Season 14 Recap: Boise won the division by just 3 games over Portland; San Diego was just 5 back in Belle's tightest division. Season 13's champ, Salem, dropped by an astounding 45 wins with basically the same team last year. The Posse has won the division 4 of the last 6 years.
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 11th, Team ERA - 12th, Fielding % - 12th
Sayonara: 1B Robinson Bird, Util Rock Doster, RP's Barney Jacquez and Orlando Pujols, C Edwards Ross, 2B Mariano Pulido, Util Yamil Mondesi
New Faces: SP Humberto Urbina, RF Harry Rodrigo, C Diego Rios, RP Mickey Hermanson, 3B Jumbo Barry, CF Tony Saitou
Rookie Possibilities: Andrew Corino (Season 10 #1 - 13 overall) could win the starting SS job - they need a defensive upgrade there and he's the best bet. If that doesn't work, Season 9's 1st-rounder Hugh Rivera (AAA) could get the call. Season 11 #1 Wayne Evans looks to have won a spot in the rotation.
OUTLOOK: The Posse doesn't have a dominant hitter. Still, they had 11 players hit double-figure homers last year. Rick Clontz is their most reliable table-setter (.365 OBP); unfortunately, he's a bit of a liability in CF. LF Gil Chang is probably the best power threat...he's capable of bettering last year's 22 HR's and 57 RBI. Look for SP P.T. Navarro to put it together at age 29. He's got Cy Young-caliber stuff, but other than a few flashes of brilliance in Season 13, has yet to harness it. Milton Starr is also capable of better numbers than he's put up in his first 5 years. If the Posse gets breakout seasons from those 2 plus decent performance from rookie Evans, their pitching could be vastly improved. Their bullpen is nothing special and could really use a late-inning stopper. Likely finish: ?
PORTLAND BAR & GRILLERS
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 13th, Team ERA - 8th, Fielding % - T 1oth
Sayonara: C William Katou, SS Fred Bailey
New Faces: RP Doug Brown, 1B Jin Lee, LF Roland Piatt, 3B Jung Cho, SP's Socks Cammack and Vance Scutaro
Rookie Possibilities: Season 12 IFA Desi Guillen (C) appears to have made the roster. A pair of 2B join him: Victor Miller, Season 13's overall #1, is up (perhaps a season early), as is Season 12's #1, Destin Sellers. CF Fernando Cordero (Season 11 2nd-rounder) also gets a shot. The staff gets a couple of fresh young faces in Butch Daniels (Season 11 supplemental pick) and Tyrone St. Clair (Season 10 supplemental) - both probably slated for long relief. AAA SP Augie Fujiwara (Season 11 IFA) could possibly help this season.
OUTLOOK: It's wholesale rookie promotion time in Portland. The 2 best ones, Miller and Sellers, are probably up a season early and are likely to struggle. The Grillers have a couple of emerging stars on offense (1B Brant Cooney and SS Frank Suzuki), one average-ish contributor (RF Miguel Camacho), and the rest of the offense is a pretty motley crew. The rotation is respectable - the addition of Vance Scutaro should help. Doug Brown should also be a big boost to the bullpen. Likely finish: ?
SAN DIEGO SURF BABIES
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 16th, Team ERA - 7th, Fielding % - T 14th
New Faces: 3B Midre Ordonez, RP Darren Gardner, SP Carlos Colon, RP Horacio Valdes
Rookie Possibilities: Rule V 1B Daniel Unroe seems to have won the 1B job, fellow Rule V'er Peter Lyon will see action at 2B, Juan Carrasco (Season 10 IFA) and Jimmie Ibanez (Season 12 IFA) will share time at short, and Pascual Castro (Season 11 2nd-rounder) and Livan Rivera (Season 10 IFA) will both see time in right. AAA RF Stan Burnett likely needs another year.
OUTLOOK: The Surf Babies need more punch on offense. DH Lewis Paquette lead the team with 15 homers last year, and there are no candidates to better that mark by much. LF Diego Coronado is capable of decent numbers, and Midre Ordonez ould be a welcome addition, but no other spots in the lineup inspire much confidence. Pitching's another story. Fernando Nieto, Mike Bass and Ernest LaRocca lead a capable rotation; new closer Darren Gardner joins Sal Speier at the top of an unglamorous but effective bullpen. Likely finish: ?
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 9th, Team ERA - 16th, Fielding % - 16th
Sayonara: SS Miguel Ordaz, RP Wolf Drew, RP Darwin Jones, RP Mariano Guerrero, SP Damian Wang, 1B Willie Magadan
New Faces: IF Ismael Lima, LR Jon Spence, RF York Wilson, SP Charles Matsumoto, C Lewis Bell
Rookie Possibilities: Mark Liverman (Season 11 supplemental pick) will get lots of AB's against righties, probably at 1B. AAA RF Ray Krause (Season 11's #1) is nearly ready. We're betting Season 12 #1 (6th overall), SP Ernest Terrell, is an early callup.
OUTLOOK: This team is going to score more runs, despite the move to a neutral ballpark. There's no way C Brad Anderson is going to OPS .647 again, and Lewis Bell wil help against lefties. Leonardo Hardy and Carlos Escuela are 2 of the best young offensive infielders around. Jose Vargas and Alex Paniagua are still dangerous. The question is whether the staff can rebound from last year's disaster. The rotation, starting with Matsumoto, should be better. The other 4 are almost certain to improve on their ERA's from last year (in the 5's, 6's and 7's). The 'pen's nothing special but I would expect most of them to better last year's numbers (especially Johnny Wood and his 9.42 from a year ago). Likely finish: ?