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The Tampa Bay Rays have never been the favorite. After many losing seasons, they had no reason to believe that they were in for a winning season. That is, until, Evan Longoria happened. When Longoria was a rookie, in 2008, they went to the World Series. In 2007, when Longo was in the minors, they went 66-96 and finished in the cellar of the competitive AL East. So when Evan came up, not just the fans were exited. The Rays players themselves were thrilled. Longoria said this about his rookie year; “Obviously this is where, as a baseball player, I wanted to be. But if I told you two years ago I’d be in this situation, I’d be lying. It’s all been a dream come true. Like I said, as a kid, it’s what you dream of happening.” And then they made it to the World Series (after a rookie of the year performance by Evan Longoria). Even though they lost, they had hope. Ever since then, the Rays have been up in the running for the AL East crown. Now, lets talk about the current Rays team.
The 2014 Tampa Bay Rays are mostly the same as the 2013 team, but with a few changes. They lost 2B/3B Kelly Johnson, but added C Ryan Hanigan to be the backup catcher. Hanigan is a great defensive catcher, but he is only a career .262 hitter. So he will be platooning with Jose Lobaton. Jose’s claim to fame is a walk-off homer against the Red Sox in the 2013 ALDS. James Loney will play at first base, who at 1 year, $2 million (in 2012), was an absolute steal. He hit .299 and earned a multi-year extension. Second base will be Ben Zobrist, and sometimes Tim Beckham when Zobrist plays OF or SS. Beckham was the number 1 overall pick in 2008, but he failed to live up to expectations and will always be compared to Buster Posey. Yunel Escobar will play shortstop. Escobar was picked before SS prospect Derek Dietrich last winter. Escobar is solid, not great, and they have help in the minors, with Hak-Ju Lee. Next, 3B is covered by the man we talked about earlier; Evan Longoria. Longo has an average slash line of .275/33/111, which is equivalent to David Wright. They share the title of the best in the game. In the outfield, it goes as following: LF- David Dejesus. Dejesus is a solid outfielder, defensivly and offensively. He was picked up last year. In center, Desmond Jennings is a tablesetter and he has much speed. As for RF- that is easy. AL ROTY Wil Myers will man the corner and hopefully produce a bit more than he did last year. The batting order should be as following (Note- these are my opinions about the lineup).
- CF Desmond Jennings
- 1B James Loney
- 3B Evan Longoria
- RF Wil Myers
- 2B Ben Zobrist
- LF David Dejesus
- SS Yunel Escobar
- C Jose Lobaton
- DH Tim Beckham
And the Rotation should be:
- David Price
- Matt Moore
- Chris Archer
- Alex Cobb
- Jeremy Hellickson
All in all, the Rays should win the AL East and make it to the ALCS (at least).
With Spring Training only weeks away my next few blogs will be predictions for the 2014 season. The Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles are all in the AL East.
The first place team in the east will be the New York Yankees. They have spent over $500 million this winter, and not done yet. Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka are the major editions to the Yankees organization. The Yankees can’t have a ton of trust in Derek Jeter, and they know that. There has been rumors to bring in former Red Sox player Stephen Drew. If they can add Drew and trade Ichiro Suzuki for maybe JJ Putz they Yankees are locked in for a playoff spot.
The 2013 World Series winners, Boston Red Sox will be the second place team in the division. They have lost one of the best center fielders in the game in Jacoby Ellsbury. With top prospects Jackie Bradley Jr he can man the outfield. Can the Sox trust a rookie? Maybe not. Bringing back Mike Napoli was a key move for them to contend. The Red Sox roster will look the same as there championship team, but with a big subtraction.
The Toronto Blue Jays will finish in third place. 2013 was supposed to be there year. They brought in RA Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Josh Johnson. They were the favorites to win the World Series. 2014 will be a better year for the Canadian team, hopefully team chemistry will be a key figure for them to place third.
Will the Tampa Bay Rays finish fourth in the AL East? After finishing in second place last year and going to the ALDS, they will not contend this time around. This off-season has been around former Cy Young award winner David Price and the trade rumors. They have added some minor pieces but nothing for them to be a contender. If the Rays aren’t doing so well around the trade deadline(which they won’t) you will see Price elsewhere. But don’t count them out yet, if there bullpen actually does what it can do, and David Price returns to his 2012 form, Evan Longoria can stay healthy, and there outfield can perform to what they actually can, you may see the Rays finish with more wins.
The Baltimore Orioles will finish last in 2014. There really isn’t much to say about the O’s. Chris Davis will hit 50 homeruns, Manny Machado will hit 50 doubles, and Adam Jones will drive in 100 RBI’s. If the rest of the teams in the division play as I project them to, the Orioles will finish in last place.