Season 15 Recap: Salem improved by a whopping 43 games (to 87) to win the division, got past Nashville in the first round of the playoffs, and lost to eventual AL Champ Jackson in the second round. The other teams were in various stages of rebuilding.
SALEM features a potent power attack (861 runs last season), with 8 players capable of launching 20+ HR's (which they did last year). They got some defensive help with Daniel McDowell and added another bat in Vinny Ma in free agency, but they'll need some pitching help to get further in the playoffs. Season 12's first-rounder, Ernest Terrell, might help but will at least start the season in AAA.
PORTLAND made a big free-agency splash, signing 7-time All-Star C Pat Ramirez and SP's Derek Betemit and Jimmy Martin. They join a very young team led by 1B Brant Cooney (27) and SS Frank Suzuki (24). This team should see some improvement in both their hitting and pitching stats - don't know if it's enough to make up the 20 games Salem beat 'em by last year, but they should close the gap some.
BOISE had a couple of significant FA signings in Matty Marrero and Midre Ordonez. They join rookies Lon Comer (1B), Hugh Rivera (SS) and Reid Finley (RP) to give the Posse a pretty different look this year. Boise had a 5.13 Team ERA last year but is capable of much better. P.T. Navarro and Milton Starr can both put up much better numbers than they have in recent years; who knows if this is their year?
SAN DIEGO's major off-season changes were the loss of their best hitter, Diego Coronado, and the signing of old pro Kyle Bradshaw. Coronado's spot will be filled by 2nd-year 1B Daniel Unroe; Bradshaw joins an otherwise young rotation on a 1-year deal. A trio of rookies gets the call this season: Jimmie Ibanez (Season 12 IFA) will start in CF, Stan Burnett (Season #10 overall) opens in right and Miguel Mercado (Season 10 IFA) joins the rotation. The Surf Babies are starting to get some nice pieces in place.
1. A tight, 3-way race with Salem pulling it out
2. Boise's pitching comes around enough for a 2nd-place finish
3. Watch for Boise's Hugh Rivera in the ROY race