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Thread: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

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    Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09
    Reds, Rangers among clubs that could emerge as contenders

    By Matthew Leach / MLB.com

    A year ago, baseball watchers and analysts were trying to find the next Colorado Rockies -- the next team to come from out of nowhere to make the postseason and perhaps roll to the World Series. Now they're looking for the next Tampa Bay Rays.

    The thing is, you'd much rather be the new Rays than the new Rox. Colorado took a step back after its 2007 flourish, and it's not easy to envision the Rockies returning to the postseason in '09. The smart teams are looking to emulate Tampa Bay's model, which aimed not only to win for one year, but to sustain it.

    The key in finding this year's Rays -- such as is possible -- is not just looking at a likely one-year bump. Because the Rays themselves were no one-year fluke. They were built to win over the long haul, not to take advantage of a brief window.

    Thus, a team like the Giants is excluded. San Francisco has acquired some buzz as a possible surprise team, and with another addition to the offense, the Giants could well contend. Their rotation looks very strong, and they've made some interesting moves. But the long view for the Giants lasts until about September.

    These are teams that not only could content in 2009, but could lay the foundation for a longer run of success into the next decade.

    Orioles: It's easy to dismiss the O's, since for the past decade or so, they've been anything but a model franchise. Never mind the fact that the Rays' emergence makes Baltimore's road even tougher.

    Even so, there's some interesting stuff going on at Camden Yards. Start with the man widely considered to be the best prospect in baseball, Matt Wieters. In his professional debut, the switch-hitting catcher decimated both the high Class A Carolina League and the Double-A Eastern League.

    The Orioles have also locked up one of baseball's most underappreciated elite talents, Nick Markakis, for six years. Center fielder Adam Jones is a star on the rise, giving Baltimore a very exciting lineup core for years to come.

    The other half of the ball is certainly iffier, but the O's made some interesting acquisitions this winter. Koji Uehara should help right away, while Rich Hill racked up 183 strikeouts just two years ago. There's certainly not the depth of pitching that Tampa Bay has, not to mention a couple of the other clubs on this list. But the Orioles are building a base for the long term, and if enough things break right, they could be a surprisingly competitive team this season as well.

    Rangers: Texas is an interesting case, because it seems like the Rangers are more an interesting collection of parts than a cohesive baseball team. But they have enough valuable pieces that some shrewd dealing could forge a pretty intriguing club pretty quickly.

    It starts with Texas' much-discussed depth at catcher, which is about the best position at which to have depth. The Rangers have as many promising young catchers as some entire divisions, giving them strength at a key position as well as value to trade for help at other positions.

    Texas also, as always, has a compelling lineup core, with Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, rising prospect Chris Davis, Michael Young (even though he's aging) and hopefully hotshot Joaquin Arias.

    The pitching staff, as is often the case, is a bit of a mishmash, but again, there are plenty of interesting pieces. The advantage Texas has over Baltimore is the competition. The Angels look likely to fall off, and while Oakland may rise again, the American League West definitely looks like a division that could be available for the taking.

    The Rangers don't have the upside for a long run at the top that, say, Tampa Bay has. But they could break through this year, and it wouldn't necessarily be a one-year flash.

    Marlins: Isn't Florida always eligible for a list like this? Well, yes. But that doesn't change the reality: the talent base here is fertile.

    Look at the hitters that could anchor this year's Marlins lineup, and several to come: Hanley Ramirez, Gaby Sanchez, Jeremy Hermida, Cameron Maybin. Jorge Cantu, believe it or not, is still only 27 and brings serious power. Dallas McPherson could yet put it together at the big league level.

    And as always, the key to the Fish is the mass of pitching. Nobody collects arms like the Marlins, and even after the trade of Scott Olsen, the stockpile is impressive. Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson and Chris Volstad could all start this year and for years to come. Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller are big-time talents, even if they're coming off rough years.

    The Marlins follow that advertising adage: do one thing and do it well. They draft, trade for and develop young pitching, and there's always more at the ready. If they ever decide to try to keep some of their talent as it ages, rather than shipping it off, they could be set for a run to parallel their cross-state neighbors. And the stated hope is that a new stadium would allow them to do just that.

    Reds: Maybe the most serious threat for short- and long-term success here, the Reds have a little bit of everything.

    Cincinnati's calling card is its deep starting rotation, with a front four of Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. There are plenty of candidates to battle for the fifth spot, and somebody solid should emerge from the competition.

    What will be interesting to watch, though, is how the club's front office and field staff handles its young hitters. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto should be lineup anchors for the next five years, while the hope is that Yonder Alonso won't be far behind. Yet the Reds will surround their dangerous core -- which also includes Brandon Phillips -- with low-OBP players like Willy Taveras and Alex Gonzalez.

    Still, the lineup could be potent if some things go right -- like a change-of-leagues bounce for Ramon Hernandez and another good year for Edwin Encarnacion. The Reds may have the best chance of any of these four teams to play in October this year, and they also have many of the central pieces of a good team in, say, 2011 as well.

    http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/news/...=.jsp&c_id=mlb
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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    I'm tired of reading this same article year after year after year.

    Just do it already.
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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    I also think IF we have a few things go our way we can be very competitive...

    1.) Edwin have his breakout year, which I think we'll see.

    2.) Phillips improve on his OBP and OPS...

    3. Arroyo pitching like he did in the 2nd half last season, Harang going back to old, Cueto improving a little bit and Volquez being Volquez... 5th spot will be better than the previous years with Owings, Bailey and others battling it out.

    4. Taveras improves from last season and puts up numbers more similar to two seasons ago....

    5. Ramon Hernadez has a good offensive year.

    6. Somebody steps up in leftfield, whether it's Hairston, Gomes, Dickerson...

    7. Gonzalez is healthy and provides great defense up the middle with Phillips at 2nd and Taveras in center...

    8. The most likely one is that Votto and Bruce improve on their rookie years... I think that is a given...

    Okay... I say if we get 6/8 of those KEYS to come to fruition we will be right there for either the wild card or division... Some are iffy, but most Keys are very doable... GO REDS! Hope springs eternal!
    "There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great." G.K Charleston

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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Quote Originally Posted by redsfan30 View Post
    I'm tired of reading this same article year after year after year.

    Just do it already.
    No kidding. The Reds are tagged as "sleepers" every year. It would be nice if it actually came true and they had a good team just once.

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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Quote Originally Posted by redsfan30 View Post
    I'm tired of reading this same article year after year after year.

    Just do it already.
    Amen to that.

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    Where's my chair? REDREAD's Avatar
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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Quote Originally Posted by BRM View Post
    No kidding. The Reds are tagged as "sleepers" every year. It would be nice if it actually came true and they had a good team just once.
    Yep. IMO, they have less of a chance of contending this year than they did last year, and last year's chances were pretty low.

    Hopefully Bruce will take a step forward, but even if he becomes an MVP candidate, there's not enough offense or defense to compliment the pitching staff.

    The rotation guarantees they'll finish ahead of the Pirates, but that's about it.
    Thank you Walt and Bob for going for it in 2010-2014!

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    No half measures, Walter RedEye's Avatar
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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    What will be interesting to watch, though, is how the club's front office and field staff handles its young hitters. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto should be lineup anchors for the next five years, while the hope is that Yonder Alonso won't be far behind. Yet the Reds will surround their dangerous core -- which also includes Brandon Phillips -- with low-OBP players like Willy Taveras and Alex Gonzalez.
    What's the factual oversight in this logic?

    Hint: it has to do with the difference between the supposedly "dangerous core" and the "low-OBP players" that surround it.
    Last edited by RedEye; 02-12-2009 at 02:42 PM.
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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Quote Originally Posted by RedEye View Post
    What's the factual oversight in this logic?

    Hint: it has to do with the difference between the supposedly "dangerous core" and the "low-OBP players" that surround it.
    Oddly, BP is part of the "dangerous core" and the "low-OBP players." His power is really the only thing keeping him from being an infield version of WT.
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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Quote Originally Posted by nate View Post
    Oddly, BP is part of the "dangerous core" and the "low-OBP players." His power is really the only thing keeping him from being an infield version of WT.
    Well, that and the fact that BP actually plays top notch defense. WT just has the perception of quality defense.

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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Well, this will make me the oddball here but I like reading good things about the team so I enjoyed reading this article. I appreciate you taking the time to post it OBM! Thanks for doing that and I also shared the link (and the Orioles parts) with the Orioles message board a little while ago, although their reactions to it seem to mirror everyone's here about the Reds, LOL
    "I tried to play golf, but I found out I wasn't very good." -Joey Votto on his offseason hobby search

    An MLB.com reporter asked what one thing Votto couldn’t do. “I can’t skate or play hockey,” Votto said. “Well, I can skate ... but I can’t stop.”

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    Member membengal's Avatar
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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Quote Originally Posted by RedEye View Post
    What's the factual oversight in this logic?

    Hint: it has to do with the difference between the supposedly "dangerous core" and the "low-OBP players" that surround it.

    Redeye, I read that sentence as one of "regret" from the writer. In other words:

    The Reds have a dangerous core, and yet they surround it with low OBP guys.
    I didn't read that sentence as saying the low OBP guys were a part of the dangerous core.

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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Too much water over the dam this Reds decade for these kinds of articles to raise my hopes to giddy-level.

    Don't get me wrong, I like to see them. But there has been a sufficent enough number of them now that causes me to go "well, yeah, OK, let's see what happens".

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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    In July 2008 I was pretty pumped about the Reds chances in 09. Less so now.

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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Tucker View Post
    Too much water over the dam this Reds decade for these kinds of articles to raise my hopes to giddy-level.

    Don't get me wrong, I like to see them. But there has been a sufficent enough number of them now that causes me to go "well, yeah, OK, let's see what happens".
    Same here. But the daily reading here at RedsZone is usually about missed opportunities and things that have gone wrong. Nothing wrong with occasionally remembering the things that could go right.
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    Re: Crystal ball sees new teams rising in '09 (MLB.com article)

    I thought about making a new thread for this Bill Peterson column, but thought it works better as an addition to this conversation.

    Also, Sports Weekly put out their spring preview issue with their Power Rankings. While ranking the Reds 24th, they stated, "Quietly building a strong collection of young talent." On the page for the Reds, editor Paul White writes two point. Here he notes "Pitching stats are relative in the Reds ballpark, but Johnny Cueto joins Edinson Volquez as a force and Daryl Thompson is a rotation sleeper." Additionally, he adds in his second bullet point, "No other team in the NL has as much talent just beginning to make its mark."


    http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/a...ontending.html

    Reds Still Look to Be a Year Away from Contending

    Bob Castellini went on the radio a couple weeks ago to clarify that he is, indeed, excited about the upcoming Reds season. And who isn’t? The Reds season is baseball season, after all, and someone is going to win even if it isn’t the Reds.

    Castellini didn’t go so far as to say the Reds are going to win, stoking a shadow debate as to whether he’s backing off from so many pronouncements through his first three years of ownership to the effect he’ll bring a championship to Cincinnati. But if Castellini were to say the Reds are going to win this year, who would believe him anyway?

    The new model Reds, the work of three general managers in the last four years, packed up last week for their final spring training in Florida. The team that convenes in Sarasota stacks up as their least exciting outfit since they promoted Paul Householder as their great young star and wound up losing 101 games. That was 1982.

    They have no chance to contend even if they’d improved more than any other club in the National League Central, which might even be the case. The Reds don’t lack talent, but they do lack experience. They don’t lack speed, but they do lack power.

    The reconstruction of the Reds isn’t complete, but the demolition of the old Reds finally is. Dispatching Junior Griffey and Adam Dunn before the end of last season, the Reds have since replaced them with Willy Taveras and Jacque Jones. The power hitting Jim Bowden Reds now are done.

    There’s no one left for Reds fans to blame, even if they did a pretty thorough job of breaking in Dusty Baker last year. It’s going to be a real tough year for the manager and the owner. All the old targets are gone, exposing new ones to the line of fire.

    Removing power hitters from a ball club that’s being re-fitted for speed and defense falls a long way short of establishing that the Reds really have replaced power with speed and defense. If the Reds are better off financially without Dunn and Griffey, opposing pitchers are much better off competitively, and it still remains to be seen if the Reds can run and catch.

    Taveras can certainly run, but he can’t steal first and hasn’t figured out the other ways to get there. If you thought Corey Patterson was a disaster, wait until you see Taveras, who’s one of the worst OPS performers in the game. Taveras reached .749 in 2007, but he played in Colorado, which still didn’t help him in 2008, when his OPS sunk to .604.

    In 2005 and 2006 with Houston, Taveras came in at .666 and .671, which were among the worst numbers in center field or any other position. So that’s what you’re going to get. That’s what he is.

    Playing for Dusty Baker, Taveras isn’t going to learn how to walk. In 541 career games, he has 116 walks and 326 strikeouts.

    That’s your speedy leadoff hitter. After Taveras stole 68 bases last year, the Rockies non-tendered him. If you were so put off by Dunn that you wanted his polar opposite, you’ve got him.

    The Reds are taking a flyer on Jones, a solid player in his best days, which didn’t include 2008 with the Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins. He went to winter ball, worked out some kinks, and the Reds like him as an attitude guy. He’ll swing the bat, just the way Baker likes it, but he strikes out three times as often as he walks.

    The big problem for the Reds, though, isn’t that they’ve replaced Dunn and Griffey with borderline major league starters. And if that’s not the big problem, then you know the club isn’t in competitive shape. The big problem is that too many of their key players aren’t far enough along in the development process.

    That second year in the major leagues is a true rite of passage. And here we are with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto and, in effect, Edinson Volquez all entering that second season.

    Going through the minor leagues, the object is for players to master some level of baseball and then move up to the next one. On making the big leagues, obviously, there is no next level. It’s trickier than that. In the major leagues, opponents make adjustments, and players have to make adjustments in response.

    The sophomore jinx isn’t a jinx. It’s a very real, very challenging step in player development. Once a player has proved he can respond, he’s on his way to a career. When players can’t respond, their careers begin to waver.

    So the model isn’t complete. Speed and defense is a good model for a baseball club, generally, because it’s useful in any park. If the bats are cool, the club can still manufacture a run. But speed is useless offensively if the fast players can’t reach base.

    Furthermore, the pitching has to be solid. When the club is down three or four runs, the running game goes away. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to keep a thumper or two in the lineup, just for that dimension.

    When the Reds fall behind, they’ll rely on Bruce, Votto, Edwin Encarnacion and Brandon Phillips to go deep. At this early date, it doesn’t sound very promising.

    One can almost think of the Reds as kind of a collegiate team that broke in a strong freshman class last year. Those players are sophomores now. We wouldn’t expect a collegiate team to win with sophomores as their key players, and we certainly can’t expect it in the big leagues.

    If any optimism is to be concocted, it lies in the direction of NL Central opposition. The Milwaukee Brewers have lost their best two pitchers, Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia, to free agency. The St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros appear to be headed in no particular direction. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been losing for even longer than the Reds and are no closer to winning.

    If by some chance everything clicks for the Reds and those other four clubs are terrible, they might sneak into a wild card berth as a benefit of playing in that division. But they’re still not catching the Chicago Cubs unless the Cubs mysteriously fall apart.

    In other words, it’s not realistic to think the Reds will win this year unless everyone else in the division is terrible. But if the Reds don’t lose patience this year, they might actually take some kind of position in 2010.

    Castellini isn’t exactly saying that. But is he thinking it? One sure hopes so.
    “In the same way that a baseball season never really begins, it never really ends either.” - Lonnie Wheeler, "Bleachers, A Summer in Wrigley Field"

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