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.
RaysRays detect no signs of a Yankees decline
Lou's worst club still inspires hope
In upside, this OF is peerless
BucsHitting 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
Letters: Eagles fans reach the ultimate low
LightningLecavalier, Stillman highlight first day
Success depends on growth
BaseballMLB acts the bully with Expos
AL: Chisox ride Colon's stamina
NL: Marlins thrill a packed house
Penny injury less serious than feared
BoxingSugar gets sweet win vs. De La Hoya
College football'Canes inconsistent but still cruise to win
Gators shake off doubt, slow start
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
ConferencesBig 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
GolfDent's 65 within a stroke of his age
Sorenstam, Pettersen strike a blow at U.S.
Gotta minute?Rocco Baldelli
Horse racingCongaree frozen out in warmup
In briefeBay item has James agitated
MotorsportsM. Schumacher wins F1 pole
NASCAR remains a family business
NFLPicks, Week 2
Same Tuna, different diversion
Things make you go hmmm
OutdoorsDaily fishing report
Preparation vital ahead of a storm
PrepsKotchman, 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
SoccerThis won't be a party like it was in 1999
Letters: Ex-Seminole should have been kicked out