Team Analysis: AL East – Tampa Bay Rays

 AL East

Tampa Bay Rays

C – Dioner Navarro: AAA quality with a VORP of -4.0

1B – Carlos Pena: A breakout year in which he finally reached the peak that scouts thought he should have reached a few years ago. Better late than never might be his new motto!

2B – Akinori Iwamura: A decent first year in the US and the MLB, but will he transition well to the move to 2B where he has not had much experience in his career? If he can stay healthy he may steal 20 bases. After a year under his belt and if the position change doesn’t affect him, he may find the power stroke he had over in Japan and he may be good for 20+ HRs.

3B – Evan Longoria: With both Wigginton & Harris both gone via trades, the pressure is on just a bit for Longoria to fill the shoes of expectation the Rays have fit him for or else they will have to move Iwamura back to 3B & put either Aybar or Zobrist at 2B as back ups.

SS – Jason Bartlett: Will give the Rays more speed at this position than they have had in the past, but has a lower average and less pop in his bat than Harris had. It should be interesting and Bartlett will have less pressure on him to improve right away as Tampa isn’t viewed as a need to win team like the Twins have gotten use to being.  

LF – Carl Crawford: You would like to see more power from Crawford being a corner outfielder, but how can you complain about his overall  numbers while he swipes over 50 bases and hits over .300? Personally, I’d like to see him hit 20+ HRs and I think he can do it!

CF – B.J. Upton: To quote Huey Lewis and the News, it looks as if this Upton has “Finally Found a Home” in CF. The scary thing is that now that he seems to have settled into a suitable position, that he might just have a breakout year in 2008. I think he has a shot at a .330 average to go along with 100 RBIs while joining the 30/30 club.

RF – Rocco Baldelli: I’ve always liked what I saw when seeing Baldelli play, but the real question is…can he stay healthy enough during the year to reach his potential. He has an above average arm in the OF and has the type of speed that can steal 20 or more bases if he can play at least 120 games a year. If he can, look for him to hit between .280-.300 with close to 20 HRs and 80 RBIs. The only other thing that would prevent that scenario in 2008 would be too many players in platooning roles at DH and in the OF in 2008.

DH – Cliff Floyd: You loose power and speed going with Floyd, but you gain 40 points in batting average, plus a lot more major league experience. If Gomes can get his average up to .260 or .270 then I think he may eventually take over at DH if they don’t get Bonds! (that part about Bonds was a joke J )

SP – Scott Kazmir: The hopes of an above .500 winning season rests on the outcome of Kazmir’s MRI he took on Wednesday after feeling soreness in his arm on Tuesday. If all is well, then expect 15-20 wins in 2008 with an ERA in the 3’s and a possible trip to the All Star game this year.

SP – James Sheilds: A solid # 2 starter on most teams and is coming off an off season where he got a contract extension, which seems to be the in thing to get these days. Look for him to get 12-15 wins with an ERA in the mid to high 3’s once again while possibly reaching the 200 K mark.

SP – Matt Garza: This 24 year old should topple his former career best in starts (16 last season) and if he can keep his ERA in the mid 3’s, he should have 10+ wins on this year’s Rays.

SP – Edwin Jackson: He has to reduce his H/9 in order to stay in this rotation. This will lower his WHIP and his ERA totals as well as garner more wins. Otherwise, he will probably see more seasons where his losses were triple his wins.

SP – Andy Sonnanstine: A rookie in 2007, he has to reduce his H/9 which should bring him closer to a .500 pitcher and lower his ERA, seeing as his WHIP was a respectable 1.35 even with a 10.40 H/9 there is a “Ray” of hope for Sonnanstine’s future as a MLB pitcher.

RP – Juan Salas: Not a bad BABIP and ERA for a rookie reliever, but again, a reduction in H/9 should improve upon his WHIP and even lower his ERA.

RP – Scott Dohmann: Another Ray of hope in this bullpen which should see better days if Percival can pitch like the closer we all remember him to be. It will be a domino effect that aids the whole Rays bullpen.

RP – Gary Glover: The most used pitcher in the 2007 bullpen for the Rays. See the notes on Sonnanstine and Jackson to see where he needs improvement. He did also have 11 Holds and 2 saves (and 2 blown saves).

RP – Grant Balfour: With an ERA over 6.00, they may want to go down to 11 pitchers and keep an extra position player in 2008.

RP – Al Reyes: His SO total to innings pitched is impressive for this former closer. You should probably see scenarios where Reyes comes in the 7th, Wheeler in the 8th and Percival in the 9th. Hey It just might work! Getting back to Reyes, his WHIP (1.15) was good, but his ERA (4.90) was uncomfortably high. Oh, by the way, he did manage to get 26 saves last year (4 blown).

Set-up – Dan Wheeler: He seems to not like pitching for Tampa. It’s the only place (he started his career here), outside of his time with the Astros in ’07, where his ERA is consistently over 4.00; let’s see if he can get back to his consistency and he’ll become the closer candidate for the Rays after Percival retires once again (given Tampa retains him).

Closer – Troy Percival: I really like this acquisition! Last year when he came back he proved that his arm was still major league caliber and he’s not the type of closer that just looses his closer’s mentality or ability. I see him getting 30+ saves in 2008 and strengthening their bullpen from the back on down to long relief.


Willy Aybar (2B/3B): Might get some playing time if he can stay out of trouble (see E. Dukes last year) and 3B youngster Longoria sputters out of the box.

Ben Zobrist (2B/SS): His playing time greatly depends on how Longoria and Bartlett show themselves early on in 2008.

Jonny Gomes (DH/OF): Should definitely get some playing time but will it be enough to see him improve, only time will tell. He can be a decent player some day if he can only stay in the line-up.

For the sake of time I had to cut this analysis short. Some of you may be cheering about now as this has not been my most sought after piece per some readers. Moving forward prior to the start of the regular season. I will try to touch upon the players to look out for on each team in the remaining divisions, but I may not get to all!

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