2018 OMBL Predictions

The league underwent yet another expansion this offseason, bringing in four new teams, and saw the rebranding of four others. This along with the change to three divisions per league, and this seems like a whole new league. Let’s first take a look at the divisions, and we’ll leave it up to the readers to decide who they think will win it all this upcoming season.

First off, we’ll look at the newly rebranded Larry Doby League, or the DL for short. This is what used to be the Oldtimers Baseball League. In the East Division, we have the Halifax Highlanders, Edenton Steamers, Myrtle Beach Pelicans and Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

The Highlanders are the reigning champions, as they beat Edenton in the first round of the playoffs, then squeaked past Frisco before blowing away State College in 5 games (all close games, but all fell Halifax’s way.) In GM Daniel Fireman’s first season, he shocked the league with his first trade, trading away Yoenis Cespedes, Jeurys Familia and Dee Gordon for an aging Edwin Encarnacion, Marcus Stroman and a mid-tier prospect. This did not come back to bite them, as their defense helped lead them to a division win, and FA signing David Price led the league in wins and innings. A trade deadline acquisition of Daniel Murphy appears to be what put them over the top, as he posted 2.2 WAR over 54 games with the team. The lost both Murphy and Price, but added 1B Josh E. Bell from East Texas, who looks poised to be a breakout star. The rounded out their pitching staff with the signing of Japanese import Hisafumi Ito, who will pair with Stroman and Michael Wacha to form a solid top 3. The games are finished by Felipe Rivero and Craig Kimbrel, possibly the best righty/lefty duo in the league.

Halifax Highlanders closer Craig Kimbrel

Next is Edenton, who was poised to win the division again, until the last month of the season saw them choose not to place injured players on the disabled list, but instead going day-by-day, despite the fact that these guys had gotten surgery. This hurt them a ton, and they limped (literally) into the wild card, then almost rode Clayton Kershaw to another World Series, but Halifax was able to hold them off. This offseason they added David Price, stealing him from their new division rivals, and have called up star prospect Todd Isaacs. Both of these moves were done by the team owner, who normally has no say in baseball operations, but they had let go their former GM, and did not hire a new GM until the start of spring training when John Evans was given the reins. With Clayton Kershaw and 6 players that could be closers on other teams, they truly rely on their pitching to win games.

Edenton Steamers pitcher Clayton Kershaw

Myrtle Beach is much improved since their new GM took over midseason. Ryan Woloshin is one of the more polarizing GMs in the league, constantly bragging of his success. But this team looks they may be able to back up all of the talk. They have a very strong starting rotation, led by Sonny Gray, although rule 5 draft pick Jordan Montgomery has shown lots of improvement in his offseason workouts. They also added some offense through trade and free agency, acquiring John Jaso and Paul Goldschmidt. Maikel Franco should be a force at the plate again, but this team does have a few holes to fill.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans pitcher Sonny Gray

Binghamton had to void a contract already, the first time in league history. This owner and GM have one thing in mind, and that is winning. David Truesdale does not understand the meaning of rebuilding, and although they are an expansion team, they plan to win this year, not wait for young players to develop. They have a surprisingly high powered offense that includes Giancarlo Stanton, Prince Fielder and Jesse Winker, and Napoleon Dynamite will be on the team all year, most likely (no, he wasn’t named after the movie). Last year, they needed pitching, and they addressed that need, trading for closer Cody Allen, and signing Masahiko Oishi and Hirozo Ryu out of Japan. Daniel Stumpf will be their X-factor in my opinion, as he can start or pitch in relief, and could be a valuable piece for the recent expansion team.

Binghamton Rumble Ponies outfielder Giancarlo Stanton

In the new Doby League Central, we have the St Cloud Rox, Cleveland Spiders, Milwaukee Beers and Mexico City Red Devils.

St. Cloud was the only of these teams to make the playoffs last season, as they rode strong defense and solid pitching to a wild card win. They return with their ace, Noah Sydergaard, who led the league in ERA last season, and they added plenty of offense this offseason, thanks to smart moves by GM Ken Mason. Masaichi Inouye will be a slugging catcher/DH for them, and is a serious 40 HR threat. They also added Jose Abreu, who received a vote for hitter of the year last season (award voting is stupid), Chan-koo Oh, who will likely leadoff, Anthony Rendon, Kikuji Utsumi and will have a full season of Justin Williams, their top prospect. This revitalized offense will be solid, but their 2 through 5 starters all leave things to be desired.

St. Cloud Rox pitcher Noah Syndergaard

By far the oldest team in the league, at times it looks like they are trying to lose and force a move from Cleveland. But GM Rick Burson seems to finally understand that he needs players who will be good this season, not ones that were good 12 seasons ago. He made the splash of the offseason, trading for Manny Machado, who has the highest WAR in OMBL history. That alone will help, but this team is full of has been’s and never was’s.

Cleveland Spiders infielder Manny Machado

Milwaukee has the best young talent in the league, and it isn’t close. The 2nd round pick from last season, Willy Mays Hayes, went from HS to the OMBL, and while he struggled some, he can definitely stick. He followed that by winning the MVP of the AFL, and many expect him to make a run for the MVP this season. Then they have Nick Senzel and Orlando Arcia on the left side of the infield, Dan Vogelbach and Ryan O’Hearn to add to the offense. Japanese import Katsuhiro Tamura is another player who will get on base often. The question marks all come on the pitching side, where they have Dallas Keuchel and newly signed Michael Pineda, but after that is plenty of players who could use some work. Their best option at closer is Willy Mays Hayes, who is their starting CF. GM Jim Markwood will have to think creatively to make this work.

Milwaukee Beers outfielder Willy Mays Hayes

Mexico City is the first of our expansion teams, and the first team in Mexico for the OMBL. They’ll be led by 2 Asian players, and actually only have 5 Spanish speaking players on their team. Either way, fans should turn out in droves to see Toyoo Ihara, who they claim will hit 60 HRs, close to double the OMBL record. Ja-wook Koo will also help this team, but they may be a few years away from contention.

Mexico City Red Devils outfielder Toyoo Ihara

In the DL West, we have a much easier road for the Frisco RoughRiders, as their rivals will be the Kansas Cannons, Wyoming Cowboys and Calgary Vipers.

Frisco looks a little different this year, but certainly sured up some weaknesses. The biggest move was the trade for Shohei Otani, possibly the only viable 2-way star in this league, as he can pitch like an ace and hit like an All-Star. It appears that GM Todd Wells will use him as a SP, but may toy with having him play RF or DH from time to time. He also brought over two other PacRim players, Yasuji Yoshida and Suk-min Kim, who will pitch the 8th and 9th for him, and look to be shutdown. They traded away Anthony Rendon and AJ Pollock, two of their better offensive players, but Chris Bostick and Wasaburo Sakaguchi will fill in for them, and should perform similarly. Mincho Kamiya will take over in RF and is a major power threat. Then they return all their stars from last season, C Kevin Plawecki, 1B Matt Olson, 3B Joey Gallo, SS Carlos Correa, SP Shintaro Fujinami and Carlos Rodon. Other small additions of Tetsuya Hirata, a 41-year old UTIL slugger, OF Ryuhei Yamauchi, a defensive wiz, and Juan Quirarte, a solid 4th OF will help guide this team to the playoffs.

Frisco RoughRiders pitcher Shohei Otani

Kansas is much improved, as they’ve signed Jake Arrieta, Yoenis Cespedes and Chi-hyeon Su. This will help this team, as they already had a group of mid-tier players, any one of which could play above expectations. All it will take is for 2 or 3 of these guys to have career years for this team to compete with Frisco.

Kansas Cannons outfielder Yoenis Cespedes

The Cowboys are the newly relocated Surf Dawgs, and they could be very good. Their pitching staff is led by Robert Stephenson, who made a case for the Cy Young Award, coming in 3rd place, and then they have the Rookie of the Year in their lineup. Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, Eloy Jimenez, Tyler O’Neill, Daniel Sweet and Greg Bird create one potent lineup, but GM Jackson Schilling went out and signed Chris Davis and Daniel Murphy to add to the team. Anthony Rizzo is the centerpiece of this team though, and they’ll only go as far as he takes them.

Wyoming Cowboys infielder Daniel Murphy

The second expansion team in the DL, Calgary is a sleeper pick in this division, and could very well take a wild card. Robbie Ray will lead this pitching staff, that will be able to hold the Vipers in games. An offense led by Kennys Vargas and Rafael Devers will be a nice 1-2 punch, and Joe Panik, Corey Spangenberg, Jose Bautista and Jaff Decker will all be called upon to help this team as well. Defensive wiz Milton Ramos will be one of the more important pieces on this team, and could win the Gold Glove.

Calgary Vipers pitcher Robbie Ray

Looking at this league, awards voting certainly won’t be easy.

Now onto the newly rebranded Jackie Robinson League, or the RL for short.

In the RL East, State College Spikes will be the favorite, but the Fort Myers Miracle have been a playoff team before, the Princeton Rays are fairly rebuilt, and the Brooklyn Cyclone’s have one of the most active GMs in the league.

State College is fresh off of 2 World Series appearances, and one Championship. The return the majority of their team, but did lose Yoenis Cespedes, Ben Zobrist, Curtis Granderson and Nate Jones. They did sign Alex Cobb and resigned Dustin Pedroia, and should return for another postseason run. Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole will lead the pitching staff as Jeurys Familia and Andrew Miller dominate late in games. Every one of their batters that played at least 100 games last season had a WAR of 2.8 or higher, and that should be similar this season, as Mookie Betts is likely the best player on this team.

State College Spikes outfielder Mookie Betts

Fort Myers has the best pitching staff, led by Jose Fernandez, who allowed less than 1 runner per inning, and they have Vincent Velasquez, Matt Harvey and Jose Quintana as their #2-4. This team though, does not take batting practice. Their practices and offseason workouts consist entirely of fielding practice. It has paid off as they make every play flawlessly, but they barely scored 3 runs per game, which puts them in a difficult spot.

Fort Myers Miracle pitcher Jose Fernandez

Brooklyn will certainly be solid, but they certainly have some holes to fill. Their pitching leaves a lot to be desired, but they’ll have some solid offense. Ozzie Albies will make a run at the MVP, but his own teammate, 38-year old Korean first baseman Seung Kim could be the best offensive player in the league. Salvador Perez will help this pitching staff, and lots of hope that their young outfielders Albert Almora and J.B. Woodman can produce.

Brooklyn Cyclones infielder Ozzie Albies

Princeton sucked last year. And the year before that. And they very well should suck this year. But my guess is that they won’t. GM Rod Imbriani may still find a way to mess it up though. Morgan Cooper and Chris Wiltrout are massive improvements over their past starting pitchers, and Eichi Nishino, Mike Young and Zack McCully will be a formidable backend of the bullpen. Wil Myers will lead their offense, which still has a few holes to fill.

Princeton Rays pitcher Morgan Cooper

In the RL Central, the newly renovated Oklahoma City Redhawks will lead the way, as the Thunder Bay Fishermen (another rebranded team) will follow and the Kalamazoo Growlers will look to bounce back, and the expansion Erie BayHawks will likely finish last in this division.

Oklahoma City is the new location for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, and they are looking to be division winners again, now that they aren’t in the same division as the Spikes. They have one of the more dominant teams, with Martin Perez, Carlos Martinez, Alex Wood and Jay Jackson forming a consistent starting rotation, and Hayden Stone, the league’s #1 overall prospect, will likely be in the rotation as well. Then they roll out a deep lineup, led by Bryce Harper, that also features Miguel Cabrera, Javier Baez, Nomar Mazara, Jorge Soler, and two Japanese players, Tomoya Mori and Tetsuto Yamada. In their minors, they also have Kevin Maitan, Victor Robles and Juan Delgado, who all are game-changing players, and can be called up or used as trade bait.

Oklahoma City Redhawks outfielder Bryce Harper

Thunder Bay played their way to an 89-win season last year, and return much of the same team. Rowdy Tellez and Ray Die will make a deadly 1-2 punch in the middle of their lineup, but they certainly have some holes to fill. Zach Greinke will be the ace of the pitching staff again, and they improved the bullpen some, adding Will Smith (after his contract was void) and Aroldis Chapman.

Thunder Bay Fishermen infielder Rowdy Tellez

Kalamazoo better score 15 runs a game to win, as they have no pitching. They have 3 relievers with value, but their ace to start the season looks to be Joon-Hyung Lee, who pitched to a 4.31 ERA in the KBO last season. Luckily, they have a high powered offense, with Nick Gordon setting the table for Kyle Schwarber, Zack Collins and Crash Davis. Alfredo Despaigne, Michael Brantley, Yun-ho Joung and Takayuki Kajitani will also add to a strong offense.

Kalamazoo Growlers catcher Zack Collins

Erie will have a few solid pieces, but this team is clearly a few years away. Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester will lead the staff, while Dee Gordon and J.D. Martinez will be most of their offense. Youngsters Dilson Herrera and Monte Harrison will be turned to, and expected to perform well, even though Harrison has never played above Advanced-A.

Erie BayHawks pitcher Felix Hernandez

The RL West will be one of the toughest divisions, with the Waco BlueCats, East Texas PumpJacks and San Jose Giants all as viable playoff threats. The Midland RockHounds face a tough road ahead.

The Waco BlueCats are a scary team, winning 99 games last year, but their run differential suggested it should have been 111 wins. And they got better. The only piece they lost that was on their 25-man to start last season was LH specialist Cody Reed, and they responded by adding Kiyomasu Koda, a Japanese reliever who throws 101 MPH. They also traded for Shelby Miller, giving them 6 SP all capable of winning the Cy Young. Their entire lineup returns, and adds Richie Martin, the #4 overall prospect. Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger and Alex Bregman are quite possibly the #1-3 best hitters in the league. They don’t have a flaw that you can find, yet they still got beat in the first round of the playoffs.

Waco BlueCats outfielder Mike Trout

East Texas had the 2nd best record in the league last year, and although they traded away Manny Machado, Shohei Otani and Josh E. Bell, they return what could be a better team. The league’s first ever #1 overall pick Jordan Steele will see time at 3B, while Jacob deGrom will be another ace in the rotation. Francisco Lindor, Miguel Sano and Nick Castellanos will be the heart of this potent offense, which features boat loads of talent.

East Texas PumpJacks infielder Francisco Lindor

San Jose boasts a deep lineup, led with Kris Bryant, Corey Seager, Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada. Adding Justin Upton only makes it better, and they have a 3 great SP in Masahiro Tanaka, Trevor Bauer and Taijuan Walker. They’ve yet to put up a winning season, despite all of this talent, and GM Josh Imbriani certainly needs to have a few tricks up his sleeve if he’s going to compete in this division.

San Jose Giants pitcher Trevor Bauer

Midland isn’t even quite sure who will be on their 25 man roster. Cody Reed, a LH specialist last season, will be their ace, while Scooter Gennett will carry their offense. Luis Guillorme is one of my favorite players in the league, and if he can hit will be the star of this team. A payroll under $17 million goes to show this team is more than okay waiting a few years to win.

Midland RockHounds infielder Luis Guillorme

Awards voting will be a challenge here as well, as each team has options for the Cy Young and MVP.

This year will also be the first time of the new playoff system. The wild card teams will face off in a 1-game playoff to see who advances to face the #1 seed in their league. Then the divisional series will be a 5-game series, with the winners advancing to a 7-game series to decide the pennant. The World Series will also be 7-games, winner takes home the bragging rights and trophy.

Comment if you think you can predict the championship, and who the winner is.

2017’s major FA signings…….

Coming out of the inaugural season in 2016, the OMBL GMs had their dream off season…..lots of budget money to play with and an interesting free agent class coupled with some posted players from PacRim leagues.

With about 20 games left in the 2017 season, let’s take a look at how the top FA signings from the preseason have preformed this year and what impact they have had on their teams:

David Price, Halifax Highlanders (5 yr, $119MM)

Price has had an impressive season, currently 19-7 with a 2.61 ERA and a 4.1 WAR.  More importantly, the Highlanders who missed out on the playoffs last year after a quick start, are sitting atop the OBL North Division.

Andrew McCutchen, State College Spikes (5 yr, $112MM)

McCutchen has hit .263 so far this year with 21 HR and 73 RBI.   He has performed to a 4.7 WAR.  A wildcard playoff team last year, the Spikes are sitting in first place in the YBL North.

Shintaro Fujinami, Frisco RoughRiders (5 yr, $110MM)

In his first year in the OMBL, Fujinami is 13-6 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.6 WAR for the Riders who are currently in first in the OBL South Division.

Ha-Sung Kim, Waca BlueCats (5 yr, $96MM)

Kim has started 101 games, playing to a 2.3 WAR, hitting .231 but having a 4.7 defensive ZR for the YBL North division leading BlueCats.

Shohei Otani, East Texas PumpJacks (5 yr, $93MM)

Otani has had an up and down year for the PumpJacks, pitching to an overall 9-12 record with a 3.78 ERA and 2.3 WAR for the YBL

SPIKES 2016 YEAR IN REVIEW AND A LOOK FORWARD TO 2017

My State College Spikes won the first ever OMBL World Series, and I still have a hard time believing it. Hell, I won 84 games and didn’t even expect to get past the first round.  Funny how things happen. Here’s that story from the GM’s perspective:

After the OMBL inaugural draft, I felt pretty good about my team going forward. I knew that my draft had produced a team that possessed the potential to succeed in the short-term and the long-term, yet it surprised me when the computer predicted my Spikes to finish with 97 wins before the first season. The season began innocuously enough, with my team hovering around .500, but midway through the first off, my Spikes caught fire and won 13 straight games.  Afterwards, however, the injury bug took infected a few key players for much of the season, including MVP candidate Joey Votto and young stud Mookie Betts.  Before the trade deadline, I had made a few deals, which included getting top prospect Sean Newcomb for Tyler Naquin and trading Byung-Ho Park for Jacoby Ellsbury, only to release him a couple weeks later. Once the deadline approached, I strategized by only approaching deals that would not only focus on the interim, but also the future. At the deadline, I traded for Marcus Stroman, Tony Zych, Zack Wheeler, Ryan McMahon, and Todd Frazier, but I’ll get back to these guys later. Also, I plucked a couple people from waivers, including Ben Zobrist and Curtis Granderson. Most significantly, I felt as if I did not compromise my future to acquire these players, and ultimately, I pulled the trigger at the deadline based off of my prediction that my team’s hot start would be enough to make the playoffs. As everyone reading knows: in the playoffs, anything can happen.  My postseason forecast did not come true until the last weekend of the season, and the odds were stacked against me in the first round against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, my division rival which had won our division by a comfortable margin and had scorched me throughout the season. However, we split the first four games of the series, so it was time to win-or-go-home, but I made an error while setting my rotation in OOTP that forced Gerrit Cole to start the decisive Game 5 instead of my desired choice, ace Zack Greinke. Nonetheless, I rolled with Cole, and he rewarded me with a brilliant scoreless outing. Greinke ended up pitching the rest in relief to punch the Spikes’ ticket to the next round.  I paid close attention to the East Texas-Fort Myers Divisional Series, as the former had rocketed past me in the standings to gain the first wild card while the latter had struggled against my team as of late. After getting the State College-Fort Myers matchup I desired, Joey Votto, who had been slumping since returning from the DL, announced his comeback with a performance that warranted him the Championship Series MVP. My Spikes followed suit, with my starting pitchers throwing five quality games to win the pennant.  The World Series really frightened me. The Edenton Steamers had the better squad led by a ridiculous rotation anchored by Clayton Kershaw. During Game 1, however, Kershaw went down with a torn labrum, and my rookie sensation Steven Matz pitched eight scoreless for the win. Then, after dropping the next two games, Garrett Richards and Marcus Stroman pitched two great games to put me up 3-2 in the series. Game 6 at Edenton featured an early home run from–who else—Joey Votto, another great start from World Series MVP Matz, and, after Todd Frazier’s two-run home run in the top of the ninth put me up 6-2, Jeremy Jeffress, my team’s primary game-finisher, closed out the season. My State College Spikes, who had won 84 games and had sneaked into the playoffs after an up and down inaugural season, won the 2016 World Series. I’m very proud of it. I still can’t believe it happened.  My team’s strength was depth, especially starting pitching. Greinke was consistently excellent, Cole and Matz had temporary bumps in their otherwise stellar seasons, and Richards along with trade deadline pickups Wheeler and Stroman were invaluable, especially during the postseason. Others who found themselves in the starting rotation, like Cody Anderson, Charlie Morton, and Newcomb, did their part and earned their rings. My starting middle infielders, 2B Cory Spangenberg and SS Adeiny Hechavarria, played to their strengths and were team stalwarts. When Votto went down, 1B Greg Bird stepped in and had a great first month, and although 3B was a constant issue throughout the season, Frazier and rising star McMahon filled in admirably. Betts in right field, defensive wizard Byron Buxton in center, and slugger Khris Davis in constituted a versatile outfield, and the overshadowed contributions of Zobrist and Granderson translated into my easy decision to bring them back for 2017. Wilson Contreras and Gary Sanchez, the former of whom played 3B quite often, proved quite the diverse catching tandem, and DH Edwin Encarnacion’s home run count and postseason heroics will forever be in Spikes’ lore. In the bullpen, Jeffress, Nate Jones, Brad Ziegler, Joe Blanton, and Aaron Loup made up the bullpen constants, and Zych came back from injury in the World Series to notch a couple key saves. This team was an honor to manage.

That being said, the league gets better and smarter every season, and, to paraphrase my favorite GM (outside of Cashman, of course) Billy Beane, the playoffs are a crapshoot once you get there. Thus, as a GM, my one goal for this wacky offseason went as followed: Repeat.  In my quest for a dynasty, I traded away many important players of mine, including Stroman, Encarnacion, Bird, Sanchez, and Richards, and some of my minor league hopefuls like Clint Frazier, Luis Noguera, Daz Cameron, Anderson Espinoza, Hyo-Jun Park, and Willy Adames.  Moreover, the expansion draft and Rule 5 took away key players such as Greinke, Buxton, Todd Frazier, and minor league hopefuls like J.T. Realmuto, Trea Turner, and Dylan Cozens.  In the end, however, I have no regrets. Mr. Beane mentioned that a great starting rotation is the best weapon in the playoffs, so I signed Max Scherzer, who I have been coveting since the trade deadline last year, and traded for Corey Kluber to go along with Cole, Matz, Wheeler, and a future star in Newcomb. I beefed up the bullpen by trading for Jeruys Familia, Will Smith, and Andrew Miller, who will be joined by returning arms like Jeffress, Jones, Loup, and Zych. My offense last year struggled at times, so I upgraded at every position I could, singing Andrew McCutchen and Dustin Pedroia, picking up Jin-De Jhang as my backup catcher,  in Rule 5 and trading for Dee Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and Addison Russell to complement Votto, Betts, Contreras, Hechavarria, Spangenberg, Granderson, Zobrist, and another future star in McMahon. Lastly, in my farm system, I have a collection of young guys who will have the opportunity to make a splash a few years down the road, including Blake Rutherford, Jose Velarde, Mike Donadio, and Bobby ‘Mississippi’ Enos.  All-in-all, I’m very excited for the 2017 season to begin. My State College Spikes have come a long way from the start of 2016, but after a great spring, we couldn’t be more ready to defend our title.  Oftentimes when I make a decision in OMBL, I think, “Well, it’s only just a game.”  However, it’s a hobby that I love, and I look forward to the upcoming competition. If it is only just a game, then game on.

SURGE NO MORE

The San Diego Surge are now the San Diego Surf Dawgs. The changes have come following the decision of an independent arbitrator charged with deciding whether the OMBL Surge or the Women’s Football Alliance Surge would continue to use the Surge brand. The owner of the Surge Women’s Football Alliance team based in San Diego claimed that the Surge name was her intellectual property and that she would never forget how she decided to name her football franchise.
“I was at a sorority party enjoying my favorite cocktail, Surge (the soda beverage) and Midori Melon when it hit me. Women should have their own football league! I was determined to have my own football team, and it would be called The Surge. “
The OMBL team will continue to utilize the current color scheme of Blue and Gold aiming to minimize fan-shock. The Dawgs are planning scheduled promotional nights for fans to exchange their Surge apparel for the new San Diego Surf Dawgs hats and tee-shirts. The Manager of the Surf Dawgs had this to say:
“it is absolutely absurd that and arbitrator would rule against an OMBL franchise in favor of a nearly unknown Women’s Football Alliance team, but the clubhouse is embracing the new brand and we love our new mascot, Sunny the Surf Dawg.”
The Coca-Cola company declined to comment siting that the legal preceding’s would not affect the sales of their retro – comeback soda, SURGE.

Introducing the Waco BlueCats

For the 2017 season, the Waco BlueCats will be the new rebranded team in the YBL South. They will replace the Neptune Beach Pearl, managed by co-commissioner Matt Wells. The decision was made after a very disappointing season revenue wise. Despite being just outside of Los Angeles, the team was able to draw just 22,386 fans per game, selling only 6,747 season tickets. This combined with a spot in the standings lower than expected, gave owner Quinn Orenstein a reason to sell the team. The new ownership group runs the largest chain of auto dealerships in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Louisiana. All graduates of Baylor University, they have all been lifelong fans of baseball, even starting a statistical analytics group while in college. The five of them pooled the money they had made in the 25 years since graduation, and were able to purchase the team for just short of $1 billion ($958 million). The decision to move the team was imminent, and Waco (home of Baylor University) was the obvious choice.

The new stadium (named Sprite Zero Ballpark) will have less seating, only 36,000 total, but will focus more on luxury seating. There will be a ten foot pavilion, running the length of the net behind home plate. In there, padded chairs with extra leg room and wider seats will be sold on a game-by-game basis, and each seat will have 2 arm rests. There will be two rows of these seats, totaling close to 70 seats, and will all come with waiter service. They will also have a strong focus on family fun, having several grass fields for families to picnic on.

They have made the decision to not have any alcoholic signage at the stadium, as to not influence these families in any way. There still will be beer sold at the game, but away from the family sections and the kids fun zone. The ownership group has also brought in a group of 10 chefs that recently graduated from culinary schools around the world, and each will head up one of the major food stands in the park. This dedication to creating a fun, positive family atmosphere, with good food and games to play, is one reason they believe attendance will be in the 30 thousands on a daily basis.

On the other side, above the luxury suites and beyond the outfield fence, there will be large bars, where college students, specifically those of Baylor University, can get major discounts on ticket prices, as they will be standing room only tickets. There will be some seating, with typical bar food available, and the bars will over 30 beers on tap, including 2 from local microbreweries, which will be switched out every home stand.

Being a smaller town with very few major businesses, the luxury suites will only seat 12-18 fans, and will work on optimizing the space. All of the luxury suites will be connected to a large suite, where they can all mingle while watching the game. This is so that if one company gets several suites for any one game, they can all be together if needed, without creating any larger suites that will not always be sold.

With the rebranding and relocation, of course, means new uniforms, and a new logo. Without further ado, the unveil.

Home Uniform:

Away Uniform:

Alternate Uniform:

Alternate Logos:

 

The rebrand and relocation will also lead to new, higher expectations. Although they finished just 6 games out of a wild card spot (the team in that spot went on to win the championship), this is a team that will be expected to win the pennant year in and year out. With top prospects SP Julio Urias, SP Lucas Giolito, SP Jose Berrios, C Reese McGuire, 1B Dominic Smith, 3B Alex Bregman and CF David Dahl all expected to be on the major league roster for Opening Day, this will be a completely revamped team, with plenty of more talent waiting in the wings.

Top Free Agents – where should they go

With the free agent period upon OMBL, both the avid fan and casual fan begin to wonder where the top talent will end up.   Although there is not an endless supply of talent in this year’s free agent group, there are some difference makers, particularly for some teams looking to fill a specific need.

Andrew McCutchen (.301 avg, .387 OBP, 90 runs, 5.5 WAR)   Rumored to be seeking 23.6M for 5 years

A free agent with comp after rejecting MV’s qualifying offer, McChutchen could fit in nicely with a number of teams looking for a top tier center fielder – Kalamazoo, Fort Myers, San Jose and Milwaukee are candidates, but smart money is State College making an aggressive play for him.    With their outfield being the weak link in their line-up, McCutchen should lead the Spike offense from middle of the pack in the YBL to top of the division.  McCutchen would bring a veteran presence that is still producing, and could take pressure on youngers Byron Buxton and Mookie Betts, giving GM Jake Steele a number of options.  This acquisition could also allow the Spikes to put together a package to improve at SS, another area of need

Max Scherzer (8-16, 3.75 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 5.1 WAR)  Rumored to be seeking 21M for 5 years

The stats do not tell the story here as Max pitched for cellar-dwelling Milwaukee and the long season seemed to take its toll as his production fell off when the team was eliminated from contention so early.  As his 5.1 WAR indicates, Scherzer is still a top of the rotation talent that can anchor a rotation.  The only issue that gives anyone pause is a 5 year contract for a 32 old pitcher.   A number of teams can stand to upgrade their rotations and have the money to spend….Frisco got a superb year from Gausman, but a true number one can solidify that rotation, Princeton was led by surprise 23 year old Jorge Lopez who could use some help, but Halifax who was in first at the all star break and faltered down the stretch should be the front runner.  New GM Daniel Fireman knows that he has a solid offense and shoring up the pitching ranks can allow him to compete with the Spiders in the OBL North.  Look for the Highlanders to be aggressive in their offer to land Scherzer, probably front end loading the contract a bit with some team options on the back end of a four or five year deal.

David Roberson (3-3, 3 Svs, 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)  Rumored to be seeking 6.8M for four years)

Every team  looks to improve their bullpen, but the Rays and their 4.71 bullpen ERA are the most desparate.  Despite an impressive 30-22 record in one run games, many of their 102 losses were a result of the bull pen imploding, giving away the lead.   GM Rod Imbriani knows that although there is work to do across the lineup, that an immediate improvement in the bull will be the most beneficial.  Robertson, coupled with mid year acquisition Brad Boxberger should give the Rays a good back of the bullpen.  The Rays may still have some work to do with the bull pen, however, but there are other talented arms in the free agent ranks that would be an upgrade for them and the Rays have some money to spend;

Other high profile free agents:

David Price (10-14, 3.29 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 4.3 WAR) Looking for 20M per year for five years)…Edenton Steamers…..great 1-2 punch with Kershaw and the other teams in the division (FRI, STD, MB) all have weak records against LHP

Michael Brantley (.301/.353, 78 Runs, 3.7 WAR) Looking for $19.6M for five years)….a free agent with comp after rejecting Milwaukee’s qualifying offer….San Jose Giants….although younger, Adam Eaton does not look to put up the numbers Brantley will, and gives them a bridge to Justin Williams.

 

Finch, Steele named Managers of the year for OBL and YBL

Manager Jake Steel was speaking before a State College fan luncheon, when word came down that he’d been awarded the Youngsters Baseball League Manager of the Year. Steel’s face turned to surprise as the club’s owner made the hasty announcement.

 “Wow… how lucky can a guy be?… manage a great bunch of guys… have great fans… have a great season… and now this… life don’t get any better than this.”

State College fans applauded, recognizing how fortunate they were to have Steel at the helm. Both fans and players in attendance toasted their skipper as they truly enjoyed the day.

2016 was an extra-special season for Steel as he piloted the State College Spikes to a 84-78 record and a second place spot in the Youngsters Baseball League North Division standings. A record good enough to win the 2016 Manager of the Year Award.

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Ted Finch has molded the Edenton Steamers into a top-flight Oldtimers Baseball League team. The 2016 Skipper of the Year came into spring training with a commitment to getting the most out of his Steamers.

“I told them I had no preconceived notions about them, that all of them were blank slates as far as I was concerned. I told them to learn my system and we would win. I told them all the spots on the roster were open, that the best players would play — young or old, rookie or vet — and that I expected them to hustle, to work hard, and play as a team. They bought into it and made me look good.”

And Ted Finch certainly got the most out of his ballclub. The Steamers wrapped up the season in first place in the Oldtimers Baseball League South Division with a 98-64 record.

 

Spikes win the first ever OMBL championship!!

The State College Spikes are champions, today and forever. The Spikes topped the Edenton Steamers 6-2 at Steamers Ballpark today to claim the World Series crown.

“Nobody can take this away from us, not ever,” said series MVP and starting pitcher Steven Matz after his club had sealed the victory. “We worked hard and we accomplished our goal.”

The atmosphere was electric as the newly-crowned champs stormed the field at the conclusion of the game. Fans cheered, gloves flew in the air, high fives and hugs were the order of the day.

“From day one of spring training, I could see it in their eyes,” said State College manager Jake Steel. “The players had that look of intensity, of hunger, of a desire to accomplish something great, and today they did that. They’re champions of the world.”

The Spikes took the series 4-2. The new titleholders completed the regular season with a second-place finish in the Youngsters Baseball League North Division and a 84-78 record.