Can the Austin Bats repeat as champions, locking up a third title in just four seasons? Will the Mahoning Valley curse be lifted? Can Minneapolis finally climb the mountain? The 2035 season should be filled with stories from opening day until the Premier Cup, so let’s take our first look at this coming season.
[Author’s Note: Apologies if I missed a key addition or key loss from your team, I did these over a few days and may have been more focused at certain times. Just let me know if I missed anyone you think was important and I’ll fix it, but I tried not to miss anyone. Also, apologies on the 7,000+ words, read what you feel like reading]
Spoiler alert: We don’t predict a lot of changes from last season’s HL final standings. The top 6 teams from last season are projected in the same order, with some minor shuffling between the rebuilding teams. I wanted to project it differently… but I just couldn’t see it.
- Austin Bats
- Mahoning Valley Scrappers
- Fargo Nordiques
- Golden State Admirals
- Portland Panthers
- Colorado Gold Sox
- St. Louis Sultans
- Indianapolis Arrows
- Philadelphia Liberty
- Cambridge Pilgrims
1. Austin Bats
Last season: 106-56, 1st place in HL, League Champion
Projected Record: 103-59
Key Losses: SP Remy LeBeau, SP Bo Allen
Lebeau was the third overall pick in the 2025 draft by Austin, and while he never became the ace many projected, he was a solid CBL starter over the past 7 seasons. He finished his Bats career with a 73-43 record, but a pedestrian 4.33 ERA. He remained a free agent late into the spring, but finally signed with Mahoning Valley, netting the Bats a compensation pick.
Bo Allen was added at the deadline and was simply a rental, and he signed with the Las Vegas Aces days into the spring.
Key Additions:5OF Erik Miller
Miller was drafted in the Rule 5 draft from the Traverse City organization, and has a real chance to make the Bats opening day roster. League sources believe he may even be the opening day starter if he continues to get on base as he did this spring (.456 OBP).
Prospect to Watch: 2B/3B Bembe Rodriguez
The 22-year-old infielder hit .347/.400/.542 in 139 games at the AAA level last season as a 21-year-old. Rodriguez appears likely to make the Bats opening day roster, but if not, he should make his CBL debut in the near future. He’s a potential rookie of the year candidate.
Austin planned ahead last season, choosing to trade both Greg Boyle and Duane Kowing to once again reload. That led to minimal moves this off-season.
The pitching isn’t quite as deep as it usually is in Austin, but there’s still plenty of talent to get them through the season just fine. The team’s forward-thinking approach also allowed them to re-sign long-time stalwart Alonzo Bennarivo, who will hit his 400th career home run sometime this April.
The Bats appear poised to spend the season atop the HL once again, although they’ll have a fight on their hands with several HL teams improving this off-season.
2. Mahoning Valley Scrappers
Last season: 105-57, 2nd place in HL
Projected Record: 101-61
Key Losses: 2B Leonardo Caneque, SP Patrick Mahomes
The Scrappers did well to retain most of their talented roster from a season ago. Caneque never quite lived up to his top prospect status, but he hit .292/.349/.429 last season in 91 games. However, with the Scrappers adding Bernardo Perez at last year’s deadline, it was clear Caneque would not be back in Mahoning Valley.
Long-time ace and future first ballot Hall-of-Famer Patrick Mahomes decided to call it a career, finishing with a 256-123 record, a 3.34 ERA and nearly 2,800 strikeouts.
Key Additions: SP Greg Boyle, SP Sam Tewes, SP Remy LeBeau
The Scrappers won the Boyle sweepstakes by giving the 33-year-old rotation anchor a 3-year, $61 million contract. Boyle can opt out after two seasons and test the market again if he continues to pitch well.
Sam Tewes has very quietly had a late-career resurgence, posting nearly 14 WAR over the last 4 seasons. He threw 156 innings last season for Minneapolis, posting a 4.14 ERA while going 14-4.
Adding LeBeau just days before the season begins was a great move as well, and between these three signings, they should be able to help off-set the Mahomes retirement much easier.
Prospect to Watch: P Tim Clark
Drafted in the 6th round back in 2030, Tim Clark has emerged as one of the game’s best pitching prospects over the last season. He’s seen his strikeout numbers sky rocket as his velocity continues to increase (up to 98 MPH at times) and scouts rave about his work ethic and loyalty.
He could make his debut early this season as a reliever, or he may continue trying to improve his slider to give him that all important third pitch that he’ll need to become a top tier starter at the next level.
Mahoning Valley was just one win from the conference’s best record, and got within 3 wins of making the Premier Cup. By adding an ace in Boyle and solid depth in Tewes, the Scrappers should be a very formidable team deep into October once again. Stealing Remy LeBeau away from their top rival should also be a big boost. It should be a fun race in the HL, as it always is.
The organization also locked up standout first baseman Cesar Urgiles with a massive five year, $127 million extension, but they mitigated their risk by making the final two seasons team options. After hitting .339/.431/.560 last season, Urgiles will more than earn his extension if he continues that torrid pace over the next few years.
3. Fargo Nordiques
Last season: 98-64, 3rd place in HL
Projected Record: 96-66
Key Losses: P Ryan Castellani. SS Bo Bichette, SP Rhaegar Targaryen, SP Victor Zuniga, DH Yorman Rodriguez
Ryan Castellani decided to retire in January and move up to the announcing booth, surprising the front office but they ultimately have been supportive. Losing their set up man two months before the season begins wasn’t ideal, though.
Bo Bichette is a stud when healthy, but as he nears 40-years-old, he’s out for at least a few months and may miss the entire season. He recently signed a one year deal with Traverse City, who will try to rehab him back to health.
Targaryen was a decent starter for Fargo, but at 32-years-old and coming off a 4.51 ERA in 35 games, the organization decided to let him sign with Nashville for nearly $15 million a year.
Zuniga was acquired a few weeks prior to the trade deadline from Cambridge, and was likely always considered a one-year rental, so it’s no surprise he left, signing with Portland for $44 million total over 3 years.
Yorman Rodriguez wasn’t a very productive player anymore, but he retires as one of the best hitters in league history, spending all but 7 games in the Richardson City/Fargo organization. What a stud he was.
Key Additions: None
Fargo didn’t add a single player on a major league contract this off-season, although they made a lot of big moves last June and July. With a payroll of nearly $170 million, the budget was likely tight, and the Nordiques have enough depth to contend even without any free agent signings or veteran trades.
Prospect to Watch: SP Denver Wright
The 22-year-old left hander was the 15th overall pick in 2030, and should be pushed a bit more aggressively this season after repeating the High A level last season. Wright went 9-8 with a 3.97 ERA and 128 K’s in 133 innings. Not eye popping numbers, but solid enough, and scouts feel he’d be a high leverage late inning reliever if he can’t quite make it as a starter.
Despite losing several key contributors, particularly on the pitching side from last season, the Nordiques appear to have loads of depth and a lot of high end talent. The organization may not have the truly elite starters we’ve grown accustomed to, but 38-year-old Brady Aiken (the GOAT) remains very good and the bullpen is elite.
With key offensive players at nearly every position and future gold glover Juan Carlos Cano patrolling center field, Fargo has a good combination of offense and defense scattered throughout their lineup.
4. Golden State Admirals
Last season: 95-67, 4th place in HL
Projected Record: 92-70
Key Losses: C Andre Gavlan, SP Bryan Dobzanski, RP Austin Hoffman, C Garry Moore
Andre Gavlan may no longer be the fearsome MVP candidate he was in his prime, but he’s been a very good player as he’s aged and remains a capable starting catcher, albeit limited defensively, even now. He hit .238/.309/.477 with 38 home runs, although he spent all but 4 games as the DH.
Dobzanksi is 39 years old but somehow managed to go 17-3 with a 2.98 ERA last season. Despite that impressive season and a career of dominating seasons, Dobz didn’t sign until hours ago, agreeing to a one-year deal with the San Diego Surf Dawgs.
Since 2028, here are Austin Hoffman’s ERA’s each season. 2.02, 1.91, 3.51, 2.49, 2.60, 2.52 and 2.67. He got a hefty sum to sign with Portland, and rightfully so, but his consistency will be greatly missed.
Catcher Gary Moore has been an underrated player for the Admirals, getting on base and playing solid defense at a generally weak position across the league. His career .365 on base percentage is very good for a catcher.
SS Tremaine Spears was also let go after playing in 155 games, but he was terrible, so he should be easy to replace.
Key Additions: RP Stan Sieman
Stan Sieman was the organization’s rule 5 pick, and with such little activity in free agency he seems like a decent shot to make the team’s roster. The 24-year-old throws 98 MPH and has posted ERA’s of 2.08 and 2.31 in AAA over the past two seasons. He posted a 1.86 ERA this spring.
Prospect to Watch: SP Elykyllaer Sittam
At 7’2″. 395 pounds, Elykllaer Sittam is one of the largest human beings in history. The former 16th overall pick has made his way up to AAA, and should make his CBL debut at some point this season. If he does, he’ll be impossible to miss.
The Admirals did very little in free agency, but they did get to work signing big extensions with two of their own stars. Left fielder Ashley Stubbs agreed to a 3 year deal worth just $37 million total, covering two arbitration years and what would have been his first free agent season.
Center fielder Richard “Dick” Head signed a 4-year deal for nearly $70 million, locking him up for two of his free agent seasons. With an outfield comprised of Stubbs, Head and Robert Reynolds, the Admirals should be able to score with anyone, and the pitching staff is likely to be the strength of the team. Another playoff birth seems likely.
5. Portland Panthers
Last season: 89-73, 5th place in HL
Projected Record: 85-77
Key Losses: None
The Panthers did well to re-sign outfielder Muddy Waters after he played very well on his one-year contract in 2034. The 2-time all-star signed a 3-year, $61 million extension to anchor the Panthers lineup for the next few seasons.
With Waters locked up, the Panthers return all their key contributors from their 89 win team a year ago.
Key Additions: RP Austin Hoffman, SP Victor Zuniga, C Andre Gavlan
We discussed Hoffman’s remarkable consistency in the Golden State section, and Zuniga was a solid add to help the rotation after leaving Fargo. Also mentioned earlier, but Gavlan hasn’t caught in nearly two seasons, and appears likely to be headed back behind the plate in Portland. That’s worth keeping an eye on.
Signing three key players from two of their rivals, Fargo and Golden State, is also a smart strategic decision that could help them close the gap this season.
Prospect to Watch: 2B/LF Jonathan Pontecorvo
The 4th overall pick in last June’s draft, Pontecorvo hit .277/.382/.647 in his final college season, with 19 home runs in 50 games. He didn’t play affiliated ball at all after being drafted, but made his debut this spring. He hit just .186/.217/.372 this spring, but as a 22-year-old college player he shouldn’t be too far away from his CBL debut.
Portland has undoubtedly gotten better since last season, but with the bottom portion of the league expected to be more active this season, it remains possible the team could actually be better and lose more games. However, if things break correctly, the talent level is there to potentially win 100 games as well.
Starting pitchers Scott Summers and Lynwood Benson should have better seasons, as they are better players then their performances showed a season ago, and that could go a long way toward moving Portland up a spot or two in the standings.
6. Colorado Gold Sox
Last season: 73-89, 6th place in HL
Projected Record: 78-84
Key Losses: C Jop Ruttman, 1B Steve Hathaway
In a league with so many weak catchers, it’s incredibly surprising Jop Ruttman remains a free agent into the regular season. He’s been consistently above average as a catcher for the last 7 years in Colorado, and should have found a starting job by now. With no compensation attached either, there’s really no reason he’s a free agent still.
Hathaway is also a free agent despite hitting .258/.335/.437 last season, although that’s likely because he can only play first base, and even then he’s a terrible first baseman.
Key Additions: None
The Gold Sox didn’t do much of anything this off-season, angering an already beleaguered fan base just months after trading away superstar DH Jayson Philmon.
With some solid young talent and a few key veterans still around, the Gold Sox could be a surprising sleeper, but with a gaping hole at catcher and a solution available on the free agent market going unsigned, it’s clear the team plans to rebuild for at least another season.
Prospect to Watch: 1B Joe Castle
He may arguably no longer be a prospect, but he played in just 42 games last season at the CBL level and hit just .213/.250/.448 after crushing AAA pitching (.344/.416/.754). He should be one of the league’s best young hitters this season and an absolute joy to watch.
The Gold Sox have had several GM changes over the past two seasons, and with Brian taking over late in the game, it’s no surprise the organization didn’t have a very active off-season. With a full season under his belt at this time next year and a better idea of what his team needs, the Gold Sox hope to be more aggressive.
Even without any activity, the team looks to have some talented players at key positions. If the right young players can continue to improve, this team will be a surprise in the always difficult HL.
7. St. Louis Sultans
Last season: 60-102, 8th place in HL
Projected Record: 73-89;
Key Losses: None
The Sultans didn’t have much to lose, but they did well to keep the players around that did perform okay last season.
Key Additions: Phil (General Manager). SP Leo Ornstein, SP Pat Spencer
The Sultans spent most of the off-season adding minor league free agents, building up the farm system in the same way new GM Phil has done at his previous two stops. It’s a sound approach that allows the team to spend their resources elsewhere while they rebuild. Adding Phil to give this team a consistent presence for what should be at least several seasons should see the team return to competence in the near future.
Ornstein (3.75 ERA this spring) and Spencer (3 runs in 1/3 of an inning this spring) are two top pitching prospects that the Sultans pilfered in the Rule 5 draft, and if both can make the team they are worth watching simply for developmental purposes.
Prospect to Watch: 1B Manny Soto
Signed for a near-record $5,000,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old, the now 20 year-old power hitting prospect hit .318/.388/.506 with 17 home runs as a 19-year-old in AA last season. He seems likely to begin the year in AAA, but if he continues to excel as he has at most other levels his CBL debut should come sometime this season. His first league MVP may not be far behind.
The Sultans have a few solid CBL level players, and a few top prospects, but Phil will have his hands full trying to build this team back into the contender he once built Portland and California into.
Using the team’s salary space to add lower tier prospects that may improve with playing time was wise, and flipping Gleyvin Sternisha 30 seconds after acquiring him was one of the off-season highlights for me.
With consistent exports and a roster that will be tinkered with all season, I expect St. Louis to outperform there current roster, although they should still be near the bottom of the league for now.
8. Indianapolis Arrows
Last season: 50-112, Last place in HL
Projected Record: 68-94
Key Losses: None
It’d be pretty hard for a 50 win team to have a significant loss, but the Arrows did very well to lock in Kevin Garvey‘s salaries for the next 3 seasons, agreeing to a 2 year, $29 million deal that covers the final two years of his arbitration. He’s making just over $9 million this year. He is set to cash in before he turns 30 if he tests the market.
To understand just how bad the Arrows were, Garvey posted a WAR of 8.2. Had Garvey been replaced by a player more similar to the average Arrow last season, the team would’ve won around 42 games. Yikes.
The organization also locked up shortstop Khalil Greene for another 3 seasons, although his poor defense at shortstop (-9.7 ZR last season) means he needs a new position. Several league sources feel he would be an above average third baseman if just given time to play that position, and think that would be his best position over the next few seasons.
Key Additions: RF Jon Channon
The organization made a big splash adding the one-time great Jon Channon, although there’s no doubt he’s vastly overpaid at this point. He’s still a useful player and should be an upgrade from what the Arrows were throwing out there last year, but anyone expecting the 68 home run season may have to wait 3 full seasons to see that number from Channon these days.
They also threw some money at aging veterans with little risk outside of the cash spent, players like Victor Champagne and Gleyvin Sternisha, but those moves don’t seem likely to help much.
Prospect to Watch: 1B/LF Ron Chadsey
Nearly unprotected in this year’s Rule 5 draft, the organization made a wise decision to protect the former #1 overall pick at the last minute. It’s clear the team may not be as high on Chadsey as other organizations, and that may lead to him being traded sooner rather than later. At least in that situation the team will recoup some value.
One of the league’s top 10 prospects, Chadsey hit .314/.391/.528 at AA last season and appears nearly CBL ready. Chadsey hit .220/.273/.341 this spring in his first taste of CBL action, and appears set to be moved to left field full time to maximize his value.
The Arrows look to be a slightly better team this season, and with consistent exports it’d be hard to lose 112 games again. The key for the organization will come at the trading deadline, and the amateur draft. If they can use those two key time periods to rebuild the farm system and let their talent develop over the next few seasons, the Arrows could finally be pointing up.
9. Philadelphia Liberty
Last season: 71-91, 7th place in HL
Projected Record: 65-97
Key Losses: RF Jon Channon, SP Rob Hemstad, SP Wes Hines, C Pat Beem
While Channon’s a big loss because of how famous he is, and was still a fairly productive player, dumping the money he was owed should be considered a win.
Hemstad and Hines are two of the league’s more underrated starters over the past handful of seasons, and were key cogs during Philadelphia’s winning run. Both players remain unsigned, which seems to suggest Philadelphia has decided to let them leave as they rebuild. Teams with money available would be wise to add these two starters, and the rebuilding Liberty would surely love the draft picks.
Catcher Pat Beem hit .261/.323/.507 with 29 home runs in 139 games, and had to wait until the end of spring training to get a contract offer. He signed with San Diego hours ago, giving the Surf Dawgs both Beem and Dobzanski to boost their team hours before opening day.
1B Kurt Olsen, a fan favorite, retired. While he hit just .173/.307/.240 in his final season, he was one of the most unique first baseman in baseball history and he hit .333/.433/.608 during the playoffs in what was then Altoona’s 2030 Championship run, cementing his status as one of the few legends of Altoona. He has been signed as the Liberty bench coach for the upcoming season.
Key Additions: P Jim Cabrera
Cabrera is a 30-year-old journeyman reliever that was unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, so he’s unlikely to be any kind of a difference maker. He’s just the only player the team added on a major league contract this winter.
Prospect to Watch: 3B Adrian Valdez
Acquired as the clear center piece in the blockbuster than sent both Michael Jordan and Tomas Nunez to the San Diego Surf Dawgs, Valdez is certainly one of the league’s elite prospects and his future seems to be very bright. He hit .342/.379/.505 in AAA as a 20-year-old last season and should make his CBL debut on opening day according to most scouts. Whether he does or not remains to be seen, of course, as rebuilding teams may have a reason to hold back their best prospects for a few weeks. But whenever he does debut, he should be a true five tool player at the shortstop position, making him incredibly valuable.
Just a few short seasons ago, Philadelphia looked set to compete at a high level for years to come after a handful of shrewd moves and key development by the organization. How quickly things have changed. The inevitable decline of some key players earlier then expected didn’t help, and a broken laptop at a key time for the organization also hurt quite a bit.
The team seems poised to finally follow through on a complete rebuild, as the system looks strong, but the big league roster is as bad as a Justin-run team has been in years, likely by design as it makes little sense to be 80-82. Getting out of Jon Channon’s contract was a great move, but agreeing to pay half of Michael Jordan’s salary over the next few seasons to watch him compete for MVPs with San Diego was questionable. If Jordan opts out of his deal following the 2036 season, Philadelphia will save nearly $36 million in salary between the 2037 and 2038 seasons. That’s a big option to watch.
One thing that can be counted on, though, is that Philadelphia will have an active GM doing his best to improve his team, and one with plenty of success over the past decade plus in the league. If the team does decide to stick to the rebuild, it shouldn’t be all that long before they are competing once again.
10. Cambridge Pilgrims
Last season: 56-106, 9th place in HL
Projected Record: 49-113
Key Losses: None
After trading away most of the big league roster at the trade deadline, the Pilgrims had nobody left to worry about losing.
Key Additions: None
By far the least active team this off-season, Cambridge failed to export even once after October, 2034 (in-game date)
Prospect to Watch: LF Phil Hunsucker
Acquired from Erie in one of Cambridge’s many deadline deals, this one in a package for standout starter Ron Giangrosso, Hunsucker looks like the next great hitting prospect Erie wishes didn’t get away. He’s not the power hitting threat that Philmon has become, but Hunsucker projects to be a .320+ hitter with 50 steals at his peak. He’s likely a future DH, but the hitting tools are elite.
Matt came in with some excitement and made some moves to start rebuilding his team, but unfortunately seems to have lost interest or disappeared from the league. Hopefully he finds the interest again and can help build this team back up, but it’s hard to project more than 50 wins when I don’t expect an export. When he’s around, he’s good to have in the league.
- Minneapolis Millers
- Vancouver Canadians
- San Diego Surf Dawgs
- Erie Seawolves
- California Dreamers
- Las Vegas Aces
- Charlotte Knights
- Nashville Outlaws
- Traverse City Bullet Club
- Connecticut Colonials
1. Minneapolis Millers
Last Season: 128-34, 1st Place in FL
Projected Record: 113-49
Key Losses: SP Greg Boyle, SP Sam Tewes
Both Boyle and Tewes signed with Mahoning Valley, leaving behind nearly 400 innings for the Millers to need to account for next season.
Key Additions: SP Julian Pacheco, SP Luis Ramirez, C Garry Moore
The Millers decided to bring back Julian Pacheco a few years after trading him to Erie to try and fill some of those missing 400 innings, but he was hurt near the end of Spring Training and is expected to miss the season’s first two months, crushing the Millers already poor depth.
Luis Ramirez is a high stuff pitcher who was selected in the Rule 5 draft, and seems likely to make the roster with Pacheco injured, and should be the team’s long reliever this season before going back to a starting pitcher next season.
Gary Moore was brought in as depth, and the Millers are excited to have three capable CBL catchers again this season, as injuries seem to pile up at the worst times.
Prospect to Watch: CF Ernesto Rivera
Signed for $3 million out of Venezuela back in 2031, the 6’5 top prospect can play every position but catcher. The 20-year-old hit .315/.387/.477 in his rookie league debut last season. He was promoted following the end of his rookie league season ending to give him more time to learn other positions, and he struggled at the A level, hitting just .174 in 20 games.
The Millers traded several top prospects and even a few CBL ready youngsters last season (Elton Hedgepenis, go die) in an attempt to finally with the title. They failed. Despite losing Greg Boyle, the Millers return almost the entire team that won 128 games a season ago. They should remain atop the league, but that’s why we don’t give out pennants in the spring. (That’d sure be nice though)
2. Vancouver Canadians
Last season: 92-70, 3rd place in FL
Projected Record: 101-61
Key Losses: None
The Canadians managed to dump a few overpaid veterans that weren’t producing anymore, and kept everyone good around as they continue to manage their organization very well.
Key Additions: None
With a tight budget and a mostly full CBL roster, the Canadians were not very active on the free agent market. They did sign several players to minor league contracts, as usual, to add depth to the organization. The free agent class was quite poor, which also played into the team’s lack of moves I would imagine.
They also chose to extend a few key players, including a 4-year, $36 million extension for Closer Joe Morganti and a three-year, $37 million extension for starting pitcher Rick Sanchez. Both players were key contributors last season and seem poised to be again this year.
Prospect to Watch: LF Malik Carr
The #4 overall prospect in the CBL according to the OSA, Carr was drafted 11th overall in 2032 and is coming off a .324/.426/.571 season in rookie ball. A 24 game promotion to the high A level did not go well, but at just 20 years of age, he has plenty of time to acclimate this year. He looks like a future MVP candidate if things continue to go right. Great.
Any team with a core of Sergio Rodriguez and Lucio Aguilar is going to contend, but Vancouver has surrounded their superstars with other great players and the right role players as they always seem to do.
A deep pitching staff and several infielders should help the Canadians stave off any injury problems that may arise, and if things break right they certainly could contend for the best record in the league.
3. San Diego Surf Dawgs
Last season: 84-78, 5th place in FL
Projected Record: 99-63
Key Losses: SP Jerry Chandler
Chandler signed with Erie after spending the past two seasons in San Diego. He was 15-8 with a 4.26 ERA last season for San Diego, pitching some crucial innings as the Dawgs clawed their way back to the post-season. His veteran presence will be missed.
Key Additions: SP Bryan Dobzanski, C Pat Beem
The Dawgs made most of their moves in July, most notably adding Michael Jordan to patrol center field for them. The GM was so proud of his in-season moves, he decided to take a vacation in the middle of the off-season, and the team made almost no moves for several months. And then he returned from his vacation, signed two of the best free agents that were inexplicably still available, and proved that everyone should take a vacation if it’s going to work out this well.
Dobz was one of the league’s best starters again last season and should be an upgrade over the departed Jerry Chandler — and he’s CHEAPER! Although he did cost the Surf Dawgs a second round pick, it’s well worth the cost at this point.
Beem was discussed in the Philadelphia section, but he’s been a consistently above average player for several seasons now. Incumbent catcher Dave Malton is coming off an impressive .305/.372/.553 season in 95 games, but Beem appears to be an upgrade and one of them can DH at times as well.
Prospect to Watch: RF Kanan Stark
Drafted 31st overall in 2031, Stark is notably one of the league’s hardest working players. After hitting .380 in 77 games at the high A level in 2033, Stark followed that up with a very impressive .283/.444/.446 line in AA this past season as a 20-year-old.
He seems likely to bypass AAA altogether, and make San Diego’s opening day roster. He’s one of the most developed 20-year-olds in the league in quite some time, and it would only seem to hurt his development to hold him back at this point.
San Diego has one of the most talented rosters they’ve had in years, and with several reinforcements coming up over the next few seasons, the Dawgs seem poised for a solid run of winning in the future. Adding two key veterans at the very last minute is a big boost to an already strong team.
If the team can avoid the injury bug from some key players, they should easily make the playoffs and, like Vancouver, could contend for the league’s best record. If they can find a way to add another top tier starter at some point this season, they will be one of the favorites to win it all.
4. Erie Seawolves
Last season: 93-69, 2nd place in FL
Projected Record: 91-71
Key Losses: SP Julian Pacheco
It could be argued that the Seawolves didn’t lose any notable players from last season, although they did trade Jose Perez for a plethora of young players last season.
Pacheco is a decent name with good stuff, but he’d struggled badly the past two seasons.
Key Additions: RP Jim Schowalter, SP Jerry Chandler
Schowalter was a rule 5 pick, who had a 0.56 ERA in 16 spring innings and seems likely to make the opening day roster based on that performance.
Signing Chandler away from the Surf Dawgs is a good move, adding depth and a solid veteran player to an already good pitching staff. Chandler will replace Julian Pacheco, who had struggled over the past two seasons in Erie.
Prospect to Watch: SS Liam Castro
One of many top prospects sent to Erie for Jose Perez, Castro is a 20-year-old defensive whiz of a shortstop with great bat-to-ball skills. He could be a .300 hitter with elite defense and 25 steals at his peak, and the power continues to develop as he gains weight. At 6’5, 185 pounds, he has room to add plenty of strength and get that power to an elite number.
Fuck off Troj. 🙂
5. California Dreamers
Last season: 85-77, 4th place in FL
Projected Record: 79-83
Key Losses: CL Alan Alexander, C Mauro Barron
Alan Alexander decided to hang up his spikes, retiring as arguably the greatest closer in league history. He finished his career with 377 saves, and over a 5 year span he through 588 innings while anchoring the Millers infamous bullpen staff.
Mauro Barron was a solid catcher for the Dreamers, albeit unspectacular, but he got paid, signing for $23 million over 5 seasons, and the Dreamers decided to let him leave.
The Dreamers were also raided in the Rule 5 draft, losing Leo Ornstein, Jim Cabrera, Jose Avilla, Jim Schowalter, Stan Sieman, Luis Ramirez and Jim Kozlov. Ouch. Hopefully a few of them will be returned after the spring.
Key Additions: None
The team owner decided to fire the team’s former GM, Phil, and by the time the new front office was put into place, it was too late to make any big moves. The team elected to be patient, count on some of their own developed players and maybe make a bigger splash next off-season.
Prospect to Watch: 2B Norberto Ochoa
The dreamers traded OF Jose Marin, a 20-year-old top prospect that hit .311/.395/.609 in 64 games for Austin last season, to get Ochoa. Norberto is the league’s #2 prospect, behind only his own teammate, 3B Thomas Carcetti.
Ochoa hit a very impressive .308/.408/.600 in 128 games at the AAA level last season and should make his CBL debut very early, so definitely keep an eye on him and Marin, as their careers are forever linked by that trade last season.
The Dreamers are in great shape for the long-term, with the top two prospects in the league and several young, talented players on their CBL roster. With a few moves to push this team over the hump, they should be able to contend for a long time.
If Carcetti and Ochoa are even better than expected, this offense could grow into one of the best in league history with some time. That’s a scary thought. And the jerk of an owner who fired the man who built it will see the rewards. Here’s to hoping the owner sells before then!
6. Las Vegas Aces
Last season: 72-90, 7th place in FL
Projected Record: 74-88
Key Losses: RF Gregory Nash Jr
One of the league’s most popular players, Nash spent the past two seasons in Las Vegas after spending his entire career in St. Louis, and he remained a productive player last season. Nash hit .268/.341/.537 with 43 home runs in 157 games. Despite that enormous production, he remains a free agent. With so many key veterans still unsigned, some in the industry have begun whispering about collusion among owners. This guy being unsigned is the leading reason for those rumors.
Key Additions: SP Bo Allen
Signed for just $2.6 million total over the next two seasons, Allen has been a very solid starting pitcher over the past decade. His personality tends to wear on teams, however, which helps explain why he’s played for 4 teams in 2 seasons, although to be fair Manchester moved to Cambridge so it’s really only 3. His 3.94 ERA last season in 32 starts would be a welcomed addition to the Vegas pitching staff.
Prospect to Watch: SS Frank Gallagher
The former #3 overall pick and the league’s #4 overall prospect, needs to be promoted, and badly, or he’s at risk of taking some serious hits on his beautiful potential. Despite being clearly ready for at least A ball, Gallagher hit .403/.453/.815 in 33 games, adding 10 home runs and 17 doubles. With elite outfield and infield range, Gallagher could truly be an elite, 5 tool player at any position if he’s developed correctly.
The Aces have some solid pieces and nice prospects, and with the teams GM finally settling into some major life changes (like getting married, congrats!) he seems to be around a bit more and that should help the team with their progression. There’s no denying when Brandon is active his team’s generally perform well.
7. Charlotte Knights
Last season: 54-108, Last place in FL
Projected Record: 69-93
Key Losses: SP Pat Spencer, C Norberto Rivera
Rivera somehow caught 118 games for the Knights last season, despite being arguably the worst defensive catcher in league history. He hit an okay .237/.315/.405 with 21 home runs, but his poor defense and handling of the pitching staff negated any offensive value. He remains unsigned at this point.
Spencer wasn’t protected prior to the Rule 5 draft, and the organization regretted it immediately when he was selected. It’s unknown if he’s expected to make the Sultans following the spring season where he made just one appearance and allowed 3 runs, getting 1 out.
Key Additions: C Mauro Barron
Replacing Rivera with Barron was a huge upgrade, as both players had similar offensive seasons a year ago but Barron is considered one of the league’s better defensive catchers. His ability to handle pitching staffs should help the Knights pitching improve quite a bit this season.
Prospect to Watch: SP Steve Rainey
The 17th overall pick this past June, Rainey is revered by the OSA scouting service. He went just 4-4 with a 5.05 ERA in his first pro season, striking out a measly 31 batters in 52 innings. However, the potential is there for a strong, four pitch mix and his personality is loved by executives. Look for a breakout season this year from him in the low minors.
Charlotte continues to build up their roster slowly, making prudent moves when available but otherwise showing patience. The team has shown they are willing to spend for the right free agents, landing Garrett Gooden last season, and nearly won the bidding for Greg Boyle this off-season.
With a strong minor league record and some development from young talent over the next season or two, we could see Charlotte return to their glory days. Here’s to hoping Jess is able to keep the momentum headed upward this season.
8. Nashville Outlaws
Last season: 82-80, 6th place in FL
Projected Record: 67-95
Key Losses: 1B John Aiello, SP Tyler Kolek
First baseman John Aiello played in 156 games last year, and while he’s been a stabilizing veteran presence over the past few seasons, he hit just .236/.313/.343 and will try to revive his career with Portland, where he signed a minor league deal.
Tyler Kolek retired, after going 5-18 with a 5.59 ERA. Obviously, he’s only a key loss in the ticket selling department at this point, but what a great career he had. He finished with a 269-158 record, throwing nearly 4,000 innings while striking out a remarkable 3,690 batters. He finished with 113.6 WAR in his 18 seasons. He’s the greatest pitcher not named Brady Aiken in CBL history.
Key Additions: LF Jose Ramirez, SP Rhaegar Targaryen
Jose Ramirez was a very good, under-the-radar signing. Coming off a season in which he hit .310/.339/.455 in 148 games while playing good defense, it was surprising he was only able to receive a one year offer for $3 million.
Rhaegar Targaryen signed for about $15 million a year for 3 years, and the Outlaws hope that his underlying numbers, like solid strikeout rates each year, finally translate to on-the-field performance. He’ll need to do better than a 4.50 ERA to earn his salary.
Prospects to Watch: SP Ken Sylvia
The former #10 overall pick reached AAA last season as a 20-year-old, and while his 5.34 ERA in 28 starts left a lot to be desired, he was still impressive at times. His strikeout rate was quite poor, as you might expect from someone as young as he was, but the hope is that his stuff will improve as he ages. He’s going to need to have a much better season this year if he wants to remain on the list of some of the game’s better pitching prospects.
Nashville consistently outperforms what their roster appears to be, and this year could be no different. However, with key players like Ryan Leckich and Seth Beer finally aging a bit, a step back seems likely. It seems like Leckich has been ready to decline for like five seasons, that guy is remarkable.
If Ramirez and Targaryen can provide value, Nashville could very easily outperform their 82-80 record as well. And if Leckich, Beer and Kevin Beach can turn back the clock for one more season, they may even find themselves back in the playoffs. It’s a wide range of possibilities for this team.
9. Traverse City Bullet Club
Last season: 68-94, 8th place in FL
Projected Record: 63-99
Key Losses: OF Erik Miller
The organization decided against protecting former first round pick Erik Miller, and the Austin Bats snagged him in the Rule 5 draft, costing the Bullet Club a potentially useful prospect. It seems likely Austin will hold onto Miller for now, at least to begin the season.
The organization extended long-time franchise favorite 35-year-old Cisco Martinez to a two year extension, keeping him with the only franchise he’s ever played for. He hit .277/.351/.450 last season and was still productive even at his age.
They also locked up outfielder Eric Pogue to a five year, $57 million extension, as he was set to become a free agent following the 2035 season. Both were solid moves to keep talented veterans around.
Key Additions: SS Bo Bichette
Bichette signed for just $5 million over one season, but his market was extremely limited as he recovers from a concussion, and the current hope is that he’ll be back by July. Any kind of set back, however, could be the end of Bichette’s long and storied career. If he returns, he’ll be an upgrade at whatever position the organization decides to use him at. He might even have some trade value prior to the deadline if he gets healthy, which would be an ideal situation for Traverse City.
Prospect to Watch: CF Jesus Ramirez
A scouting discovery way back in 2031 out of the Dominican Republic, Ramirez has emerged as one of the game’s premier center field prospects. In 14 games as a 19-year-old in AAA last season, Ramirez hit .340, although he struggled a bit in AA prior to that, so he may be a season or so away from his CBL debut still. However, when he debuts, he should give the Bullet Club a young star to build around.
Scott, the team’s GM, isn’t as active as some GMs but he’s generally around, and while he doesn’t export enough to really improve the team, he also is rarely the league’s worst team despite his lack of exports. This season looks like it’ll be more of the same; barring a sudden decision to sign the remaining compensation free agents, this team will be near the bottom once again, but I doubt they will be the worst team in the league.
To be clear, I don’t mean that as a slight. It just explains the consistent 7th place finishes each year. Not everyone will export all the time, and Scott is likable and may even get the itch to be more active one of these seasons. I think it’s impressive he’s rarely at the very bottom.
10. Connecticut Colonials
Last season: 59-103, 9th place in FL
Projected Record: 55-107
Key Losses: None.
The Colonials let a few veterans leave in free agency, but none were any good and should be very easy to replace.
Key Additions: 2B Leonardo Caneque
Caneque is a decent second baseman that should provide some value for the Colonials, especially as a replacement for someone with a negative WAR. He is an upgrade, albeit not a great one.
The team also took a flier on a few veteran arms, such as Pat Schillaci and Tyler Mondile, but both pitchers seem to have their best years behind them at this point.
Prospect to Watch: SP Beau Berkowitz
The top pick in the draft this past June, the Colonials decided to use Berkowitz out of the pen in his first pro season to limit his innings usage after his high school season. He projects as a staff ace, though, and ideally would be used as a starting pitcher exclusively this season. At just 18 years of age, he’s quite far away from making his CBL debut, but the potential is as good as anyone in the league at this point.
Dallis isn’t around much these days, but hopefully a decently built farm system anchored by a few top prospects will be enough to keep him exporting this season.
The big league roster is quite weak, however, and doesn’t look like the kind of team that will put up a fight night in and night out. It should be a long season in Connecticut, so maybe it’s best that Dallis may not be around all the time to see it. But there’s no denying the league is more fun with Dallis engaged, and he remains one of my favorites despite the lack of activity.