Suddenly, everybody loves Rays.
There's Evan Longoria being unanimously chosen American League rookie of the year. Joe Maddon getting AL manager of the year. Andrew Friedman tabbed the top executive. Carlos Pena voted a Gold Glove and a top-10 finish in the MVP race. Matt Garza holding the ALCS MVP trophy. David Price in every final conversation about the game's top prospect. The overall organization named the best by Baseball America.
That's not even mentioning two-time All-Stars Carl Crawford and Scott Kazmir, rising catcher Dioner Navarro and B.J. Upton, who might be the best of the bunch.
So who among them — and others, in and out of uniform — is the most valuable to the organization? Who has the most impact, in the present and for the future?
Borrowing from college basketball, we present a different kind of RPI: our second annual Rays Power Index.
1. Evan Longoria, third baseman
Think of it this way: Would you want to think of the Rays without him? Despite being a rookie, starting the season in the minors, signing a monster contract that could be worth $44 million and keep him a Ray through 2016, and missing five weeks with a fractured wrist, Longoria was still glorious. He does everything extraordinarily well on the field, revels in the pressure and the moment, knows the game and knows the business, with the potential to be the face of the franchise, and an attractive one at that. And, yet, there's legitimate reason to expect him to be better in all facets. Oh yeah, and he doesn't turn 24 until October. Last year's RPI: 4
2. B.J. Upton, centerfielder
Upton, 24, still may be the best overall player in the organization, and among the league's most dynamic, with the potential to go 30-30 with a Gold Glove. Sapped of power by a left shoulder injury that required surgery, he used his legs, glove, batting eye and right arm to remain an impact player, then flexed his muscle with seven postseason homers. The shoulder problems and couple of lack-of-hustle incidents create just a smidge of a smudge, and his lack, thus far, of a long-term deal adds a tad of uneasiness, though he remains under Rays control, however arbitration inflated, through 2012. Last year: 1
3. James Shields, pitcher
In a way, it's easy to take Shields, 27, for granted. He just goes out, pitches 200 innings, keeps the team in virtually every game and racks up double-digit wins. And that's precisely what makes him so valuable: a hard-working, low-injury risk front-of-the-rotation starter with a long-term deal that has him under team control through 2014. Last year: 7
4. Andrew Friedman, executive VP
How can a 32-year-old who didn't play ball past college and was working on Wall Street rank ahead of so many people who actually put on the uniform? Easy: just look at the job he has done. What moves, aside from leaving Josh Hamilton exposed, haven't worked out? (Delmon who?) Principal owner Stuart Sternberg provides the money, and excellent scouting and research staffs identify the players, but Friedman makes the hard decisions every day. Last year: 6
5. David Price, LH pitching prospect
A spectacular postseason performance only added to Price's legend, but there is still the ever-so-slight question of being able to win consistently at the big-league level. On the other hand, he's just 23, worked his way from A ball to the big leagues in his first pro season, has makeup that's off the charts and is really, really, really good. Last year: 5
6. Matt Garza, starting pitcher
Garza may have the best pure stuff of any of the Rays' starters, and with his emotions in check and his focus right, he could be their biggest winner. Then add that he's only 25 and that was his first full season in the big leagues. Last year: NR
7. Joe Maddon, manager
Some say any manager's job is overrated, and that even the best can't make much difference over a season. Others see that some managers are different, creating an attitude and atmosphere that's far more significant than any strategic decisions. In Maddon's case, that is the case. Last year: NR
8. Scott Kazmir, starting pitcher
There is still an awful lot to like about Kazmir: He's just 25, is under team control through 2012, strikes out a ton of hitters. But the inconsistencies, last spring's elbow injury and the frustrating repeatedly high pitch counts make it a tad tougher. Last year: 2
9. Carl Crawford, leftfielder
After an injury-marred season that was among his worst in the majors, Crawford, 27, is in a hurry to change the perception. He reported in great shape with plans to return to his past aggressiveness. He has millions of reasons to be motivated, and only a 2010 option remaining on his contract. Last year: 3
10. Jeff Lyash, chairman of ABC
The chairman of the committee analyzing the stadium issue doesn't even work for the Rays but has the potential to deliver their biggest win of the year. A tough call over head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, whose tireless daily efforts and injury prevention ideas make him invaluable. Last year: NR
Last year's 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, head athletic trainer
Dropped out: 1B Carlos Peña, VP Michael Kalt, Ron Porterfield