season with Michael Conforto (OF-2 .722 OPS) and Jake Fraley (OF-2 .782 OPS) only getting sporadic action. In the minors is Alex Verdugo (OF-3 .745 OPS), Steven Kwan (OF-3 .710 OPS), the oft injured Mitch Haniger (OF-2 .631 OPS) and the disappointing Oscar Colas (OF-1 .571 OPS).

 

Draft Analysis:

They had two 1st round selections and took Spencer Steer and Lane Thomas. They had no second but Dane Dunning was still on the board in the 3rd. They filled their rotation with Kyle Hendricks in the 4th and with a pair of picks in the 5th they added Alex Cobb and Kenta Maeda. Andrew Nardi came aboard in the 6th. Their next pick was in the 8th and here they grabbed Jared Triolo. Cody Bradford arrived in the 9th.  In the 10th they apparently knew something that no one in the room knew when they selected Nick Maton with his .593 OPS. Elvis Peguero was taken in the 11th and their final pick was Xavier Edwards in the 12th.

 

Synopsis:

They took a step back this past season after two consecutive years of making the post season. It looks like they will make two consecutive years of not making the post season with this year's edition. They have the worst offense in the Division, their rotation is adequate with five of the six having “Z’s”, the bullpen is a little light but they are an opportunistic “roller" much like retired ZSABL Manager Woody Kleinhaus. That will not be enough to lead them to the Promised Land.

 

Billings Mustang

Starting Staff:

The Mustang is pitching rich. George Kirby (B-ZZ 31 GS 191 IP), Zac Gallen (B-Z 34 GS 210 and Jordan Montgomery (32 GS 189 IP) make as good a top three arms as anyone in the league. The back end of the rotation has a tandem of B-No Z’s in Jesus Luzardo (32 GS 179 IP) and Merrill Kelly (30 GS 178 IP). The 6th starter is Grayson Rodriguez (C-No-Z 23 GS 122 IP) but he has been used exclusively in relief so far in the early going. In the minors are Ranger Suarez (C-No Z 22 GS 125 IP) and two promising Un-Carded hurlers in Shota Imanaga and Andrew Painter.

 

Bullpen:

The Mustang pitching richness is not limited to starting pitchers. The pen features a pair of A&C*-Z’s in Hobie Milner (64 IP) and Bowden Francis (36 IP) and throw in Adbert Alzolay (A*-Z 64 IP) for good measure. Emmanuel Clase (B*-Z 73 IP) and Joe Jimenez (B*-Z 56 IP) will handle middle relief chores. Down in the minors they have Andres Munoz (B*-No-Z) 49 IP), Garrett Crochett (B*-W 13 IP), who the White Sox are stretching out as a starting pitcher and Victor Gonzalez (C-Z 1 GS 34 IP).

 

Catchers:

Gabriel Moreno (C-8 .747 OPS) is the starter with Tyler Stephenson (C 8 .695 OPS) the back up after they managed to resist Queen City’s numerous attempts to obtain him.

 

Infield:

The line up is not blessed with “bombers’ but they have a steady top to bottom hitting group. Isaac Paredes (1B-3 2B-7 3B-4 .840 OPS) will probably play first base, the keystone sack will see Zack Gelof (2B-8 .841 OPS 272 At Bats) and Davis Scneider (2B-7 1.0007 OPS 116 At Bats) splitting time but their at bats have to be monitored. The Shortstop is Xander Bogaerts (SS-9 .790 OPS) acquired from Las Vegas. Jorge Polanco (3B-3 2B-8 .789 OPS) is an option at third as is Alec Bohm (3B-4 .764 OPS), of course they could shift everyone around and install Paredes at third to make room for Donovan Solano (1B-4 2B-7 3B-3 .760 OPS). On the bench is Nolan Schanuel (1B-3 .732 OPS) and Zach Neto (SS-8 .685 OPS). Shortstop has been a cursed position for Billings with injuries or position changes like Tatis,Jr going to the outfield, we will see how it plays out for Neto. In the minors is another unlucky shortstop in Oneil Cruz (SS-7 .750 OPS) as he suffered a serious injury last year.  Detroit Tiger hopeful the Un-Carded Colt Keith with the odd surname will join Cruz.

 

Outfield:

Seiya Suzuki (OF-2 .845 OPS) and Josh Lowe (OF-3 .835 OPS) will be two of the starters. Holding down the other spot will be Anthony Santander (OF-2 .797 OPS). The reserves are Fernando Tatis Jr. (OF-2 .771 OPS), who some how got an OF-2 after being voted on as the best overall defender in MLB. He will be doing a lot of the designated hitting duties. Complementing him as a DH and the number one pinch-hitter off the bench is Nelson Velazquez (OF-1 .888 OPS) with his triple ones. The farm boasts some projected future stars in Un-Carded Druw Jones and Dylan Crews. There are some veterans also in the minors like Randall Grichuk (OF-2 .780 OPS), Eloy Jimenez (OF-1 .758 OPS), who has not been the star many predicted and Jarred Kelenic (OF-2 .746 OPS) who Hartford tried hard to obtain in the off season since he was traded to the Braves but now in retrospect they are glad they didn’t.

 

Draft Analysis:

Some shrewd trading gave them three picks in the 2nd round at the expense of their first and here they added Zack Gelof, Nolan Schanuel and Hoby Milner. They re-drafted Adbert Alzolay in the 3rd after cutting him loose last season. Davis Schneider with his monster card was selected in the 4th. Nelson Velazquez with an equally monster card was taken next in the 5th. Un-Carded Colt Keith arrived in the 6th. They tried their luck with another Shortstop in the 7th with Zack Neto. Bowden Francis was their choice in the 8th before taking a chance on Un-Carded Shota Imanaga with their final pick.

 

Synopsis:

Their strengths are a very deep pitching staff both starting and in the bullpen. Their lineup lacks the explosiveness of the Hartford, Norfolk or Union Station entries but that pitching solves a lot of problems. They are not a pennant contender but the post season is in their grasp.

 

 

Union Station Mystic Cowboys

Starting Staff:

Justin Steele (B-Z 30 GS 173 IP) and Zach Eflin (B-Z 31 GS 178 IP) are a nice one-two punch. Luis M.Castillo (B-No-Z 33 GS 197 IP) and Tanner Bibee (B-No-Z 25 GS 142 IP) are okay as # 3 and # 4, after that they have been throwing Lucas Giolito (C-No-Z 33 GS 184 IP) and we all know how C-No Z’s fare in the ZSABL. Jacob de Grom (A-Z 6 GS 30 IP) and Ryan Pepiot (A-Z 3 GS 42 IP) have already made spot starts. Down on the farm are Cristian Javier (C-No-Z 31 GS 162 IP) and Logan Allen (C-No Z 24 GS 125 IP), the good one; there is a Logan Allen in Arizona. Stashed away also in the bushes is Dustin May (A-No Z 9 GS 48 IP) and Jeffrey Springs (A&B-Z 3 GS 16 IP).

 

Bullpen:  

David Bednar (A*-Z 67 IP) has been closing games for the Mystic Cowboys early in the season. Brusdar Graterol (A&B-Z 1 GS 67 IP) is also available. Matt Moore (A*-Z 53 IP) and Tanner Scott (A*-Z 78 IP) will lend support. Matt Brash (B*-No-Z 71 IP) will function in low leverage situations. In the minors is Jose LeClerc (A*-No-Z 57 IP)

 

Catchers:

The “Cowboys” are carrying three catchers; J.T. Realmuto (C-9 .762 OPS), Gary Sanchez (C-7 .780 OPS) and Patrick Bailey (C-8 .644 OPS). Sanchez has been serving as their DH. Bailey, who Norfolk really did covet and they tried but Manager Smith spurned all Neptune overtures to pry him away after the draft. Un-Carded Sam Basallo, a teen-ager, is in the minors.

 

Infield:

Some huge trades brought Freddie Freeman (1B-5 .977 OPS) among others to Union Station, he will be at one corner, Matt Chapman (3B-5 .754 OPS), another one acquired via a trade, will be at the other corner. Marcus Semien (2B-9 .826 OPS) and Bobby Witt Jr. (SS-8 .814 OPS) form the DP combo. The bench consists of Anthony Rizzo (1B-5 .706 OPS), he was hampered by concussions all year. Tommy Edman (2B-9 SS-9 OF-2 .706 OPS) and Nick Madrigal (3B-4 2B-8 .663 OPS)

Sitting on the bench in the bushes is Jordan Westburg (2B-7 .715 OPS) and beside him are three Un-Carded Players; Jackson Holliday, Marcelo Mayer and Lee Brooks.

 

Outfield:

Mookie Betts (OF-3 2B-8 SS-7) paves the way for this group. Ian Happ (OF-3 .791 OPS) and James Outman (OF-3 .790 OPS) round out the fly chasers. In reserve they have Jose Siri (OF-3 and Teoscar Hernandez (OF-2 .740 OPS). The minor league system has Alexander Canario (OF-2 .941 OPS), Sal Frelick (OF-2 .692 OPS) and Drew Waters (OF-2 .677 OPS) all waiting their chance to shine.

       

Draft Analysis:

They had a pair of first rounders and announced pre-draft that they were after pitching and they got their wish with the tandem of  “Tanner's" in Tanner Bibee (B-No-Z 25 GS 142 IP) and Tanner Scott (A*-Z 78 IP). Their next pick was in the 4th and they added another arm in Ryan Pepiot. They had no 5th but Jordan Westburg was tabbed in the 6th. Patrick Bailey was selected in the 7th much to the chagrin of Norfolk. Jose Leclerc was picked in the 8th. The 9th saw them with two picks and they chose Logan Allen and Matt Brash. Jose Siri was still on the board in the 10th. Un-Carded Sam Basallo became a “Cowboy” in the 11th. Their final pick in the 12th was Alexander Canario.

 

Synopsis:

They are definitely a post-season contender. If they would have kept Altuve they could be hoisting the Western Division pennant. Their lineup really drops off after Betts, Semien and Freeman. A deep bullpen could make up for the shaky #5 starter in Giolito.

With Jackson Holliday on the rise, the future looks bright.

 

 

Hartford Hurricanes

Starting Staff:

A solid but not spectacular rotation consisting of seven Grade B’s, three with Z’s and a C-Z. They will all be in play, as Hartford will need all of their GS/IP. The B-Z’s are Braxton Garrett (30 GS 160 IP), Matt Strahm (10 GS 88 IP) and Hyun Jin Ryu (11 GS 52 IP), the latter is heading back to Korea after the season so his ZSABL career will conclude. The B-No-Z starters are Kevin Gausman (31 GS 185 IP), Kodai Senga (29 GS 166 IP), Wade Miley (23 GS 120 IP) and Tyler Glasnow (21 GS 120 IP).

Logan Gilbert is the (C-Z 32 GS 191 IP), although he will not be needed for all those starts. In the minors are Clarke Schmidt (C-No-Z 32 GS 159) and Trevor Rogers (C-No-Z 4 GS 18 IP) as is Un-Carded Atlanta Brave prospect Hurston Waldrep who will wait his turn.

 

Bullpen:

Tyler Holton (A-Z 1 GS 85 IP) will be the main closer. Drew Rasmussen (A-Z 8 GS 45 IP) will help out. Tyler Rogers (B*-Z 74 IP) and Reynaldo Lopez (B*-No-Z 66 IP) are the traditional relievers. Strahm and Ryu are expected to help out in the pen if they have innngs left after their allotted starts. Gilbert will be a swingman.

  

Catchers:

They are pretty well set behind the plate with William Contreras (C-7 .828 OPS) and Austin Wells (C-6 .743 OPS) and a 44-6. In the minors is Shea Langeliers (C-7 .681 OPS) who is having a great spring but as Manager Smith of USMC says "It doesn’t count". Travis D’Arnaud (C-7 .685 OPS) should have been cut but remained on the roster due to sentimental reasons of him being an Atlanta Brave.

 

Infield:

The infield is rock solid, with Matt Olson (1B-5 .993 OPS), at first base, Ozzie Albies (2B-9 .849 OPS) at second base, a pair of Gold Glove Shortstops in Dansby Swanson (SS-9 .744 OPS) and Anthony Volpe (SS-9 .666) and a time-share at the hot corner with Royce Lewis (3B-4 .920 OPS) and Patrick Wisdom (3B-3 .789 OPS). NL batting champ Luis Arraez (2B-9 1B-4 .862 OPS) is the Designated Hitter. On the bench is Maikel Garcia (3B-4 .681 OPS) who will see lots of action at third as a defensive upgrade for Wisdom and an At Bat saver for Lewis. In the minors they have Oswald Peraza (3B-4 .534 OPS) who they are still high on despite his lack of success, Yoan Moncada (3B-4) who they desperately tried to trade late in the draft but to no avail and they kept it in the family with the acquisition of Un-Carded Luisangel Acuna.

 

Outfield:

The NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF-3 1.012 OPS and NL Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll (OF-3 .868 OPS) are an elite combo. Joining them in the pastures is draftee Luke Raley (OF-2 .823 OPS) by Eastern Division metrics, a 12 chance card with seven unstoppable numbers. The main reserve is Jack Suwinski (OF-2 .793 OPS) who will have to cover Raley’s limited 357 At Bats and Tyler O’Neill (OF-3 .715 OPS). In the minors are a host of fly chasers led by Sean Bouchard (OF-1 1.056 OPS) who followed up his 2023 card that had eight 14’s with a triple one, 22-5, 44-6 version, albeit just 38 at bats. Also down on the farm is Tyrone Taylor (OF-2 .713 OPS), Jo Adell (OF-2 .706 OPS), who is still trying to make his mark in MLB, Giancarlo Stanton (OF-1 .695 OPS) who will try one last attempt to prove the naysayers wrong that he is “cooked" and Un-Carded Spencer Jones, a NY Yankee whose youngsters always seem to get over-hyped.

 

Draft Analysis:

They knew that their first two picks needed to include a closer and an outfielder and it worked out perfectly as Tyler Holton was taken in the first and Luke Raley in the second, their # 3 pick was a result of the draft coming to them as Matt Strahm, who was not really on their radar, was available. Wade Miley was selected in the 4th although they preferred the much younger Cole Ragans or Gavin Williams but both went in the 2nd round. Jack Suwinski was added with their other 4th round pick and he was rated high on the Hurricane draft list. In the 5th they grabbed Austin Wells, who they feared they waited too long to pick up but it worked out. A pair of 6th rounders netted then Hyun Jin Ryu and Maikel Garcia, Ryu is heading to Korea but they are hoping  he gives the Hurricanes one last hurrah. The last three picks were all Un-carded in Luisangel Acuna who they drafted last year but had to cut because they were over 40 players, Spencer Jones and Hurston Waldrep.

 

Synopsis:

They have the best lineup in the league and plenty of auxiliary pieces to make a charge to be the top dog in the division. Three starters without control will pose a problem and the bullpen might be a little light in the middle-innngs but hopefully the offense

will produce enough to over come these shortcomings. They look like a sure bet for the post season, the pennant will still be a battle with as many as five teams in the West competing.

 

San Diego 76er’s

Starting Staff:

They traded Corbin Burnes for NL Cy Young Winner Blake Snell (A-W 32 GS 180 IP), Skipper Doran has always been able to navigate pitchers with the dreaded "W", in 1995 he had Hector Carrasco lead the league in Saves with 22 despite that cursed letter. Aaron Civale (B-Z 23 GS 122 IP) some how fell to them in the 2nd round and he will slot in at # 2 behind Snell. Eduardo Rodriguez (B-No-Z 26 GS 153 IP), Aaron Nola (C-Z 32 GS 194 IP) and Mile Mikolas (C-Z 35 GS 201 IP) round out the rotation. Taijuan Walker (C-No-Z 31 GS 173 IP) will be the long man. In the minors is Cristopher Sanchez (B-Z 18 GS 99 IP) another gift from the draft gods as he fell to them in the 3rd, Graham Ashcraft (C-No-Z 26 GS 146 IP), and Adrian Houser (C-No-Z 21 GS 111 IP). Two Un-Carded hopefuls in the Phillies Mick Abel and Yariel Rodriguez will optimistically have a short stay in the bushes.

 

Bullpen:

It has not yet been determined which 76er will lead the league in Appearances. The “Sixer’s” have led the league in that category the last seven years in fact since 1993 only Norfolk’s Ramiro Mendoza in 1999, Rocky Mountain’s Chan Ho Park in 2009 and Hartford's R.A.Dickey in 2016 have broken San Diego’ stranglehold in that stat. Felix Bautista (A&C*-No-Z 61 IP) is a good bet to do it this year but he will not be the closer. That honor will probably fall to Ryan Borucki (A-ZZ 2 GS 40 IP) or Nick Ramirez (A*-Z 41 IP). Middle innings will go to a pair of B*-Z’s in Kevin Kelly (67 IP) and John King (37 IP). The final bullpen spot will go to Paul Sewald (B*-No-Z 61 IP). Down on the farm is Jason Adam (B*-No-Z 54 IP).

 

Catchers:

They traded away Salvador Perez last year opening the door for Sean Murphy to assume the full time duties behind the plate. This season they reacquired Perez (C-9 .714 OPS) to back up Murphy (C-9 .843 OPS).

 

Infield:

Long time first baseman Jose Abreu (1B 3 .679 OPS) was optioned to the minors and in his stead will be Spencer Torkelson (1B-3 .759 OPS). Ha Seong Kim (2B-9 3B-4 SS-8 .749 OPS) will be at second base and they will go with Trea Turner (SS-8 .779 OPS) who has had a lot of fielding issues early in the year. Ke'Bryan Hayes (3B-5 .762 OP) will be at the hot corner. Edouard Julien (2B-6 .840 OPS), their # 1 pick will handle the DH chores. Edmundo Sosa (3B-4 SS-9) rescued from the draft discard pile will be the reserve. In the minors along with the aforementioned Abreu is Curtis Mead (3B-3 .675 OPS), Brice Turang (2B-8 .585 OPS), Tim Anderson (SS-8 .582 OPS) who is hoping to resurrect his career in Miami and Joey Ortiz (2B-7 .448 OPS)

  

Outfield:

Kyle Tucker (OF-3 .886 OPS) is the star of this group; flanked on one side most days by Jarren Duran (OF-2 .828 OPS) and in the early going by Tommy Pham (OF-2 .774 OPS) on the other.

Christopher Morel (OF-2 2B-7 .821 OPS) will also see time on the grass as well as some DH duties. Cedric Mullins (OF-3 .721 OPS) will be one reserve along with Matt Vierling (OF-3 3B-4 .717 OPS). Chris Taylor (OF-2 3B-3 SS-7 .746 OPS) provides plenty of versatility. The minors will have Parker Meadows (OF-2 .714 OPS) and Ramon Laureano (OF-2 .675 OPS) waiting the call.

 

Draft Analysis:

They shocked the room with their first round selection of Edouard Julien, everybody had him on their draft list but no one expected him to go that high. The 2nd and 3rd rounds gave them Aaron Civale and Cristopher Sanchez, two of the three B-Z starters available in the draft with innings, as Rich Ashburn used to say to Harry Kalas, "Hard to believe Harry". They had another 3rd round pick after Sanchez and the draft gods continued to bless the 76er’s as Ryan Borucki the only A-ZZ with innings fell to them.

They did not have a 4th but they padded their pen in the 5th with Nick Ramirez. A pair of 6th rounders gave them Kevin Kelly and Brice Turang. Curtis Mead arrived in the 7th and with no 8th they selected Parker Meadows in the 9th. John King was added in the 10th. In the 11th they chose Joey Ortiz. The 12th netted them Yariel Rodriguez and the 13th they went Un-Carded in Mick Abel. Their final pick was Edmundo Sosa who they located in the pile of discarded players after Sherwood released him.

 

Synopsis:

One can never bet against the seven-time ZSABL Champions even when on paper it doesn’t look like they are a contender. By metrics they have the 6th best lineup, they have an “A-W" at the top of their barely adequate rotation but they have a strong bullpen. It’s the offense that doesn't stack up with the rest of the division. They have been hammering the ball early in the season but can it continue ? They usually always over-achieve which is a testament to how good a manager Skipper Doran is or just incredible luck for the last 46 years.

 

Division Wrap-Up

 

1st Place: Hartford: An excellent start might be over shadowing the perceived weaknesses of the Hurricanes. The lack of control for three of their starters for one but offense overcomes a lot of negatives. They have to juggle all their starting pitchers and Wisdom playing at third base with his 3B-3 half the time will hurt. If the lineup continues to fire on all cylinders they should have enough to hold off Norfolk.

 

2nd Place: Norfolk:  They have a much better rotation than Hartford and a deeper bullpen. The line up is solid but not as much long ball sock as the Hurricanes. It should go down to the wire between them. 

 

3rd Place: Billings: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching. They have "Z's" all over the place but the question is how many runs will they produce. There are a couple of weak links in the lineup but that pitching will frustrate most opponents. They can probably hold off Union Station and San Diego for the last playoff berth.   

 

4th Place: Union Station:  I wavered between San Diego and Union Station here. Both teams could easily leap frog over Billings into the post season. The “Cowboys" are using Giolito in the 5th slot of the rotation and a C-No-Z is the kiss of death. Their top three hitters in the line up are a nightmare to navigate through but it tapers off quite a bit from there. Depth may be an issue there is not much to choose from the bench in certain APBA situations. They will probably end up tied with San Diego for 4th place since they are that close and I picked them to finish ahead of San Diego.

 

5th Place: San Diego: It is difficult to place a Tom Doran led team in 5th place but the West is much stronger this year. Although he is a master at manipulating a bullpen, his two A*-Z's each only have 40 innings. Two C-Z's at the back end of the rotation wil force their hand at going to the pen earlier than they want. We will see if the Blake Snell “W” rating comes back to bite him. I am usually wrong in my analysis of the 76ers but I don’t see them making the playoffs.

 

6th Place: Memphis:  They can score some runs but holding the lead may be more difficult. The future looks much better than this current edition of the Sound. You do have to respect the power of Riley, Burger, Alonso, Diaz and Garcia. McLain is a stud with his 365 at bats. Pitching will be their Achilles Heel.

 

7th Place: Cleveland: They have a plan. Their drafting and trading has been improving through experience although they are still not there yet. They have yet to learn when to cut bait with a player and go in another direction. Too many older players past their prime remain on the roster. Their rotation a B-Z, B-No-Z and 4 C-Z’s will keep some game close but scoring will still be a trouble spot.

 

 

 

The final prediction:

1-Hartford

2-Norfolk

3-Billings

4-Union Station

5-San Diego

6-Memphis

7-Cleveland

 

 

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.