Cleveland Rockers -
Coming off back to back World Series championships the Rockers were upset in the playoffs last season by the up and coming Seattle Somethings. The Rockers return the core of their team losing only spot starter/mop up man Orlando Navarre and 7th inning man Jair Acosta who through arbitration was quickly pricing himself out of Cleveland's plans. In return they received an intriguing 1B prospect Oswaldo Telemaco who is sure to make an impact at the big level eventually.
The Rockers don't usually participate in the rule 5 draft but after trading Navarre and Acosta it opened a couple spots on the big league roster and they found a useful bullpen piece in Shelley Cornelius. For a rule 5 guy he's a perfect low leverage guy in the bullpen and the price was definitely right!
CF, Wilson Rolls who is sitting at 475 figures to hit his 500th home run at some point this season.
Prospects who figure to make an impact at the ML level at some point season are SP Jacob Kida and CF Raul Valdes. Kida really has nothing left to prove in the minors and deserves a spot in a ML rotation but it's tough to crack a spot in Cleveland's rotation. Valdes figures to break into the bigs as a late inning defensive replacement for Rolls and could eventually take over full time when Rolls contract expires at the end of next season.
Once again the Rockers have their sights set on brining home another World Championship but it won't be easy. The NL has some very good teams. It should be an exciting season!
Montreal Bloody Sox -
This team had its biggest offseason in its 32 year history! After failing to make the .500 mark again the GM targeted the trade market to bring in top pitchers and run producers. This will not be another easy clinch for Cleveland this year.
We will start with the promotion of Wilfredo Azocar who can hit and field but needs another year or 2 before he can be a shut down SS.
We then move to the free agent market where the GM first targeted some bullpen help landing a long relief in Tony Matos and an aged veteran set up man hoping to have 1 more great year left in him (Theodore Standridge, 1 all star and a WS ring). A defensive bandaid was then brought aboard in Esteban Guerrero (another former all star) hoping to give a season or 2 so Azocar can continue to develop. The strategic move to put Neil Chatwood in CF to keep his bat left 2B open and a steal came when the GM signed 2B Roland Street for 4 mill (ROY, GG, SS, and a 3 time all star with an all star MVP). He will be a top of the order run producer with good speed and base running presence.
If that didn't sound great here is where the fans are turkey getting excited landing 2 top pitchers in Abraham Booker (3 time all star, 3.58 career ERA and an inning eater) and Hee Sop Higashioka (former ROY and allstar with 3 WS rings and a 3.56 career ERA). Both fit in well at the home stadium. Heinie Overbay was another set up guy brought aboard for relief help. They did not stop there going after Benito Marichal for defensive 3B help with great speed and run producing ability. All but Booker is under the age of 30 and locked in a contract!!!
This team has become a shadow of what it once was. Now building around a solid power hitting core of Cesar Molina (.286 / 36 / 121), Steve Brush (.278 / 35 / 121), and James Hawkins (.259 / 20 / 94). The GM has put together a starting rotation worthy of a playoff birth and added bullpen help to protect closer Wilin Lee (4 time all star and former fireman of the year). The most amazing part is how they stay under budget and retained their last 4 years first round draft picks.
St. Louis Griffins -
Despite the fact that their strong playoff push came up short, hopes are high for the franchise this season. A move to Busch from the Metrodome was made to capitalize on the trade deadline acquisitions of starters Bret Clayton and Philip Davis.
The biggest weakness for this team going into season 31 was the pitching staff. Rookie Rafeal Ortiz surprised in S31 going 12-7 with a 3.97 ERA and earning an All-Star bid. Another rookie, Galahad McAnaney also earned a spot in the mid-summer classic posting a 3.69 ERA in 68 appearances (8-7, 22sv, 102.1ip). Chris Hubbard will look to bounce back after having a disappointing S31, going 14-14 with a 5.14 ERA. Brent Harmon will round out the rotation after posting a 4.27 ERA last season.
Mariano Terrero was added in the deal that brought Clayton in. He stumbled initially when going into the lineup but bounced back down the stretch to help the club. He joins the very recent acquisition of 27 year old OF Antonio Choi. These two should bolster an already solid offense that returns all-star catcher Richard Chen and Silver Slugger LF Sting Remlinger.
As much as this organization is looking to succeed this season, eyes will be focused on the High A level and the progression of last season number one pick (#5 overall). 19 year old first basemen Butch Payton looks to be one for the ages and if this season should not go as planned, expect moves to be made to set up the roster for his arrival to the bigs.
Chicago Cubs -