Rays First Half Report Card 6-10
On March 31,2008, I wrote a blog with goals and needs for the Rays this season. Reasons 6-10 of the “Top 10 Must Happens” for 2008, are listed below. Tomorrow I will post reasons 1-5 before the Rays take on the Toronto Bluejays at the Trop.
On to the list:
6). Our Prospects need to improve……..just incase:
Our franchsie has been blessed with a great amount of minoir league pitching and position players. It is considered by many to be one of the best stocked systems in baseball. Pitchers like David Price, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson might not get to the majors this season, but make a great backload of talent and trade bait for the team.
Price is the one member of the pitching prospects who might crack the major league roster before Septembers’ call-ups. He has been brilliant in the minors, going 4-0, with a 1.83 ERA at Double-A. For his short career, Price is currently 7-0 for the organization.
Another guy who might be up here in September is catcher John Jaso. Jaso can hit for power and is a great communicator behind the plate. He is sure to battle for a back-up role next season for the Rays.
7). Rightfield guys have to be consistant and kick butt:
The pre-season arrangement of Jonny Gomes, Eric Hinske, and Cliff Floyd did not materialize completely as planned for Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Floyd’s knees are not good enough to get him out there, and Gome’s bat is great, but not consistant enough to place him out there on a regular basis yet.
The complete surprise of it all is the outstanding play of Eric Hinske. Hinske was fighting for just a roster spot in the spring, and now could be another huge piece of the puzzle for the Rays down the stretch run. His bat has been massive, and his outfield play is adequate for the Rays. He does have great clsoing speed in the outfield, but not playing there regularly for a few years, he has shown some rusty moments in right.
Another pleasant surprise has been the trade for former Brewer Gabe Gross to the Rays. It gives some stability in the late innings, and Gross’s bat has been productive for the team in numerous occasions. Both these guys have been a plus, plus for the squad this year.
The only reason this is not an “A” right now is the simple problem of no right-hande bat to help the lineup. Gomes had done a great job when he has been incerted into the lineup, but he is not an everyday solution for the team. The Rays are currently looking into trading for such a bat, but at this time, the players named might be too costly to obtain for a short period of time. Rocco Baldelli has a darkhorse chance of maybe playing this year for the Rays, and could be the guy for the position.
8.) The 1-2-3 Setup guys have to secure the game:
With the time Al Reyes and Troy Percival have spent on the DL this season, the Rays have stayed on contention this year. It was thought at the beginnig of the year, that these 3 guys had to gel into a unit to be a force in the backend of the Bullpen. With Percival and Reyes out of the lineup, Wheeler and Grant Balfour have stepped up and transformed the Bullpen into a consistant unit.
With the emergence of J P Howell as a lefty setup guy, the Rays have a two-pronged attack to get to the 8th or 9th innig and let Wheeler or Balfour get the save opportunity. Both Percival and Reyes are to be back in the fold in the coming weeks. This will further cement this unit with experience and strength down the stretch this year.
Grade……………………………………..A for effort, A for being one of the best Bullpen ERA turnarounds inthe last 50 years.
9). Catching has to hit a new high this season:
Rays Manager Joe Maddon wanted it, the fans wanted it, and Dioner Navarro gave it to us. Navarro is having a breakout year where he has not batted below .300 at any point this season. To further illustrate his upward moves, Navarro was also recently selected to his first All Star game.
Match that with the renewed leadership with this youg staff. His take-charge attitude, and his great game-calling skills, and we have finally seen the catcher we had hoped Navvaro would be last year.
To compliment him, back-up Shawn Riggans has not bee silient either. With limited time, he has also showed great improvement at the palte and behind the dish. Riggans hightlight has to be catching the 1-hitter by Matt Garza in Miami against the Marlins.
Grade……………………………………………….. A+ Extra Credit points
10). Akinora Iwamura must feel at home at second base:
I saved the best for last and did not even know it here. Aki has been nothing short of brilliant at second for the Rays this year. He is only the second person in MLB history to play his first season at 3rd for over 100 games, and then play 2nd for another 100 game to begin his career. The last guy…………….Ryne Sandberg.
Aki has seemed poised and relaxed out there with Jason Bartlett, and has been a great pivot man for the double play for the Rays. He only recently committed his 2 errors at the position, tops in the AL.
So that is the bottom half of my pre-season wants and needs by the Rays in 2008. I am glad to see we are only 1/2 game behind Boston, and I look forward to the team beginnig their first stretch run on Friday night.
Do not forget, all fans attending the game on Friday night get a $5 GAS card from Hess Express. So if you have a group of friends wanting to see the Rays, bring them out and get a card for everyone in your party.
Also Friday night is $1 Hot Dog night at the Trop. You can feed yourself a tubesteak for a buck and still have enough for a free frosty beers.
See you at the Trop…………………………