Last year 2nd in FL West 87-75
Predicted Finish in 2022……..4th 79-83
Over the years, Calgary has been the model of consistency. The franchise has never had a losing season and has never missed the playoffs in CBL history. Times are a changing though…and this division is tightening up. Calgary’s owner Todd Wells might be feeling the heat…during this offseason CAL signed a new hitting coach, general manager and a new scout who highly favors tools. Wells was also more active that he has ever been in the free agency and trade market shaking things up with his team and bringing in new talent. We caught up with Wells outside his 8,000 sq foot log cabin in the woods…when asked about his offseason moves for the organization he had this to say, “Of the staff changes, two were back filling retirements and one was due to a fundamental difference in how we access talent. We found that there were just too many disagreements regarding the potential we were receiving in trades and the potential of the players in our minor league system. We wanted our scouts to focus on tools, and let our system develop those tools. We were very pleased with last year…..winning a wild card berth despite numerous injuries throughout the year and winning our first series. But the championship series showed that we had a few holes to fill. Our off season focus was (1) replace Franco in LF., we knew we couldn’t match his salary demands, so needed to replace his production in the lineup (2) shore up our bull pen (3) obtain a left handed starting pitcher and (4) improve at 3B. We think we accomplished all these goals and added some depth to the system. With Vidro in left, Chapman at 3B , adding starters Cingrani and Baumgarter and bullpen help with Tolleson and Tewes we think we have improved the ball club. Add to that our international signings who we may see with the big club this year and we are very optimistic.”
Clearly, Wells is a master and his team has historically played their hearts out for him, however, due to roster turnover and other teams in the division getting stronger, there is a good chance Calgary takes a step back this year.
Rendon was a solid piece that Calgary will miss this year and though they added 3B Chapman, which should provide a nice defensive boost at 3B, the Mavericks didn’t address a lineup that batted a franchise low .249 in 2021. In fact, the team’s batting average has decreased every year since 2017….not a good trend. Buxton and Stanton are the lineup stalwarts, however both have question marks around their durability. If they stay healthy, then Calgary should be fine as both should compete for MVP honors…but that is a very big “IF”. Vidro was an excellent acquisition and should fit in well with the club, and Crawford has been a solid producer at the top of the order.
Calgary’s pitching staff didn’t overly impress last year with a 3.71 team ERA, however they were consistent and kept Calgary close in most games. Gausman, Greinke and Kingham all turned in nice seasons and are expected to be the nucleus of the staff in 2022. If one of them falters though, there is a dramatic falloff of talent for the other starters…Bumgarner, Cingrani, Nicely, Griffin etc. The team might adopt a “closer by committee” approach as no specific closer has emerged. Ryan Cook (6) is the only relief pitcher on the staff that closed more than 4 games all of last year.
On the Farm
Calgary takes pride in their first round picks each year in the amateur draft..and it shows with 2020’s pick, Arturo Rios continuing to excel up through the minors, and their first round pick last year, Kevin McKenzie, has flashed great tools and was promoted from High A to AA ball last year. Highly touted Dominican, Tomas Zuniga signed with the team and shows great promise for the future.
Notable Free Agent Signings
SP Juan Al. Alvarez 3yr/$10,250,000
SP Tony Cingrani 3yr/$13,500,000
RP Ryne Harper 2yr/$1,750,000
CL Jose Nova 3yr/$10,320,000
CAL RP Tewes – ALT SP Blewett
CAL RP Tolleson – RC Varga
CAL LF Goetzman – TUC SP Smyly, SP Dunmire, 2B Enriquez
CAL C Susnara, SP Neal – ALT 3B Rendon, SP Patino
CAL LF Vidro, LF Kendall – SP McKinney, SS Forbes
CAL SP Fisher – STL RP Henderson
CAL 3B Chapman, 1B Benson – AUS CL Jansen, LF Perez
Last year 4th in FL West 80-82
Predicted Finish in 2022……..3rd 82-80
After years of owner turnover and a revolving door of players, the Millers feel like they finally have their man in Erik Voldness. For the past SIX seasons in a row Erik has increased the number of wins for Miller fans. Say what you want about the franchise..that is one heck of a trend line! The media doesn’t always agree with “the Voldness 10-year plan”, however the team finished 2 wins short of a winning season last year, and fans are lining up to buy season tickets for 2022!
The fans of Minneapolis have a love/hate relationship with team leader Trace Loehr. A lot of talent was given up for Loehr a few years ago and though he won the gold glove at SS this year and is the division’s best defender, his production at the plate still hasn’t materialized as he slashed a line of .227/.327/.379 this year. Joey Gallo showed a nice return to form hitting 30 homeruns, and will be expected to provide the power this lineup so desperately needs. The Millers might have had the waiver wire pickup of the year by acquiring Manny Machado…Machado is a great influence in the dugout and showed this year he loves Minneapolis having one of his best runs at the plate once coming over while continuing to play solid defense. The acquisition of C Ron Arnold should pay huge dividends as he should find a lot of success batting in that Miller lineup. The Miller’s offense isn’t without holes however. The outfield is a mess….Fragile Josh Hart leads a bevy of fast capable defenders who wield very light hitting bats. Clearly Voldness has made the decision to value defense and speed, and will look to play small ball attempting to manufacture runs by dinking the ball around the diamond and then stealing other teams blind.
Acquiring RP Shawn Kelley was brilliant as it gives the Miller relief core a solid proven workhorse of an arm to help them close games out….the main problem will be for the team to be leading in the latter innings. The starting pitching core of Kemp, Garcia, Roach and Ramirez do not exactly instill fear in the hearts of hitters, and there is no clear cut ace for the team to depend on getting that slump-breaking win during the season.
I love what Erik is doing…bringing back old school defense and speed as his core concepts…however the lack of SP talent is worrisome and if the pitching can’t keep opponent scores under 4 runs a game, this team might struggle.
On the Farm
SP Jim King was a nice acquisition who continues to improve and might compete for a starting role in a few years. Dominican prospect, Mauro Martinez, is a nice success story and was a great signing. Martinez is a 5-tool player who has seen limited action so far in his pro career but continues to raise scout’s eyebrows with his skills.
Notable Free Agent Signings
RP Shawn Kelly 2yr/$25,560,000
RP Marc Pzepczynski 1yr/$2,000,000
COL SS Gabriel, SP King, SP Rivas – AUS RP Abiram
COL C Arnold – ERIE SP Baker
San Diego Surf Dawgs
Last year 3rd in FL West 81-81
Predicted Finish in 2022……..2nd 89-73
It has a been a long time since the Surf Dawgs have sniffed the rarified air of a winning season and a playoff birth….6 seasons to be exact. The tide (or surf) is beginning to turn…over the last four seasons, the Dawgs have increased their win totals every year and had their fans in a legitimate playoff push deep into the last week of the regular season. The question is if owner and commissioner, Tim Imasa can continue the run of success. Imasa was surprisingly absent during this offseason signing only one free agent and pulling off one trade. Clearly he is happy with his team’s current vector and doesn’t wish to derail it in any way. We were able to get a quote from the very busy Imasa outside of his favorite sushi restaurant in downtown San Diego…when asked about his super phenom player Jose Arvizu and his role as a leader this year, here was his response: “I am very pleased with his development thus far. We know he has the right tools to be a great player in this league, but we certainly didn’t expect him to break our home run (49) and RBI record (121) in his sophomore year. I mean, how do you top that? We don’t have any specific expectations from him this season, we just want him to be consistent. As far Jose becoming the leader of our club, he is still very young (23 yrs old) and he has a lot to learn. The good news is he’s surrounded with great clubhouse guys–Michael Wacha, Nick Castellanos, just to name a few. I expect those guys to guide Jose throughout their career here in San Diego.”
San Diego will be the chic pick to make the playoffs this year, and it is hard to deny them a prediction with so much young talent to spread around and a lineup led by the best young hitter in the league.
Arvizu has taken San Diego by storm..he is on billboards, on TV promoting products, his jersey is everywhere and he could probably be elected mayor after an amazing award winning season. The “age of Arvizu” might be upon us..the young phenom lead the league in homeruns, RBIs and most impressively walks for the 2021 season. In addition to Arvizu, Imasa has assembled a nice mix of young talented hitters with no one over the age of 31. If the Dawg’s hitters can continue to develop and gel as a team, this group of hitters will be a formidable force for the future.
The injury to SP Martin Perez was unfortunate and he will be missed since the Dawg’s don’t have much depth at starting pitcher. Smith, Clarkin and Wacha are a solid trio, however things get pretty murky at the back end of the rotation with Burt and Stewart who have shown flashes of brilliance followed by stretches of mediocrity. Bandilla should be taking the ball as the Dawg’s full time closer this year and though he has limited experience has the stuff to be successful.
On the Farm
OF Oreste Tauretto is the real deal and should rise quickly within the SD organization. His quick bat and masterful eye at the plate has him in the top 10 of most prospect lists. Dominican World Little League MVP, Luis Padilla made his debut appearance within the SD system last year and though he is still getting acclimated to professional baseball, has exhibited top notch skills that should land him in the CBL at some point in his career.
Notable Free Agent Signings
C Christian Vazquez 1yr/$2,000,000
SD RF Stephen Piscotty – RC $2,500,000
Last year 1st in FL West 101-61
Predicted Finish in 2022……..1st 100-62
What can you say about a team who has won 201 games over the last two seasons and brought home the CBL cup? Right before the ticker tape Cup parade in Vancouver, I was able to corner legendary owner Dan Courcelles and ask him about his ideology or “secret to success.” Here is his response, “My ideology has always been stack up on pitching. Starting pitching especially, but what most GMs in this league don’t realize is that the bullpen is VERY important as well. For instance, I had Chapman closing a couple seasons ago and I went out and got Sergio Romo. Most GMs would of added hitting since I was lacking a little bit but I knew that if I could close down games with 2 closers pitching the 8th and 9th, along with my 5 starters who are all top quality, I’d have a chance to win more than lose. I’ve also developed my own pitchers as well. A lot of my superstars came from developing them. Hoffman was rated 3 star potential when I traded for him and now he’s a solid 4.5 star rated player who pitches over 200 innings every year and is always one of the top in wins. Fernandez has always been top in ERA but Hoffman and Cobi have done a lot that most don’t realize in his shadow. They pitch over 200 innings and win ballgames. Their ERA aren’t the lowest, but they end up under 3.50 and pitch to win and pitch deep into games. As for hitting, I took lots of players that other people didn’t want and made put them together to make a solid lineup who can score enough to support the top notch pitching I have. I wouldn’t usually give out my secrets but I feel like these points are very easy to notice in winning teams but I like to believe that I have my own system. Bottom line, pitching is key and player development should never be overlooked.”
Most franchises would drool over the hall of fame talent that 1B Griffin Keller exudes. In Keller’s limited CBL experience last year he slashed .346/.393/.635….allowing us a glimpse of the perennial MVP numbers we should expect from this hitting juggernaut. Dan is so confident in his young superstar that he traded away all-star caliber Bobby Manning to award the full time position to Keller. In addition to Keller, VAN is not short on young talented hitters featuring players like Scott, Boudewijn and Kelly. The VAN lineup will strike fear into the hearts of all Frontier League pitching staffs this year.
Vancouver also sports one of the best relieving cores in baseball with Chapman, Romo and Collins. Opposing teams will have to jump on them early because coming from behind will be difficult with these grizzled veterans on the mound. Starters Fernandez, Hoffman and Johnson are as good as any in the league and should remain a consistent immovable force for other teams. Vancouver comes into 2022 loaded and ready to defend their CBL title.
On the Farm
RP Ezra McKenzie should receive the nickname “shutdown” as that is all he has done against opposing batters at every minor league level. His stuff and back-breaking changeup should be making a CBL debut very soon. IF Jorge Gamboa was a wonderful acquisition from MV this offseason. Gamboa is a defensive wizard who has pop in his bat and runs like the wind. It will be interesting to watch his progression throug the VAN system.
Notable Free Agent Signings
RP Tony Schultz 3yrs/$11,500,000
SP Danny Hudson 1yr/$1,500,000
VAN SS Aguilera, CF van der Ree – STL SP Robinson, LF Howell
VAN CF Matos – STL RP Hubbard
VAN SS Gamboa, SP Ivey, 2B Mora – MV 1B Manning
Last year 5th in FL West 59-103
Predicted Finish in 2022……..5th 73-89
Holy big spender, Batman! Tucson owner, Ace Coonan went “all in” this year during the free agency period buying arguably the 3 best positional players available on the market. Coonan shelled out an unprecedented $394 million over 5 years to his “Big 3”. Since Tucson went backward in wins as a franchise last year, clearly Coonan decided to shake things up and bring some excitement to the Tucson fans. Season tickets and jersey sales have skyrocketed since the acquisitions and food vendors are trying to come up with food names that fall in line with the high profile players…my personal favorite is the “Godzilla Meat Bat” which is a 3-foot long hot dog. Though the “Bryant Burger” and Chicken “Alfredo” Nachos are fan favorites as well.
The combination of Franco, Bryant and Masuda immediately make this lineup 100% better, and one that is sure to win games by themselves…however they won’t have to as Ace has accumulated some other nice positional players to round out his offense. The Express is by no means ready to make the playoffs this year, but they will no longer get kicked around the FL West either. One aspect of his team that Ace didn’t address in the offseason was his pitching staff, however to be fair, the under-talented staff held their own last year finishing the year with a team ERA of 3.80. When you consider the staff doesn’t have a legitimate ace pitcher or any shutdown relievers, it is hard to believe that they kept the team’s ERA under 4, but somehow the Express coaching staff made it happen. Can they do it again?
On the Farm
Mexican import CF Raul Ramirez could be an impact top of the order hitter as he matures with blazing speed and swift bat. Last year’s #1 draft pick Russell Bell had a rough adjustment to professional ball, however he is still an incredibly talented hitter with good defensive instincts and a freak on the basepaths.
Notable Free Agent Signings
1B Kris Bryant 5yr/$145,000,000
2B Sakutaro Masuda 5yr/$149,950,000
LF Alfredo Franco 5yr/$94,000,000
TUC SP Smyly, SP Dunmire, 2B Enriquez – CAL LF Goetzman
TUC DH King – RC $5,000,000