(Game date: 8 Apr. 2019) — The 2019 regular season has kicked off, and a week into it some strong contenders are emerging, with some surprising results!
While some of last season’s playoff teams are once again looking solid, three unexpected teams have come out strong this season: New York, Milwaukee, and California.
New York Dragons: The Dragons are currently 5-3 in the Lake League East, just two steps behind the Pittsburgh Iron Pigs (formerly the Rimouski Fighting Moose).
The team has been on the decline since their last playoff appearance in 2016, but this year they have been benefiting from Ohio’s drive to rebuild, gaining Justin Good, A.C. Deucey and Alec Tricity in trades with the Oxen.
Critics might point to their relatively softball start, they opened against the Chicago Pit Bulls with a pair of wins to sweep, then took a 4-game set against Detroit, 3-1. The Dragons outscored the Pit Bulls 18-2 in the opening series, and while Chicago may still be a weak opponent, that kind of scoring only happens when a team has great offensive potential.
The Hops then swept Boston to recover, and are looking strong at the top of the West Division with a 6-3 record. The team does not look vastly different from last year, but 2018 Rookie of the Year, Les Groves, is already putting up big numbers, with a pair of homers, and and 7 runs scored.
The offense may not be sustainable, and their starters have struggled to hold off runs in early innings, but for right now the Hops have the West division opponents sitting up and taking notice.
California Tidals: The Tidals were busy in the offseason making acquisitions, picking up second baseman Peyton May, and former Rimouski slugger Dao-zi Ling as part of an offensive revamp. They added high profile international free agent Hiroki Omiya,
The bullpen has received support in the form of Shi-min Chaim, signed as a free agent from division rival Nevada and former Battle Creek closer, Everett Weisensel,
The Tidals opened with a split against St Pete’s, then won the next two series against Philadelphia and Dallas. The real test comes next week against Nevada and Seattle.
Last Year’s Titans Are Back
Several of the 2018 playoff teams are back in the mix early on, and can be expected to stay there. The St. Petersburg Admirals outscored Calgary 20-5 in their two-game set this week, and have had some other high-flying affairs with Nevada and California. Jose Soto and Alex Viramontes
The Nevada Speeders are at the top of the Metro League West and can be expected to stay there or fairly close, their offense is firing on all cylinders. Big things are expected out of Jim Lahey
The Minneapolis Ravens
Big Declines Seen from Last Year’s Champs
The Montreal Metros are currently in the basement of the Lake League East, with a 2-6 record, a surprisingly poor start for the 2018 Bull Cup Champions. Orlando Garza is hitting under .200, aces Ron Alder and Judson Martel haven’t found a win yet, and are both 5.00+ ERA’s. They are missing two offensive sparks, Robert Araica and first baseman David Chinchilla,
April is a make-or-break month in many ways, as coming out of the first month in a poor position can mean a difficult struggle to get back in the race for the rest of the season.
We’ll be closely watching the Metros to see if they can shake their funk this month, otherwise it may be a long road to climb later on.
GAME DATE: April 10, 2019.