On The Way Up, On The Way Out
Here’s a list of players who are either rising into prominence, or falling into mediocrity and worse.
On the rise:
- Jon Lester, LHP, Boston Red Sox: Cancer free and ready to take the next step and win 15 games.
- Jeremy Accardo, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Did a fine job as the closer after B.J. Ryan got hurt. If Ryan returns, the Blue Jays will have a devastating bullpen. Hard to believe they got Accardo for Shea Hillenbrand.
- Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles: Played excellent ball on a team that had nothing to play for and is ready to bust out into superstar status.
- B.J. Upton, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: In his natural position of center field and on a team that has some hope, Upton is ready to become a star.
- Jensen Lewis, RHP, Cleveland Indians: A young reliever who throws very hard and showed his power arm in the playoffs last season.
- Alex Gordon, 3B, Kansas City Royals: Struggled and grew acclimated to the big leagues last season and ended well. He’s going to take the next step this season.
- Brandon Wood, SS, Los Angeles Angels: Massive minor league numbers and might be playing shortstop regularly for the Angels very early in the season.
- Kenji Johjima, C, Seattle Mariners: Acclimated to North America in his third big league season and ready to explode.
- Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland Athletics: The key to the Mark Mulder to St. Louis deal and has put up great numbers all the way up through the minor leagues and in a brief big league trial last season.
- John Maine, RHP, New York Mets: May be ready to win 18-20 games after tiring toward the end of last season.
- Carlos Marmol, LHP, Chicago Cubs: Power lefty out of the bullpen whose numbers last season were absurd. May emerge as the Cubs closer.
- Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers: A lifesaver for the Brewers after their veteran starters were injured and/or ineffective.
- Wandy Rodriguez, LHP, Houston Astros: Great stuff and should benefit from the Astros offense and win 15 games.
- Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Cincinnati Reds: Has been a discipline problem for previous managers, but might thrive under Dusty Baker’s light touch.
- Ian Snell, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: Struggled last season after winning 14 games in 2006. Has the stuff to be an All Star.
- Micah Owings, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: All around athlete whose pitching will finally catch up to his superlative hitting.
- Chad Billingsley, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: Went 12-5 as a starter/reliever. Could become a top of the rotation starter very quickly.
Ready to fall:
- Curt Schilling, RHP, Boston Red Sox: Shoulder problems and the back-and-forth with management regarding the severity and treatment does not look good for him coming back.
- Scott Rolen, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays will rue the day they traded for him and his contract.
- Paul Byrd, RHP, Cleveland Indians: After the absurd and unbelievable alibi-laden denials after he was outed as having purchased HGH, it’s stunning that the Indians exercised his option. They’ll regret it.
- Jose Contreras, RHP, Chicago White Sox: Mentally fragile and losing his stuff as he ages.
- Matt Morris, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: I’ve never heard a viable explanation as to why the Pirates traded for him in the first place.
- Greg Maddux, RHP, San Diego Padres: His awful September may not have been a slump; he may finally be done.
- Jim Edmonds, OF, San Diego Padres: He’s injury-prone and his bat is slow.
- Omar Vizquel, SS, San Francisco Giants: His baseball mind is still unparalleled, but his body is breaking down.