A Team A Day [Day 3] A Tampa Bay Rays Preview

It’d be cooler if this team was still called the Devil Rays. The whole play on words with Florida being sunny all the time is so gay in comparison to some crazy Devil Ray tearing up the ocean with reckless abandon.  The removal of one word turned this team from a group of  ruthless bad ass fish terrorizing the deep seas to a refraction of light.  Stupid.  But such is the pussification of America.  At least the Rays have fans like this guy making up for it with awesome customized jerseys.  The logo might be fruity, but at least some of the fans still let it hang low.  Way to lead the charge, bro.

Bats. I suppose the best place to start would be with the newest members of the team.  Tampa acquired both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.  Both were added to boost the offense and boost the laughter on defense.  One of these two is probably going to have to play outfield, and quite frankly I’m not here to differentiate between who’s worse, because they’re both hilarious.  Damon throws like a girl and Manny…well…Manny is Manny.  On the offensive side, however, they’ll both be assets as the Rays got sack-tapped in free agency by losing guys like Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, and Jason Bartlett.  And how do you replace a guy like Carl Crawford anyways?  Well, the Rays think they have the guy in Desmond Jennings to make the handful of fans who partially fill the Trop nightly forget about Crawford.  Jennings can flat out fly, and if he learns how to get on base at an efficient rate, look out.  He’ll be well rounded like Blow Job Upton, only Jennings will actually be able to apply his skills and talents.  And speaking of, BJ bounced back from his shipwreck of a 2009 by putting together a fairly well rounded 2010 season, complete with 42 steals and 18 homers.  On the flip side, 2010 also marked the third straight year in which Upton’s batting average has declined.

Reid Brignac might not be the best shortstop in the world, but he can absolutely teach you how to dougie.

The Rays infield is a little concerning to me.  Of course they still have Evan Longoria over at third base, and he’ll remain there for the foreseeable future.  Schlongoria makes me feel good about myself because we’re the same age and instead of figuring out a career path, he’s wiping his ass with $20 bills and raping the faces off American League pitching staffs.  Comparable lives, no?  He’s going to benefit from having  Manny hitting behind him because, for the most part, teams weren’t afraid to throw to Carlos Pena knowing that 70% of the time he’d strike out.  Manny will be more of a presence, and in turn Longo will see more pitches to hit.  The Dan Johnson experiment didn’t particularly work out well in Oakland a few years ago, and because of injuries and sucking, he hasn’t seen much in the way of playing time since.  The Rays did sign Casey Kotchman to a minor league deal though, ensuring a spring training position battle retard fight at first.  I can’t imagine anyone coming out a winner in that.

Pitching. 2010 was the year when David Price figured it all out.  The former first overall pick had a very pedestrian 2009, his first year starting in the majors.  Last year, however, Price put it together and was straight up filthy.  Price combines a fastball that can tap triple digits on the radar gun with a collection of nasty off-speed pitches to clown on opponents.  At 25 years old, expect Price to be around the Cy Young discussion for the foreseeable future.

The funny thing about “Big Game” James Shields is that there’s nothing ‘big game’ about an ERA over 5.  There’s no two ways to slice his 2010 season, he was flat out shitty.  I know wins and losses is more of a jerkoff stat than anything, but 15 losses is a tough thing to rationalize.  When’s Joe Maddon going to stop running this guy out for playoff games?  God, he’s awful.

The Rays have a way with manufacturing young talent, and their pitching is no exception.  Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson will be counted on to make an impact this season in the rotation.  Davis was fairly average in 2010, his first big league season.  But, at the same age as Price, Davis still has a high ceiling and will assuredly progress in his sophomore season.  Jeremy Hellickson has been a walking hype machine.  Highly touted as one of the best prospects in America, Hellickson will be thrown into the fire in 2011, his first major league season.  In limited action last year, Hellickson was effective in both the reliever and starter roles.

The Rays bullpen will look vastly different from last season.  Gone is closer Rafael Soriano after his short stint in Tampa, and the Rays have also said goodbye to extreme asshole Grant Balfour.  Oddly enough, they replaced Balfour with another asshole, Kyle Farnsworth.  I swear Farnsworth only signs one year contracts; this guy plays for a different team every year.  The Rays also acquired relievers Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos from the Padres in a trade for Jason Bartlett.  Adam Russell blows; guy is a smoke and mirrors act and, on paper, looks half decent.  His WHIP in 2009 was 1.95.  That’s phenomenally bad.  And yet his ERA was still only a smudge over three, so you’d think that he was actually effective.  You’d be wrong.

Outlook. It’ll be interesting to see what type of identity this team takes on with the amount of off-season overturn that they went through.  While it might appear like losing guys like Crawford, Pena, and Garza will hurt them in the immediate future, the Rays are busy pipelining young talented guys to the majors.  I don’t know that I can see a division title for this team, but a run at the wild card is certainly reasonable in 2010.

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