The loss of Jordan Tackett stings. He's a NWLA 1st team hitter, and consistently one of the best pitchers in the league. The Lake Monsters also lost Danny Fagan to the military and Griffin Ball to the Seawolves, leaving Cody House to take over the GM duties and rebuild what was left of this franchise. House made big moves, signing one of the biggest names in free agency, Taylor DeHart (DeHart had one of the most dominant tournament performances in ISWB history a few years ago). House also reached out to get Dusty Mitchell - former ISWB tourney runner up and older brother of Sawyer Mitchell. The Lake Monsters still have a spot to fill, and it's rumored that House could sign his brother. Regardless, Cody House did an incredible job cleaning up the mess that was left behind, and I'm excited to see what this potentially dangerous lineup is capable of doing.
The Skeeters will enter 2015 bitter after losing 1-0 on a walk off homer in Game 3 of the World Series. They lost Eli Pulley to Zach Preece and the Seawolves, but given Pulley's wiffle ball struggles, this probably improved the team, and GM Austin Church had little to fret over. To counter the lost roster spot, Church immediately signed speedster Blake Voris, and the Skeeters lineup improved immensely. Voris garnered a ton of championship winning experience as a long time member of the Midcity Moonshots. Already a championship contender with Church, the addition of Voris' speed to the potent lineup could be what the Skeeters need to grab their first ISWB championship. If Dillon Douthitt can continue to lock down the outfield and Brandon Benedict can play this summer, look out for the Skeeters.
The Sand Gnats lost by a run to the Skeeters in the semi-finals last year without Keegan Caughey. Caughey and Dudas provided great offense at the top of the lineup in 2014, but the bottom half of the lineup failed to provide any consistent offense. GM Brendan Dudas made it a top priority to find that consistency, and signed the LeBron James of the market, Drake Capps. Capps has the ability to launch this offense from a bottom-feeder status to elite. It remains to be seen if Caughey can continue to produce on the mound and at the plate and if Josh Hart can improve at the bottom of the lineup. The pieces are here for a championship run.
For the Otters, the best move to make was to make no moves at all. The defending champions have three of the top hitters in the league, and Sawyer Mitchell saw no reason to cut ties with the players that played so well down the stretch in 2014. The key to this team's continued success lies in the hands of Slater Burge. Sawyer Mitchell and Christian Abner showed that they are capable of producing at a very high level. If Burge can return to his MVP form, this team could be unstoppable.
The Seawolves are one of two expansion teams added to ISWB for the 2015 season. GM Michael Patterson did an excellent job pooling together some talent for his roster, signing lefties Jake Yergler and Colin Miller, and stealing power hitting Griffin Ball from the Lake Monsters. The three lefties should benefit from the short porch in right field, giving the Seawolves a legitimate chance to win a lot of ball games.
The Manatees find themselves at the bottom of this list, mainly because their only real move was stealing Eli Pulley from the Skeeters. GM Zach Preece enters his first year at ISWB with the second expansion franchise. The Manatees have three players on their roster that have never played in an ISWB event, so they emerge as the prime candidate to surprise people. However, with Pulley being the only source of experience on this roster, look for the Manatees to struggle. Still, since all but one of the players are unknown to the rest of the league, this team could make some noise.