2023 Season Preview
Its been 3 years since Baghdad was added to BSLN as an expansion squad. In those 2 years Baghdad has won a chip and made a trip to the Semi finals last year only to fall 1 run short of the finals. Looking to make another deep run this year, GM Hamid Malik came into the draft with a game plan. With the first overall pick, Baghdad went with Ismail Kara who can clear a 300 field in his sleep. To help protect the big man, Hamid Malik decided to bring back 2 of its core players that helped Baghdad to the promise land in their inaugural season. Aslam “Big bat” Abdullah will be relied on to haul in runs and man the outfield while playoff MVP Nirvi continues to dominate the mound and captain the infield. Add in gold glovers Imran Qureshi, Riyad Ramjaun AKA Rated R at 1B and 2B, Kara at SS and Rookie Fahad Mallik at 3B, this could arguably be one of the better infields in the league. Fahad Mallik is new to the league and based on chatter from around the globe, most think he was over valued but wait till you see him compete. He could give everyone a run for gold glove at 3B. To answer some of the questions about the outfield, we have 2 gold glovers in Asad Ahmed and Hamid Malik who will be anchoring Center field. Fawad Sheikh took massive strides last year and Baghdad was targeting him in the draft to secure that outfield. Look for him to continue to dominate and improve his bat. Syed Raza another new comer, will also be out there in the outfield. Given his speed, athleticism and humour (That’s right, he’s also a stand-up comedian), he’ll be all over the field making diving catches while making us all laugh. Faisal Shamshad is another player Baghdad was targeting in the draft as his improvement last year did not go unnoticed. He was one of the more consistent batters in the playoffs and is looking to build on a great season. Last but not least, Salman Aziz who was recruited from league 2 thanks to his batting (.500 batter) and quickness. Word on the street is he was too good to stay in league 2 and will now be playing for a winning franchise who will look to make its mark this year. Baghdad may not look the best on paper but this team has a history of proving the league wrong. Its no wonder why guys like Nirvi and Aslam take massive pay cuts to play with a winning franchise. Add Kara to the mix and this team should be firing on all cylinders! BSLN’s here we come!!
After a successful 2022 campaign, Salman Ahmad, the stalwart GM for Jerusalem decided to take a break for personal reasons. Wishing Salman the best, Jersulam began their search for a new captain at the helm. Jerusalem recruited Aftab Khan, who is new to softball management, but has varied management experience outside sports. Once the GM contract negotiations were done, Aftab immediately began scouting players to build out the 2023 Jerusalem roster. Being a pitcher himself, Aftab prioritized defensive soundness in his draft plan. With the draft plan set, Jerusalem sought Imran Merchant, the gold glove reigning MVP, with their first pick in the draft. Imran brings with him a championship pedigree, having played a salient role on all of Damascus' title runs. Imran's elite defensive play and power hitting are part and parcel with his high in-game IQ and on-field leadership. With their second pick, Jerusalem chose Taha Iqbal, a newcomer to BSL nights, who brings with him a very impressive softball resume. A highly decorated gold glove veteran, Taha is a top 10 all-time hitter in BSL Sundays. In addition to having won the batting title in BSL Sundays in 2021, Taha is a lockdown defender at third base. With their third pick, Jerusalem took Khuram Channa, arguably a top-5 centre fielder in the league, with a cannon for an arm, and hard-hitting to match. With Imran and Khuram locking down the outfield, with their fourth pick, Jerusalem selected Tyler Jackson, a newcomer to brotherhood sports, who showedcased elite defensive mechanics and form at the combine. Tyler is earmarked to hold down the shortstop position for Jerusalem and provide timely hitting in the line-up. Jerusalem next selected Ali Nazir, a top utility defender, able to play anywhere in the field, including short-stop and centre field, with speed and power hitting to boot. In the following rounds, Jerusalem picked up Saqib Alvi and Shoaib Gaya. Saqib may be one of the fastest guys in the league, with a solid glove, providing a sure hand in the outfield and speed at the lead-off spot. Shoaib has been improving his game year over year, and is shaping up to be a power-bat with significant outfield presence. Jerusalem rounded out the remainder of their roster with Hassaan Khan, Faheem Kotwal, Zia Beg, and Jibran Khan. Hassaan Khan is a gold glove infield defender with spray hitting and pop. Faheem Kotwal is new to the league, but not new to softball. He was previously a gold glove in the outfield with BSL Sundays, and has since been keeping in prime shape playing ball-hockey during his time away from his one true passion and calling. Zia Beg brings a dominant presence to the mound, and can also second as a utility defender anywhere in the infield. Jibran Khan has prominent defensive presence at catcher, and power in his bat roaring to be unleashed. With a filled roster, Jerusalem's greatest strength is its defence. Jersulam may have the most gold glove, or gold glove caliber, defenders, in the entire league. The team also has substantial chemistry, with Imran actively leading kumbayas around the campfire. Although Jersulam has great on-base hitting and speed, it may be lacking in the home-run power some of the other teams display. Look to Jersulam's gritty and tenacious defence to hold down opposing bats to low-scoring games, while their bats look to wear down opposing defences with a thousand small cuts, as the 2023 iteration hopes to make a splash in the league.
Cordoba has a new GM, with 2 years of BSL Nights under his belt, Shoaib Rangrez takes the helm for the franchise. Cordoba has an experienced core led by Safwan Khan who was taken with the 2nd overall pick in the draft, and then with the next two picks Rangers was able to snag Zane Sheikh and Suleman Mann. That gives Cordoba a pretty experienced OF foundation, all Gold Glove worthy candidates and a very hard hitting matchup for pitchers down the batting line up. Omar Khan and Faisal Saeed were called upon to make the jump to the big leagues, as these rookies look to make some noise this season. The Malton City connection can also be felt in the lineup, with Rangers scooping up Erfan Bhanapatel and Zahid Panchbhaya to help cement the infield. With the OF being as strong as it is, the infield will really be relied upon to ensure limiting errors and extra bases. Mohammed Yusuf will be called upon to take control of the mount, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure as the starting pitcher. Umer Jabbar will be on the hot corner, and with his experience, the infield and pitching could really be where the season hinges for Cordoba.
Cairo has a new Sherif in town! Similar to 2022 Lahore, Tash has also decided to build his team around the Bash Bros by focusing on power. Not only do Paygham and Hammad pack dynamite on the bats but these new Bash Bros bring speed and are dynamic in the field. Hammad will be looking to take over the league similar to that of Erling Haaland in the EPL. Can he break records? Can he dominate? Can he strike fear into other teams? Cairo will depend a lot on PG’s drive to win. Rumour has it he’s never been hungrier, which could lead to a potential MVP caliber season. Will PG lead the franchise out of the desert and into the promise land? Cairo thinks so! Hamza, who achieved the lowest earned runs against last year as pitcher, will look to improve on his throwing arsenal and is on a mission to win the Pitcher of the Year. Cairo has secure the talents of Mohamed Ali at shortstop , an all around athlete, who looked like a swiss army knife at the combine. Rumour has it he raised a few eyebrows with his hitting in Cairo's first exhibition game this year. Farooq Sani AKA the Lebron James of Nights has the most playoff Finals appearances in BSL Nights history. With his spray hitting ability and legs he is expected to do a lot of damage as lead off. His stock rises considerably with dedicated attendance. Saqib will be bringing his golden glove experience and a solid campaign last year in L2 to Nights and is projected to have a career year at bat. He has demonstrated improvements in all his numbers throughout the years and has all the skills to take it to the next level…his name will be in a lot of convos this year. Baseer, another key piece to Cairo's roster, will try to replicate a season similar to the one he started with last year and brings great spray hitting and a reliable glove in the OFD. Gold glove possibilities? We will find out. Neal Irfan's upside at bat and versatility on defence will be Cairo's Xfactor for a deep post-season run. He brings a ton of experience and looks to have a breakout year as he has all the skills to do so. Abdo has put in some serious work and is looking to utilise his athleticism to make a huge impact both at the plate and defensive end. He’s coming off a championship campaign from brotherhood soccer and that championship mentality to Cairo. Can he be the key winning ingredient and be a late round robbery to bring a chip to the land of the nile? Finally, Fawad Sheikh brings power at the end of the lineup and has been proven to be a reliable glove in the infield over the years. If he can come up with the key hits at the right moments…. You have been warned. Cairo will have to try to stay healthy and maintain consistent attendance to go far. If the risks pay off and the newcomer talent delivers on the infield, they will be at the big dance.
The reigning champions Damascus look to continue to dominate the league as they did last season. The 2022 Damascus squad set multiple league records on their way to the title. The first of which is the highest run differential (RD) in league history with +85 (team with second highest RD in 2022: +23), they were above +100 RD at one point in the season! They also finished with the most runs ever and the second lowest runs against for the season. This led to Damascus having the largest point difference in the standings between 1st and 2nd place in league history. As a matter of fact, 2nd place was closer to 7th place in points and out of the playoffs than they were to 1st place Damascus... Now with all that being said, when asked about his team for 2023, GM Ali Chaudhry was quoted saying "This team may actually be even better than the legendary 2022 Damascus squad. Our defence may be lacking some when compared to 2022 but our offence may be the best this league has ever seen. You'll need 20 to beat us."
Which brings us to the 2023 Damascus Squad which consists of:
Ali Chaudhry - GM of the 2022 Champions & future 2023 Champions. Good with both glove and bat. (Career High Average (CHA) 0.705)
Omer Chaudhry - 2-Way player who has had the top 3 average all 3 years in the league. Over 0.700 AVG all 3 years (Career AVG 0.723)
Miqdad Jaffer- Elite pitcher who brings knowledge and experience. Great 2-way player (CHA of 0.759) (highest among all active pitchers)
Omar Khattab - One of the leaders of the 2022 DMC Champs, Power hitter who is also a great OF. (CHA 0.621)
Rameez Siddiqi - 2022 Batting Title. Acquired through trade and looks to bring his experience and offensive abilities. (CHA 0.733)
Khizer Channa - Former GM who brings knowledge and experience. No added GM duties so he'll look to have a career year. (CHA 0.650)
Raza Zahur - BSL Nights rookie. Athletic and will be an integral part of the outfield. Contender for rookie of the year. (BSL 2022 OBP 0.622)
Hatf Sohail - 2020 playoff MVP & Champ. Great fielder who looks to improve on his 2022 season with both glove and bat. (CHA 0.605)
Adnan Yusuf - Key piece to the DMC 2022 championship roster. Career highs across the board in 2022 and looks to carry that. Can play IF or OF. (CHA 0.534)
Saad Hasnain - Former all star with multiple years of 0.600+ avg. Injury plagued 2022 (season cut short). Comeback player of the year candidate. (CHA 0.611)
Umair Ashraf - Has made consistent YoY improvements. Will continue to improve with both glove and bat. Lays his body on the line to make the play. (2021 OBP 0.514)
Arsalaan Abdullah - Former gold glove. Fantastic glove who will be working on improving his bat this season (2021 OBP 0.550)
This looks to be yet another competitive Damascus Squad. They do not have a single hole defensively as the entire team is sound with the glove. On the offensive side they look to be at the top of the league and repeat as champions.
Medina looks for revenge in 2023 having lost in the finals in 2022. As is customary to Medina teams in years past, GM Mohamed Kala and Medina are relying heavily on experience and familiarly. With the 3rd overall pick, Medina went with consistency and perennial BSL MVP-candidate Ahmed Ammad. With the next pick, Medina took a calculated risk and drafted an experienced player in Mohamed Kadva. There are rumours he has the potential to be a top-8 pick, and Medina is relying on these rumours to be true. Kala is hopeful that Kadva will excel playing on a team with three other players from the Gujarati community. Kala rounded out his top-3 selections by drafting long-term Medina legend, Zahid Merchant to man shortstop. With the 4th and 5th selections, Medina drafted speedsters Zain Khilji and Taha Durrani to round out the outfield, and add to an explosive outfield already comprising of Ammad and Kadva. Medina will look to small ball teams to exhaustion on the big fields, and smash them to death on the smaller fielders. With the 6th pick in the draft, Medina opted for wily 3B Fahad Panchbhaya, who possess a mean glove, and solid base hitting. With the 8th pick, Medina opted for multiple award winner and two-time championship, Tanseer Khawaja, to take Medina back to the promise land after leading Medina to its only championship in the league's inaugural season. Rounding out the team with the 9th to 12th picks, are Amir Khalil, who provides a good bat and glove as an insurance policy, Aftab Sheikh, who is underrated at 2B, Waseem Kala, a man who has potential to do significant damage with his bat and is happy to play catcher, and Arif Iqbal, who has been struggling with injuries the past few seasons, but has the upside to be a significant contributor. Medina will look to return to the finals in 2023 and win the title that has alluded the team since 2018.
A new Era for Lahore is born as GM Aftab Sheikh bids his fair well as GM and welcomes another experienced GM in Bilal Javed. We thank/appreciate Aftab for all his contributions since the inception of BSLN but its time to pass on the torch and start a new era in Lahore. With the keys in his hands, Bilal Javeds first order of business was to hit Lahore Tikka house for karahi chicken and plan out his draft over some karakh chai. Lahore started off by snatching one of the best Short stops in the league in Abdul Rahim Manjra. Manjra had an incredible season last year and is arguably a top 2 SS in the league. Combine that with his batting/speed and you’ve got an all star! With their next pick Bilal reunited with him long time friend/all star Yousaf Chaudhry who brings a heavy bat, and is a rock solid in the outfield. When healthy, he can help lead this team in a big way. Lahore filled out their roster over the next few rounds with guys like Isfan Prebtani, Umair Sheikh, Emad Ahmed and Amir Multani. Isfan, who was welcomed from league 2 is expected to carry a big chunk of the offensive and defensive load for Lahore. Umair Sheikh brings a big bat and stability to the lineup while Emad will contribute with his speed and a solid glove in the outfield. Amir Multani is new to the league but based on rumours, this man can ball! Ahmed Butt and Akif Waheed were the next 2 guys up. Ahmed is a gold glover and provides a stable bat while Akif provides some good power up the middle and will be one of the leaders on this stacked Lahore squad. Jav Ahmed fell quite a bit in this draft is he is recovering from an injury but he is determined to get back on the field and some think that he will take his game to the next level as he has lost a ton of weight and is looking sharp out there! I think Lahore gets a big steal this late in the draft which gives them a lot of depth. Dr. Ali Furqan is entering his 3rd year in the league and although he has some ways to go on defense, his batting is impressive. He is a 500 batter and he hits the ball hard. With some guidance from some of Lahore’s vets, he can have a career year! Last but not least, Khawar Anwar who seems like he just cruises in the regular season but come playoff time, this man is a menace! He’s back playing with his boys and should have a great season! Lahore seems to have a deep lineup and will look to start off strong. Can Bilal help turn Lahore’s fortune this year and help them make a deep playoff run? Their lineup certainly suggests it but we wont know until these guys hit the field.
Coming off a disappointing season in which they missed the playoffs, GM Taqi Ahmed wants to turn things around this season, however, some say he is in a contract year, make playoffs or booted off the GM committee. Though, with a solid roster of seasoned veterans and fresh talent from, this team might just do the impossible. Istanbul enters the season with a strong foundation, led by a core group, gold glove SS Usama Mahmood, stud OF Hassan Chaudhry and new to the league Ahad Bhatti (rumour has it he can clear 300ft with ease and has nasty pitches) Their chemistry and deep understanding of each other's strengths will be the backbone of their success. However, what sets this team apart is their ability to combine experience and leadership. Taqi had drafted batting title winner Rameez Siddiqi but quickly traded him away for Adeel Alam to help solidify their outfield. Will this move prove to be costly for Istanbul, we’ll have to wait to find out! Rounding out the roster, Istanbul brings in veteran Shamil Khadaroo, Mahmood Qasim, Fuzail Thakur, Kamil Siddiqui, Asim Waheed and newcomers to the league Suhail Taji, Umar Rashid. With a well-balanced blend of experienced players and talented draft picks, Istanbul possesses all the ingredients for a successful season. As the season unfolds, fans of wOBA eagerly await the team's journey towards their full potential, ready to witness their triumphs on the field. If all else fails, at least they have WOBA.