Friday, March 11, 2011

PUEBLA PERICOS (2010 record: 66-39)

One of the changes brought about by the layoffs for the Nuevo Laredo and Chihuahua franchises in the Liga this year is the shift of LMB South champion Puebla to the tougher LMB North, where the Pericos will have to compete against Mexico City, Monterrey and defending champion Saltillo just to return to the League Championship Series. And they’ll have to do it without Willis Otanez.

The reigning Liga batting champion took his .393 average to Reynosa, his seventh LMB team since 2001. Otanez will be missed, but Puebla skipper Houston Jimenez’ cupboard hasn’t been left bare. Returning will be Luis Suarez (.361/8/63), Rene Reyes (.336/16/84) and Omar de la Torre (.338/12/72), forming one of the Liga’s best outfields plus DH Serafin Rodriguez (.361/6/38) adds pop. The infield is not nearly as strong offensively while 3B Miguel Terrero and SS Ivan Cervantes combined for 32 errors.

Puebla’s pitching staff has three solid starters in Lorenzo Barcelo (11-5/3.65), Omar Espinoza (11-4/4.31) and Andres Meza (10-5/4.58), but the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation are unsettled. Closer Luis Ramirez (3-3/3.86) had 30 saves and Jose Cobos (6-4/3.18 is a useful setup man.

The Pericos should still be winners, but the road to the pennant is a harder one from the North, especially without Otanez' bat.