We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2010 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2010 Rays Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Cork ‘The Professor’ Gaines @ Rays Index.
1) Last year, the Rays offense was a stat projector’s nightmare. BJ Upton (.241/11HRs) and Burrell fell well below projections while Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist came out of nowhere to put together some top-notch middle infield seasons. In 2010, whom do you think will be the biggest hitting surprise and disappointments on the Rays?
Well, I don’t know how much of a surprise it will be, but I fully expect Pat Burrell and BJ Upton to rebound significantly from their ’09 seasons. Will Burrell hit 30+ home runs like he did in ’07-’08? Probably not. But supposedly he is healthier, and I have to believe that the embarrassment of ’09 and the lure of a new contract will drive him to be better. Like Burrell, Upton was never 100% in ’09. His shoulder has been an issue in each of the past seven seasons. If he can stay healthy and rediscover his ability to use the entire field, this could be his break-out season.
As for disappointments, I worry about Carl Crawford. There is going to be a lot written about his pending free agency and a lot of questions will be asked. Every time the Rays play on the road he is going to face the same questions. And it will be a circus whenever the Rays play the Yankees. And it will all erupt as we get closer to the trading deadline. Will he be able to keep that from affecting him mentally? That is a lot to ask for.
2) The Rays remain one of the more productive SB teams. Give the SB over/under on the following: Crawford – 45, BJ Upton – 40, Jason Bartlett – 20, Ben Zobrist – 15, Evan Longoria – 10, Carlos Pena – 1.
Crawford should be an easy over. If you look at his stolen base rates, he always struggles later in the season. The turf at the Trop takes its toll on his legs. This off-season he installed a new workout program to keep his legs fresh throughout the season.
I’m going to go under on Upton because there is a good chance he will spend the majority of the season batting in the 7-hole, with some decent bats in front of him. He just might not have the opportunities.
Bartlett: Over (Easy. He will leading off most days.)
Zobrist: Under (Should be close, but he is getting older, and was never that fast)
Longoria: Under (9 last year, but in only 9 attempts)
Pena: Over (Even Dioner Navarro had 5 last year. Everybody runs under JoeMa)
3) The Rays have been flush in #3-#5 starting pitchers over the past couple of years (including the traded Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel) – some with upside, some without. For 2010 purposes only, do you any of the following quartet have a good shot at a sub-4.00 ERA and/or 150+Ks – Jeff Niemann, David Price, Andy Sonnanstine, and Wade Davis.
At their best, Jeff Niemann and Andy Sonnanstine will give you a 4.00 ERA and 150 Ks. Sonny is more likely going to be in Durham as the emergency starter, so he is a ‘no.” Niemann should be close to those numbers, but he seems to need extra rest a lot. Both Price and Davis will be free to throw 200 innings this year. Both will give you something closer to 170-180 Ks. I think Davis will be around a 4.00 ERA. The big question in my mind is Price. I think he can be anywhere from 3.50 to 4.50. And I wouldn’t be surprised at either end.
4) Which of the following prospects is the best option for ‘keeper’ leagues: Desmond Jennings, Wade Davis, Reid Brignac, or Sean Rodriguez? Will any of them see extended playing in 2010?
In a keeper league I would want them in this order: Jennings, Davis, Rodriguez, Brignac.
I don’t think Davis will be anything better than a #3 starter, but he should be dependable in that role. He is the type of pitcher that you can stick in the lineup and you will have a good idea what he is going to give you each year. And he is durable enough that he should stay healthy. Jennings on the other hand, has a chance to be something very special. And if he can stay healthy, he will be.
Brignac is no longer much of a prospect with the bat. It will be decent, but never very good. Rodriguez on the other hand should hit for decent power at the big league level and he will see time at 2B, SS, 3B and in the OF.
Davis should give the Rays 32 + starts this season. Rodriguez will likely get 80+ starts this season and could be an everyday player in 2011. Brignac could platoon at second base but may never be an everyday player with the Rays. And as good as Jennings is, he is still relatively inexperienced. And the Rays value experience in their prospects. I would not be surprised if Jennings doesn’t make his debut until 2011.
5) Now that the Twins have moved out of the Metrodome, there’s no doubt that the Rays play in the ugliest field in baseball (feel free to argue though). The Rays don’t even have the nicest stadium named after an orange juice brand (Minute Maid > Tropicana). If the Rays were able to get a new stadium from the city, which of the following nods to the Rays illustrious past would make the best attraction:
a) Chuck Lamar’s Left Field Pawn Shop – Bring us your old and washed-up stuff and we’ll pay you too much for it! Bring in unused useless items and we’ll swap them up for future gems.
b) Sweet Lou’s Tropical Bar & Lounge – Tired of going to bars and beating yourself up for not taking the hottest chick home? Come to Sweet Lou’s where you can take a break and be congratulated for taking the 2nd ugliest girl in the place home.
c) Wade Boggs’ Chicken & Beer Shack – Chicken only available before games. Beer only available after games. During games, you can play arcade games preset to almost be at high score. Throw in a token amount of time and celebrate your milestone!
d) Dewon Brazelton’s Pitching Area – See how fast you can throw! Speed only credited if the ball is thrown outside the provided strike zone.
e) Rocco Baldelli’s Trattoria – Open periodically when the chef isn’t sick, injured, or tired.
Ha! Yes, the Rays need a new stadium, that is more because The Trop is located in a terrible spot. And yes it is ugly, but watching a game there is very underrated. The seats are comfortable. The sightlines are great. When the crowds are large (rare, I know) it is reminiscent of the Metrodome in the 80s and 90s (very loud, with a great homefield advantage).
And for the life of me, I have never understood why domes are taboo in baseball. We are talking about a sport that comes to a screeching halt in rain. And yet there are at least 6 teams in the NFL that play in domes and that is somehow OK.
Would I prefer to attend a game outside on a nice 80degree day with no humidity? Of course. But that ain’t St. Pete.
(Note: Cork diplomatically didn’t choose one of the above so please feel free to choose one in the comments below. We’ll make sure to forward the winner to Tampa Bay management.)