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DRays Blogger Round Table - Part One

Last week I had the opportunity to host the first ever Devil Ray Blogger Round table. It turned out to be alot of fun. In what will be a three part series, here is part one. There has been alot of DRays news recently, so it was a perfect time to do this. The Devil Rays Bloggers that participated include :

Jim of Z-Rays

Jake of Rocc Says

Jay of Rays Baseball

Jessica/Sam of Rays Talk

And of course, be sure to sign up and be a part of this all new DRays online community.

Here is Part One:

Bossman Junior showed why he is the great prospect again last year with his great offensive play. He showed some great power as a SS, however, he continued to struggle with his defense. He is slated to go down to AAA to work some more on his defense. Do you think he can play every day at majors. If not, then where does he play?

Z-RAYS (Jim) : Upton has the ability to play every day in the majors, the question is whether or not Lou Piniella will accept his errors at SS. The Rays appear to have plans to bring him up by mid-season no matter what so things are going to come to a head eventually. I fully expect that Upton will be playing every day in the majors in August and September. If he cuts down on the errors enough for Lou to accept him, then he'll play SS. If not then I expect him to play 3B with Alex Gonzalez moving to SS.

RAYSTALK(Jessica) : Upton has all the makings of being the next Alex Rodriguez, and even A-Rod struggled at the beginning of his career. BJ needs some more time in the minors to hone his skills, both offensively and defensively. I expect he will see some time in the big leagues this season, and by 2006 he should be ready to be an everyday major leaguer.

ROCC SAYS (Jake) : Yes, he'll play every day in the Majors. I still think that he may make the team out of Spring Training. The only thing BJ should worry about is Reid Brignac.

RAYSBASEBALL (Jay) : He will be a star, and should be here one way or another full-time in 2006. But his defensive problems are real, and they are big. He may not be a major-league shortstop.

RAYSTALK(Sam) : Can he play SS every day in the majors? I think he could, as his defense will improve. Will he ever play the position WELL in the majors? That's a different question. I like him better at 3B.

Aubrey Huff has been the subject of numerous trade rumors. Does he play out his contract in Tampa Bay where he is a free agent after the 2006 season, or do the Rays trade him?

Z-RAYS (Jim) : I expect him to be traded after the 2005 season. There will be plenty of hopeful contenders that can use him and will make a good enough offer to pry him loose. Although a pretty good deal for the Rays, his 2006 salary is fairly large and moving that will enable them to hopefully make a good free agent signing or two while also dealing with arbitration cases.

RAYSTALK (Jessica): Aubrey Huff is one of the few players who actually wants to play in Tampa Bay. Unless Chuck LaMar makes an unprecedented bonehead move, he should still be playing in Tampa Bay when his contract is up.

ROCC SAYS (Jake): He will stay here as long as he is under contract...whether we give him an extension or not is a whole other thing. We'll get 2 supplemental picks if we keep him and he decides to walk away.

RAYSBASEBALL (Jay): He'll play this season with the Rays. Next offseason, there is a 50-50 chance he is traded. With the way LaMar has drafted in the early rounds lately, there is a good chance the two compensatory picks would be better than anything we get back in return (unless the Rays can get a frontline starter).

RAYSTALK (Sam) : Huff will probably be traded eventually, but I hope it's not until 2006. That will be the last year of his current contract, and if we're not going to re-sign him at that time, then it would be better for us to trade him. And since Huff will be on the wrong side of 30 at that point (that is, in the "overpriced" stage of his career), it might be smarter not to keep him.

When the Rays signed Jose Cruz Jr, it was thought that Lou could get the best out of him. He went into his second half funk in 2004, just like the previous year. Any chance he turns it around in 2005?

Z-RAYS (Jim) : Offensively I don't think there's anything for him to turn around. Although he did it in a very inconsistent fashion he still ended the season around his career averages, although with the power decline he had shown the past two seasons as well. If anything I would expect a little regression considering how he ended the season swinging at everything with little success. The safe bet though is that he'll have good months and bad ones and in the end his stats will look a lot like 2004. Defensively I expect some improvement. He isn't going to compete for a Gold Glove again but he shouldn't be as awful as pretty much every metric rated him in 2004.

RAYSTALK (Jessica) : Cruz has had potential, but he is at a stage in his career where potential doesn't matter. No one is going to see the best out of Cruz until he gives up switch-hitting, something he has been approached about in the past and rejected. Otherwise, he will likely become trading fodder sometime during the season.

ROCC SAYS (Jake) : Hell No, he will continue to be a waste of a roster spot until Delmon makes it up here and possibly still then. Also, I would like to note that it was a full-season funk for Cruz, not just a 2nd half funk.

RAYSBASEBALL (Jay) : I was wrong last season when I said he was a disappointment. As others pointed out, he played to his career norms. And at his current age, there is no reason to think he'll deviate much from that norm in 2005.

RAYSTALK (Sam) : Not with the Rays. :-)

The Kazmir deal with the Mets. Does D-Rays GM deserve credit or did this deal just fall into his lap?

Z-RAYS (Jim) : Lamar has to get some credit. For one thing, he could have said no and decided to hold on to his best starter, which initially seemed to be what Piniella would have preferred. Secondly, teams don't open negotiations offering up their best prospect. Lamar must have suggested Kazmir and held his position enough for the Mets to cave in out of desperation/stupidity. He certainly didn't dupe the Mets, they convinced themselves that the deal was good even though they had an accurate read on the value of both Zambrano and Kazmir, but he has to get some credit for getting it done.

RAYSTALK (Jessica) : The Rays were fortunate that the Mets wanted Zambrano bad enough that they would give up a gem like Kazmir. LaMar would never have made that move on his own--he just got lucky.

ROCC SAYS (Jake) : Fell into his lap, we all know that LaMar is "The Scarecrow" from "The Wizard of Oz." All he should get credit for is actually pulling the trigger on the deal.

RAYSBASEBALL (Jay) : Yeah, LaMar deserves the credit. But it does seem as though he expects that kind of haul each time, and that is the reason he doesn't make many moves.

RAYSTALK (Sam) : A little of both, I think, but for a deal of that magnitude, you just have to give LaMar some credit. I make no secret of it, I despise LaMar, but the Kazmir deal was a major winner.

Crawford continued to improve last season and is turning into a star on the base paths. With the low number of walks for a leadoff, is there a chance Gathright one day takes over as leadoff or do you see him improving in this area?

Z-RAYS (Jim) : Due to Crawford's advantage in power in might be better to bat Lugo in the leadoff spot with Crawford behind him. It doesn't matter a whole lot though because the Rays just don't have anyone that fits the role well. Gathright would be a far worse option than Crawford, his declining walk rate in the minors suggests an only decent one in the majors and I doubt he'll hit for a very high average this season in the majors. The best solution, when he comes up again, might be B.J. Upton. He isn't expected to show his full power potential yet because he's still so young but he should be able to put up a higher OBP than Crawford. Crawford could then be moved down a spot to #2, which may be where he'll belong in the future anyway.

RAYSTALK (Jessica) : Crawford has the work ethic to improve his plate discipline, although the Rays could probably use him effectively lower in the order. However, considering that the Rays have so much outfield talent, there doesn't seem to be much of a future with Gathright in the Devil Rays organization.

ROCC SAYS (Jake) : I see Crawford improving his OBP, Joey hasn't shown any indication that he can last an entire season without having any shoulder problems. If he can improve his XBH, Joey could become lethal.

RAYSBASEBALL (Jay) : I don't have much faith in Gathright becoming an everyday player, so my answer is no. The lack of a future leadoff hitter isn't so bad though - the power the Rays could have in the middle of the field with Upton, Cantu, and Crawford will be impressive.

RAYSTALK (Sam) : If Gathright ever takes over Crawford's leadoff spot, it will be primarily because Crawford has morphed into a #3 hitter. Crawford's power spiked significantly in '04, with his SLG jumping up to .450 from the .360-.370 range. A big key for the Rays in '05 is the degree to which CC sustains, or even improves upon, those power numbers. But as for Gathright proving to be a capable MLB leadoff man, time will tell. Before that happens, he'll need to learn to play smarter, not harder ...

The Rays went the college route this past draft grabbing Jeff Niemann in the first round. This year they pick 8th. Will Upton's brother be available at that point? Who might the Rays be considering with that pick?

Z-RAYS (Jim) : It would be a shock if Justin Upton was still available then. He could go #1 overall. I don't follow the draft very closely so I can't say who might be picked. I hope they'll go with a college third baseman, catcher, or pitcher. I'm a believer in drafting the best available player, regardless of need, but if a player that fits that experience/position criteria is available and could be justified as the #8 pick, the Rays should go for it.

RAYSTALK (Jessica) : The younger Upton will likely be picked high in the draft, but whether he will be available at #8 has yet to be determined. It's a little early to be predicting the draft.

ROCC SAYS (Jake) : If Upton is available, he'd be an easy sign for us just because of the family name. I don't think that Upton will fall that far, though. I see us getting Sean O'Sullivan or Jed Lowrie right now. Ramos out of CSF isn't out of the realm of the Rays, either.

RAYSBASEBALL (Jay) : Niemann was the best "talent" on the board, and was one of those few college guys whom scouts thought had alot of 'upside'. So even though he was a college guy, it still fit LaMar's MO of going after big potential guys. He won't select a college guy if his potential is thought to be limited (maybe he did with Brazelton, but it won't happen again), so my guess is that he'll go back to the prep ranks, maybe Maybin if he's available. Justin should be gone by #8.

RAYSTALK (Sam) : The early buzz among Rays fans is that the 2005 draft is deep. I don't know WHOM, specifically, we'll be after. I'm more concerned about WHAT. Do we draft more top pitching? Do we try to pick up a decent catcher, finally? That might be a wise choice. Do we assume that Upton will make it as a SS and try to pick up a 3rd baseman? I'll have to look at it in more depth, but right now I guess I'll be happy as long as we don't draft any more outfielders.