With the Rays now making their first ALCS appearance, their young team is going to be put to the test.
1. Akinori Iwamura (2B) AVG: .274, HR: 6, RBI: 48, SB: 8
Iwamura is the smart and speedy type of player that Tampa Bay needed at the top of their lineup. While he may not be as fast as teammate Carl Crawford, Iwamura’s efficiency at the top of the lineup allows Crawford to move down in the lineup and better utilize his power.
2. B.J. Upton (CF) AVG: .273, HR: 9, RBI: 67, SB: 44
Upton has the type of raw talent that Major League scouts dream of. His combination of speed and power will make him a future superstar. However, even as of this moment, Upton is a force to be reckoned with in the No. 2 slot of the Rays’ lineup.
3. Carlos Pena (1B) AVG: .247, HR: 31, RBI: 102, SB: 1
Pena has the type of raw power that Tampa has needed in the middle of their lineup for years. At one point, Carlos was a top of the line prospect, but he under-produced and bounced between the Majors and Minors for several years. However, he has found a home in Tampa, and his power makes him a vital part of this team.
4. Evan Longoria (3B) AVG: .272, HR: 27, RBI: 85, SB: 7
Even though he’s only 22 years old, Evan is already developing into an absolute superstar. Longoria is clearly a five-tool player, and is drawing comparisons to both Derek Jeter and David Wright in his playing style. Evan will be a leader in the Rays’ clubhouse for years to come.
5. Carl Crawford (LF) AVG: .273, HR: 8, RBI: 57, SB: 25
Even though he is currently batting fifth in the Rays’ lineup, Crawford is one of the fastest players in all of baseball. He has a rare combination of speed and power that makes him dangerous in any situation.
6. Cliff Floyd (DH) AVG: .268, HR: 11, RBI: 39, SB: 1
Cliff brings the young Rays the veteran leadership that they sorely needed. He may be in the later years of his career, but he still has enough pop in his bat to get the job done.
7. Dioneer Navarro (C) AVG: .295, HR: 7, RBI: 54, SB: 0
At one point, Navarro was a bright catching prospect in the New York Yankees farm system. Today, he is the All-Star catcher that is leading the Rays’ pitching staff in the 2008 playoffs. Navarro is a very good contact hitter, and he handles the pitching staff like a pro.
8. Gabe Gross (RF) AVG: .242, HR: 13, RBI: 38, SB: 2
A long-time journeyman in the MLB, Gross is now getting a large amount of playing time in right field for Tampa Bay. He’s not a superstar, but he has shown the ability to come through in the clutch, and for an eighth hitter, you really can’t ask for too much more.
9. Jason Bartlett (SS) AVG: .286, HR: 1, RBI: 37, SB: 20
Even though Jason is in the lineup primarily because of his defense, he has the ability to get the job done with his bat as well. Jason has the ability to hit for a decent average, and he has some speed in his legs as well. His numbers may not jump out at you, but the truth is that Bartlett is a very important piece of the Tampa Bay Rays of 2008.