Which prospect not named David Price will have the biggest impact at the major-league level in 2009?
Cork Gaines: Wade Davis. I really want to put Jeff Niemann here, and I do think the Giraffe will have a solid season as a middle reliever, but Davis is the pick because of what he will contribute in August and September.The obvious comparison is what the Rays asked of David Price last season, but I have feeling they will ask even more of Davis. Unlike Price, Davis already has a ton of experience under his belt and maybe as much talent.
Tommy Rancel: I think the answer is two-fold. Pitcher wise, I could really see Wade Davis being in the "Price role" in 2009. If he isn't called up as a starter by September, I would really like to see him used in the same situation as Price was in 2008. Position player wise, I think Reid Brignac could be the impact player. Jason Bartlett is coming off an injury plagued season and if he starts slow and Brignac starts hitting again, I think there will be a lot of pressure to give Brignac a shot.
R.J. Anderson: Jeff Niemann because he’ll likely start a few games before working his way into higher leverage relief situations. Maybe Brignac if Jason Bartlett gets hurt for an extended length of time.
RaysParty: The right-handed David Price: Wade Davis. He has two above average pitches including his mid-high nineties fastball and hard breaking curveball. There is even talk of him being able to take the same role has Price had last year for the Rays in September and the playoffs. His stuff will allow him to be a dominating late inning reliever but he can be a #2 or #3 starter in the Majors easily. There is question to Percival's health and there is always a risk of having a key reliever lost to injury late in the year. Having Davis ready in September and hopefully the Rays go into October will be a great showcase for his pitching talent.
Tyler Hissey: There are a lot of factors that will influence his situation, of course, but I am interested to see what 2009 will hold for Jeff Niemann. Since Niemann is out of options, something has to give. Can he stick in the bullpen? Although Wade Davis could contribute, potentially out of the pen, during a September call-up, and Fernando Perez is likely to add some value at some point with his plus defense and speed, Niemann could be a nice addition to the Rays’ relief corps—assuming he can make the necessary adjustments to succeed in that role. His star has dimmed, but I still feel that we have yet to see the best of him as a pro.
Brickhaus: It's tough to say, because without either injuries or ineffective performance from regulars, there aren't that many spots open for rookies. I'll go with Jeff Niemann, simply because I think he's almost guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster, and because I think he's a bit underrated generally due to his age. He's been consistently good but not great over the past couple years, and I see no reason why he couldn't continue to be good but not great in the majors as long as he stays healthy. I could make a case for Fernando Perez as well, who is also underrated because of his age, but the Kapler signing means he probably won't have a major impact this year. In my opinion, Brignac is just further away than people acknowledge. Davis looks like he's almost ready, and he could come on strong in the bullpen late in the year, but I don't see how he gets a spot before September unless we have major injury problems or trade a player or two.
Doug Milhoan: Hitter - John Jaso, Pitcher - Jeff Niemann. Catching is the most physically demanding position and I can see an injury at the big league level giving an opportunity to Jaso waiting at AAA Durham. While he may not get the starting role, if he hits like I think he will, the Rays will be hard pressed to send him back to the minors. Niemann is out of options so barring a trade he has to stay in the majors in 2009. Whatever his role (starter, spot starter/long reliever, setup man), I think he'll excel in '09 and solidify his future with the Rays. At least until the next wave of pitching talent arrives.
Kevin Gengler: I think it'll be Reid Brignac. The Rays don't have a ton of depth up the middle, and if either Jason Bartlett or Akinori Iwamura were to miss any extended period of time, I think the club would call Brignac up rather than use Ben Zobrist as the everyday guy. And remember, Bartlett had sort of an injury-plagued season in 2008, and second base is a hot spot for injuries, so I think Brignac's chances of getting some extended playing time are higher than people think. He was below-average last year in Durham and has had a terrible spring so far, but if given a starting job, he could provide solid defense while knocking a few home runs. He won't have any sort of "wow" impact, but no other rookies(save for Price) will, either.