For two months the Rays had an elite closer, branded as El Asesino by the organization, boasting an ERA of 2.4 and suffering one loss, since Al Reyes has an ERA of 6.56 and losing three games. Remember back when we discussed Shawn Camp's problems and traced them to equation x or in other words: too many groundballs + bad infield defense = ERA explode? That's the opposite for Reyes who has a 22% groundball rate and 11% flyballs equaling homerun percentage. Consider he allowed 13 in 59.2 innings, Brian Stokes for comparison has allowed 11 in 62.1 innings, of course Stokes also has a 50% groundball percentage, which leads you to wonder if that's part of the problem with the Stoker.
My point is Reyes simply cannot be relied on as the closer next year, other than the lack of future in a Rays uniform lately he's looked like toast, partially with the percentages catching up with him. Someone, apparently in house, will need to step into the 9th inning role, whether that's Wheeler, Salas, Balfour, Niemann, Talbot, whoever I don't think anyone can see Reyes closing next year, well perhaps Ichabod Crane, but otherwise? Unlikely.
Although I'm not sure at what point last season I threw my hat into the David Price wagon, luckily this familiarized me with third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the whispers were that Alvarez was a shoo in for the number one pick in 2008, making Vanderbilt the home to consecutive top picks. Alvarez plays third for Vanderbilt but will likely move to first or into a corner outfield slot, out of high school Alvarez was actually a shortstop, but his 6'2" frame contributed to a move a rock's throw away.
Much like Price, Alvarez is a humble, intelligent young man who could be drafted by the Rays exiting his junior season. The 20 year old hit .386/.463/.684 for Vandy this year along with 18 homers, 68 runs batted in, six stolen bases, and 21 doubles. If that's not enough he shunned the Red Sox who drafted him as a high school senior and as I covered his nicknames are El Toro and El Matatan a la the man. The comparisons to Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are there, as is competition for the number one pick, particularly from first basemen Yonder Alonso (Miami), Justin Smoak (South Carolina), and pitchers Aaron Crow (Missouri), Cole St. Clair (Rice), and Brain Matusz (San Diego) that just assuming the Rays stick the college route.
Two theories on the 20% increase that have been brought up: Sternberg meant 20% onto the 35 million dollar figure that started last season (putting our payroll around 42 million), and the Rays will spend money on foreign players, remember posting fees don't count towards the team salary.
Interesting tidbit from the St. Pete Times, apparently Elijah Dukes is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and leaving on October 10th.
In case you were wondering the 2008 free agent class includes C.C. Sabathia, Johan Santana, Ben Sheets, and Francisco Rodriguez, get your hopes up beginning now.