2020 Preview: Metro League East

ADMIRALS REMAIN IN COMMAND

The Admirals are expected to dominate the ML East again

(GAME DATE — April 1, 2020) — It is expected to be another dominant year for the St. Petersburg Admirals in the Metro League East division, with an anticipated 92 wins and projected 244 home runs and 1212 pitcher strikeouts putting them favorably ahead of almost all of their competition.

The Norfolk Sharks could slide into second place with 82 wins, barely above .500, according to the same predictions. Despite making serious inroads to improve during the offseason the Dallas Deputies, along with the Miami Storm and the Washington Freedom (formerly Philly Liberty Warriors) are not expected to break 80 wins.

For the Admirals, they will have a full and complete starting staff that includes two of the best international free agents ever to hit the market, 2017’s Jose Soto, who has won the Sandy Koufax Award every year he has pitched in the Bull League – three consecutive years running, and Taiwan’s Young-lau Weng, from 2019’s crop. The 28-year-old Weng impressed with his longevity last season, making 35 starts and pitching 241 innings. Though his 13-14 record didn’t knock anyone’s socks off, Weng was a reliable and steady rookie who played like a veteran.

Jose Ramirez (13-9, 4.23), Harry Ferguson (19-6, 4.12) and replacement Jerry Long will round out the starting five. Long will hold down the 5th spot until Dusty Hertz makes a return from the disabled list, where he was sent with shoulder tendinitis on leap day, February 29, his first spring start.

The very talented championship level lineup is still intact from 2019 as well. An outfield anchored by Katai Kitigawa  and accompanied by Danny Huertero and Eppe Dijkstra should lock down one tough defensive and offensive block. Kitigawa is injured, shifting Dijkstra to his spot for the next 2 weeks, and bringing utility OF Howard Baker into the mix, but even Baker can hit (he was .273 last year).

The all-star infield of Chris Pratt, Julio Rangel, Omar Medina and Israel Medina (no relation), and Alex Viramontes as DH, will be more than adequate to ensure success this year. Switch hitting Bill Clark, a .300-plus hitter, will maintain the platter and call the pitches. The addition of former Chicago reliever Kevin Krohn to the bullpen as a likely closer will only better what was already a great relief staff.

Nothing really stands in the way of the Admirals flirting with 100-wins again (they finished with 99 last year), and so the prediction of 92 could be a low ball estimate for the 2019 Bull Cup champions.

The Norfolk Sharks were supposed to have a good year in 2019, and faltered along the way. They have some great talent in Earl MacPherson, Danny Sanchez, and Mike Scalfani, but no real improvements in what was a drab pitching corps. Their predicted 82 wins could be somewhat optimistic.

The interesting race will be between Washington, Miami and Dallas. The predictions have the Deputies crashing into a 72 win season, and they are currently without most of their coaching staff throughout their entire system, a curious way for GM and manager Andrew Warren to start the season, suggesting that the league’s #1 minor league system does not feel any need to continue to develop its talent. Their 25-man roster has not yet been announced, but expect to see RF Francisco Villareal in the lineup again, along with rookie John Heart, who potentially could be an impact player.

The Dallas rotation includes former Ohio and New York righty A.C. Deucey, along with the talented Frits Ritmeester, and relievers Danny Gutierrez and Raul Acevedo will provide very solid bullpen support.

If Dallas does rise out of the basement, they will contend with a very talented Miami Storm roster that includes many all-star bats, such as Xavier de Soto, who frequently flirts with the league batting title, Ricky Jalapeno, and 40+ home run hitter Andy Laboy. Kyle Cahill and Nate Noftle are reliable 1-2 men in the rotation, though the pitching talent drops off considerably after them, and into the late innings.

Washington picked up Jesse Nelson in free agency, but lost buckets of talent, both at the plate and at the mound. A 78-win season seems optimistic. Aside from veteran starter Mario Morales, and two batters, Glen Reese and Javier Chavarria as DH, they are short on run production.

Lock in the Admirals for the division title, but leave a big question mark as to whether any of the rest will be able to find a wild card spot in the face of the more talented teams in the Metro League West division.

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