This is a group of players who were largely forgotten in 2008, whether due to injury, poor play or bad luck. Look for each of these players to have a resurgence in 2009
Chris Ray, Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles: We last saw Ray as the closer for Baltimore in 2007. After saving 33 games in 2006, Ray's '07 season was cut short by elbow surgery. This surgery also cause Ray to miss the entire 2008 season. While George Sherrill has the closer role in Baltimore under wraps, look for Ray to thrive in the bullpen in a set-up role in 2009
Jeremy Sowers, Pitcher, Cleveland Indians: Once a mega-prospect for the Indians, Sowers has failed to make a big impact on the major league level. Sowers made his big league debut in 2006, when he looked like future star. Unfortunately, poor play removed Sowers from Cleveland's rotation and saw him bounce between the majors and triple A.
While Sowers struggled after his midseason call-up in 2008, look for him to be a big part of the Indians' rotation in 2009. The departure of Sabathia and the inconsistency of Carmona will force the Indians' to rely on Sowers.
Chris Capuano, Pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers: Only a couple of years ago, Capuano was considered to be one of the premier pitchers in baseball. He put up 18 wins in 2005 and followed that with another productive year in 2006. Capuano fell apart in 2007, as his ERA inflated to 5.10 and he missed the entire 2008 season.
With the departure of Sabathia and Sheets and the inevitable inconsistency of Manny Parra and Yovani Gallardo, Capuano may be asked to perform a big role in the Brewers rotation.
Anthony Reyes, Pitcher, Cleveland Indians: Reyes was once a big time prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Unfortunately Reyes was never able to translate minor league dominance into big league success and the Cardinals gave up on him. However Reyes seemed to finally put it together and become rejuvinated in the Indians uniform. In his six starts to end the year with Indians, Reyes posted a 1.83.
Reyes, like Sowers, will be relied upon to provide the Indians with some stability in the back of the rotation
Travis Buck, Outfielder, Oakland Athletics: Entering the 2007 season, top prospect Buck looked poised to become a fixture in the Oakland A's outfield. Unfortunately poor play saw Buck return to triple A quickly. 2008 marked another inconsistent year for Buck, as he struggled in 38 games with the A's. Despite all of this, the A's really want Buck to succeed and he should get the nod on opening day in left field.
Russell Branyan, Designated Hitter, Seattle Mariners: With seasons of 20 and 24 home runs in 2001 and 2002 a distant memory, it seemed that Branyan's career was coming to an end in 2007. However he had a come back season in 2008 with Milwaukee, hitting 12 home runs in only 50 games, earning him one last shot, with the Seattle Mariners.
Branyan should have the DH job, as long as he performs well. Look for Branyan and Seattle's offense to surprise some people this year.
Sean Burnett, Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates: Burnett is probably the least recognizable name on this list. However Burnett was once the 19th overall pick in the 2000 draft. In 2004, Burnett looked poised to become a young star, but surgery caused him to miss the entire 2005 season. Arm problems and poor performance plagued Burnett's 2006 and 2007 seasons.
But a strong spring training in 2008 gave way to Burnett performing very well in the Pirates bullpen. Look for the Pirates to enhance Burnett's role in 2009 as he becomes a lefty specialist.
Kason Gabbard, Pitcher, Texas Rangers: Gabbard was the key piece acquired from the Red Sox in the Eric Gagne deal in 2007. While Gabbard ended that year well, he disappeared in 2008. Gabbard struggled to start the year, and left elbow problems forced him to miss most of the season. With the Rangers rotation in a state of flux while they wait for Feliz, Main and Beavan to reach the majors, Gabbard will be expected to take on a significant role.
Dallas McPherson, Third Base, Florida Marlins: Once a top prospect for the Angels, McPherson fell out of favor after years underachieving. McPherson was given a second chance by the Marlins when they signed him to a minor league contract. McPherson exceeded all expectation in triple A, hitting 42 home runs, leading the minor league.
With the departure of Mike Jacobs and Josh Willingham, the Marlins have several open spots on their roster and they will give McPherson every opportunity to duplicate those minor league numbers.
Anderson Hernandez, Second Base, Washington Nationals: Hernandez was once considered to be the second baseman of the future for the Mets. Unfortunately Hernandez was never able grab hold in New York and wound up in Washington in 2008.
Hernandez was called up late in the season and posted a .333 average in 28 games. With no real competition at second base for 2009 (sorry Belliard fans) Hernandez should surprise some people with his performance.
Noah Lowry, Pitcher, San Francisco Giants: Lowry was a picture of consistency for the Giants from 2005-2007, but a left forearm injury caused him to miss the entire 2008 season. With the emergence of Lincecum and the constant circus that surrounds Zito, Lowry has gone overlooked.
Lowry has been one of the most underrated players in baseball for years and he should come back fully healthy. With Lowry bringing stability to the back of the rotation, the Giants should have the best rotation in baseball.