Which players did the most during the 2008 postseason to improve their 2009 value? Three rising Rays take center stage as MLB.com's fantasy gurus offer their take in this offseason installment of the Roundtable.
Matt Garza, SP, Rays
With all due respect to fellow Rays B.J. Upton and David Price, the player whose value rose most during the postseason was pitcher Matt Garza. Mind you, that pick is not based solely on numbers alone; if stats were the only consideration, it would be hard to overlook Upton's Barry Bonds imitation. What really gives Garza an edge was his show-stopping performance against Boston in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Anyone watching him work that evening saw a young man who not only threw hard with lots of movement, but also displayed the swagger of an ace. Beating the mighty Red Sox under such grueling pressure will do wonders for the righty's confidence going forward, so don't be surprised to see Garza emerge as Tampa's No. 1 pitcher next year.
-- Alex Cushing, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays
Upton was already going to be an early pick in 2009, though his dip from 24 homers in 2007 to just nine this past season had created some concerns about his true value. However, after ripping seven homers in 16 postseason games, the young slugger looks solidly entrenched as a second-round pick, and keeper leaguers may even nab him earlier with the hope that he might blossom into a 30-homer, 50-steal threat. That may not happen in 2009, but Upton's postseason power surge should have erased any lingering worries about his ability to earn five-category-stud status.
-- Cory Schwartz, Host, "MLB.com Fantasy 411"
To watch Upton last month was to witness the transformation of a very good baseball player into a legitimate star. The former first-round pick overcame a surprisingly pedestrian regular season by blasting seven homers with 16 RBIs in 66 October at-bats, swiping six bags and racking up a postseason-best 43 total bases. Perhaps more importantly, Upton seemed to rediscover his mojo at the dish, as he complemented his stat line with the Sheffieldian swagger he adopted during a prolific '07 campaign. If he can maintain that approach heading into next season, the 24-year-old could rival the likes of Hanley Ramirez and Matt Holliday as a five-category monster.
-- Corey Gottlieb, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
If Tampa Bay had not made the playoffs, Upton would now be considered a risk, as his power output in 2009 would be in question due to upcoming surgery for his torn labrum. But a late-summer quad injury afforded him some rest, which apparently did his shoulder some good, as he exploded for seven postseason homers, only two fewer than he managed during the regular season. The likelihood is that his power won't be affected by the surgery, compensating for losing his valuable second-base eligibility. His long-term potential keeps getting better, as he increased his walk rate while decreasing his strikeout rate for the second straight season.
-- Todd Zola, Correspondent
Upton probably secured his spot as a legit 2009 second-rounder -- and possibly first-rounder in keeper leagues -- with a 2008 postseason that accentuated every facet of his offensive prowess. Not only did Upton build on his 44-steal regular season with six postseason swipes in as many chances, but he proved that his right shoulder has healed just fine with seven homers in 66 at-bats. Consider the 24-year-old phenom a good bet to make a run at 30/30 in 2009 as he completes his ascension into the fantasy elite.
-- Kyle Stack, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
David Price, P, Rays
Price did his best K-Rod impersonation in the 2008 playoffs, but the big difference will be that the lefty is not heading for the bullpen in Tampa Bay. Price was the first overall pick in last year's Draft, so we knew he was talented; however, we've learned that he has no problem with pressure. Price closed out the biggest win in Rays history while earning one of the greatest saves that I've ever seen. With that kind of composure and a good Rays team around him, I see great things for Price in '09.
-- Mike Siano, Host, "MLB.com Fantasy 411"
Price more than lived up to the hype this postseason. The No. 1 pick from Vandy was on full display in October, allowing one earned run with eight strikeouts over 5 2/3 clutch postseason innings. He has the resume to dazzle for decades, and should flourish as he returns to a starting role in his first full big league season. Use a mid- to late-round pick on him come draft day '09 and don't think twice.
-- Dave Feldman, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
There's no disputing that Price was going to be on the radars of most fantasy owners come draft day 2009. The 23-year-old was the top overall pick in the 2007 Draft, excelled in the Minors and answered the call for the Rays after his late-September promotion. However, it was his work this past October -- specifically, his 1.59 ERA in five appearances -- that will ultimately ratchet him up a few notches on most draft boards come April.
-- Matt Chaprales, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.