The biggest problem from 2009 was inconsistency. The lineup and bullpen got off to a great start, but the starting pitching struggled. Once the rotation settled down, the lineup went cold. At the end when the lineup and the starters got on the same page, the bullpen hit a wall. If the Rays can get all three groups working in unison, that will go a long way in helping keep pace with Boston and New York.
2. The young pitching talent in Tampa Bay is astonishing (or terrifying, coming from a fan of a division rival). Am I wrong in picking Matt Garza as my favorite? Please give us a rundown of the young pitchers who will see action in 2010 and what to expect.
Picking Matt Garza is completely rational. I believe that based on raw stuff alone, Garza is the most talented pitcher in the entire organization. If he can harness all his energy, he could be an elite starter in the league. After Garza, it's a pick your poison. Do you want David Price, the 6'7 left hander with a mid 90s fastball and a high 80s slider? Do you want Wade Davis, the brawny lumberjack looking righty, who also has a mid 90s fastball and an absolute hammer of a curve? Maybe you want Jeff Niemann, the tallest of the group who could be finally putting it all together. Or maybe you want the small lanky, Jeremy Hellickson, who possess three plus pitches and can hit 95 with control that is compared to Greg Maddux? Yea, it's a good problem.
3. What kind of year do you expect from B.J. Upton now that he's fully recovered from his shoulder surgery? It seems certain he'll rebound, but to what degree? Do you think he'll ever get back to his 2007 offensive numbers?
I do. I am a believer in B.J. Upton and despite the rough 2008 and 2009, you can just see the talent is there. Recently, Upton blasted two opposite field home runs in the same spring training game. Normally, I try and take spring results with a grain of salt, but I'll admit that got me even more excited about Upton in 2010.
4. One of the most unexpected offensive outbursts of 2009 was shortstop Jason Bartlett. Will he be able to repeat or were his numbers fluky? If he continues with his success, where does that leave Reid Brignac (and if the answer is that Brignac will be the odd man out, can the Orioles have him)?
I do think that Jason Bartlett played a bit over his head in 2009. That said, I still think he will be productive just on a smaller scale. However, if he would like to prove me wrong, he can feel free to do so.
What that means for Reid Brignac is probably more waiting. Fortunately for Brignac, that waiting may come at the big league level as he has impressed with his bat and his defense this spring and is heavily involved in a battle for a bench spot. With Tim Beckham years away, Brignac is still Bartlett's heir apparent.
And no, you can't have him.
5. What is your prediction for the AL East standings in 2010?
I'll spare the PECOTA backlash of records and just give you an order: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays