Season 30 looks promising in Nashville, as the aging Southern Belles try to continue to retool for another run. This is no longer the team that won 6 out of 7 AL pennants, however they are built to win now. Nashville is looking to win its first division title since season 22, and could really use the first round bye.
The Belles should be led by a strong starting rotation, returning all 5 starting pitchers, anchored by future Hall of Famer Wendel Ducey. Ducey, who is 3rd all time with 312 wins looks to continue his brilliant career and hang on long enough to catch Walker Mays record of 411 wins. While a stretch he will reach the mark the Belles continue to try to put strong pieces around him.
The bullpen is anchored by Vin Ramirez. The aging Ramirez has been a stallworth of the bullpen since joining Nashville in season 18, pitching at least 150 innings all but two seasons. Joining Ramirez in the bullpen is free agent Cookie Ozuna who looks to earn his free agent money by locking down the middle innings in long relief.
Nashvilles offense is led by superstar 3b Adam Coles, who has hammered 91 homers in two seasons with the Belles. LF Bernie Bunch joins Coles and return 1b Tanner Conner giving nashville 3 players who hit 40 homers last year in the middle of the lineup.
While Nashville boost a strong rotation and power lineup, there defense should be much improved this year. Free Agent shortstop Willy Lennon will join incumbant Christian Carnery to provide some much needed rotation and depth with two players capable of playing any spot on the field. Returning CF Rigo Melian won a Gold Glove in his first season in CF with the Belles and will look to build on that success. 2b Todd Duffy, brought over from Cleveland in a trade, provides the possibility of having a Gold Glove player at 2b, SS, CF and 3B, giving Nashville strong defense at the most important positions. Winning the starting catcher spot, incumbent 2nd round pick Timmothy Speaker threw out 34% of runners last year while showcasing a career .838 ops.
The core of Nashvilles team is getting old, and years of big money free agents have done their work on a once very deep minor league system. The biggest risk area this year is injury and/or decline leaving Nashville with not many replacement options in the minors. Nashville continues to do a good job of finding and growing bench players in the draft, however they have not groomed an impact ML player in a long time.
top newcomers: Willy Lennon, Bernie Bunch, Todd Duffy, Cookie Ozuna
key departchers: Roland Pierce, Ben Broxton, Hee Chong
best prospects: Aroldis James, Francisco Perez, Everth Romero, Dick Howard