If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and what they will do, and why. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans.
On the fifth day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, FIVE players with at least 25 home runs…
To listen to some bandwagoneers, you would think the Tampa Bay Rays are on the verge of being the next ’27 Yankees. To be certain, there is a potential all-star in at least six spots in the lineup. But for all the talent and the offensive potential, only one player hit 25 home runs for the Rays in 2007…Carlos Pena who finished the season with 46 after being sent to the minors following spring training and playing the first few weeks as a part-time player.
Overall the Rays finished 3rd in the AL with 187 home runs, trailing only the Yankees and the White Sox, despite only two players with more than 20 home runs. However, if the Rays expect to compete in the AL East in 2008 and finally escape the cellar and make a run at the playoffs, they will need more consistent production from the middle of the lineup.
With only a single player north of the 25 home run mark in 2007, is it too much to ask that five members of the 2008 squad reach the milestone? It will not be easy, as only two players appear to be guarantees for the mark. While Pena may not be able to repeat his 2007 numbers, he should be a lock to surpass 25 home runs. BJ Upton should also be a lock to surpass the 25 home run mark if he can remain healthy.
The rest of the lineup is filled with question marks and potential. First and foremost is Carl Crawford. Already considered among the most talented players in baseball, Crawford will need to add more home runs to his resume if he is to take the next step towards superstar status and perennial all-star. In 2006, CC hit 18 home runs and appeared poised to break out in 2007. But sore wrists sapped Crawford of his power and limited him to 143 games and 11 home runs. He matched that home run total in one 30-game stretch in 2006, and at 6’2″ 220, he certainly has the strength to hit 25 home runs.
The rest of the lineup is filled with players that are capable of hitting 25 long balls. Rocco Baldelli has the pop in his bat if he can stay on the field. Regular duty at DH in 2008 may ensure 120 games for Rocco and 25+ home runs. Jonny Gomes has twice exceeded 20 home runs without ever having received 400 at bats in a season. Cliff Floyd has surpassed 25 home runs on three occasions, but he will be 35 in 2008 and has only played more than 115 games once in the past five seasons. If all three players can stay relatively healthy in 2008, one or more should reach the 25 home run mark.
Of course, the biggest question mark is Evan Longoria. Peter Gammons noted that several scouts that saw the Dirtbag play in the Arizona Fall League said he would hit at least 30 home runs if given a full season at the big league level in 2008. At this point, there is no guarantee that Longoria will open the season with the Rays, but if he did, he would certainly be a threat to reach 25 long balls.
Carlos Pena snuck up on the entire league in 2007, including the Devil Rays Brass. He won’t have the same luxury in 2008. Unless other members of the lineup step up and provide the Rays with legitimate power threats, the Rays opponents will not hesitate to pitch around Pena and the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays will have more trouble scoring runs than would one would think upon first glance.
On the fifth day of Raysmas, all Rays fans want is FIVE players with at least 25 home runs, and..
FOUR winning records against AL East foes [Day 4]
THREE AL All-Stars [Day 3]
TWO new pitchers in the rotation by the all-star break [Day 2]
ONE Evan Longoria in the opening day lineup [Day 1]