Diamondbacks and Indians: Two Teams With a Chance to Be This Year's Rays

Nick Carlo@@carlo2612Analyst IIFebruary 9, 2010

PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 23:  Mark Reynolds #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats during the major league baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on September 23, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 5-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In 2008, one of the biggest surprises overcame MLB and its fans. The Tampa Bay Rays had been one of the worst teams in the MLB for some time. It seemed that they were a always a lock to be the cellar dwellers in the AL East. 

Everyone but the Rays expected them to have a less than stellar season. Other than the Rays and their fans, no one really believed that they were capable of doing what they did. 

The Rays went into the 2008 season with a talented young team. They were also pretty confident in themselves. Their new manager Joe Maddon saw a lot of potential in his team. The Rays knew that they were going to compete, and they didn't turn out to be crazy.

The Rays went on to surprise the nation, and win the American League East. They placed above the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. That is absolutely no easy feat to accomplish, but the Rays did it. 

The 2008 Rays have been compared to the 1969 Mets a lot. They both have pretty much the same story, but the Mets fairytale season would end just a little better.

They defeated the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series. The Rays also put on a show in the postseason. They looked stronger than ever and made their way to the grandest stage in baseball, the World Series.

They played the Philadelphia Phillies and eventually lost to them in a tough fought battle. One thing is certain though, the Rays surprised a whole lot of people with their fantastic run. 

These types of things don't happen a lot. That's why they are so special when they do happen. I am going to name a few teams that I think have a shot to surprise a lot of people.


Arizona Diamondbacks

The D-Backs had a very tough season last year. Big things were expected for them, but not many things went their way. The Diamondbacks are a very young team, and young teams tend to be unpredictable. Many things have to go right, and the young players have to keep their composure. That is easier said than done. 

Arizona just has too much talent not to contend. They have great pitching with Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Edwin Jackson topping the rotation. That is one very nice rotation. 

Those are three guys that give their team a chance to win every day they take the mound. If Webb can stay healthy this year, then I think that the Diamondbacks' rotation will be among the best. Their bullpen is average, but if their starters give a lot of quality starts, then that the bullpens' job will be fairly easy.

Arizona's pitching is not their biggest question going into the season. Their offense and defense are going to be crucial parts to the teams success. 

The D-Backs have a very talented, but young lineup. If these kids could play at the top of their game, I see them as huge contenders in the NL West. Defense is always tough for young players. Mental mistakes are very common, and when you have a team full of young players, mental mistakes could happen often. 

I think if Mark Reynolds' great defense and attitude can rub off on this team, then their defense should be fine, and they will be contenders.


Cleveland Indians

Many had high hopes for the Indians last year. It seemed that they had just enough to compete in the AL Central. That was not the case. The Tribe got off to a terrible start to the year and things didn't change. A lot of their players didn't perform up to their potential. 

Cleveland bid farewell to their ace, Cliff Leem last year during the trade deadline. Lee won the AL Cy Young in 2008, and it looked like he was going to be a big part of the Indians for some time. That's not how it worked out. He was traded to the Phillies for some very good prospects. 

Some people don't think that the Indians can compete without Lee, but I disagree. The Indians will have Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona top out their rotation this year.  I think that both of those players have the potential to be very good. 

Carmona is the one that excites me a little bit more. 

Carmona impressed everyone with his 19-win season in 2007, but things went downhill from there. He spent 2008 and 2009 trying to regain his form, but that didn't happen.  Carmona has been struggling, but everyone knows that he still has the talent to get 19 wins. He is fairly young, and has good stuff. 

If he can get a hold of himself, then I think he will act as a very good ace for The Tribe. The Indians have an above average bullpen, and I think it should perform very well in 2010.

The Indians have a lot of great players on offense, but two of their biggest guys didn't show up last year. 

Both Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner had down years last year. When those two are at their best, they can be one of the best duos in all of baseball. I have a strong feeling that if those two players can get back to their old selves, then the Indians will compete. 

The American League Central is going to be a close division, and the Indians have the talent to steal the spotlight in 2010.