The Rays were supposed to have a master plan that involved their actually knocking on the door of relevance, October action and all that good stuff come ... 2009. We all know how that turned out -- a young team this laden with talent can create its own timetable. Last year, the Rays featured the second-youngest pitching staff and lineup in the American League. While precocious hurlers like Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and David Price enjoy a lot of the limelight, the Rays' chances of turning last year's early arrival on the postseason scene into a permanent cut-in on the annual duel between the Red Sox and Yankees will depend every bit as much on how well their young hitters develop. Hitting is usually taken to be the safer bet for prospects -- both in terms of anticipated development and relatively bankable performance records in the years to come -- but do the Rays really have that sort of projectable greatness in their lineup?
The easy answer is yes, because the Rays can expect some tremendous young position players to step even more firmly toward the high ceilings that scouts and Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA ratings anticipate. In forecasting the breakout potential of every hitter, PECOTA generates an estimate of how likely the odds are that he might outperform his performance from the previous three seasons by 20 percent. The exciting possibility for the Rays where their cadre of young talent is concerned is that PECOTA very much likes the chances that the best is yet to come.