Get warm, get stretched, get hydrated, it’s the time you’ve all been waiting for! As the fifth season is about to begin, it’s time to take a look at and grade each team’s pitching, fielding, and hitting depth to see how we think the season will shape up.
This year’s preview will also look at the teams power ranking going into the season. As each week progresses we’ll see which teams rise and which teams fall until only one true champion will remain!
1st Place – Samarra Eagles
With gold glove potentials around the entire field, a formidable lineup, and two very strong pitchers, the Eagles are definitely the team to beat this year.
The Eagles drafted two potential pitchers, a former pitcher of the year in Abbas Allidina and the best alley-oop thrower in the league in Riaz Champsi. Both pitchers are great at hitting the mat in various locations with spins. If one isn’t clicking, the other can sub in seamlessly while the other can hold their own on defence in the field.
Starting up the middle, the Eagles have the best shortstop in the league in Asad Hussain followed by a great centre fielder in Captain Ali Manek. The infield has great depth with Hasanain Panju, Shane Worthington, and Abbas Nasser primarily manning the bases. The outfield also boasts great range with the likes of Safder Jaffer and Hussain Habib patrolling the left and right field. There aren’t many gaps to hit in this field, so hitters will need to be precise to find some green on this side of the fence.
While this lineup has great middle of the lineup power, the key to the success of this team is to get on base. Riaz has proven to be willing to take walks, but the big question is: will the rest of the team be able to get on base enough for the bats of Ali and Asad to drive them in? If there was one tiny potential for a team to stand a chance against the Eagles, it will be limiting the base runners.
2nd Place – Mashad Bucks
The returning champion Bucks have a solid all-around lineup which leaves them not too far behind the Eagles. The questionable injury history of some of their key players leaves us wondering if they will free fall down the rankings as we inch closer to the playoffs.
With the Bucks only using one pitcher last year, the captains decided to, once again, only draft one pitcher. Azad Najfi has proven to be someone who can consistently hit the mat and his various stutter steps can throw off a hitter’s timing. The big question will be if the rest of the league hitters have gotten used to his tactics now that he is in his sophomore year. If that does happen, who can the Bucks turn to as their number two? The lack of depth hurt them in year’s past, will it hurt them again this year?
Captain Ali Raza Nasser leads a group of athletic fielders that can play multiple positions. Starting in in the infield, we expect Nadim Rahemtulla and Irfahn Khimji to alternate between 3B and shortstop, while Hisham Ali and Arif Hirji are in contention to win gold gloves at 2B and 1B respectively. If hitters can get the ball over the heads of this infield, they have to contend with outfielders that have incredible range with Ali Raza, Maysum Jaffer, and Hassan Abbas Kara leading the way. If defence truly wins championships, the league should keep an eye out.
While the Bucks boast some power with Ali Raza, Irfahn, and Arif, they face a similar question as the Eagles. Will the rest of the lineup be able to continue to get on base for the big boys to drive in the runs. The Bucks have not historically been known for practicing, so it will be interesting to see if the hitters are able to consistently make good contact. This team could have some break out innings, but could also put up some 0s.
3rd Place – Medina Owls
The Owls are a dark horse to win the championship this year as and something tells me that they will move up the power rankings sooner rather than later. Here’s why:
Similar to the Bucks, the Owls drafted a great pitcher in Asad Nasser. While morning games can always be a question mark, there is no doubt that he is one of the top pitchers in the league. The big question is exactly that, however. Beyond Asad, there isn’t much pitching depth. Hasnain Kara and Captain Kumail Meghani are potentials to sub in when required, but that leaves opens up gaps in the rest of the field.
Kumail’s drafting philosophy has always been to draft multi-positional talent and that is on display yet again as we project the starting positioning for the Owls. The infield looks very strong on the left side with Khizer Jamal and Noor Zia starting at 3B and SS while the right side can hold their own with Shahid Rahemtulla and Kazim Merchant are at 2B and 1B. Hitters will have a very difficult time getting ground balls through this infield. In the outfield, there is speed with Kumail, Muzammil Jaffer, and Kabir Molu patrolling the grass. Once again hitters will have a difficult time as any pop flies will surely be caught.
The Owls do not appear to have a lot of power on their roster beyond Kumail and Noor, but the team will surely run up the base hits. Kabir Molu has proven to be a speedy lead off man, while Asad Nasser has vowed to come back as a new hitter. There is definitely a lot of balance throughout this line up so we shouldn’t see too many 0-run innings.
4th Place – Mecca Wolves
While the Wolves boasts power and youth, the big question is whether that will translate to success on the field.
The Wolves have ace Mikael Ratansi to lead the way but an interesting thing to note is that he faded come playoff time in 2018. With fatigue a factor and another consistent pitcher, Aman Nasser, as a reserve, could the Wolves try to sponsor a vacation or two so they could call Aman up during the season?
The infield for the Wolves is shaping up to be fairly strong with gold glove candidate Minhal Jaffer projected to be starting at shortstop, Nadir Virjee at 3B, and Shane Nasser at 2B. The big question will be who will seize the opportunity to run with the starting job at 1B? The outfield is where things get interesting as beyond Captain Imran Virji, there isn’t a whole lot of experience to carry the team. Look for the twins Aadil and Irfaan Jaffer to carry the bulk of the load as hitters try to test the Wolves’ outfield.
It will be interesting to see how the hitting lineup of the Wolves is constructed. Beyond Minhal and Shane, there does not seem to be a lot of power. Look for the Wolves to try to string together multiple hits to carry their offence throughout the season as they try to put it all together come playoff time.
5th Place – Kadhmain Falcons
This Falcons team boasts a great all around line up. For those who pick Mario in Mario Kart, this is the team for you.
Hussein Allidina will be the primary pitcher for the Falcons and is coming off a great 2018 campaign. The big issue was that hitters finally got to him in the playoffs. Was it fatigue? Was it that hitters finally figured him out? This preview thinks it was the former, which could spell trouble as there is not much depth beyond Hussein. Ali Reza Merali or Damien Ramnauth could provide an inning or two, but this could spell trouble for the Falcons.
Defensively, the Falcons have speed and tenacity spread throughout their lineup. Captain Umair Ali is expected to get the bulk of the starts at shortstop while Hasnainali Walli and Salim Champsi man the bases. In the outfield, Damien Ramnauth and Ali Reza, and Mohamed Railey will catch pretty much anything that flies out onto the grass. Teams will need to yard or hit some hard ground balls through the infield to get passed this defence.
Speed is the name of the game as the Falcons boast some of the league’s fastest in Damien, Ali Reza, and Mo Mo. With Umair always a threat to hit one over the fences, look for him to structure the lineup so that the bases are loaded each time he is up to bat.
6th Place – Qum Tigers
While some are referring to this team as the “retirement club” they are, in reality, looking to teach the league a thing or two about what experience can do for you.
Altaf Champsi headlines the pitching of the Tigers as someone who can consistently hit the mat and someone who does not get phased in tense situations. This will be needed as there aren’t many options behind him. Sarfaraz Karmali could provide some spot innings, but there isn’t a lot of depth behind Altaf.
The infield of the Tigers has some questions to be answered. Will Mahmood Kara start at shortstop or rover? Will Bobby Bharwani be able to repeat his gold glove performance at 2B with an ailing back? Will Abbasali Kermalli be able to throw accurately across the diamond with his ailing…everything? The good news is that Ray Noormohamed has proven that he can pick up a variety of throws at 1B. The outfield, on the other hand, has some strong presence. Vick and Shelly Vij along with Moe Abdalla should be able to cover a lot of ground.
The team with the likelihood to have the most mercy innings is, in fact, the Tigers. They boast some great historical OBP along with a formidable middle of the lineup in Abbasali, Vick, and Mahmood. Each of them are a threat to go deep in any at bat so the question will be whether they spread them out to get some base runners on in between, or leave them together to prevent teams from intentionally walking them.
7th Place – Najaf Lions
Ranking the teams in the pre-season is one of the most difficult things to do. Someone has to start at the bottom, and the honour this year goes to the Lions and Captain Miqdad Jaffer who is on his victory lap as the commissioner – shout out to a job well done! – He has his eye on a championship but will require him to coach his team of potential stars all the way to the top.
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be a natural pitcher on the roster. However, Miqdad himself has been honing his skills as a pitcher over the last few months as will likely take the reigns himself. Boasting a number of spins and mat placement, he does have the ability to keep hitters guessing. Backing him up is veteran Imtiyaz Kara. He can hit the mat, but is more of an infielder than a pitcher.
The infield for the Lions may lack in range, but the craftiness of Imtiyaz at shortstop can lead to a lot of great positioning for the infielders. We expect Farhan Ratansi to return to 3B with Hussein Jiwan and Mehboob Ajwani at 1B and 2B respectively. The outfield is really where the Lions come alive. Speed, agility, and high softball IQ man the outfield with Imran Nasser, Yasser Malik, and Mohamedabbas Walli patrolling the grass. The big wildcards in the defence will be Ranko Cupovic and Ahsan Raza. In their first season with JMS, it’ll be interesting to see where Miqdad places these relative unknowns.
Slo-pitch softball is definitely an offensive game and this is where coach Miqdad shines. With practices already under way, Miqdad can turn this group of relatively unknown hitters, into a solid churning wheel of singles and doubles. The innings are going to be long against this team as they wear down opposing pitchers.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments here or on our Instagram post! See you on Sunday!