The Tampa Bay Rays' Five Players to Watch for in 2009

Scott BirchfieldCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2009

When you look up and down the Tampa Bay Rays' roster, it is easy to overlook certain players. Every major league team has their superstars and their complementary players. Here are my top five unsung players for the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays.


5. Joe Nelson

Signing Nelson during the offseason was a key move for the Rays. The Rays had a pretty good bullpen in 2009, but adding Nelson to the mix definitely helps.

He is not a young pitcher anymore, but the Rays are confident that he is a good fit for the ballclub.


4. Andy Sonnanstine

Sonnanstine will never be considered a power pitcher who will dominate hitters. However, he is a pitcher who keeps the Rays in games.

He might give up a ton of hits, but he makes up for it with his control. In 193 innings, Sonnanstine only walked 37 batters.

James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza might get the headlines, but Andy Sonnanstine is one to watch in 2009.


3. Willy Aybar

Aybar was a great addition a couple of seasons ago. Although he has had various off-the-field incidents, he has overcome them to become a solid major league player.

Aybar is not a regular starter at this point but is a player who can play three infield positions and can also DH. If a starter goes down, the Rays are confident that Aybar can get the job done.


2. Dioner Navarro

Besides Evan Longoria, Navarro made the biggest jump of any player last year. He went from being a mediocre catcher to an All-Star catcher.

I believe Navarro will have an even better 2009 season. He is already a wonderful defensive catcher and is getting better offensively as well. The Rays need more players in the lineup to hit in order to protect the talented middle part of the order.


1. Jason Bartlett

Even though Bartlett was voted the Rays' MVP for 2008, he is still considered an unsung player to me. He is known mostly for his defense, but he showed he can also swing the bat well toward the end of the season.

Like Dioner Navarro, I think Bartlett will improve even more this season. He will be great defensively and will be solid at the plate as well. If Bartlett can hit between .270 and .280 with 30-plus stolen bases, the Rays would be overjoyed.