Spring Training has come to an end, and we give you some quick hits on the 20 Bull League teams as they pare down their rosters and prep for Opening Day:
Anchorage Aces (AEL West)
- Lost OSA top-ranked CF Ricky Jalapeno (2016: .324, 63 RBI) to an injury earlier during spring training, opening an offensive gap in their otherwise strong lineup. Katai ‘Two Dogs’ Kitigawa is a likely replacement, was hitting .429 over spring.
- Takeo Otomo, single-season HR record holder (with 41), features in lineup, but much of the pitching comes off as mediocre, with a rotation headed by Dusty Hertz (2016: 6-7, 4.27). Aces still one of the strongest teams in division following a 1st place finish last season (as the San Diego Seagulls).
Arizona Cowboys (AEL West)
- Top billed starter Nick Seer is day-to-day, and big batting LF Koji Kondo struggling with an injury as well, won’t return until late May.
- One of the best minor league systems in the league, look for top prospects Alex Orellana (#2 OSA ranked) and Robby McWeeney (#8 OSA ranked) to make the roster on May 14 to help lock down weaknesses in the pitching
Battle Creek Attack (LL West)
- Desperate to move out of the LL West basement this season, but they need their offense to really shine against a tough division. Former Arizona 3B Ramon Gomez (2016: .263, 13 HR, 48 RBI) may not be able to do it all himself.
- Former strikeout artist Niek Rodriguez now 37 years old, had a sharply disappointing 2016, is hoping to find his groove again out of the bullpen. Team still struggling with weak starting pitching and lacklustre offense.
Boston Brawlers (LL East)
- A solid team but in the toughest division in the Bull League, will rely on big bats like Bruce Aberto (2016: .336, 18 HR) and Guido Groeneveld (2016: .292, 16 HR) as well as Narushi Ohata.
- No clear solid starters emerged during spring as team went a soft 17-16 through 33 preseason games, and the rotation will likely wind up weak for this division
Calgary Inferno (AEL East)
- The 2016 AEL Champions look like an offensive beast, led by Cody Martin (2016: .301, 26 HR) and 2016 MVP Dao-zi Ling (2016: .339, 25 HR), and will likely be the team to beat in this division once again.
- Have great starters and bullpen, decent young prospects in their system, and have the momentum of their lengthy playoff streak and 2015 Bull Cup win to drive them forward
California Tidals (AEL West)
- Starting the season injury-free, and only two years removed from the playoffs with a lot of great ingredients in their lineup, like Jim ‘Mister’ Lahey at 1B (2016: .278, 24 HR) and one of the top budgets in baseball.
Chicago Pit Bulls (LL West)
- Missed playoffs last year by only a few wins for a wild card entry. Offensively, they have some tools to produce, but really shine on the mound and could end up with one of the lowest team ERA’s.
Dallas Deputies (AEL East)
- Rumored to be chasing a big free agent pitcher signing, Jose Soto, their starting rotation needs all the help it can get. But, one of the strongest bullpens in the AEL now with Nate Weil and now with Jon Courteau, signed from San Diego in the off-season.
Denver Danger (AEL East)
- Will once again lean on LF Glen Reese (2016: .357, 18 HR, 13 SB) and Javier Chavarria (2016: .255, 18 HR) to produce offensively while veterans Rich Ojeda (2016: 7-3, 3.20, 138 K) and closer Nick MacLellan (2016: 0-2, 12 SV, 3.27) who signed as a free agent after two good seasons with Chicago, will lead the pitching effort.
- Strong playoff history, having made it in for the past 4 seasons, and 2016 was their best season ever, at 48-34 (.585).
Detroit Motorheads (LL East)
- Newly-minted Detroit (formerly the Chicoutimi Cinquantes) will stay put in LL East until the end of 2017.
- Had a great spring training, going 19-14 (.576) despite no clear big stars on the roster, except for perhaps Ger Vaartjes, who was picked up in a free agent signing after he left San Diego, but they have the #1 OSA prospect CF Dennis Guppy who could be ready for a taste of the big leagues by the end of 2017
Jacksonville Ravens (AEL East)
- One of the best pitching staffs in baseball, with the double-team of Ricky and Angelo Rodriguez as 1-2 starters and 26-saves Nate Kremer to close, they will be tough to score on, as demonstrated by a solid Bull League-best 21-12 (.636) spring training stint.
Kingston Cannons (LL East)
- Two-time MVP and certain future Hall-of-Famer 2B Francisco Erazo captains this lineup, which also includes Xavier de Soto, but some glaring defensive and offensive gaps remain behind the plate, and in the outfield.
- Veteran starter Ron Alder heads a respectable rotation on a team that will eat away at division giants Montreal and New York
Montreal Metros (LL East)
- Last year’s most dominant team is largely intact this year, minus a couple of pieces. The addition of Judson Martel (2016: 11-3, 2.98, 158 K) in a free agent signing after leaving Boston, should make up for the loss of Rod Matos (2016: 11-1, 2.99, 99 K) to free agency. Matos went to Calgary, and so shouldn’t hurt Montreal that way either.
- Top OSA-ranked lineup, with every player ranked #2 or #3 by the OSA except for Robert Araica at RF (ranked #4) and the catcher and 1B positions ranked in the bottom 10. Not encumbered by injuries, they look to make a very strong start.
Nevada Speeders (AEL West)
- Struggling pitching staff, aside from bright spot reliever Mitchell Nichols, 21-save workhorse who appeared in 41 games last year to lead the AEL and crafted a 1.94 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.
- Some great prospects in the chute, Jim Koch (#3 OSA ranked) had a great year at A-level last year (6-0, 2.91), but faltered in AA-level. Rubem Vinga may anchor a future all-star infield but is still 2 seasons away from getting there
New York Dragons (LL East)
- New-look New York has plenty of great pieces in the lineup but may not be enough to stem Montreal’s dominance. Look to CF Tony Cruz and 1B Setsuo Kimura to drive offense while Jose Castaneda and William Febres make life hard for Lake League hitters
- Prospect list full of great future all-star pitchers, but weak on hitting
Norfolk Sharks (AEL East)
- Hard-luck Sharks have suffered in past seasons from anemic offense and absent pitching, but showed signs of promise during spring training.
- Veteran top OSA-ranked SS Danny Sanchez is joined by former New York veteran 2B Miguel Ortega, and Jacksonville’s Rick Baggywrinkle at 1B, in a potentially powerful infield, but in Jacksonville’s division they will face tough pitching they may not be able to solve
Ohio Oxen (LL West)
- Last year’s Bull Cup champs looked soft during Spring Training, and may not have solved their pitching woes. But there should be plenty of hits and homers from last year’s ROTY Ollie Oxenfree (2016: .268, 27 HR, 62 RBI), Tyrone O’Saurus behind the plate, and Garth Goyle at 1B. They added Chicoutimi’s Justin Good at 2B, who hit .301 and knocked in 11 HR last season, which will help.
- No serious pitching prospects in their system, they are relying on getting solid outings from A.C. Deucey and Heath Smokem along with others, and added Marty Melvins (2016: 4-1, 0.69, 1.04 WHIP) who left Jacksonville for more money and could be a brutal shut-down man for the Oxen’s bullpen.
Rimouski Fighting Moose (LL West)
- Will spend 2017 in LL West before moving to LL East, in the Chicoutimi/Detroit-Hamilton/Rimouski swap that took place over spring.
- Bright spots include 3B Alan Isimo and LF Masamune Yamada, but pitching is just mediocre. However, that could be enough in Lake League to put them in a playoff spot after missing the postseason in 2016, they had made it the previous 2 seasons as Hamilton Crusaders.
Seattle Salts (AEL West)
- Perhaps the second best pitching staff in AEL, just missed the wildcard last season, after successive playoff appearances in 2014 and 2015
- Capable infield, but very weak outfeld – the good news is they are developing solid OF prospects like Allen Kennedy (#18 OSA ranked) and Bill Covey (#30 OSA ranked).
Toronto Nomads (LL West)
- Highest paid pitcher in baseball, Alex Medina, slotted #2 after 2015 ROTY Knuckles Malone, for a promising rotation to lead a team that has in recent years suffered from a lack of offense, which now features a maturing Victor Sarmiento at RF and Gula Kareem behind the plate.
- Possibly an all-star assortment coming through minor system, though time will tell. At the very least should finish above 4th place, their frequent neighborhood in recent seasons.