The little guys have grown

The most memorable story from last year’s season was the fascinating rise of the Tampa Bay Rays. As more teams focus on internal improvement, the little guys (teams under the $75 million payroll line) are challenging the New York, Boston and Los Angeles markets for October invitations.

Potential suspects to steal playoff berths from the postseason regulars include the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and the Baltimore Orioles.

I am completely sold on all three teams, but there is something more to the Rangers. Though they lack pitching, Texas’ offense is absolutely frightening. Led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young, the Rangers should easily exceed the 5.2 runs per game average they boasted last season and win a tough AL West.

Rookie of the Year

I’m sticking with the Texas theme as Elvis Andrus is my selection. The 20-year-old shortstop earned his spot based on his defensive abilities. By plugging Andrus into the everyday lineup, manager Ron Washington is injecting confidence into the 6-foot, 185 pounder.

Andrus should split time with the seemingly 80-year-old Omar Vizquel until May, when he should have the job on lock.

Breakout Player

Baltimore’s Adam Jones is a prime example of your typical breakout player. Loaded with an exceptional set of physical tools, the 23-year-old simply needs to put the rest of the puzzle together.

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian compared Jones’ potential with Eric Davis. That is a bold and brilliant statement.

Jones has the pieces to put together multiple 30-30 seasons for the Orioles.

Cy Young

It’s difficult to argue against C.C. Sabathia. So I won’t even try.

Give it to the big man (290 pounds to be exact) and deal with it.

Most Valuable Player

Dustin Pedroia was the first second basemen to win the award since Nellie Fox in 1959. I like Kinsler to keep the streak alive.

Through July, Kinsler was an MVP candidate hitting .331 for the Rangers until a sports hernia ended his year.

Look to see Kinsler repeat his numbers from ’08 and become the sixth Ranger to win the award.

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