Tampa Bay Devil Rays Season Preview

With the Preseason in full swing, Diamond Hoggers will attempt to forecast several aspects of each team in baseball. Before Opening day we plan to have a pretty good outline of what you’ll be seeing in 2007. Today we take our hacks at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays:

Predicted Finish: 80-82 (4th place, AL East)

Projected Stats: Crawford (.301, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 55 SB), Baldelli (.288, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 12 SB), Delmon Young (.269, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 10 SB), Gomes (.299, 13 HR, 61 RBI), Zobrist (.249, 8 HR, 34 RBI), Cantu (.283, 14 HR, 70 RBI, 15 SB), Dioner Navarro (.271, 10 HR, 44 RBI), Kazmir (15-9, 3.23 ERA)

Biggest Storyline: How long can the youthful enthusiasm and young talent hang with the biggest heavyweights (Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays) in baseball? Joe Maddon will be a better fit for this club than Lou Piniella, who is more tailored for a veteran team that competes every day, but how much success can be expected of Maddon in his first season as a big league manager? Scott Kazmir, Carl Crawford, Johnny Gomes, and Delmon Young among others give the D-Rays a chance at having their own Major League superstars.

Strengths: Tons and tons of speed. Quite possibly the fastest team in the big leagues, and they play on astroturf. If Maddon knows what he is doing he will let his guys run early and often on the bases and keep the pressure on other teams that can’t possibly keep up with their team’s impressive speed. Youth is also a strength for these guys. They have nothing to lose, which is dangerous for a baseball team. The team will adjust to their manager Maddon better because his character and inexperience fits the mold of this team better than Piniella did.

Weaknesses: Tampa Bay is not a baseball town. Teams do not fear being faced with having to go into Tampa Bay and win 3 out of 4 or, 2 out of 3 games. Until this team can get a consistent crowd to start filling the stands and supporting it, only expect short term periods of sustained sucess. The pitching staff is littered with re-treads along with the bullpen and starting rotation after Kazmir. Seth Mcclung is makeshift as a big league closer. In the National League they’d have a shot in a division like the NL Central or the NL West, but in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, where they play the Yankees and Red Sox nearly 20 times a year, they’re behind the 8 ball a bit.

Canseco, Vinny Castilla, Greg Vaughn, and Freddy Mcgriff were a flop as D-Rays