My Take: The Razorbacks dominated the South last season and look to continue their run in Season 11. They went 22-8 in the division and 31-21 in one run games. Not sure those gaudy numbers will be repeated, but they are still the heavy favorites to win the division. Jackson, New Orleans, and Nashville will be fighting for second place in the division, but will have an uphill climb to grab a wild card spot because the AL is so loaded. Nashville had the worst record in NCAA and can't repeat the 100 loss season or Nashville fans will demand new management. They were very aggressive in free agency and add a good amount of talent to the squad. I think that the South only sends the division winner to the playoffs this season so the pressure is on from the first pitch!
1. Little Rock Razorbacks
2. New Orleans Bayou Bengals
3. Nashville Commodores
4. Jackson Rebels
Little Rock Razorbacks
Key Players Added: Added James Lee to replace Lawrence Turner in CF. Added Stuffy Sabathia whom will most likely start in RF. Added Mark Mathews who will start at 3B. Added Chico Duran and Tommy Hansen for depth
Key Players Lost: 1B/DH Michael Maddux, CF Lawrence Turner, C Sergio Martin, RP Jerome Leonard, RP Pepe Lee
Key Transactions: Acquired CF James Lee, C Chico Duran, RP Tommy Hansen via Trade. Acquired 3B Mark Mathews, RF/1B Stuffy Sabathia via Free-Agency.
Rookies: As of right now, you're probably only going to see 2 rookies at the major league level this year. The first is RP Billy North. Billy has had good success in the minors and at the age of 24, he's ready to make the jump to the big league club. He'll most likely start the season as a setup B type pitcher. The other and more noticeable rookie that will most likely make the big league club this season is 3rd overall pick from the season 8 draft Bill Perez. Owner miggyt4 will most likely wait until the 2nd month of the season to bring Perez up to save an option year, however once he's at the ML level, he won't be going back to the minors. Perez has dominated the minors posting a 2.45 ERA with 225 Ks over 190.2 innings. The only issue that owner miggyt4 has right now is whether Perez is developed enough to make the jump. The other question is when does he take over the role as closer? I'm sure Cairo will be on a short leash considering the talent Perez has.
Outlook: After 9 straight seasons, someone other than the current Nashville franchise won the AL South. That team was the Razorbacks. The biggest concern that owner miggyt4 has for this season is if he has enough pitching to compete in the very tough AL. Clinton Carr will definitely need to return to his 18 game winner form and Red Lofton and Anthony Jenkins need to continue with the form they showed last year winning a combined 23 games. The season may depend on the arms of Clyde Jodie and Morris Morgan. Jodie won a team high 15 games last season however it will be interesting to see if he keeps that form or returns to the sub-500 level he showed in seasons 8 and 9. Morris Morgan won a team high 10 games in Season 9 however he struggled a bit in season 10 and was demoted to the bullpen. With the depature of Mel Reed, Morgan is now the #5 starter. On Offense, owner miggyt4 went out and signed 2 more offensive players to add to an offense that looks to be very strong. They lose 1B/DH Michael Maddux who was tied for 2nd on the team last year with 33 HRs and led the team with 109 RBIs. However, the Razorbacks acquired Stuffy Sabathia who hit .273 last season with a OBP of .348, 42 SBs, 15 HRs and 80 RBIs. Stuffy can do a little bit of everything at the plate and on the bases and the Razorbacks are very happy to have him in the lineup. Also, they added Mark Matthews who hit .265 last season with 20 HRs and 75 RBIs. Due to this acquistion, last years starting 3B Anthony Lombard will move back to SS and Matthews will start at 3B. This moves last years starting SS Davey Sojo into a utility player role which he is more suited for. The Razorbacks also added CF James Lee to replace Lawrence Turner in CF. Lee is an upgrade defensively and will provide the same amount of offense that Turner produced last season. Finally, the Razorbacks added C Chico Duran to the roster. Chico will start at DH most of the time and provide rest to starting catcher Welington Calderone. Chico hit .279 last season with 20 HRs and 60 RBIs to go along with a .345 OBP.
The question is whether the Razorbacks did enough offensively to counter act a pitching staff that does not appear to be as strong as last years. Owner miggyt4 says once Perez arrives, I feel our staff will be even stronger than last years. You've heard of the Big Red Machine, well they're not calling us Little Rock anymore, we're Big Rock!
New Orleans Bayou Bengals
Lost free agents RP Juan Almanza, C Willie Alvarez
key additions: none
looking for continued improvement from several starters now in the prime of their careers - 1B Carlos Molina, 3B Josh Foulke, 2B Jolbert Lopez, SS Carlos Gonzalez, as well as from starting pitchers Julio Lira, Francisco Bournigal and relievers Julio Rincon and Bart Pellow.
Outlook: season goal is to win 88 games or more and qualify either through winning the division or wild card.
Key Players added: Octavio Moreno, signed as a free agent, should be a solid back-up for the corner OF spots and 1B..and be a suitable bat off the bench.
Key Players lost: Released 1B Micah MItchell (leading HR and RBI man from last season), Mendy Sasaki and P Jeff Donovan (his inconsistencies cost him a spot on my roster).
Rookies expected to contribute: Where to begin...SP Marc Westmoreland should help solidify the starting rotation..he has had a history of starting slow, but gets stronger as the season progresses. DH Andres Martinez will add some much needed power to the line-up as he will fill the cleanup spot nicely. C Doug Beckett will take over the pitch calling duties and staff managament, although he can't hit righties, his other attributes should override that weakness. Rick Daly will fit in nicely as he takes over for Mitchell at first base..solid offense numbers.
Outlook: Disappointed with last year's W-L record..starting off slow didn't help things at all. Trying to get younger with the pitching staff and Westmoreland is a start. I'm expecting the offense to be production, with Torey Vallarta remaining as the team leader and anchor. All in all, the Rebels will probably experience some growing pains as I will have four rookies in the line-up. Once again looking at a .500 season..next season should be a little different as there will be a Rebel uprising.