2010 MLB Season Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

>> Saturday, March 6, 2010

What do we blame the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays season on? Was it the injuries, or was it the underperforming stars? Desperate to prove that their 2008 World Series trip was no fluke the Rays enter 2010 with a mission. This version of the Rays look a lot more like the 2008 squad than the 2009 but there are still a few questions to be answered before this team can ready itself to contend for the American League Wild Card.

The first big question for this club is what to do with Carl Crawford. He will be a free gent after this season, and is one of the most exciting players in Major League Baseball. The Rays will have to break the bank to keep him because he really is that good. 15 HR’s, 60 stolen bases, and a batting average of .305 means they will have to offer Carl a big money contract, or he will simply not be here. Carl is going to have to produce as this is a contract year, but he doesn’t have to be happy about it.

Now is Rafael Soriano the answer for this club’s bull pen issues? Last year Troy Percival and Jason Isringhausen were injured by June. In 2009, nine different Rays recorded a save, and that simply will not do. The Rays have to hope that Soriano can fix their bullpen woes.

The last thing, the Rays will need in 2010 is Pat Burrell and Dioner Navarro will have to produce offensively Navarro had such a huge drop off from 2008 to 2009 that the team was forced to deal for Kelly Shoppach to share time behind the plate. Burrell was signed to provide right handed power at the DH spot, but his power numbers were way off in 2009. The Rays need these two players to produce, or they have no hope.

The Rays have the talent and experience to compete for a postseason berth, but beating out the Yankees and Red Sox won't be easy. The depth of their roster may hurt them if they get an injury bug like they had last year. The more likely scenario has them finishing as the best third-place team in the majors.

Here’s what I think the lineup may look like:

1. SS Jason Bartlett
2. LF Carl Crawford
3. 3B Evan Longoria
4. 1B Carlos Pena
5. 2B Ben Zobrist
6. CF B.J. Upton
7. DH Pat Burrell
8. RF Matt Joyce
9. C Dioner Navarro

SP: James Shields
SP: Matt Garza
SP: David Price
SP: Jeff Niemann
SP: Wade Davis

CP: Rafael Soriano

On Deck: Boston Red Sox