April 1, 2023
So sorry for missing my traditional deadline, but I hope that my wisdom and prescience will be enhanced after watching everybody play a dozen or so games. This year, I'm going to have a little fun, so pay attention to the clues:
THE HEAVYWEIGHTS: Using the regular season mostly to jockey for position.
Has everyone been watching what's happening in Kelowna? Sure, through the first set of games, the Kraken have been playing possum, but don't fall for that trap. Once Kelenic, Duran, and Brujan get it going...look out!
Another fashionable pick is White Bear. They squeezed into the playoffs and are building around franchise cornerstone Buster Posey. Throw in Wainwright, Avisail, and JD, and well...you can't overestimate the value of veteran leadership in PGB.
Padres challenged last year, but can they do it again? Ohtani, Alcantara, and Judge certainly seem like a solid threesome (or foursome, since Shohei counts as two) Coming off a huge season, but can Scott avoid another late-season letdown?
Perhaps my wildest pick for contention is Berlin. Even though they ransomed away the rights to Julio Rodriguez, and largely dealt their way out of the draft, Paul has assembled enough moving pieces to assemble a surprisingly solid team.
You haven't been paying attention to Brooklyn? Do this at your own risk, because the rotation of Gibson, Pivetta, Lyles, and Keller is not something anybody wants to face in a critical series. The Trolleydodgers are in win-now mode.
THE MESSY MIDDLE: The season could go in any direction for these interesting, but flawed teams.
Are we finally going to take Sheboygan seriously? Breathe in. Breathe out. Playoffs. Lottery. Playoffs. Lottery. This year, Boomer is trying his hand at acquiring 20 good pitchers, but that's a fool's errand. Another playoff miss.
Pensacola as a contender? Yawn—wake me when they've proven something. After so many years of looking like world-beaters, I won't be fooled again by Sam's Crackers. Too many holes and suspect history to see them as more than a footnote.
Rochester doesn't have the fortitude to repeat. Not like I'm breaking news on this, but there's no way this team with stars at practically every position will join to form a cohesive team. What a fluke Chad fell into in 2022.
Is this finally the year that Thunder Bay busts through? Johnny is a scientist/mathematician at heart, and if he tells me that a winning recipe is 2 superstars, 30 average guys, and 10 replacement-level players, I'd believe him.
Lots happening in Branson for a change. Remember last year's Schwarber do-si-do or the rope-a-dope with Gallegos? Is Swen the kind of manager you'd entrust such a gifted pitching staff with? Keep him away from the nuclear war button!
Fairburn might finally bust through, but I doubt it. It's the strongest rotation they've tossed out there in quite a few years, but I'm not falling for this slight of hand—it looks like Burkett is trying to trick me, and it won't work.
Obviously, we must take the Giants seriously. It seems like they've assembled one of the more impressive teams that will find a way to blunder away another golden opportunity; it's their specialty. The bigger question is, how bad is the heartbreak?
On the other hand, there's Charleston. Who will be this year's version of Luke Voit or Trey Mancini? While it seems fair to expect very little, Commissioner Emeritus Jeff finds a peculiar way of coaxing magic out of the most unlikely sources.
Louie Varland was secured, but at what cost? The Grays achieved their main winter objective by landing the budding starter, but one can't help wonder how his arrival will affect the psyche of aces Burnes and Scherzer. Subtraction by addition, I say.
Santa Catalina is literally a MASH unit. To quote John McEnroe, "You can not be serious!" The last couple of years have been unkind with Lux, Pearson, Mize, Robert, Glasnow, Eloy, Siroka, etc. I barely know what to say, except "good luck!"
NOT SURE WHAT HAPPENS: Teams in transition that could delight or disappoint.
Doves will surprise a few folks this season. Smart drafting and crack-filling, and throw in everyone's tendency to underestimate Gnawbone; it will leave Sparky with the last laugh. Playoffs are possible!
Armadillos finally cashed in all of those draft chips. Costco Chuck is now in possession of a team on the rise, having resurrected the moribund Havana squad. They're off to a great start, but can their pixie-dust last through 162 games?
Yelich is back,,,err...playing again. Vancouver used to be a Red Carpet franchise for a few years—so many stars. Oddly, those marquis names have grown worse with age, and they now find themselves slouching toward down perilous road of averageness.
March 15, 2022
Maybe it's this new space-age realignment that has me out of sorts, but just for fun, I'm trying something a little different this year. I'm grouping all 18 PGB teams into one of three categories: contender, Tinkerbell, or blossoming flower. Read on, and I think you'll start to understand how this all works. Go 2022!
CONTENDERS: It shouldn't shock anyone if these teams are still standing in October.
Rochester: If there was ever a team designed to threaten the records of last year's El Dorado team, well...it's this team. The depth and quality are elite level. I do not, however, believe they will win all 162 games, so Skipper Chad has left the door open a crack.
White Bear Lake: Don't laugh—this team is really good. Ol' Dave Spurrier did a nice job of stocking the shelves before his departure last year, and new manager Paul Johnson had a solid winter adding complimentary pieces. Deep postseason run is in play here.
San Antonio: Scott Curtis has been buffing and polishing this roster for a couple years now, seemingly with the intent of everything jelling at once. They have a full rotation, nice depth, and I think Tatis and Ohtani might prove to be useful at some point during the season.
Homestead: No team announced the launching of their attack quite like the Grays this year. Sure, the team hit a rough patch in recent years, but boy-oh-boy what an offseason! They added Corbin Burnes, Max Scherzer, and Lance McCullers, so look out!
Casper: I know, super boring pick, and super boring team, but most of the key pieces are back from last year's surprise champion. They won't win 119 games again, but they won't need that kind of effort to position themselves for another crack at winning.
Brooklyn: They're baaaack. Russ has emerged from the dark days of "The Eric Haase Incident" to roar back with an aggression we haven't witnessed recently. An old-fashioned transaction frenzy has left the Trolleydodgers with a nice little squad. Pay attention here.
TINKERBELLS: These teams could easily elevate with a nice trade and a little sprinkle of HAL's pixie dust.
Pensacola: Honestly, it was tough to leave the Crackers out of the top group, but they weren't helped much during draft season, and a few key guys took a backwards step. But don't kid yourself, they remain extremely dangerous, but not in a 100+ win way.
Charleston: I'm not sure if Manager Jeff has already used up his allocation of pixie dust in recent years with Trey Mancini and Luke Voit, but the Low Sox will need just a bit more for them to make an extended appearance in the postseason.
Thunder Bay: Johnny had a solid re-entry into PGB, taking a team without much hope or direction and transforming them into a competent squad. Still not the most electrifying team, at least they've stabilized, and are poised for continued improvement.
Vancouver: Trout is down for most of the season; that's gotta sting a bit, but all is not lost. Nice rotation is still in play with Musgrove, Ryu, and Roberto Clemente Award winner Trevor Bauer. And it's not like Jeremy gets gun-shy about making a blockbuster trade.
Santa Catalina: Well, the Basil King has put himself into position to acquire a lot of high-end talent in recent years, to the point where I don't need to squint very hard to see positive results. With a lucky bounce or two, the Cowboys can contend this year.
Gnawbone: I know the joke is getting pretty old by now, but bet against Sparky at your own peril. The Doves are at their best when nobody gives them a chance, and for the first half of 2021, everything went their way before fading. Can they hang in a little longer this year?
BLOSSOMING FLOWERS: Still maturing, but they'll provide beauty and pleasure one day soon.
Branson: Swen, I still believe in the Knobbers. I want to believe Buxton will play 152 games and Jo Adell goes off for a 6 WAR season. And I desperately want to suspend reality again as you coax 40 more bombs from Zunino. But this year, it's getting harder to buy in.
Berlin: This team has been so close to next-level status for a while now, and I don't quite see 2022 as being a corner-turner. There's a lot of goodies on the roster, for sure, but not much in the way of game-changing superstars. Just add 3-4 of those, Paul!
Fairburn: Well, OK here. It was a nice winter for the Knights, as they re-built parts of the team. Getting Woodruff, Marquez, Kaprelian, and Cortes gives this team a good, young group to build around. A ways to go still, but there's a lot of positives in Burkettville.
Sheboygan: They went out and added Patiño, Ryan, and Manoah, which is absolutely fantastic. I just thought Boomer knew I was kidding when I told him we were drafting hitters separately this year. Already building up a nice war chest for next year's draft though.
Tenochtitlan: Funny to see a Tinkler-led team down this low, but let's look at the situation rationally: it's been neglected for a couple of years and he traded away a big chunk of draft assets for even bigger assets next year. It's gonna take some time here.
Kelowna: Awww, our darling debutante, Ryan! The fickle finger of fate kind of crapped on this team, and it might take some time to dig out. But adding in Kelenic, Duran, Brujan, Larnach, and Lynch? That's exactly the formula I would use too. Watch out in 2025!
This is like Lucy holding the ball for Charlie Brown, but I'm picking Rochester to win it all for the 14th consecutive year, taking their first crown by beating White Bear Lake in the World Series.