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Team Outlook: Seljuqs & Mughals

The fifth pick fell to the Seljuqs while the sixth pick went to last year's runners up - Mughals. Both teams made some surprise picks during the draft and forced many other teams to shuffle their draft board. Interestingly, two lifetime Mughals ended up on the Seljuqs which should add to the rivalry between the two teams. 

Team recaps have been written by a new writer to the BSL staff. Batting averages for new players were assumed based on average of players drafted in their round. Full statiscal analysis will be provided after all recaps have been posted. 

Seljuqs

Key Numbers: 
Average Age: 34 years (At par with BSL average age this year)
BSL Experience: 447 games (Most at 2017 BSL)
Batting Orientation: 1 Switch, 11 Righties
Squad Career Batting Average: 0.429 (2nd worst in the league this year - .010 under league average)
Gold Glovers: 2 (2016: Imran Merchant (OF); 2015: Imran Merchant (OF), Taha Iqbal (3B);)
Championship Experience: 7 (2016: Riyad Ramjaun; 2015: A R, Ibrahim Sardar, Imran Merchant, Taha Iqbal; 2014: Randy Panesar, Zuhair Fancy;) 

The Seljuqs of yesteryears have always been labeled as mediocre but capable of punching above their weight class. While the Seljuqs was a family owned business during the 2014-2015 seasons, it now run by a group of Ayyubids renegades. Given the history between these two teams, it’s ironic that the Seljuqs’ downfall in each of the three previous campaigns has been brought about by the Ayyubids in the playoffs. The Seljuqs are an enigma for many, any shortage in talent is made up by heart and soul, commitment and yes, practice. Seljuqs are known to start their season slow but just like a seasoned wily lion, they wait for their prey to become complacent and then strike an ambush when they least expect it.

GM Ibrahim Sardar’s calm demeanor brings a much needed serenity to this volatile bunch. Between soccer and softball, Sardar has a unique distinction of winning the most (3) brotherhood championships, none more important than the 2015 championship with the Ayyubids. Sardar provides Seljuqs with a solid leadoff option and a dependable glove in the outfield. He gets ample support from his dynamic Assistant GM, Imran Merchant, who is the Seljuqs mastermind when it comes to gameday strategy, practice regimen and individual coaching. Merchant is known to thrive in the face of adversity and is known to rally his compatriots when the chips are down. Merchant is an elite outfielder and his switch hitting provides an different option to the Seljuqs’ offense. Taha ‘The Megaphone’ Iqbal, apart from being a lead on Seljuqs’ cheerleading squad, provides stability with the bat and a decent pitching option. Going into the Draft, one area that needed contemplation was whether to rely on Taha, the average pitcher or Taha, the dependable third baseman. No one knows which option the Seljuqs have chosen.

On the draft day, Seljuqs landed in the middle of the drafting order and to everyone’s surprise picked Michael Arlitt, fifth overall. Rumor has it that this was in retaliation to Ottomans’ picking Sameer Rafique - in an attempt to work out a trade. These rumors were swiftly quashed as no trade dialogue attempts were made from either side, much to the dismay of a hopeful crowd. Arlitt has had two solid seasons with Ottomans’ and although his hitting has been slightly underwhelming, the Seljuqs believe his on-base hitting warrants him as a solid first-round pick, more so because of his sublime defensive prowess. While Arlitt was fairly rewarded for his talents, Zuhair Fancy’s stock dropped significantly as he was only selected in the second-round, 12th overall, after being an Assistant GM with Mughals for three years running. Fancy is top-10 in hits, XBH and RBIs in BSL career stats and the Seljuqs took notice. Apart from his offensive capabilities, he is more than fancy in the outfield – who can forget his superman catch at the 2015 All-Star game. Seljuqs continued to pick low stock-high value players as they opted for Haris Mallick in the third round. Mallick, like Fancy, saw a drop in value after spending two years as Assistant GM on Abbasids. Mallick has been under-par in his two years with the BSL but he seems to be on the cusp of a break-out season after recovering from injuries. Seljuqs would hope that this year Mallick makes it big. Seljuqs’ outfield buffer was breached when they opted for A R in the fourth round. With an all-star outfield line-up, including Merchant, Sardar, Arlitt and Fancy, A R would need to recalibrate his defensive preference and start adjusting to life in the infield. A R is inseparable from the Merchant/Iqbal combo and brings with him a steady bat over two seasons.

With positions to fill in the infield, Seljuqs acquired Randy Panesar in the fifth round. Panesar returns this year leaner and meaner – he seems to have shed at least quarter of his body weight from last year. Seljuqs would hope that with his weight, he hasn’t lost his big hitting ability. Randy also provides the Maroons with a solid option at 1B. Randy will be playing for a different Merchant this year so he will be fun to watch in the dugout. Shoaib Gaya returns after a devastating knee injury in the off-season that kept him out of the winter soccer league. It remains to be seen whether the injury limits him in anyway in the field. Gaya wants to build a big hitting reputation but this team will need more consistency from him at the plate. Seljuqs opted to add strength to their bullpen in the final few rounds as they picked Riyad Ramjaun from the Mamluks’ championship squad of last year and Zia Ali, who should be able to provide able support to the Seljuqs’ pitching squad. Seljuqs would hope that Riyad’s break-out season with the bat last year was not an aberration as he looks to play for his fourth different team. Joining him will be his brother, Zayd. Junior Ramjaun who will hope to come out of his brother’s shadow and make a name for himself this season.

Strengths: 
· Seljuqs’ outfield looks stellar in the presence of Merchant, Sardar, Arlitt and Fancy as these superstars provide speed and agility in the outfield;
· Seljuqs’ BSL and championship experience is best in the league this year. Seljuqs would hope this turns out to be the differentiator between them and the rest.

Weaknesses: 
· While Seljuqs’ pitching provides depth, none of the three pitchers have been consistent pitchers in the league. While Ramjaun and Ali have pitched over hundred innings in their respective careers, neither of them pitched last year;
· Statistically, Seljuqs’ hitting is among the weakest in the league this year as they lag in most of the offensive categories;
· The Seljuqs have inexperience at shortstop and third base if Taha is pitching. Haris Mallick and A R both have only a few games under their belt at their new positions.
 
Keys to success: 
Given the strength of competition this year, Seljuqs would need to hit the ground running, something they haven’t done in the past. Having too many pitchers on the rosters could work against them - They would need to designate a pitcher and trust him to carry the team through the season. Lack of superstar presence in their lineup would need to be made up by greater consistency across the order.
 
Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : B
Infield : C
Outfield : A
Batting : B-


Mughals

Key Numbers: 
Average age: 35 years (3rd oldest in the league)
Total BSL Games: 366 games (3rd most at 2017 BSL)
Batting Orientation: 1 Lefty, 10 Righties
Career Team Batting Average: 0.461 (Best in the league this year - .022 over league average)
Total players with Gold Gloves: 3 (2016: Nadeem Hussain, Zahid Merchant; 2014: Aazar Zafar, Nadeem Hussain;)
Total players with Championships: 3 (2014: Asim Gauhar, Nadeem Hussain, Zahid Merchant;)

 
Mughals have been a top team at BSL since its inception. However, even with three years of strong performances with 10+ wins each year, they have only one championship to show for it. One reason for Mughals consistency has been their tight knit squad which has remained pretty much the same across all three years. Camaraderie between players and strong basics have been at the center of their success enabling them to pulverize opponents that have stepped in their path.

Most of this destruction can be attributed to Zahid Merchant as he brings strong leadership compounded by his pitching and hitting prowess. Merchant is the most experienced and arguably the best pitcher in the league as he leads in almost all the pitching statistics. Add his lead-off hitting to the mix and you have one of the most valuable players on this show. While Merchant plays the role of Billy Beane, most of the back-end dirty work, is taken on by Assistant GM, Peter Brand aka Nadeem Hussain. Hussain and Merchant have been inseparable given the way they complement each other. Hussain’s defensive abilities in the outfield are second to none and as an outfield captain, the way he marshals his troops goes to show his in depth knowledge of batters’ hitting abilities. Hussain’s batting is consistent and goes a long way - he makes a living out of hitting triples. With Zuhair Fancy getting the boot, Ismail Akhter was an obvious replacement as Assistant GM. Akhter has been well rewarded for an exceptional debut season as he, with his power hitting, provided Mughals with a refreshing change to their small ball mentality. Akhter is also a solid outfield option but he would look to buck the trend he developed in the Finals last year by dropping lollypops.

Mughals felt hard done by being placed sixth in the drafting order. Merchant and Hussain stuck to their pre-draft assessment when to everyone's surprise they drafted Bilal Javed as their first pick. This decision might have been strongly driven from a fact that Javed launched Merchant for a hat-trick of homeruns in one game last year. Javed’s offensive stats alone warrant a first round pick but his defensive abilities are still unproven but if he can turn that around, he will undoubtedly become an elite first rounder. Many GMs have their doubts about Javed repeating his performance of last year though. Mughals continued to reward their fanboy, Mohammed Ali Pasha as he was picked 11th overall by Mughals. Pasha’s BSL career has been a tumultuous one to put it mildly. Still a 20-year old at heart, he never moved out of the SS position he once held on his high school team. He reluctantly took over the pitcher’s role in the first two years of his BSL career but cleverly feigned a shoulder injury to fall out of favour. He was over the moon when he found his match with the Mughals where he has made the SS position his own. Hitting however has been poor from his own admission, but he claims he will bat .600 like he says every year. In the third round, Mughals added further stability to both their hitting and defense by acquiring Yousaf Chaudhry. This young man offers speed around bases and a solid option at the top of the order. Mughals have a knack of drafting diamonds in the rough and Khizer Channa seems no different. If initial reports are to be believed, Channa offers a solid option anywhere in the infield and a baseball swing that is expected to start reaping goods as he adjusts to the slower version of the game. It remains to be seen if he can offer a similar showing in his rookie season as Ismail did the year before.

W K’s value has dropped significantly in the last two years. Kala is stuck in a rut of bad hitting form that he can’t seem to get out of. Long forgotten are the days when he smashed Pasha for three home runs in the 2014 Semis. Mughals would hope that he rediscovers his lost touch and uses disrespect as added motivation. Aazar Zafar is another super star from the 2014 BSL season who has lost his touch because of his intermittent absence and dip in form. If motivated, Zafar can be a great addition to this team who offers a gold glove in the outfield and speed at the plate. Rumour has it that Zafar made draft day promises to his hockey teammate and new GM that he will ensure he arrives on time to games this season. Furhan Azmat rejoins Mughals after a horrid run with Seljuqs last year that saw him drop from second round to seventh. He’d hope that Mughals are his lucky charm and he can regain his lost touch with them. Just like Azmat, Asim Gauhar also returns from the Seljuqs to his former team. Only difference of course is that Gauhar had a breakout season with Seljuqs last year unlike Azmat, where midway through the season he was leading the team in batting average. His performance didn’t taper off and he ended up as one of the top hitters on his team. Asim Gauhar and Nadeem Hussain will once again continue their brofest which should improve Nadeem’s play. Asim ‘second inning’ Qurayshi makes up the Mughals squad for the third straight year and continues to be Zahid’s project to transform him into a ball player. The Mughals lower order consists of a bunch of players coming off career-worst seasons in which no other team wanted to risk drafting. The Mughals’ brain have placed a high risk/high reward wager on their new recruits in hopes of bringing back the glory.

Strengths:
· With leaders in Batting Average and OBP, Mughals offense is among the strongest in the league however a few players on the downward spiral. If rookie, Khizer Channa is able to add to the pop, Mughals will be a force to reckon with;
· Pitching has always been Mughals strong suite and it is no different this year. Merchant will hope to build on his experience and lead his team from the mound.

Weaknesses:
· Right side of the infield might turn out to be Mughals’ achilles heel specially in the absence of stable 1B. Asim Gauhar is slated to take this position and will be tested in this new, stressful role;
· Aazar Zafar and W K’s have a bad attendance record. With both known for missing games, Mughals will need to plan for contingencies in the outfield.
· The Mughals have always been known for their consistency. It is very unlike for them to put together an entirely new squad and take gambles throughout the draft. It will be interesting to watch how quickly the Mughals mesh together as a new group and how they overcome turbulence.

Keys to success: 
The Mughals team this year might be the most balanced squad they’ve fielded in recent times. They have a strong batting line-up and proven pitching prowess. Their defense has brilliance in key spots that should carry the overall burden. If Mughals stay healthy, play to their potential and show up to games, they will give other teams a run for their money.

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

Team Outlook: Ayyubids & Ottomans

The next two teams in the top half of the draft were the Ayyubids and the Ottomans. These two teams had different game plans on draft day but both were searching for upgrades after they couldn't get past the semi-finals last year. The Ayyubids and the Ottomans have been a staple in the semi-finals in each year and will be hoping to continue that trend. 

Team recaps have been written by a new writer to the BSL staff. Batting averages for new players were assumed based on average of players drafted in their round. Full statiscal analysis will be provided after all recaps have been posted. 

Ayyubids

Key Numbers: 
Average Age: 32 years (2nd Youngest in the league this year)
BSL Experience: 376 games (2nd most at 2017 BSL)
Batting Orientation: 2 Lefties, 10 Righties
Squad Career Batting Average: 0.415 (.024 under league average – Lowest at 2017 BSL)
Gold Glovers: 4 (2016: Umair Jabbar (OF), Mohamed Kala(C); 2015: Ali Jabbar (P); 2014: Faheem Kotwal (OF) )
Championship Experience: 6 (2016: Mohamed Kala, Sikandar Aftab; 2015: Umer Jabbar, Ali Jabbar; 2014: Faraaz Alvi, Atif Akhtar)

Ayyubids’ management team has taken inspiration from Pakistan's political landscape, so much so that their management dynamics accurately portrays the political scene in Pakistan. One brother at the helm while other two are his special advisors – keeping it within the family. This is where the similarity ends though as Jabbar brothers maintain their positions solely on the back of solid performances. While GM, Umer Jabbar's performance chart has seen consistent growth over last three years. This year the middle Jabbar will be giving his younger brother a run for his money on the scale. Umer has dropped close to 40 pounds in preparation for the season. His brothers and Assistant GMs, are proven all-stars in the field. In Ali, Ayyubids have one of the best pitchers in the league, who carried Black & Orange to glory in 2015. Baby Jabbar, on the other hand, is a 2016 gold glover and HR Derby champion. Although Umair Jabbar hasn’t been able to live up to the expectations with the bat, there is no doubting that he is on the verge of a breakout season.

Going into the draft, Ayyubids’ management trio was amongst the most defensively balanced threesome in the league, with representation in outfield, infield and on the mound. This advantage was further expanded when they landed the third overall pick. While everyone expected Faraaz Alvi to be one of the first four picks, it came as a slight surprise when Ayyubids opted for him over Sameer Rafique, especially given Sameer’s strong bond with the Jabbar brothers. Faraaz Alvi, however, was well rewarded for a stellar 2016 when he ended the season being one of the most productive clean-up hitters. Alvi’s BSL career has seen consistent progression and he currently has the second most RBIs in BSL’s 3-year history. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up defensively as it is no hidden secret that he always wanted a career at shortstop. Faraaz claims he was misused by his former team and thinks he has Tulo’s glove in the infield. If there was a buzz in the crowd when Faraaz was picked third overall, there was a borderline outcry when Ayyubids selected Atif Akhtar as 14th overall. Not to take anything away from Akhtar but it’s hard to refute claims that Faraaz played a major hand in bringing his Mughal teammate to their former foes. Akhtar does present a solid infield option and good consistency with the bat which should hold Ayyubids steady. Ayyubids continued to add to their infield prowess when Omar Dhaduk was drafted in the third round. Despite being a rookie, Dhaduk is well known to the league as he has often plied his trade in BSL pick-up games. Dhaduk will have his work cut out as he is expected to hit the ground running in this highly competitive league. Ayyubids mandatory weekly practices should get him ready for the season pretty quickly.

If you’re looking for a team player, it’d be hard to find anyone better that Faheem Kotwal. Faheem is back in BSL after a frustrating knee injury landed him on the disabled list last year. Faheem looks lean as ever but you know he packs a punch when he makes contact. It’ll be interesting to see if his injury limits him in anyway but if off-season hockey were to tell you a story, everything points in the right direction for Faheem and the Ayyubids. Mohamed Kala is probably the most under-rated players in the league, both defensively and offensively. If Kala keeps up strong showings from previous years, it’ll take Ayyubids a long way towards a successful campaign. With a glove, as good as his, he is sure to move out of the catcher position, however given thin competition for gold glove at that position, he might decide to stay after all. Joining him on the 2017 Ayyubids will be his 2016 Mamluks teammate, Sikandar Aftab. Like everyone else on the Mamluks last year, Sikandar’s game improved leaps and bounds from his prior year performances. Sikandar will be hard pressed by the Ayyubids management to bring similar valor which brought him so much success last year. We will have to see if Mohamed and Sikandar were one-hit wonders like Montell Williams or if can they carry over last years success to their new team. Jibran Khan returns to his first love, the Ayyubids, however much has changed on this team since he left in search of glory with the Mughals. Ayyubids should feed off of Khan’s passion and love for the game, which is exemplary. Hasan Afzal had a break-out campaign last year with the blacks. He comes in this year in hopes of replicating his efforts from last year, at a minimum. Atif Parvaiz makes up the 2017 Ayyubids squad – although he mostly slipped under the radar last year, he’d hope to make a greater impact on his new team.


Strengths: 
· Ayyubids are stacked by players with BSL championship experience. Although this statistic might be overrated for a few, it might be the difference maker come September, the business end of the league;
· Pitching has always been Ayyubids’ trump card. Pressure on Ali Jabbar should be greater than what he has experienced in previous year given slight uncertainty around Ayyubids’ defence.

Weaknesses: 
· Ayyubids are last in almost all the offensive statistical variables even with six players having career years in 2016 – they’re below the league average in Batting Average (BA), On-Base Percentage (OBP), Slugging (SLG) and On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS+) – Apart from Faraaz Alvi, no one is hitting over .500 in their career;
· Although their left-infield has a hole to fill at SS, they have two candidates in Faraaz Alvi and Omar Dhaduk that have played that position. To add to the uncertainty, they have a gap to fill at first base as well.
· Umair Jabbar provides a gold-glove in the outfield but apart from him, Ayyubids’ outfield lacks speed and agility generally associated with them; Faheem Kotwal will be expected to turn back the clock to 2014 if they will be able to cover enough grass.
 
Keys to success: 
Ayyubids pitching and defensive performance will dictate how they fare this year. Ali’s pitching has been solid these past two year but defense will have to come to the fore to ensure he gets full support. Offence will have to keep the team afloat, giving enough runs for the pitcher to defend. The expected emergence of Omar Dhaduk as a consistent hitter could provide the Ayyubids with another much needed weapon in the batting order. 
 
Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : A
Infield : B-
Outfield : B-
Batting : C


Ottomans

Key Numbers: 
Average age: 36 years (2rd Oldest in the league this year)
Total BSL Games: 349 games (4th most at 2017 BSL)
Batting Orientation: 4 Lefties, 8 Righties
Career Team Batting Average: 0.456 (2nd highest in the league this year)
Total players with Gold Gloves: 0
Total players with Championships: 2 (2015: Atif Khan; 2014: Shoaib Bhatti)

 
Ottomans have always been on the verge of greatness without ever reaching the pinnacle - and you begin to wonder, why? First glance at their management trio would send shivers down your spine, that’s how intimidating this threesome is – what is it then? You don’t have to look far to understand their shortcoming - they just haven’t been able to beat Merchants in the playoffs. While Zahid served as Ottomans’ nemesis in the 2014 Finals and 2016 Semi-finals, Imran clotheslined the Turks into submission in the 2015 Semis. Ottomans’ mantra this year will be to avoid Merchants in the playoffs at all cost.

In Hashim Ghazi, Ottoman has one of the shrewdest brains in BSL as their GM. While his performance continues to improve every year, he brings much more to the table than just his gameplay. Having said that, he is no muck with the bat as two of his three career home runs have come against arguably the best pitcher in BSL. There are however no arguments when it comes to Rehan Ahmad, Ottomans’ Assistant GM. Rehan has been able to achieve offensive numbers in two years of BSL that superstars of the league haven’t been able to achieve in three. Apart from several other accolades, Rehan is reigning MVP for two years running and leads BSL in career home runs. Rehan, however offers sliver of hope to rest of the league as off-season hiatus to the far-east fetched him 20 pounds of excess fat - is this the year Rehan starts to regress? Only time will tell. If this wasn’t enough, add to the mix, Shaheen Limbada, an MVP caliber player in his own right. He currently tops the career RBI leaderboard and is among top 5 in most of the other offensive statistics. Shaheen also provides speed and solidity in the outfield and even without a gold glove, is one the most dependable outfielders in the league.

Ottomans got a shot in the arm when they landed 4th pick in the draft and with Sameer Rafique they acquired one of the most electrifying shortstops in the league. Sameer’s explosive offence has all the ingredients of annihilating oppositions but like many others in the league, Sameer has failed to put together a complete season with the bat. This, however is not reason enough to pass up on the solid all-rounder. If Ottomans weren't menacing enough already, they added to the mix Atif Khan and Ahmad Ammad in second and third rounds respectively. Both Atif and Ahmed provide Ottomania with additional pop and if they were to follow the league trend of improvement with experience then the Ottomans might have built the Golden State Warriors of BSL. These young’uns provide Turks with much needed youthful exuberance, speed and agility which should take them a long way towards their search of a championship.

Returning to Ottomans again this year are Zain Fancy, Shoaib Bhatti and Hamza Hussain. Fancy, Bhatti and Hussain, picked in fourth, fifth and sixth rounds respectively were a move away from all the explosives Ottomans opted for in the first three rounds and much needed as well. While Fancy and Bhatti provide composure and serenity against all the destruction his comrades are set to provide, Hamza might well have been an afterthought after Ottomans realized that they were missing a pitcher amongst their ranks. Bhatti led the league in doubles last year but his one-way hitting might gradually be proving to be his Achilles heel. Fancy and Bhatti tandem at 1B and 2B is not expected to set the BSL world on fire but are expected to get the job done on right side of the infield. Heaviest load on this team might be Hussain’s to shoulder as he only brings with him limited pitching experience. Rookie, Zia Beg, might prove to be a late round gem if he’s able to burden some of the pitching load from Hamza. Ahmed Butt returns to his 2015 team and hopes to build on his success from last year. Yasser Zia’s season last year was curtailed short because of pilgrimage to Mecca but he’ll hope to bring invaluable BSL experience from last year to good use. 
This squad is very similar to the 2015 Ottomans. An explosive offense that can pound their opponents into submission but their flaw is a bullpen of unproven pitchers. That squad flamed out in the semis due to a pitching breakdown. Hamza Hussain or Zia Beg will be expected to flip the script this year. 

Strengths:
· Ottomans’ current squad leads the league in majority of the offensive statistics including OBP, Slugging and OPS+. This squad has the highest number of career home runs and highest percentage of XBH, which is four percentage points more than the next team - Offensive juggernaut will be led by Rehan Ahmad and Shaheen Limbada with able support from Sameer Rafique, Atif Khan and Ahmad Ammad;
· With four lefties and eight righties, Ottomans’ offensive balance is best in the league as well;
· In Atif Khan and Sameer Rafique, Ottomans have probably the best left infield in BSL this year;

Weaknesses:
· Pitching has always been the Ottomans weakness and this GM trio fails to recognize the problem. They had a solution last year with A K but failed to lock him up. They will rely on a total of 40 career innings pitched by Hamza Hussain and Zain Fancy with an average of one walk per inning or a rookie pitcher with no pitching experience to get the job done.
· With four 40+ players, Ottomans squad is amongst the oldest in BSL. Health of this aging squad will go a long way in determining their stature in the league this year.
· Shaheen Limbada and Rehan Ahmad will be the cogs in the deep but the rest of the outfield looks thin. If one of those two AGMs is missing, they will be in some serious trouble.

Keys to success: 
Ottomans’ offence is second to none and it will drive their overall success this year. Given their pitching is amongst the weakest or at least the most uncertain, offence would need to ensure that they outscore their opponents. If defense is able to live up to its billing, it should be able to limit the impact caused by weak pitching.

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

Team Outlook: Abbasids & Sultans

BSL began the fourth chapter on May 23rd, 2017 with the live draft at Baseline Sports. For the first time, the draft order was revealed in person at the draft party. Every team had their eyes on the first and second pick to scoop up the two consensus superstars available this year. When the numbers were pulled, the two franchises came out victorious. The second pick in the 2017 draft goes to...... the Sultans. That means the first overall pick goes to...... the Abbasids. Both franchises have gone through a rocky winter and the good fortune helps them get back on track. 

Team recaps have been written by a new writer to the BSL staff. Batting averages for new players were assumed based on average of players drafted in their round. Full statiscal analysis will be provided after all recaps have been posted. 

Abbasids

Key Numbers: 
Average Age: 33 years (3rd Youngest in the league this year)
BSL Experience: 249 games (Least experienced at 2017 BSL)
Batting Orientation: 1 Lefty, 1 Switch, 10 Righties
Squad Career Batting Average: 0.430 (.009 under league average)
Gold Glovers: 1 (2016: Hammad Afif)
Championship Experience: 2 (2016: Omer Chaudhry, 2015: Fuzail Thakur)

The Abbasids of yesteryears have been underwhelming, to put it mildly. Despite fielding strong sides in the past, they’ve been unable to translate talent into victories. Ahmed Hussain returns as the GM of the squad, but is slightly slightly limited because of persistent shoulder injury. Also returning to the fold as Assistant GM is Rameez Siddiqi, who took the league by storm in his 2015-debut season. He’d love to reinvigorate similar fortune after a drastic drop in performance last year. Kashif Irshad has been rewarded for his solid and consistent efforts last year as he takes on the added responsibilities of an Assistant GM.

The Orangemen were off to a strong start on draft day as they landed the first overall pick and wasted no time in poaching the best offensive player of 2016, Omer Chaudhry. Chaudhry brings with him invaluable winning mentality and strong leadership traits, making him a lynchpin of this team. Given strong showing at the Charity tournament a week prior, Imran Qureshi’s stock was high going into the draft; nobody however expected Abbasids to take the plunge as early as second round. Come start of season, all eyes will be on Qureshi to see if can deliver against his perceived value. Abbasids continued to pick on potential as Hammad Afif is granted a second shot with Abbasids – Abbasids management trust him to turn the page after his disappointing rookie season and live up to his billing. In contrast, Mohsin Zubair had a strong rookie season and if all key indicators are to be trusted, this season should be no different for this stalwart sophomore. Hamza Waheed returns to Abbasids after an uneventful season with them in 2015. Apart from being a reliable mid-round pick, he should solve the Abbasids’ pitching equation. Fuzail Thakur has had a tumultuous BSL career with his performance graph showing drastic spikes and falls. He however brings with him championship experience and an exemplary attitude. The Abbasids looked for value late in the draft and are hoping they have found gems. Ahmad welcomed his cousin Aamir Husainy to his squad. They added Taqi Ahmed who fell from the 6th round in 2016 to a late pick up this year. Finally,
Atif Qureshi made BSL history as the only draft-eligible player to play for the same team every BSL season.

Strengths: 
· The Abbasids’ slugging is second best in the league this year, which should not come as a surprise to anyone when you see names like Rameez and Omer on the team. Adding to this should be Imran Qureshi whose big hitting saw him move up into the second round.
· Abbasids also boast one of the youngest squads in the league which should be pivotal late in the season.

Weaknesses: 
· Going into the season, Abbasids primary worry should be their defense. There are question marks around left infield with no proven shortstop or third basemen.
· The outfield will be heavily dependent on Kashif Irshad and Omer Chaudhry who are both steady gloves but lack superstar speed in the grass.
· Abbasids’ pitching option is both limited in resource and moderately inexperienced at the same time. Hamza comes into his fourth season as a starting pitcher and will be carrying a heavy load on his shoulders as the only player on the team whose spent significant time on the mound.
· Abbasids are one of only two teams this year who have drafted 2 rookies. This not only results in limited overall BSL experience, it also brings about great degree of uncertainty.
 
Keys to success: 
The Abbasids have the potential to lead the league in XBH but potential needs to be realized with Rameez Siddiqi and Hammad Afif finding their sweet spot. However, this team will need to address their biggest perceived flaw on the left side of the infield. Rumours are swirling about Hammad Afif, Taqi Ahmed and even Aamir Husainy trying out for those positions.  
 
Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : B-
Infield : C
Outfield : B
Batting : A

Sultans

Key Numbers: 
Average age: 36 years (Oldest in the league)
Total BSL Games: 282 games (7th in the league)
Batting Orientation: 12 Righties
Career Team Batting Average: 0.440 (On par with league average)
Total players with Gold Gloves: 2 (2015 and 2016: Taher Mirza, 2016: Shahzad Ahmed)
Total players with Championships: 4 (2016: Taher Mirza, Shahzad Ahmed, 2015: Sheraz Mahmood, Zain Malik, 2014: Sheraz Mahmood)

 
With two consecutive off-colour seasons, thorough soul searching amongst the Sultans was in order. Although everyone expected changes, an overhaul of this magnitude was both drastic and unexpected. It all started from the mercurial GM of 3 years, Amir Khalil, deciding to take the year off to nurse his nagging knee injury. It went from bad to worse when both Assistant GMs, Suhail Taji and Ali Nazir, decided they needed their summers back as well. The reigns were handed over to sophomore Shamil Khadaroo who wasted no time in changing the culture of the team. The rookie GM pulled off a blockbuster move, bringing on powerhouse Shahzad Ahmed as Assistant GM. Shamil then convinced the wily vet Tanseer Khawaja to help him run the team. The new trio got some good fortune with the second overall pick which they turned into Taher ‘Superman’ Mirza. All of a sudden, the Sultans have championship pedigree and a formidable foursome to build from.

Sultans have drafted the oldest squad in 2017 BSL, with average age in excess of 36 years. With age comes experience though and who else to better vouch for that but our very own Sheraz Mahmood who brings with him a silver glove at 1B and two BSL championships. Add on championships by Taher Mirza, Shahzad Ahmed and Zain Malik and suddenly this team has players who know how to win. However, they made some questionable moves early in the draft. Picking Hassan Zubair in the second round was a stretch and although everyone expects Rafique Chaudhury to finally have a breakout season, his commitments coaching ball during the summer make him a risky third round pick. The Sultans added another rookie in Neal Irfan who GMs knew very little about. Meanwhile, Shahzad Ahmed convinced the Sultans brass to take a gamble on his doppleganger and cousin Faisal Khan. Faisal was once known as ‘King’ Khan for his monster homeruns but has struggled the last two years while battling repeated injuries that appear to be in the rearview. Shahzad will be hoping the two can become the ‘Smash brothers’…or better yet, the “Sultans of Swat”. To round out their draft, the Sultans picked up role players in Omair Zuberi and Akif Waheed to add some role players who can pitch should Tanseer be unavailable.

Strengths:
· Sultans’ infield looks stellar with Shahzad and Rafique locking down the left and veterans Sheraz and Faisal taking care of the right. However, the infield lacks speed.
· Pitching department is well taken care of as Tanseer and Omair are two of the most experienced pitchers in the league - this offer Sultans’ both experience and depth.

Weaknesses:
· Sultans’ defensive balance is slightly skewed towards infielders. Although outfield questions are mostly answered, absences might set cat amongst the pigeons, requiring drastic measures.
· Although Taher Mirza and Rafique Choudhury are stars in their own right, their track record for games attended is abysmal. With both known for missing weeks during the season, Sultans will need to plan for contingencies.
· Sultans have the oldest squad in the league this year which might take its toll towards end of the season.
· Sultans, just like Abbasids, have drafted 2 rookies on their team and as a result have the second least experienced team in the league. While this is not a direct weakness, general BSL trend suggests performance improvement with experience.

Keys to success: 
Rookie GM has Shamil Khadaroo has compiled a very competent squad in short order. The biggest concerns about this squad are attendance and balance in the batting order. The X-factor for this team is Faisal Khan. If the ‘King’ can bring the power, the Sultans batting order looks significantly more dangerous and makes up for gaps in the bottom of the order.

Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : A
Infield : B+
Outfield : B
Batting : B-

2017 BSL Draft Results

The 2017 BSL Draft is complete. Thank you for Baseline Sports for hosting us at their facility. The Abbasids won the lottery and picked 2016 Offensive Player of the Year Omer Chaudhry. The Sultans continued their revamp with Taher Mirza at #2. The Ayyubids surprised everyone by taking lifelong Mughal Faraaz Alvi at #3. The Ottomans got a huge addition in Sameer Rafique at #4. The Seljuqs shocked the room by taking Michael Arlitt at #5. The Mughals picked up Most Improved Player Bilal Javed at #6. The Mamluks selected Gold Glove First Basemen Umair Sheikh at #7 and Nirvaan Latif was reunited with family again at #8.

There was plenty of trade talk after the draft but no official trades to report yet. The results are in - presenting the rosters in alphabetical order for BSL Season 4!




2017 Pre-season update

Spring has officially started and BSL players have begun their training regime to prepare for the upcoming season. As the temperature rises, the Board and GMs have been inundated with questions about the plans for 2017 season. We've spent the offseason working with our GMs on ways to improve the league and the schedule for this year. 
 
With Ramadan scheduled to begin May 26th, there are only three possible game weeks before we would break for six weeks to resume on July 9th. Therefore, we have decided to delay the start of the 2017 BSL regular season to after Ramadan, with the first weekend being Sunday July 9th. However, that does not mean there will be no softball. We will be hosting a charity softball tournament in partnership with Islamic Relief on May 14th. Details for the tournament are still being finalized.
 
Registration for the 2017 season will open in April for existing players with the draft taking place before Ramadan. We will not be expanding the league beyond 8 teams due to the schedule being crammed into a few months. Open spots for new players will depend on the number of returning players from last year. We will also be keeping the 2 assistant GMs per team. Further details about upcoming season will be shared shortly.
 
Also, we have been trying to start a weekday league for existing players and also those looking to play in a BSL environment. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a field available in Mississauga or Milton that would meet our needs. We will continue to look for options and hope to share good news with you all soon.
 
Lastly, we conducted a league wide survey where 60 players responded to give us feedback about the league and players. Here are the results, thanks for all those that participated: 
 
How often did you read the rumours: 4.5 out of 5

Which team would you pick to play for:
Mughals - 12 votes, Ottomans - 12 votes, Mamluks - 11 votes
 
Which team has the best logo: Ottomans - 13  votes, Ayyubids - 8 votes, Mamluks - 7 votes
 
Who is the funniest player: Furhan Azmat - 12 votes, Umair Sheikh - 5 votes
 
Who is the most feared pitcher: Zahid Merchant - 29 votes, Rizvan Merchant - 8 votes, Tanseer Khawaja - 7 votes
 
Who is the best fielder: Jibran Waqar - 26 votes, Imran Merchant - 11 votes, Taher Mirza - 6 votes
 
Who is most dangerous hitter: Rehan Ahmad - 29 votes, Shahzad Ahmed - 12 votes, Jibran Waqar - 8 votes 
 
Most Common Feedback: 
- Mention how brotherhood was shown during games in the rumours
- More off the field events
- Make time to pray together
- Cut out any trash talking or taunting
- Reduce homeruns in some way

We are humbled by the support and hype surrounding the League, and are itching to get back on the diamond as much as you are. Hopefully we will see you all out at the tourney on May 14th - hit the cages!