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In upside, this OF is peerless

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

NEW YORK - You don't have to look very hard to see how good the Rays outfield of Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff is.

You can look at the field, where they run down fly balls and race around the bases. Or you can look at the AL stats leaderboard, where they are showing up with increasing regularity.

Now look around the majors and consider this:

What outfield trio would you rather have?

If you were playing one game, or for one season with an unlimited budget, you'd probably take Atlanta's trio of Chipper Jones-Andruw Jones-Gary Sheffield, which is going to provide extreme power and production, but at an excessive cost ($35.8-million in 2003 salary) and an advanced age (average: 30.3).

Seattle's Randy Winn-Mike Cameron-Ichiro Suzuki, Boston's Manny Ramirez-Johnny Damon-Trot Nixon, St. Louis' Albert Pujols-Jim Edmonds-(when healthy) J.D. Drew and the White Sox's Carlos Lee-Carl Everett-Magglio Ordonez are pretty good groups of veterans, too.

But for a young team, trying to build for the future on a limited payroll, you couldn't do much better than what the Rays have.

Manager Lou Piniella said Saturday he wouldn't trade them for any other trio.

"No, because they're going to get better," Piniella said. "I think C.C. has been the most improved player I've seen in the league from the All-Star break on. Baldelli has been steady. And when you look at Rocco, and you say to yourself, "This kid was playing in (Class A) Bakersfield last year,' the way he's done at the big-league level, it's been a wonderful story. And then Huff has very quietly and very productively thrust himself into the upper echelon of hitters in baseball, and at the same time shown real nice improvement in the outfield."

Baldelli is 21, Crawford 22 and Huff 26. Only Huff will be eligible for arbitration next season, which means their combined salary barely will be more than $3-million.

"With continued improvement from our younger two players, this could turn into an elite outfield in baseball just like the Atlanta outfield," Piniella said. "Will they ever have that type of power? Probably not. But from a productivity standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, from a speed standpoint, they're awfully good."

Even better, they're only going to get better.

"I think we're just a year away from those three young outfielders being recognized as three potential All-Stars at the major-league level," GM Chuck LaMar said.

"They're three young, talented players you can build a franchise with and I think by this time next year not only we will know their ability but the people throughout the American League as well."

BRIGHT FUTURE: So, Detroit's Dmitri Young was asked, should people believe his younger brother, Delmon, when he says he'll go from being the top pick in the 2003 draft to a big-leaguer in 2005?

"There's no reason not to," he said.

Dmitri raved about Delmon's bat and rifle arm, and when asked for a player to whom his brother compares came up with a good one: "How about Dave Winfield?"

HOO-RAYS: Managing general partner Vince Naimoli's acknowledgement last week that there will be a "reasonable" increase in payroll next season was significant. The next question is whether his definition of "reasonable" is the same as Piniella's, who is hoping for a bump to $30-million. Twenty-six or $27-million may be more like it. ... B.J. Upton was named the top minor-league shortstop prospect in the game by Baseball America. ... There will be a Tampa Bay baseball fantasy camp in February, featuring Lee Elia, Howard Johnson, Jim Fregosi and Richie Hebner. See allstaradventures.com for details.

Today's lineup
Rays
  • Rays detect no signs of a Yankees decline
  • Lou's worst club still inspires hope
  • In upside, this OF is peerless
  • Rays tales

  • Bucs
  • Hitting the high spots
  • A shutout as only Rice can see it
  • Waitress's joke hard for Sapp to swallow
  • Carolina blueprint should look familiar
  • Kickin' back with Thomas Jones
  • Sideline
  • Letters: Eagles fans reach the ultimate low

  • Lightning
  • Lecavalier, Stillman highlight first day
  • Success depends on growth

  • Other sports

    Baseball
  • MLB acts the bully with Expos
  • AL: Chisox ride Colon's stamina
  • NL: Marlins thrill a packed house
  • Penny injury less serious than feared

  • Boxing
  • Sugar gets sweet win vs. De La Hoya

  • College football
  • 'Canes inconsistent but still cruise to win
  • Gators shake off doubt, slow start
  • Technical difficulty
  • Clarett expected to stay at OSU
  • 'Canes contain big plays
  • Freshman Harris out until second trial
  • Special teams a bit more so
  • UF By the numbers
  • UF Game balls
  • 'Noles seek new nonconference foe
  • Defense makes stand when it counts most
  • FSU By the numbers
  • FSU Game balls
  • Buckeyes extend streak by inches
  • Wolverines devour Irish

  • Conferences
  • Big East: Big third helps Pitt pull away
  • SEC: Georgia stifles South Carolina
  • State: UCF needs record day to rally, hold off FAU
  • Big Ten: Wisconsin stumbles, fumbles away game
  • Pac-10: Trojans click in all phases
  • Big 12: Hogs upset 'Horns
  • C-USA: Golden Eagles punish Tigers' errors
  • Nation: Air Force finds it can pass, rush
  • ACC: Boilermakers don't fall short this time

  • Golf
  • Dent's 65 within a stroke of his age
  • Sorenstam, Pettersen strike a blow at U.S.

  • Gotta minute?
  • Rocco Baldelli

  • Horse racing
  • Congaree frozen out in warmup

  • In brief
  • eBay item has James agitated

  • Motorsports
  • M. Schumacher wins F1 pole
  • NASCAR remains a family business

  • NFL
  • Picks, Week 2
  • Same Tuna, different diversion
  • Things make you go hmmm

  • Opinion
  • Rant, Rave

  • Outdoors
  • Daily fishing report
  • Preparation vital ahead of a storm

  • Preps
  • Kotchman, Quick can't catch King's Bowerman
  • Biladeau never looks back as Jesuit wins
  • DQ aids Plant girls at relays; Jesuit tops boys
  • Jesuit's Biladeau runs away with title
  • King's Bowerman cruises to victory
  • Lecanto has strong showing
  • PHU gets best of Seminole
  • Practice as targets pays as PHU wins at Keswick

  • Soccer
  • This won't be a party like it was in 1999
  • Letters: Ex-Seminole should have been kicked out
  • Back to Top

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