The Rays and Phillies make up the 2008 World Series. Before the season started, this was an improbable combination to say the least, and this was the match-up that Major League Baseball didn’t want. The World Series will not include the defending champion Red Sox, the 100-year cursed Cubs or the personality of Manny Ramirez. Instead, the World Series consists of two teams with players unknown to many. So let’s meet the future of baseball:
B.J. Upton (CF) – Since being drafted second overall in 2002 out of high school, Upton has been the top prospect in the Rays’ system. Two seasons ago he broke on to the scene, batting .300 with 24 HRs and 22 steals, and followed it up this year by stealing 44 bases. In the postseason, the 24-year-old has hit seven home runs and has tallied 15 RBI. There are no signs of him slowing down.
Evan Longoria (3B) – The soon-to-be runaway Rookie of the Year hit 27 HRs with 87 RBI in just 122 games, and during the process, earned himself an All-Star appearance. In the playoffs, the 23-year-old has continued his outstanding batting, with six HRs and 11 RBI. He will remain the difference-maker in the middle of the lineup.
Scott Kazmir (P) – He was pushed up to start Game 5 of the ALCS and responded by yielding only two hits over six scoreless innings against the Red Sox. The 24-year-old lefty should match up well against the middle of the Phillies lineup and is slated to start Game 1. His repertoire consists of a mid-90s heater, along with a devastating slider and changeup.
Matt Garza (P) – He obtained ALCS MVP honors after winning two games, including the deciding Game 7. The 24-year-old was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in the offseason and experienced some rough patches during the year. However, he gained confidence and maturity late in the season and seemingly overnight turned into one of the most consistent Rays pitchers.
David Price (P) – The bases are loaded with two outs in the top of the eighth inning of Game 7 of the ALCS and manager Joe Maddon brings in Price, the first overall draft pick of 2007. To this point in his career, he had only pitched in eight MLB games – and how did he respond? Price struck out Jason Varitek on four pitches to end the inning and followed it up by coming back out for the ninth, tallying two more strikeouts to finish off the Red Sox. With Tampa’s shaken-up bullpen, the 23-year-old may be the difference-maker.
Cole Hamels (P) – The 24-year-old lefty was the NLCS MVP after recording two wins, including the decisive Game 5 to finish the Dodgers. Hamels has been the best starting pitcher in the playoffs, going 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA while striking out 22 batters in 22 innings. He is the reason the Phillies should start their World Series appearance on the right foot.
Shane Victorino (OF) – “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” has been an unlikely power source for the Phillies during the playoffs, hitting two HRs with 11 RBI, including a grand slam in the NLDS. The 27-year-old has also stolen three bases during the postseason and is the sparkplug at the top of the Phillies order.
Brett Myers (P) – It has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride for Myers this season. Halfway through, he found himself pitching for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Phillies’ AAA affiliate. However, upon his return, he went 4-1 in August to help the Phillies into the playoffs. During the postseason, the 28-year-old has been reliable as the No. 2 starter, winning both of his games.
Ryan Howard (1B) – It has been a quiet postseason for Howard, who has remained homer-less, but he remains the largest threat to Rays pitchers. During the season he hit 48 HRs with a whopping 148 RBI. The 27-year-old went 3 for 4 with an RBI in the last game of the NLCS, which could signal an outburst in the World Series.
Chase Utley (2B) – After a quiet NLDS, the 29-year-old was a solid contributor against the Dodgers, hitting a home run in Game 1 and going 3 for 5 in Game 4. For the season, Utley hit 33 HRs with 103 RBI and scored 113 runs while showing he deserves the title of best second baseman in the league. Look for Utley to show up as the offensive and defensive leader of the Phillies.
If you didn’t notice, all the players mentioned are under the age of 30. They’re all either entering or right in the middle of their primes. The difference-makers in this year’s World Series are the players of the future and many of them will look to showcase their skills to the world for the first time during this match-up. It is a formula for what will be an entertaining and extremely competitive World Series.
Game 1: Philadelphia at Tampa Bay – 5 p.m. today
Projected Starters: Hamels and Kazmir
Prediction: The Rays finish the improbable dream and win the World Series in 7 games.
Mat Adams is a mathematics junior and a Mustang Daily sports columnist.