The “Key” Player For Each MLB Team…

Yesterday, in Part 1 of my “The key player each MLB team” column, I covered all 16 National League teams. Well, today it is time to cover all 14 teams in the American League.

Teams are listed by division.

AL East

Blue Jays – David Purcey. I believe the Blue Jays offense will be fine due to having Adam Lind, Travis Snyder and Aaron Hill in the lineup for the full season. That means someone needs to step up behind Roy Halladay. With the loss of AJ Burnett to free agency and Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowen to injuries, former 1st round pick David Purcey needs to step up in order for the Blue Jays to even think of having a chance in the AL East.

Orioles – Jeremy Guthrie. The Orioles need an ace and a leader of their pitching staff and Guthrie has the potential to be that guy. At 30 years old, it’s time for Guthrie to step up, pitch 200 innings and be the ace of the Orioles staff.

Can Percival return as the Rays closer?

Can Percival return as the Rays closer?

Rays – Troy Percival. I think the Rays are playing with fire by going into the season with an uncertain closer situation. According to Rays Index, Troy Percival is ahead of schedule and while I am not sure how good that is for the Rays, a healthy Percival means guys like Wheeler and Balfour can pitch in their appropriate role of set-up men.

Red Sox – Mike Lowell. Just like Chase Utley, Lowell had hip surgery in the offseason. The Red Sox need a healthy Lowell to add depth and stability to the lineup. If Lowell can get back to at least a 20 hr and 80 rbi season, the Red Sox will once again be contenders for a World Series title.

Yankees – Jorge Posada.This was a toss-up between AJ Burnett and Jorge Posada. In the end Posada is the “key” because if Posada can’t play behind the plate because of his shoulder, it affects the entire roster. If Posada can’t catch then the Yankees will have to carry a 3rd catcher which would weaken there bench and Posada would have to DH, which would take away ab’s from Matsui, Nady and Swisher.

AL Central

Indians – Travis Hafner. A shoulder injury limited Hafner to only 57 games in 2008. Even in those 57 games, Hafner hit only .197/5/24. Very un-Hafner like. The Indians are proceeding with caution with Hafner but they need “Pronk” to return to the 25 hr and 100 rbi guy they are used to.

Royals – Kyle Davies. It seems like Davies has been around forever but he is only 25 years old. He is just entering his prime pitching years and a solid September in 08 (4-1, 2.27) lead many to believe Davies has turned the corner. The Royals need someone from the trio of Davies, Bannister & Hochevar to step up behind Meche and Greinke. If Davies can be that guy, the Royals might be headed to the post-season for the 1st time since 1985.

Tigers – Joel Zumaya. Zumaya burst onto the scene in 2006 and was one of the key reasons the Tigers went to the World Series for the 1st time since 1984. In the last 2 seasons, Zumaya has only appeared in 49 games because of injuries. Still only 24, a healthy Zumaya in 2009 gives the Tigers one of the best 8th inning set-up men in the game and will help them improve on their 27th ranked bullpen in 2008.

Liriano is the key for the Twins in 09

Liriano is the key for the Twins in 09

Twins – Francisco Liriano. I love the Twins this year but they will only go as far as Francisco Liriano takes them. At 25 and over 2 years removed from Tommy John surgery, Liriano has the potential to be a Cy Young candidate in 09. If Liriano can get back to his 06 12-3, 2.16 form, the Twins will be a serious contender for the AL Pennant.

White Sox – Josh Fields. With Joe Crede finally out of his way, it’s time for Josh Fields to prove he is just not another top prospect but a legit major league player. Fields had a solid rookie season in 2007 when he hit 23 hr and had 67 rbi in 100 games but injuries derailed his 2008 season. If Fields can’t get back to his rookie form, the White Sox are looking at a combination of Wilson Betemit and Brent Lillibridge at 3B. Not good.

AL West

Angels – Brian Fuentes. I always viewed Fuentes as a nice lefty set-up guy rather than a Closer for a team trying to win a World Series. For those who argue Fuentes was on the Rockies team that made it to the World Series in 07. Remember, he lost the Closer’s job to Manny Corpas during that season and he wasn’t even the Closer when the season began last year. Fuentes will have a lot of pressure on him to replace the departed Francisco Rodriguez. If he can’t handle the pressure, the Angels will have to scramble to find a Closer.

A’s – Dana Eveland. The A’s went for it on offense this offseason by adding Holliday, Giambi, Cabrera and Garciaparra. Now with reports that Justin Duchscher will have an MRI on his forearm there is even more pressure on someone on the A’s rotation to make an impact. That person needs to be Dana Eveland. One of the key players in the Haren trade, Eveland needs to improve on his 9-9 2008 record in order for the A’s to compete with the Angels for the AL West crown.

Can Bedard stay healthy in 09?

Can Bedard stay healthy in 09?

Mariners – Erik Bedard. The rebuilding Mariners need more than ever for Bedard to stay healthy and pitch like he did in his 15 win season with the Orioles in 2006. Why you ask? Because Bedard is a free agent at the end of the 2009 season and you better believe that if Bedard is pitching well, the Mariners will ask for a king’s ransom for the 29 year old lefty at the July 31st trading deadline. If the Mariners can get some top prospects for Bedard, it will speed up their rebuilding process.

Rangers – Matt Harrison. It seems like it has been the same question in Rangers camp for the last 20 years. Who is going to pitch for this team? So this years “key pitcher de jour” is Matt Harrison. Harrison was the key pitcher in the Mark Teixeira trade a couple of years ago and despite having an era of 5.49 he still managed to go 9-3 in 2008. The Rangers know what they are going to get from Millwood and Padilla, so the development of young pitchers like Harrison is key for the Rangers in 09.

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