Season 14 Recap: The Katanas won their 9th straight AL East title, although D.C. kept it fairly close and claimed the first wildcard spot. Rochester and Pittsburgh both finished over .500, with the Allegheny's improving by 19 wins. In the playoffs, D.C. was upset in the play-in round by Boise, while Cleveland lost the ALCS to Jackson. In the major awards, D.C.'s Victor Morales won his second MVP, and teammate Rob Workman took both the ROY and Cy Young awards.
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 1st, Team ERA - 2nd, Fielding % - T 7th
Sayonara: SP Bucky Alston, SP Edwin Hill
New Faces: none
Rookie Possibilities: C Dizzy Johnson (a Season 10 2nd-rounder) looks like he's won the vR side of the platoon. Season 9 2nd-rounder Alfredo Lopez has a utility role. Thomas Simpkins, a Season 11 1st-rounder, takes over in CF with Bill Priest moving to 2B.
OUTLOOK: The Katanas did some impressive reloading during the offseason, adding rookies Johnson and Simpkins. They'll have their usual fearsome attack and solid pitching, lead by SP's Benitez, Brocail and Torres and closer Roger Lawson. Watch for MVP-caliber seasons from Jacque Fitzgerald (again) and 1B Luke Joyner. Likely finish: 2nd
WASHINGTON D.C. REVENGE
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 3rd, Team ERA - 4th, Fielding % - T 10th
Sayonara: RP Johnny Whitaker, SP Ray Barnes, LR Luke Moreno
New Faces: RP Alex Diaz
Rookie Possibilities: Season 10 2nd-round pick Brutus McKinley has won the starting C job. Season 8 IFA Alex Baek has nailed down a rotation spot. Rule 5'er Jeff Smith gets a LR job, and Larry Sutton (Season 9 2nd rounder) moves into a setup role. Season 11 1st-rounder (#2 overall), SP Omar Carrasco, will almost certainly get the call shortly, and OF Mark Gang (Season 11 IFA) is ready for ML duty.
OUTLOOK: I think this is the year D.C. finally overtakes Cleveland...they'll probably need a big contribution from Omar Carrasco to do it, and 26 games into the season, Carrasco still sits in AAA - what's up with that. Season 14 phenom Rob Workman is off to a great start, as is their top slugger, Eric Brantley. Reigning MVP Victor Morales has started slowly, but you can bet he'll heat up. Likely finish: 1st
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 2nd, Team ERA - 13th, Fielding % - T 2nd
Sayonara: RP Randy Seneca, SP Kevin Brooks, CF Wally Reid
New Faces: LR David Valdes, RP Oswaldo Escuela, SP Edwin Hill, SP Hector Martin, 2B Alfonso Cordero
Rookie Possibilities: Season 11 1st-rounder (#10 overall), SP Rich Grace, joins the rotation.
OUTLOOK: The Phantoms have a diversified offense (9 players with double figure HR's last year) - that will help soften the loss of Wally Reid. 3rd-year man Jesus Gomez is a budding star at SS - this may be the monster breakout year for him (nothing wrong with his first 2 seasons, though). Pitching is where Rochester must improve if they're going to challenge the Big 2 of the division - rookie Rich Grace is a nice addition, but I don't see their free-agent signings making a difference Likely finish: 4th
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 6th, Team ERA - 9th, Fielding % - T 2nd
Sayonara: LR Tike Porter, RP Bo Thomas
New Faces: none
Rookie Possibilities: Season 13 #1 (#5 overall) Gene Cuddyer gets the call at 1B. Season 11 IFA Hector Colome has won a bullpen job. AAA RF Joaquin Alvarez (Season 14 IFA) probably needs another minor leage season. AAA RP Louie Yang (Season 12 IFA) might see big league action this year.
OUTLOOK: I really like their front 3 starters Wanatabe, Cerda, and Cruz; they were good last year and I think they'll be better this year. Rookie 1B Gene Cuddyer has probably been called up a season early, but it'll be a big plus if he can hold his own - he should still improve a lot over the course of the season. Kaz Lim's stamina is diminishing quickly, but he should still be able to deliver good numbers. These guys have more improvement coming this year...too bad they're in a division with Cleveland and D.C. Likely finish: 3rd