Texas Ranger fans, I know you hate to hear me say it, but the team has begun the 2009 campaign.
There are many signs that can point to this becoming a reality.
The injuries to Ian Kinsler, David Murphy, and Milton Bradley. Can't say Hank here, because we were playing great ball while he was on the DL.
You could look at the recent struggles the team had, where at one point they lost 9 out of 12 games.
Another could be a 66-70 record and currently 17 games behind the AL West leading Angels.
Next you could look at the fact that the Rangers today are 13 games out of the wild card.
All these are signs that when they occur to a team, you are forced to dip into your young talent to try and stay in the playoff hunt.
The Rangers have dip into that deep pool of young talent, their only problem is that they are chasing the Angels, the 82-52 Angels.
So do you throw in the towel and give up on the year. NO, of course not, unless your a Cowboy fan that was just watching baseball till the NFL season started. If that is you, go ahead and leave, Jerry Jones is currently taking your money.
As for those who are sticking it out with the Rangers, here are a few things you can watch for the rest of the season.
Michael Young's bid for six straight seasons with 200+ hits. Young currently sits with 158 hits, and its going to be tough for him to get 200, but I would never count the guy out. He is looking to become the first player in MLB history to record six consecutive seasons of 200+ hits.
2009 starting catcher auditions have already begun. The workhorse and the guy that always seems to win the job Gerald Laird is going to have a tough battle, and it's already started. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been struggling with the catcher duties and hitting, but over the past couple weeks seems to be figuring it out. After their performances earlier this season, its going to be tough to keep Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez down.
2009 starting rotation. Team president Nolan Ryan has already said that the team is going to need a legit #1 starter in the off-season. Assuming that he convinces Tom Hicks of this, then the battle for the next four spots should be fierce.
If he is not traded, Kevin Millwood will likely be #2, and Vicente Padilla will be your number three starter. Two spots remaining.
Bring in Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison (pictured above), Dustin Nippert, Luis Mendoza, Kason Gabbard, Jason Jennings, Eric Hurley, and Doug Mathis.
This is all assuming that pitchers like Thomas Diamond, Tommy Hunter, Neftali Feliz, and Derek Holland aren't quite ready for the Majors next season.
Right now the two leading horses for the final two spots would have to be Scott Feldman and Matt Harrison.
Nippert and Hurley have showed some good upside throughout the season. When healthy Gabbard looked like a regular rotation pitcher.
The trial of Jennings seemed to be a failure and will likely continue to be, unless he can find something over the next few months.
Mendoza and Mathis's future are likely going to be in the bullpen as long relievers or possibly make the switch to a 7th or 8th inning pitcher.
2009 Defensive Starters. Already talked about the battle for the starting catcher. At first base the Rangers will have the option of moving Chris Davis back there, or going out and getting a legitimate first baseman. This all depends on what the Rangers intend to do with Hank Blalock, Hank has a team option worth $6.2 million and it's likely the team won't pick it up.
If they don't, then Davis might return to first and the Rangers could use either Ramon Vazquez, Travis Metcalf, German Duran, or Johnny Whittleman.
Up the middle the Rangers are set as any team in all of baseball, with Ian Kinsler and Michael Young.
Right now Joaquin Arias is getting to show his stuff while Kinsler is still on the DL. Arias has shown that he can play second, short, and even been trying him out in centerfield.
The infield situation could get a little interesting if the Rangers attempt to try out Arias at the hot corner.
Don't know about you, but I'd be perfectly fine with an infield of Davis, Kinsler, Young, and Arias.
In the outfield the Rangers will have Josh Hamilton in centerfield and sometimes in right field. As for the other outfield positions, the Rangers have David Murphy, Marlon Byrd, Brandon Boggs, and now Nelson Cruz contending for spots.
It would be hard to see the Rangers not put Murphy back as a regular in the outfield at left and right.
Depending on how Cruz hits the rest of the season and the off-season, the odd man out again might be Byrd. But Byrd will more than likely be on the Major league team, considering that the Rangers will need another centerfielder to back-up Hamilton.
All five of these outfielders will be on the Rangers 25-man roster, if the team doesn't resign and bring back Milton Bradley, which two months ago I didn't think we would do, but now I'm not sure.
2009 Lineup. Assuming that the starting positions will be: C - Laird, 1B - Davis, 2B - Kinsler, SS - Young, 3B - Vazquez, LF - Murphy, CF - Hamilton, RF - Cruz, and DH - Bradley.
If this is the everyday defensive lineup that Ron Washington goes with, then a potential batting lineup could be: Kinsler, Young, Hamilton, Bradley, Davis, Cruz, Murphy, Laird, Vazquez.
Coming off the bench: Byrd, Arias, Salty, Metcalf, and Boggs.
This is still kind of early to be making these predictions, but since the team is starting to play for the future, why not look at what the future make-up could be.
But as always, auditions are never closed when it comes to Ranger players.