2023 3L Preview

By | 2016-05-01

Hartford Whalers
Projected Record: 24-84
Last Year’s Record: 18-90

Hartford has 1 winning season since 2013, they haven’t finished above 7th since 2013, they have no one on their big league roster that people wanted to trade for and they have a brand new GM. With all of those things being said, you would think that they couldn’t possibly be better than they were last year, but in reality, it would be very hard to really replicate what they did last year. They have a GM now who can actually pay attention to what is happening with the team, they finished -6 last year in 2nd order wins and just as bad in 3rd order wins. They have some promising players in AAA that can at least be productive members of a team and the minor league system, while not great, does have some bright spots, such as the Hebrew Hammer. It’s doom and gloom right now, but 5 or so years down the road, this might be a team that is going to be something to contend with, but that’s just not the team right now.

Capital Districts
Projected Record: 42-66
Last Year’s Record: 33-75 (In the SL)

It wasn’t that long ago that the Capital District Red Knights surprised everyone and took the promotion spot from the 3 teams in front of it in a surprising playoff run. Those memories are fading fast and the sobering reality of a team on the rebuild is fully setting in. They are far from the worst team in the 3L though, as Hartford is still in the 3L and they still have some decent players that should allow them to get more wins than they did last year. Lallanilla, Alacorn, Rodriguez and Pak may not sound like much, but they should be monsters in the 3L, and getting some easy wins over Hartford will allow them to not completely bottom out. Of course, this could change drastically if they decide to give away what they do have left. If you want a team that could be major players are the trade deadline, then this might be a nice pick as they do have pieces that teams, especially in the SL and 3L could use.

Unlike with Austin this team didn’t make any offseason moves and there really isn’t a case to be made that they can surprise with what they have. There is almost no chance that the GM, Glenn, is going to add anything during the season, so Red Knights fans are going to have to just keep dreaming for the future. The farm system is still pretty thin, but adding the players they did in trades last year, combined with the signing of IFAs should at least make the future seem a little better and give fans hope…. In 3-5 years. This is a team fully on the rebuild, but that doesn’t mean there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Austin Rangers
Projected Record: 47-61
Last Year’s Record: 42-66

While Austin might have had one of the more under covered off-season’s it doesn’t mean that it was not well spent. They added quality bats in Trujillo, Kitamura and Freitas. While losing Kaneko is going to hurt, they did add Pat Farrel and have a moderate starting staff to go with a decent bullpen. The additions on the offensive side should pair nicely with Kramer, Sanchez and Hernandez to give them something to build on. They are not going to outscore many teams, but they are also not going to go quietly into the night like they did sometimes last year either. The days of going into Austin or an easy win are about to be over and teams will have to take their trips to the south a bit more seriously to not get snake bitten.

Austin is in an interesting position where they are not going to be very good, but they are also not going to completely tank their FI. It’s an interesting strategy that isn’t employed that often in the USBA, as teams tend to try to go for one of the extremes and not try to be bad, but not awful. If everything does go right though and they get big performances from the players they added, it is possible that they could knock on the door and challenge for a playoff spot. The back end of the playoff picture is wide open, and while the fans in Austin shouldn’t expect that, maybe they can dream about it. The future for this team looks bright though, and the smart moves by Jordan prove this is a team on the rise.

Montana Pandas
Projected Record: 47-61
Last Year’s Record: 57-51

There is no team with more turnover than the Pandas. Once again the GM turned over 70% of the roster during the offseason and the Pandas look like they are going to slide from a mid-table team down to a bottom table team. It appears that the juggernaut plan from last year is being completely abandoned and full rebuild mode, while still staying competitive, is the new plan in Montana. This team is a lot like Austin, but without the young talent in the ML right now. This team is clearly going to be on the 3-5-year plan that so many other teams are on right now and it’s going to be a huge fight once that time rolls around to see who comes out on top.

The one chance for this team to compete is if the pitching staff can somehow keep it together, even if that doesn’t look likely. The offense shouldn’t be awful, especially if Steve Riggs can recapture the magic, but the pitching is nearly non-existent and made up of castoffs from other teams. If they can somehow find a way to change their fortunes though, it could mean the Pandas make a fringe playoff run, but considering the teams that are ahead of them, even this fringe playoff run would seem unlikely, at best. The only saving grace for this franchise is that year after year they draw some of the largest crowds in the ML, and we wouldn’t expect this year to be any different.

Wizarding Express
Projected Record: 51-57
Last Year’s Record: 39-69

Wizarding is one of the most interesting teams in the league as they are also one of the most unpredictable. The mega-prospects that have been beating down the door to get some playing time are ready to be unleashed, Todd Hines joins the rotation as a bona fide ace and Cole Shaffer finally has some help on the offensive side of the ball. With all of those great things though also comes even greater questions. Can Hines stay healthy for the first time in 4 years? Can Shaefer stay healthy? Will the prospects come out like gangbusters or is it going to be more of a slow ascent for them? While it might seem like they have as many questions as almost any other team, the questions they have are far bigger than any team in the league, besides maybe Phoenix.

What really hurt the Express this offseason was the fact that they just couldn’t sign anyone to the big or important deals that they needed. When it was all said and done they added two nice offensive pieces and then not much else, which is a far cry from what many thought a team with nearly $100M in cap space would do. The rotation is still very young and the bullpen is very shallow. Scoring runs might not be much of a problem if the prospects really hit the ground running, but preventing runs might be an even bigger issue. The fans shouldn’t really go in with any expectations, because this team could win anywhere from 40 games to 60 games and it all depends on so many different things going right or wrong with the team. It’s undeniable though that they will be fun to watching and will provide an interesting story the entire year.

Kingston Township Legion
Projected Record: 54-54
Last Year’s Record 56-52

KT has been the model of mediocrity for the last couple of years in the 3L and I don’t think that this year changes that at all. They are returning essentially the same team that they had last year and the only difference now is that the players they have are going to get a little bit older than they were before. They have a few young players that could take a step forward and offset the gaining though, but those are huge questions marks and might be a little bit too little to really move the needle, at least this year. The bullpen for the KT Legion is going to be the biggest issue that they face, as it is fairly shallow and suffers from some great inconsistency.

Something that has not been mentioned much, but actually changed this entire team is that Gonzolo Lopez had his vesting option for $37 million kick in this year by two plate appearances. Had he not gotten these two plate appearances he would have become a free agent and KT would not have had to pay him this year’s salary or next year’s buyout of $9.5 million or salary of $41 million. This large salary really handcuffs the team and makes any moves pretty difficult to really do. They are going to be a fine team, but unless they can find a taker for the Lopez salary, they are unlikely to become a good team. Fans can hope for another fringe playoff run, which they have done in the past couple of years.

Rocky Mountain Nuggets
Projected Record: 56-52
Last Year’s Record: 59-49

The Nuggets shocked a lot of teams last year by making the playoffs and performing a lot better than anticipated. 2nd and 3rd order wins agree with this shocking the world narrative though as they were a full 5 games over their expected record. While this kind of variation isn’t surprising in such a short season it does give some idea why no one really expected them to do well and then they did. It was a fairly quite offseason for the team though as they did not sign any free agents and only signed a few IFAs to help round out that future talent. This lack of movement on the free agent market though could come back to hurt the Nuggets as they have some holes, especially with the pitching staff that could be exposed by some of the high octane offenses that the 3L sports this year.

It’s hard to get a feel for where this team is headed long term as their GM is one of the quietest in the league. One would assume that he feels good about his team this year, but it’s pretty unclear if any trades could happen to help strengthen their team and get them back to the promise land once again. Fans shouldn’t get too excited about the chances of really hitting it big, as even with their team overpowering by a fair amount last year they just barely squeaked into the playoffs and where quickly disposed of. It’s like that unless a miracle run happens again, the Nuggets will be sitting on the outside looking in.

Seattle Aviators
Projected Record: 57-51
Last Year’s Record: 54-54

Seattle is the poster child for teams that come ever so close to breaking through every year, but fall short time and time again. While last year was their first season over .500 since 2018, they have never been last in the league and many times will be alive until the very end of the season giving their fans hope that they are just a few key moves away from really breaking through. This year saw them maybe make that move in the winter to really take that next step. In a huge trade with the Montana Pandas they acquired Eduardo Molina and Dan Mitchell which gives them two front of the rotation starters that simply haven’t really had before. Combine this with the signing of RP Ken Frost and the pitching which plagued Seattle last year at key points seems to be noticeably better. They will also get a full year of Sean Davis as SS and Ken Hinkle locking down games for them.

The fans of the Aviators should be pretty excited about this team as 57 is a pretty conservative win estimate for them. The questions around the starting pitching still loom as Molina made great strides last year but is still young, OF Mojica took a step back last year, but is still fantastic and the overall ability of them to score runs might cause problems if they get into a slugfest with any teams. Mau has proven in the past though that he is not afraid to pull the trigger on a deal that will make his team better, so if holes do appear on the team, then they might be pretty quickly stopped up with whatever needs to be had to fix the situation.

Detroit Renaissance
Projected Record: 63-45
Last Year’s Record: 46-62

No team is going to be helped more from moving down a league and getting to start over than Detroit. Last year they were one of the unluckiest teams with letting wins slip through their hands like it was their job. Now they are going down to the 3L with 2 guys who might hit 50 HRs apiece and a starting rotation that actually should be decent. Kyle Lewis and Cris Mendoza will anchor a pretty good rotation that will then give way to a young, but talented bullpen that added Jack Carr who was very good in the 3L last year. While there are some youth questions with this team on the pitching side, they did well last year and if they can manage to not have some big regression they should do even better against the weaker competition in the 3L.

The biggest question with Detroit right now is what moves they will make to solidify their SS/3B positions and if they decide to try to add another starter. Centerfield could also prove to be a pretty big question for them ad D’Angle has not lived up to the potential that he showed in the minor leagues for Richardson City or Montana, but he is still young with much upside This projected record is assuming they will make a move to get a bit stronger, but even if they don’t the overall record will likely be about what it is with maybe 2-3 less wins. Most GMs I would not project to make a move, but to be honest, some GMs you just know they will make trades, or will at least be more likely to make them. Expect big things from this Detroit team, and big bombs!

Las Vegas Flamingos
Projected Record: 63-45
Last Year’s Record: 59-49

The team that would just never say die in the SL looks to try to mount a run at getting back into the SL this year. Last year they surprised many by amassing 59 wins, but this was just some fluke that isn’t sustainable as they get some young talent to add to the roster to go along with who they already have producing on the ML roster. While they do need a lot of things to go right overall to get to the 63-win mark, they at least have proof that who they are playing can do well. Their GM is doing a great job of showing how one can rebuild and use the waves of players ready to be competitive while completely transforming the future of a team.

It was a quiet offseason for the Flamingos with a few losses of players and only the addition of Christian Bates. The Bates addition though could pay huge dividends as the SP for the Flamingos last year was their largest problem. Bates did acceptable in the PL, so a more to the 3L should allow him to be solid, which sometimes is exactly what you need. If you had to point to one area that they could struggle with it would be that the young players, they have don’t take the next step like they need them too. The high end for this team though is pretty high and they could challenge for that no. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Philadelphia 1776
Projected Record: 70-38
Last Year’s Record: 58-50

This may be one of the most electric teams in the 3L and watching how many runs they put up is going to be fun to monitor all year. Last year offense wasn’t a problem and most of their hitters are going to get closer to their offensive peak as they are pretty young. The pitching becomes the major question that the 1776 have to answer. 2021 was a very good year for their pitching, but 2022 was a very different story. They attempted to answer some of this through promotions and free agency, but only time will tell which pitching staff decides to show up in the city of brotherly love.

Fans of the 1776 shouldn’t worry about this team just being just a flash in the pan though as they continue to invest heavily in IFAs, but also make smart, short term commitments with free agents to give themselves maximum flexibility into the future year. Combine this with having the ROY last year and a great young core of players leaves this team only looking up. If the players that did well last year are able to take another step forward and the pitching returns to 2021 form, then this team can challenge for the automatic promotion spot in the 3L, and even if they don’t quite get to where they need to be the floor for this team is very high.

DC Divided
Projected Record: 74-34
Last year’s Record: 66-42

The offseason didn’t have a lot of moves for the DC Divided, but it didn’t really need to either. Their offense was already good, their bullpen was already good and their fielding was already good. Starting pitching is what held them back the most last year and they fixed that problem, but there is a debate on if it was a good way to do it or not. The major move they had was signing Sozen Raikatuji to a 2-year deal that will pay him over $23 million per year. While the last year is a team option, it is still a huge risk for a plyer that many agree has taken huge dive ratings wise. Even with the ratings dive though he was very good in the PL last year and moving down to the 3L should allow him to still perform very well. So the question becomes if moving up to the SL is worth $23M for the one-year deal, which it likely will be. Singing Kaneko was the other thing they did to address the starting pitching and this is a much less risky, solid move that is unlikely to really have much downside as he has just been a solid pitcher his whole career. Ray Sears is going to get a full year to feast on 3L pitching

While second and third order wins say this team got really lucky last year, the team gets more mature and better so it’s hard to say that their record won’t improve. Also, the 3L actually lost their two best teams for once, and so the power vacuum left over needs to be filled by someone. DC is in a great position to take over this, but it is not likely to be in the dominating fashion that Richardson City took over the 3L back in 2019. Expect more wins than Oakland had during last year, but not too many more as they are still a bit young at some key positions and Sears could end up being hurt again. The biggest question facing DC this year is how well they will fair in the ToC.