The Tampa Bay Rays State Of The Union For 2014

The Rays are always at the bottom for attendance in the Major Leagues, which is a shame for how successful this team has been for the last 6 years - posting 4 playoff berths and an AL Pennant.  This has all been done on a shoestring budget - and facing the toughest strength of schedule in the bigs,

The Rays are always at the bottom for attendance in the Major Leagues, which is a shame for how successful this team has been for the last 6 years – posting 4 playoff berths and an AL Pennant. This has all been done on a shoestring budget – and facing the toughest strength of schedule in the bigs.  The 2014 season will pose the same kind of challenges and problems that have arisen in the teams history.  The Rays have to contend with high payroll teams like Boston and New York fielding ALL – Star squad’s throughout their lineups.  The management has done a fantastic job to stay competitive, and will rely on their franchise depth to post yet another nice record for a 7th consecutive year.

Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer): 

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The Tampa Bay Rays are still one of the best run franchises in baseball, and have put themselves in a position to contend for the AL East for yet another campaign.

I hope the Rays Management decides against trading David Price in the next 2 years, and just goes for a World Series trophy.

Being the 13th biggest city, and yielding the 28th lowest payroll in the game should not be conducive to sustained success, yet there the Rays are pesky every year.

It has been noted on this website plenty, that since the beginning of 2008, the Rays have the second best record in the game to the Yankees in this time frame.

In that span, they trail the Bronx Bombers by just around 10 wins.

Wil Myers 2013 Highlights

Joe Maddon has a career Record of 704 - 644 (.522), but is 552 - 421 (.567) over the last 6 years  from 2008 - 2013.  He runs his offenses like the Angels used to, with a NL style built on speed and contact.  He may be the best AL Skipper when it comes to utilizing players versatility and matchups. Maddon is also great at working in Rookie players.

Joe Maddon has a career Record of 704 – 644 (.522), but is 552 – 421 (.567) over the last 6 years from 2008 – 2013. He runs his offenses like the Angels used to, with a NL style built on speed and contact. He may be the best AL Skipper when it comes to utilizing players versatility and matchups. Maddon is also great at working in Rookie players.

While we are praising Joe Maddon, Andrew Freidman and Stu Sternberg, they can also partially thank the 1998 – 2007 Tampa Bay franchise that were bad for so many years -giving the club many top Draft Picks.

It was a great way to stockpile talent in the Minor League System  What the new regime has done to parlay the success is a template passed on to the lower budget teams like Oakland and Minnesota before them.

The Rays are another version of ‘Baseball Rounders’.  That term is defined by a brass never giving away many assets – in order to acquire talent back in return.

it means the team knows when to let a player walk, or trade them (kind of like folding when they have no good cards in poker.)

Much like Oakland, Tampa Bay has thrived on trading their players on the last years of service time, before hitting Free Agency – in order to capitalize on their peak value.

As in the case with the Wil Myers deal last offseason, it illustrates how much they usually receive for a player like James Shields.

Not only did they accept the best offensive prospect in the game, but also potentially replaced Shields in the long run – by also bringing back Jake Odorizzi.

It was the same for the proceeding Matt Garza transaction to the Cubs, in which they landed Chris Archer back in return.

It has been another decent winter for the AL Florida based club.  They have picked up Heath Bell and Grant Balfour to anchor their Bullpen, plus also re-signed James Loney and David DeJesus to multi-year contracts.

The club also bolstered their relief core by picking up Juan Carlos Oviedo (AKA formerly known as Leo Nunez through 2011).

Somehow this move looks to be better than last year’s pick up of Roberto Hernandez (AKA formerly known as Fausto Carmona, as he almost crippled the Starting Rotation with his 6 – 13 disaster of a campaign, with a 4.89 ERA.)

The organization also flipped Alex Torres at his peak value – with Jesse Hahn (Minors), for  super – utility Infielder/Outfielder Logan Forsythe, Reliever Brad Boxberger, and 2 minor league players.

Again, when you factor in the team bringing in Balfour, Torres was expendable for yet another guy for Joe Maddon to play multiple positions with.

Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Cesar Ramos round out the Bullpen,  All of a sudden, these late inning guys all possess a decent amount of hit and miss stuff, and are all capable of heavy workloads.

In 2012,  the 28 Year Old, was 20 - 5, with a 2.56 ERA.  Price led the AL in Wins, Win% and ERA.  2013 wasn't as kind to the LHP.  He still managed a 3.34 ERA based off a 10 - 8 year.  Price was awarded a 1 YR/$14 MIL deal.  While the team may still trade him, they will do so at a point of higher value than what has been offered.  Price will become a Free Agent regardless following the 2015 campaign.

In 2012, the 28 Year Old, was 20 – 5, with a 2.56 ERA. Price led the AL in Wins, Win% and ERA. 2013 wasn’t as kind to the LHP. He still managed a 3.34 ERA based off a 10 – 8 year. Price was awarded a 1 YR/$14 MIL deal. While the team may still trade him, they will do so at a point of higher value than what has been offered. Price will become a Free Agent regardless following the 2015 campaign.

With David Price at least returning for the time being, this gives the club a bonafide #1 ace.  The Rays are hoping he is more like his 2012 Cy Young self rather than his slower 2013 pedestrian year.

You are still talking a bout a player that is 71 – 39 (.645) – with a 3.32 ERA in a tough AL East Division for his lifetime.  This guy can make the difference for this squad, should he remain with the organization for the full year.

If Tampa decides to trade him, they better net a lofty return – with a great position player, top 4 Starting Pitcher (right now), and also a few other prospects, otherwise they should just keep him.

Matt Moore blasted out of the gate in 2013, before slowing down a little in his sophomore campaign.  The LHP still fashioned a 17 – 4 mark with a nice 3.29 ERA.  As #2 pitchers go, he is well worthy of the status.

I believe that Moore could also take his game to the next level.  What is best about this guy, was the 5 YR deal for $11 MIL signed, with extensions from 2015 – 2017 for another set of 3 different Team Options.

This is brilliant in so many different ways.  The club will have him help cost certainty for the team payroll, since they bought out all of his Arbitration years.

Alex Cobb may have flown under the radar after his injury last year, but he compiled an 11 – 3 record, with a stellar 2.78 ERA in just 22 Game Starts.

Look for this guy to also take the next step in heading up the depth chart in 2014.

The teams projected #4 starter is Jeremy Hellickson.  The man had a bit of an off-year in 2013, posting a mark of 12 – 10, with a 5.17 ERA.  He is only 26 years old, and still sports a career record of 39 – 31, with a 3.70 ERA.

The club is hoping he can just reel in numbers similar to his career path so far.

The #5 Starting Pitcher (Chris Archer) could have potentially helped the club (with Wil Myers) even more if they could have called him up earlier in the season – then when it actually occurred.

When Myers and Archer were finally called up, they replaced Carmona on defense – and a steady dose of Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez playing too much on offense.

The team took off on a 21 – 4 tangent at one point in the midseason right after the callups – before the club still reeled in a playoff spot by winning versus Texas. 

Had these guys been part of the team the whole year, they might have surpassed the Red Sox for the AL East crown.

Jake Odorizzi should be 1st on the injury taxi quad – if anyone is traded or injured.

At Catcher, the franchise is pretty strong, having dealt for Ryan Hanigan, and re-signing Jose Molina.  These guys should be able to split up duties for the club.

Molina is a great game caller and defense specialist, while Hanigan is okay with the stick – turning in a 3 Career Slash of .262/.359/.703.

One still has to wonder why the traded John Jaso back a few years ago, as Hanigan is a “Moneyball’ Player that can walk, but Tampa doesn’t often do poorly at the trade table, so we can let one slide.

Jose Lobaton is also a nice 3rd Catcher with some pop, with 7 HRs and 32 RBI in just 277 AB during 2013.  He may be moved in a trade later on, but this is a nice problem to have.

At 1B, the Rays signed James Loney to a 3 YRs/$21 MIL based on his brilliant defense last year, combined with a .299/.348/.778 Slash Line – with 13 HRs and 75 RBI.

If the team could even see 85% of this season replicated in 2014, they will be fine.

Ben Zobrist hits both sides of the plate very well, is an above average to superior defensive specialist in many different fielding positions, and even has decent speed, it would be a shame for this man to play for any other organization in his Career.  As of right now, he has played more active games for the team than any other active player.  His best years came in 2009 (was 2nd in WAR, featured a 3 Slash Line of .297/.405/.948 and smacked a career high 27 HRS, and he nailed 72 Extra Nase Hits and 92 RBI in 2011 - which were also career highs, where he won was

Ben Zobrist hits both sides of the plate very well, is an above average to superior defensive specialist in many different fielding positions, and even has decent speed, it would be a shame for this man to play for any other organization in his Career. As of right now, he has played more active games for the team than any other active player. His best years came in 2009 (was 2nd in WAR, featured a 3 Slash Line of .297/.405/.948 and smacked a career high 27 HRS, and he nailed 72 Extra Base Hits and 92 RBI in 2011 – which were also career highs.  The Super Utility man has 2 years left on his contract before he hits Free Agency.

2B will see Ben Zobrist take the majority of the fielding reps.  This guy is a new age WAR + sabermetric players.  We did a player profile on him early in the winter here.

Seriously, this guy is one of the most underrated offensive and defensive players in the MLB.  The new school stat-heads should really been praising this man’s efforts more.

Zobrist is signed through the 2015 year, and if he can make it to through the year, he will have played a decade with the franchise.  Pretty good return for the franchise acquiring him by means of Aubrey Huff.

SS: – Yunel Escobar steadily improved all throughout the 2013 season – and much under the radar for the public.

The man is a Gold Glove Caliber Shortstop, who managed to hit for an OPS of .728 in the 2nd half.

The 31 Year Old is in the 2nd year of 3 straight single Team Option Years, so in essence, he is in a contract season for each of the campaigns from 2013 – 2015.

The organization could also use him as trade bait – slide – and bring up Hak-Ju Lee at any point in that time frame.

In my view, Evan Longoria could end up being the MVP of any of the next few years. The man is still just 28 years of age.  With a deeper lineup this campaign, he could go back to his 100 RBI+ years, and still maintain his 30+ HR baseball.  Longoria is also a perennial Gold Glove candidate at 3B.

In my view, Evan Longoria could end up being the MVP of any of the next few years. The man is still just 28 years of age. With a deeper lineup this campaign, he could go back to his 100 RBI+ years, and still maintain his 30+ HR baseball. Longoria is also a perennial Gold Glove candidate at 3B.

3B;  Evan Longoria quietly had a solid 2013 campaign, with 32 HRs and a top 6 AL MVP Voting finish.

Aligned with his usual seasons of OPS from .870 throughout his career, Longoria held up with a .842 mark in 2013.  While it was a career low, his range of .842 – .879 for the 6 years of service show much consistency.

There are fewer great 3B right now than at any point in the last 40 years of the MLB.  Longo is a game changer at the plate – and the field, and a consummate professional.

At age 28, he is the leader of the franchise, and will need to stay healthy for his team to challenge again in 2014.

For the OF, Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, David DeJesus, Logan Forsythe and Wil Myers are the 5 guys that may see time in the 2014 Calendar Year.

Wil Myers will be patrolling RF for a full season  – coming off a year he reeled in the AL Rookie Of The Year Award despite just playing 88 games in 2013.

At the age of 23, he could crack between 25 – 30 HRs and possibly approach 100 RBI in his 1st complete year.  Last season, the man 3 Slashed .293/.354/.831 – with 13 HRs and 53 RBI.

Myers showed no fear of the big stage either – crushing many key hits versus divisional foes in the second half.  The club was 52 – 36 in games with him (.591) – as oppose to 40 – 35 without his services (.533).

The immediate dividends he provided for the squad enabled them to prosper in the James Shields trade. 

It was unfair to the kid, as he was held out of the MLB until June, however there may have been people who would have blamed a non-playoff spot to the team because of the trade for the future.

Desmond Jennings will be manning CF for 2014.  It has been a slow progress for the 26 year old from Birmingam, AL since finishing 7th in AL Rookie Of The Year Voting in 2011 (based on his .805 OPS and 10 HRs in a mere 247 AB).

He replaced B.J. Upton in Center last year, and still managed to club 14 HRs, rack up 20 SB and Score 82 Runs in his 527 AB. 

Jennings could score 100 runs in this lineup this year.  He has 20 HR/20 SB potential, and he now has competition in CF if he doesn’t produce – with DeJesus on the club.

David DeJesus is listed as the #1 LF on the teams depth chart.  When he is on, he could definitely play some great baseball.

The 11 Year Veteran averages 52 Extra Base Hits, a .770 OPS – and 87 Runs Scored for every 162 Games Played.  His versatility should be a nice bonus for Joe Maddon this season.

Look for DeJesus and Jennings to both see time leading off and hit second.

Logan Forsythe should really be the club’s 4th OF.

At the DH position, Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez will platoon based on whether it is a right handed or left handed pitcher.

While Joyce features more power, plus possesses a nice Career OPS of .796, he has far better numbers vs RHP (.835 OPS) – as opposed to LHP (.592).

Rodriguez stepped up his play vs LHP in 203, clubbing 5 HRs and knocking in 20 RBI in just 148 AB.  His OPS for vs Lefties is also .777.  The guy can play just about anywhere – and is another Maddonesque type player.

The Rays are always on the lookout for another bat or Bullpen arm. 

Also don’t be shocked if they decide to part ways with Hellickson half way through the year either (especially if they haven’t traded Price.)

It is going to be another awesome year of competition in the vaunted AL EAST!

A full year of Wil Myers and Chris Archer, and some saavy FA acquisitions, improved Starting Pitching depth from the Minors, could see the club actually be better in 2014.  Myers will be 23 to start next year, and it is not unheard of to project .290/.360/850 - next year with 25 HRs and 100 RBI, which would come at the entry level price.

A full year of Wil Myers and Chris Archer, and some saavy FA acquisitions, improved Starting Pitching depth from the Minors, could see the club actually be better in 2014 than it was in 2013. Myers at the age of  23 to start this year,  it is not unheard of to project .290/.360/850 –  in 2014 with 25 HRs and 100 RBI, which would come at the entry level price for him.  Trading away James Shields for a player that could be this productive in the infancy of his career, could be an ultimate game changer for the club.  After the organization lost for 9 straight years from 1998 – 2007, they could see their 7th straight year of over .500 this campaign.  The club will also be vying for its 5th playoff appearance in 7 years.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***

For all of the Rosters, Depth Charts, State of the Unions and Salaries Posts that we do, please visit our dedicated page link here.

A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Chief WriterHunter Stokes for preparing today’s featured article.  Hunter is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports.

Hunter grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia and played baseball with Sheldon Bream (Sid Bream‘s son) at Liberty University in the NCAA.

His favorite player is Brian Wilson (how could you guess?), and he hates when people can’t think outside the box!

His favorite expression – is ‘ this At Bat is about ten seconds away from a Toe – Tag!

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Posted on January 24, 2014, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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