The Rays always get ragged on because no one shows up to their games even though they’re a young, exciting team that wins a LOT of ball games. I couldn’t watch games at that dump either. It’s not easy to enjoy a baseball game when you feel like your sitting in the bathroom from “Saw”. Let’s take a look at your 2011 Rays, a team with some new, and yet, familiar faces.
Left field: Johnny Damon. 2010 splits: .271 average, 8 home runs, 51 RBI, .756 OPS. Brief: I like this signing by the Rays with the absence of Carl Crawford. No, Damon is no longer an all-star, but Damon was a steady, reliable fail-safe for the Tigers in ’10. Look for him to split left field duties with longtime teammate Manny Ramirez. What a wacky platoon that’ll be. Between Damon, who possess the arm strength of a 9-year-old girl and Manny’s head-scratching decisions, it should be fun, if nothing else.
Center field: B.J. Upton. 2010 splits: .237 average, 18 home runs, 62 RBI, .745 OPS. Brief: Too many strikeouts for somebody with as much talent as Upton. A disappointing year by most accounts in 2010, Upton still swiped 40+ bases. If he can tighten up that swing while still getting around 20 home runs, Upton could finally turn into the player Rays fans (the ones that actually go to the games) hope for.
Right field: Ben Zobrist. 2010 splits: .238 average, 10 home runs, 75 RBI, .699 OPS. Brief: Zobrist took a dip from his breakout in ’09. Still, 24 stolen bases out of your right fielder is impressive. He also has some flexibility with the ability to play first base. Man, I’m good at sugar-coating things aren’t I?
Third base: Evan Longoria. 2010 splits: .294 average, 22 home runs, 104 RBI, .879 OPS. Brief: It’s got to be nice to have a stud third baseman who excels both in the field and at the dish while still just barely entering his prime. More importantly, Longoria is one of the new spokesman for Gillette razors. You haven’t made it as a superstar until you’re in cool, chic commercials peddling crap to the masses.
Shortstop: Reid Brignac. 2010 splits: .256 average, 8 home runs, 45 RBI, .692 OPS. Brief: Sort of your run-of-the-mill shortstop with the absence of Jason Bartlett. He should be steady in the order as well as in the field.
Second base: Sean Rodriguez. 2010 splits: .251 average, 9 home runs, 40 RBI, .705 OPS. Brief: A lot of competition at second base means Rodriguez is going to have to produce if he wants to stay in the lineup. Still, a pretty big guy for a middle infielder at six-foot and 195 pounds means he could bring a little pop to a position that doesn’t normally see it.
First base: Dan Johnson. 2010 splits: .198 average, 7 home runs, 23 RBI. Brief: Rays fans are going to miss the pop at first base that Carlos Pena provided for so many years. I remember when Pena was with the Tigers, man he sucked. Maybe Johnson will take to the Trop like Pena did so many years ago.
Designated Hitter: Manny Ramirez. 2010 splits: .298 average, 9 home runs, 42 RBI, .870 OPS. Brief: I FREAKING LOVED this signing by the Rays in the offseason. Tampa acquired Man-Ram on the cheap for 2011. When healthy, and frankly, “all-there” Manny is arguably the best hitter in a generation. The key now is finding out whether Manny will give a rip this year.
Catcher: John Jaso. 2010 splits: .263, 5 home runs, 44 RBI, .750 OPS. Brief: Jaso won the catcher’s spot with his top-notch plate discipline last season. Man that’s exciting isn’t it? Right behind him is the free-swining Kelly Shoppach who possesses a lot more pop but also a higher potential to swing three times and walk back to the dugout with his tail between his legs.
Alright, be back next week to preview the starting rotation and relievers. Salude.
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