The local baseball landscape has changed a bit from last year, as the city lost one program this season and plenty of talent.
Bellarmine-Jefferson High, which had been the most successful baseball program in the city for years, will not field a team this season. Last year under Marty Marquardt, in his only year at the helm, the Guards went 5-18 and didn't make the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Only two years prior, Bell-Jeff had continued a string of nine straight postseason appearances under former coach Hector Perez.
With one less team, Burroughs, Burbank and Providence have all begun the season with lineups filled with talented returners and promising newcomers.
A change at Burroughs this season is the program has a new coach in Craig Sherwood, a local mainstay who was most recently an assistant at Burbank.
Surprisingly, the Indians and Bulldogs don't have a single returning all-league player among them.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they went 18-9 and 12-2 in the Pacific League to tie for the championship with Crescenta Valley. It was the program's first league title since 1991 when it was a member of the Foothill League.
However, this year's installment of the Bulldogs might look vastly different than the 2013 product. That's because Burbank lost a whopping 14 seniors to graduation.
"With that many graduating seniors, we are kind of starting from scratch a little bit," said Burbank Coach Bob Hart, whose team fell in the first round of the Division II playoffs last season to Dos Pueblos, 6-1. "We look for production and we gave these guys a lot of time in the offseason and kind of charted them out in order to take the guess work out of it.
"So despite the fact we lost so many guys and we have a lot of holes to fill, at this point we're pretty solid in our lineup and guys have accepted their roles."
Although a good number of players on this year's squad were not on varsity a year ago, Hart said many were playing at the lower divisions and are aware of the standard set with last year's league title team.
"It goes to a program approach rather than an individual approach," said Hart, who will have three quality freshmen on the roster. "They are aware of what we were able to do as a program last year and they tend to buy in a little more. We have developed continuity in the program and we're hoping that will carry over."
One of the key returners for the Bulldogs this season is senior catcher Sam McKinnon, who, along with brother Ian, took part in the 19th World Maccabiah Games in Israel in July. McKinnon will be the captain of the team, and that is a significant honor because he is the first captain in Hart's nine years at the Burbank helm.
Two other key senior returning players are second baseman Camden Palmisano and infielder Alex Tarandek.
"Those three guys are really the meat and potatoes of our team in terms of leadership," Hart said. "They're all senior guys, they're all like 4.0 guys and they are individuals who are out there working hard and leading by example."
At third base will be freshman Alex Minnick, who will also pitch, junior Cameron Briggs will be at shortstop and be the team's closer, junior Randy Higgins will play at third and pitch, Ryan Porris, a junior who is currently injured, will pitch, and junior Chardler Robbins will play third base. Jake Noud, a junior transfer from Burroughs, will pitch and play third, junior Rory Roughtean will pitch, and sophomore Fischer Cabot, a transfer from Loyola, will be a utility player, as will juniors Connor Lockheimer and Reese Loock.
Freshmen who could see significant playing time are Danny Porras, who will pitch, play first and catch, Andy Reyes, an outfielder, pitcher and catcher and Brandon Phillips, who can play in the outfield or at third base.
In Pacific League competition, Hart says he is expecting nothing short of a dogfight.
"The usual suspects," Hart said. "I figure [Crescenta Valley] should be good and I think Craig's doing a good job over at Burroughs. I know Arcadia is going to be strong and Pasadena is well-coached. The league looks a little top heavy and I don't think there are going to be too many secrets."
The Indians are coming off a season in which they went 17-12, 10-4 in league to tie for third under coach Kiel Holmes, who stepped down following the 2013 season.
Sherwood inherits a team that includes a lot of inexperience. In last year's Division II playoffs, the Indians fell in the first round to Los Osos, 8-2.
"We have only three players on our team who have any kind of varsity experience at all," Sherwood said. "It is what it is and I'm not complaining about that. It just makes it tough in the beginning because there is just so much inexperience there.
"But I think we have some talented guys and if we are just able to get over those rough spots in the beginning we should be fine."
The three returners for the Indians are senior outfielder Cameron Rodriguez, junior outfielder Aiden Anding and senior third baseman Anthony Robles.
"We really have very little settled and guys will be competing for spots," Sherwood said. "We played a lot during the winter and I was really impressed with how our pitchers progressed and they did well."
Leading the group on the mound will be a transfer from Las Vegas, senior Cole Meyer.
"He is actually a submarine pitcher and he throws in the low 80s," Sherwood said. "He just has such good poise and I think he is someone who could make it and play at the next level in college."
Also seeing time at pitcher will be seniors Ben Hopson and Andrew Cano, as well as junior Danny Bustos.
At first base will be juniors Chris Peres and Noah Hoed, junior Max Haddad will be at second base, senior Dylan Bearegard will be at shortstop, junior Chris Brown will be at third base and juniors Tyler Lewis and Roy Hirota will see time at catcher. Joining Anding and Rodriguez in the outfield will be junior Anthony Bocanegra and junior Max DeAmicis, who will also be the team's closer.
"It's going to be tough in league again this year," Sherwood said. "You have to believe that Burbank is going to be strong. Their varsity not only won the league title last year but their JVs also won a league title. And of course Crescenta Valley is going to be strong because they have the great youth feeder system and they seem to get good kids every year. Also Pasadena and Arcadia are going to be good and I've even heard good things about Hoover being a little better.
"The league is going to be strong and I think we need to see a strong league."
The Pioneers' program has continued to grow under the direction of Steve Knez, who is in his fourth year. With a group of freshmen last season, Providence went 5-11 and 1-7 in the Liberty League and didn't qualify for the playoffs.
With a year under their belts, Knez is expecting those players, now sophomores, to step up and help the team enjoy success.
"We know we're going to be successful in a few years when these guys are juniors and seniors," said Knez, a Bell-Jeff graduate. "But as a team we came together and said forget this stuff about next year or the year after that, we want to win now. We think we have the talent to compete and be successful this year. We think that it's possible with the group that we have."
The Pioneers will field a young lineup that includes seven sophomores, one freshman and only one senior.
Despite the youth, Knez said his team is sticking to two goals: "Finish the season with a winning record and make the playoffs."
"The guys have put in a lot of extra effort this year and they have been working hard all through the winter," Knez said. "The great thing is all those players who were freshmen last year have baseball pedigrees. They are all baseball players. My previous teams didn't have that and we had guys who we just needed to fill up the roster."
The team is led by sophomore pitchers Sean Holt, who will also play first base, and Thomas Keller, who will also catch and play third base. Holt batted .500 last season with 45 runs batted in and Keller was batting .346 with nine RBI in nine games before he was sidelined with a season-ending injury.
Sophomore shortstop Dante Cano (.429 with 19 runs scored and 14 RBI) and sophomore transfer Jonathan Max, who will play at third and catch, should make significant contributions on offense and defense as well.
Senior Mason Inumerable (.386) is a key utility player and will hit clean-up.
"We are hoping that we will have the talent to compete in league," said Knez, whose team began the season this week with two straight wins. "I see no reason why we can't go 5-0 in [nonleague] games. I think we can do that."