Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2012 MLB Preview #12: Tampa Bay Rays

Greetings everyone... Let's get it going with the Rays...


C - Jose Molina/Jose Lobaton
1B - Carlos Pena
2B - Ben Zobrist
SS - Sean Rodriguez/Reed Brignac
3B - Evan Longoria
LF - Desmond Jennings
CF - BJ Upton
RF - Matt Joyce
DH - Luke Scott

You know the story with Tampa Bay. They don't spend money, they develop players like crazy, and they have brilliant front-office management, and that continues for 2012. Evan Longoria is the best player on this offense, and while he struggled mightily at times in 2011, he still posted 31 homers in just 481 ABs, and an OPS of over .850 despite the .244 batting average. His BABIP and other peripherals show that we can expect a return to dominant, star-like performance, and I expect that to happen. Ben Zobrist is one of the more underrated players in baseball with his multi-position defensive value, and if you can get 20+ homers and good splits out of 2nd base, you run with it. Desmond Jennings arrives in full force, and while I don't think he produces at the ridiculous rate he did in early PAs in 2011, he should be an impact player already, and between him and Upton (in a contract year no less), they should cover a ton of ground. I loved the Carlos Pena move, as he's perennially underrated because of the putrid batting average, but when you walk 80-100 times and hit 30 homers, you can hit .220 and be an effective player. Matt Joyce is a key for me, as he posted good numbers last year in a platoon-like role, but this year he's the unquestioned right fielder and we'll have to see how he fairs against lefties (career .601 OPS vs. lefties and nearly .900 against righties). This isn't dominant offensive team, but there are no real holes (outside of catcher, but with Molina's defense, they can handle that), and I would predict middle-of-the-league run production at the very least.

Starting Rotation

1 - David Price
2 - James Shields
3 - Jeremy Hellickson
4 - Matt Moore
5 - Wade Davis/Jeff Niemann

This is where they will make their run. Shields was ridiculous in 2011 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.04 WHIP with 225 K's in 249 innings, and when you team that with Price (200+ innings, 200+ Ks, electric stuff) and Hellickson, who was impressive in his first full season (2.95 ERA), it's scary stuff at the top of the rotation. Oh... I haven't even gotten to Matt Moore, yet. The #1 pitching prospect in the majors (now that Strasburg isn't a prospect anymore) will have a spot in the rotation from day one, and he was absolutely electric in his brief appearance last year. I can't fathom he'd be that good over a full season and he does have an innings cap, but if they get 180 innings of brilliance, it's like stealing. Niemann, Davis, and even Alex Cobb will battle for the 5th spot, and none of which would be a bad option in the 5-hole at any point. This is an elite rotation.


I don't know how they do it, but the Rays always slap together a quality bullpen out of spare parts. Kyle Farnsworth saved 25 games and posted crazy good splits (2.18 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) and he'll be the de facto closer coming in. I'm not sure his stuff is still there, but he was definitely effective in 2011. Elsewhere, they brought in Fernando Rodney for experience, and he'll team with Joel Peralta (who was very good in 2011), JP Howell, and closer-in-waiting Jake McGee to form a pretty solid unit. All hail Joe Maddon.


89-73, 3rd in AL East

No comments: