They (the Rays Index) did list Dirtbag, AKA Evan Longoria, as a possible candidate, and I agree that he's been even better-than-advertised. I think he's running away with Rookie of the Year honors, should recieve a Gold Glove, and at least a few votes for MVP if he can get his batting average up around .300, but in terms of the player who has single-handedly changed the face of the Rays season so far...
..that goes to a guy who was absolutely horrible last year; but had an open mind, was very-coachable, and has made an amazing transition into his new role as long-reliever:
Howell has been a great surprise thus far this season, and has shown exactly zero signs that his fast start is a hoax. He has consistantly eaten up innings and batters with some nasty stuff. With Scott Kazmir rarely making it through 6, and the endless struggles of Jackson coupled with the inconsistancy of Garza, JP has been exactly what the doctor ordered to "keep the wheels-on" all season long. Howell has recorded a 3.0 ERA over 51 innings (spread over 30 games) so far this season, allowing just 36 hits and 17 earned runs while striking out 45.
He's the glue that's holding this team together and that's precisely what a team MVP is (see fig 1):
Team MVP (proper noun):
1.the glue that holds a team together.
2. James Phillip Howell~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
...see i told ya.