The Kansas City Royals have not finished better than third in the American League Central since 1995, but this will be the year that streak comes to an end.
The Royals have been the joke of the division for as long as I can remember, and have finished in last place seven times since they last won their division in 1985.
However, they have the pieces in place to turn some heads this year.
With one of the AL’s most solid 1-3 starting games this year in Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Kyle Davies, Kansas City will have a chance to keep themselves in games and allow their hitters to put them in a position to win.
Greinke is already off to an incredibly hot start and shortstop Mike Aviles hit .325 last year and will anchor a speedy offense that now features outfielder Coco Crisp.
Not to mention the Royals bring back all-star closer Joakim Soria who is poised for another solid year after racking up 42 saves in 2008.
This may not be the team to beat this year, but they are no longer the team to laugh at.
– D.J. Piehowski
I think the Marlins are going to be a lot like the Rays of last year – a team that surprises everyone.
The Marlins have a strong, young core of players that could be very promising this year and in years to come.
They have a solid record and are in first place of the National League East.
Fredi Gonzalez has trained his team and instilled a plan for every game. That plan is to set the tone early.
In terms of pitching, Ricky Nolasco proved last year that he’s the team ace, but Josh Johnson might compete with him for that title this year.
In terms of position players, Hanley Ramirez is not only the Marlins’ best player, he’s the most purely talented player in the game. He isn’t the greatest player – that title probably goes to Albert Pujols – but no other player has as much pure talent as Hanley. He’s quick, a stellar hitter, a gold glove candidate and has a chance to reach the 40-40 mark every season.
If this team keeps up its fantastic play throughout the rest of the season, there is no knowing what they are capable of doing in the postseason.
– Jeff De Chavez