Inbox: Will Longoria have an MVP season?

Inbox: Will Longoria have an MVP season?

Inbox: Will Longoria have an MVP season?
You project Evan Longoria as an American League MVP Award candidate for the 2012 season, and I agree. What type of numbers do you see Longoria putting up? I know he'll get back in the .280s average-wise, but I think to be MVP material, he needs to be a .300 hitter, which I know he can be. Also, who offensively do you project to have the best season this year? I'd love to see Ben Zobrist turn some of those doubles into more home runs.
-- Thomas S., Tualatin, Ore.

I'll stick to what I said in my last Inbox: Longoria should be considered a leading candidate to win MVP honors. I believe he can get close to .300, hit 35-40 home runs and finish with more than 120 RBIs, all the while playing Gold Glove defense and coming up big in the clutch. I think Longoria will be a lot of fun to watch this season, and I project him to have the best offensive season on the team, though Zobrist is quite a talent.

Now that the Rays have signed Carlos Pena and Luke Scott, trading a starting pitcher seems less likely. What will the club do with seven starters?
-- Sean D., Brisbane, Australia

That's eight starters if you throw Alex Torres into the mix, but this really isn't a problem. First things first: How healthy will the team leave Spring Training? If all goes well and nobody gets dinged up while in camp in Port Charlotte, Fla., the Rays will then have to decide who stays and who goes where. Several of the pitchers still have options, so they could be sent to Triple-A Durham to pitch. There are worse things than having a quality starter or two at Triple-A. The other option would be to convert a starter into a reliever. However, I don't believe that last option is really a consideration for Tampa Bay. The starters it has are young. Additionally, starting pitchers are coveted, which is like having money in the bank.

What are your thoughts on some sort of trade with the Angels regarding Longoria?
-- Matthew C., Newport Beach, Calif.

Gee, a reader from Newport Beach wondering if Longoria might be traded to the Angels. Isn't that called wishful thinking, Matthew? There is no way Longoria will be traded to the Halos -- or any other team for that matter. He is one of the main faces of the team, and like I said before, he's one of the best players in baseball -- hardly reasons to trade a player.

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B.J. Upton is so frustrating to watch. He will cover an amazing amount of ground, but then on the very next play, he just kind of lopes that away. If he would play to his potential, what an amazing player he would be.
-- Brenda R., Lithia, Fla.

One thing Upton has going for him -- as well as against him -- is the gift of ease. He makes catches others only dream about and makes the whole process appear effortless. At times, I think that appearance of ease makes people believe there is a lack of effort on his part. Additionally, Upton's numbers, while good, aren't in the crazy strata most believe they should be for an athlete of his ilk. He's a threat every time he steps to the plate and he's fun to watch. I can tell you from watching behind the scenes, he works hard.

Where do you think Desmond Jennings will end up hitting in the lineup this year? Jennings is the Rays' fastest player, and he also has some decent power. Would you make him a leadoff man or put him somewhere from sixth to ninth?
-- Joseph T., Northport, Fla.

When you said Jennings had the most speed on the team, my mind raced ahead and thought about the prospect of an Upton vs. Jennings race. Now that would be fun, wouldn't it? Anyway, I think Jennings will again hit leadoff, though that's not anything sealed in concrete. Manager Joe Maddon usually likes to go right-left, right-left in the batting order, and the right-handed-hitting Upton settled in nicely in the second spot last season. Most times when he batted second, Jennings hit leadoff, as he did almost exclusively in the second half. So my money is on Jennings hitting first. He has a good eye, is a smart hitter, he's fast and has some power. All of those qualities make him a pretty dangerous leadoff hitter.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.