Thursday, February 28, 2008

MLB Previews: Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Devil Rays Last season: 66-96 .407, 5th Place, 30 games behind in AL East. 2008 Outlook: Could this be the year for the youthful, talented Rays to finally put it all together? The front office made changes, notably changing the name from "Devil Rays" to just "Rays" and redesigning the team logo. The outfield is set with Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Rocco Baldelli roaming the open spaces, while Jonny Gomes and Cliff Floyd should share DH duties. First baseman Carlos Pena will be counted on to provide power. Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir and James Shields are the likely 1-2-3 pitchers and the bullpen will rely on Troy Percival as the primary closer. In a division with the Red Sox and Yankees, the best the Rays can hope for is to hang tough. If they finish third, they could be just a year away from serious post-season contention. A wild-card finish is a real longshot. Biggest Changes: An off-season trade with Minnesota swapped slugger Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and minor leaguer Jason Pridie for shortstop Jason Bartlett, starter Matt Garza and reliever Eduardo Morlan. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Third baseman Evan Longoria looks like he'll start and stick at the hot corner. Best fantasy bets: Carlos Pena could have another big season after exploding for 46 homer and 121 RBI in 2007. Matt Garza or Scott Kazmir will do well, but be prepared for at least a few rough outings as the AL East is loaded. Carl Crawford has averaged 53 steals and 93 runs over the past five seasons (plus, he's a career .296 hitter), so if you're looking for speed and scores, he's your man. The sleeper may be B. J. Upton, however. He had a breakout season in '07 with 24 dingers, 82 RBI and an even .300 average. Three Excellent Links: Ghosts of Al Lang - The All Lang Team Tampa Bay Rays Gear Ten Greatest Moments in Devil Rays History Next: Cleveland Indians

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