Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 Tampa Rays Preview

These aren't your father's Devil Rays. The newly-annointed "Rays" are less devilish and more dangerous, trying not to finish with the worst record in the league this year.

2007 Record:
66-96, Last in AL East

Key Losses: OF Delmon Young, OF Elijah Dukes

Key Additions: P Matt Garza, P Troy Percival, SS Jason Bartlett, DH/OF Cliff Floyd

Projected Lineup:
1. Akinori Iwamura 2B
2. Carl Crawford LF
3. Carlos Pena 1B
4. B.J. Upton CF
5. Cliff Floyd/Rocco Baldelli RF
6. Evan Longoria/Willy Aybar 3B
7. Johnny Gomes DH
8. Dioner Navarro C
9. Jason Bartlett SS

Lineup Grade: B- Theres lots to like about this year's Rays lineup. If Carlos Pena hits anywhere close to the 46 HR's he stroked last year, the heart of this order is as good as any. And who knows maybe Carl Crawford will finally show that power people seem to think he has? Even if he doesn't he will still get on base and score tons of runs and steal tons of bases. There is good speed at the bottoCm of the order with Navarro and Bartlett, so there should always be base-runners to drive in. The only question marks are the RF/DH platoon effort and whether or not super-prospect Evan Longoria is ready for a full season in The Show.

Projected Rotation:
1. James Shields
2. Matt Garza
3. Andy Sonnanstine
4. Jason Hammel
5. Edwin Jackson
CL: Troy Percival
*2007 League Strikeout leader Scott Kazmir will begin season on the DL.

Pitching Grade: C If Kazmir was starting on opening day, this would be a B. Kazmir, Shields, and Garza represents one of the best, if not the best, young pitching nuclei in the league. But without the ace and de facto leader Kazmir, there is considerable drop-off after the 1 & 2 starters. Apparently the Rays have some other young talent in their farm system who can be called on if the 4 & 5 pitchers suck balls. Troy Percival was brilliant in the Cardinals bullpen last year, but without Dave Duncan around, he might fall back to earth faster than Jeff Weaver.

2008 Prediction: Like so many other teams in the American League, the Rays are taking good steps in the right direction, but a lack of deep pockets or the right timing means they will be looking up at the Red Sox and Yankees yet again. On the bright side, they should definitely finish better than last place in the division, which they have done every year of their existence except 2004.

Projected 2008 Record: 74-88

When I Googled "Tampa Rays" this picture popped up and I thought it should just be included to brighten everyone's day.

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