Baseball Preview: Devil Rays
Last year’s record and finish in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (61-101, 5th in AL East) + 2 games
Get Crunked: The outfield is full of young talent. Between Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, and Delmon Young from left to right, you could be talking about the best outfield in baseball for the next 5 years, seriously. All three possess speed on the bases and in the field, and the ability to hit for both average and power at the plate. You could be talking a collective .300 average, 70 homeruns, 300 runs, and 300 RBI for the group. Oh yeah, and there’s this too.
Party Foul: It’s still the same old garbage Devil Rays pitching, with the exception of Scott Kazmir. The only question is: which is worse, the starting pitching or the bullpen? Apparently it’s something Lou Piniella was trying to answer, that’s why he couldn’t figure out who to let start games first.
What’d my GM do: Nothing too spectacular, which is fine for a team with little expectations. Former top overall pick Josh Hamilton was taken by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft. Last year’s phenom Ty Wigginton was retained in arbitration, and Akinori Iwamura was brought in on a 3 year deal from Japan.
Lay it on me Straight: Your lineup can definitely score enough runs to win games and at least make you competitive in almost all games. If the youth develops quicker than expected (Young and Upton), Johnny Gomes regains his pre-All Star break form of last year, Jorge Cantu slugs like ’05, and Crawford and Baldelli do their thing, you’ll be fine offensively. The problem is the pitching – and it’s a glaring one. Scott Kazmir is one of the top 5 starters in the league, but the rest of your guys are far below average. Additionally the bullpen aside from Dan Miceli and Chad Orvella isn’t very good either, so you’re talking about blowing lots of leads, if you’re fortunate enough to have one heading into the late innings.
So where my boys gonna finish right now: Last in the AL East, like always. Maybe a few more wins than the 61 of last year, perhaps 63.
Can we be better than that: Unless Casey Fossum and Jamie Shields pitch like crazy, or some young pitcher steps up and dominates (e.g. Jeff Neimann), you’re not deviating from those marks.