Toward the end of last season, the brass of the Loyalist franchise had all but written off their entire team and were willing to undergo a complete rebuild. After diving into the stats a little further though, Loyalist GM did a complete 180 on that stance. “We had 5 of our 9 starters have career lows in batting average and slugging – I can’t imagine that would happen 2 years in a row” GM Squirrel1014 stated today. “I’m not saying that us losing was a complete fluke, but when you have a relatively young lineup that’s not in a ratings decline you have to wonder if the cards were just not in our favor last season.”
The fans here in Norfolk are hoping the same thing. The Loyalists made big acquisitions at 3B and on the pitching staff to regain division supremacy. Here’s a look at the starting lineup:
C: P.T. Valentin returns as Norfolk’s main backstop. He led the Loyalist staff to giving up 50 less runs in Season 9 than Season 8, a difference that if the offense had performed, would have made a huge difference. He will be counted on to guide the staff and help develop the catcher of the future in Alex Hampton
1B: Rookie Tex Leach will try to fill a big hole in the lineup from last season at 1B. Norfolk had a hard time getting production out of the position last season and will be looking toward Leach as a player to build around for the future.
2B: Speed demon Ruben Soriano returns for his 6th season in Norfolk. Last season he posted a .273 average with 79 SB in 88 attempts. If he can duplicate those numbers management would be happy.
3B: Morgan Glover (acquired via trade with Chicago) will man the hot corner, taking over for one of the biggest busts in Loyalist history with Alex Broadhurst almost getting murdered by fans after his dismal performance in Season 9… Glover hit 30 homeruns last season and has a history of success that Norfolk hopes can help them reach the postseason again.
SS: Devon Russell is slowly becoming the face of the franchise. Insulted that he was not mentioned in AL ROY talk, the 2nd year shortstop looks to improve on his impressive rookie season that saw him net a .286 average with 27 HR and 19 SB.
LF: Ismael Franco was the biggest star in Norfolk last season after a 51 HR season. Franco came very close to being traded last season, but in the end put up the best season he’s ever had in HBD. Another 45 HR season is not out of the question for one of the most feared hitters in the AL
CF: Veteran George Damon may be starting his decline at age 31, but he can still hit with the best of them. Last season Damon posted a career high .295 average to go along with 27 long balls.
RF: Jim Blair returns for his 5th season in a Loyalist uniform. A career .281 hitter with 114 career HR, Blair could be set for a breakout season.
DH: Once again, Norfolk’s hopes lie in the production of DH Wilson May. In Season 9 when May bashed 42 HR with a .290 average, the Loyalists won the division. Last season May only hit 27 HR with an OPS 100 points lower than his previous season. If May can produce 35 HR, watch out for this team.
One thing is for sure here in Norfolk – another losing season will implode this entire team. Good thing the brass doesn’t expect anything less than a division championship!