Team Outlooks: Mamluks & Seljuqs

Written by: Taha Iqbal 
The final two picks in the draft went to the Mamluks and the newly managed Seljuqs. The Green Machine were hoping for a top four pick but had to resort to a trade in the first round to lock up a top talent. The Seljuqs happily settled for the back of the draft as they were able to scoop up two first round calibre players. 

Batting averages for new players were assumed based on averages of players drafted in their round. Full statiscal analysis will be provided after all recaps have been posted. 
Key Numbers: 
Average Age: 32 years (Second youngest in the league this year)
BSL Experience: 415 games (Second lowest; 2018 League Average: 450 games/squad)
Batting Orientation: 1 Lefty, 11 Righties
Squad Career Batting Average: 0.482 (First in the league this year - .036 over league average)
Gold Glovers: 3 (2017: Jibran Waqar (SS), Taher Mirza (OF), W K (C); 2015/2015: Jibran Waqar (SS), Taher Mirza (OF);)
Championship Experience: 8 (2017: W K, Yousaf Chaudhry; 2016: Baseer Yassen, Jibran Waqar, Rizvan Merchant, Taher Mirza; 2015: Atif Khan, Sheraz Mahmood; 2014: Sheraz Mahmood)
The Mamluks, a team synonymous with style, guile and success, will be led again by the mercurial, chappal-clad, Rizvan Merchant. It is rumored that Merchant is in talks with a major sportswear brand to release a custom chappal-looking baseball cleat, but there seems to be disagreements between whether to go with a thong, slider or Velcro strap design. Even with his awkward attire, Merchant is one of the best to ever to don the Logo – his career hitting stats are amongst the top-11 and stands as one of the three best pitchers in the League. Going in to the pre-season, he was one of the staunchest advocates of maintaining a one GM, two AGM team structure, but we all know how that episode ended. This meant deciding between a rock and a hard place – it is understood from a reliable source that Hassan Chaudhry was put on a spot to decide between the Mamluks and his wedding. Foolishly, he opted for the latter and was duly shown the door. Let’s be honest though, Chaudhry didn’t stand a chance against Jibran Waqar; to be fair though, nobody in the League would. Waqar is not only a top shortstop and reigning homerun champion, but arguably is the best player in the League. Don’t expect him to relent on his gargantuan career, as he has gotten better with each season – the best (and that elusive MVP trophy) may be yet to come. 
Going into the draft, the Mamluks’ strategy was to acquire at least two of their top three performers from the 2016 campaign. As if initial snub wasn’t hurtful enough, Riz rubbed further salt on Chaudhry’s wounds by selecting Taher Mirza with his first pick. Chaudhry could be seen sobbing on Zahid Merchant’s shoulder after this recent snub (more on this in the Mughals preview). After an underwhelming season last year, we should see Mirza restore normalcy, robbing base hits in the outfield, hitting doubles and triples in the gaps and making light work of the base pads. With their second pick, Mamluks acquired the Korean sensation, Yu Choo. Choo’s exploits in the outfield are well advertised and his speed on the bases is not far behind Mirza’s. Choo is coming fresh off a championship and he’ll add to the Mamluks’ already youthful team. 
The Gang Green took a gamble with Atif Khan in the third round, who has a question mark over his availability this season with a potential work relocation on the horizon. If available, Khan is one of the premier third basemen in the League, and (a running theme) can light the base paths on fire; he should complement Waqar well on the left side of the infield. Also, Khan’s hitting has blossomed over the years and is more than a worthy addition provided he’s available. WK is another addition to the Mamluks from the Mughals’ successful 2017 championship run – his impressive season last year, complete with playoff MVP trophy, was a huge factor in the Mughals’ success. The Mamluks will hope WK can keep his performance trending upward.
Little is known about rookie Adeel Alam, but going by Merchant’s scouting prowess, there is a good chance that Alam is another diamond in the rough. Alam was followed up by selecting Salman Ahmed, whose stock continues to grow after a strong rookie campaign. Going by the league trend, the Mamluks should expect improvement in his sophomore season, and if that is the case, picking up a guy who gets on base 65% of the time in the sixth round is one heck of a pickup. Baseer Yaseen returns to the Mamluks after a disappointing 2017, but we expect the boys in Green to reap the benefits of him falling so low to them here. Aamir Husainy joins the Mamluks after a rookie season to forget with Abbasids last year, and it appears that he was picked more on potential than performance. It will be interesting to see how that pans out. Veteran Sheraz Mahmood is brought in for his leadership amongst the youthful team and must fill the big shoes of clubhouse leader and Gold Glover Umair Sheikh. He is understood to be going through extensive hitting drills to expand his range, which should see him spray the ball a bit more in 2018. Yasser Zia rounds out the squad this year and looks to continue building upon his year-over-year improvements at the plate. 
  • Speed – this youthful squad has speed for days – expect them to always take the next available bag and capitalize on defensive errors for extra base hits;
  • Pitching & Defence – Rizvan should continue his dominance and it helps when you have a Gold-Glover at the two most vital positions in the field at shortstop and centre;
  • Jibs – a blend of speed, power and defense makes Waqar one of, if not the best players in the League. You always know what you’re getting from #7 – a true five-tool player and perennial MVP candidate.
  • Third Base – Atif Khan, if available, will hold down the hot corner, but if the record-holder for runs scored in a season finds himself moving for work, it leads to a huge hole on both sides of the ball
  • Consistency – though the Mamluks boast three of the best in the game, the rest of the roster is filled out with guys that have boom-or-bust tendencies. They will need these guys to show more good than bad if they really want to repeat their championship form of 2016.
Keys to success: 
Mamluks’ have always been a team of great chemistry but the subtraction of Hassan and Umair leave them with an entirely new group. Only three players have every played for green and Riz/Jibs will have to take over the role of coaching the new lads. The Mamluks only perceived weakness is the 3rd and 4th outfielders with Baseer Yasseen and Aamir Husainy penciled in those spots. They also have limited fielding flexibility with their final few picks which might be costly if anyone is missing extended weeks. Be afraid of their top order, be very afraid. 

Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : A
Infield : A
Outfield : B+
Batting : A
Key Numbers: 
Average age: 31 years (Youngest in the league this year)
Total BSL Games: 410 games (Lowest in the league this year)
Batting Orientation: 1 Lefty, 11 Righties
Career Team Batting Average: 0.454 (3rd best; 0.08 above league average)
Total players with Gold Gloves: 2 (2017: Michael Arlitt (OF), Umair Jabbar (OF); 2016: Umair Jabbar (OF);) 

Total players with Championships: 1 (2016: Sikandar Aftab)
The Seljuqs have long had a history of coups, betrayal and failures, but it was hardly a coup when Umair Jabbar announced his ascendancy to their throne through a cute Instagram post. With Ibrahim Sardar showing himself the door, Baby Jabbar (‘BJ’ as he is affectionately known amongst friends) was chosen as Seljuqs’ supreme commander. In BSL, BJ has been a shadow of the player who routinely lights up the Home Run Derby and other softball leagues in Mississauga. He has been hyped to unleash his fury on the League for the past number of years but apart from a few sporadic surges, BSL has generally been deprived of his talents. However, there is no doubt that he can win games on his own, be it with his bat, his glove, and apparently now his pitching too.  In true millennial fashion, he started off with firing Sardar’s experienced marshals and replaced them with an athletic and highly touted, albeit inexperienced, AGM in Omer Dhaduk.  Rumour has it that BJ sensed mutiny within the ranks and opted for a close and an unerring friend instead. After a slow start to his rookie year, Dhaduk (not to be confused with onomatopoeic heart sound in Urdu – although seeing his biceps in those Under Armour muscle tees may lead to sped up ones) blossomed into a trust-worthy cleanup hitter. His sophomore year should see him improve defensively at shortstop as well. 
With the youngest GM/AGM duo in the league, the Seljuqs opted for another young’n in the first round – the oft-injured Zain Khilji. After two years of exile, Khilji returns to the kingdom he once ruled. Seljuqs will hope to leverage his leadership, especially with the both a pair of first-time GMs. Keeping Khilji fit and managing his other commitments should be the Seljuqs’ immediate priority. The first pick of the second round had the Seljuqs bring back reigning Gold Glover Michael Arlitt. When it comes to flashing the leather, there aren’t many better outfielders in the game than Mike. Last year, he set the outfield on fire with some of the most spectacular catches ever seen in BSL, not least of those was one that sealed the Eagles’ playoff berth last year. Arlitt is an avid traveler, however, and may miss up to eight regular season games – all of this won’t matter though if the Seljuqs are able to stay afloat in his absence and stay deep in playoff position for his return. Jabbar made a couple of major gaffes during the draft, none more hilarious than attempting to draft Ahmad Ammad, who had already been drafted in the previous round by the Ayyubids. BJ was quick to attribute this howler to an unsuspecting janitor standing outside the room minding his own business. 
Rameez Siddiqi had a monster season last year with Abbasids and it was a surprise that he wasn’t picked up until the end of the third round. He may well prove to be a wild card if he’s able to replicate his performance from last year, or his rookie year for that matter. Seljuqs went on to draft rookies Saad G and Saqib Khokhar in the fourth and fifth rounds. While little is known about their softball abilities, both are young, athletic and fit in well with the young Seljuqs core. The Reds continued to show recency bias as they poached Zaid Ghansar in the sixth round. Like Siddiqi, Ghansar boxed above his weight last year and was instrumental in the Nasrids’ overall success. Apart from being solid offensively, Ghansar will serve as a steady option at first as well. 
The Seljuqs ended up trading their next pick to the Ayyubids - while neither team really benefitted from the trade in terms of skillset, the trade was to unite the Gaya brothers. Shoaib Gaya seems to have recovered well from his knee surgery which had hampered him last year and is heard to be leveraging Rameez’s cricketing prowess to improve his opposite field hitting. Sikandar Aftab will look to reinvigorate his career after an underwhelming season last year. Aftab’s championship experience will come in handy in an otherwise youthful squad with limited playoff experience. Hamza Waheed’s career on the other hand has been on a downward spiral since his rookie year success in 2014. Interestingly, teams that Waheed has represented in last three years have all failed to make the playoffs. While Waheed may not be solely responsible for his teams’ failures, it might give the Seljuqs’ superstitious fans some sleepless nights. On a positive note, Waheed is coming into the season in the best shape of his life and looking to make a statement. If Waheed is able to turn back the clock and replicate his 2014 success, he might prove to be the biggest steal of the draft. Atif Qureshi closes out the Seljuqs squad this year and remarkably this will be his first season not donning Abbasid orange. Qureshi bring experience to the team and Seljuqs’ will hope that the change in team colours will rejuvenate the base-hitter.
  • Youth – intangibles like agility, speed and endurance will help aid their overall success. This squad is six years younger than the oldest team this year;
  • Depth – the team stocked up on young talent in the first half of the draft and picked up veterans who have had some very impressive seasons in the past in Sikandar, Hamza and Atif – if those guys can show shades of their best, you’re looking at one really good team;
  • Pitching - who? While Waheed and Siddiqui have both pitched in the past, they don’t have much to show for their efforts. It is heard that Umair himself may take the mound this year but that seems very unlikely
  • Outfield Depth – With Michael’s absence at the beginning of the season and Jabbar’s desire to move to the mound, the Seljuqs’ will have to turn to others to shore up the grass;
Keys to success: 
The Seljuqs begin a new chapter in their history seeking that elusive title. The Seljuqs have never missed the playoffs so the pressure will be on new management to trend up. BJ and co will need to find their grove in the first week with Arlitt in attendance before he vacates for a month. Two losses in the first week would be disasterous. They will need to have their rotations set early and plenty of practice for their pitcher to be ready for week 1.

Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : C
Infield : B+
Outfield : C
Batting : B+