Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Overall – 74 points (18th MLB, 8th AL)
Starting Rotation – 30 points (15th MLB, 8th AL)
Line-Up – 31 points (21st MLB, 9th AL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 13 points (23rd MLB, 10th AL)
Offseason Addtions – Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd
Offseason Subtractions – Elijah Dukes, Delmon Young, Brendan Harris
Biggest Strength– Farm System
It’s not saying much for 2008 that this is there biggest stregnth, but Rays (not Devil Rays anymore) fans really, honestly, swear to god, have a lot to be excited about in the future. With 30 teams in the league, if all farm systems were created equal, each team would have about 3 prospects in the top 100. The Rays have 4… in the top 16. They have 9 in the top 100. They will get a look at their #1 prospect Evan Longoria this year at 3B. And the #1 overall pick in last year’s draft, LHP David Price (pictured above) certainly looks like a future ace. Combine this with their young talent already up in the majors, including a solid 1-2-3 punch their rotation of Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza – and they really will have a chance to compete in 2010.
Biggest Weakness– Line-up depth
The Rays have a couple good young bats in their line-up in Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford. Unfortunetly, after that, they have a lot of injuries and question marks. In order to compete in the stacked AL, they can’t have the big-inning-killing holes that they have in their batting order.
Key Player in ’08 – James Shields
Sheilds, 26, had a breakout year in 2007 (215 IP, 12-8, 3.85 ERA, 185 K). If he can repeat his success in his second full year, the Rays could shockingly have one of the best top of the rotations in the league. Shields, Scott Kazmir, 24 (13-9, 3.48 ERA) and Matt Garza, 24 (5-7, 3.69 ERA) would give the Rays a good chance at winning every night and if they pitch to their potential, the Rays could surprise earlier than 2010.
Player to Keep an Eye On – B.J. Upton
Upton was considered the best prospect in baseball for awhile and began to show signs of why last year. At 22, he quietly hit .300 with 24 HR, 82 RBI and 22 SB. It is only a matter of time before he breaks out and has a monster year.
Outlook/Prediction – 4th Place, AL East. The Rays have a lot of young talent and appear to FINALLY realize that you need to stockpile pitchers in your farm system to have a good team with spending money. If I could buy futures in the Rays, I would. They have an absurd amount of young talent and if a couple of their minor league pitchers can come up and join their big-3, they could be really good down the road. Unfortunetly, this year, they still play in the same division as the $200 million payrolls of New York and Boston. If all goes to plan, when they open their space station, I mean, new ballpark in 2012 – they might even have hope of some playoff games being played there.