With Spring Training starting on Thursday the Rays will report to camp with the highest expectations the team has ever had. So far in the teams ten seasons they have finished in last place in the AL East nine times. Heading into 2008, as we start to see prediction on television, website, magazines, and newspapers, most will have the Rays out of the cellar.
With the Baltimore Orioles getting trading off their veteran talent in Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada they seem to be heading for a pretty bad season. The Rays on the other hand are an organization stocked with more young talent than any other team in baseball. They are at a point where the youth is starting to mature and play a bigger and bigger role with the team.
The rotation this season will led by Scott Kazmir (24 years old), James Shields (26) and Matt Garza (24). The batting order will be bolstered by Carl Crawford (26), BJ Upton (23), and Evan Longoria (22). Throw in a veteran like Carlos Pena at 1B (46 HR last season) and this team is looking really strong.
The key to 2008 will be in the health and maturation of the youngsters. If Upton and the pitching staff can build on their success in 2007, they are a mortal lock to stay out of last place, they may even compete for third place. Make sure to keep an eye on the spring training box scores to see how well the young fellas are playing.
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