Contender by September for the Rays?

Chris ValContributor IJune 11, 2008

After years of being made a joke, going through numerous general managers, and being made a mockery of by the baseball nation, the Tampa Bay Rays have finally shown signs of life. 

After many seasons, the farm club of the Rays has finally reached it's potential.  Players like B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, and Evan Longoria have all contributed in their own fashion. 

Lets start off with B.J Upton, a player brought up to be a middle infielder but because of an ailment to Rocco Baldelli, the youngster was forced to make a transition to center field.  And what a transition he made, going from a perennial second baseman to a possible Gold Glove center fielder in 2008 is no easy transition. 

In fact it could have been a transition that possibly made his career.  Upton is also having a great season with the bat, hitting exactly a .300 average with five home runs and leading the team with 38 RBI and 20 stolen bases. 

These numbers with a little half way to go yet in the season, puts BJ around the five best hitting outfielders in the game. Behind, Josh Hamilton (also brought up in the Rays farm system), a surprising Milton Bradley, Carlos Quentin and Manny Ramirez.  A pretty good sum of names to be in if your BJ Upton. 

The other piece that fits perfectly to this speedy bunch is Carl Crawford, who is in his seventh season with the Rays.  Carl Crawford, also known by the fans as CC, might be the most absolutely loyal player the Rays have seen yet.  

After many season where Carl could have ventured out with his talent to find a team with more talent, more organization, or a wealthier team, he has remained loyal to his Rays. 

This year Crawford is in a bit of a slump, but is known more for his second half comebacks.  Carl is hitting .265 with 4 four home runs, 32 RBI and 19 stolen bases.  Over the last three season Carl has hit over .300, over 75 RBI, and also has had over 45 stolen bases in each of those seasons.  

As much as we like to talk about Carl's ability to hit, drive in runs and steal bases, you just can't forget about his ability to cover ground in left field.  In his seventh year and only being 26 years old Carl has proved to be a gem for the Rays. 

The new kid on the block who has been seemingly stunning, is third baseman Evan Longoria. He might be the most promising player the Rays have had yet. 

Longoria's almost a lock to win the rookie of the year award hitting 10 home runs with 32 RBI after being called up from the minors after almost a month into the regular season.  Numerous coaches from other teams that have played the Rays and have seen Evan's skills first hand, just rant and rave about Longoria's ability to hit the ball and play the field. 

Right now the Rays are trailing by one game to the Red Sox.  The word on the street is that the Rays won't be able to last and will eventually give ground to a more dominant more experienced team in the AL east. 

But through June 11, the Rays are still one of the top three teams in baseball and they show no signs of stopping.  As long as their pitching holds, and the team stays healthy, watch for the Rays to be a wild card contender by September.