Tagged: Tampa Bay Rays

So much for AL East parity

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-CA
X-NONE
X-NONE

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0cm;
mso-para-margin-right:0cm;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0cm;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;
mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}

The bulk of this year’s winter meetings were pretty
uneventful, but it was certainly bookended by some craziness out of Beantown.

After officially acquiring superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego
Padres on Monday in a blockbuster deal, the Boston Red Sox again turn heads by
unexpectedly signing
one of the preeminent five-tool players in the game in outfielder Carl Crawford
.  The deal is worth a staggering $142-million
over the next 7 years and when combined with the expected extension for
Gonzalez, the Red Sox have unofficially committed around $300-million to two
players.  I guess John Henry isn’t
hurting from purchasing Liverpool.

Crawf.jpgThe surprising part of this deal is not that Boston signed
Crawford, nor is it that he was signed to the second richest contract ever to
be awarded to an outfielder.  The
surprising part is the timing.

<– “Look what I caught,  $142-million, BITCH!!”

While most teams interested in Crawford (such as the Angels,
Yankees and Rangers) were waiting for Cliff
Lee
to make his decision before committing funds to Crawford, the Red Sox
stepped in and made the deal happen. 
They were the only team said to have real interest in the athletic
leftfielder who did not have interest
in Lee, allowing them to swoop in a steal Crawford from under their noses.  Something Crawford will be doing a lot of in
Boston.  Oh yes, I made a pun.

But this was supposed to be the year that the AL East evened
out a little.  The Rays were/are expected
to take a giant step back and both the Orioles and Jays were supposed to be
rising teams ready to take the next step toward contention.  Reality has set in quickly.

The Red Sox, at least right now, have to be considered the
favourite while the Yankees will become co-favourites if they’re able to sign
Lee.  If the Yankees don’t sign Lee,
there could be an opening for one of the other three teams to jump into Wildcard
contention (probably not Baltimore), but they still have to be considered at
least the second favourite team even if they lose out on him.

By the way, the Red Sox projected lineup as of right now:

  • ·        
    CF  Jacoby
    Ellsbury
  • ·        
    LF  Carl
    Crawford
  • ·        
    1B  Adrian
    Gonzalez
  • ·        
    3B  Kevin Youkilis
  • ·        
    DH  David
    Ortiz
  • ·        
    2B  Dustin
    Pedroia
  • ·        
    RF  J.D.
    Drew
  • ·        
    C 
    Whothehellcares?
  • ·        
    SS  Marco
    Scutaro

Not to mention that they still have Clay Buchholz, Jon
Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka as their projected
5-man rotation.

That’s just not fair, dammit!

There’s one more negative aspect of the Crawford deal from
the perspective of the Jays; the Red Sox are still interested in lefty reliever
Scott Downs, who is, like Crawford,
a Type-A free agent.  If he signs in
Boston, the Jays will not get the Red Sox first round pick as compensation as
that now goes to the Rays.  And, oh yeah,
the Jays STILL have to face Crawford 18 times this upcoming season.  Bad day.

This by no means tempers my excitement for the 2011 season,
it just seems to signal another 3rd or worse season for Toronto.

UPDATE:
Apparently the Angels made an offer to Crawford of 7 years and $108-million
according to a Tweet by Mark
Feinsand
of the New York Daily News.  Werth definitely
drove up that market.  Way to go Rizzo.

UPDATE #2:
Apparently Ken Rosenthal
reported
that Lee received a 7 year offer from the Red Sox.  Signing Crawford does make that unlikely, but
apparently I was wrong about their interest in Lee.

Advertisements

2010 Tampa Bay Rays Preview

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-CA
X-NONE
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0cm;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;
mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}
table.MsoTableGrid
{mso-style-name:”Table Grid”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-priority:59;
mso-style-unhide:no;
border:solid black 1.0pt;
mso-border-themecolor:text1;
mso-border-alt:solid black .5pt;
mso-border-themecolor:text1;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-border-insideh:.5pt solid black;
mso-border-insideh-themecolor:text1;
mso-border-insidev:.5pt solid black;
mso-border-insidev-themecolor:text1;
mso-para-margin:0cm;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;
mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}

tampa_bay_devil_rays_logo_2.jpg2009 Record: 84-78,
3rd AL East

2009 Prediction: 86-76,
3rd AL East

2010 Prediction: 3rd
AL East

 

Impact Player: Evan
Longoria

Impact Pitcher: Matt
Garza

Top Prospect Player: OF Desmond
Jennings

Top Prospect Pitcher: RHP Jeremy Hellickson

 

Manager: Joe Maddon,
5th Season (308-340, .475)

 

Significant Acquisitions: C Kelly Shoppach, 1B Ryan
Shealy
, RHP Rafael Soriano

Significant Losses: OF Gabe
Gross
, INF Akinori Iwamura, C Gregg Zaun, RHP Joe Nelson, RHP Troy
Percival
, RHP Chad Bradford, RHP
Jason Isringhausen

 

After the franchise’s first winning season/playoff
appearance/pennant in 2008, the Rays took a small step back in 2009.  Still, their second straight winning season
had to be considered a modest success simply because they proved they weren’t a
fluke; the Rays are for real.  They may
have only won 84 games, but they were much better than their record and with
their young pitchers maturing and one of the best young lineups in baseball,
the Rays should be on their way back to 90+ wins in 2010.  GM Andrew Friedman is one of the brightest
minds in the game and he has created a revolving door of terrific talent that
should keep this team competitive for years. 
Their frugal, youth-driven philosophy will likely lead to the trading of
the franchise’s best ever player, Carl
Crawford
within the next year, but if the Rays continue to develop great
young players, the team and the fans may not miss him that much.  It should be a contending year for the
best-run team in the Majors with the only thing keeping them out of the
playoffs being their unfortunate division-placement.

 

Pitching

matt-garza.jpg

Last year was a rough year for the trio of young pitchers at
the top of the Rays’ rotation, with only two of them surviving the year on the
roster.  Scott Kazmir, once touted the saviour of the franchise, was dealt
to the Angels in August, and James
Shields
and Matt Garza were a
combined 19-24.  Garza’s poor run support
was mostly to blame for his 8-12 record, but he finished strong and ended up
with a respectable 3.95 ERA; he’s probably the most talented pitcher on this
team if he can keep his focus.  Shields
struggled when he lost command of his curveball and had to rely solely on his
changeup to get hitters out, which stopped working once they adjusted to
it.  If he can figure it out in 2010, he
should be closer to his ’08 record of 14-8 with a 3.56 ERA than his ’09 record
of 11-12 with a 4.14 ERA.  Jeff Niemann finished fourth in Rookie
of the Year voting after being the most productive pitcher on the staff in ’09
finishing with a 13-6 record and a 3.94 ERA. 
The one red flag with Niemann is that he’s such a late-bloomer, which
some people think means he was better last year than he ever will be again.  After those three are two of the
organization’s most highly-touted young talents in David Price and Wade Davis
who are expected to exit the Spring with the 4th and 5th
jobs, but will be pushed by Andy
Sonnanstine
who had a disastrous year in ’09 after 13 wins in ’08 and could
be on his last legs in the organization. 
They do have one more minor league option on him if they need to send
him down.

 

The Rays traded for Rafael
Soriano
in the offseason to be their closer, something they sorely lacked
last season.  With Soriano on the back
end, the Rays should field one of the best bullpens in the AL; the major key to
their success in 2008.  Soriano did have
27 saves last season in Atlanta but also lost 6 games so they Rays are no doubt
hoping for a little more consistency. 
Bridging the gap to Soriano will be lefties J.P. Howell and Randy Choate.  Howell has become one of the most versatile
and consistent lefty relievers in the AL and Choate is a dependable veteran
with a winning pedigree.  Righties Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, and Lance
Cormier
will pitch in mid-relief and if Balfour returns to his dominant ’08
form, the Rays should be tough to beat. 
The bullpen will be rounded out by the loser in the rotation
competition, which will likely be Sonnanstine.

 

ROTATION

Age

B/T

James Shields

28

R/R

Matt Garza

26

R/R

Jeff Niemann

27

R/R

David Price

24/5

L/L

Wade Davis

24/5

R/R

 

 

 

BULLPEN

 

 

Rafael Soriano*

30

R/R

Randy Choate

34

L/L

J.P. Howell

27

L/L

Dan Wheeler

32

R/R

Grant Balfour

32

R/R

Lance Cormier

29/0

R/R

Andy Sonnanstine

27

L/R

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

Dale Thayer

29

R/R

Jeff Bennett

29/0

R/R

 

Lineup

evan-longoria.jpg

The Rays finished fifth in runs, homeruns and on-base
percentage in ’09 and should be just as good in 2010.  The outfield is led by franchise player Carl Crawford who could be playing in
his last season with the Rays with trade rumours swirling.  The Rays have a philosophy of only keeping
players until their financial peak so Crawford may not be there long.  For now, he’s in leftfield and was great
again in 2009 going .305/.364/.452 with 15 HR, 68 RBI and 60 stolen bases.  Centerfield will be manned by B.J. Upton who took a step back in 2009
offensively hitting only .241.  The Rays
still believe he’s a 30/30 player in waiting, but how realistic that is, is yet
to be seen.  Rightfield will be an open
competition between veteran Gabe Kapler
and younger options Fernando Perez
and Matt Joyce.  Joyce was supposed to be the starter there
last year but was limited to only 11 games due to injury.  It’s unknown how he’ll bounce back in
2010.  Kapler may have the best shot, but
is probably better suited for the bench at this point in his career.

 

The infield is anchored at the corners by sluggers Evan Longoria at third and Carlos Pena at first.  Longoria is quickly developing into one of
the best third-baggers in the game.  He
followed up his terrific rookie campaign by going .281/.364/.526 with 33 HR and
113 RBI.  He also won a Gold Glove and
Silver Slugger award.  Pena has become
one of the best pure power hitters in baseball, even though his average is
never overly impressive.  He hit just
.227 last year but was still an All-Star, tying for the league lead with Mark Teixeira with 39 homeruns.  Traditionally known as a solid defensive
player, Pena did struggle with the glove in ’09, posting a -11.4 RTot rating.  Ben
Zobrist
is expected to break camp as the starting second baseman, but
scouts are sceptical of his 27 HR, 91 RBI performance given it was the first
time Zobrist had high power numbers through a whole year; expect a decrease in
production.  Shortstop will be played by Jason Bartlett who had a career year
with a .320 average and 14 homeruns. 
Like Zobrist, Bartlett’s power numbers were unusually high so don’t
expect a repeat.  Catching duties will
belong to Dioner Navarro who needs
to be back to his ’08 production or the organization will lose patience with
his attitude quickly.  The DH will be Pat Burrell who was a flop last
year.  The Rays may be exploring options
to trade the veteran given that he’s entering the final year of his contract.

 

Utility-infielder Willy
Aybar
leads the reserves after another solid year and he will be joined by
one of the rightfield candidates and infielder Reid Brignac who could get some time at second base if the Rays
decide to try Zobrist in rightfield providing no other option presents
itself.  Kelly Shoppach was acquired in the offseason from the Indians and
could push Navarro for the starting job; he can also spell Pena at first.  Ryan
Shealy
could also crack the roster if there’s an injury.  He hit .301 with 7 homeruns in a short stint
with the Royals last year.

 

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-CA
X-NONE
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0cm;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;
mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}
table.MsoTableGrid
{mso-style-name:”Table Grid”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-priority:59;
mso-style-unhide:no;
border:solid black 1.0pt;
mso-border-themecolor:text1;
mso-border-alt:solid black .5pt;
mso-border-themecolor:text1;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-border-insideh:.5pt solid black;
mso-border-insideh-themecolor:text1;
mso-border-insidev:.5pt solid black;
mso-border-insidev-themecolor:text1;
mso-para-margin:0cm;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;
mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}

Pos.

 

Age

B/T

SS

Jason Bartlett

30

R/R

CF

B.J. Upton

25/6

R/R

LF

Carl Crawford

28/9

L/L

3B

Evan Longoria

24

R/R

1B

Carlos Pena

31/2

L/L

2B

Ben Zobrist (RF, SS)

28/9

S/R

DH

Pat Burrell (LF)

33

R/R

C

Dioner Navarro

26

S/R

RF

Gabe Kapler

34/5

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

BENCH

 

 

INF

Willy Aybar (2B, 3B, 1B, DH)

27

S/R

INF

Reid Brignac (SS, 2B)

24

L/R

C

Kelly Shoppach* (1B)

30

R/R

OF

Matt Joyce

25

L/L

 

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

OF

Fernando Perez (CF, RF, LF)

27

S/R

1B

Ryan Shealy*

30/1

R/R

INF

Joe Dillon (2B, 3B, 1B)

34/5

R/R

1B

Dan Johnson (RF, LF)

30/1

L/R

 

The Rays will rebound after a slight step back in 2009 with
the returned consistency of James Shields and Matt Garza and the continued
development of David Price and Wade Davis. 
They should be in the postseason conversation for most of the season but
will have a hard time (as always) competing with the Red Sox and Yankees.  2011 should be the year the Rays are back in
the playoffs.

Final Prediction:
90-72, 3rd AL East

’09 Preview — Tampa Bay Rays

tampabayrays.jpg2008 Record: 97-65 1st AL East
2009 Prediction: 3rd AL East

Impact Player: Evan Longoria
Impact Pitcher: Scott Kazmir
Top Prospect: David Price, LHP

Significant Acquisitions: OF Pat Burrell, OF Gabe Kapler, OF/DH Matt Joyce, P Lance Cormier
Significant Losses: UTIL Eric Hinske, OF/1B Cliff Floyd, OF Jonny Gomes, OF Rocco Baldelli, P Edwin Jackson, P Trever Miller, P Al Reyes

I never thought I’d see the day when the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays would win the AL East and then go on to win the AL Pennant.  It still boggles the mind.  You sort of expected to see them fall eventually.  Eventually they’d hit a 15-game losing streak and the dream would be over.  It didn’t happen.  The Rays surprised everyone in ’08 (except probably themselves) winning 97 games and defeating the Boston Red Sox to be crowned champions of the American League.  The core of the team is entirely intact from last year and they should be a good team once again although a slide to third in the standings seems inevitable.  I’m probably wrong though, I picked them to finish 4th in the AL East in ’08.  Either way, the Rays becoming a winning team means there’s another obstacle for my hapless Blue Jays in this ridiculous division.

Pitching
The Rays outstanding stable of young arms lived up to their lofty potential last year and produced one of the best staffs in the league.  Much of that staff is back for ’09.  James Shields (14-8, 3.56 ERA), Scott Kazmir (12-8, 3.49 ERA), Matt Garza (11-9, 3.70 ERA) and Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38 ERA) are all back and and have one more year of experience under their belts.  The oldest of that group is 27-year-old Shields which means if this group stays together they can be one of the best units in the league for years to come.  With the departure of the often erratic Edwin Jackson, the door is open for top prospect David Price to grab the fifth spot.  Price was phenomenal in the post-season after a September call-up and is only 23.  I was tempted to make Price the team’s impact pitcher for this year as I believe he’s just that good.  Don’t be surprised if Price is being mentioned for both Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young come September.  Injuries or a sub-par performance by Price may give opportunities to some other young arms including Mitch Talbot (25) and Jeff Niemann (26).

After possessing one of the worst bullpens in baseball in ’07, the Rays rebounded with one of the best in ’08.  The acquisition of Troy Percival to last year’s team no doubt had an impact on that.  Percival was 28 for 32 in save opportunities last year and figures to be team’s main closer again this year barring injuries (he was left off the Rays post-season roster due to injuries).  Percival will be 40 before the season is finished but some insurance exists in the ‘pen.   Righties Grant Balfour (1.54 ERA) and Dan Wheeler (3.12 ERA) are back along with lefty J.P. Howell (2.22 ERA) and should be able to bridge the gap to Percival or even step in and close when he needs a day off.  Submariner and righty-specialist Chad Bradford (1.42 ERA) is back for his first full season with the Rays and should be extremely valuable and off-season pickup Joe Nelson had a 2.00 ERA last year with the Marlins.  If these pitchers perform at half the level they did last year, this bullpen will be nearly impossible to break.  Minor-league contracts were handed out to veterans Randy Choate and Lance Cormier and both have a shot at making the team.

Rotation (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • James Shields (R/27)
  • Scott Kazmir (L/25)
  • Matt Garza (R/25)
  • Andy Sonnanstine (R/26)
  • David Price (L/23)

Bullpen

  • Troy Percival (R/39) — CLOSER
  • Grant Balfour (R/31)
  • J.P. Howell (L/26)
  • Dan Wheeler (R/31)
  • Chad Bradford (R/34)
  • Joe Nelson (R/34)
  • Lance Cormier (R/28)

Lineup
The Rays return a lineup that ranked 4th in the AL in home runs but only 13th in average hitting just .260 as a team.  In spite of that, they were still 4th in On-Base Percentage showing patience and poise for such a young team.  The outfield returns with the face of the franchise, Carl Crawford, in Left who is one of the best defensive left fielders in the game and should be in the top 5 in baseball in stolen bases.  In center will be B.J. Upton who’s good for similar numbers and expectations as Crawford.  In Right will be one of two off-season acquisitions, Matt Joyce and Pat Burrell.  The two will likely split time in Right and at DH.  In the infield, Carlos Pena (1B), Aki Iwamura (2B), Jason Bartlett (SS), and Evan Longoria (3B) are all back.  Longoria is quickly becoming one of the best third basemen in baseball and should have a huge year and Pena is one of the best pure power-hitters in the AL (77 HR in the last two years).  At catcher will be Dioner Navarro unless something goes horribly awry in his arbitration hearing.  Navarro is one of the most underrated catchers in the game.  He is an excellent game-caller and hit .295 with 54 RBI last year.  This lineup is young; Burrell is the oldest of the projected starters at only 32.

On the bench will be utility-men Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist along with potential fourth outfielder Gabe Kapler who signed a minor-league deal.  The backup catching job will likely go to Shawn Riggans and journeyman outfielder Gabe Gross might find himself on the outside looking in with so many outfielders on the Rays roster.

Lineup (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)
  LF  Carl Crawford (L/27)
  CF  B.J. Upton (R/24)
  3B  Evan Longoria (R/23)
  1B  Carlos Pena (L/31)
  DH  Pat Burrell (R/32)
  RF  Matt Joyce (L/24)
  C    Dioner Navarro (S/25)
  2B  Aki Iwamura (L/30)
  SS  Jason Bartlett (R/29)

Bench
  INF Willy Aybar (S/26)
  UTIL Ben Zobrist (S/28)
  OF Gabe Kapler (R/33)
  C   Shawn Riggans (R/28)
  INF Reid Brignac (L/23)

Outlook
The Rays will be one of the best teams in the AL for years to come, but a repeat of their 97-win performance of ’08 seems doubtful with the improvements made by both the Red Sox and Yankees.  They will be competitive and will fight the Yankees for the wildcard spot most of the year but will likely fall short.  I just don’t think their talent is quite at the level of the Yankees or Red Sox and I feel like a bit of a sophomore slump could plague the Rays this year.  Final Prediction: 86-76, 3rd AL East.