Jackson Black Bears
PREVIEW: In the off-season Olemiss let Mateo go to free agency and traded away MacFarlane, Suarez and Cabeza. He traded for Butler and Dillon , and picked up Castillo in the R-5 draft. The pickup of Butler ( who I tried to trade for) will make a very good bullpen great. It was a pricey pick-up,but after Suarez got injured last year, he was tradeable. Dillon was brought in to shore up the catching corps, and he does have 3 rings with Burlington, so he's no slouch. The Black Bears are the team to beat in Wrigleyville. They will get competition from the others in this division but should win it. The World Series is another story...... Anything can happen in the post season.I would be surprised if they didn't play in the Series again. PREDICTION:103-59(N L Champ)
AT THE BREAK: It looks as if the Black Bears have their sights on another World Series appearance. They are on track to win 116 games and a first round bye in the playoffs. Like most of the good teams ,Olemiss relies on great pitching . The pitching staff is the best in the N L in ERA (3.05) , WHIP (1.14),runs allowed (307 and home runs allowed (88). Throw in a decent defense (60 errors,34+ plays to 7 - plays) and a offense that relies on the homer (149 -1st). And well, you get a very good team. The only way to beat this team is put some runs on that stout pitching staff. That is a tall order.
Austin City Limits
PREVIEW: In the off-season Wylie let Dodd and Lee go to free agency. Then he picked up Espinoza in the R-5 draft. This is the same good young team with another year of experience. They will battle for the division crown and will need Jackson to stumble in order to win it. Wylie's warriors should make the playoffs and are dangerous with very good pitching.PREDICTION:96-66(Wild Card)
AT THE BREAK: What in the wild,wild sports is a going on with the City Limits?? Right now they are on track to win only 82 games. That's not gonna get them the wild card spot I predicted. You can't blame the defense. They have been great with only 47 errors (3rd best) with 46+ plays to 9- plays. You would think the pitching (4.64 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) would be better than average with defensive numbers like that. The hitting has been sub-par with 675 strikeouts (3rd worst) and .317 OBP (3rd worst). If Wylie can get more guys on base, maybe this team could still make the playoffs. It's still possible.
Tampa Bay Rays
PREVIEW: In the Off-season Svick let Mieses, Prieto, Medrano, Guerrero, Cordova, Hamilton, Cunnane and Manzaillo go to free agency. Then he released Pena, Wainhouse, Desmond, Sanchez and waived Flores. He traded away Gibbons, Aguilar, Padilla, Butler, Rios, Gutherie and Tabaka . Phew!! Man that's burning down the house with a flame thrower. When the embers cooled Svick claimed Gonzales, Swindell and Waters off the waiver wire. Then signed free agents Espinosa, Cortez, Sanders, Towers and promoted Moore, Lombardi, Miller, Cruz, Ozuna and Soler. He picked-up Washington and Culver in the R-5 and one of the earlier trades brought in Suarez. Forget last year stats, all of last years players are gone and replaced with waiver claims, R-5's , low level free agents and young prospects from the minors.This is a house gutting and re-build plain and simple. Svick slashed 50 million in contracts and has 30 million in player cap space.While picking up prospects and getting younger. He may transfer money and pick up some tasty IFA's . Or if his team does well early, pick up some high dollar waiver wire cast-offs. I had to go to the Magic 8-ball for my prediction. PREDICTION: 68-94
AT THE BREAK: The Rays are in a re-build so 42 wins at the break is not to bad. Not really gonna list the stats but I will highlight the prospects picked up this year. Svick hasn't picked up any Bluechip IFA's but he has signed Kenta Nakamura and Yusmeiro Ayala and they may be used as trade sweeteners.In the draft he picked up Joaquin Palmeiro in the first round. He will be a good player if he stays healthy. Svick still has 30 million in surplus player cash he can transfer to prospects if a bluechip IFA shows up.
PREVIEW: In the off-season Wish let Martin go to free agency. Then he signed free agent Delahanty to fill out his roster. The Juggernauts game is pitching and defense . If they can score enough runs Jacksonville may make the playoffs. Having to battle 2 tough teams in their division doesn't help. For that reason, I'm inclined to believe this team will miss the playoffs.PREDICTION:81-81
AT THE BREAK: I must of been drinking when I predicted a 81 win season for the Juggernauts. Right now they are on pace to win 68. What went so horribly wrong? The team is one of the youngest teams in the N L (average 26.6 years old) and this may be one reason they are inconsistent. If I could pick out one thing it would be the hitting . Too many strikeouts (663-4th worst) and not enough runs scored (414-5th fewest). I don't see Jacksonville recovering from this poor season. But they will be a good team soon. The young big leaguers will improve and he has some talent in the farm system. This year they are more Naught than Jugger.