Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Preview A Day Keeps the Winter Away, #22

For the month of March I will be doing a season preview, with a new team each day, going in alphabetical order by team so I can save the Yankees for last, because I am, in fact, that devious.

As this is a Yankees' blog, the previews for AL East teams will be more detailed than those of AL Central and AL West teams, and any AL team previews will be more detailed than NL team previews, save maybe for the Mets. Each preview will involve consideration of how much 'threat' a team is to the Yankees, for fairly obvious reasons.

Up today: The Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa is not one of the league's best team, not even really a contender, but they ARE much improved from the Rays of old, and if the Yankees are not careful, they could be more than a thorn in the side for the season.

Let's start by looking at their pitching:

Scott Kazmir: Legitimate #1 pitcher. Makings of an ace if he can stay healthy. Has a lot of fun beating the Red Sox and losing to the Yankees, but has some injury concerns.

James Shields: Good pitcher, but he was on the mound when the Yankees scored 21 back in July. Good #2 guy for the Rays.

Matt Garza: Came over from the Twins in the Delmon Young trade. Young and fairly untested, but with a relatively high ceiling. Highly strengthens the Rays' rotation.

Edwin Jackson: Not very goo, but gives the Yankees fits.

Andy Sonnanstine: Same deal.

I'm not going to go into the Rays' bullpen, because, well, it's really not very good. If you can get past the Rays' starting rotation, you should be in the clear, as long as you're not down by like, I don't know, 20.

As for the line-up:

Akinori Iwamura: 3B will likely move over to 2nd to make room for prized prospect Evan Longoria. Lead-off type hitter.

Carl Crawford: This guy is FAST and, I think, was the only Ray to make an all-star team last year. Excellent in the field and with a bat, though not everyone thinks he's playing up to his full potential.

BJ Upton--Fast, like Crawford, and with a strong bat. Doesn't project as high as his brother Justin, but when you consider how high Justin projects, that's not really saying a whole lot. It's like saying you're not as good of a third baseman as A-Rod.

Carlos Peña--Had a resurgence last year. Probably won't put up the same numbers again, but no reason he can't come close. Yankees gave up on him too soon, but oh well, if we hadn't we would have not gotten to know Shelley!

Cliff Floyd--Good bat, not so good OF.

Evan Longoria--The Rays' prize rookie, and perhaps the best prospect in all of baseball outside of Jay Bruce. Not sure about the relationship to Eva. The Rays starting him in the minors is a bit like overcooking the meat.

Rocco Baldelli--On the DL with an undiagnosed fatigue condition. Thoughts and well-wishes with him.

Dioner Navarro--He was once our top catching prospect. Yeah, I know.

Jason Bartlett--Okay, I guess, but nothing special.

Summary: The Rays have some serious talent on the team, especially in the outfield positions. On a day when Kazmir, Shields or Garza is pitching, there's no reason they should be considered an AAAA team, especially when you consider Baltimore or San Francisco.

Threat to the Yankees: Orange, Exercise Extreme Caution

This team is still a season or two from a serious postseason run, but it is one of those teams that, talent-wise at least, has the ability to sneak up on you, and if the Yankees start taking them for granted, which is somewhat tempting, they may very much regret it.


  1. The Yanks have had their share of trouble with the Rays. These games have to be taken seriously. They are not pushovers anymore, but still in all the Yanks should do well against them. A big key to that is keeping them off the bases. They have a lot of speed and if they get on base they are pesky.

  2. Aki Iwamura is already going to play 2b this year. If Longoria starts in the minors, Willie Aybar will play third until he gets called up.
    Actually the Rays bullpen has improved greatly with Troy Percival, Al Reyes and Dan Wheeler.

  3. Didn't they have Wheeler last year?

    I dunno, Reyes and Wheeler don't inspire much confidence from me.

    I'll agree, it's better than it was, but it's still not about to send shivers down my spine.