Poll: Post-season surprise

Every year there is a team that ascends from the ashes to win a division or earn a wildcard berth – sometimes out of nowhere, while others finally met expectations. The MLB publishers weighed in and here are the results.

Cleveland Indians - 34 (6)

Milwaukee Brewers - 19 (3)

Texas Rangers - 7

Arizona Diamondbacks - 6

Colorado Rockies - 4

Toronto Blue Jays - 3

Seattle Mariners - 3

Florida Marlins - 2

San Francisco Giants - 1

Philadelphia Phillies - 1

Los Angeles Dodgers - 1

The Cleveland Indians are runaway winners in this edition of the poll. They finished 2006 with a 78-84 record, despite the run differential of an 89-win team. Moreover, they have taken steps to rectify their greatest weakness last season- the bullpen- with the additions of Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez, and Aaron Fultz.

The Indians are also blessed with a talented core group of young players. C.C. Sabathia, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore continue to emerge as elite talents, while Andy Marte and Jhonny Peralta, and the newly acquired Josh Barfield hope to take that next step. Jake Westbrook, Paul Byrd, Fausto Carmona, and Jeremy Sowers complete a deep rotation that should have little problem covering for the injured Cliff Lee.

Free agent acquisitions David Dellucci and Trot Nixon should add stability to the corner outfield slots, while Shin-soo Choo and Ryan Garko are prepared to step up if injuries strike. They also have the very talented Adam Miller waiting in the wings if Carmona or Fernando Cabrera continue to struggle in their respective roles. The Indians not only have elite talent at several spots on their roster, they have plenty of major league-ready depth ready to step in over the long 162-game season.

The Brewers have plenty of young talent as well. Ben Sheets may never be a perfect picture of health, but he should provide more than 106 innings of his ace-caliber pitching in 2007. There is plenty of depth in the rotation with the emerging David Bush, the talented Chris Capuano, and World Series hero Jeff Suppan. Prince Fielder could emerge as an offensive cornerstone, while Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy need to stay healthy now that Bill Hall has moved full-time to centerfield. There is also a good chance that slugger Ryan Braun joins the team by the all-star break to complete a youth-laden infield. Corey Hart has long deserved a full-time role and general manager Doug Melvin has made a wise choice by forcing Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench into a platoon. The bullpen is even much-improved with last year's acquisition of closer Francis Cordero and a possible return to form from set-up man Derrick Turnbow. And let's not forget that they compete in a division where 85 wins is likely to be enough to guarantee a playoff spot.

The Texas Rangers have undergone many changes since general manager Jon Daniels took over. Their rotation should at least be solid through the third spot; with Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, and Brandon McCarthy capable of strong seasons, despite their hitting-friendly confines. Hank Blalock remains an enigma after breaking out in 2003, but he is the weakest link in an infield that includes potential all-stars Mark Teixeira, Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young. The absence of Carlos Lee leaves the outfield without much sock, but the Rangers are hoping for a return to form for Brad Wilkerson. They have also experimented with the acquisition of Sammy Sosa, but, even if he fails, Jason Botts will be biding his time in the Pacific Coast League. The bullpen is a point of strength, led by the addition of Eric Gagne and the return of Akinori Otsuka. Also, much like the Brewers, the Rangers compete in a division that might not require 90 wins to earn a playoff bid.

All MLB publishers contributed as the panel of voters. First place was awarded five points, second place awarded three and third place received one.

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