Mailbag Questions 6/2

Rays Digest Publisher Tyler Hissey answers your questions from around the country. If you have a question about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, send an e-mail to

Rays Digest Publisher Tyler Hissey answers your Tampa Bay Devil Rays questions from around the country.

Several reports say that David Price is a lock to be selected as the Devil Rays first pick next week? If you were the General Manager of the Devil Rays, would Price be your choice?

David Tampa, FL

David, at this point, I think that Price is, hands-down, the best player in this year's draft class. There has been talk about the Devil Rays possibly selecting high school third baseman Josh Vitters, or Georgia Tech catcher Michael Wieters, but Price would be my pick. It would be awful tough to pass on a pitcher with an upside as high as Price's. Similar to Andrew Miller, the Detroit Tigers first round pick out of North Carolina last season, Price could rise up fast through the Devil Rays' farm system at a tremendous pace. Depending on when he signs, his big-league debut could be within a year of being drafted -- assuming the Devil Rays do, in fact, select Price with the first overall pick.

Since the Devil Rays have so many talented outfielders, does Justin Ruggiano ever have a change of being called up to the majors?

Ryan Durham, NC

Ruggiano doesn't have any tools that stand out at this point. But he has been a consistent hitter throughout his entire minor league career. This season, he has been one of the top hitters for the Durham Bulls as their everyday left fielder, leading regulars with a .295 batting average while sitting at second on the team with seven home runs and 24 RBIs. With Carl Crawford and so many other talented outfielders ahead of him, however, there is obviously a log jam blocking Ruggiano. And the odds of him becoming an everyday player with Tampa Bay are fairly low. If he continues to hit, though, someone will take notice and he should get an opportunity at the big-league level in the future. For now, it appears the highest spot he could reach with the Devil Rays would be as a fourth or fifth outfielder. From what I hear, he has a great work ethic. I wouldn't bet against him, but Tampa Bay isn't the organization to be in for outfielders with fringe tools who get by on statistics alone.

How come Jorge Cantu is no longer the second baseman? A few years ago, he was one of the best in the game when he represented Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. What happened?

Jamie St. Petersburg,

Jamie, Cantu didn't even make the big-league team out of spring training. His defense as a second baseman has become too big of a liability to keep him at the position. Assuming he stays with the Devil Rays, Cantu won't be playing second base in the major leagues anytime soon. The organization has lost faith in his defense, largely because of his failure to show the team that he is capable of turning the double play consistently. He has limited range at the position and, often times, seemed lack-a-daisical during his appearances there in spring training and over the past few seasons. B.J. Upton, who is fourth in the American League All-Star voting among second baseman, is off to a great start to the season. It appears that he has finally found a position to call home and looks poised to become a star. From a defensive standpoint, he is an upgrade over Cantu as well. He has had some bumps along the way, which comes with the territory of learning a new position. But in the long-run, I, personally, still think that Upton will end up in center field.

You are right about one thing. Cantu was one of the top second baseman in the game during the 2005 season, certainly from his offensive production alone. He blasted 28 home runs and set a team record with 117 RBIs in a breakout season. The Devil Rays are still waiting for him to regain his 2005 form at the plate. But in such a limited role, that poses quite a challenge. Cantu, who still hasn't hit a home run yet this year, has been platooning at first base, a position that may be the place for him in the long run.

Do you support the Devil Rays sending Jonny Gomes to Durham? He was one of the reasons I started following the Rays last season.

Daniel Billerica, MA

Gomes needs to get his at-bats by being in the lineup on a regular basis. I think that Durham is the right place for him to be right now. However, I haven't given up on him -- like the organization appears to have done -- yet. I think Gomes could be an All-Star designated hitter in this league in future, if he is, in fact, given the chance to swing the bat on a daily basis. Right now, the at-bats are there for him in Durham, where he belongs right now. Last year, he was among the American League leaders in home runs for the first six weeks of the season and was on pace for well over 30 homers before a shoulder injury hindered his production at the plate, eventually cutting short his season. That injury has had lasting effects on his position in the organization. Who knows where he would be if stayed healthy the entire 2006 season and and finished the season with 30 plus home runs?

By the way, Gomes is 2-for-5 with three runs scored in his first two games with the Bulls.

Now, Tyler, my question is simple but nonetheless important. Should the Rays give up on Navarro? I know he is 22 but I mean every time there is a chance to score and he is up, the inning mine as well be over. And his defense is just flat out terrible! I would much rather have Riggans or even Paul start over him.

Roger Tampa, FL

I agree with you in your analysis. I am not a Dioner Navaro guy at all.

Shawn Riggans got off to a slow start in Durham after winning the Al Lopez award given to the Devil Rays top rookie during spring training, but got off to a little bit of a tear for Durham before getting hurt. His average was up around .300 for the season when he was called up to the Devil Rays last week, shortly after coming off the minor league DL. From both an offensive and defensive standpoint, I think he is the best option as the Devil Rays starting catcher -- with Paul as the backup -- right now. Since the Devil Rays seem so high on Navarro, however, he will continue to get the benefit of the doubt for some time. Not to mention, he's still only 22 years old, like you said. Don't forget that.

I was there the night when Navarro grounded back to the pitcher in what turned out to be a controversial double play, although the umpires did get the call right (stupid rule, but that's another story), in a key spot where the the Devil Rays were threatening in the eighth inning. Once again, Navarro didn't deliver in a clutch situation. I agree with you in the sense that his spot in the order is nearly a guaranteed out when he comes up to the plate. A change could happen soon if he doesn't improve upon his .188 batting average.

Riggans is perhaps the best of the trio. It's puzzling why the Devil Rays are so high on Navarro, regardless of his youth, considering the New York Yankees (he was supposed to be the next Posada) and Los Angeles Dodgers didn't see him in their long term plans.

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