PCL Power Rankings – Season Two

Premier Challengers League Season Two starts this weekend! With the Pharaohs promoted to PLW and with the demise of the Regulators, the landscape has changed a bit. There are now four teams in the PCL this season compared to six teams in the inaugural season. 

While the Challengers League has been diminished a bit in terms of the number of teams, the competitiveness of the league has not diminished! Each of the four PCL teams is excited to battle for glory in the Challengers Tournament at the end of the season. But who will be left standing come tourney time? Preseason crystal balls are murky at best, but let’s go ahead and prognosticate, and then come back and laugh at these predictions in a few months.

#4 – Diablos

The Diablos had a rough Season One in PCL. They finished with a brutal record of 8-46. They did however show marked improvement near the end of the season, sweeping a series against the 86ers in September and finishing the season with single game victories against the Regulators and Lumberjacks. Look for them to noticeably improve their overall record in Season Two.

The Diablos added a nice draft piece in former PLW slugger Chris Gschwender, and if he can make it out for Diablos games, look for their projected win total of 14 games this season to increase. Manager/Owner Trevor Bauer is continuously encouraging and coaching up his guys, and that will pay dividends, especially if his most skilled players can make more games than they did last season. 

Are the Diablos improved enough from last season’s roster to pull themselves out of the PCL cellar? Doubtful. But time will tell.

#3 – Lumberjacks

Here’s where things get tricky. Teams 1 – 3 in this preseason ranking are all gonna beat each other up week in and week out. The Lumberjacks are the biggest question mark amongst the remaining three teams.

They had a ton of talent and a ton of pop last season, and were a couple of timely hits away from making it to the Challenger’s Tournament in Season One. So why the #3 projection? Mostly because we don’t know what their roster will look like two months from now. Or in 10 days. Or in three days for that matter.

Slugger Malik Ogburn? Gone to the PLW as a top 10 draft pick. Clutch hitter and emerging lefty pitching star Brendan Hite? Same story. Where does that leave the Lumberjacks as we start Season Two? The cupboards are far from bare. Last season’s PCL Most Improved Player James Shorey returns to pick up right where he left off, both at the plate and on the mound. CJ Peterson and Jordan Rice are still on the roster, and both are dynamic wiffleball players. But how available will they be? CJ made 22 games in Season One, barely enough to qualify for the playoffs. Jordan Rice only appeared in a couple of series all season. It’s hard to predict the success of the Lumberjacks without clarity on the availability of those two.

You could make the case though that the Lumberjacks won the PCL draft. Or at least that they’re great at making lemonade out of lemons. When they lost Ogburn and Hite, they received compensation picks, and put one of those to excellent use right away, while shrewdly squirreling the other one away as a free agent chip. Denis Obrien, who is a lockdown defender from the PLW, is available to play on the weekends, and fell into the eager Lumberjacks laps. Obrien will be a key contributor this season for a retooled Lumberjacks squad, and not just on defense. Managers Bruce Huson and Tim Reilly also pulled off a great move by drafting pitcher Ryan Leonis, who struggled on the mound in his limited opportunities in the PLW last season, but who has the potential to be a great pitcher in the PCL.

Still, uncertainty remains. The Lumberjacks only have eight players on their roster currently, and some of those have limited availability. The team does have two free agent chips, and may need to spend them sooner than they’d like in order to avoid forfeits on early weekend games. Were their roster more certain, the Lumberjacks may have been higher in these rankings.

#2 – 86ers

Heading into the draft, the 86ers were expecting to have to replace pitching ace Leonard Quenneville and batting sensation Jose Miguel Ruiz as both were projected as potential first round PLW picks. But draft cookies crumble in odd ways sometimes, and both players are returning to the 86ers for Season Two, which drastically improves the outlook for this squad.

The 86ers were also able to add some nice pieces in the draft. Slugger Brad Ogden – who manages the Legends in the PLW and who played last season on the now-defunct Regulators – is now an 86er, and will immediately provide another much-needed reliable bat. He’ll also be an outstanding mentor for those on the squad still learning the nuances of wiffle.

The 86ers also added PLW-level pitching talent Scott Burley. Burley lives in Reno, but plans to make enough games to qualify for the playoffs, which will really improve the 86ers chances come tournament time. Finally, the 86ers added former PLW gold glove shortstop Jesse Capps via the waiver wire. Capp’s availability for early weekend games is questionable, but if he too can become playoff eligible, the 86ers are in excellent shape for a postseason run.

#1 – Los Burros

Like the Lumberjacks, Los Burros took a significant hit when one of their stars was drafted in the first round to PLW. Gold Glover and power hitter Richard Parsons has traded his donkey gear for a Ones uniform! While the loss of Parsons does hurt on defense and offense, Los Burros made a great pick in the draft, and are arguably a stronger team from the mound now with the addition of former Regulators ace Peter Mavro, who will combine with Matt Kelly to form a lethal 1-2 pitching punch.

Los Burros are a team with great chemistry and consistency. Manager Scott Howay really knows how to deploy his talent, so don’t expect them to miss a beat. This is a team that spent much of Season One in first place, and were overtaken by only the Pharaohs, who are now playing in the PLW. Of the teams still in the PCL, Los Burros finished with the best record in Season One, and there’s no compelling reason to think they won’t do so again in Season Two. Los Burros are back!

Author: Jameson Steed