StrategyMarch 13, 2009

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Tampa Bay Rays

By Michael Marinakis

In this edition of “30 Teams in 30 Days,” we will be looking at the Tampa Bay Rays. After years in the cellar of the AL East, the Rays busted out in a big way last year taking them all the way to the World Series in their first playoffs in franchise history. With a seemingly endless supply of top talent coming out of their farm system, the young and talented Rays will look to build on last season’s success and advance deep into the playoffs yet again. With another year of seasoning for the youngsters, this could be the year that they win it all.

For a closer look at the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the AL East, be sure to check out the The Can of Corn AL East Preview Podcast.

Offensive Starters

C Dioner Navarro.295.349.407437540427 
1B Carlos Pena.247.377.49476311021490 
2B Akinori Iwamura.274.349.380916488627 
SS Jason Bartlett.286.329.3614813720454 
3B Evan Longoria.272.343.5316727857448 
LF Carl Crawford.273.319.4006985725443 
CF B.J. Upton.273.383.4018599744531 
RF Matt Joyce.252.339.4924012330242w/Det
DH Pat Burrell.250.367.5077433860536w/Phi

Unsettled: Right Field. They Rays are pretty set everywhere except for right field. During the offseason, they traded Edwin Jackson from their deep pitching pool for a solid defender with an emerging power stroke in Matt Joyce. It is unlikely that Joyce will immediately take over right field full time, so look for him to share time with Gabe Gross and possibly Gabe Kapler as well. This is a position you want to stay away from in all but the deepest of leagues.

Target: B.J. Upton. There is quite a bit of talent in this lineup but this could be the year that Upton puts it all together and has a monster season. Many were expecting it going into 2008, but a bum shoulder seemed to sap his power. However, the impressive display he put up in the playoffs leaves fantasy managers drooling at his potential. After offseason shoulder surgery, Upton should be fully healthy and ready to mash in 2009. He’s being taken around the end of the second round and could easily put up a 20/40 season if his shoulder surgery doesn’t cause any problems.

The Rotation

James Shields (R)14-83.561.1516040215
Scott Kazmir (L)12-83.491.2716670152.1
Matt Garza (R)11-93.701.2412859184.2
Andy Sonnanstine (R)13-94.381.2912437193.1
David Price (L)0-01.930.9312414

Unsettled: David Price. Everyone knows of the awesome talent that Price possesses, but people aren’t sure what to expect out of him for 2009. After making a meteoric rise to the majors in his first season of professional ball, it is likely that Price will start the season in the fifth spot of the Rays rotation. The problem lies in that he only threw 123.2 innings between the minors and majors last year. Expect to see the Rays assert cautiousness when it comes to Price’s workload this year. In keeper leagues he is gold, but we may need to temper expectations this year as it is possible the Rays skip some of Price’s starts in order to slowly build up his arm strength and keep him healthy.

Target: James Shields. Shields has proven to be an ace over the last couple seasons and is quite deserving of being the Rays 2009 opening day starter. He combines great control with solid strikeout ability and is an all around consistent and solid starter. He may not be as flashy as teammate Scott Kazmir, but Shields has the skills of a true ace. He’d be a solid start to any fantasy rotation, so look to grab him around the beginning of the seventh round and enjoy the consistency he brings to your staff.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Troy Percival284.531.23382745.2
Dan Wheeler133.120.99532266.1
Grant Balfour41.540.89822458.1

Chasing Saves: The closer situation in Tampa Bay is definitely one worth watching this spring. With incumbent Troy Percival coming off back surgery and not getting any younger, there could be quite a competition for the job. For now, it is Percival’s job to lose, but be sure to monitor his health this spring as he makes his first Spring Training appearance on March 12th. If Percival ends up hurt or ineffective, it’s a toss up between Wheeler or Balfour for who gets the next shot at the job.

Final Thoughts

Tampa Bay is rife with talent both in the majors and coming through the pipeline in the minors. They have guys like B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, James Shields and Scott Kazmir who can comprise the foundation of your team. They also have solid late-round players such as Price, Garza and Sonnanstine, who can round out your rotation. As Tampa Bay’s young talent continues to grow and improve, they’ll be taking the Rays and many fantasy teams to the playoffs.

Yesterday we previewed the New York Yankees. Check back tomorrow for the Toronto Blue Jays in the next installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days!”

Michael Marinakis is a 23-year-old fantasy addict. You can find him roaming the Cafe all day where he posts as GiantsFan14 and looks forward to Travis Ishikawa winning the 2009 MVP Award.
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