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Team Outlook: Abbasids & Ayyubids

Written by: Mohamed Kala/ Zahid Merchant
 
The first two picks in the draft went to the Abbasids and the Ayyubids. Both teams come off a disasterous season where they missed out on the playoffs and will hoping to turn the page on a new season. Both teams will play each other in a crucial opening week encounter. Before we get into the final two teams, let's recap all the stats and rankings of each of the teams. The season kicks off this Sunday with some huge matchups. 
 

Abbasids

Key Numbers: 
Average Age: 36 years (Second oldest team)
BSL Experience: 442 games (Slightly below league average: 450)
Batting Orientation: 1 Lefties, 11 Righties
Squad Career Batting Average: 0.417 (Second worst in the league)
Gold Glovers: 0
Championship Experience: 4 (2016: Bilal Javed; 2015: Fuzail Thakur; 2014: Atif Akhtar, Zuhair Fancy)
 

After five seasons of trying to get it right, it appears the Abbasids finally figured out how to draft. The team drafted their strongest team since the inception of the league and are looking forward to making some noise this season. The team’s GM Ahmad Hussain had one of his best season’s statistically last season despite numerous injuries. While Hussain will try to replicate his offensive success from last season, his team will look to rely heavily on his solid, but underrated defense in both the infield and outfield to win games. Kashif Irshad is a capable power hitter when he is on form and will look to rebound from an underwhelming second season as he joins Hussain as his assistant GM. Like Hussain, Irshad will be relied on heavily to produce with both his bat and his glove. He will look to replicate his all-star team worthy performance from his rookie season as the Abbasids aim to make a deep playoff run this season.

The Abbasids won the draft lottery and, as expected, drafted one of the best shortstops in the league in Sameer Rafique. Rafique had a career year last season with the bat and is one of the most consistent and talented infielders in the league with the uncanny ability to make highlight reel plays due to his athleticism and explosive arm. He is what scouts would call a ‘five tool player’, offering contact, power, speed, range and an arm. The biggest issue with Rafique consistency, as he showed flashes yet never was able to produce it week-in, week-out. That all changed last year. He took his offence to the next level last season crushing 11 homeruns and becoming the best defensive SS in the league not named Jibran Waqar. Rafique’s performance with both the bat and the glove will be key in ensuring a successful season for the Abbasids and a return to the playoffs. With the second pick, the Abbasids drafted Bilal Javed. Javed had a solid season last year winning the championship after breaking out as a power hitter in 2016. The Abbasids are hoping his big-hitting ability and his fiery nature will help them in their quest for a championship.

Zuhair Fancy brings his experience and clutch hitting abilities to the Lions. After being a kay member of the Mughals from 2014 to 2016, Fancy has become somewhat of a mercenary willing to take his talents to any team who will draft him. Fancy has a reputation for being a consistent hitter and a reliable outfielder (although his friends would disagree citing his weak arm). Zia “Doc” Beg will join the Abbasids this year after a solid rookie campaign pitching last season. The Abbasids will hope that Beg continues to develop his pitching prowess and is able to improve on his non-existent offense from last season. In the event Beg improves with the bat, the Lions batting line-up should benefit from added stability and depth. Atif “Snoop” Akhtar had a season to forget last year with the Ayyubids, as he was battling numerous nagging injuries. The Lions are looking forward to Akhtar having a bounce back year as his injuries have healed. If Akhtar has fully healed, he may well be the steal of the fifth round.

The Abbasids drafted Khizer Channa in the sixth round. Despite a solid baseball background, Channa’s rookie season was nothing to write home about. Although originally drafting him, the Abbasids had a change of heart and traded Channa along with their tenth-round pick Saoud Ramjaun to the Sultans for Ahmed Butt and Zayd Ramjaun. The Lions will hope the two players they received in the trade will solidify their batting lineup. Akif Waheed had a breakout season last season winning the Most Improved Player award and making the all-star team. The Abbasids will hope Waheed’s season was not a fluke and that he turns out to be a key contributor for the team.

The Abbasids drafted depth and versatility with the additions of Neal Irfan, Fuzail Thakur and the aforementioned Saoud Ramjaun in the final three rounds to round out the draft.

 
Strengths: 
  • Infield Experience: They have plenty of experience in the infield with Bilal, Sameer, Atif and Ahmad. They have the poise to keep things under control;
  • Doc: Zia Beg had a breakout season on the mound last season. He has a solid work ethic and we expect he will move into pitcher of the year contention if his team can provide him with defensive support;
  • Power: The Abbasids can smash the ball. They are one of only two teams with 4 players with 10 career homeruns; an
  • Reps: The Abbasids have 8 players playing taking their talents to BSL Nights, so they will not be short on practice and should be ready to play on Sunday
Weaknesses: 
  • Outfield: The Abbasids are the only team with zero gold glovers. Their two best outfielders have already pushed 40 and don’t have elite speed. They will need sophomore Neal Irfan to turn into a legit outfielder if they are to compete week-in, week-out;
  • Getting on Base: The Abbasids have the second lowest career batting average. Their top order might be able to do enough to keep them in every game, but their middle and lower order lacks the depth to change the game in their favour; and
  • Cursed?: The Abbasids remain the only team in BSL history to have never reached the semi-finals. How much will that bright orange jersey be a distraction? Is the bright orange jersey cursed?
Keys to success: 
 
The Lions came into the draft with a complete different game plan and specifically chose players playing in BSL Nights or other leagues. This strategy could pay dividends if those players find their rhythm and top form come playoff time. If the Abbasids are to succeed this season, the new look Orangemen will need to shake their reputation of yesteryear as chronic losers. To do that, they will need to get off to a good start. Neal Irfan and Ahmed Butt will need to become consistent outfielders in order to support the defensive prowess in the infield. 

Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : B+
Infield : B
Outfield : B
Batting : C
 
Ayyubids
 
Key Numbers: 
Average age: 34 years (League average)
Total BSL Games: 450 games (League average)
Batting Orientation: 1 Lefties, 11 Righties
Career Team Batting Average: 0.429 (Third worst in the league)
Total players with Gold Gloves: 5 

Total players with Championships: 6 (2016: Mohamed Kala, Umair Sheikh; 2015: A R, Ali Jabbar, Imran Merchant, Umer Jabbar)
 
 
After a disappointing 2017 season which saw the Ayyubids miss the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, GM Umer Jabbar and Assistant GM Ali Jabbar received more disheartening news when through social media they found out baby brother Umair Jabbar decided to venture out on his own and take control of the Seljuqs. Fans of the team were stunned, felt betrayed and some were seen crying as news spread that “Team Jabbar” was no more. The team’s GM was quick to assure the fans the 2018 version of the Ayyubids would be better than last year’s version and were rewarded with the second overall pick in the draft. If the Ayyubids are going to compete for the championship, team Umer will have to produce like he did in the BSL’s inaugural season. The team will again rely heavily on Ali’s contributions at the plate and on the mound. Ali will look to build on his career year from last season as he attempts to transform into a consistent long bomb threat. If the Ayyubids want to make the playoffs and make a run, both Jabbars will have to be at the top of their game.
  
With the team’s first round pick, the Ayyubids turned to the captain of their 2015 championship winning team and selected Imran Merchant. Merchant had an underwhelming season last year with the bat, but he did not disappoint with the glove as his outfield defense remains on point. The Ayyubids are counting on Merchant to rip the softball like he did in years previous and lead the Ayyubids to the playoffs. With the second pick, the team surprised everyone (including the pick himself) by drafting Ahmad “Crazy” Ammad. Ammad played for the Ayyubids in his debut season in 2016 and has since become a genuine homerun threat. If you ask any of his teammates from last year, they would have told you that he could have led the league in homeruns if the Ottomans always exhaust the home run limit as a team – with Ahmad batting behind other big bats in the 5-spot, he often had to settle for shortening his swing to avoid solo bombs. In order for Ammad to take his game to the next level, he will need to address his “home run or bust” mentality and surprise other teams by hitting the odd single or two – and may even show some spray hitting with the ability to go oppo. With their third pick, the Ayyubids drafted career Mamluk, franchise first basemen and self-proclaimed “fastest man in the BSL” Mamluks Softball on Facebook Umair Sheikh. Umair underperformed last year with the bat, but if practices are to be taken seriously (they’re not), Sheikh could have a monster year offensively and will no doubt let his former Mamluk teammates hear about it. In another surprising move or perhaps out of desperation with no true shortstop available, the team selected A R in the fourth round. A R is familiar with both the Jabbars and Merchant having won a championship with them in 2015. If the team builds chemistry like it did in 2015 and A R delivers at the 6 spot, the pick could be a major coup. In the fifth round, the Jabbars drafted Hassan Zubair for added depth in the outfield. Like many rookies last season, he had an average season with the bat but has the ability and work ethic to become a serviceable fielder and hitter. 
 
Mohamed Kala was brought back by the team hoping for a bounce bank season since this is an even year. Since the league’s inception, Kala’s batting average for some unknown reason yo-yos between hitting over .500 in and even year or less than .400 in an odd year. If this trend is to continue, Kala should have a solid season with the bat and has the potential to be the steal of the sixth round. Faheem Kotwal had an abysmal season with the bat last year with no extra base hits, and returns to the team looking to redeem himself. The team drafted Shoaib Gaya with the eight pick, but promptly traded him to the Seljuqs for utility man and back-up pitcher Hamza Hussain. He will serve as a relief pitching option for the team, an outfield alternative and projected leadoff hitter. Hussain has been pitching well in exhibition games and there are some rumours the Ayyubids are faced with a pitching controversy. Unfortunately, no one from the team was willing to confirm or deny these rumours. Mad soft. Jibran Khan and Faiz Kalyani round out the 2018 Ayyubids squad. Both guys will be asked to play a supporting role as the Ayyubids attempt to return to the playoffs and cause a scene.

Strengths:
  • Chemistry: The Ayyubids bring together a team that has plenty of familiarity with each other. The team is a blend of the 2015 championship team and the 2017 team. Players should be accustomed to playing with each other which should help the team build chemistry and get off to a quick start.
  • “BrejrinZ”: Imran Merchant arguably covers the most surface of any outfielder in the league (legend has it the portion of the Earth not covered by water is covered by Imran Merchant) and reunites with his championship pitcher in Ali Jabbar. 
  • Pitching: Ali Jabbar is one of the league’s best pitchers but tends to vacation during the summer. Umer Jabbar made a sly move to trade for Hamza Hussain as a backup. 
Weaknesses:
  • Unfamiliarity on Defense: Gold Gloves are gold gloves and no one can argue they have 5 players with that honour. However, will those players be playing the positions where they earned that honour? It remains to be seen whether Umair Sheikh stays at first and Mohamed Kala at catcher. 
  • Shortstop?: Every team picked up a solid shortstop early in the draft except for the Ayyubids. There are some rumblings A R will be tasked with playing shortstop, but nothing has been confirmed. While A R is a solid utility guy, playing shortstop is no easy task. 
  • Getting on Base: The Ayyubids are the only team with one player batting over 0.500 for his career. All players will need to surpass their career average to help the offense in order to win games.
     
Keys to success: 
 
The Ayyubids chose friends and familiarity in the draft which is usually a double-edged sword. The team has players with plenty of potential but need almost everyone to have career years to match the offensive prowess of other teams. You cannot go far without a reliable shortstop in this league and they will need to find consistency from the 6 spot. Getting off to a hot start is important for any team but even more so when the rest of the league is doubting you and your chances of making the playoffs.

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