Nashville Season 29 Preview

Historically, the Nashville Catfish have not been one of the dominate teams in Yaz. Prior to last season, they had only won the division once, qualified for the playoffs only three times, and had never won more than 89 games in a season. However last season the team was finally able to break through, winning 94 games thanks to a late-season run and grabbed the #5 seed going into the playoffs. The Catfish rolled through the first two rounds, sweeping Kansas City and top ranked Chicago in 3 games. In the ALCS they defeated division rival Charlotte, and it is was on to their first ever World Series, where they met the 101 win Mexico City Jalapenos and their all-world starting rotation. It was a classic series and went the full seven before the Catfish were able to claim their first ever title.

So coming off their best season ever, what can this team do for an encore? The team is young and mostly intact from last season, but it did suffer the loss of the greatest Catfish ever, 3B Frtiz Blackwell. Blackwell hit .328 with a .403 OBP last season with 32 HR and 125 RBI on the way to winning the AL 3B Silver Slugger. Needless to say, he won't be easy to replace, but someone has to. Walt Sirotka was brought in via trade to replace him in the field, but probably not in this number 2 spot in the lineup. That will likely go to one of the free agent first basemen brought in to overhaul the position, Pinky Baez or Juan Rodriguez, although outfielder Vicente Hernandez and DH Tony Carrasco may have something to say about that. Other than at 1B and 3B, everyone else on offense returns, so as long as Blackwell can be replaced and 2B Bartolo Nieto can continue his 40+ HR hitting ways, the lineup is in great shape.

Pitching has never been the strongest aspect of the organization, but the team is getting some help from some rookies this season. Late-season call-ups SP Vance Hines and RP Neifi Diaz are ready for full-time duty after proving their worth during last year's playoff run. Look for Diaz to supplant veteran closer Willy Ginter this season, while Hines tries to transition from the bullpen to the rotation.

Thanks to the second big trade of the off-season, Louis Hill joins the rotation after coming over from Mexico City to replace Cookie Mesa. The rest of the rotation, Rudy Dale, Jason Jameson, Fred Guerrero and Brad Burks all return, with Burks likely the odd-man out and headed for the bullpen.

Given the returning talent on this team and the fact they look to have patched their biggest holes in the line-up, the front-office expects the Catfish to be another 90+ game winner and playoff contender.

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