84-78, 5th Place
23-year-old pitcher Danny Shuler, acquired in a mid-season trade with the Samurai, posted a 2.79 ERA for the Bats in 51 2/3 innings. His fastball-sinker combination give him stopper upside, but his changeup has continued to develop as well, which could make him a potential top of the rotation starting pitcher in the near future. As usual, the Bats offense was spectacular, leading the league in Home Runs, wOBA, On Base Percentage and OPS, while finishing second in runs scored. The heavily offensive leaning home stadium plays a part, but the talent level is pretty ridiculous too. Jerry Kelly finally had a real breakout year, hitting .273/.350/.516 with 38 home runs after years of underperforming his clear talent. Jose Montes is one of the league’s best all around players, posting 7.4 WAR this year while hitting .306/.430/.517. He had 164 hits and 106 walks, which is crazy. Rookie Designated Hitter Juan Acevedo, already traded twice, hit 25 home runs in just 88 starts, and he looks like the next triple crown winner.
The Bats pitching wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either, so it’s surprising to see a generally well rounded team miss the playoffs. Austin was just 16-25 in 1 run games, and a lot of the close losses can be attributed to the team’s poor defense. With the amount of talent the Bats have, it’s difficult to re-tool a team in one season, so it’s expected the Bats will improve their defensive ratings over the next few seasons. Long time slugger Elton Hedgecock is finally nearing the end it appears, as he hit just .212/.262/.364 in 78 games. He will be a free agent, and it seems unlikely he’ll return to Austin, at any price. 25-year-old pitcher Tony Peredo was expected to anchor the Bats rotation for years, but he’s had trouble getting acclimated in Austin’s hitter friendly environment. He’s posted ERA’s of 5.60, 4.76 and 4.89 over the past 3 seasons. And this year, he posted a 4.32 ERA at home and a 5.68 ERA on the road, so he can’t even really blame Austin’s park. The Bats will need him to pitch to his talent level next season.
Down On The Farm
First baseman Jose Navarro was signed to a $5.5 million bonus as an International Amateur Free Agent way back in 2042, and the 21-year-old finally made his debut stateside this past season. He hit .327/.398/.439 in 50 games at the Low A level, and looks like a potential middle of the order bat in the future. Scouts expect his power to develop as he fills out over the next few years, but his debut couldn’t have gone much better.
Steve Davidson, drafted in the 2nd round this past June, went 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA in 15 starts at the High A level, adding 103 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings. With six pitches that project as at least above average, Davidson is exactly the kind of pitching prospect that could continue to develop as he pitches more and more. Scouts rave about his makeup, and as a college draftee, he shouldn’t be too far from the CBL level. He seems like a good bet to start next season at the AA level. The Bats are undoubtedly hoping he can help in the near future.
84-78, 5th Place
Ron Chadsey continued to hit, like he’s done for most of his career. The 34-year-old hit .276/.358/.511 with 35 home runs in 155 games. He’s expected to test free agency this off-season, and since he’s already received a qualifying offer in a past season, teams won’t lose a draft pick for signing him. Starting pitcher Daniel Ortiz continued to rack up the strikeout numbers, leading the HL in strikeouts with 233 this past season. He also led the league in walks with 99, but his overall season was a good one, as he went 12-8 with a 3.46 ERA in 161 innings. He signed a 5 year, $118 million extension, and will remain in Chicago through the 2050 season. Dominic Sackett Jr continues be to a positive asset in center field, posting a 17.7 Zone Rating. He should be a key piece for the next few years for the Dogs.
The Dogs offense struggled most of the year. Shortstop Mario Rojas started 149 games at shortstop, but hit just .215/.262/.287, good for an OPS+ of 50. He was expected to be a positive defensive asset, but even his defense at shortstop was underwhelming, which was surprising. He was only +1 Zone Rating at short, despite a reputation for being among the league’s best. The Dogs will likely look for a shortstop upgrade this off-season. Catcher Bernard Campbell, who made $31.5 million this past season, hit just .198/.252/.367 and was one of the league’s worst offensive catchers. He’s expected to become a free agent, and it’s unlikely the Dogs have any interest in bringing him back after two straight down years.
Down On The Farm
Left fielder Jose Hernandez, the #6 overall pick back in 2043, had a breakout year between AA and AAA as a 20-year-old. He hit .259/.368/.494 with 12 home runs in 66 games at the Double A level, and then hit .270/.342/.603 with 19 home runs in 59 games at AAA. Scouts feel he may never hit for a high average, because he strikes out a lot, but if he continues to perform as well as he did this season, he should be in the Dogs outfield at some point next season.
Starting pitcher Steve Crane was a 4th round pick in that same 2043 draft, and he’s knocking on the CBL door as well. He spent the entire year at the AAA level, and he excelled. As a 23-year-old in AAA, he went 15-6 with a 2.94 ERA in just over 171 innings pitched. With 4 pitches, great makeup and solid stamina, he projects as a mid-rotation starter most likely. That has a ton of value, especially on a league minimum salary. If Crane doesn’t start next season in Chicago, he’ll likely be up very early in the season. He looks CBL ready now.
China Grove Samurai
45-117, 8th Place
Left fielder Frank Poncherello, acquired from San Diego in the blockbuster deal that sent Bobby Axelrod and others to the Surf Dawgs, had a nice rookie season. He played in 124 games and hit .295/.318/.474 with 20 home runs and 24 steals. He’s shown more power than most expected him to develop, and the 5’7 pocket sized prospect is turning into a CBL star. 25-year-old rookie second baseman Chuck Huffer also had a nice season, hitting .311/.342/.426 in 115 games. He’s considered the hardest working player on the team, so there’s hope for him to continue to improve as well.
China Grove was the worst team in the CBL this year, so a lot went wrong. The Samurai finished dead last in the HL in Runs Scored, On Base Percentage, OPS, Batting WAR, wOBA, Home Runs, Base Running, Runs Allowed, Starters ERA, Bullpen ERA and strikeouts. Shortstop Eddie Cappaert may have had the worst offensive season in league history, playing in 143 games but hitting just .195/.231/.249, with an OPS+ of 31. His .480 OPS was barely higher than Austin’s Jose Montes .430 on base percentage. Cappaert was a positive defensively, though. Second baseman Thom Hilpert (133 games, 59 OPS+) and catcher Rob Caryl (136 games, 69 OPS+) were also terrible all season, and seem likely to be sent to AAA to begin next season.
Down On The Farm
Second Baseman Jeff Kruty, the #8 overall pick in the 2045 draft, had a great season. He began the year at the High A level, hitting .277/.341/.453 in 41 games, before being promoted to AA. Once he arrived in AA, Kruty was dominant. As a 21-year-old, he hit .296/.399/.648 in 50 games, with 17 home runs. Scouts project him to be one of the league’s best home run hitters at his peak, and it’s possible he could be China Grove’s starting second baseman on opening day next season. Either way, he’s very close to making his CBL debut.
Starting pitcher Tomas Dominguez, signed out of Venezuela way back in 2042, pitched very well between two levels. The #46 overall prospect, the 21-year-old flamethrower went 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 8 starts at the High A level, and then went 9-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 19 starts at Double A. Dominguez is currently at the AAA level, and will probably get some more seasoning there at least to begin the season, but he’s also very close to being CBL ready and should make his debut in the near future.
The Samurai have a lot of young reinforcements that should really improve the overall talent level of the big league roster, and after this season, there’s no doubt the fans in China Grove can’t wait for that day to come.
68-94, 7th Place
The Rivermen remained an elite defensive team this season, finishing first in the HL in both Zone Rating and Defensive Efficiency. Third baseman Sergio Herrera hit .276/.326/.503 with 28 Home Runs in 153 games. Starting pitcher Dan Prenatt had another impressive season, going 12-7 with a 3.52 ERA one year after posting a 3.54 ERA. He throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground, and lets Louisville’s standout defenders do their work.
Despite the sparkling defense, the pitching staff struggled as a whole. They finished second to last in Runs Against, Starters ERA and Strikeouts, and were last in FIP and Pitching WAR. Shortstop Cisco Irizarry may as well have just gotten into the batters box without a bat in his hands this season. The slick fielder hit just .184/.248/.260 in 136 games. His typical outstanding defense was also only league average at +2.1 ZR, a far cry from last season’s +17.3. The overall offense struggled, scoring just 633 runs all season.
Down On The Farm
21-year-old center fielder Don Stango, the 15th overall pick this past June, had a great debut. After hitting .419/.479/.655 in 39 collegiate games, Stango debuted at the High A level and excelled. He hit .336/.386/.475 in 75 games, and stole 18 bases. Scouts are torn on whether he’ll be able to stick in center field long-term, but even if he has to move to left field, he’d be an elite defender there. He’s nearly CBL ready right now, although the Rivermen may decide to start him in the minors for a few months. He’s likely to develop into a top of the lineup type hitter at his peak.
Third baseman Alan Lambourne, the #3 overall pick in 2045, had a nice year. He hit .250/.319/.537 with 22 home runs in 80 games in AA, earning a promotion to AAA. He hit .302/.379/.626 in 52 games in AAA, with 15 home runs. His defense also received generally positive reviews, and he should be able to play third base long-term. He even pitched 3 innings last year, with 4 strikeouts and 1 walk, allowing 1 run. Scouts don’t view him as a CBL caliber pitcher long-term, however, so it’s unlikely he’ll do much pitching next season. He also gets very good reviews as a teammate, something that is always important.
Mahoning Valley Scrappers
93-69, 2nd Place
The Scrappers had a very good season. They were a very good team in all aspects, hitting, pitching, defense and base running. Left fielder Marc Hundt struggled his first few seasons at the big league level, but has been an absolute monster over the last 18 months. He finished this season hitting .289/.397/.566 with 29 home runs in just 105 games. He signed a 5-year extension worth $75 million that will cover two years of arbitration and three free agency seasons. He’s also an average defender, which is a positive for such a big slugger, and the fans love him. First basemen Tony Kluemper and Rob Yakel both had great seasons as well. Kluember hit .287/.375/.517 with 32 HR, and Yakel hit .300/.361/.533, also with 32 HR. Starting pitcher Jorge Gonzales had a great year on the mound, as the 25-year-old ace went 14-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 184 1/3 innings.
Shortstop Jorge Zaragoza played in 102 games, making 82 starts, but hit just .205/.280/.296. He was a useful defender at second base and third base, but he struggled at shortstop, posting a -2.7 Zone Rating in just 45 games. He was in the first year of a 4 year deal, but the Scrappers can get out of his contract after the 2047 season, which seems likely. Outside of Zaragoza, though, the Scrappers didn’t have a whole lot of bad this season, which helps explain their 2nd place finish. Overall, it was a very good season in Mahoning Valley.
Down On The Farm
Left fielder Ronald Pergman was drafted 13th overall this past June after hitting .438/.500/.800 with 18 home runs at the collegiate level. He began his minor league career at the Rookie League level, which was a bit surprising given his advanced development, and he hit well as expected. He hit .306/.398/.495 in 54 games, and should be moved aggressively through the Scrappers farm system next season. He’s not that far away from the CBL Level.
SP Harry Boland was drafted 9th overall in 2045, and the 19-year-old was as impressive as anyone this season. He made 12 starts at the High A level to begin the year, going 5-3 with a 2.56 ERA. Once he was promoted to AA, he went 12-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 90 innings, with a ridiculous 160 strikeouts. Scouts want to see him develop his knuckle curve into a useful third pitch before they anoint him the next big thing, but his development has been quick and impressive. It seems likely he’ll begin the year in AA or AAA next year, but it shouldn’t be much longer before we see Boland dominating on a CBL mound.
102-60, 1st Place
The team’s pitching was outstanding. Manchester finished first in the HL in Runs Against and Starters ERA, while finishing second in Bullpen ERA, FIP and Pitching War. Relievers Jorge Guillen, Eli Velazquez and Beau Berkowitz dominated out of the bullpen, giving the Marauders a three headed monster to deploy in the late innings. Even Joe Van Ness was great out of bullpen. Zain Barnick missed time due to injury, but was elite when healthy. Outfielder Juan Gallo carried the offense, hitting .305/.396/.492 in 146 games. Gary Goodspeed was used at both second base and in the outfield, and hit very well. He finished the year with a .288/.336/.549 line with 32 home runs in 145 games. Rookie Roy Hobbs had a nice debut and looks like he’ll be a Manchester fixture for a long time. It’s easy to see why this team won the Premier Cup.
The Marauders didn’t have much bad this season. Catcher Ignacio Bernal was the team’s worst hitter, hitting just .239/.294/.304, but he’s one of the league’s best defensive catchers and it’s likely not a coincidence that the pitching staff excelled with him behind the plate. Bench outfielder Derek Steele struggled, but he only made 45 starts and wasn’t a key piece, so it’s hard to fault anyone for that. All in all, the Marauders were champions because they had stars perform like stars and no weak links.
Down On The Farm
SP Ed Gotto was drafted 8th overall this past June, and had a very impressive professional debut. He went 2-0 in 6 starts with a 1.80 ERA at the High A level, earning a promotion to AA. He went 7-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 11 AA starts as a 21-year-old. Manchester has a lot of pitching depth so they can afford to develop Gotto at their own pace, but it’s clear he’s CBL ready now or will be very soon. He’s expected to start the 2047 season in AAA, but an impressive off-season and Spring could see him in the Marauders rotation sooner rather than later.
Right fielder Gavin Ward, signed out of Australia as a 16-year-old in 2042, finally made his US debut this past season. The 20-year-old outfielder hit .323/.402/.511 in 55 games at the Rookie League Level, and received rave reviews from coaches for his work ethic. His long term profile projects him as a solid starter more so than a star, but after his great debut season, some scouts feel he’ll continue to improve his game as he climbs up the organizational ladder. He should begin next season with a promotion, likely to one of the A ball levels to see how he does.
89-73, 4th Place
The Liberty’s offense was great all year, finishing first in the HL in runs scored. The team finished second in the HL in stolen bases and wOBA, and was consistently scoring runs all season. Right fielder Bob Sacamano had a breakout season. The 24-year-old hit .310/.368/.513 in 157 games, with 24 home runs, 45 doubles and even 8 stolen bases. He was also +6.2 Zone Rating in right field, giving him a great all-around season. Frank Gallagher, he of the bloated contract, had another productive, good season, posting a WAR of 4 while shifting between left and center field. First baseman Vinicius Vidonho hit well too, adding 32 home runs and an .823 OPS as a 23-year-old. Bob Navarro, claimed off of waivers in April, had one of the best seasons on the mound in the entire HL. He went 12-5 with a 2.52 ERA in 171 1/3 innings, with 208 strikeouts. He seems likely to receive a first or second place finish in the HL Bob Feller Award Voting.
With apologies to all the other poor offensive seasons around the league, Shortstop Tony Salazar was the worst hitter by a pretty wide margin. He played in 110 games but hit just .162/.221/.194, good for an OPS of .415 and an OPS+ of 15, 85% below the league average. Salazar’s OPS wouldn’t have even led the league in just on base percentage, that’s how bad he was. Making matters worse, he was -2.2 ZR at shortstop defensively and -1.3 at third base. He likely would’ve been a bad AAA player this year, so ideally he’ll be nowhere near a CBL roster next season. He’s simply not good. C Enrico Espinoza played in 103 games, and hit just .189/.266/.311. If the Liberty can replace Salazar and Espinoza’s innings with even average CBL caliber starters, they could be one of the HL’s top teams next season.
Down On The Farm
18-year-old starting pitcher Chris Pryce was the #10 overall pick this past June, and the 6’5 flamethrower had a great debut. He made 11 starts at the rookie league level, going 7-1 with a 3.10 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings, with only 9 walks. He looks like a future top of the rotation starter, and he gets rave reviews for his work ethic behind the scenes. OSA has moved him to the #11 overall prospect in their most recent prospect rankings, and rightfully so.
Third baseman Marcelo Bielsa was traded to the Liberty as part of the package that sent Juan Acevedo to Austin, and the 19-year-old had an impressive season. He hit .321/.388/.525 in 35 games in Low A, earning a promotion to High A. He hit .271/.339/.446 in High A, and received positive reviews on his defense as well. The switch hitter has a bright future, to be sure.
91-71, 3rd Place
Despite the team having maybe 4 exports all season, Tabasco’s standout pitching staff carried them to a post-season berth. Chris Knop, Kevin Leibowitz and Ivan Rodriguez were all outstanding, and Jose Rivera was one of the top two relievers in the HL as well, throwing 151 2/3 innings as the team’s stopper. His innings total was likely inflated because of the lack of exports causing him to pitch more often, but there’s no denying he excelled when called upon. Shawn Wahlin has developed into one of the league’s top hitters, hitting .299/.363/.599 with 47 home runs in 152 games. With average defense in left field and those ridiculous offensive numbers, Wahlin will be one of the top contenders for the Jose Arvizu best hitter award this season.
Inactivity continues to really hurt the organization. The team made the playoffs but didn’t export at all in the playoffs, a terrible look for a team that is poised to contend with a dedicated GM. Dan King sat on the IL for months despite being healthy, and was left off the post-season roster entirely. Catcher Antonio Duarte hit just .204/.259/.279 in 87 games, and should likely be replaced next season by a more capable backup catcher. The team could also use some more hitters with high on base percentages, as the team finished just fifth in the HL in that category. Getting more guys on base in front of Shawn Wahlin will only help.
Down On The Farm
21-year-old relief prospect Dan Thiner has dominated the High A level for three straight seasons now, and is undoubtedly CBL ready. Repeating the High A level for the third time, Thiner had 29 saves in 53 2/3 innings, with 87 strikeouts and just 14 walks. As a left hander with a 100 MPH fastball, he should be in Tabasco’s bullpen on opening day next season. We’ll see if he ever gets promoted out of High A.
Second baseman Hector Castro had a fantastic season in AAA. As a 20-year-old, he hit .325/.379/.582 in 102 games with 18 home runs, 26 doubles and 10 triples. He’s a poor defender, though, and will likely need to move to first base in the near future to maximize his value. His bat should continue to make him a CBL caliber starter though, and playing well at such a young age makes him likely to improve beyond scouts expectations.