Next Stop Brazil
AL pennant-winning Rays to seek talent in Brazil
AL pennant-winning Rays to seek talent in Brazil
Fernando Perez does everything fast. So it was no surprise to the Rays how quickly the outfielder developed this season at Triple-A Durham, nor how quickly he had an impact on their September charge to the division title and their postseason run.
Mitch Talbot has struggled in his first two big league stints, but he hopes 2009 will be different.
Baseball America's recent list of the Rays' top prospects included the usual suspects. Shortstops Tim Beckham and Reid Brignac and outfielder Desmond Jennings headlined the group of position players while David Price, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and (recovering from surgery) Jake McGee highlighted the list of pitchers. And in the middle of all of them, ranked sixth, was Matt Moore. Matt Moore?
The flashy rings, the William Harridge trophy and the American League championship banner they will raise on April 13 are all tangible residuals of the Rays' stunning 2008 success. But there was so much more to their remarkable season, which included their first winning record, maiden playoff appearance, a trip to the World Series, a haul of major postseason awards and—to cap it all—Baseball America's Organization of the Year award.
Marc Topkin names a best player, best pitcher and player to keep an eye on from the 2008 season.
David Price throws fast. And he's been moving that way, too. The Rays promoted the top pick of the 2007 draft to Triple-A Durham for an Aug. 13 debut, making it three levels for the hard-throwing lefthander in three months. And the final step may come soon.
So much for third baseman Evan Longoria needing more seasoning. He was summoned to the big leagues on April 12, and all the third overall pick of the 2006 draft has done is emerge as one of the top rookies in the majors and one of the best—and most important—players on the surprising Rays team.
When Tim Beckham gave up baseball from ages 11-14, it was older brother Jeremy who got him back into the sport, leading to his No. 1 overall selection in the draft by the Rays last month. Now the Beckhams, four years apart, will get the opportunity to play together.
Third baseman Evan Longoria was playing in college two summers ago and in the minor leagues two months ago, but he hasn't looked anything like a rookie since joining the Rays in mid-April. "Certain players have an ability to slow the game down as the game pressure intensifies, and Evan is definitely one of those players," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "Our scouts noted that about him as an amateur and we have seen it repeatedly with him as a pro."
Much of the baseball world was focused on whom the Rays would take with the first pick in the draft, and they waited until the morning of the annual event before revealing they would make Tim Beckham the one. But scouting director R.J. Harrison and his staff put a lot of work into what they would do in the second round, and they felt it paid off when they were able to select LHP Kyle Lobstein with the 47th overall pick.
Jeff Niemann had a number of souvenirs and keepsakes from this two-start stint in the majors, such as a ball from his first victory, the memories of the obligatory beer shower, and the congratulatory bottle of Dom Perignon from teammate Cliff Floyd.
There were a lot of reasons why the Rays could have decided top third-base prospect Evan Longoria should open the season in the minors. The one they chose is actually the most simple: because he needs more time to develop.
There were a lot of things Justin Ruggiano could have thought when he was surprisingly sent back to minor league camp early in spring training. But Ruggiano, who'd played seven games for the Rays after an unexpected September callup and looked to be a contender for the fifth outfielder spot this spring, took it this way:
With blond hair and a slight 6-foot, 160-pound frame, Elliot Johnson doesn't look like a villain. But after a home-plate collision with Yankees catching prospect Francisco Cervelli in a March 8 spring training game, Johnson was being vilified on the back pages of all three New York tabloids and blasted by Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
Lefthander David Price made such a good first impression that the Rays felt like he'd been around for years.
There are extensive studies, lengthy analyses and way-too-complicated-to-understand computer projections attempting to define and categorize how good of a pitcher Rays ace Scott Kazmir could become. Tampa Bay teammate B.J. Upton can do it in two words: "Cy Young."
For a guy who's played one full season at low Class A, outfielder Desmond Jennings has been getting a lot of attention.
Jake McGee is preparing for a big season.
Catcher Chairon Isenia knows the Devil Rays organization better than anyone.