Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

You have to love the Rays. They have one of the best rosters in baseball, despite having one of the lowest payrolls in all of baseball. They won an epic game against the Yankees to make the playoffs last year, and are poised for a return in 2012. The Rays have won 90 games three times in last last four years, and barring a major catastrophe, they should win 90 games again.

On the offensive side, the team is paced by MVP candidate Evan Longoria. He has driven 401 RBI's in four big league seasons, and should be a lock to drive in 100 more in 2012. The team's big free agent signing was a reunion; as the team brought back Carlos Pena. Pena should be an upgrade in the power department, as he replaces the departed Casey Kotchman. The team also has plenty of speed, with exciting players like Desmond Jennings and the enigma known as B.J. Upton. The team should have the ability to score plenty of runs. Here is their projected lineup.

LF: Desmond Jennings
CF: B.J. Upton
2B:  Ben Zobrist
3B: Evan Longoria
1B: Carlos Pena
DH: Luke Scott
RF: Matt Joyce
C: Jose Molina/Jose Lobaton
SS: Reid Brignaic/Sean Rodriguez

Pitching is where the Rays are built for October. James Shields had a huge year in 2011, putting up a 2.82 ERA in 249 innings. After that, you have David Price, and the reigning Rookie of the Year in Jeremy Hellickson, and a rising star in Matt Moore. Moore burst on to the scene late in 2011, and won a game in the playoffs. He also signed an extension, keeping him affordable for years to come. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann will duke it out for the fifth spot, with the loser taking a seat in the bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth was solid as the closer, but I do not trust him. The Rays also brought in Fernando Rodney, who has closing experience, but I am sure Joe Maddon does not want him anywhere near the 9th. Here is the Rays projected rotation:

SP: James Shields
SP: David Price
SP: Jeremy Hellickson
SP: Matt Moore
SP: Jeff Niemann

The Rays are a legit contender to win it all in 2012. The team should be a blueprint for all the other small market teams in baseball. The team churns out young talent like McDonald's dispenses diabetes. Expect the Rays to make some noise in 2012!

Prediction: 98-64, 2nd in AL East, Wild Card winner.

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