The Flatlanders are ready for the new season!

(Analysis contributed by bobcat_grad)
COLUMBUS, OH - It's been a long trek for the Flatlanders since taking over a troubled franchise six seasons ago Columbus organization seem poised to take the next step.When the former Chicago Cruisers was purchased by the Columbus ownership group, the team had just wrapped up a miserable 65 win season despite $97 million dollar payroll. Much of that money was wrapped up in aging players with very little talent in the farm system. The new general manager, Bob Catgrad, made the decision to cut the player payroll and invest heavily in scouting, pursuing international players and the annual amateur draft. Catgrad said, "Initially, we didn't have much to work with. We knew it was going to be a rough couple of years, so we just dug in a weathered the storm."

Catgrad made some significant trades in his first two seasons as the Flatlanders GM, shedding salary and brining in young prospects.
Randy Bailey and perrenial MVP candidate Tony Devereaux were brought into the organization while the big contracts were sent packing. Recognizing the amount of talent around the globe, the Flatlanders made investments in players like current left-fielder Denny Lo early on, but the core of the current roster was built through the domestic draft. Current ace of the staff, Jackie Little, was the first pick in the draft made by Catgrad and has turned into an anchor for the young Flatlander staff. Rick Boswell emerged as a good offensive second basemen last year, pushing veteran Mike Webb out of the lineup, and starts this season penciled in as the starter. The young phenom, Marty Boyer, made the leap at age 19 from Rookie league to the majors and is coming off a 29 save season posting a 2.08 ERA. At only 22 years of age, the Flatlanders look to have their closer situation settled for the next decade. The investment in youth and building from within began to pay off two seasons ago when the Flatlanders won 91 games, made a late run at the wild card, but ended up losing in the second round to division rival Portland. Last year, the team fell short of the postseason by one game and the front office felt the lack of veteran leadership may have hampered the team's performance. A late trade by Catgrad tried to address this need, but the addition of Howie Buckley did not turn out well as Buckley hit .239 and with an OPS of .712 for the Flatlanders, well off his career numbers of .293 and .918. "Who would have expected Howie to struggle so much here?" said Catgrad. "I don't think he did, and I certainly didn't."

Looking to improve his club's chances this year, Catgrad has already made the first big move of the offseason by trading some of the young prospects he's stockpiled for two proven players.
Harry Moya and Tony Delgado come over from Salem, and will be counted on to shore up right field and the starting rotation. The Flatlanders are reportedly also shopping for a center fielder, opting to not tender Ozzie Howell an offer. Catgrad is looking forward to spring training, saying "I feel confident with the moves we've made that this team can contend for our division this year. Portland has set a high bar for us, but we are going to do our best to reach it."

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