UFLB Season Preview: Harry Caray Conference

The inaugural season for Ultimate Fantasy League Baseball is upon us. Rosters have been drafted, trades have been made, players have been signed from scouts, and now it’s time to see which franchises have made the best moves and positioned themselves for a SCORE Coin Series title run.


We recently previewed the Vin Scully Conference and today we’re taking a look at the Harry Caray Conference, featuring the Babe Ruth, Vladimir Guerrero, and Roy Halladay divisions. UFLB co-commissioner Matt Soren chimes in with Matt’s Musings while UFFS Head of Baseball and UFLB co-commissioner Dean Millard provides a general overview of each roster. The points projected for players reflect the 2022 Fantrax projections.

Check out the UFLB league page where you can see each franchises' roster through the standings page.


“I’m really interested to see if there is a true frontrunner in either conference or the league, and what kind of styles of franchises there are in UFLB,” said Millard. “What I mean by that is, will one conference be dominated by a few categories and the other is more spread out, like the AL and NL used to be when people cared more about home runs. I’m also curious to see how the league unfolds in general, will there be appetite for change in the offseason or will owners and GMs like the baseline we’ve given them. We’ve seen in other leagues where the owners take charge and mould things through offseason voting.”


All UFFS leagues, in essence, are in the owners’ control. Other than some major platform fundamentals and core concepts, nearly anything can be proposed in the offseason. If it makes sense (only one proposal didn’t make the agenda the first time around), they go before the owners to vote, with a 2/3 majority (20 of 30) required to implement changes.


“I definitely see the tougher road being in the Vin Scully Conference, and this will be for a decade,” Soren said after comparing and contrasting all the opening-day rosters. “You have multiple franchises built for now and the future. You’ll have to really hit on your sleepers to have a chance to make it to the SCO Series in this conference.”


Do you agree or disagree with the co-commish? Draw your own conclusions based on this Harry Caray Conference preview.


Babe Ruth Division

Reapers

Woodpeckers

Outlaws

Cavalry

Aviators

Reapers

Top Projected Hitter: Jose Abreu – 1B – Chicago White Sox – 211.75 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Joe Musgrove – SP – San Diego – 276.50 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-One of the most complete offenses in the league.

-Shohei!! Getting a top 20 hitter and pitcher is an advantage no one else can match.

-Solid and deep bullpen. No all-star closer but 5 above-average relievers.


Weakness:

-Rotation after Ohtani has some age/injury risk. But is one of the strongest weaknesses in the league.


Star to watch- Shohei Ohtani

Sleeper- Joe Musgrove

On the farm- Jaden Hill

Projection- Going for the crown (1st: Ruth Division)


Overview

Power and run production will not be an issue for the Reapers, who took the reigning MLB MVP Shohei Ohtani first overall in the Veteran Player Draft. Can he repeat his effortless swing and eye-popping numbers (46 HR, 100 RBI, .965 OPS) again? If he can, he’ll join Jose Abreau and Max Muncy, along with some very consistent bats like Justin Turner, Austin Meadows and Mike Yastrzemski. A healthy Muncy will mean low strikeouts and high OPS points, as Muncy is almost patient to a fault at the plate. Yadier Molina behind the plate is decent but having a backup for the 39-year-old would be wise.


Ohtani will pitch every sixth day for the Angels and will give the Reapers the bonus they outbid everyone for in the franchise auction in November. While he might not start as much as some other aces, he’ll strike out his share of batters and is a good bet to rack up quality starts. Joe Musgrove will be a solid No. 2 starter, and the Jacob deGrom injury in New York opens the door for David Peterson to get a rotation spot to start the season. The bullpen will live off holds and strikeouts, led by Houston’s Ryan Tepera, while Jose Suarez of the Angels has starter and reliever eligibility.


One other bonus, Charlie Blackmon, just for the fact of watching Rockies’ games, you get to hear his awesome walk-up song.

Woodpeckers

Top Projected Hitter: Freddie Freeman – 1B – Los Angeles Dodgers – 433.75 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Chris Bassitt – SP – New York Mets – 235 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Farm System!!! The deepest system in the league, with 14 guys on protected.

-Best IF in the league? Anchored by Freeman, Arenado and Seager.

-Depth. This lineup is deep and able to combat a possible injury.


Weakness:

-The rotation isn’t quite ready to compete, even if Severino returns to his ace form. But the arms coming up to help in the farm system should make this weakness a strength over time.


Star to watch- Freddie Freeman

Sleeper- Seiya Suzuki

On the farm- Anthony Volpe

Projection- Wild Card hopeful/Division in sights (2nd: Ruth Division)


Overview

The Woodpeckers were thrilled to draft Freddie Freeman and had to be even more elated when he signed with the Dodgers. Not only will Freeman have some great protection in an already dynamite lineup, but L.A. is the closest thing to a lock for a postseason spot, especially now with the new format. Cardinals third baseman Noland Arenado and new Texas shortstop Corey Seager are both guys who hit a lot of categories and don’t strike out often, and the Woodpeckers paid more than $2,700 USD worth of SCORE (SCO) Coin for Seiya Suzuki in a free agent auction. The bird is the word, and the word is competitive. They mean business. They also know how to play the game, with a lot of guys who can play multiple positions, meaning they can have more players in the lineup each night earning points. Jonathan Villar is a perfect example, and he can steal bases.


Chris Bassitt anchors a decent pitching staff, and a lot could depend on Zac Greinke’s 38-year-old arm in a new home with Kansas City. Luckily the Woodpeckers loaded up during the Top Prospects Auction — filling all 14 spots — so they will have plenty to work with when it comes to injuries or making deals. Milwaukee’s Adrian Houser could be a difference-maker in the rotation, while Dustin May recovers on the 60-day IL. The bullpen is built for holds.

Outlaws

Top Projected Hitter: Cedric Mullins – CF – Baltimore – 222.50 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Scott Barlow – RP – Kansas City – 340 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Solid Lineup with a deep bench (hoping 2021 was the baseline for most of his offense)

-A fearsome fivesome (No true ace, besides maybe Rodon, but 1-5 are reliable)

-Staff depth (Corbin and Martinez are 2 of the best 6/7 starers in the league)


Weakness:

-Bullpen (outside of Barlow, I have questions)


Star to watch- Cedric Mullins

Sleeper- Patrick Corbin

On the farm- Jordan Walker

Projection- Division cellar, with middle of the pack upside (5th: Ruth Division)


Overview

Cedric Mullins is one of the most exciting players in the game to watch and became the first Oriole in history to record 30 home runs and 30 steals last year. The Outlaws will be thrilled if he does it again. Marcus Semien also having a repeat of last year, where he set an MLB record for most longballs by a second baseman — 45 home runs with Toronto — will help the Outlaws get the loot they are after. The rest of the lineup has potential, nothing spectacular but some solid players who could punch above their weight.


Houston’s Framber Valdez anchors the rotation with Carlos Rodon, now of San Francisco, and Washington’s Patrick Corbon will follow up. The bullpen is a nice mix of saves from Scott Barlow of Kansas City, holds from Tyler Duffey of the Twins, and innings with strikeouts and low WHIP from Connor Brogdon of the Phillies.


Team View

“The Outlaws are looking forward to the first season of UFLB. We are excited where Cedric Mullins, Marcus Semien, and a combination of some youth and experienced veterans will take us. We wish everyone luck and beware of the Outlaws!”

Chris Goudey – GM

Cavalry

Top Projected Hitter: Bryce Harper – RF – Philadelphia – 377.75 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Edwin Diaz – RP – New York Mets – 308 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Outfield (Strong trio of McCuthen, Nimmo, Harper)

-Bullpen (Diaz, Lugo, Rogers, Trivino is a strong stable in the pen)


Weakness:

-Starting rotation (Morton is the ace, which you don’t love at age 38, injury concerns elsewhere)

-Corner IF (the Choi/Diaz corner combo is barely the starting duo for the Rays)


Star To Watch- Bryce Harper

Sleeper- Chris Paddack

On the farm- Calvin Ziegler

Projection- Division cellar, potentially middle of the pack (4th: Ruth Division)


Overview

I think the projections are way too low for a few guys and one of them is their top player, Bryce Harper. Last year’s MVP having suited up for 10 years makes me feel older than Benjamin Button at the start of the movie. Harper, at times, doesn’t get enough respect and we might see him hit 45-plus home runs this year. I also think his Phillies teammate JT Realmuto is due for a bounce-back season. Sal Perez took the mantle as best fantasy and offensive catcher last year but JT will be motivated to try and get it back. Xander Boegarts’ production will also increase with the signing of Trevor Story in Boston. The Cavalry also have some speed that could rack up points in the stolen bases category.


Miami’s Trevor Rogers, at 24 years old, and Atlanta’s Charlie Morton, at 38 years old, are at the opposite end of their careers but both could be excellent for the Cavalry. Chris Paddack could be a difference-maker if he gets enough starts in San Diego. Edwin Diaz of the Mets will contribute saves, strikeouts and low WHIP numbers, while the rest of the bullpen will go after holds. There are some nice depth pieces on the bench.

Aviators

Top Projected Hitter: Mookie Betts – CF/RF – Los Angeles Dodgers – 441 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Tyler Matzek – RP – Atlanta – 352 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Stealthy strong bullpen

-Great positional flexibility


Weakness:

-Rotation depth? (Love Mahle and Logan Webb)

-3B/Util could use an upgrade. Not a ton of reliability in Odor and Davis.


Star to watch- Mookie Betts

Sleeper- Adam Frazier

On the farm- Khalil Watson

Projection- Middle of the pack (3rd: Ruth Division)


Overview

Dodgers’ all-star outfielder Mookie Betts leads the way in points with a number that could represent the length of some of his home runs in feet — 441. Beyond Betts, the projections thin out, but if Dansby Swanson could cut down on the Ks and be more patient at the plate, he could put up points closer to Betts than what he is projected to hit. Once projected to be a superstar, Jurickson Profar may have found an everyday role with the Padres based on his versatility — qualifying at first base, second base and all three outfield spots. The Angels’ David Fletcher and Washington’s Alcides Escobar also fit in the versatile category. Myles Straw will lead the way in stolen bases but some others could chip in there as well.


Young strong arms in Dylan Cease of the White Sox, Tyler Mahle of the Reds, and the Giants’ Logan Webb will bolster the rotation, with veteran Alex Wood in San Francisco bringing up the back end of a rotation that will feast on strikeouts, quality starts and low WHIP. Tyler Matzek leads a bullpen that will hope for a lot of innings to build up WHIP points and strikeouts. Having extra relievers to fill in will help but judging when to do it will be key.


Vladimir Guerrero Division

Panthers

Barracudas

Macaws

CanWest Warhawks

Wild Boars

Panthers

Top Projected Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 1B – Toronto – 475.25 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Robbie Ray – SP – Seattle – 326 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Similar to their division rival Macaws, the rotation has the potential to be lights out. But this is relying on Bauer pitching, Sale staying healthy, and hopefully something from Paxton as well. But the electricity is there for the Panthers.

-One of the deepest lineups in the league, with an intriguing bench featuring Cano and Upton.

-Top 10 farm system.


Weakness:

--The bullpen isn’t deep with established names, so hopefully the great WHIP put together by the staff, doesn’t get dragged down.


Star to watch- Vlad Jr.

Sleeper- James Paxton

On the farm- Matt Liberatore

Projection- Fun race for the division crown, Macaws/Panthers rivalry (2nd: Guerrero Division)


Overview

Things start with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Panthers and the Jays’ first baseman who had an MVP-calibre season last year could have an even better hitting lineup at Rogers Centre this year. As for the Panthers, things aren’t as bright throughout their lineup. High strikeout numbers could keep guys like Mariners infielder Eugenio Suarez and Atlanta outfielder Adam Duvall from having huge seasons. Wilson Contreras is a decent contributor behind the plate, and the Panthers have a lot of options to ensure guys are playing each night, which could pay off huge in October.


There are some questions on the bump, but if the Panthers have the correct answers, it could be a bright spot. Robbie Ray caught lightning in a bottle last year in Toronto with tight pants and league-leading numbers in ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts. Can Ray do it again, this time in Seattle? The Panthers also selected Trevor Bauer, who has proven to be an ace for the Dodgers but has been out of the lineup since the middle of last year after sexual assault allegations. Currently he is on administrative leave until April 16. Jon Gray and Chris Sale are older veterans who will fill out the back end of the rotation. The relievers are short on saves and strikeouts but could surprise.

Barracudas

Top Projected Hitter: Tommy Pham – CF/LF – Cincinnati – 121.50 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Max Scherzer – SP – New York Mets – 318.50 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Built for the future

-The rotation has some bright spots but isn’t deep enough to compete


Weakness:

-Everywhere. Gotta feel for a star like Scherzer stuck in this situation. He’ll most likely be dealt this year.

-Need to get MLB players in a few of their positions.


Star to watch- Max Scherzer

Sleeper- Tommy Pham

On the farm- Heliot Ramos

Projection- Tank-a-thon (5th: Guerrero Division)


Overview

The Barracudas swung a big deal for the future and their offence took a hit when Seattle OF Mitch Haniger was shipped out, along with his 39 home runs and 100 RBI from last year, leaving the Reds’ Tommy Pham — who has 39 home runs over his last 3 years combined — as the leading projected point producer. Patrick Wisdom will be counted on, especially as he plays first base, third base and left field. Youth will be served on this roster, and while they might not compete this year, they could be contenders in a few years’ time with the right asset management.


Along with Haniger, the fish sent out potential Cy Young contender Gerrit Cole, but when you look at Cole’s second half last year, there might be cause for concern and maybe the Barracudas know something we don’t. Max Scherzer is a true ace and the elder statesman on this pitching staff, while the Phillies’ Corey Knebel will close games out and the Pirates’ Chris Stratton will lock down holds. I’m not a fan of the word tank, as some franchises (myself in hockey) are building long term, so as long as they are trying to field the best lineup with what they have available and are planning for the future, it could turn out to be a winning strategy down the road.

Macaws

Top Projected Hitter: Trea Turner – 2B/SS – Los Angeles Dodgers – 313 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Lucas Giolito – SP – Chicago White Sox – 302.50 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Nice combo of veteran All-Stars and youthful starting options.

-One of the biggest risks for an OF alignment with Yelich and Robles manning 2 spots, but if they turn it around, it can be one of the most dangerous OF in the league, with Laureano rounding out the trio.

-Top notch double-play duo (Turner/Baez)

-Top 10 farm system


Weakness:

-The staff is a little thin, but if Verlander/Flaherty can stay healthy, it will solve that issue and turn this weakness into a strength.

-With Ken Giles hurt, this bullpen is only 3 reliable guys deep. They could use an upgrade there.


Star to watch- Trea Turner

Sleeper- Victor Robles

On the farm- Riley Greene

Projection- Fighting for the division crown (1st: Guerrero Division)


Overview

Having the National League batting champion in your lineup is a pretty good start and Trea Turner will lead the way offensively for the Macaws. He hits for average, has power, lots of speed, low strikeouts, and the smoothest slide in the league. Plus, he’ll hit second in the one of the best lineups in the league and will surely see playoff action again. Arizona’s Daulton Varsho is one of the best young catchers, who is also capable of playing all 3 outfield spots, and Dominic Smith is another young batter with potential for the Mets and Macaws. Christian Yellich returning to his MVP form could put the Macaws over the top, and AJ Pollock’s trade to the White Sox could lead to more playing time than he was going to get with the Dodgers.


Lucas Giolito will be the man for the Macaws and the White Sox hurler will dine on quality starts, strikeouts and WHIP to pile up points. KC’s Brady Singer, Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller, and the Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty give them a really nice young nucleus, with 39-year-old Justin Verlander as the wild card for the colourful birds. Can he get anywhere close to his Cy Young form? He’s pitched just 6 innings since winning the award in 2019. While the rotation has some youth, the bullpen has veteran savvy, led by 33-year-old Alex Colome of the Rockies.

CanWest Warhawks

Top Projected Hitter: Carlos Correa – SS – Minnesota – 210 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Emmanuell Clase – RP – Cleveland – 328 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Another franchise built more for the future, but some intriguing pieces for the present as well.

-The bullpen has the potential to be a force. Some real weapons there in Clase, Crochet and Graterol.

-One of the best left sides of the IF in the league with Correa & Riley.


Weakness:

-The pitching staff is a little thin. Some intriguing arms like Ynoa and Wilson, but it won’t be enough to compete deep into the season.

-When your No. 1 OF is Jo Adell (who I love), your franchise isn’t quite ready to compete for the playoffs.


Star to watch- Carlos Correa

Sleeper- Joey Bart

On the farm- Vidal Brujan

Projection- Bottom of the barrel, with upside (4th: Guerrero Division)


Overview

The Warhawks are most certainly built for tomorrow, with several young players who won’t have a huge impact this season. Carlos Correa is the exception and takes his talents to the Twins this year after signing a 3-year deal in the offseason. Austin Riley in Atlanta and Bobby Bradley of the Guardians will back up Correa in the power department, but it won’t be enough for CanWest to make a run this season.


Pitching will be a little better, but the theme here is also youth gone wild and it could lead them to UFLB skid row. Kris Bubic of the Royals will rack up quality starts and qualifies out of the bullpen as well, while Bryse Wilson of Pittsburgh and Huascar Ynoa of Atlanta will try to help. The relievers will be the stars when it comes to pitching. Emmauell Clase could lead the league in saves and Dodgers fireballer Brusdar Graterol will add some holds. It’s disappointing that young reliever Garrett Crochet of the White Sox will undergo Tommy John surgery, but a healthy return for him will help when the Warhawks are ready to contend.

Wild Boars

Top Projected Hitter: Ketel Marte – 2B/CF – Arizona – 273.25 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Matt Barnes – RP – Boston – 297.50 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Rock solid offense. Couldn’t find an outlier/weak spot in this starting lineup.

-One of the best young cores in an offense in the league (Marte, Robert, Arozarena).

-Top 10 farm system in the league.


Weakness:

-The starting rotation needs a stabilizer. I’m a fan of Lopez & Suarez, but they aren’t proven yet.

-The bullpen could use another arm or two to solidify the staff.


Star to watch- Luis Robert

Sleeper- Pablo Lopez

On the farm- Nolan Jones

Projection- Wild Card?? Need the rotation to step up to have a chance. (3rd: Guerrero Division)


Overview

The Wild Boars are well balanced offensively, with two guys in Luis Robert of the White Sox and Randy Arozarena of the Rays who will likely hit at least 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks will rack up OPS points and not get penalized for strikeouts, while Sean Murphy of the Athletics could be a real nice option behind the plate depending on playing time.


On the mound, Tony Gonsolin is an underrated starter and has rotation protection with the vaunted Dodgers, especially when Dustin May and/or Trevor Bauer return. Even if Gonsolin ends up in the bullpen, he’ll get his innings. 26-year-old Pablo Lopez of the Marlins will be the stud of the rotation — earning points through quality starts and WHIP — and the Phillies’ Ranger Suarez can bounce between the rotation and bullpen to earn valuable innings for the Wild Boars. Matt Barnes is 36, but if he can rebound from a tough second half last year, he could be key for a playoff run. Seattle’s Drew Steckenrider could be a huge boost if he can keep up the Ks, and if Brad Hand can bounce back from a disastrous second half, he could also be impactful for the razorbacks.


Roy Halladay Division

Scorpions

Black Bears

RumRunners

Devil Bears

Space Sluggers

Scorpions

Top Projected Hitter: Manny Machado – 3B – San Diego – 316.50 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Hector Neris – RP – Houston – 280.50 points


Matt’s Musings

Strength:

-Young, intriguing rotation. Alcantara and Garcia are a great start to the rotation. Can their other young guys take the leap. And Kikuchi as depth is a great get.

-3 stars. Tatis, Machado, Bellinger ooze star power. But if Bellinger doesn’t return to form, it might not be enough.


Weakness:

-Injury bug. Starting the season without Tatis is going to put them behind the 8 ball.

-A few holes in the lineup that could use some shoring up. The prospects they have can turn them into a playoff contender in the right deal.


Star to watch- Fernando Tatis Jr.

Sleeper- Cody Bellinger

On the farm- Gunnar Henderson

Projection- Tatis injury bites. Just miss the playoffs. (2nd: Halladay Division)


Overview:

The Scorpions were stung by the injury bug before the first pitch of spring training was even thrown when their 3rd overall pick, Fernando Tatis Jr., underwent wrist surgery that will sideline him for 3 months. However, it’s always better to get big injuries out of the way early and not lose players for the postseason, and hopefully the Padres’ superstar shortstop will make a full recovery and return to his MVP-calibre form. Until then, his Padres teammate Manny Machado will lead the way offensively, but he won’t be alone. Starting behind the plate with the Twins’ Ryan Jeffers — who will face some competition from Gary Sanchez but should be able to contribute — the Scorpions have a nice collection of players throughout the lineup. Some like Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger need a return to form (17 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances so far this spring), while others like Rockies infielder Ryan McMahon could have a career year in hitter-friendly Denver.


The pitching staff might not have many big names in the rotation but there are some solid options as Miami’s Sandy Alcantara, Houston’s Luis Garcia and Detroit’s Tarik Skubal should collect points for quality starts, wins and strikeouts. They are also three young talented arms that could form the core of a dominant staff for years to come. The veteran presence will come from 30-year-old starter Yusei Kikuchi, who signed with Toronto this offseason. The bullpen will collect saves from Twins reliever Taylor Rogers and holds from Houston’s Hector Neris — who should also do well with strikeouts and WHIP points — but the wild card will be Hansel Robles in Boston. The 30-year-old signed this offseason after being traded to the Red Sox last year and he does have some closer experience.

Black Bears

Top Projected Hitter: Mike Trout – CF – Los Angeles Angels – 503.25 points

Top Projected Pitcher: Jacob deGrom – SP – New York Mets – 309 points