Thursday, May 15, 2008

On The Rise: Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays have an extremely bright future. They have the number one farm system in the MLB and they just locked up James Shields, Evan Longoria and Scott Kazmir(it hurts me to say his name) just some of their prized young talent. Who's responsible for this amazing turnaround? Andrew Friedman and Stuart Sternberg(yes, both jews). Stuart Sternberg is their principal owner and he's opened his wallet for this team and Andrew Friedman is the GM(or Executive VP of Baseball Operations) and in two and a half years has made the Rays one of the best looking young teams in baseball.

They can now compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in terms of hitting because they are stocked from 1B-DH in great hitters. Their hitters average age is 27 and they don't even have all their top prospects in the majors yet, meaning that in 2009 their oldest position player after Carlos Pena will be Carl Crawford. They have Dioner Navarro-an okay hitting catcher, Carlos Pena-a guy that started hitting when he came to TB(had 46 homers last year), Akinori Iwamura-an average hitting 2basemen, Evan Longoria-the young kid that will be a great hitter, Jason Bartlett-an all glove no hit SS, Carl Crawford is self explanatory, B.J. Upton-has experienced a resurgence after finally finding a position and their RF/DH platoon of Cliff Floyd, Gabe Gross, Erik Hinske and Johnny Gomes. Althogh the Sox and Yankees have more patient hitters, this is just the start of something great for these hitters in Tampa that will be there for a long time.

Their pitching had a ton of holes going into last year and are now all figured out. They acquired Edwin Jackson, their four starter, James Shields became great and they got tremendous contributions from their system(Andy Sonnanstine, JP Howell, Jeff Neimenn). This offseason they acquired Matt Garza in a blockbuster deal with Minnesota trading Delmon Young because they needed more pitching. Now the Rays have one of the best rotations with Kazmir, Shields, Garza, Jackson, Sonnanstine and Jason Hammel, another young guy, having to be the swingman because of no space in the rotation. Their oldest starter is 24 years old and just signed a contract extension(I told you I don't like to say his name). Friedman has filled the Rays bullpen out nicely signing Percival to be their closer and letting Dan Wheeler and Al Reyes shift down to setup guys. They also have JP Howell-a young left hander, Gary Glover-a great waiver wire pickup and Trevor Miller a veteran left hander to round out the Pen. In a year the Rays will have a huge problem because they already have 8 starters for 5 spots and have 4 more in the wings, so look for them to make an interesting move.

Their minor league system is the best in the MLB and they have the number one pick in this years draft. The only holes in that team are C, SS(doesn't hit well), RF and they have an aging closer(they might also need a little more power, maybe). The SS hole will be filled by 2009 with Ried Brignac one of the Rays top prospects that'll be excellent in the years to come. RF is a little bit more far off but Desmond Jennings is a great hitter and could hit like an average SS-2B right now at the age of 20 in the MLB if he was called up. Eduardo Morlon was picked up in the Delmon Young trade and he has terrific stuff, could be in the majors by July but I highly doubt that. To fill the catcher hole, first of all Dioner Navarro isn't so bad and second of all they're probably going to draft a catcher with the number one pick. They also have four of the top 30 and 3 of the top 15 pitching prospects in baseball with David Price(the first overall pick last year), Wade Davis(a tall righty with great stuff), Jacob McGee(a hard throwing lefty) and Jeremy Hellickson(a young right hander). So good luck playing the Rays from 2009-2015.