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AL East Roundtable Part 3: Devil Rays

Marc Normandin(Beyond the Box Score): Rank Tampa's young players in order of value to the club, 1-5.

Mark Willis-Connor(Jays): In all likelihood, the Rays won't compete for the playoff this season, so I'll focus on their players' long-term value to the organization. Admittedly, I haven't seen much of their prospects, so I'm mainly relying on what I've read.

Top 5:
#1 Delmon Young
#2 B.J. Upton
#3 Scott Kazmir
#4 Carl Crawford
#5 One of Niemann/Baldelli/Gomes

Scott Christ(Orioles): Crawford, Young, Kazmir, Upton, Gomes. I think Kazmir will be very good for a long while (if he stays healthy) and I'm waiting for Young to do something at the major league level before I put him ahead of Crawford, who is still getting better and could be a serious star player before he's through. I think Upton and Gomes will have some good years but never be stars.

Randy Booth: Who's young, and who isn't? Here's my list, however:

1.    Scott Kazmir. He needs to be at his best for the D-Rays to climb out of the cellar.
2.    Jorge Cantu. Another season like last year is important for him. He needs to start earning walks, however.
3.    Rocco Baldelli. He needs a big season after missing all of 2005. If he can get that outfield moving smoothly with Carl Crawford, that will help the D-Rays earn some more wins.
4.    Jonny Gomes. He flashed what he could do in the major leagues last year, and he should do it again. Give him more at-bats and another year in the majors, he could hit 30 home runs in '06.
5.    Carl Crawford. He's been around awhile, but he's still young. He's the only player that has been consistent year after year. I don't expect any less from him this season.

John Amato(Yankees):  

1.    Jorge Cantu
2.    Johhny Gomes
3.    Carl Crawford
4.    Scott Kazmir
5.    Rocco Baldelli

Jacob Larsen(Rays): Delmon, Kazmir and CC are 5s. Rocco, Upton, Brignac, Cantu, Niemann Bankston, E-Jax are 4s. Tiffany, Gomes and Orvella are 3s. Mason, Sonnastine, Gathright, Mason, Mann and McClung are 2s. Waechter, Hendrickson, Mori, Harper, Harville, Colome-1s. Huff and the other lesser-known prospects are 0s.

Blue Bird Banter: Where should Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo be dealt to, for what, and when?

Camden Chat: The Orioles, Tim Byrdak, yesterday. Honestly I wish the Orioles had explored a trade for Huff instead of getting Conine AND Millar. But I don't know what they'd trade, the farm isn't very deep and there's a decent chance the couple of best guys (Markakis, Snyder) will be better than Huff. And I don't know what Tampa wants or thinks they need. Lugo should really be easy for them to trade to a team that needs a middle infielder. The Cubs could fit that, because who wants to try to contend with Neifi Perez? The Mets could still put him in at second if they could find something to do with Kaz Matsui, but their system is pretty bleak. Lots of teams could benefit from Lugo as a stopgap.

Over the Monster: I don't know where they should be dealt to, but I know one thing for sure. That being they'll try to rob every sent out of the team they send those players to. They're a bunch of con-artists down in Florida.

Pinstripe Alley: Huff and Lugo should not be traded if they can help it but if they go, Huff probably will stay in the AL as a DH, Lugo can go anywhere. Their minor leagues seemed to be stocked pretty well but they need pitching. You can always find hitters, but pitching is where it counts so they need to pick up some live arms for these players. Huff is going to do well on a seasoned team looking at the playoffs and Lugo will be good anywhere. I see Lugo going to the National league and Huff staying in the AL if they go.

Blue Bird Banter: It'll be interesting to see how Friedman and Hunsicker approach trading away one or two of their many outfielders. He could be a good fit for the Cardinals, but they're not the best match, due to their weak farm system (which is slowly improving, by the way). With the annual rash of injuries and sudden ineffectiveness that plagues virtually every team, he should become a valuable trading chip by mid-season. Lugo fits into the mold of every other Rays player: he has oodles of raw talent, but his plate discipline is non-existent. Considering his age, that probably won't change, so he's a good candidate to be traded prior to the deadline. If Friedman had managed to trade Lugo as part of a deal for Andy Marte, as had been rumoured, it would've been quite the feather in his cap. As for specific teams, Boston's interest will depend on the performance of Alex "No S." Gonzalez. And like Huff, his value should increase as the injuries pile up during the season.

DRays Bay: If I were Friedman, I'd take any deal that involves young and cheap pitching for Huff. However, his 2006 salary is 7 MIL which is a little pricey for his toilet-swirling production. As for Lugo, if he's going to get traded, it won't be until the deadline or until the Rays are knocked off their feet by a deal. However, I wouldn't mind if he lasted the entire season(pending Upton's improvements) and we could get a prospect for him or resign him to a 1-2 year deal.

Blue Bird Banter:How will Rocco Baldelli fare in his return to the lineup in 2006, and what is his long term outlook?

Blue Bird Banter: Assuming he's healthy (a rather large assumption), there's not reason to believe he'll improve upon his prior totals. Until he learns to take a pitch, his value will mostly be derived from his defense. As a fan of Rocco's, I hope he does well.

Camden Chat: I think Baldelli is going to have the natural problems coming back from such a long layoff, and might just not get it together this year at all. But I think long-term he'll be solid if never really exceptional. Considering he still has a decent name reputation and is young, Tampa Bay could trade him too if they wanted.

Pinstripe Alley: He's a big key for them. Tampa came on like gangbusters at the end last year and really did some damage against the beasts from the east as well as the Central if I'm not mistaken. If Baldelli gets back to form, Tampa's lineup will be formidable as well as their outfield speed and defense. They can survive w/o him now with the new blood that thrived last year, but he would be such a bonus giving Tampa a great one-two of Rocco and Crawford at the top of the lineup. He has been hurt a lot but if his legs hold up just his added speed will be a good to have.

DRays Bay: More power, less strikeouts, less stolen bases, will probably spend most of 2006 around the 7th spot in the order. As for long-term, unless Elijah Dukes has a complete overhaul in attitude, Rocco will stay the Rays CF until his contract is over.

Over the Monster:  I think he'll struggle early on, but the second half he'll light up. I love watching Baldelli play. Hopefully he'll stay injury-free and continue his career that looks to be a really good one. Maybe he'll want to move closer to home and request a trade to Boston. A dream, I know.