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CBL Predictions

Season Preview and Predictions (HL East)

Season Preview and Predictions (HL East)

St. Louis Sultans

Last year 5th in HL East 68-94

Predicted Finish in 2022……..5th 75-87

Owner Nathan Royce made big noise in St. Louis this offseason as the team rebranded itself from the Storm to the Sultans. The rebranding occurred after a 3-year run as the Storm, and Royce hopes the new uniforms and marketing efforts reinvigorate the city around their beloved baseball team. The Sultans won 68 games last year setting a new high water mark for the organization and provided a glimpse or respectability to its HL East competitors.

St. Louis was incredibly busy this offseason in the warroom and working the phones. They concluded 7 trades during the offseason that had one player, SP Keaton McKinney only on the team for few days before he was dealt again. “It was a whirlwind few months” said owner Royce. When asked about the McKinney player flip, he responded, “Erie offered us a deal we couldn’t pass up…I hope the best for McKinney in the future.”

Lineup

The Sultans have assembled a nice balanced lineup featuring HR king Edward Salcedo, OF phenom Oscar Cherry, utility specialist Alcantara and grizzled veteran Freddie Freeman. This team is going to score runs. It also helps that the Sultan park is one of the most hitter friendly confines in baseball…clearly Royce is bringing offense, and lots of it to the Sultan fans this year. The achilles heel for the team this season might be their pitching staff. With an aging leader of staff in Scherzer, followed by questions and unproven arms in Fulmer, Jordan, and Dyrda, there will be plenty of high scoring games. O’Farrell looks to be the odds on favorite to win the closer job out of spring training….however when you consider his only CBL experience consists of an 8.69 ERA over 38 innings…fans coming to the ballpark should probably bring a glove if they are sitting in the outfield. In a brief conversation outside of the Sultan’s HQ, nicknamed Aladdin’s Lamp, when asked about his team this year, Royce replied, “Our new offensive weapons are not only expected to contribute greatly on offense but defense as well. Our pitching focus is to have good control and keep us in close games where our hitting/fielding combination will win”.

On the Farm

The Sultans have drafted well and have some nice young talent coming up. Cherry should get his first full year in the majors this year taking a big step toward his potential hall of fame career. In addition to Cherry, RP Boyle, RF Nash Jr. and CF Luis Zamora are all young players heading for greatness. One prospect to keep an eye on this year is 21 year old SP/RP Thad Baldwin. Baldwin tore up high A ball last year posting a 1.34 ERA over 80 innings and it will be fun to watch his progression as he matures.

Notable Free Agent Signings

2B Arismendy Alcantara 3 yr/$28,560,000

SS Cristhian Adames 1yr/$2,800,000

Trades

Nash – RP Arano – STL RF Almonte

CAL – LF Vidro, LF Kendall – STL SP McKinney, SS Forbes

CHR – 3B Hudson – STL CF Zamora

VAN – CF Matos – STL RP Hubbard

ERIE – SP McKinney – STL SP Dyrda, DH Freeman, C Ramirez, RP O’Farrell

VAN – CF van der Ree, SS Aguilera – STL RP Robinson, LF Howell

CAL – SP Fisher – STL RP Henderson

 

Altoona Curve

Last year 5th in HL East 60-102

Predicted Finish in 2022…..4th 81-81

The HL East continues to get better with active teams like Altoona on the move. In 2021, Owner Justin Zima endured the worst season in franchise history going 60-102 and the team looked miserable during the last half of the season. Even before the season ended, JZ was working hard. The activity didn’t manifest itself so much in the free agent market as his highly targeted players didn’t meet the team’s strict fiscal policy. The only FA acquisition of note was underrated catcher Devon Mesoraco who at $2.8mil might be a steal. JZ spent most of his time manning the phones and working some big off season trades. When asked about his offseason moves, JZ responded, “I believe the moves we’ve made got the right people into the organization. We got a bunch of hard working young players who should grow within our system and build our organization up…these guys don’t shy away from a challenge!”

Lineup

Acquiring starting pitchers Blewett and Estrada should prove to be key additions to help shore up the pitching of woes of last season. In addition, JZ is confident on a return to form for SP/RP Miguel Almonte whose last few seasons have been abysmal. One scout last season was overheard saying, “How can a pitcher with grade A stuff like Almonte’s get shelled like a rookie?” Altoona’s pitching staff looks more balanced this year and should bounce back nicely. Unfortunately, the loss of SP Viera for 3 months will hurt and it will be up to the young arms of Alex Brantley and Jerry Chandler to keep things afloat until Viera heals. Juan Holguin had a break out year in his first stint as the team’s closer finishing 30 games while blowing 8 leads. If the relief core can pitch to form, the the Curve should finish middle of the pack in ERA and WHIP.

The Curve’s starting lineup is bursting with very young talent. Future all-star 3B Jimmy Small should lead the team in hitting followed closely by Olsen, Aiello, Lavey, Marin and Stobbe. With most of the team’s hitting talent under 26 years old..and if Altoona’s management can stay patient, the future is definitely bright for this organization.

On the Farm

Altoona has an expansive farm system and many of their young players have been promoted or are vying for a spot on the big league team. Starting pitchers Alex Brantley (20), Jerry Chandler (22) and Bo Allen (22) who can barely enjoy a beer legally might all see action this year in Altoona. One player to keep your eye on is young Dominican prospect Tony Marino, who has been receiving a lot of attention upon his signing. Tony is still working out at the ALT international complex, however he should be making his minor league debut soon.

Notable Free Agent Signings

C Devon Mesoraco 1yr/$2,800,000

Trades

CAL – RP Tewes – ALT SP Blewett

ERIE – RP Brown, SS Penn – ALT CF Lavey, 2B Stobbe, RP Dominguez

ALT – Estrada – MV CF Stollings, SP Cooper, SP Thomas

RC – RP Dominguez, SS Ferrer – RP Almonte

CAL – C Susnara, SP Neal – ALT 2B Rendon, SP Patino

POR – SS Turner, SP Guzman, SP Thorpe, 2B Carrasco – ALT SP Kaline, SS Aiello

 

Mahoning Valley Scrappers

Last year 1st in HL East 103-59

Predicted Finish in 2022……..1st 95-67

Dawn of a dynasty in Mahoning Valley after having back to back 100+ win seasons. Mid-season of 2021, MV had a scandal with previous owner resulting in a management shakeup that opted for an experienced hand to guide the scrappers forward. Bryan “Duke” Williams was given the ball and steered the club right into finishing with 103 wins and another deep run into the playoffs. We were able to catch up with Duke during the winter meetings and he had this to say about making a mark on his club…”It’s hard to make an impact on a team as pre-established as Mahoning Valley, but I believe that I did my best to improve the product on the field. I think guys like Almora, Taylor and Cooper will really help the team next year and I envision Stollings being a substantial contributor in the future.” MV boasted one of the most talented clubs in the CBL, however that hasn’t stopped Williams from going to work and making his team even better.

Lineup

Talent? This team has more talent than Michael Phelps has gold medals! Sporting a staff of 4-5 ace pitchers, established top tier relievers and the 2021 batting champion, how can this team possibly get better? Lineup depth and defense! During the playoffs, when a few of the hot bats that MV rode most of the season cooled off, no one seemed to step up to take up the slack. Williams has made a concerted effort to bring in talented “gold glove” caliber outfielders in Almora and Taylor to help out his already stacked pitching staff….sure, he traded away starters Medeiros and Estrada to do it, however he kept his “Big 3 – Piper, Wheeler and Lawerence” on the staff and now those three have another year of experience under their belt and should be ready to dominate again this year. About the only question mark is who will round out the back end of pitching lineup? Odds on favorite will be Damian Cooper, however Pineda and Marshall both have the skills to make a battle of it in spring training.

On the Farm

About the only thing lacking in the Valley is the current state of their minor league system, however even that drawback is minor. The acquisition of highly touted prospect Stollings is a nice addition as well as scouting discovery Jorge Hernandez from Venezuela who looks like a 5-tool player. Most of the CBL talent is under the age of 26 with huge upside…this is truly the dawn of a potential MV dynasty. (Now if they could just bring home a title?)

Notable Free Agent Signings

RP Miguel Alfredo Gonzales 1yr/$6,000,000

SS Hak-ju Lee 1yr/$1,300,000

SP/RP Michael Pineda 2yr/$19,000,000

Trades

MV – LF Almora – VAL SP Medeiros

ALT – Estrada – MV CF Stollings, SP Cooper, SP Thomas

VAN – 2B Mora, SP Ivey, SS Gamboa – MV 1B Manning

AUS – SP Holmes, RF Duty – MV CF Taylor

 

Regina Reapers

Last year 2nd in HL East 98-64

Predicted Finish in 2022……..3rd 85-77

The most winningest franchise in CBL history embarks on a new adventure this year under new ownership. After the sudden retirement and sellout of previous Syracuse ownership, Scott Boychuk grabbed the reigns and immediately pulled out of Syracuse and moved the team to Regina. “Canada needs more access to the CBL!” says Boychuk. He chose Regina due to the beautiful surroundings, people, culture and it gives him a chance to bring baseball into his Canadian hometown.

After a slow transition…Boychuk decided he wanted to learn more about his team….he took them all on a fishing retreat deep into the Saskatchewan province. His goal was to find out why a team that has won 627 games over 9 seasons and who has NEVER missed the playoffs still has yet to bring home a CBL cup? It was on that trip that it hit him…these guys need some veteran role models. Upon getting back to the friendly confines of Regina, Boychuk promptly scheduled and closed free agent deals with experienced veterans Kershaw, Fielder, Wright, Carpenter, Chacin and Santana. When prompted, the Regina skipper replied, “I don’t think they will all make the team…but I do know that their work ethic and experience will make our team better.”

Lineup

Solidifying himself as the most prolific pitcher in CBL history many seasons ago, Stephen Strasburg continues to dominate. In 2021, Stras won his 5th top pitcher award by a unanimous decision and showed no signs of aging. Stras will once again anchor a solid staff who hope to continue their pitching excellence. Regina’s staff sported a spiffy 3.13 ERA last year and showed no signs of slowing down. The hitting production was another story however. The .256 team average was the worst since the team’s inaugural year and something that Boychuk hopes to address this year. The Regina offense is not as overpowered as they have been in previous years and if they continue to sputter might signal an end to their perfect playoff record. Bringing in the veteran free agents might catch lightening in a bottle, however it also might create chaos and discontinuity for team who will be in a playoff fight all season.

Down on the Farm

Enrico Casias has been lauded with high praise from the international community upon signing with Regina. His 5-pitch repertoire at age 17 is impressive and should be fun to watch develop. Vince Lindemans is a defensive wizard who plays every position like he just graduated from Hogwarts. Dylan Steed is a name that Regina residents should learn…Dylan had an impressive performance last season sporting a 2.10 ERA over 60 innings in AAA ball…with a nasty splitter and a fastball in the 99 mph range, we should see Dylan in a Regina uniform at some point in 2022.

Notable Free Agent Signings

RP Clayton Kershaw 1yr/$3,280,000

1B Prince Fielder 2yr/$9,580,000

3B David Wright 1yr/$1,480,000

2B Matt Carpenter 1yr/$2,050,000

3B Carlos Santana 1yr/$1,680,000

RP Jhoulys Chacin 1yr/$920,000

Trades

None

 

Dayton Sting

Last year 3rd in HL East 89-73

Predicted Finish in 2022……..2nd 93-69

“The trend is not your friend!” screams owner Mike McAvoy at his players during winter workouts. Since Dayton’s career year in 2019 where they won 101 games, they have moved the wrong direction in wins 90 in 2020 and 89 in 2021 and finished out of the playoff race in 2021 for the first time in five seasons. The fiery McAvoy (famous podcaster and Olympic beer enthusiast) was quoted saying, “We are going to win or lose as a team and have no one else to blame”….and he isn’t kidding around as Dayton made no trades this offseason and brought NO new free agents into the fold. It is rumored that McAvoy packed up the team and bussed them all to a survival wilderness site this winter to live off the land and toughen up…however that hasn’t been confirmed.

At the last spring training game, when asked about losing fan favorite and Japanese hero “Godzilla” Masuda, McAvoy shrugged it off and said, “We are staying the course. Fuller will be full time now with Godzilla gone. We are going to win without him.”

Lineup

Brady Aiken continues to be a force when he takes the mound. It is hard to believe that Aiken is only 25 and will just now beginning to move into his prime years. This year might be the one where Aiken unseats Stras and wins the pitching award. Dayton has arguably the best bullpen in the Heartland League with Brothers, Reed, Rosenthal and Finnegan locking down games for them and they shouldn’t be overworked as Dayton starters should be solid as well. One question coming out of spring training is who will be the 5th starter? JR Graham is currently slotted in that position, however he had a shaky season last year flashing a 5.05 ERA over 8 starts and 51 innings. Steve Beck and River Fuller are both young future all stars who should provide big production in the heart of the DAY lineup. The lineup shouldn’t have a problem scoring runs, however

there is a lack of depth and injuries that could take a toll on this team in a big way. Starting CF Starling Marte has already been injured and out for 3 months which doesn’t bode well for a team who seems to consistently get bitten by the injury bug every season. Due to the rise of Beck and Fuller and the stellar relievers, there is a good chance that Dayton wins the battle against their arch rival Regina this year and forces them out of the playoffs.

Down on the Farm

Jose Arevelo’s pitching motion is no “Gimick” like his nickname might suggest.  He’s the real deal.  100 mph velocity with five potentially above-average pitches, he could face the same batter in a game five times and strike him out on a different pitch every appearance.  At only 21 years old, he has already had a large dose of CBL action in which he seemed more than prepared to face…it’s truly scary how good this kid might be.  RF Andy Ramsey is another potential all-star in the making.  At age 21 he saw his first CBL action last year (McAvoy believes talent should be CBL tested at an early age!) and struggled, however he has dominated every other stop.

Notable Free Agent Signings

None

Trades

None

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Trey Schalk
Trey Schalk | General Manager - Austin Bats

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    In a game time decision SP/RP O’Farrell came to manager Steve Bourgeois heavily expressing his desire to start. Andrew Mitchell, who had a slight dtd injury, overheard and offered his 4 slot to O’Farrell. Mitchell, who is okay with a bullpen role currently is back to being full health and will remain in the pen after O’Farrell got the win in a great outing.

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