The NL South is the only NL division that has a 4-time division winner (Houston). Last season they took the division by the slightest of margins over San Juan by one game. Is this the season that the mighty Riverdogs finally fall?
- At the plate, San Juan has the talent to keep up with anybody in the NL. RF Calvin Chang and 1B Osvaldo Johnson are perennial all-stars and CF John Baldwin is a speedy outfielder with pop. Their complementary pieces, like LF Jackie Wheeler, are pretty good, but they could use a defensive catcher.
- Houston made waves across the league by landing big-time power threat IF Bob Koplove from Boston. He'll join RF Hideki Martin and 2B Monte Duvall in the middle of the order. CF Scott Diaz will play a huge role as the leadoff hitter this season.
- New Orleans is next, as CF Albie Torres, LF Don Jefferson, and 2B Ray Cepicky are good run producers. 3B Kareem Raines comes over from Louisville to protect the aforementioned three in the lineup. They could use some more production at first base, as Tim Radlosky needs to step up at what is normally a power position.
- Austin's offense was one of the worst in the league last season. This season they will go with a lot of young players, like 3B Gerald Stargell, SS Ralph Phillips, LF William Farr, and 1B Tony Percival (who needs to stay healthy). As none of these guys have any major league track record, it's a bit of a mystery what exactly this offense will do.
- Houston doesn't have the big-time ace that they have had in the past, but their starting pitching has good depth. Jerome Oliver leads the staff, with rookie Lonny Gates, Damon Thompson, and Jose Merced behind him. The bullpen sees the return of Matt Skinner to close, with talented Cristian Price and Tom Cummings to set him up.
- New Orleans still has Carlos Matos and Tony Marquez at the top of the rotation- they're solid, if not spectacular. If the Voodoo can get 30 starts out of Cristian Lyons, it should help the depth. Tom Hernandez saved 40 games last season and has Vance D'Amico and Billy Ray Hooper to set him up.
- San Juan made a few changes to their staff, but they don't have the talent or depth that Houston has. Jerry Terry comes over from Seattle, but neither he nor incumbents Joey Adcock, Bum Brea, or Shooter Mahoney is an ace or even a solid #2. The bullpen is just as questionable, if not more so; with Willie Nunez gone, Toby Sisler could be the best option to close.
- If you want to why Austin will have the #2 overall pick in the draft this season, look no further than the pitching staff. Olmedo James, at 7-9, was the top winner on the staff. Their current roster includes guys like Terry Pierre and Delino Montanez, who just wouldn't cut it on a playoff-contending team. The bullpen has a dearth of talent as well.
1. I really want to pick San Juan to win this, but I don't see it with their pitching. I'll pick Houston conditionally. If San Juan can manage to pick up some pitching help during the season, they could overtake the Riverdogs.
2. Houston and San Juan both make the playoffs.
3. New Orleans will be respectable and could be in the running for the last wild-card spot.
4. Austin gets another top 3 draft pick in next season's Amateur Draft.
5. Calvin Chang finally gets MVP notice.