Season 14 Recap: Syracuse took the division for the 6th straight year, but Sioux Falls jumped into contention with a 25-win improvement (to 101). Ottawa got over .500 for the 2nd straight year; Trenton entered rebuilding mode in earnest. The Stoned Presidents' SS, Jim Olson, took ROY honors, while Saltine Warriors closer P.T. Lincoln nabbed FOY. Sioux Falls had Oakland down 2-0 in the Division Playoff Round, but lost 3-2; Syracuse advanced to the LCS and lost to Oakland 4-1.
SYRACUSE SALTINE WARRIORS
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 6th, Team ERA - 2nd, Fielding % - t 7th
Sayonara: P's Brian Nakajima, Felix Woodward, Diego Martinez, Hector Martin; IF Thomas Montero.
New Faces: FA P's Alex Cruz, Alex Torres
Rookie Possibilities: RF Vic Andrus and RP Carl Hume could possibly contribute.
OUTLOOK: Free agency hit Syracuse as hard as anyone, especially in the pitching arena. They'll likely struggle in that department, but they have a knack for rehabbing SP's obtained in midseason trades (see Ruben James and Norm Rose). The offense, lead by 1B Marquis Seo (.347/24/98) and LF Alberto Pinzon (.322/18/95), is intact and should be comparable to last season's. Likely finish: 2nd
SIOUX FALLS STONED PRESIDENTS
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 1st, Team ERA - 8th, Fielding % - t 4th
Sayonara: SP Tyrone Broome, 3B Jung Cho
New Faces: SP Frank Huff (trade with Burlington)
Rookie Possibilities: not exactly a rookie, but Marty Daly spent last year in AAA after coming over from Austin. He could win the 1B job, with Jimmie Stokes moving to the OF and Felix Koh becoming a utility player.
OUTLOOK: Excellent. They scored 865 runs last year and should be around that level this season. SS Olson (.290/34/131) leads an attack that had 5 players with 98+ RBI. Ironman Huff becomes the #1 starter and could easily win 20 with this lineup behind him. Likely finish: 1st
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 4th, Team ERA - 5th, Fielding % -13th
Sayonara: P's Humberto Urbina, John Spence, Luis Romano, Nipsey Parnell; SS Darrell Sellers
New Faces: FA RP Shane Sirotka
Rookie Possibilities: Season 11 IFA Julio Santana is set to join the rotation. Season 12 1st-rounder, 2B/OF Rolando Terrero, could use a year in AAA, but could probably hold his own in the majors now. SS Ariel Johnson, a Season 10 IFA, won't hit much but could be a late-inning defensive specialist. Clay Merrit, Season 12's #2 overall, will likely debut next season.
OUTLOOK: Young team, still improving. 2B Brandon O'Halloran (.319/20/119) and RF Ray Henley (.262/23/86 after coming over from Nashville in a trade) are the sluggers, while CF Chip Cromer (.400 OBP, 43 SB) and SS Cesar Liriano (.376 OBP, 33 SB) set the table for a balanced offense. 3 very good SP's (Arias, DeJean and DeJesus) - all 27 or under - and #'s 4 and 5 are adequate. The bullpen and team defense remain glaring weaknesses...if they could address those issues I think they could push Syracuse for 2nd. Likely finish: 3rd
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 15th, Team ERA - 12th, Fielding % -15th
Sayonara: SS Amp Hall, SP Magglio Nunuez (trade)
New Faces: none from FA or trade
Rookie Possibilities: Season 12 IFA Miguel Puente will be the starter at 3B, Season 10 IFA Harry Viriato gets a shot at the rotation
OUTLOOK: It's not turned around yet but the right moves are happening. They got a pair of nice prospects for Magglio Nunez, have the 7th pick in the draft, and should be able to compete in the international market. They'll be marginally competent with the current cast of mostly-budget major leaguers, but give 'em a couple of seasons to compete with the rest of the North. Likely finish: 4th