It was an incredibly magical season for Tampa in 2008. A team that had never finished higher than fifth in the American League East, Tampa shot out of the gates and never looked back on the way to the team’s first World Series appearance. What makes it scary for American League opponents is that the team is still very young and there is plenty of additional talent in the farm system to keep them rolling for quite some time.
#1 Overall Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria (3B) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 Stats: .272 BA, 27 HR, 31 2B, 85 RBI, 7 SB, 67 RS
It took nearly a month for Longoria to get the call to the majors, but he answered it and jumped right into the fray, winning the American League Rookie of the Year award along the way. Tampa apparently agreed with the rest of the league and locked him up through his arbitrations years on just a small sample of production. Look for solid growth across the board in 2008, somewhere in the neighborhood of .285, 35 home runs, and 110 RBI.
#2 Overall Tampa Bay Rays: Carl Crawford (LF) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 Stats: .273 BA, 8 HR, 12 2B, 57 RBI, 25 SB, 69 RS
It’s been a long time since we ranked anyone on the Rays above Carl Crawford on fantasy projections, but a significant amount of time missed to injuries and serious slippage in his overall stats when healthy lead to Crawford dropping a slot this year. Regardless of his performance last season, Crawford had remained consistent up to that point, and there is no reason not to expect a return to brilliance in 2009. Pencil him in for .300, 14 home runs, 70 RBI, and 50 stolen bases.
#3 Overall Tampa Bay Rays: BJ Upton (CF) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 Stats: .273 BA, 9 HR, 37 2B, 67 RBI, 44 SB, 85 RS
Another scary sign for the rest of the league is that the Rays played such good team baseball without two of their best players having quality seasons. Like Crawford, Upton reverted quite a bit in 2008. His stolen bases were a fantastic addition, but those expecting he would build off of 2007 were greatly disappointed. Still, Upton will only be 24 to begin the season, so he should rebound a bit in 2009. Expect results somewhere in between both seasons, but hope for better.
#4 Overall Tampa Bay Rays: Carlos Pena (1B) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 Stats: .247 BA, 31 HR, 24 2B, 102 RBI, 1 SB, 76 RS
2008 was another solid year in Tampa for Carlos Pena, although he did slip back in regards to his normal ways in terms of batting average. Still, his status as a run producer has greatly improved with him time in Tampa. He’s more likely to stay around the level he played at in 2008 rather than 2007.
#5 Overall Tampa Bay Rays: Scott Kazmir (SP) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 stats: 12 Wins and 8 Losses, 3.49 ERA, 1.267 WHIP, 166 SO
Another year of proving that the Mets made the worst trade in baseball history when they sent Kazmir to Tampa five years ago. Kazmir still is an injury risk, but when he’s on the mound, he’s as good as any starter in the league. You’re likely to lose three or four starts a year with him, but if you pick him up, you are also likely to get 12-14 wins, an ERA near 3.50, and close to 200 strikeouts.
MLB Standings, MLB.com
MLB Team Stats, Hitting, MLB.com
MLB Team Stats, Pitching, MLB.com
Evan Longoria, Baseball-Reference.com
Carl Crawford, Baseball-Reference.com
BJ Upton, Baseball-Reference.com
Carlos Pena, Baseball-Reference.com
Scott Kazmir, Baseball-Reference.com