2010 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Baseball Preview
The Tampa Bay Rays (84-78) finished 19 games out of first last season after taking the division and the pennant the year before. Still, their 84 wins gave the Rays their second-best franchise mark. This season, they should win more games than they lose, but it won’t be enough to get them into the playoffs.
This is a young pitching staff that will be led by James Shields (11-12, 4.14 ERA, 167 SO). Shields, who is a premium starter, features a fastball that he can throw on either side of the plate. Matt Garza (8-12, 3.95 ERA, 189 SO) is better than his record indicates. He’s got a good mix of pitches but needs better command of his changeup and fastball.
Two rookies performed well last season. Lefty David Price (10-7, 4.42 ERA, 102 SO) needs to get ahead of hitters more, but he does have a huge upside. His arsenal includes a 95-mph fastball, slider and changeup. The other rookie, Jeff Nieman, (13-6, 3.94 ERA, 125 SO) sports a six-foot-nine frame and offers a solid, pounding delivery. Who will be the fifth starter? Maybe Wade Davis (2-2, 3.72 ERA, 36 SO) or Jeremy Hellickson. Davis has seen limited major league action and Hellickson spent last season with AAA Durham.
Two guys from the pen are capable of closing. Both lefty J.P Howell (7-5, 2.84 ERA, 17 SV, 79 SO) and righty Rafael Soriano (1-6, 2.97 ERA, 27 SV, 102 SO) have great stuff that tails off. Howell has the right makeup for a closer. Soriano is more of a late inning guy. Mid-reliever Grant Balfour (5-4, 4.81 ERA, 4 SV, 69 SO) has a tough competitive spirit.
Shortstop Jason Bartlett (.320 BA, 14 HR, 66 RBI) is an excellent contact hitter with fine speed. He’s also a fine fielder. The batting order includes guys who can hit for average and those who provide power. Left fielder Carl Crawford (.305 BA, 15 HR, 68 RBI), who has a quick bat, needs to be more disciplined at the plate. Evan Longoria (.281 BA, 33 HR, 113 RBI) plays a fine third and has the stuff to be a franchise player. Ben Zobrist (.297 BA, 27 HR, 91 RBI) offers switch-hitting finesse and the versatility to play both outfield and infield. In center, B.J. Upton (.241 BA, 11 HR, 55 RBI) has great speed and a powerful arm. His offensive numbers were off last year, but he has the potential to hit .300 and knock 20-25 homers.
Skipper Joe Madden offers a balanced approach to dealing with various personalities in a league where stats and new age philosophy go hand-in-hand. GM Andrew Friedman has a solid cadre of support and looks to be dedicated to improving the team. He doesn’t have a lot of money with which to work but he does have some to spend. He’ll have to do so carefully to get the most out of his limited budget.
The Rays will put a good, competitive team on the field. This does not look like the 2008 Rays but you can never tell. There’s usually a surprise team in each league and a few key injuries to the Red Sox and Yankees plus a career year by a Rays’ pitcher and hitter and the East Division turns topsy-turvy. Still when all is said and done, third-place looks to be where these guys end up.
For more info on the Devil Rays check out the MLB official page for Tampa Bay baseball.