Team Istanbul comes into the inaugural season of BSL Nights with a lot of potential and promise and is led by GM Zain “One Direction” Malik. Zain has been passed over as GM in the Sunday BSL league and will use BSL Nights as his coming out party to BSL management. Unlike other teams in the league, Zain opted not to select a bigger bat as his AGM but instead went the defensive route and selecting a pitcher and former BSL teammate Riyad Ramjaun. Riyad has had a steady BSL career but will look to take his pitching skills to the next level in BSL Nights and cement himself as one of the best. Unfortunately, things did not start off great as team Istanbul were awarded the last pick in the draft; to further add salt to the wound, Riyad’s car broke down on the way to the draft while Zain had to draft without his AGM.
Draft Analysis: Istanbul chose to go the familiar route and drafted friends and family for most of the draft, hoping that team chemistry and comradery will give them that advantage over others. Not wasting any time, Istanbul quickly added 2 big veteran bats in WK and Imran Qureshi with their top 2 picks. WK is coming off a championship season in which he also picked up a gold glove and a playoff MVP and will hope to continue that trend of dominance. In a surprising move, Istanbul selected All-Star pitcher Zia Beg in the 5th round. While most were left confused given the team already had an established pitcher, Istanbul in turn traded Zia Beg & Neal Irfan for power hitter Baseer Yaseen & Zaki Bhatti. Baseer will look to rebound from an off year in BSL while Zaki will shore up Istanbul’s infield.
Strengths/Weaknesses: Unlike other teams, Istanbul will rely on small ball and defense to win games. Zain’s older brother Hamid Malik joins BSL Nights after playing years of softball in other leagues and will be the anchor in the OF while the IF hosts multiple players who can play multiple positions. On paper, Istanbul does not look like a power hitting team, but solid on base percentage will be the keys to success especially in front of big hitters WK, Baseer & Imran Q. The biggest question will be how the lower part of the batting order will perform and if they can provide solid OBP.
X Factors: Jav “The Mechanic” Ahmed, joined BSL in its inaugural year and was a .500 hitter until he suffered a torn labrum injury. After taking a year off and rehabbing, he returned last year to post another solid hitting season and if he can continue to build on that return, he could turn out to be a steal in the 3rd round. Saoud Ramjaun could also be a huge x-factor. Often drafted in the later rounds, there are rumblings that he is fed up and is willing to put in the work in turning his stock around.
Rumors: Istanbul is full of BSL veterans and is relying on this experience to not practice. The team's management is channeling their inner Allen Iverson and only talks about practice without actually practicing. According to confidential team sources, GM Zain Malik is too busy conducting surveys for Iftaar places a la Steve Harvey instead of putting together a team practice. In other rumours, Zayd Ramjaun is in an interesting position this season. Although he has played most of his career in RF and C, there are some murmurs he’s been working with older cousin Riyad in developing his pitching skills. This would add another element to Istanbul’s defense if Riyad’s glove can be used elsewhere while Zayd takes the mound. The team covets the versatility of Asad Moten to solidify their outfield, but the rumoured asking price was Waseem Kala. In the end, Malik took a survey to decide whether to pull the trigger on the trade, but the survey said "don't do it".
GM Aftab Sheikhs thoughts on team Istanbul: "GM Zain has put together a well cohesive group of friends and relatives. Istanbul team cohesiveness will be second to none in the league. We’ll need to keep a close eye on Waseem Kala and Imran Quershi who can change any game with one swing of the bat."