1. Red Sox  – The Red Sox lost a heartbreaking 3 game World Series to the Orioles in 2011. It took such a mental toll on the Orioles that they had to split up… But not the Red Sox. This confident group will return Cy Wiffle award winner Tugboat, power hitting The Man, and they have added the 8 year, switch hitting, power threat, former manager of the Colt .45’s, Thrill, to the mix. One again, the Red Sox prove they are the team to beat.

2. Pilots  – The Pilots fell just short of reaching the HRL Championship series, falling in the semi-finals to the eventual Cup champions, the Orioles. Rex and Box return their veteran leadership to a team that is deep with offensive talent. 

3. Nationals  – Oh, sure. You look at the Nationals, and you think to yourself “hey, they’ve got Beardface and Aquaman, two of Hopkins best players in 2011, they should be world beaters”… And you’re probably right. The Nationals will add Sticks from the White Sox to the fray as well, and coming off an impressive rookie season, his presence on the mound will be a key to the Nationals’ ability to be consistent.

4. Senators – Coming in as one of the Orioles’ red headed step children, the Senators will try to navigate the murky waters of Hopkins behind TJ, who comes off a 2011 season that saw him set the HRL single season record for HR’s. In the Oriole split, the Senators lost their ace, and a player that hit nearly .500. Will they have the pitching depth to compete for an HRL title? 

5. Reds – Coming off a disappointing 2011 season (by Reds’ standards anyway), the Reds will look to improve with a beefed up rotation. Adding Nightmare from the Colt .45’s to the already formidable combination of Cy Wiffle winner Dr. Seuss and a healthy Palpatine could make the Reds’ pitching staff one of the best in HRL history.

6. Gothams – Is H9K the most dominant pitcher in HRL? He could be, and he hopes to prove it with the Gothams in 2012. The Gothams’ pitching staff as a whole will be the key to their success, just as it was in 2011. Look for 2nd year player, Jagr, to improve on an impressive rookie campaign.

7. Phillies – The one-two punch of The Kid and Shirls at the top of the Phillies rotation, backed up by #3 starter JC is among the best rotations in HRL. Lack of power at the dish will continue to be a cause for concern for the Phillies, but it’s been overcome before, and with a relatively soft division draw, the Phillies should see continued success, sans power, in 2012.

8. Braves – Always the bridesmaids never the brides, the Braves return their “Big 4” roster in 2012. The Braves will bring the strongest offense of any team in HRL, lead by 2 time MVP, Chops, but has the rest of the league finally figured out their pitching? 2011 was a down year for the Braves staff, and it finally caught up to them in the playoffs. 

9. White Sox – The White Sox have been long time world beaters in the regular season, but have faltered tremendously in the playoffs over the years. In 2012, they hope to have addressed this situation by acquiring a potential Cy Wiffle candidate in Fukudome, and a big power hitter in Thor, both from the Marlins (Mariners). Poached Fish, anyone?

10. Twins – This jorts loving squad has not made any offseason moves, so will return as/is for 2012. Dirty Steve is coming off of a season in which he likely could have won the Most Improved Player award, so his continued improvement will be key to the Twins’ success in 2012. If the HRL awarded a Most Underrated Player award, it would likely go to Pearl, who hits the ball as hard as anybody in the league, so look for his power numbers to greatly improve this season.

11. eXpos – HRL’s “Good Time Gang” will return their entire squad in 2012, although there is concern about the availability of one of HRL’s greatest hitters, J-Ski. If he is unable to be a regular contributor to the X, it will be very difficult for them to replace his .397 career average. EZE’s continued improvement on the mound will be a story to watch in 2012.

12. Blue Jays – They suck.

13. Yankees – The Yankees return 5 of 6 players in 2011, including perennial mound menace, Torpedo. His return from a leg injury last season will be pivotal to the Yanks’ 2012 success. If he can return to previous form, they should improve on a sub .500 2011 season.

14. Angels – Heading into their 2nd season in HRL, the Angels will not be able to catch teams off guard like they did in 2011. HRL veteran Flow helped pace the Halos with a career year at the plate, and that will need to continue for the Angels to improve on last season’s 14 wins. 

15. Mets – The league’s most elite beer swillers have added the only Alki of the Year award winner the city of Eagan has ever known in Bork (he’s the 6 or 7 time defending champ… he can’t remember which). Truck has some of the best pitching movement in HRL, and Yo has one of the best swings, but until playoff time, that takes a back seat to copious amounts of High Life.

16. A’s – The A’s biggest concern in 2012? Attendance. The A’s have two of Hopkins’ most talented all-around players in New Guy and Cobra Kai, however, due to injuries and baseball commitments, their playing time in 2011 was limited. If they can return in full, the A’s could be a real dark horse in Hopkins.

17. Pirates – Manager Ten will lead his ragtag group back to the fields of Eagan in 2012. With the underrated pitching of Joe-B-One and the improving offense from Fedawg, the Pirates have a good chance of improving on 2011’s nine win season. 

18. Giants – The Giants are building a solid young core around the talented Wonderboy and Bliss Jr., but pitching is still a bit of a bugaboo, so another year of development for the kids is likely on tap.

19. Colt .45’s – The .45’s have lost their top two pitchers who also happened to be their top two hitters through Free Agency (TT, Nightmare). This will be a tough hurdle to overcome, but their new manager, Dutch, is a crafty veteran and will be able to squeeze some wins out of the team he has left.

20. Mariners - The loss of their staff ace (Fukudome) along with their most productive hitter (Thor) to the White Sox, combined with an incredibly difficult division draw could make this a long season for the Seafarers. 

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