Omaha Sluggers (112-50) 1st place
Question: Are cracks starting to appear in Omaha as the team failed to win over 100 games and the World Series for the first time in 4 seasons?
Answer: Kazuhiro Ong and Jose Barrios, no other team has the two best players in league history on their roster.
Player to watch: Free agent Grant Keats was a nice value pickup in a market that saw some heavy contracts doled out.
Outlook: 98-64 - 1st place. Although Omaha is starting to get old, and Barrios and Ong aren't in their primes any more, they are still elite, and Omaha is still the best team in the NL West. That won't change this season, and probably next. The real question will be if Omaha has enough to get through the playoffs with some very good teams in the rest of the National League surpassing the overall depth and talent of the Sluggers. Lars thinks this team has one more run left in the tank.
Los Angeles Marlowes (62-100) 2nd place
Question: How will the team take to the new digs in Chavez Ravine?
Answer: Omar Lewis was a nice FA pickup for the Marlowes, and instantly makes their lineup more effective.
Player to watch: Brook Lennon should benefit greatly from the move to a new stadium.
Outlook: 70-92 - 2nd place. L.A. has some nice players in the minors, and their lineup is pretty decent. The problem is that their pitching staff isn't much to write home about. So while they are in now way going to challenge Omaha, they should have just enough to get by the Sinners and the Corn Dogs.
Las Vegas Sinners (60-102) 3rd place
Question: Will the new look pitching staff be enough to keep the lineup in the black?
Answer: With the departure of Clay Henry, Raymond Sanford is now the go to guy in the lineup.
Player to watch: Gerald Kojima has never won any awards, but he has been very effective wherever he has pitched. The Sinners are hoping he uses his veteran wiles to teach their young pitchers a thing or two.
Outlook: 63-99 - 3rd place - If the Sinners were to call up their AAA team en mass, then there is a high likelihood they could put together a winning season, as the talent in their minors is pretty nice. But the ML team has some issues, most notably the anemic lineup. Still, they will be competitive, and the pieces are in place for next season when those AAA players are in the bigs. Lars sees big changes then, and perhaps the first winning season in a while for this franchise.
Iowa City Corn Dogs (58-104) 4th place
Question: Is it possible to clone Francisco Espada and Furio Kydd multiple times?
Answer: Carl Alexander makes his major league debut, and is the best position player on the team.
Player to watch: Kydd and Espada have such incredible potential that it will be very difficult to wait for them to develop in the minors.
Outlook: 56-106 - 4th place. Iowa City is starting to get some players now at the ML level, but they are still behind the pace of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. But people in the midwest are patient, so that is no worry for the Corn Dogs as they wait for their megaprospects to develop and try to sign some more big names in the draft and through the international market. If nothing else there is some mighty fine popcorn and elephant ears at the stadium to make it an experience.
Anaheim Sharks (94-68) 1st place
Question: Can the Sharks hold off the rising tide of talented teams in the AL West?
Answer: The Sharks made a huge trade bringing in impact player Victor Johnson.
Player to watch: The lineup is still the best in the West, and is deadly in all spots in the order.
Outlook: 92-70 - 1st place. Anaheim just keeps on making the moves to keep themselves entrenched in 1st place in the west. It's going to get tougher though for the Sharks as the other three teams are rapidly closing the gap, and are bringing up some major players this season. Lars thinks that Anaheim will take the division again, but it will be a close thing indeed.
Tacoma Jerry Gang (77-85) 2nd place
Question: Will the Jerry Gang find the pitching it needs to maximize their home park advantage?
Answer: Tony Arnold has proven the Cobb Times Herald reporters wrong each time he is at bat, and recognizing this the CTH staff rescinds their draft report.
Player to watch: AAA call up Darren Howry could find himself the ace of the staff after a few weeks in Tacoma.
Outlook: 88-74 - 2nd place. Things are looking good for Tacoma, as their good young talent is starting to pay dividends. If they can figure out a way to win at home, Lars thinks this team has potential to be AL West champs. At the very least Lars sees them competing for a wild card spot. The rest of the division won't make it easy though, as Vancouver and Honolulu could easily find themselves in the 2nd spot instead of Tacoma.
Vancouver Grizzlies (76-86) tie - 3rd place
Question: Can the Grizzlies get more than 114 innings out of ace Tommy Wakeland?
Answer: Alex Brantley is a hitting machine, and if he can get some protection in the lineup, should be even better at the plate this season.
Player to watch: Richard Nakajima will be perhaps the biggest impact call up this season. He is ready to start at SS and make some huge noise at the plate.
Outlook: 87-75 - 3rd place. Lars likes the Grizz, and thinks that with a few breaks this could be a division championship team. Even if Vancouver tanks it in the regular season Lars is still excited about their prospects for the draft, where they have the #10 pick and a massive scouting budget that should yield a star with their supplemental pick as well. Add future stud Richard Nakajima to the mix and you have what is projecting to be a very exciting season in Vancouver.
Honolulu Harriers (76-86) tie - 3rd place
Question: How can Lars pick a team with a rotation this good to finish in 4th place?
Answer: Buzz Boswell was the rotation ace for the franchise last season, and should be again this year.
Player to watch: Skeeter Robertson needs to do better than 10-12, as his stuff is simply too good for a record like that.
Outlook - 84-78- 4th place. The Harriers are making an attempt to be the first team in Honolulu to have a winning record in Cobb history. They should do it, barring something unforeseen. With some luck they could also challenge for the division title, but with three other very tough teams it is hard for Lars to see that happening. Still, with the talent in the lineup, the nice addition of free agent R. J. Cubillan, and probably the best rotation in the division there is a lot of potential for this franchise. Unfortunately somebody has to finish 4th, so Lars is picking the Harriers. But don't be surprised if they prove him wrong.