Last Year's Standings:
The Cow Pies still look to be the class of the South. Currently, on three straight division championships including a World Series win 3 years ago. Kyle Kipnis has been their man in RF for quite a while, but over the last three years he has been good for 22 HR, 34 SB and .323 average, helping Texas continue their run at the top. Behind Kipnis in the lineup is emerging 3B Rubby Callaspo. The 25 year old will be in his fourth ML season this year and looks to get over the 40 HR mark once again. But their competitiveness for years to come will come from 22 year old Edwin Riley. Riley, who is in his first ML season and who has the fielding ability to play SS, is currently pegged at CF for the club. The rotation might be the biggest weak point of this roster, behind 17 game winner Morgan Flier. The bullpen features closer Alex Flores who has 82 saves over the course of the last two seasons. I'd expect much of the same from Texas this year, a division title is well within their grasp.
The Jellyfish have some young players that will start to make an impact at the ML level, this year and going forward. So watch out Texas! 3B Dan Bold, who is a solid defender and sees pitches well, is making his ML debut this year. Dorian Wells is another player to watch, his promotion to ML would give the club more pop for their lineup. SS Marcus Elarton is in his second season in the ML and looks to improve upon a successful rookie campaign. SP Cookie Yamada who went 3-6 with a 5.19 ERA last year needs to improve for this club to take the next step. Everth Perez currently sits as their #1 starter, and he showed some very good stuff going 7-6 with a 1.00 WHIP and 1.97 ERA last year, but only managed 100 innings in 17 starts. He needs to go deeper in games, and convince someone to give him some more run support. This team has a future, I'm just not sold that the future is now.
Texas and Jackson don't have to worry about Charlotte catching them, at least not this year. The team has a farm system that will produce some good ML players, but at the ML level right now they just don't have the talent needed to compete. Victor Brewington is a player I would imagine would get shopped around at some point this year or next, he's a great player, on a team that doesn't have a chance to complete. C Kory King looks like a nice catcher, likely seeing his ML debut next season, but he isn't an everyday catcher. Takahiro Donald looks to be a mid-rotation starter with a debut around two years from now. RP Philip Corbin looks to be an above average closer, again making a debut sometime in the next two years. Their most promising prospect looks to be Anthony Beech, who needs to overcome his inability to see the ball from righties, but should turn into a really nice corner outfielder. I don't see this team being super competitive for at least three more seasons, barring some solid FA signings or good trades.
The Vatos Locos are in a similar boat as Charlotte. At the ML level, they almost have less to make solid deals with though. They've built their rotation around 24 year old SP Charlie Stock. He is 12-12 with a 3.54 ERA over the last two seasons, he will need to continue to improve for the VL. Henry Baldelli is their best pitching prospect, scouts have been pessimistic that he'll hit his full potential, but even so he looks to be a lock for a solid #3 starter. 2B Pinky Maxwell is their best IF at the ML level. He has the stats to play SS and it's a surprise he isn't. His bat leaves more to desire, especially at 2B (another reason why he should be playing SS). Delino Rodriguez is their best OF at the ML level, playing CF and having the defense for the position as well as the bat, he should be a player that buyers look to during trade season this year as potential bait. Between Charlotte and Monterrey, I don't see either contending in the near future due the current state of their ML teams.