Captain: Jimmy Cole
Jimmy Cole tore up the league and the HR record in his rookie campaign this past summer, and won MVP at nationals. He’s accomplished a lot already and in some ways feels like a veteran, but this is his first Fall Ball campaign so he is technically, for now, still a rookie. He hopes this team that he formed fares better than his Expos did, and he has made some key roster moves to ensure that. He signed Omar Husain to both the Backdoor Sliders and the Astros (Cole’s team next summer), and signed Dakota Jackson to the Backdoor Sliders as well. Those two will team with former Expos’ Mike VanNostrand and Ron West to round out the BDS 5-man roster. The Backdoor Sliders success may rest largely on their #2 spot in the rotation. Either Mike, Ron or Omar will have to give them quality short or middle mound innings consistently, otherwise you’re looking at around a .500 record as your ceiling. The signing of Dakota Jackson makes sense from afar, but what exactly is his role supposed to be? He can give you quality long mound innings, but he’s never going to be a better long mound option than Jimmy, and you certainly aren’t acquiring him for his bat. Cole will be eligible to pitch every other game, that’s 6 games total at 4 innings a piece, which is the equivalent to 4 6-inning games. Is Cole really worried about putting 4 games on his arm over a 7 week period? Either way this team has a lot of potential and some analysts have them as front-runners to win the East division. Their offense is a bit of a question mark, but I expect them overall to be pretty solid. I do expect this team to compete for the division title, but I also would not be surprised if they were fighting just to get into the playoffs on the last Saturday of the season. The teams in Fall Ball are very close in talent to one another, so the Back Door Sliders margin for error is very thin.
Record Prediction: 5-7 (10 pts)
Smash & Dash
Captain: Matt Butrym
Ironically “Smash & Dash” will be a pitching-based team with some serious concerns about their smashing and dashing abilities. Captain Matt Butrym strikes fear into the heart of the batters he faces when he’s on the mound, but he can only be on the mound half the time. Will anyone else on S&D step up and make a name for themselves? They are expected to platoon a few veterans but the team is mostly fresh faces. Matt has brought in “his guys” to try and get done what the Dodgers could not; Win a championship. Okay, so, he’s probably way more focused on a summer league title than this years Fall Ball title, but now is the time to build toward next summer. Paddy Bailey will make his return to Hess Field after traveling down under, and hopes to put this team over the top. Butrym has brought in a couple more friends with baseball backgrounds to hopefully produce runs consistently, but the jury is still way out on them. How great their lineup is or isn’t may not matter if a legitimate #2 pitcher pops up from their rookie class. Just adding an above average pitcher to their rotation would instantly make it the best in the league. All rookies go through growing pains, especially in the outfield where it can be difficult to adjust to the size of the field and the rules/style, so this team isn’t expected to be full of Gold Glove Allstate Good Hands candidates. Their success this season will come down to how many games Matt pitches from the long mound, and if they have either a #2 pitcher or a couple really good hitters. I have a hard time believing that this team wont make playoffs but that doesn’t mean they can’t struggle. Given the new scoring system which includes ties, Smash & Dash could find themselves in a handful of 0-0 finishes with Matt on the mound and miss out on valuable points. They’ve got to figure out a way to get him a few runs, which could be the difference between a tie and a win and between winning the division and being just an average team.
Record Prediction: 5-5-2 (12 pts)
Straight Outta Ktown
Captain: George Stegmann
The Ktown crew got the best possible news last weekend that they could have received; BK will be playing full time for them. He made the announcement just after a tough semifinal loss in the annual Longo Summer Volleyball Tournament, so he was a bit emotional but was clear in his message. He did say that he would be pitching from both the Mid mound and Long mound as needed, but it gives little comfort to his opponents. Captain George Stegmann Brought BK and AK on board to provide a veteran presence around his two new rookie signings of Steve Checksfield and Josh Eppard. Both come with reputations as good ball players, especially Checksfield who holds several school baseball records in his home (K)town. As we know, most rookies go through a steep learning curve which leads to a lot of on-field struggles, so having the Kelly brothers on board full time is a big deal. You can expect AK to see mound time as well, and he’s the best hitter in that lineup as of now. The Rotation is clearly upgraded with BK on the mound consistently, and it jumped them from the bottom of the analysts power rankings to near the top of them. Their lineup right now on paper is average, but if Checks or Eppard turn out to be really good than they will be the best team in the league. BK cant pitch every game though, AK will probably have to win a big game at some point and George will definitely have to win multiple games if they’re going to win the division. The teams in this league are all very close in talent, so the slightest bounces of the ball can and probably will determine how a team fairs, but this team will not be an opponent you want to see in the playoffs with that rotation. A lot of focus will be on the rookies because it will affect the futures of several 2016 summer league teams and because they have been receiving a decent amount of hype, but I believe the three veterans will be the reason why this team is successful.
Record Prediction: 6-5-1 (13 pts)
Aussy will captain his second Fall Ball team in a row, and like last years NWO squad they will have no long mounder in the rotation. Besides Aussy, Zeh is the only NWO member whose contract was picked up by the Ballhawks. They’ve added veteran Josh Longo and rookie Vinny Struffolino, which should make for an interesting mixture of personalities, and could potentially go either way for the ‘Hawks. Aussy and Longo are arguably the two best non long mound pitchers in the league, and the Ballhawks defense should be solid, but you can argue that they have the worst rotation in the league. The 4-man roster allows for plenty of at bats for four solid hitters and OBP guys, which should take some pressure off of their rotation. Keeping hitters in the park will be the key for both Aussy and Longo, as their defense should make most plays that they’re given a chance to, and their bats will put up crooked numbers consistently. They also lucked out a bit by drawing Smash & Dash as the one opponent whom they will not face, potentially escaping 2 games against the leagues top pitcher. It certainly wont be easy for them to win the division but they are definitely capable. Some analysts wonder whether their could be a meltdown given the clash of legendary players whom play on rival teams, but the Ballhawks have assured people that they are all on the same page and just want to have fun. We shall see. If they do make it to the playoffs, they could be one of the more dangerous squads to face, and for the fans and media they will definitely be one of the most fun teams to track and watch.
Record Prediction: 6-5-1 (13 pts)
Blue Steel WC
Captain: Chris Hess
This team in my opinion is definitely the best team in the league, but definitely not by much. They played last year as the Aces and won the Fall Ball title in large part due to their multiple long mound options. They have those same options this year, and are actually the only team with 2 legit long mounders. They added short mounder Tim Goyette to round out their rotation, as he continues to try and cement himself as one of the top speed-limit pitchers in the league. Tim is still recovering from an MCL injury and could possibly be DH’d. The rest of their lineup is solid, with Hess’s Braves teammates Mike Metrokotsas and Justin Singer-who has led the entire league in RBI in three straight seasons (summer 2014, fall 2014, summer 2015). They have some defensive concerns but hope that their rotation will negate them, which very well could happen. They have arguably the toughest schedule in the division which may hurt them slightly but they have more than enough talent to overcome it. If they can win the games that Timbo starts than they could end up running away with the division because it will definitely be tough to beat Hess or Mike in a 4-inning game. However my suspicion is that this division will be a an all out 3-team war for most, if not all, of the season.
Record Prediction: 7-4-1 (15 pts)
Captain: Zach Artim
SRL, which actually has a few players from BWBL as well, is without a doubt the biggest wild card in the league. The media, the fans, and the analysts are all excited to see how they play in a foreign league, and how some of their best compares to some of ours. Although our leagues have played each other, it was under different circumstances. Captain Zach Artim and pitcher Bob Loftus have already pitched several big games in NWLA settings with brand new balls but are even better with broken in balls which we play with during Fall Ball. The rest of their roster includes NWLA players Mark Belles (SRL), Joey Dougher (BWBL) and Mikey Holloway (BWBL) as well as Justin Gober and Barry Hughes . The biggest question mark, obviously, is how they will adjust to our rules and style of play. Firstly, the size of our field is smaller than what they usually play on and so defensive positioning is somewhat different than what most leagues play. The “MLB” style defense is a big adjustment as well, having to field a true first baseman and often make throws across the field accurately within a split second is a tough adjustment for some, and having a bad defense will cost you games eventually. The “4/3 rule” could be tricky for them, not necessarily actually finding a short/mid mound pitcher, but just setting up their rotation to where they’re using their short or mid mounder wisely. They may not know what the best matchup for them is unless they get a scouting report on who is who or they scout the players themselves. Given the size of the field and the learning curve on defense, it will be important that Zach and Bob rack up strikeouts and try to keep the ball out of play as much as possible. SRL has a potentially powerful offense, which I think they’re going to need, but not having faced anyone from our league except Butrym it will be a big challenge for them to figure out what an opposing pitchers got in only 4 innings. This team has the talent to win it all but there are a lot of factors working against them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they missed out on the playoffs but I would be very surprised if they weren’t right in the middle of the playoff race the entire season.
Record Prediction: 4-7-1 (9 pts)