Despite last year being Hudson Lake's first season under .500 since 2014, the hype is once again real heading into this season. After acquiring 2018 MVP Bailey Rhed at last season's deadline, the Heat have seemingly found the 5-man lineup they've always been searching for. With a year of experience together under their belt and a suspicious lack of noise from them in the off-season, Hudson Lake is hopeful 2020 is the year they finally are able to break out and take home a pennant.
2019 did not go as planned for the Heat. Coming off their franchise best season in 2018, the hype was real for a Hudson Lake breakout season in 2019. However, inconsistent lineups coupled with the departure of lock-down left fielder Jasen Webb sent any hopes of challenging the commissioner's team down in flames. The Heat finished the season 11-13, the team's worst record since their inaugural 8-28 season in 2014. In the playoff, a short-handed Hudson Lake team narrowly got past the Goon Squad in the first Wild Card before bowing out to the Kings in the second. Ben McDonald was the lone All-Star for Hudson Lake.
1. White Hot.
Despite Jasen Webb not being available for the Heat this season, they will still be represented strongly by their former rivals the White Lightning. Thanks to a mid-season trade last year, Bailey Rhed has been reunited with his WL pitcher Doug Benner on the heat. The two have some of the best pitcher-catcher chemistry in the league and will be pivotal for Hudson Lake's success in 2020. Since his breakout MVP 2018 season, Bails has established himself as one of the better hitters in the game. Podcaster Brandon Terry has even been quoted as calling him a "one of the top 3 hitters" he has ever seen. Then, there's Doug. The word out of spring ball is Benner’s hitting has looked eerily similar to his 2015 form, when he posted a .664 AVG to go along with 46 homers. As the undisputed fasted player in the league, Doug will look to rediscover the power which once made him an MVP candidate. If the Heat can get that kind of production paired with Rhed's MVP form the rest of the AL need be on high alert. There's something to be said about teammate longevity, and these two certainty have that.
2. McDonald's Transformation.
Let me know if you recognize long-time Heat slugger Ben "McNasty" McDonald the first time you see him this season. TMZ has given WiffleTalk.com exclusive access to footage which shows McDonald sporting a Fabio-esque mane in Spring Training. It's long. Like really, really long (that's what she said). More relevantly to wiffle, though, is the sight of him appearing to have gained nearly twenty pounds of pure muscle. Known for his ability to slap the ball to all fields, this added muscle will surely increase the vet's HR count in 2020 (not that anyone will know since HL doesn't keep stats). As he's aged, McDonald has seemingly found a way to tweak his game every season. The seasoned pro is expected to have perhaps his best season yet this year. As the Heat's only All-Star in 2019, he seemed to have estbalished himself as the premier threat for Hudson Lake despite batting alongside sluggers Bob Bushman and Jared Monhaut. After years of flirting with an MVP run, 2020 may be the year McNasty joins teammates Bushman and Bails in achieving just that.
3. Is this the year?
I feel like I have been calling a Hudson Lake breakout in the preseason for years now, but it has never fully come together. After their stellar 2018, it seemed like the Heat were ready to truly challenge for a pennant, but inconsistent lineups and a cold season at the plate derailed any hope of that in 2019. That being said, the pieces are all there for Hudson Lake to take control of the American League. With two former MVPs as well as standouts Ben McDonald, Jared Monhaut, and Douglass Benner rounding out their starting 5, the time may be right for Hudson Lake to make 2020 their year. An improved American League may prove difficult for the Heat, but if they can get their 5 consistently and get on a roll... anything can happen.
P Doug Benner
OF Bob Bushman
P Jake MacMillan
Util. D Luther
C D Curl
The Heat seem to be the ultimate "what if" in ORWBL. A breakthrough seems always so close, yet just out of reach. 2020 looks to be different, however. With finally sporting a consistent lineup, Hudson Lake will put years of work into affect. The hitting will be there. With 2 MVPS and the rest of their lineup also being able to mash, that isn't a question. Stud pitcher Doug Benner will lock things down on the mound, but the rest of the defense is certainly a question-mark. Losing Webb leaves them with a hole in left field. Bushman has served admirably in left previously, but hasn't done so on a regular basis in a few years. Historically the Heat have been solid, but not spectator in the field. If they can lock down the defense and minimize the errors, a Hudson Lake challenge to the commissioner's team is surely in reach.