Capra Season 31 Preview
With another season of Capra baseball upon us, let's look back on the off-season that was, and look ahead at the season to come.
*Free Agent Frenzy
-Free agency always yields a high amount of activity in Capra, often to mixed results. This off-season was no different. Starting pitchers Carlos Cedeno (New Orleans) and Glenn Tomko (Jackson) were among the big winners as well as well as infielders Gus Li (Charlotte) and Mark Brooks (Chicago). Cedeno was the big prize, keeping teams waiting up until the end of the signing period before eventually inking a four year deal worth $60.3 million. Cedeno has been a solid starter throughout his career in OKC though he is coming off his worst season in which he posted a 4.93 ERA. He's an extreme fly ball pitcher, and while Zephyr Park in New Orleans isn't Coors Field, it's not exactly spacious. Gus Li got a five year deal from the Bulldogs and will be making 20 million this season. Li has consistently been one of the better overall players in the game and could slot in nicely at 2nd or 3rd in Charlotte's infield. Mark Brooks earned a five year deal at 9.6 per year as the Chicago Screw look to take the next step in the NL. And Glenn Tomko, the 37 year old veteran coming off a career year, managed to score a four year contract from the Jackson Five.
*Spending Spree in Jackson, Mississippi
-With the fans up in arms after yet another losing season in Jackson, owner TBrad321 opened up the checkbook and spent big this off-season while being active on the trade market. The results have left the Five with a much improved roster and finally some optimism for the fan base. It started on the trade market, where the Five bolstered their rotation with the acquisitions or Torey Russell and Renyel Hernandez. Atlanta and Jackson were both deep in trade talks with Salem to acquire Hernandez with Jackson winning out over their division rivals with a last minute offer that included season 30 All Star and fan favorite Rondell Collins. But the thought of beating out Atlanta, the team that has owned the division of late, for a potential staff ace quickly mitigated the disappointment of losing Collins. It continued into free agency where they gave out a combined $96.3 million in contracts to the likes of Tike Garcia, Jude Michaels, and Glenn Tomko. Combined with a core of young players such as Ronn Hawkins, Vitas Young, and Michael Matsui, the Five looked prime to at least be a contender in the playoff race this season, which would represent a great improvement for the team that has failed to win more than 70 games since moving to Jackson.
*Active Trade Market
-Capra's owners rarely shy away from making deals, and season 31 has proven to be no different. 17 trades have been executed thus far, six of which involved the Charlotte Bulldogs. The Bulldogs kicked off the off-season with a marquee deal with New York, sending them SP Cozy Carter, receiving a pair of promising young bats in return, Ivan Sosa and Erubiel Peguero. Charlotte has now moved two of the three elite starters that were a part of the league's best rotation and delivered a championship to Charlotte. Future HOF Bruce Dellucci was sent to Atlanta last season before moving Cozy to NY this season. Sammy Ontiveros still remains to anchor the Charlotte rotation. Charlotte capped off their off-season of trading with the fascinating Swan-for-Swann deal. A fitting end to another wild off-season in Capra.
Season 31 Storylines
*Ottawa Ice--One hit wonder or dynasty in the making?
-The Ice returned to the pinnacle of the Capra world after a 29 season drought by defeating Syracuse in a thrilling seven game series. After a relatively quiet off-season the Ice look prepared to defend their title with largely the same roster that won last season. The Ice had one of the league's best offenses last season and received a career year from Ross Governale with 43 home runs. Wiki Iglesias is one of the top young hitters in the league and looks like a future MVP candidate at just 23 years old. And Sherry Young and Charles Huang continue to get the job done in their early 30s. The Ice figure to be one of the league's top teams moving forward. But situated in the ultra-competitive AL North, their road back to the World Series will be a difficult one.
*New Top Dog in the AL South?
-The Atlanta Peaches rebuilding process that began in season 23 culminated with a season 28 World Series Championship. But what looked like the beginning of a great run has instead seen the Peaches produce mostly mediocre results in the two seasons since (172 total wins and only one playoff series win) while the teams below them in the standings have closed the gap. We've already touched on the Five's spending spree, but the New Orleans Hurricanes did not sit back idly and watch, they were active in bringing in Carlos Cedeno to add to an already talented young roster. And the Richmond Blue Sox continue to add young, talented prospects through the draft. The trash talk has already began between Atlanta and Jackson, and the days of Atlanta having the division wrapped up by the All Star break appear to be over.
*Which teams are on the rise?
-This writer has identified a few teams, that look primed to take the next step this season. First, the Anaheim Anteaters look to have done an excellent job rebuilding their roster after the former perennial contenders had a few down seasons. The Anteaters are stocked with young pitching, including Marty Dale, Carl Ramirez, Sal Roosevelt, and Anderson McCartney currently in the majors, with former top pick Albert Sanchez at AAA ready to make an impact when he gets the call up. Emilio Hernandez and Eduardo Estrada are two of the top young bats in the game and Anaheim added slugger Chin-Feng Lee who hit 34 home runs in his first full ML season. Look for Anaheim to return to the playoffs this season
The Chicago Screw posted a 90 win season and dispatched of Junior Hernandez and the Picards in four games in the NLDS before falling in heart breaking fashion in game 7 of the NLCS to Syracuse. Everth Cela hit .346 after coming over in a midseason deal with Salem. And the screw are hoping the addition of Mark Brooks will create a formidable tandem in the middle of their order and be enough to get to the World Series this season
The Dover Silastic Armorfiends saw their playoff drought stretch to 18 seasons, despite posting a solid total of 89 wins. Dover has won 80+ games in 9 of the past 10 seasons, but never more than 90. They look perpetually on the cusp of contention. Can they get over the hump this season? Edgardo Estrada is one of the league's best overall hitters with a .324 career batting average. Combined with Benny Palacios and Sal Murphy, Dover has one of the league's best middle of the lineup. Steven Bland appears ageless and continues to be an ace at the age of 35. If Dover can get consistent performances from the rest of their rotation, including Lefty Thompson, Fergie Simpson, and Maicer Johnson, they could break that postseason drought. My guess is they snag one of the two wild card spots and return to the playoffs.
North: Ottawa Ice
East: Cleveland Spiders
South: Atlanta Peaches
West: Oklahoma City Okies
Wild Card: New York Sultans
Wild Card: Dover Silastic Armorfiends
MVP: Andrew Flores (Cleveland)
Cy Young: Cozy Carter (New York)
North: Chicago Screw
East: Syracuse Sicilians
South: Nashville Friars
West: Seattle Picards
Wild Card: Toronto Beavers
Wild Card: Anaheim Anteaters
MVP: Fritz Doumit (New Britain)
Cy Young: Junior Hernandez (Seattle)
The Syracuse Sicilians defeat the New York Sultans in six games
Enjoy the season!