Offseason Recap & Team Previews
We are less than two weeks away from the start of the 2020 ORWBL regular season which means it's time to take a closer look into all 14 ORWBL teams. After a longer offseason than usual due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it looks as though we should finally be ready to go on May 31st barring any setbacks. Now lets take a look at what each team has done in the offseason as well as what lies ahead starting with the 3-time defending World Series Champions.
Maple City Magic
Maple City heads into the 2020 regular season with as big of a target on their back as we have seen after winning the last 3 ORWBL World Series titles. Considering the Magic have usually brought in 2 new faces in the offseason, it was a rather quite offseason for the champs who stood pat on the free agent market despite losing Ryan Murphy and Eric Johnson to Emery's Army. Instead of exploring the Free Agent market, Manager Alex Friedman mentioned that they expect to receive a lot more contribution out of Jeremy Ratajczyk who exploded onto the scene with a remarkable performance in the postseason after only getting 10 At Bats in the regular season.
The entire 2019 Magic core returns featuring Caleb Jonkman, Jared Jonkman, Drew Luther, and Shane Anderson which means the Magic are once again well positioned to make another World Series run. Perhaps the biggest reason why Maple City is positioned well to 4-peat is the availability of their 2x Cy Young award winner Wes Ellis. Due to the season being postponed, Ellis will in fact be ready to go for Maple City in Week 2 when the Magic unveil their championship banner against the County Line Kings.
With the American League deeper than ever, Maple City does not have one series on the schedule the looks like a runaway. They get a World Series rematch against the Newts in Rivalry week and will square off against the Twin Branch Billy Goats in Week 7 in an ALCS rematch that could have major implications on seeding.
After yet another remarkable regular season in 2019, the Granger Panthers failed to reach the National League Championship Series after losing to the New Carlisle Newts in the NLDS. After making the World Series in 2018 it was certainly a major let down for Panther fans who had World Series aspirations. There is no doubt that the Panthers will have a major chip on their shoulder in 2020 and anything other than a World Series title will be a let down. Despite their disappointing end to their ORWBL season, the Panthers still were able to have a memorable summer as the Panthers hoisted their 1st Hometown Cup.
Granger will be looking to carry the momentum from their Hometown Cup run into the 2020 ORWBL regular season. Granger also had a quite offseason as they will look to count on another years worth of experience to put them over the hump. They have to feel very confident in their core group of Griffin Smith, Austin Williams, and Seth Campbell but there are some question marks regarding the end of the lineup. Granger will be looking for Alex Zarazee and Daivyn Davis to provide stability at the end of the lineup. While both players certainly have the ability to do great things, it remains to be seen if they are able to do it in the postseason. All in all, the Panthers head into 2020 as the favorites to win the National League and are a popular pick to win the World Series by many. If this team is able to stay healthy, they have just as good of a shot to win it as anyone.
The Panthers have a rather easy first half of the season and could very well go on one of those early season runs that they have become known for. The second half the season will tell the tale for Granger as they close the season with Twin Branch, Elkhart, Hudson Lake, and New Carlisle.
New Carlisle Newts
After a disappointing regular season, the Newts put together a memorable postseason run which ended with a World Series loss to the Maple City Magic. Despite losing the World Series, New Carlisle silenced any critics who said that they were getting too old with playoff series wins against the Granger Panthers and Olive Township Mechanics. The Newts 2019 season is a prime example of why it is silly to ever count this team out.
New Carlisle took a rather relaxed approach to the regular season in 2019 as they knew that their guys would show when it mattered the most. With one of the deepest rosters in the league, it will be interesting to see how Manager Koby Keck approaches the regular season in 2020. The Newts return most of their core with the exception of Danny Hernandez who joined Emery's Army. Looking to fill that hole, New Carlisle signed former Junkballer & Mechanic Garrett Ruiz. Ruiz figures to play a large role in 2020 as he brings some much needed youth as well.
The Newts will take on the Magic in Week 5 in a World Series rematch. Two of the sports best rivalries return as New Carlisle will face their crosstown rival Wildcards as well as Emery's Army after 1 year breaks from each series. New Carlisle will take on Granger in the final week of the season in a series that could decide home field advantage.
Elkhart B FAM
Elkhart heads into the 2020 season with loads of confidence after a fantastic inaugural season in the league. Led by National League Rookie of the Year and MVP Brandon Terry, Elkhart has one of the biggest young stars in the game. This B-Fam lineup also relies heavily on Walter Griffin III who put together a phenomenal rookie season as well. This duo of Terry and Griffin III is one of the best duos in the league as they can both do great things both at the plate and on the mound as well.
While Elkhart broke onto the scene with a 19-5 regular season, they failed to win a playoff game which is something that they will certainly be striving for in 2020. The offseason addition of Austin Traxler could definitely go a long way in helping B-Fam take that next step forward. Traxler blasted 31 HR, 47 RBI to go along with a .552 Batting Average last season for the Landsharks and likely would have been talked about more had his teammate Anthony Rieff not broken the single season record for Batting Average.
Despite having one of the smallest rosters in the league, Elkhart heads into 2020 with confidence sky high as they feel very confident in their group of guys. The one downside to that could be the fact that they have a lack of options off the bench and therefore won't have much to turn to if their stars are not performing. However, there is not much reason to think that this squad will take a step back in 2020 and if they are able to beat up on the bottom feeders on the NL, another 19 win season is not out of the question.
Twin Branch Billy Goats
After falling just 1 win shy from a trip to the World Series, the Billy Goats head into 2020 with their eyes set on making it to the World Series this time around. After switching from the NL to the AL last season, the Goats will look to take home the top record in the AL for the 2nd straight season. It truly was a special year last year for the Goats as Andrew Doran won his 2nd consecutive Cy Young Award while Lucas Oletti won the Home Run Derby.
With the American League deeper than ever, it could be tough for the Billy Goats to win 20 games again but having a game changing pitcher like Andrew Doran certainly helps. While the Goats core of Andrew Doran, Lucas Oletti, Frankie Minerva, and Keigan White returns for 2020, they will have to fill the void left by the departures of both Kadin Abegg and Conor VanOverberghe. Kadin and "VanO" combined for 40 HR & 57 RBI so they will have to look elsewhere to get that production. Some think that Peyton Doran, the younger brother of Andrew will see a larger role this year but that remains to be seen. All in all, Twin Branch figures to be the Magic's biggest threat in the American League as they have full intention of being the team to end Maple City's run after the Magic won 3 straight games at the Goat House to win the AL pennant in 2019.
The Goats will take on their rival Granger Panthers in rivalry week in what has become one of the most intriguing rivalries in the league. Twin Branch will also host Maple City in Week 7 in one of the more highly anticipated series of the season. On July 5th, they will travel to County Line where they will face off against their ex-teammate Kadin Abegg.
County Line Kings
The County Line Kings head into 2020 with high expectations as they were arguably the big winners of the offseason. The Kings added former Mechanics stars Kody Webb and Colton Boren while also adding ex-Billy Goat Kadin Abegg. Insert those three along with 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Mike Forrester and Bryce Bloode and the Kings have a very talented starting 5. The three new additions come to County Line as they look to build off of a solid 11-13 rookie campaign.
Many around the league believe that County Line could be ready to vault past the Billy Goats and give Maple City a run for their money. People certainly have reason to believe that this team is ready to break out as they are all entering their prime and are coming off productive seasons. Both Kody Webb and Colton Boren played big roles in leading Olive Township to the NLCS and will look to do the same over in the American League this year with County Line If Mike Forrester can continue to improve in his sophomore campaign, County Line could make a push at earning a Bye in the Postseason.
Another thing that could play a role in the Kings success this year is the strength of schedule. While there will be no easy weeks in the American League, the Kings do have one of the easier inter-league schedules as they will take on the Goon Squad and Godfathers, both who finished under .500 last season.