-With 19 games remaining the Major League regular season and various Minor Leagues playing their championships or done altogether, the NDRO should be smiling and deserves a pat on the back for once.
Yeah, I realize that the Rays are 60-83(a guaranteed 10th consecutive "losing" season) and mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but you've got to look at the bigger picture.
- After a public comment from Stu and a closed-door meeting with the hitting coach, the Rays have turned into a run-scoring tank. The Rays once never "stepped on the throats" of their opponents, but it appears that things have changed. We've got the power, speed and even good pitching(for once) to slam the door on some decent teams that are fighting for their playoff lives.
- 3 out of our 6 Minor League affiliates(3 out of 4 full-season affiliates, if you want to put it even more into perspective) are playing in the League Championships. If that doesn't make you confident in our minor leagues commitment to winning, I don't know what does. Montgomery is looking to repeat, Durham is trying to regain Governors' Cup glory and Columbus is riding dominant pitching and a few bats into a championship(Matt LaPorta, be damned!)
- No player in the majors has had such a dramatic turnaround from 1st Half batting average to 2nd half batting average than our own Dioneer Navarro with a .124 point change. Yeah, that's shocking to read...huh??
- Carlos Pena is on-pace to destroy a few more Devil Ray full-season records in the remaining 19 games. He's looking to add the RBI and OPS crowns in addition to the HR crown. All this is thanks to Greg Norton's knee. Oh yeah, he needs 17 more walks to have drawn 100 walks in a season. Mini-Dunn??
- 2 Devil Rays starting pitchers are looking to hit major statistical plateaus in their probable 3-4 remaining starts. Scott Kazmir and Jamie Shields are looking to become 200-200 pitchers and possibly both become 15-game winners. I've said before that Kazmir needed to break 200 innings for me to believe he's deserving of a long-term extension and durable enough to be at the top of the rotation. He's going to be one of 2 Devil Rays that are truly looking to prove me wrong.
- For the 2nd Devil Rays player to prove me to be no more than an "Armchair GM", that crown goes to Melvin Upton Jr. I said last year that I didn't believe that he'd become a CF after sucking in the infield and that I didn't believe that he could even match Rocco's regular totals at CF if he did indeed move. Well, yeah, I was wrong BJ. You're looking to become a 20/20/.300+ hitter and damn decent-fielding CFer. Ouch, I'm sorry dude.
- For those who believe that Delmon isn't having a good rookie season, look deeper into his numbers and you'll notice that it's pretty encouraging to our future. While he's not smashing bombs, he's trying to match his brother double-for-double(Delmon-34, Dmitri- 37). If one wants to look for a stat that is a predictor of "power to come", it's doubles and Delmon has over 30. Delmon, also, joined Ichiro Suzuki as the only 2 hitters in the last 50 years to have at least 5 10 or more game hitting streaks in their "rookie" season. Add into the fact that he can gun down baserunners, even Ichiro actually, we've got a superstar in the making in our RFer. Even if he's gone in 2012, kidding kidding, we may have a trophy/ring to change his mind if he continues to improve(and that starts with not swinging on the 1st pitch).
- While we may be out of the official playoff hunt, this wrecking crew seems to think that the remaining schedule is our "playoffs"(or shaping what we want to see in the playoffs) and prepares the team for how we have to play when the games are actually meaningful for when the team becomes a contender(which, day by day, seems closer and closer).
-For those wondering where the Longoria September call-up is, don't hold your breath on that. The Rays are keeping him in Durham to keep his postseason mojo going (remember, his bat carried Montgomery to a championship) and after that, he's got a loaded baseball offseason. Right after the season concludes, he's headed to the Arizona Fall League(playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions) and then play for Team USA in Taiwan. While it'd be nice to see Evan play, I'd rather give him something to aim for in Spring Training. Hell, Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year Jay Bruce didn't get called up due to 40-Man Roster Shenanigans.
Speaking of September call-ups, Jorge Valendia seems to be one of the few call-ups that will be made this year. Replacing Valendia as the starting SS in the IL Championships is Brooks Badeaux from Montgomery and replacing Brooks in Montgomery will be Aaron Sisk. Gotta love roster moves....