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  • Writer's pictureJAL

Offseason Report Card

The JAL has been out-of-season for roughly six months, but Opening Day of the 25th season is little less than a month out. As is the case in every offseason, the competitive landscape changes with players switching teams, new players joining the league and franchise managers coming and going. Let's take a look at the biggest winners and losers of the JAL 25 offseason as momentum builds toward the next chapter..

Best Improvement

Kansas Lawmen

Team Owner Austin Ryan and (now former) GM Ryley Larson finally made the overdue decision to hire a new GM — Colton Carlson. In agreeing to let go and as a thanks for his years of service, Ryley was given a minority ownership stake in the team to essentially remain an involved adviser.

The GM switch was overdue because the franchise had finished 3-5 or worse in four straight seasons. In Ryley's prior first five seasons the Lawmen were successful and even made the JAL 19. As time passed however, his recruits from those teams dwindled out of the league and his connections to younger talent dried up. Thus the Lawmen got stuck in perpetual mediocracy and failed to develop quality new players.

Colton Carlson, a 2-year league vet from the Cobras, is the team's new point-man at GM. Carlson is a solid hitter and fielder, capable backup pitcher and most importantly is a young (20) local-based guy (Longview) to the league. He's made two rookie signings already and is sure to make more before or during the season. Will any of them pan out right away? Who knows.. But he puts Kansas in a much better position to recruit, develop and rebuild moving forward.

Sacramento Wrecking Crew

The Crew were already a good team last year.. The difference is now they have the potential to be a great team.

Brandon Viale, a proven management winner as the former Lynx GM, secured ownership of the team following JAL 24 and immediately got to work stealing other teams best players. First he brought Josh Burckhardt over with himself from the Lynx, then out-recruited the Bison to steal All-Star rookie Krister Embree and finally did the same with the Fog, grabbing All-Star Sean McFarland and JAL 23 MVP Chase Johnson.

It's mind blowing that in the same offseason the Wrecking Crew lost Hall of Fame player Matthew Morton, they are now arguably twice as good as they were before.

Seattle Sasquatches

Like the Lawmen, another decision that was a couple seasons overdue was the Sasquatches finally moving on from Scott Coleman as their ace pitcher. Scott is still on the roster (for now), but the team's new ace is Joey Hayes, who they managed to steal from the Bison after his rookie season last year. The Sasquatches also added rookie Trevor Feeney to their team at the end of last season to bolster their lineup when star batter Colby Mazza's year was ended early with a neck injury.

Seattle has veteran hitters Mazza, AJ Moore and Marcus Deyo mixed with a young and improving pitcher in Hayes and improving depth with Feeney. It's not a championship caliber team, but it's a very dangerous bunch that could make a lot more noise than this franchise (which has still never made the playoffs) is used to.

Steps Backward

Texas Bison

GM and All-Star player Gage Metzger built a very nice supporting cast of rookies (Embree, Hayes, Landen Patterson) around himself last year in route to a 6-2 record.. Then had Embree and Hayes snatched away from him.

Metzger replaced them with a new rookie Daxton Thomas and former Cobras washout Keegan Hamer. Given last year's success with unproven rookies, it's possible Metzger and the Bison can use the same formula to replicate similar results. However, the odds of rookie Thomas being as good as Embree and Hayes were is a pretty risky bet and rehabilitating a failed player in Hamer is never easy.

Missouri Express

On paper, the JAL 25 Express look no different than the JAL 23 and 24 teams. It's not that Missouri is or has been a bad team in recent seasons, but they haven't been good either. They're mediocre. They beat bottom teams in the league, but don't have enough talent (at pitcher) to actually beat any of the upper teams. Overall, Connor Vermilyea does a fair job in his time as GM (JAL 21-present), but a shortcoming in recent seasons is finding a quality new pitcher to try and develop. Vermilyea recruits new players from his hometown base in Toledo, which has produced some talent, but he almost never strays beyond there. Vermilyea knows what he wants in new players and is picky about who to have on his team, this is a very good GM quality, but at times (like now) a lack of risk-taking causes stagnancy.

Bay Area Fog

Darren Ayoub's Bay Area Fog were one of the best National Conference teams the last few years, led by Chase Johnson and strong support cast of Sean McFarland, Tony Liepa and others. Following last August's loss in The Cup, free agents Chase and Sean were talked into the Wrecking Crew's "super-team" plan to beat the Bambinos, leaving Ayoub's franchise bare like an empty cupboard. Chase leaving stung even more because he was also the Fog's GM.

In the aftermath, Ayoub at least made the wise decision to hire a new GM committed to a complete, start from scratch rebuild in Jorden Newkirk. This is wise because following a Cup appearance it'd be natural for any owner to want to try some gimmicky tricks in free agency or trades to maintain having a good or decent team in the short-run. It's hard to feel so close to a title and then just let go, but that's usually the smart long-term play.

As the new GM, Newkirk is young (21) and has lots of local baseball connections. So far the team has signed young rookies Tyler Hays and Sosefa Logotaeao as well as acquired Brennan Tompkins (a rookie last year). The Fog will use the same formula to rebuild this team as the way they did with Chase's prior teams.. Get young players, give them time to learn and get better. That said, there's no mistaking the JAL 25 Fog will be much worse than last year's team.


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