2009 MLB Preview: Who Will Be This Year's Rays?

Joe M.Correspondent IIFebruary 21, 2009

I angered quite a few people, particularly opportunistic M's fans, when I posted this article with their team in it. I know no one likes to hear their team is out, but in some cases it is true.

I also know that Manny Ramirez and Orlando Cabrera still aren't signed, along with Juan Cruz, but I have kept that in mind with this year's standings. #=divison winner, WC=wild card.

  • The NL looks particularily weak outside of LA and Philly. Who is going to challenge from the Central? I think these two are far and away the leaders just like last year.

AL East

#Rays: 92-70 Deep starting rotation, solid bullpen, hitters = playoff team. This year they are the hunted, which could spell trouble if they are overconfident or unprepared for expectations.

WC Red Sox: 86-76 team got older-Smoltz, took chances on players-Baldelli, Penny in very low radar un Red $ox like moves. Makes you wonder ??????

Yankees: 84-78 Burnett? Meh, he'll be good until his usual May injury. How healthy is Wang? Outfield of Nady, no-arm Damon, and Matsui isn't getting any younger. Posada can't DH all the time. Whose the C going to be when he can't? Who replaces Abreu's 100 RBI on a team that "struggled to score runs?" Even if Sabathia gets 20 W that only equals Mussina last year. Still no pen.

Baltimore: 75-87 re-signed Roberts and Markakis in first good moves since 2003. Pitching from starting rotation to bullpen is still weak at best, but this team is finally on the right track with major leaguers at just about every fielding position for first time in a long time. Next year's Rays?

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Toronto: 69-93 AJ Burnett's 18W will be sorely missed. No Ted Rogers and weakening Canadian dollar made them inactive for most of off-season. Seem to be content with winning 80 games every year. Was Gaston's inspiring 51-37 team finish a mirage or sign of things to come? My guess the former.

AL Central

# Minnesota Twins: 88-74 every year people count them out and they win 85 games which may be enough to win this division. Good young rotation with most offensive stars locked up long term. They could also get RP Juan Cruz to shore up weakness in bullpen depth. Stay tuned.

WC Cleveland Indians-87-75 they finished 40-32 when fully healthy. Loaded with prospects. Only question is...who starts behind Lee and Carmona?

Kansas City Royals: 80-82 like Royals finally a major leaguer at all positions. Could still use a legit No. 1 and  No. 5 starter instead of a bunch of 2's and 3's but they are getting better.

Chicago White Sox: 78-84 lost Orlando Cabrera, Joe Crede, Javy Vasquez, Nick Swisher, Juan Uribe. Starting rotation looks thin, and suddenly, right side of infield does too.

Detroit Tigers: 73-89 only good move was getting pitcher Edwin Jackson but that cost them valuable depth in Matt Joyce. Old, veteran-laden team with big immovable contracts. Should be in for a long year.

AL West

#Los Angeles Angels: 98-64 lost Teixeira but replaced his bat perfectly with 100 RBI man himself in Bobby Abreu. Lost Garrett Anderson, but someone will step up. Reggie Willits? Solid, starting rotation. Fuentes for KRod will be a downgrade but they won't have to worry about close games all that much. Best regular season team money can buy.

Oakland A's: 82-80 yes once again the Angels will win the division comfortably, but the A's are coming along. Holliday and Giambi will mesh and if they get Orlando Cabrera suddenly the infield looks solid. Possible lack of pitching is a problem but if they beat up on the Rangers and Mariners as they should, they could make this closer than it appears.

Texas Rangers: 74-88 each year. This one-dimensional team is destined for mediocrity. Why would this year be any different? Who closes for this team? Not sealing the deal with Sheets who they should have at least took a chance on like they wanted to until he opted for surgery, will hurt. Still two starting pitchers short and three relievers as always. Hmmm.

Seattle Mariners: 62-100 Garrett Olsen is the only major deal they made. Sure they got 39 year old Ken Griffey Jr., but this ain't 1996. This was a desperate attempt by the front office to sell tickets to an otherwise horrible team with no depth. Lost 100 RBI man in Ibanez and didn't replace him at all. I see 3/5 of a rotation at best, and that's if Bedard feels like playing along.

NL East

# Philadelphia Phillies-95-67 Solid deep rotation, replaced Burrell capably with Ibanez. Smartly signed just about everyone under the sun to 3 year deals telling their fan base of their window and also keeping confidence in the team. Why didn't Shane Victorino get a three-year deal????

WC Florida Marlins: 86-76 could be the Rays of the NL and my pick for NL surprise team. Once again loaded with young talent. What else is new? RP Johnson comes back. I didn't like the Scott Olsen/Josh Willingham giveaway to the Nats, but every year they overachieve, so why would I doubt them now?

New York Mets: 84-78 Santana and who else? Was Maine the real deal? What about back end of rotation? OF is old outside of Beltran. Who plays LF? Tatis? 2b? They think they solved the September choking problem, but we won't really know until we play the games.

Atlanta Braves: 76-86 Got Lowe and Kawakami smartly but lost icon in Smoltz which will hurt. Also added 16-game loser in Javy Vazquez which I don't think is a good thing. What about the bullpen?

Washington Nationals: 69-93-adding Dunn was a start. Too bad it was the last move they made to date. They still need 3 starters, and 2-3 relievers just for pitching. Then they need a real CF/lead off man and an upgrade at 2b wouldn't hurt. Five years away at best.

NL Central

# Chicago Cubs: 97-65 will win the division but lose in the playoffs like they have for the past 100 years. Why would this year be "the year?" Milton Bradley is a headcase and they didn't get Peavy. Should have more than enough to win the division by fattening up on the bottom teams.

St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77 lost Looper but added Khalil Greene. Too bad that was about it. Good thing they don't need much more help and this division is so bad. Who will pitching coach Dave Duncan find as this year's Kyle Lohse reclamation project and turn into a front line starter? You know someone will come out of the woodwork, they always do, and that along with Manager Tony La Russa, is what keeps them here.

Cincinnati Reds: 83-79 if Arroyo and Harang can bounce back along with young studs in Cueto and Volquez, it could be a fun year with the Reds in contention but what are the chances all that happens at the same time? Should have done the Dye for Homer Bailey deal while it was on the table. Loss of Dunn will hurt and Hernandez's bat can't make up for that.

Milwaukee Brewers: 80-82 Added Looper, but he won't replace Sabathia and Sheets let alone one or the other. Still they have plenty of hitting to stick around for a few months, but let's be serious. When the trade deadline comes, they won't be around to do anything, thus that is why they are out before the season even begins.

Houston Astros: 79-83 what FA moves did they make? They lost one of their best run producers in Ty Wigginton to the lowly O's which should tell you something. Are they going to have Tejada or not? If not, they are done right there. If they do, they may survive May. Weak rotation and pen. Old team.  

Pittsburgh Pirates: 65-95 They've missed the playoffs every year since 1992 so why should I move them up until they can prove to me they can not only draft a player but actually develop him and get him to the majors without trading him. (Nady, Bay) and yes, I know neither were Pirates draft picks. Who do they sell off @ the deadline this year? Stay tuned for this AAA team for the other 29 big league clubs.

NL West

# Los Angeles Dodgers: 92-70 if they keep Manny they win the division big, if they don't they'll have to work at it a bit more (unless he goes to the Giants, then I give it to them). Adding Orlando Hudson was smart, and they jettisoned Andruw Jones which opens up more AB's for their young corps.

San Francisco Giants: 84-78 even though I can't name 3/4 of their infield, I can name Randy Johnson, Barry Zito, ace Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain in their rotation. Mix in Noah Lowry somewhere and they are deep. Good mix of young (Rowand) with old (Roberts).

Arizona Diamondbacks: 77-85 Lost Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, Brandon Lyon, Randy Johnson, and likely Juan Cruz. Didn't trade them for anyone. A lot of kids will have to really step up to offset the loses. Some will (Tracy, Snyder), but some won't. Likely more of the latter.

Colorado Rockies: 72-90 no Greg Reynolds all year. Lost Holliday and Tavares. Who will replace them? Rotation looks young. How long can they count on Huston Street being around?

San Diego Padres: 59-101 Who starts behind Peavy? Maddux is gone, as is Khalil Greene. OF is old with no power. Who is their starting 2b? Eckstein? He doesn't have the cast in LA or St Louis to make him look better than he really is. Who is the closer now that legend Hoffman is gone?

Awards-AL ROY-David Price Rays runner up: Matt Weiters, Orioles

          NL ROY-someone on the Marlins-OF Cameron Maybin?

          AL Manager of the Year-Ron Gardenhire-Twins, runner up Trey Hillman-KC

          NL Manager of the Year-Fredi Gonzalez-Marlins, runner up-Torre LAD Bochy if Manny goes to San Francisco

          AL CY Young-Scott Baker, Twins, runner up James Shields, Rays

          NL CY Young-Tim Lincecum-Giants, runner up Brandon Webb D-backs

          AL MVP Justin Morneau-Twins, runner up-Mark Teixeira NYY

          NL MVP-Manny Ramirez-Dodgers, runner up Ryan Howard, Phillies

          Managers to get fired-Ozzie Guillen, White Sox; Jim Leyland, Tigers; Ron Washington, Rangers; Arizona Diamondbacks, Bob Melvin; San Diego Padres, Bud Black; and Washington Nationals, Manny Acta.

Teams to come out of nowhere-Kansas City, AL and Florida NL

Playoffs AL

Divisional round: Angels over Indians (WC) in 5

Rays over Twins in 4

Playoffs NL

Divisional Round: Phillies over Dodgers in 4

Marlins over Cubs in 4

ALCS: Rays over Angels in 5

NLCS: Phillies over Marlins in 4

World Series: Phillies over Rays in 6

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