Making predictions is an area of caution for independent-league managers, who deal with frequent roster changes that often come without much warning.
But Camden Riversharks manager Joe Ferguson feels pretty confident that his team will hit well this season, which starts with their opener today against the host Long Island Ducks.
Returning Atlantic League batting champion Denny Abreu, the younger brother of former Phillie Bobby, should again provide a lot of offense coming off a season in which he batted .323. The Riversharks, whose home opener will be Tuesday against the York Revolution, also acquired former major-league catcher Ben Davis yesterday. Davis is a former Malvern Prep star.
"It's kind of hard enough when you know exactly who you're going to have for what part of the year and how long you're going to have them to have any kind of expectations," said Ferguson, who played 14 seasons in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros and California Angels.
Ferguson is new to the Riversharks this season. He previously was a minor-league instructor in the San Diego Padres organization.
"I'm pretty sure this club offensively is going to score," Ferguson said. "That's important in this league because it is an offensive league."
Abreu, an outfielder, hit 15 home runs with 56 RBIs in Camden's 33-30 campaign last season.
First baseman Angel Peña should also produce, having batted .343 in Mexico last season.
Davis underwent elbow-reconstruction surgery and played in the Yankees' minor-league system last season.
Now he is aiming to prove his arm is fine and help the Riversharks win.
"My expectations are just to go out and show I'm healthy again," Davis said. "Last year, I wasn't able to play till the end of June. I wasn't able to play the way I wanted to. . . . I'm 100 percent now."
He played for the Padres from 1998 to 2001, before stints with the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.
Davis knows he will receive strong fan support in Camden, which is just across the river from where he grew up. He commutes from West Chester.
"It's nice to live at home," he said. "It'll be fun. Just getting back to playing will be nice. Playing locally, it'll be nice to have my family around."
With such strong hitters in the Atlantic League, pitching is at a premium.
The Riversharks hope that Temple graduate Greg Powell, who went to Council Rock High, will be their ace.
Powell, a righthander, had a 3.78 ERA with Camden last season. He said he has worked on his curveball to help complement his sinker this season.
"I'd like to be more consistent strike-wise," he said.
Ryan Costello, a lefty who is also from Philadelphia, will start in tonight's opener. He posted a 3.62 ERA last season with the Riversharks.
Powell was a little more assertive than his manager in stating expectations for the team.
"I expect a good season," he said. "I expect us to be in playoff contention and win a championship. I've been in pro ball for seven years and haven't been a championship yet.
"I'd like to get one."