Regular Season Record: 61-101, fifth in the AL East
Home Ballpark: Tropicana Field
Going to Tampa Bay
3B Akinori Iwamura (Signed from Japan)
1B Carlos Pena (Minor League Contract from Red Sox)
INF Brendan Harris (Trade from Reds)
No Longer Handling the Heat
OF Damon Hollins (Japan)
RP Brian Meadows (Minor League Contract with Reds)
SS Tomas Perez (Minor League Contract with Cubs)
The Skinny: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays did not change much this offseason. And that’s a mistake on their behalf. Young teams need a few veteran players to help them grow at the major league level. It wouldn’t have taken much, like John Thomson in the rotation, Joe Borowski in the bullpen, and Steve Finley in the outfield. These guys wouldn’t contribute a lot on the field, but they would help the younger players develop quicker. Next season will be one of rebuilding, as the core of the team grows for another year.
Strengths: There’s not much to look forward to for the 2007 Devil Rays, but the lineup has the potential to be good. The trio of Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, and Delmon Young can get hits and steal bases, putting them consistently in scoring position for guys like Johnny Gomes and Akinori Iwamura. However, err on the side of pessimism, because this is the team that finished dead last in runs scored in the American League last year. They should improve, but not by enough to change their fortunes as one of the worst teams in the major leagues.
Weaknesses: The Devil Rays’ starting rotation is in shambles after ace Scott Kazmir. The star left hander, who has not been able to consistently remain healthy, should put up 180 good innings, which would be a godsend for this ballclub. After him, names like Casey Fossum and Jae Seo pop up. That’s not good. This team has absolutely no depth and no veteran presence to lead the staff.
Bullpen is another weak area for the Devil Rays, and it all starts with the end of the game. Who is the closer? Seth McClung is the guy right now, but should they seriously be counting on a guy with a career 6.27 ERA? Preceding him are Dan Miceli and Scott Dohman. To be honest, this bullpen may be worse than the starting rotation.
CF Rocco Baldelli
LF Carl Crawford
RF Delmon Young
DH Jonny Gomes
1B Ty Wigginton
3B Akinori Iwamura
2B Jorge Cantu
C Dioner Navarro
SS Ben Zobrist
(With BJ Upton getting a lot of time at third and the three outfield positions)
Keys to Success: The only thing Devil Rays’ general manager Andrew Friedman is looking for next season is the development of his prospects. Guys like Elijah Dukes, Young, and Upton have to show they are mature players, while able to perform at the major league level. Next, players like 3B Evan Longoria and SS Reid Brignac and pitchers like Wade Davis, Jacob McGee, and Jeff Niemann need to continue to move up the minor league rungs.
Prediction: They have an outside chance at it, but the Devil Rays could pass the Orioles next year for fourth place once again. They have a ton of young talent, and if those guys develop, baseball can be fun in Tampa Bay.
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