2018 Opening Day

Eid Mubarak! With Opening day just a couple days away. We wanted to start the season off with some analysis of the teams this year and give you our predictions for how things will shape up. We’ll do this in alphabetical order, but we’ll give you our rankings throughout.

Overview

Captaining the bucks again this year is Ali Raza Nasser and his younger brother Imran Nasser. The two no strangers to putting together a competitive team did their due diligence before the draft – made a trade for some picks early on to try to get more players in the second round. With their first four picks they grabbed Nadim Rahemtulla, Minhal Jaffer, Kabir Molu, and newcomer Sebastian Gianino. The two Nasser brother’s play the outfield so they wanted to solidify their infield and pick up another outfielder. Effectively making sure the left side of the field was covered (LF, CF, RO, 3B, SS, P). The biggest risk to this strategy is Nadim, who is recovering from a broken ankle in last year’s playoffs.

The team was really well rounded out, making sure that there was depth at all positions. There aren’t really a lot of major reaches on this team. The player with the biggest upside is Imran Merali, who after some offseason practice has started to put together some big hits – nearly reaching the fence at Powerade over the Ramadhan exhibition season.

Sebastian who is new to the league, was brought in for his pitching prowess, we’ll see how he adjusts to being given a 1-1 count to start, and we’ll see if he can make the most of it. Though this team looks good on paper, they were unimpressive during Ramadhan. They’ll need some time to gel as a team and to figure it out, but on paper they look good.

Scouting Report

This team’s weakness will be in the infield, pepper them with ground balls that force the infield to move laterally and you should get on base more often than not. The outfield is pretty solid, so any ball in the air should get caught. When they are up to bat, this team is largely pull heavy and power heavy – they have a few players that spray (Nadim, Kabir, Imran Nasser), but other than Imran, none of them are a real threat to go deep. An aware outfield should be able to cover that. The power will come from Minhal, Ali Raza, and the two Imrans. It’s a nightmare as a pitcher because it’s likely they will bat one after the other (2 – Imran Nasser, 3 – Ali Raza Nasser, 4 – Minhal Jaffer, 5 – Imran Merali), but we’ll see if they mix it up.

Prediction

We think they’ll be slow out of the gate but will pick it up, we’re expecting them to finish off around 4th or 5th place for the season. However, if Nadim is not healthy, they will drop a few places to 6th or even 7th.

Overview

With 2 top-3 picks in the draft, you would think the Eagles – captained this year by Hussein and Abbas Allidina – would be set up for success. However, sometimes they say that having too many options isn’t a good thing. The Eagles blundered with their first selection when they chose Ali Manek. It can be argued that Ali Manek was, without opposition, the best player available – but what he brings in on field talent, he lacks in off-field control. So the Eagles did the right thing by drafting a baby-sitter next in Abbasali Kermalli. It seems though that the Eagles pretty well rested on their laurels after that, they didn’t really seem like they were drafting with a strategy and just started picking players that they thought would be good. What they ended up with was a lot of infielders, a few people that can play dual roles, and Hussain Habib as their lone true (?) outfielder.

The team has some good players – but took a few risks with Aqil Najafi, newly-engaged Hasnainali Walli (Congratulations!), and Ali Fazal. Now, we’re happy to be proven wrong BUT this team knows they have their work cut out for them as they’ve scheduled multiple practices, had a few exhibition games, and are even trying to put in a show up early or you sit rule. Time will tell how good they’ll be.

Scouting Report

Just put the ball in play. Defence isn’t the strong suit of this team, but with their pitchers this may not be as easy as it sounds. If you can hit hard ground balls, it’s likely to get you on base. If you put fly balls in the gaps, it’s likely to get you on base. If you hit it at them, they’ll make the play. Offensively this lineup isn’t scary. Ali Manek and Abbasali Kermalli are capable of going deep, but barring that, this should be a lineup most teams can manage. They might have an inning or two that they string things together, but we don’t think it’ll be sustained throughout a game.

Prediction

We haven’t been very kind so far, so you can probably see where this is going to end up. We have the Eagles finishing near the bottom in either 6th or 7th place. It’s going to take some work for them to be relevant and in the top of the pack.

Overview

The Falcons will be captained by two brand new captains that have (outside of Al-Wahda) never captained in JMS before. Abbas Nasser and Shane Worthington basically had one strategy – draft Miqdad Jaffer and let him figure it out – probably not their best idea since they had to make a lot of trades to fix some of those decisions. This team took some major risks in their draft strategy – taking Moe Abdalla early, drafting unknowns in Tanveer Husnani and Sajid Alimohamed (now on the DL), drafting Aadil Jaffer who is recovering from an achilles injury – there were a lot of question marks. The biggest steal of the draft was getting Arif Hirji with the 44th pick. However, what they lacked in strategy they make up for in sheer persistence. The Falcons have been the most active on the phones and have made multiple trades as a result.

The Falcons first traded some picks in the draft with the Eagles, they then traded Moe Abdalla and Sarfaraz Karmali to the Owls for Raheel Rawjani and Salman Jiwan, and they finally followed with a trade to the Eagles again where Minaz Noormohamed was sent over for Adam Mawji. The jury is out on the trades but at least the one that acquired Raheel Rawjani helped solidify the defence of this team and has now given it arguably the best outfield in the league. They have lost all semblance of power when shipping out Moe Abdalla, with now just Shane Worthington alone being expected to carry that weight. This team will play singles and doubles and try to put up consistent runs. There are few if any liabilities on this team.

Tanveer Husnani who has been largely a no-show made his presence felt in a Ramadhan exhibition game where he was able to handle the outfield with poise and confidence. Knowing the Falcons penchant for trades, other teams have started to call to see if his services can be had. This team has put together a good offseason, but we still have to see if they can put it together against some of the more dominant teams in the league.

Scouting Report

As mentioned, the outfield is solid, but that means the infield has vulnerabilities. This team will likely make a lot of errors in the infield and that’s the best place to test them. It will be almost an automatic out putting a ball in the air so avoid that as much as possible. Offensively, this team will just hit line drives and singles. Primarily pull heavy, with few options that can hit to all parts of the field. The best defensive scheme will include a shallow rover. This team won’t be a power threat, so that shouldn’t be a concern.

Prediction

We have this team finishing in the top 3. The pitching arsenal includes last year’s pitcher of the year in Riaz Champsi, and Miqdad Jaffer who was last year’s ERA leader in limited innings, but it’s softball so it shouldn’t make that much of a difference. It’s going to be hard to get hits against this team and they will just wear teams out with the singles. We’re not sure they have enough sustained firepower to get to the top, but they’ll be competitive.

Overview

Returning again for another round of captaining the Lions are the Hussain brothers Asad and Zane. They finished last year with a bitter taste left in their mouth as they went undefeated in every game on their way to the finals – where they went entirely defeated. To ensure some level of continuity – they redrafted Imtiyaz Kara and Tarik Kamel. The rest of their roster they tried to keep things even keel. They drafted Damien Ramnauth again this year, and will hopefully keep him this time. The replaced one Champsi with another at the pitching spot in hoping that Altaf will be able to carry them through the final mile of the championship.

Overall though, this team is a little lack lustre from previous years. They don’t have a lot of wholes and they’ve done the smart thing by taking care of the main areas of their defence. But without a lot of playing time together, we think this team starts the season out rocky. Realistically speaking, any team that has Asad Hussain on it is a threat to win every night. However, we’re not sure there’s enough firepower to take them very far.

Scouting Report

So typically we would say keep the ball away from the left side of the field, and that’s mostly true here as the left side of the outfield is going to be very strong, and the SS position will likely be awarded a gold glove this year (yes, we have those trophies this year). However, the 3B position leaves something to be desired – if Imtiyaz Kara is playing there it might be a option because due to the injuries he’s suffered, he’s a discount (coupon applied) version of his former self – but generally speaking you’re better off putting it on the right side of the field if you want to get on base. Offensively speaking the team is well rounded, just stay away from the power in the middle of the lineup – we think Damien Ramnauth is going to be a threat this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares.

Prediction

As mentioned, we think this team will start out rough but will likely figure things out. It’s going to largely depend on how well the bottom of the order hits. All that in mind, it’s hard to count out a core group that went undefeated the previous year, we’re thinking it’s a 4th place finish this year.

Overview

Returning to the league after a long hiatus, claiming that the league was “too easy” for him is Kumail Meghani, who is partnering with former Owls captain Salim Chagani. Salim wanted to revive the Owls last year, but we weren’t quite ready to make it happen. They’re back now and looking to make an impact this year. They made some trades in the draft to acquire some early picks which they used to draft Irfahn Khimji and Raheel Rawjani (later trade for Moe Abdalla). They drafted some strong players in Abbas Fazal, Mohamed Railey, and Shane Nasser. Even got a pitcher late in Asad Nasser and traded for a backup with Sarfaraz Karmali. So on paper this team seems like it could be quite formidable.

However, this team hasn’t really gotten together for a lot of practices, these players haven’t really played together before, these captains haven’t really captained together before – there’s going to be some interesting chemistry challenges. The team is constructed around offence it would seem as a lot of the players have power, but lack real consistency – any of Shane, Khimji, Abdalla, and Meghani can go deep. We’re just not convinced these guys are going to get along well enough to want to play team ball. Also Asad Nasser likes to sleep in, so when he doesn’t show up, it’ll be up to Sarfaraz Karmali who isn’t a strong enough backup to carry this team – especially with only 3 balls in the count to work with. Does that mean Meghani comes in to pitch, severely weakening their outfield. It’ll be an interesting season for the Owls.

Scouting Report

Ground balls will get through, the infield isn’t that strong – it can be tested with a lot of hard ground balls. They’ll be a lot of errors there. The outfield is a little more promising because Meghani can cover a lot of ground. Offensively they will be streaky, they might put up a few mercy innings, but I think you’ll find that this team will leave a lot of runners on base as they won’t be able to put together anything with consistency. Either that or they’ll hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs. It’s a complete coin-toss.

Prediction

Well someone had to take the spot in the rankings, we have these guys finishing in last. They’ll be competitive but it’s going to be hard for them to put it together. I will say that I would not want to face them in the playoffs as they’ll likely start to click towards the end of the season and will be very dangerous come playoff time.

Overview

So captain Vick Vij returns again this year with a new assistant captain in Umair Ali. Just when you thought he was done with Bobby Bharwani, he drafts him anyway. This team flew under the radar, under the pretence of being busy with work – they made it seem like they weren’t planning. However, when the draft was finished – this team had easily the best team on paper. They picked up a potential ace in Azad Najfi, picked up Mahmood Kara early and even got Maysum Jaffer to top it all off. This is going to be a very dangerous team. Chemistry wise everyone gets along, they are a very smart team, and will have a lot of good players that can coach any of the players that need to see some growth.

They got some under the radar talent in Mehdi Hassan Najarali, Nabeel Naqvi, and Farhan Ratansi. Even their later picks in Nabil Jetha and Azmatali Mehrali can both contribute. However, for the latter we’ve heard that he’s going to be testing the league’s enforcement of rule 8.02 (Swearing Fines) and will likely spend some time on the suspension roster. He’s probably going to be swearing just reading this.

Scouting Report

While the Falcons may have one of the best outfields, these guys might be a very close second – Vick Vij, Maysum Jaffer in the middle will present a threat to anyone. We don’t know what they will do at SS, but we know Bobby Bharwani – who is playing with a chip on his shoulder since being drafted 19th – has been formidable at 3B in the exhibition games leading up the season. The best approach will be to hit balls to the right side of the infield – hard hit balls will get through but it’s going to be difficult to find consistent places to score. Offensively there are a lot of options for this team, they have a fair bit of speed too so it’ll likely be a lot of big innings.

Prediction

Just like someone had to finish last, someone has to finish 1st. We’ve also made it a tradition to not give that spot to the Wolves and they enjoy proving us wrong each and every year. One day we’ll learn, but today is not that day. Tigers will take the regular season crown.

Overview

Now last but certainly not least. Every single year, we have counted out Ali Merali, and every year he has proven us wrong. He is reunited again with Imran Virji – who is a 2-time champion himself, and he’s looking healthier this year. They’ve brought back Muzammil Jaffer, Mikael Ratansi, and Samir Damani from last year’s champions – and then they do what they always do – they take gambles on new players. Adding in Alla Al-Salem, Said Samater, Kaunain Taki, and Abid Kara – all unknowns but athletes that can figure it out. If all of them figure it out, this team will be a lot to handle with a lot of really great athletes.

We would love to tell you how this isn’t going to work, and that there are too many unknowns, and the positions are all gambles. However, we can’t do it – we’ve been burned too many times. This year the Wolves go from the hunter to the hunted. Everyone knows this story, and everyone wants to make sure they don’t win. It’s going to be very hard to stop them as this team holds 15+ practices before the playoffs, so this system is built for the playoffs.

Scouting Report

They are not without weakness – with Imran Virji healthy the outfield isn’t a good place to go, even if he was there by himself he could still cover massive ground. The better approach is to pepper the infield with ground balls and make them make mistakes. They’ll do it, but balls hit to the right side of the outfield will be good options as well. As this team figures out how to put things together they’ll be dangerous. Offensively, it’s a mixed bag, we’re likely going to see a lot of singles/doubles with Muzammil Jaffer and Merali being the two that can put the ball out of the park at will.

Prediction

2nd place. Only because they’re not ready to compete just yet. They’ll need some time for all the new players to figure it out. However, we won’t count them out – too much championship pedigree. With Mikael Ratansi pitching, this team will be in every game, if they go to their backup in Mohamed Walli – then their infield might get better, but he’s nearly as dominant – it’ll be a tradeoff they have to weigh throughout the year.

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