Season 14 Recap: Austin took the division pretty handily with 102 wins. Mexico City won 86 but missed the playoffs for the first time since Season 7. El Paso regressed to 69 wins, and Memphis committed to rebuilding after the end of the Charleston dynasty. In the playoffs, Austin lost in the second round to Syracuse. The South won no major awards last season.
AUSTIN UNHINGED CHALOUPAS
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 3rd, Team ERA - 4th, Fielding % - T 4th
New Faces: SP Magglio Nunez (via trade)
Rookie Possibilities: none
OUTLOOK: Regarded as an up-and-coming team last year, the pitching staff has totally collapsed to start this year, casting doubt on that assessment. The team ERA is up almost 2 runs a game from last year, with only Jesus Javier and Woody Blair pitching effectively. The offense is adequate, with Pat Ramirez hitting .425 and 3 bench players (Lindsey, Bottalico, Corder) over .400. It's not too late for a turnaround, but the pitching better show signs of life fast. Likely finish: 2nd
MEXICO CITY DESPERADOES
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 3rd, Team ERA - 4th, Fielding % - T 10th
Sayonara: CF Charles Perez, RP Martin Taylor, SP Cory Mitchell
New Faces: RF Gary Goodwin, CF Wally Reid
Rookie Possibilities: Season 11 1st-rounder Greg Mercedes has landed a short relief job.
OUTLOOK: The Desperadoes sport a new slugging look on offense, with big-name FA's Gary Goodwin and Wally Reid moving into the outfield. That should improve the fortunes of 2 of the best starters in the NL, Pedro Encarnacion and Luis Redondo. So far, though, the good start is due to a rather unheralded bullpen - Thurman, Mercedes, Itou and Manto all have sub - 2.60 ERA's , leading to a 7-2 record in 1-run games. Likely finish: 1st
EL PASO KARN EVIL 9
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 16th, Team ERA - 7th, Fielding % - T 1st
Sayonara: RF Harry Rodrigo, RP Alex Diaz, SS Lefty Schwartz
New Faces: RP Dutch Pavano, LF Matt Wallace, C Marlon Linden, LR Darren Gibson
Rookie Possibilities: Season 10 2nd-rounder Benito Leon is starting at 2B. Season 12 1st-rounder (#3 overall) Kenneth Scoroposki got the call at Game 24 and has taken over in LF, as has his Season 11 counterpart (#3 overall), Graham Black in CF. Billy Kinney, a 3rd-rounder from Season 10, is getting a rotation shot.
OUTLOOK: The story of the NL so far is El Paso's pitching. Midre Jose and Alex Russell both have 2 complete games already and Vince Cross has been solid. The bullpen doesn't look real imposing but has been especially effective (5 relievers under 3.00 ERA). They've also been the hard-luck team of the league so far - 5 games under .500 with a positive run differential (140-134). Wallace and Scoroposki have been much-needed boosts to the offense. It's early, but I like what they've done...they'll challenge for 2nd. Likely finish: 3rd
Season 14 Rankings: Runs - 12th, Team ERA - 16th, Fielding % - T 7th
Sayonara: 2B Sammy Reyes
New Faces: SP Felix Woodward, RF Eduardo Guillen, SP Brian Nakajima, SP Barry Carew
Rookie Possibilities: Season 14 supplemental pick Lonnie Capps is learning SS on the job. 8th-rounder Dave Holtz has the 5th starter job, at least temporarily. Barney Wallace, Joe White and Tim Edwards have landed bullpen roles.
OUTLOOK: Woodward is helping, and Nakajima will, sooner or later. But there are just too many holes top to bottom for Memphis to contend this year. Their offense is last in the league...this is basically still a rebuilding year. Something tells me they signed Woodward and Nakajima just to trade them for prospects at midseason...both a fairly short (3 year) contracts and neigher has a no-trade clause.
Likely finish: 4th