Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays 2008 Fantasy Team Preview

I didn't want to do this one. I was hoping to dodge, duck and avoid this post at all costs. I was hoping we could split up the pitching and hitting. It didn't happen. So here I am, just me, the fantasy-loaded Tampa Bay roster and trusty Miller Lite. Something has got to give.

Starting Lineup

2B Akinori Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
RF Rocco Baldelli/ Cliff Floyd
DH Jonny Gomes/ Cliff Floyd
3B Evan Longoria
C Dioner Navarro
SS Jason Bartlett

Starting Staff

Ace- Scott Kazmir
2- James Shields
3- Matt Garza
4- Andy Sonnanstine
5- Edwin Jackson

Bullpen

Closer- Troy Percival
Setup- Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler, Trever Miller, Gary Glover, Grant Balfour, Juan Salas

Hitters to Draft

Carl Crawford, LF - Had another spectacular season last year, despite not showing the growth as a hitter we had seen in his previous 3 seasons. His power dipped a bit, but he is still a lock to hit .300, with 50SB, 80RBI, 90R and 10+HR. I think his power numbers will improve a bit this year and he should safely reach the 15HR plateau. Expect the RBI totals to rise a little this season, but he is a front of the order type who you shouldn't really be counting on for RBIs. He is a late first or second round pick at worst.

B.J. Upton, CF - After playing 4 positions the last few years, it looks like Upton finally has a home in centerfield and he put up the numbers to prove it last season. Upton is only 23 and already has a 20/20 season under his belt with a .300AVG to boot. He is listed as a centerfielder, but Upton will have another fantasy season of 2B eligibility, which makes him a top 3 2B pick. He is very young and is still developing in all facets of the game so look for him to build upon his 2007 campaign. He could legitimatly be taken ahead of teammate Carl Crawford.

Carlos Pena, 1B - Carlos, is what we like to refer to as a "late bloomer." It took him a while, but Pena finally lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a minor leaguer. He hit .281AVG with 46HR, and 121RBI, a very good season for any first baseman, let alone one who has bounced around from organization to organization over the last 3 seasons. Despite the great numbers, I am not sold on Pena, I need to see another season like this before I believe in him. He could drafted right after the Big 3 first baseman, or toward the end of the middle tier first baseman like Mark Teixeira and Paul Konerko. I would take either of the aforementioned players ahead of Pena, because they are proven and dependable. If Pena is around in the 7th round or so, I'd take a flier on him, but I wouldn't go out of my way to draft him.

Akinori Iwamura, 2B - He showed last season he can hit a bit, and should be dependable for double digit HR and SB. He is making the move from 3B to 2B, meaning he will have multiple infield position eligibility in most leagues. He missed some time last season, so expect his second season in the majors to be better than the first given his added experience.

Pitchers To Draft

Scott Kazmir, SP - Lots of Ks, good ERA, good WHIP, not a ton of Wins and disgruntled Met's fans wondering, "What if?" Kazmir is only 24 years old and has had double digit wins for the last 3 seasons, despite his bullpen doing their best to prevent that. If Kazmir pitched on the Yankees or Red Sox he'd be surrounded with an immense amount of hype and pre- season Cy- Young predictions. Some are quieting Kazmir's stats, saying they doubt he can stay healthy, because he has been pounding on the innings at a younger age than most would like. While he has battled injury in his career, I wouldn't avoid drafting Kazmir because I thought he might get hurt.

**Injury Note - Kazmir was pulled before a Spring Training start with elbow soreness and MRI results are pending to determine the severity of the injury. Be weary of drafting Kazmir until the results come in with a diagnosis. For further analysis of the potential fantasy impact, click here

James Shields, SP - Young arm who posted a sparkling WHIP of 1.11 and a decent strikeout rate K-ing 184 batters in 215 innings. Shields is a solid 2 starter and should improve upon his numbers in his second full season pitching in the bigs.

Troy Percival, CL - I cannot believe I am encouraging people to draft Troy Percival. Thought he was finished and left for dead, Percival came back last season and pitched remarkably well as a set up man for the St. Louis Cardinals. He managed to parlay that success into landing the closing gig for the Rays, and with 3 solid starters and an improved bullpen in front of him Percival should manage a decent amount of saves for an improving Rays team.

Matt Garza, SP - Oh.. look.. another young talented starting pitcher on the Rays... what are the chances. Garza was involved in the Delmon Young trade this off season, so he better put up good numbers considering the talent that Young is. Garza had some (what I would consider to be) weird numbers last season. He posted a solid ERA of 3.69, but also had a poor WHIP of 1.54. To be honest I don't know a ton about Garza, but I do know he should be a decent starter on a solid offensive team, making him good for 12-14 wins. Just had this thought, he might put up numbers similar to those of Greg Maddux, only with a few more Ks.

Players to Avoid

Rocco Baldelli, OF - Oft- injured outfielder, who is capable of putting up solid numbers across the board. Injuries have zapped him of a lot of the hype and potential numbers he should be able to put up. He could go into 2008 and he could hit .320AVG with 25HR, 25SB, 100RBI and 100R. Of course that would not be taking into account that he manages to hit the DL with a minor injury every year, that some how costs him the season. He is the hitting equivalent to Mark Prior. If you really want to draft him, do so late, like last round late, but please do not draft him hoping for him to contribute anything serious to your team.

Cliff Floyd, OF/DH - Uncle Cliff, the elder statesman of the group will be looked at to help out in the outfield and take some at bats as the DH. Cliff, is one of those guys who is always banged up and has put up good numbers in the past when he is completely healthy, and the older he gets, the less that happens.

Jonny Gomes, OF/DH - Combine the previous 2 postings, stir them together and you have Jonny Gomes.

Sleepers

Evan Longoria- Young 3B with power is being hyped as the next coming to Alex Gordon and Ryan Braun. Expect to see some numbers somewhere inbetween what those two did last season, with less stolen bases. He seems like he could be the new Eric Chavez, pre falling apart.

Dioner Navarro, C - The catcher who seems like he has been around for ever, is really only 24, and a switch hitter and had a big second half last season. I was reluctant to put him here because he is the popular sleeper pick for many fantasy previews, but he cannot be ignored. Personally I would wait later in the draft and take J.R. Towels from Houston, the uber- sleeper. If you don't want to believe me, trust everyone else and take Navarro late, he should put up some fine numbers for a young catcher.

Andy Sonnanstine, SP - Control pitcher, who had a fine WHIP of 1.35 last season, but was bitten relentlessly by the HR ball, as most young pitchers are. He posted consistently good ERA and WHIP number in the minors, but as the trend shows in the majors, was prone to the HR ball. The developing youngster is penciled into the 4 hole in the rotation, and could be a decent guy to take later in your draft but expect to see growing pains and inconsistency at times.

Justin Ruggiano, OF - Had a big season last year in AAA, and should get some at bats in right field this season by default. Gomes, and Floyd are both injury plagued wastes and Baldelli should be a DH. Ruggiano went 20/20 for AAA Durham last year, with a .300AVG and an OPS of .888. If he can get the at bats he could be in for a fine season.

Al Reyes, MR - Late/ last round pick, could be in line for saves if Percival can't stay healthy.

Dan Wheeler, MR - Late/ last round pick could be in line for saves if Percival can't stay healthy. At worst, is a good set up man if your league counts holds.

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