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2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Team Preview

by Tony Aubry, BaseballEvolution.com
March 23, 2007


2006 Record: 61-101 (5th Place AL East Division)
2006 Runs Scored: 689
2006 Runs Allowed: 856
Pythagorean 2006 Record: 65-97

Devil Rays Statistics




The Devil Rays have been in the league for nine seasons now, and ended up last in every year but one. The Devil Rays have probably had the worst pitching in baseball over the past nine years, and it doesn’t look much better this year. However, Scott Kazmir is looking to have a bounce back year, and the D-Rays have a boatload of young players, all of whom could break out this season.  
 
Catcher
2006 Starters- Toby Hall, Dioner Navarro
2007 Starter- Dioner Navarro  
 
The former Yankee prospect, now 23, is going to be a full time catcher for the first time in his career. Navarro seems to be a disciplined hitter (career ISO OBP of .078), with little power. He has hit 9 HR in 451 career at bats, which isn’t particularly bad for a catcher, but it’s the lack of doubles that is causing him to slug below .400. It appears that lack of speed is causing his 2B rate to be down, as his LD% and FB% are both above league average.  
 
Projection- .260/.340/.390  
 
First Base
2006 Starter- Travis Lee
2007 Starters- Ty Wigginton, Carlos Pena  
 
So they give up a little D for some O.  No biggie, especially at first base. Twiggi had a career year in ’06, hitting 24 HR, and slugged a shade below .500. I think asking Ty to perform like he did last year could be asking for a bit too much. However, 15-20 HR from Ty, along with some pop off the bench from Pena, is an upgrade over Travis Lee.  
 
Projection- .250/.337/.478  
 
Second Base
2006 Starter- Jorge Cantu
2007 Starter- Cantu  
 
Here’s the good news - in ’06 he walked seven more times in almost 200 less AB than he did in 2005. The bad - his SLG% dropped .093 points. If Cantu can become a more disciplined hitter, his power should come back, which will make him one of the better offensive 2B in the league. However, his offense doesn’t outweigh his terrible defense. Cantu ranks poorly in John Dewan’s +/- system, and let’s face it, he certainly isn’t too nice to look at.  
 
  Projection- .265/.310/.450  
 
Third Base
2006 Starters- Ty Wigginton, B.J Upton
2007 Starters- B.J Upton, Akinori Iwamura  
 
Upton is one of Tampa’s good looking young hitters. He is the only one who plays in the infield, and one of two who shows some sort of plate discipline. Unfortunately, like his minor league teammates, he has gotten in trouble with the law in past. Upton has said that such trouble was in the past, and hopefully it is behind him. Upton should provide some solid defense by utilizing his speed. He could also become one of those rare “power/speed” combinations in years to come.  
 
  Projection- .275/.340/.418  
 
Shortstop
2006 Starters- Julio Lugo, Ben Zobrist
2007 Starter- Ben Zobrist  
 
I must say, I was shocked when I looked at his minor league numbers. In three minor league seasons, Zobrist complied an .887 OPS, which is good for any position, let alone the SS position. He also had 96 extra base hits, 192 walks, and stole 46 bases at 74% clip. However, Zobrist struggled in his short tenure as the D-Rays SS last year. He posted a less-than-stellar OPS of .571 with only 10 extra base hits. With such success in the minors, and after seeing some major league pitching, I expect better things from Zobrist.  
 
  Projection- .275/.350/.400  

 
Outfield
2006 Starters- Carl Crawford, Damon Hollins, Aubry Huff, Rocco Baldelli
2007 Starters- Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Young  
 
Although I said the combination of power and speed is rare, it certainly isn’t on this team. Carl Crawford is probably the best of the three, and is the oldest of the three (one month older than Baldelli) despite being 25. Crawford is one of the fastest players in all the league, but people forget just how big he really is. At 6’2, 230 lbs his speed is even more amazing. I’m 6’2, 230 as well, and I would never dream of running that fast. Since Crawford is young and big, we can expect his HR to increase as he gets older, as he could very well join the 30/30 club very soon.  
 
  Player A- .306/.339/.533
  Player B- .303/.357/.542  
 
Which of those two players would you rather have? What if I told that player A was three years younger, and player B just signed a contract for over 100 million dollars, then who would you take? Player A is Baldelli, and B is Vernon Wells. Granted that Wells is the one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball, Baldelli has more upside, and is no slouch in CF. If he is healthy, I myself would rather have Baldelli for years to come if I was a GM.  
 
Delmon Young, like Upton and Elijah Dukes, has had many problems off the field, but when it comes to playing ball, he is one of the best prospects out there. Like his outfield counterparts, he can run, hit with power, but his on-base skills are lacking. Even though he has trouble walking, a high average, along with power and speed will make up for it.  
 
  Projection- .284/.328/.476  
 
Designated Hitter
2006 Starter- Jonny Gomes
2007 Starters- Jonny Gomes, Elijah Dukes  
 
After a red hot April, Gomes cooled off considerably. In April he hit 11 HR, with an eye popping 1.185 OPS. However, he hit only 9 HR after April, with an OPS below .800. I think it’s pretty obvious Gomes is not as good as was in April, but he isn’t as bad as he was the rest of the way. A bounce back season should be expected… or else Eljiah Dukes could become the full time DH by summer. In 418 minor league games, Dukes has posted a line of .284/.370/.454, while stealing 91 bases at a 74% and grounding into only 25 double plays. Dukes may not have the power Gomes has, but he can steal bases at a good clip, and will take a walk.
 
  Projection- .268/.350/.475  

Rotation

2006 Starters- Scott Kazmir, Casey Fossum, Jae Seo, Tim Corcoran, James Shields, Seth McClung, Scott Hendrickson
2007 Starters- Kazmir, Seo, Fossum, Corcoran, Shields, Jeff Nieman  
 
It’s obvious that after Kazmir, their rotation and bullpen are suffering to say the least. However, there could be another bright spot in Jeff Nieman. Nieman is their top pitching prospect, and has had success in the minors. In 108 IP, he has struck out 126 batters while walking only 44, and has allowed on 9 HR. If he is ready, he could give there rotation a shot in the arm. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. Jae Seo probably won’t be getting any better, and he wasn’t so good last year. Corcoran, despite having an ERA below league average, posted a terrible K/BB ratio, and I could probably throw harder than Casey Fossum.  
 
Bullpen
2006 Starters- Tyler Walker, Ruddy Lugo, Shawn Camp, Brian Meadows
2007 Starters- Seth McClung, Lugo, Chard Orvella, Al Reyes  
 
The bullpen was horrible last year, and it won’t be too much better this year. Non-roster invitee Al Reyes and starter-turned-closer Seth McClung will be battling it out for the closer’s role. McClung was average at best last season, and Reyes is coming off Tommy John surgery. It appears that this could very well turn into a bullpen by committee.  
 
Final Word
 
It’s pretty obvious that this team won’t contend until they can find some pitching, and they’re still searching. Their young offense however, could very well break out this season, or in years to come. When they can get a well-pitched game from their lacking starters, this team will be very fun to watch.     


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