Friday, February 1, 2008

Tampa Bay Sun Rays - Off Season Report Card

I'm doing this as a warm up for the NL east reports that I'm currently working, and for our lone Rays fan reader. Of course being that their were named after the rays from the sun, I get a kick out of calling them the Sun Rays.

This should be the first year the Sun Rays officially become a “trendy pick” to reach the playoffs. Of course, they won't make the playoffs. But it will be trendy to pick them, nonetheless.

Moreover, the Rays are a feel good pick. They're so…unthreatening. They're all young, and they like to run and some of them have fun names like Rocco, and they leave cute voice mail messages, like “you dead, dawg.”

So I think we're all pulling for the Sun Rays this year, even if they still have a ways to go before they can seriously challenge the Sox and the Yankees.

The Rays entered the off season with one glaring need: pitching. And they addressed it. Tampa’s team ERA last season was 5.53, so GM Andrew Friedman traded last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up Delmon Young to the Twins for SP Matt Garza, who should serve as an able number three starter, behind ace Scott Kazmir and up-and-comer James Shields, who the Rays just signed to a four year extension. Everyone knows Kazmir is a strikeout machine, but Shields is the real deal, too, posting a sub-4 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 2007. The remaining two SP spots will be filled out by two from the group of Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Niemann, Jason Hammel or J.P. Howell.

The Rays also addressed their bullpen, signing Troy Percival to a two year deal. He'll be the team’s closer, while Al Reyes, who came out of nowhere last year to post solid numbers, will be the set-up man. Dan Wheeler will also provide a proven bullpen arm.

On the offensive side, the Rays added Cliff Floyd, who will play a little right field, and a little DH, and generally mentor the kidos. By trading Delmon Young, the Sun Rays lost a promising young player. But they also lost a guy who’s rock-bottom OBP was a drain on the team last season. He'll be replaced by a rotation of Cliff Floyd/Rocco Baldelli/Jonny Gomes. If Baldelli is healthy, he’s going to emerge as the permanent RF. But as we've learned over the years, a healthy Rocco is not a given.

Jason Bartlett will man short this season, but probably not next season. He’s just a place-holder until Reid Brignac is ready, probably in 2009. Here’s what ESPN’s Sean McAdam has to say about the other Rays’ infieders.

Evan Longoria, the team’s top pick in 2006, is expected to be the starting third baseman, though he may not open the season there. When he arrives, Akinori Iwamura will shift to second base. Expect more young pitchers to arrive, including Jeff Niemann and, eventually, David Price, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Obviously, the best is yet to come for the Rays, and it’s coming from the team’s farm system and it’s coming soon. The worst? That’s already gone. The Rays sent troubled OF Elijah Dukes to the Nationals for a 20 year-old southpaw starter named Glenn Gibson, who probably won't contribute this season. But the karma benefits of a Dukes-less team should help the Rays in 2008.

This isn’t the year the Rays win the East. But next year could be. And in general the future is very bright. Tampa Bay has the best farm system in baseball. And, this summer, they again have the number one pick in the amateur draft.

Key Additions: Willy Aybar, Jason Barlett, Matt Garza, Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd

Key Losses: Elijah Dukes, Delmon Young, Brendab HGarris

Projected Lineup:

  1. Akinori Iwanmura - 2B

  2. Carl Crawford - LF

  3. Carlos Pena - 1B

  4. B.J. Upton - CF

  5. Rocco Baldelli - RF

  6. Jonny Gomes - DH

  7. Evan Longoria - 3B

  8. Dioner Navarro - C

  9. Jason Barlett - SS

Projected Rotation:

  1. Scott Kazmir - LHSP

  2. James Shield - RHSP

  3. Matt Garza - RHSP

  4. Andy Sonnanstine - RHSP

  5. Edwin Jackson - RHSP

Alt - Jeff Niemann

Setup: Al Reyes
Closer: Troy Percival

Overall Grade: B


Marc said...

Thanks for your personalized post.

I'll try making a blog response to it later.


DJ said...

no problem Marc

Anonymous said...

so are they the sunrays or the devil rays?

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!