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Evan Longoria tops annual Tampa Bay Rays Power Index

2008 rankings

1. B.J. Upton, CF

2. Scott Kazmir, LHP

3. Carl Crawford, LF

4. Evan Longoria, 3B

5. David Price, LHP

6. Andrew Friedman, executive VP

7. James Shields, RHP

8. Michael Kalt, senior VP

9. Carlos Peña, 1B

10. Ron Porterfield, trainer

2009 rankings

1. Evan Longoria, 3B

2. B.J. Upton, CF

3. James Shields, RHP

4. Andrew Friedman, executive VP

5. David Price, LHP

6. Matt Garza, RHP

7. Joe Maddon, manager

8. Scott Kazmir, LHP

9. Carl Crawford, LF

10. Jeff Lyash, ABC chairman

2010 rankings

1. Evan Longoria, 3B

2. Stuart Sternberg, owner

3. Matt Garza, RHP

4. B.J. Upton, CF

5. Andrew Friedman, executive VP

6. David Price, LHP

7. Joe Maddon, manager

8. James Shields, RHP

9. Jason Bartlett, SS

10. Bill Foster or Ken Hagan

The Rays will be on the go this season. While their payroll is going down, their second AL East championship banner going up, their core veteran players going elsewhere and their bid for a new stadium going nowhere, they are at an interesting crossroads. Here, in our fourth annual Rays Power Index, is a look at those who have the most impact on their short- and long-term future.

1. Evan Longoria, third baseman

He's an MVP-caliber player at 25, which is impressive enough, and under the Rays' control through 2016, which is even better. But he's more than that, given his TV commercials, magazine shoots and top-drawer image: the first truly national face of the Rays franchise.

Last year: 1

2. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, and friends

Something has to give on the stadium situation, and it has to start with Foster giving the Rays permission to explore other sites around the Tampa Bay area, then cooperation from the new Tampa mayor, and the other merry men and women who rule. At least then, Rays exec Michael Kalt could try to find a workable solution. If not, expect the threats (sale, relocation and/or contraction) to escalate as well as — eventually — the risk of losing the team.

Last year: 10

3. Andrew Friedman, executive VP

His relentless ability to constantly find value in trades and bargains in a bloated free agent market makes him — with assists to his research staff — an annual candidate for the team MVP award. His best trick yet could be this season — cut the payroll by more than 40 percent, lose half the team that won the East and still field a contending team.

Last year: 5

4. David Price, pitcher

His first full season could not have gone much better, 19 wins and a No. 2 Cy Young finish. Given the Rays' reliance on pitching, and his ability as a hard-throwing lefty to dominate, he could be a franchise player for years.

Last year: 6

5. Joe Maddon, manager

Managing the clubhouse has always been as much a part of Maddon's agenda as the actual games, and that chemistry and communication are more important this year than ever given all the changes. Last year: 7

6. B.J. Upton, centerfielder

There is a certain point when Upton is either going to maximize his tremendous physical abilities and become the elite impact player long predicted or the Rays will have to give up on him being a star and take what they can get in trade. That time might be now. Last year: 4

7. Desmond Jennings, outfielder

It might not be until July or September or next year, but Jennings will be counted upon heavily to emerge as their next impact player, capable of changing a game in multiple ways. While the Rays have several top young pitchers — Jeremy Hellickson now, Chris Archer and Matt Moore on the way — Jennings is the only ready position player prospect. Last year: NR

8. Ron Porterfield, head athletic trainer

Keeping players on the field is more important than ever given the sacrifices in depth forced by payroll concerns. Porterfield and staff are among the game's best given their exhaustive hours and extensive emphasis on injury prevention.

Last year: NR

9. Ben Zobrist, infielder/outfielder

Financial flexibility is vital to the Rays' success. So with $17 million committed over the next four years (including $4.5 million this season), Zobrist needs to be more of an impact player than a bit piece.

Last year: NR

10. Fred Wilpon, Mets owner

That's a joke. Kind of. But the point is that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg isn't going to wait indefinitely for the stadium situation to be clarified or for MLB to provide more relief (increased revenue sharing, balanced schedule, realignment, etc.). So if Wilpon were, due to financial problems, to sell, and if commissioner Bud Selig preferred to solve a larger problem, maybe Sternberg would have interest in his hometown team, and a deal could be brokered that left the Rays with new owners — or as wards of MLB, perhaps subject to contraction.

Last year: NR

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Evan Longoria tops annual Tampa Bay Rays Power Index 03/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2011 4:45pm]

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