Tampa Devil Rays

 An article this morning about Chris Duncan.  I think he will pick up where he left off last year.  He seems like someone who is not afraid to work and I believe he will get better in the outfield.

 Funny article over at the Onion about Scott Boras and his recruiting methods.

 

2006 Finish:  61-101, last place in the  AL East

Manager:  Joe Maddon, 2nd year with the Devil Rays

Comings: 3B Akinori Iwamura, INF Brendan Harris, RHP Scott Dohmann

Goings: OF Damon Hollins, RHP Travis Harper

Offense: Uber Prospect RF Delmon Young made his MLB debut in 06 and proved he was ready.  In 30  hitting over games he hit .317/.336/.476 with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs.  CF Rocco Baldelli was very good hitting .300.  LF Carl Crawford is becoming one of the best outfielders no one has heard of .  In 06 he hit .305 with 77 RBIs and 58 SBs.  2B Jorge Cantu had a down year after a breakout year in 05 and the Rays need him to bounce back.  Iwamura was brought in from Japan and will start at third but may start at second if B.J. Upton comes in and takes that job.  There is also talk of making Upton a super utility guy.  C Dioneer Navarro came over from the Dodgers and was solid defensively behind the plate.  SS Ben Zobrist came over from Houston in the Aubrey Huff deal and was a pleasant surprise.  He hit only .224 but was solid in the field and showed good range. 

Rotation:  LHP Scott Kazmir is the ace of the staff when healthy.  Jae Seo was brought in and overall had an awful year going 3-12.  Outside of Kazmir, this rotation is bad. Will have the number 1 overall pick in this years draft.  Anyone else think we might see Vanderbilt LHP David Price before the close of 2007? 

Bullpen:  Overall, the bullpen may be worse than the rotation.  Not a lot to write about except we should get to witness the return of St. Louis Cardinals folk hero Al Reyes.

Prospects:

Evan Longoria-3B-The top college hitter from the 06 draft. Did nothing to disprove that raking from Day 1 of his first year of pro ball.  Hit .315/.360/.597 with 18 HRs and 58 RBIs.  He projects as a .300 hitter and should have the power to hit 30+ HRs. Should be in Tampa sooner than later and could be a consistent all-star.  He was the 2005 Cape Cod League MVP. 

Reid Brignac-SS-Grew 2 inches and gained 15 lbs. of muscle before the start of the 06 season.  Might have had the biggest breakout season of any player in the minors.  Has good bat speed and hits to all fields.  Has plus arm strength and good range.  Has the potential to hit 25+ HRs.  Will only be 21 to start the season so will probably return to Double A to start the season.

Jeff Niemann-RHP-Considered by most to be the top pitcher going into the 2004 spring season, elbow surgery and a groin strain kept him from being the first overall pick in the 2004 First Year Player Draft.  Has struggled with injuries during his first two pro seasons and has only pitched 108 innings.  Huge, standing 6’9″, has a fast ball that sits 92-98.  Attended Rice University, 2003 went 17-0, 1.70 that included 156 strikeouts in 137 innings and help lead the Owl to a National Championship.  If he ever gets healthy, he could be in the big leagues quickly.

Analysis:  The Rays will continue to develop their young talent from one of the top systems in baseball.  The pitching is a work in progress, but I hope Kazmir comes back healthy because he is fun to watch.  This team might not win a bunch of games, but they will make a lot of games exciting.  This is probably the most talented outfield in baseball and the infield has the makings of a really good group also.  If you like raw young talent, this is the team for you.

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