Major League Baseball’s Poor Keep Getting Richer Part 2
Tampa Bay Rays (2009 Record: 84-78, 3rd in AL East)
The Rays experienced somewhat of a letdown in 2009 after making it to the World Series in 08'. The Rays are simply too talented and too young to be a "flash in the pan". Evan Longoria is not only one of the game's best young players, he's also one of the best players in baseball period. It also doesn't hurt to have Joe Maddon, one of the game's best managers.
What is the definition of "Hell"? It's being in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox! Not to mention teams like the Oriolesand Blue Jays who have been known to spend some money on occasion. Yet, neither the Yankees or Red Sox can match the long-term upside of the Rays. I don't think it's the Red Sox that are standing in the Rays way, it's their pitching staff. The Rays only need to finish 2nd to make the playoffs in the tough AL East. Right now, the Red Sox are in desperate need of a Super Star and I think there's a solid chance they'll be the odd team out this year.
- Evan Longoria, 24, 3B-Longoria is to the Rays what Joe Mauer is to the Twins. He's the type of player you plug into the 3rd spot of your batting order and never look back. He's also one of the best fielders in baseball.
- Carl Crawford, 28, LF-Crawford is the "Hamburgler" of Base Stealing. He might be the best we've seen since Rickey Henderson and Baseball's only hope of seeing someone steal 100 bases again. Last season he set a career high in walks (51) and OBP (.364), if he can continue to demonstrate patience, he has a chance to get considerably better. Which is saying a lot for a player who is already an All-Star caliber talent.
- B.J. Upton, 25, OF- Upton is coming off a terrible season (.241, 11 HR), but he's too talented to write off. What he needs to do is learn how to slow down and play in control. The reason "5 Tool Players" always seem to flop is because they play faster than the game of baseball, which by nature is a slow game based on patience.
- Carlos Pena, 31, 1B- He's never gonna be a .300 hitter, but he doesn't need to be. He's a team leader, scoups throws out of the dirt with his Golden Glove, and is one of the league's elite power hitters. Last season, injuries cost him the last month of the season, yet he still managed 39 Home Runs. Pena is also a hitter who seems to lock in when his team needs him most.
The Rays system is stacked and on the verge of cashing out another big time class. At the Major League level, the Rays biggest need is pitching, fortunately, they have some high quality young arms in their system, several of which are ready to contribute in 2010.
- Desmond Jennings, 23, OF- Scouts have called the athletic Jennings "Carl Crawford" with discipline. Jennings is considered to be the game's premiere "Lead-Off" prospect. Batting Jennings and Crawford in front of Longoria and Pena would give the Rays a "pick your poison" combo of speed and power that would present match-up nightmares for opposing teams.
- Wade Davis, 24, SP- There's plenty of power arms in the minors, what seperates Davis from the rest is his "Nolan Ryan" mentality. He's been described as a "tough as nails" competitor with a plus curve and an improving change up. The one thing the Rays Major League staff lacks is a leader, Davis could fill that void sooner than later.
- Jeremy Hellickson, 23, SP- Command and Control are two words that describe the crafty Right Hander. Perhaps Hellickson's best quality is his ability to pitch to his defense. The Rays are among the leagues best defensive teams. All to often Pitchers try to strike everyone out, which can put a defense in a precarious position.
- Matthew Moore, 21, SP- A lefty with lethal stuff. Moore is on the short list of prospects with "Ace" potential. The only concern scouts have with Moore is his control. He is several years away, but fortunately the Rays can afford to take their time.
- Tim Beckham, 20, SS- Finally, a Short Stop prospect that doesn't need to be moved to another position! The #1 Pick in the 2008 Draft has all the intagebles you love to see at one of the game's most demanding positions. His bat speed has been compared to Alphonso Soriano, it's a good thing his glove isn't. Beckham is several years away, but I think he's going to move up the Rays system a little faster than people think.
Others of Note:SP Kyle Lobstein, SS Reid Brignac, SP Alexander Colome, SP Jake McGee, SP Alex Torres
Florida Marlins (2009 Record: 87-75, 2nd in NL East)
It feels like we're overdue for another Marlins World Series run. To me, the Marlins are the most interesting team in baseball. Trying to explain the Marlins is impossible. At times, it seems like the Marlins have more talent than they know what to do with. They trade big time players like Miguel Cabrera and don't seem to miss a beat! This is an organization that has managed 2 World Series Championships since they came into the league in 1993.
At first glance, you think it's just dumb luck, but really, the Marlins are one of the best run organizations in baseball. Their strategy is un-conventional, as they constantly trade big time players for guys who end up being big time players. Granted, Josh Beckett was a big part of the Red Sox World Series success, but in 2010, they would gladly trade Josh Beckett back to the Marlins for Hanley Ramirez.
What's going to make this decade more intriguing for the Marlins is their new 515 Million Dollar Stadium which is set to open in 2012, which like the Twins, could allow them to hold onto their talent for once. The day the Marlins decide to be buyers instead of sellers is indeed a scary one for every team in baseball.
- Hanley Ramirez, 26, SS-Hanley is the on the short list of the game's best players. What's incredible is that he's putting up 90's steroids numbers at Short Stop without using steroids! Unfortunately, the Marlins will probably trade him to a big market team for king's ranson, but that doesn't mean he'll be leaving without a ring on his finger.
- Josh Johnson, 26, SP- Whether or not Josh Johnson is a staff ace is not up for discussion (he is), the only question is whether he can stay healthy. Josh Johnson is one baseball's most dominant Pithcers and he should only get better.
- Dan Uggla, 29, 2B- Uggla can be frusrating at times, as he strikes out far too much (150 in 09') and is known to go through some bad cold streaks. I always say, if your gonna strike out and go on slumps, at least get on base. Uggla walked 92 times last year and somehow managed a .354 OBP despite batting .243. The one things Uggla can do better than any 2nd baseman this side of Chase Utley is hit the ball out of the park and drive in runs. He's also a much better fielder than the All-Star Game would have you believe (the 3 error collapse a few years ago).
- Chris Coghlan, 24, OF-Coghlan is a bit of a mystery, last years NL Rookie of The Year hit .321 with a solid OBP. and 84 Runs scored, yet his 47 RBI's strike me as bit odd for a player with 504 at bats. In 2010, we should get a far better idea as to whether Coghlan is a star or an above average everyday outfielder.
- Michael Stanton, 20, OF-Hands down the best Power Hitting Prospect in the game. I would put him in the top 15-25 prospects in the game. He doesn however need to work on striking out less and learn how to use the whole field instead of just the bleachers. At 20, he's got time, it's on his side. There's no reason he can't figure it out and become an elite hitter instead of another Adam Dunn. Although, you can't be too dissapointed if he does translate to Adam Dunn.
- Logan Morrison, 22, 1B- Morrison was on the fast track to the Marlins Roster until a wrist fracture. He never seemed to fully come back. If he comes to spring training fully healthy and is swinging the bat the way he did in 08', there's no reason to believe he doesn't have a great shot at breaking camp as the Marlins Staring First Baseman.
- Matt Dominguez, 20, 3B- Dominguez may be my personal favorite Marlins' prospect. He's the entire package. He projects as an All-Star caliber 3rd Baseman with a Gold Glove to boot. Although scouts are divided on whether he's going to be the type of slugger you usually like to have at the corner infield spots.
- Chad James, 19, SP- Scout compare the young Lefty to John Lester. James is probably 3-4 years away from the big leagues and 2010 will give us a much clearer picture on the talented Lefties future.
Other Teams That Could Be Players in 2010 and over the next decade:
Texas Rangers-Putting Nolan Ryan in control of the Rangers was one of the smartest personal moves in years. The Rangers have always been able to hit, last season they showed that they are learning how to pitch. Adding Vlad and Rich Harden were fine additions. They also have a big bat in Justin Smoak waiting in minors, as well as some high quality arms like Martin Perez. I think they have a good shot at winning the AL West this season. The Angels really dissapointed me this off-season by letting players like Vlad and Lackey walk.
Atlanta Braves-Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward, need I say more?
Seattle Mariners-This is one of my favorite teams in the game, they played some inspired baseball last season, which was impressive considering the "meltdown" that took place in 08'. They've got Ichiro and King Felix and a bunch of players who play the right way around them. They've also got some major talent in the minors in 2B Dustin Ackley, OF Michael Saunders, SS Carlos Truinfel, and a guy I think gets no respect in 3B Alexi Liddi.
Cincinati Reds-Homer Bailey seemed to turn the corner in 09'. They also signed the #1 Left Handed Prospect in the world in Cuban Defector Aroldis Chapman. This team has a great amount of talent, they've just had trouble translating their big time prospects to the majors. Jay Bruce could be a sleeping giant.
Oakland A's-No, there not dead yet, they've got some big time arms and some solid bats waiting in the minors. The only problem I have with the A's is that they have no "clubhouse", players no they are nothing more than a living "sabermetric", that will eventually be moved for a crop of future interchangable parts.