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Tampa Bay Rays Player Roster In 2013 Part 1 – The Hitters: State Of The Union

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Sunday, Mar.03/2013

Ben Zobrist has quietly tuned into one of the best all around players in the game.  He has finished in the top for WAR in 3 of the 4 years - including 1st in 2011 and 2nd in 2009.  At Age 31, Zobrist goes into a contract year.

Ben Zobrist has quietly turned into one of the best all around players in the game. He has finished in the top 10 for WAR in 3 of the last 4 years – including 1st in 2011 and 2nd in 2009. At Age 31, Zobrist goes into a contract year in 2013.  It may be his last season with TB.

By Jake Bullington (Rays Correspondent)

Part 1: The hitters:

2012 saw the Tampa Bay Rays miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They would finish a very respectable 90-win season and finish third in the AL Wild card. The offseason saw much of what Rays fans are used to from this small market club. Impact players such as B.J. Upton (ATL), Jeff Keppinger (CHW),  and Carlos Pena (HOU),  would move on to greener pastures and sign elsewhere. That meant GM Andrew Friedman and his team would get to work. They would pick up options on SP James Shields, CL Fernando Rodney, and C Jose Molina. They would decline the option on DH Luke Scott and later sign him back.

The offseason would also see the reworking of a long-term deal to keep the Rays 3B Evan Longoria in a Rays uniform at least through the 2022 season. But with Free Agency looming for “Big Game” James the Rays would do what they do best and send Shields, Wade Davis, and a PTBNL (Elliot Johnson) to the Royals for a prospect package that included future rotation regulars Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi and MLB.com 2nd best prospect OF Wil Myers. The Rays would shore up the middle of the infield by Signing and trading for the Blue Jays previous middle infield of Yunel Escobar (MIA) and Kelly Johnson (FA). To replace Carlos Pena, the Rays would sign Free Agent James Loney.   The organization also brought back Joel Peralta on a deal that included a record three Club Options.

Desmond Jennings Highlights:

Evan Longoria Averages for a 162 Games 33 HRs, 116 RBI - and a 3 Slash Line of .276/.361/.977

Evan Longoria Averages for a 162 Games: 33 HRs, 116 RBI – and a 3 Slash Line of .276/.361/.977.

 

The new look Tampa Bay Rays will go into the 2013 season with another low payroll, hovering around the $60 Million mark – and with the same approach that manager Joe Maddon has used all these years before.  Run Hard to first and play the game the right way. They will look for a better defensive club in 2013 and guys who get on base and have the gloves to back it up will replace the power that left. 

Catcher: Jose Molina was brought in not really for his bat but for the way he can handle a pitching staff and he will look to do much of the same this year. At 37 years young he hit a little below average .223 Avg with 8 HRs and 32 RBI. Looking forward that with any catcher the bat is always a plus. Molina is a defensive machine and will look to continue that into 2013.

Jose Lobaton/ Chris Gimenez will look to split back up duties to Molina with the other heading down to Durham. Last season Lobaton would hit .222 with 2 HRs – but would drive in 20. Whereas Gimenez would hit .260 – with only 1 Home Run. Gimenez seems to have the edge around camp being a bit more of an offensive catcher even then Molina, which will give manager Joe Maddon a nice bat off the bench as well as a solid defender.

Looking at what the Rays have in camp today I don’t see any crazy changes to the catching corps. With Molina as the primary starter for his defensive skills – and his way of handling a pitching staff, he will get the bulk of the work. Then with the more offensive minded Lobaton and Gimenez battling it out for the back up the Rays have a well-rounded little group.

First Base: James Loney had a busy 2012 to say the least. Getting traded from LA to Boston in the Red Sox massive salary dump – and then becoming a Free Agent,  finally signing a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Loney will provide some much-needed defense at First Base – and be a little more of a contact hitter than last year with Carlos Pena . With Both LA and Boston during 2012,  Loney hit .242 – with 6 HRs and hadan OBP of  just over .300 in a little over 140 games. The man has struggled a bit over the past few seasons – but will look to work with hitting coach Derek Shelton on a big bounce back year.

Second Base: Kelly Johnson comes into his first season as the Rays Second Baseman, however with Joe Maddon at the helm he wont be the only guy at that position this season. Maddon has come out and said that Johnson will see time in the Outfield.  He will platoon with guys like Sean Rodriguez, and Ben Zobrist at Second base. Gone are players such as, Elliot Johnson (KC), and Reid Brignac (COL). Johnson had a solid season last season with a .225/.313/.365 with 16 HRs. Johnson’s one big knock has been his Strikeout totals, which made a big, jump last season with Toronto to 159 K’s in 2012.

Third Base: Evan Longoria comes into his sixth season manning the Rays Hot corner – and the question going into this season will be the same as its been for the past few: Can Longoria stay healthy for a full season?  Longoria is coming off another injury season – playing in only 74 games last season.  He hi.289 Average with 17 HRs and 14 2B. Longoria’s glove has never been the question.  He won Gold Glove Awards in 2009 and 2019 for the position.

In his first 4 years with the Atlanta Braves, Escobar hit .291 for his AVG and carried an OPS of .778.  He did not fare as well with Toronto the last 3 years, hitting .273 and bringing up an OPS of .708.  He will need to be closer to his old Atlanta Braves ways if the Rays are going to compete in the vaunted AL East in 2013.

In his first 4 years with the Atlanta Braves, Escobar hit .291 for his AVG and carried an OPS of .778. He did not fare as well with Toronto the last 3 years, hitting .273 and bringing up an OPS of .708. He will need to be closer to his old Atlanta Braves ways if the Rays are going to compete in the vaunted AL East in 2013.

Shortstop: Yunel Escobar came to the Rays in a trade with the Miami Marlins – after being a part of the massive salary dump between the Jays and Marlins. The embattled player will get reunited with his former double play partner Kelly Johnson (from a year ago in Toronto), which should help with his defensive stats. Earlier in his career, Escobar’s bat and glove were never really been the issue for him, it had always been about his off the field choices. He was okay for his 2011 campaign with the Jays (.782 OPS – before receding to a  to a .644 clip in 2012.  A year he was also suspended for painting a slur on his eye-black.) Joe Maddon has already come out and said that him and Escobar are on the same page and are focused on winning this year so we shall see.

Left Field: Matt Joyce will make the move from right field to left field to keep the steady bat of Ben Zobrist in the line up. Joyce is another player on the Rays team that they are expecting to really step up from being just another “blue collar” player. Joyce hit .241, with 17 HRs and 59 RBI.   Look to see if he does have a big first half – where the Rays might weigh their options with Joyce (Arbitration Eligible at the end of the year), so he might end up being an option the Rays can not afford and be trade bait.  He might be the casualty of the lineup if a May callup comes for Myers

Center Field: Desmond Jennings is another player making a position switch this season. He will make the switch from Left Field to Center Field – his more natural position. 2012 was a year to build on for Jennings; he would hit .246 with 13 HRs 31 Stolen Bases. In Jennings first full season he would also Strikeout 120 times – which he will look to lower come 2013. Called the “next coming of Carl Crawford, ” Jennings had high expectations.

Right Field: Ben Zobrist is that final piece in the full Outfield shift for the Rays. An infielder by trade, Zobrist has made himself into a Swiss Army style player, going wherever needed for the Rays – and after a terrific showing at Shortstop,  he will make the move for Yunel Escobar to Right Field. Do not count out if anyone struggles – seeing Zobrist take over that position, maybe to make room for Wil Myers.  In 2012, Zobrist would hit .270 – with 20 HRs and 74 RBI in 157 games playing all over the diamond.

DH: Luke Scott was brought back again to give the Rays a solid DH option.   He can also play the Outfield and First Base. In was a down year in 2012 for Scott – in playing in 96 games for the Rays.  His Batting Average was .229 – with 14 HRs in those 96 games. If he can stay healthy, he will see most of his games at DH – and continue to be a well-recognized clubhouse leader to a young Ray’s squad.

Bench: The bench for the Tampa Bay Rays looks to be made up of guy’s manager Joe Maddon calls his “do everything” players. Ryan Roberts, Sean Rodriguez, and Sam Fuld will look to provide depth all around the diamond in 2013. All of them are Arbitration Eligible in 2014 and it would behoove them to have nice campaigns in 2013.  Fuld, who Rays fans saw make some of the best plays of year in the Outfield, will look to bounce back from injury and will be competing with Brandon Guyer for that fourth Outfield spot.

Projected lineup: Jennings (CF), Escobar (SS), Longoria (3B), Zobrist (RF), Joyce (LF), Scott (DH), Loney (1B), Molina (C), Johnson (2B)

Joe Maddon might very well be the best manager in baseball.  He possesses a unique approach to the game, that if had to be categorized, is definitely more national league style than american league.  He has to be creative in how he manufactures runs, as his offense does not boast the big sluggers other AL East teams do.  He does, however, have a plethora of pitching talent available.

Joe Maddon might very well be the best manager in baseball. He possesses a unique approach to the game, that if had to be categorized, is definitely more national league style than american league. He has to be creative in how he manufactures runs, as his offense does not boast the big sluggers other AL East teams do. He does, however, have a plethora of pitching talent available.

Joe Maddon was credited with using the most different lineups in 2012 and with a roster filled with interchangeable pieces he will most likely do the same in 2013 as well. The Rays are in a similar spot as they were a year ago with a handful of questions and waiting on a few top prospects to break through the system and put them back on top. GM Andrew Friedman will look to keep his club in the hunt and do not be surprised if he pulls the trigger on sending one of the Rays big arms elsewhere for a bat if necessary. The hope but also concern is that with players moving around positions the defense of the club will improve and give manager Joe Maddon ways to pencil in guys and not lose anything day to day.

James Loney is the kind of Free Agent pickup the club has seen workout great in the past (Circa: Rodney., Farnsworh, Kotchman and even Eric Hinske.  If he can hit about .280 - .290 and drive in about 80 RBI, the Rays would be ecstatic

James Loney is the kind of Free Agent ( 1YR/ $2 MIL Deal)  pickup the club has seen workout great in the past (Circa: Rodney,  Farnsworth, Kotchman and even Eric Hinske. If he can hit about .280 – .290 and drive in about 80 RBI, the Rays would be ecstatic.

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

A big thank-you goes out to our Rays Correspondent Jake Bullington.  Jake was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Moved to Tampa, FL in 2010 to coach a local baseball team the Tampa Twins. Covered the team writing player profiles, Game reports, and running the Twins website as the Twins Insider. Started the Blog ” not just Cardboard” writing about topics that included Baseball cards as well as baseball in general. A baseball trainer for Diamond II Pro baseball trainers that works closely with former and current  minor and major league players. Has been doing free-lance scouting for teams since 2008. Avid Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins Fans.  Follow and Interact with Jake on Twitter

jake bullington

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Posted on March 3, 2013, in MLB Payroll and Contracts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Tampa Bay Rays Player Roster In 2013 Part 1 – The Hitters: State Of The Union.

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