Season 14 Recap: Oakland won the division by 17 games en route to its 2nd WS Championship (first was in Season 4). Las Vegas improved by 6 wins (to 96), but lost in the division play-in round. San Jose improved by 4 games, while Fresno took a step back by 9 games. Vegas' John Li won the NL MVP, while Oakland's Gary Ramsay took the Cy Young.
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 2nd, Team ERA - 1st, Fielding % - T 1st
Sayonara: RP's Joe Hodges, Patsy White, Russell Forest; SP Kyle Bradshaw, OF Vinny Zhang
New Faces: RP's Nipsey Parnell, Tike Porter, Orlando Pujols; OF/1B Rafael Machado, 3B Frank Nicholson, IF Mitch Hall
Rookie Possibilities: RP's Brad Matusz (Season 12 #1 pick) and Geronimo Guzman (Rule 5) could make the roster. AAA C Alex Martin (Season 12 IFA) could contribute but there's no room for him.
OUTLOOK: Zhang will be missed, but the offensive nucleus is intact: RF Joe Rivera, LF Wilfredo Feliz, 1B Erubiel Maduro, C J.T. Burns, and SS William Kwon all OPS'd above .840 last year. The Surenos' repeat chances probably hinge on the fortunes of the 2-5 starters: Bailey Rolls, Jumbo Vargas, and Brad Matusz were all excellent last season (all had ERA's of 3.02 or less) and will need to repeat those preformances. They'll likely be good enough. Likely finish: 1st
LAS VEGAS 69ers
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 5th, Team ERA -3rd, Fielding % - 12th
Sayonara: RP Eric Riley, OF Nerio Johnstone, LF John Li
New Faces: none
Rookie Possibilities: Junior Torres got a cup of coffee last season and joins an already-excellent bullpen. They have a pair of starters in AAA who might help this season: Season 12 IFA Luis Cortes and Season 10 #1 pick (28 overall) Damon Ramsey.
OUTLOOK: Li was far and away their top run producer - no making up for that loss without a major trade. Catchers Brendan Keeler and Bill Wengert both hit over .300 - is one of them trade bait for a slugging OF or 1B? This would be a very good time for a comeback by RF Hughie Bruskie - his HR's fell to 16 last year (from 33, 48, and 36 his first 3 years). Vegas' pitching was A+ last year and there's no reason to expect a falloff. Their starting 5 (Yamamoto, Jensen, Santiago, Maxwell and Miyakazi) all had sub 3.50 ERA's, and closer Juan Gomez (94 saves in the last 2 seasons) could be the best in the biz. Likely finish: 2nd (and could make it closer if they can add a 100-RBI bat)
SAN JOSE BAD NEWS BEES II
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 13th, Team ERA - 10th, Fielding % - T 7th
Sayonara: SP Alex Cruz, RF York Wilson, 2B Tim Murray
New Faces: CF Charles Perez, IF Brad Hart,
Rookie Possibilities: Mickey Maxwell (Season 7 2nd-rounder) takes over at 1B, Davey Santayana (Season 10 1st-rounder) gets a shot in RF, and Rule Fiver Reid Rey gets the call in the bullpen. AAA SP Jon Cosby (Season 11 1st-round pick) could possibly help this season.
OUTLOOK: The Bees need to score some more runs - between the free agent signings, the rookies, and the likelihood of a bounce-back season from C Derek Walker, they have a shot. They had some great pitching performances last year - swingman Albert Ortiz (5 wins, 5 saves, 2.42), closer Adam Lieber (24-of-29 saves, 2.47), SP Craig Hague (5 wins, 2.87 ERA despite suffering another injury), and SP Carl Benson (9 wins, 3.08) stand out. A nice improvement is possible but there are a lot of "if's". Likely finish: 3rd
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 14th, Team ERA - 11th, Fielding % - T 1st
Sayonara: 1B Hanley Woods, RP Dwight Long,
New Faces: RF Juan Rivera
Rookie Possibilities: Rule 5'er Edgardo Vazquez looks like he's nailed down one of the starting infield jobs. Season 12 2st-rounder (#4 overall), LF Phillip Cooke, will probably get the call early and is a likely ROY candidate. Season 11 #1 (also 4 overall), SP Kennie Frascatore, has one of the livest arms in Belle and is ML-ready. He's also a likely ROY candidate. AAA RP's Chris Joyce and Magglio Uribe, are more marginal prospects but could be pushed into ML duty.
OUTLOOK: Things are looking up in Fresno with the arrival of high first rounders Phillip Cooke and Kennie Frascatore. Both are exceptional prospects - both could contend for ROY. They join a core group of young vets (C Jacob Nomura, LF Ernest Farr, and RF David Whitehead) that could lead the Grizzlies into contention...maybe soon, but not now. They still have too much work to do on the staff, although if they can coax a decent year out of Terry Pote, they could challenge San Jose for third. Likely finish: 4th