|C||Kelly Shoppach||SP 1||James Shields|
|1B||Carlos Pena||SP 2||Matt Garza|
|2B||Ben Zobrist||SP 3||Jeff Niemann|
|3B||Evan Longoria||SP 4||David Price|
|SS||Jason Bartlett||SP 5||Wade Davis|
|CF||B.J. Upton||CL||Rafael Soriano|
|RF||Matt Joyce||RP||J.P. Howell|
|DH||Pat Burrell||RP||Dan Wheeler|
|IF||Sean Rodriguez||RP||Randy Choate|
|C||Dioner Navarro||RP||Andy Sonnanstine|
Additional roster information can be found at MLB Depth Charts.
|Key Additions||Key Losses|
|C||Kelly Shoppach||Trade (CLE)||2B||Akinori Iwamura||Trade (PIT)|
|RP||Rafael Soriano||Trade (ATL)||RP||Troy Percival||Free Agency|
Top Prospects: Desmond Jennings (OF), Jeremy Hellickson (P), Tim Beckham (SS)
The Rays were riding high off of their improbable World Series appearance in 2008, and expectations were high for repeat success in 2009. While the Rays didn’t have quite the same success, posting an 84-78 record last season, there was lots of things to be really excited about.
The offense was led by the breakout season of Ben Zobrist. Zobrist played all over the field, mostly at 2B, SS, and RF, and hit everywhere he played. He posted a .297/.405/.543 line with 27 HR, 91 RBI, and 17 SB. A rather amazing season, especially when the Rays were expected to be led by 1B Carlos Pena (39 HR, 100 RBI), 3B Evan Longoria (.281, 33 HR, 113 RBI), and LF Carl Crawford (.305, 15 HR, 60 SB).
The pitching staff was inconsistent, and really appeared to be the reason that the Rays didn’t return to the playoffs. The only starters to post sub-4.00 eras were rookie Jeff Niemann (13-6, 3.94), and Matt Garza (8-12, 3.95). The late season trade of Scott Kazmir was a bit curious, but the Rays had decided at that point that they would not catch the Red Sox, and were able to get a pretty good package for a still very young pitcher.
Team Outlook for 2010
The Rays will look to make another playoff run this season, acquiring C Kelly Shoppach to help address a lack of offensive production behind the plate. They also helped to solidify the back end of their bullpen with the acquisition of Rafael Soriano to be the closer. This is a team that would probably win the Central division on a consistent basis if they were in it, but unfortunately for them, they are not. The records they have posted in spite of having to play the Yankees and Red Sox 19 times each are a credit to manager Joe Maddon and general manager Andrew Friedman.
I think that they will be in the hunt for the majority of the season, but are going to need some luck to catch the Red Sox or the Yankees. Something to watch for throughout the season is how long it takes for the Rays to call up top prospect Desmond Jennings. If Matt Joyce struggles early on, look for him to get the call sooner. Something else is the impending free agency of LF Carl Crawford. Rays’ fans are hopeful that the sides will work out a contract extension before he hits free agency, but the Rays are likely to be priced out of the market if he gets there. As a result, the Rays could look to move Crawford if they fall out of the race early on and don’t believe that they will be able to get anything for him besides the 2 draft picks for type A free agents.
Fantasy Outlook for 2010
OF Carl Crawford was a top-tier outfielder with his 60 stolen bases last season, although he had a precipitous drop off in success after the first two months of last season. Nearly every other everyday player for the Rays is ownable in standard fantasy leagues, with 2B/SS/OF Ben Zobrist and 3B Evan Longoria being the cream of the crop. The pitching staff also is mostly ownable, although I personally have been burned by James Shields one too many times for me to recommend him. Garza should have a better won-loss record this season, and Niemann will hopefully build on his excellent rookie campaign.
Prediction for 2010
The Rays need a bit of luck to help get them past Boston and New York, and should be in this race until very late in the season, possibly even the last weekend. Unfortunately, I think that they’re going to come up a bit short, and have another excellent season that ends with no games in the postseason.
88-74, 3rd in the AL East