Fantasy Articles
The Rays are loaded with talent, especially talent with upside, most of who are on the verge of breakout seasons.  But breakouts are hard to predict, they could come this year, the year after, three years down the road or even four years or more.  Because of that don’t pay for potential, pay for what you feel certain you are going to get and take anything over that as a true bonus.

The Best of the Bunch:

The Rays have no top 25 talent.

The Second Tier:

Carl Crawford (OF): For years Crawford has been ranked among the elite outfielders by fantasy guides everywhere and the truth is that he just hasn’t deserved it.  That 15-20 home run power he was projected to have has never been realized, he hasn’t scored 100 runs since 2005, has never had more than 81 RBIs, and has seen a decline in his speed game.  He could bounce back, and batting third should help him improve, but without power and more modest steal totals he’s just a solid four category contributor - but with the potential for a breakout year as he’s just 27.

longoria_evan
Evan Longoria is one of the best third baseman available.
Evan Longoria (3B): Sure he’s only got one full season under his belt, but Longoria has mad skills and the potential for him to improve on last years .278-27-85-67-7 seems like a sure bet.  Even if he only matches last season’s numbers he’s better than most third basemen.  The only real area of concern is his average, which took a serious nose dive in September and in the playoffs.  It could mean that pitchers have begun to figure this guy out, or it could be that his broken wrist just needed more time to heal.

James Shields (SP):
Shields took over as the staff ace and posted a career best season going 14-8 with a 3.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 160 Ks.   He’s just entering his prime and should be able to build on last year while racking up more strikeouts.  The question with Shields is if he’s going to improve slightly or if he’s ready to step it up to the elite levels.  The former is far more likely, but his upside is awfully attractive.

The Third Tier:

Matt Garza (SP): If the Twins aren’t already regretting trading Garza to the Rays they soon will be.  Garza is well on his way to becoming an upper tier pitcher.  His strikeout totals won’t be the best -- but he should help you in the other three pitching categories.  Expect a line something like 14 wins, 135 Ks, 3.80 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP.

Scott Kazmir (SP): Kazmir is on the cusp of becoming a first tier starter, but his fragile health has always held him back. He could easily build on his 14-8, 166 Ks, 3.49, 1.27 line if he could stay healthy enough to pitch 200 innings.

Carlos Pena (1B): Last year’s .247 - 31 home run season was probably right in line with what you should expect from Pena.  However his splits against lefties is a cause for concern (.190) and could lead to him finding time in a platoon.  That would be a disaster and lead to lower RBI totals, but knowledge is power, and if he continues to struggle against lefties it might be worth benching him on days he faces the southpaws.

Dan Wheeler (CL): So long as he can hold onto the closer’s gig he should get 30-35 saves, but he’s got a lot of competition, so he won’t get all the save opportunities for this team and could lose the job if he hits a bad stretch.

Pat Burrell (OF): Burrell is the same player he’s always been -- capable of helping in three categories (HR, RBI and Rs) while posting an average somewhere around .250.  It’s hard to assess what the change in league will do to his production.

B.J. Upton (OF): Hope a lot of owners look at his 2008 numbers and dismiss Upton from their draft plans, but his seven postseason home runs could be a signal that the power Upton lost due to shoulder surgery is finally returning.  If that truly is the case then his numbers in 2009 should dwarf his 2008 numbers (.273-9-67-85-44) and a return, or even an improvement on his 2007 .300-24-82-86 could follow.  That would make him a five category monster, but betting on his shoulder is risky business, so buy him for his steals and hope for a bonus.

Question Marks, Cheap Buys and sleepers:

David Price (SP): Price is loaded with potential, but pay for it at your own risk.  His stuff is electric but he’s going to hit some rough spots that could make his rookie season unpredictable.  Throw in the fact that he’ll certainly have an inning limit and know you are paying for 20-25 starts not 35.  He’s definitely worth a flier but don’t expect to get Cy Young in his rookie season.

Jason Bartlett (SS): The light hitting Bartlett has the potential to steal 25 bases, but he won’t contribute much other than that.  He won’t hurt your average though.

Andy Sonnanstine (SP): Sonnanstine won 13 games last season and that’s probably about his ceiling for 2009.  He’ll post an ERA over 4, a respectable WHIP and maybe contribute 125 Ks.  That makes him a solid fourth tier starter -- a late round, low dollar choice at best.  He probably has the lowest upside of any Rays starter since he relies on guile rather than stuff to succeed. 

Dioner Navarro (C): When the catching pool gets thin, you can’t go wrong snagging Navarro.  He won’t contribute much in any single category but he won’t hurt you much either.

Akinori Iwamura (2B): He’s a slap hitter who even as a leadoff batter doesn’t contribute a lot and has never scored 100 runs in a season.  That’s not a great recommendation for someone who only hits in the .270s and possesses no more than nominal power or speed.