Tampa Bay Rays 2011—91-71 Key Additions---Carlos Pena, Luke Scott Key Losses-------Johnny Damon Lineup---When you look at this lineup and think of the division they play in, you don’t give them much hope to score the amount of runs they will to. But they have built a team that is going to play very good defense and help out that great pitching staff even more. Evan Longoria is obviously the key to this lineup, as he has the ability to carry this team offensively for a long stretch. Unfortunately that is about as much offense as they are going to get from their infield. Ben Zobrist is a nice player, but I don’t expect him to continue to pace he had in 2011. Sean Rodriguez won’t hit too much, and Carlos Pena, while providing great defense, will not hit for much, especially considering being a corner infielder. And don’t expect them to get much out of the catching position. BJ Upton has all the skills to be a great center fielder, but it is a matter of him putting it together. Desmond Jennings is another player with great upside, but I don’t think you can pencil him in to be a key to this offense. They also brought in Scott to be the DH, but not sure he is capable of producing as much as they will need him to with this offense. As I said, this is a relatively weak lineup, but as you will read, it is not going to be the lineup that makes this team successful. Pitching---When you first glance at this rotation one work comes to mind…POTENTIAL… then you think, what if they reach that potential, then I think WOW. Let’s start with their #6 guy, Wade Davis. He would be a 2-3 type of most other teams, but he may not make the rotation. That says a lot. This team is loaded with good young arms. It starts with David Price, who has shown the ability to be dominant, although there is still concern about his ability to go deep into games. James Shields provides a really solid #2, and should be good for 15-17 wins. They also have Jeremy Hellickson and Jeff Nieman, who are above average arms and fit well in the back end of that rotation. And possibly the biggest key and best pitcher is Matt Moore, who showed flashes last year and if given the full time opportunity may just be the best of the bunch. The bullpen is a different story. As much as I love this rotation, I really wish they would have went out and tried to shore up the bullpen a big more. Kyle Farnsworth has proven time and time again he is not a closer, so I don’t expect him to really be a good one this year. They do have some power arms, but I expect this bullpen to be a big weakness. With that being said, I do think the rotation is strong enough to overcome this, and should carry them to a chance at the division title in a very competitive division. Outlook---We know how good this division is, so I didn’t like that the Rays just basically stood pat this offseason. However, I think their take is that adding an arm like Moore is just like signing a big name starting pitcher. We will see how that works out. I think Joe Maddon is a great manager, and expect because of this rotation the Rays to be in it right until the end. Will they have enough to make the playoffs again, only time will tell, but if they are able to get there, they have enough young power arms they could finally bring home that first title. Too bad no one in Tampa will be there to watch it!!!
read more: 2012 MLB Team Preview: Tampa Bay Rays