After seven consecutive division titles, including four straight since management changed after season 14, expectations are high again in Monterrey. Here's how the defending AL champions line up for this year:
C: Ralph Daniels returns to help cement his place as one of the top offensive catchers in the league after hitting .325/.378/.640 last year. He'll be spelled by rookie defensive wizard Orlando Javier.
1B: Four-time American League MVP Darren Owens got $80 million to head into the frozen north, which makes room for experimentation. Former Ottawa DH Don Bonilla, utility man Seth Knowles, and rookie Juan Brogna will battle it out for the starting nod.
2B: Sparkplug Julian Colome was signed to play center field in midyear last season in the wake of Alfonso Cortez' injury. He's been brought back this year, and will move to 2B to replace the disappointing Crash Durocher.
SS: Three-time All-Star Alfonso Cortez returns for another season, providing punch at a traditionally defensive position.
3B: Longtime Monterrey 3B Trenidad Rios was not offered a contract, opening the door for another positional battle. Former Florida 3B Babe High will compete with rookies Bernie Fernandez and Crash Hernandez for at-bats here.
LF: Marshall Allen and Frank Sellers are both back off disappointing seasons, and both will need to perform to get playing time. Rookie utilityman Luis Duran may get some time here as well.
CF: Alejandro Gutierrez returns to center field now that Cortez is healthy again.
RF: Team leader Al Maurer is back to patrol right field and terrorize pitchers after his fourteenth consecutive year with an OPS over .900.
DH: Javier Leon returns in a contract year after a poor season last year. Much of the team's success will depend on Leon returning to the masher of old.
SP: Rock McCarty and Livan Lee will once again bring a strong 1-2 combination to the top of the rotation. Desi Martin's option was picked up for season 19, but he'll have to pitch well to have a future in Monterrey. Haywood Melton and Matt Sheffield will round out the rotation.
RP: Veteran closer and four-time All-Star Taylor Bowie is back to slam the door on the opposition, backed by many of the same lovable nobodies that performed so well last year.
This is a pivotal season for Monterrey. Many of their older veterans are unsigned for season 20, and the Campeónes will have tremendous payroll flexibility to make major changes if necessary.