Season 3 Pittsburgh Pagan Preview
After a surprising season where the upstart Pagans drove the eventual World Champion Cleveland Rockers into the 11th inning of Game 162 to decide the division winner, the Pagans look to build on last year's success. The major offseason move was the dealing of uberprospect Devon Andrews for a package of players from the Minnesota Screaming Beavers. In a division with the World Champs and the young powerhouse Empires, the Pagans will need to mature quickly to contend. the future is bright for the Pirates, as every position player and starting pitcher is 27 or younger.
C J.J. Jefferies did not disappoint in his first full season as the Pagan' backstop. Jeffries posted a .780 OPS will providing top-notch defense from the catcher's position. The young Pagan's staff developed well under his tutelage. More will be expected of JAred with the fleet of young pitchers expected to make their ML debut this season.
1B Reid Washington Washington provided a solid bat hitting .275 with 100 RBIs last season. An off-season weight program should yield dividends in the dinger department this season.
2B Fernando Sosa Sosa starts the season at 2B after being shopped in the off-season. Don't expect Sosa to stay in the starting lineup long, as stud prospect Max Seanez should be up after the first 20 games or so. Mad Max provides a shortstops glove with a DH bat and should remain in the lineup for as long as his health allows.
SS Sam Goldman Sam Goldman was one-third of the haul from the sale of Andrews. Sam plays solid SS defense and contributed a .282 average and 26 HRs last season for Minnesota. Goldman won a Gold Glove last season for Minnesota and his defensive prowess should rub off on these young Pagans. Sam takes over for fan favorite Max Maxwell, who was not resigned in the off-season.
3B Lee Clifton Another piece of the Andrews trade, Clifton was an enigma in his tenure as a Screaming Beaver. Blessed with extraordinary talent, Clifton rarely managed to put it all together at the plate, hitting .283 with 19HRs and 70 Rbis last season. A talent such as Lee will be expected to contribute much more on the Pagans. Lee did display fine glovework last season. Last year's starter Max Silva backs him up.
LF Chul Maeda Chul had a rough Season 2, spending three different stints on the DL. Though not considered a fragile player, Maeda was not much o a factor last year. Expect more from him this season as the leadoff role falls to him.
CF Bill Hendrickson Last season's big in-season acquisition (along with pitcher Howard Rigney) assumes the role of team leader in Season 3. Bill played a fine CF and hit 32HRs and drove in 100 runs last season. Expect Hendrickson to man this spot well for the next 5 years.
RF Vitas Clayton Vitas fell a little short of his lofty goal of a .300/30HR/100 rbi season, posting a .298/19/93 year. Still only 25 years of age with more opportunity for improvement ahead of him as well as better hitters around him, Clayton should improve on those numbers this year.
DH Virgil King/Big Butter Jesus Park King and Park shared DH duties last year with a modicum of success. King was acquired mid-season when a critically slow start by Park resulted in a sub-Mendoza average at the All-Star break. Park recovered nicely, and the Pagans are please to ahve added another strong hitter to their stable.
The Pitching Staff
SP1 Emmanuel Bottenfield
SP2 Willie Colon
SP3 Howard Rigney
SP4 Angel Mendez
SP5 Matt Lee
Bottenfield was forced to learn on the job with the woeful staff of the Pagans. He responded well in his first complete year as a starter posting 12 wins. His continued development is one of the keys to this staff.
Colon possesses excellent control and is very effective against both lefties and righties. A 13-6 record last year as a 23 year old foreshadows great things for Willie. Pagan management expect 15 wins this season.
Howard Rigney was acquired in the same trade that netted CF Hendrickson. I protracted stint on the DL with elbow surgery cut short a fine season where he won seven games a Pagan. All of us in Pittsburgh are hoping for a healthy return to that form.
Angel Mendez was one of the prize pitchers of the Pagan prospects. He posted 16 wins last year in AA. A wicked 4 seamer has propelled him to success at every level. Though he will start the season at AAA, expect an early season call-up.
The 5th starter is expected to be Pagan farmhand Matt Lee. Matt won the AA Cy Young and Rookie of the year last season, posting a 20-6 record. Lee is also expected to be part of the early season callups from AAA.
Closer Cristian Davis made the All-Star team Season 2 posting 41 saves.
The rest of the bullpen should consist of last years starters Trevor Evans and Mike Vitello. Also making the squad are two rule 5 pickups from last season Tommie Leonard and Tsuyoshi Kim. All are young and possessing potenital.
The Pagans expect to contend for a Division title here in Season 3. The keys will be their ability to stay healthy and the development of their young roster.