MLB Preview 2013
Tampa Bay Rays
Manager:Joe Maddon (8th Season)
Last Season:(90-72) (No Playoffs)
(Finished 5GB of Division Winner, Finished 3GB of Playoff Spot)
C Jose Molina (Age:37)
(14th Season, 2nd with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Rays): 102 Games 56 Hits .223 Average 8 HR 32 RBI 20 Walks .286 OBP 3 Stolen Bases
The worn out Jose Molina is where we have to start and he is the first of many old or not very effective hitters in this Rays lineup. Despite some good defense and even a career high 8 home runs in 2012 I don’t see Molina holding the starting catcher job very long this year as he paves the way for a new younger Rays catcher of the future. Molina at age 37 doesn’t have very much left in the tank and I would expect the Rays to use Jose Lobatonn in addition with Molina here for most of the season as you can expect with a 37 year old catcher who can’t start everyday.
1B James Loney (Age:28)
(8th Season, 1st with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Dodgers/Red Sox): 144 Games 108 Hits .249 Average 6 HR 41 RBI 28 Walks .293 OBP 0 Stolen Bases
As the glorious return of Carlos Pena to Tampa last year failed pretty badly the Rays now hope they have their 1B for years now in James Loney. Loney was a pretty productive player last year for the Dodgers who also hoped he was their future at 1B but when the mega deal that sent Gonzalez and others to LA was presented Loney was shipped to Boston where he spent the rest of the year. While not very productive in Boston I loved the Rays making the move to grab him as I think he can be a very effective part of a lineup that really needs help this season. Loney features a decent hitting attack but is extremely ineffective against lefties which the Rays may need to address. It’s tough to tell with Loney who has been highly rated in the past but I think he will be an effective piece of the Rays lineup this season.
2B Kelly Johnson (Age:30)
(8th Season, 1st with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Blue Jays): 142 Games 114 Hits .225 Average 16 HR 55 RBI 62 Walks .313 OBP 14 Stolen Bases
Once again not a very big name player and more of a platoon player than anything, Kelly Johnson ,as a late signing, will likely be the 2B for the Rays through this season. Basically a speedy on base guy, Johnson can give about 100 hits a season which he has done consistently and provides some nice speed which you know the Rays always love. Like most other guys in this lineup Johnson is not a permanent solution as he reaches his 30s but on a 1 year deal at 2B, I liked the decision here and he should give 100 hits and about 12 or 13 homers.
SS Yunel Escobar (Age:30)
(7th Season, 1st with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Blue Jays): 145 Games 141 Hits .253 Average 9 HR 51 RBI 35 Walks .300 OBP 5 Stolen Bases
The Rays middle infield this season will be the exact middle infield that the Blue Jays had last season as teammates Johnson and Escobar move south to Tampa. Unlike Johnson I’m not really a big fan of what the Rays did here signing Escobar while he did have a decent season last year he has been known to carry some baggage as shown last year when he was suspended or the homophobic slur on his eyeblack and has been known to be a hothead at times over his career. If Escobar, as he turns 30, can put up about 130 hits and a .250 average along with staying under control I don’t mind the signing but once again a platoon player he is the not the future here and basically is yet another bridge player on this team, not a huge impact is felt from him or the last 3 players.
3B Evan Longoria (Age:27)
(6th Season, 6th with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Rays): 74 Games 79 Hits .289 Average 17 HR 55 RBI 33 Walks .369 OBP 2 Stolen Bases
Year after year the Rays have to be so happy they have a player as consistently excellent as Evan Longoria and he has quickly become one of my favorite MLB players with how much hard work he puts out and he is way too often the savior of this terrible Rays lineup. Last season was the greatest example as the Rays went on a terrible collapse when he went down with injuries and once he made his return the Rays went on an absolute tear and came so close to the playoffs. Longoria has been nothing but extraordinary since his entrance into the league and once again I expect him to be near MVP level this year but the question as always will be who will stand up and perform with him especially now with the departure of BJ Upton.
LF Sam Fuld (Age:31)
(6th Season, 3rd with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Rays): 44 Games 25 Hits .255 Average 0 HR 5 RBI 8 Walks .318 OBP 7 Stolen Bases
I know the Rays will likely start Matt Joyce here and Fuld will likely start in the minors but I love this guys speed and hustle and he should get this spot eventually this season. While last season Fuld was mostly sidelined, for the past 2 years Fuld has been an incredible playmaker, all over Top 10 Plays and has shown incredible promise for this Rays team. If Fuld can get right especially with his hitting in the minors there’s no way he doesn’t deserve a starting spot somewhere in this Rays outfield which looks to be very weak with Upton’s departure. As for the start of the season you will likely see Joyce or Jennings here all I know is the Rays outfield will be a complete mess of confusion towards the beginning of this season.
CF Wil Myers (Age:22)
(1st MLB Season, 1st with Rays)
(2012 STATS WITH AAA IN ROYALS SYSTEM): 134 Games 164 Hits .314 Average 37 HR 109 RBI 61 Walks .387 OBP 6 Stolen Bases
(PLAYER TO WATCH)
It’s likely certain that Wil Myers won’t start the season with the team as they want to push back his free agency but watch out when he comes up there could be fireworks in Tampa, Just look at the stats this guy put up in the Royals system last year, many have compared him to Mike Trout the new star of the Angels. Thinking of the added advantages this guy could give the Rays, he could give him them an incredible 2nd big hitter on this team to pair with Longoria and it’s a guy like this the Rays have been waiting years for now. I expect Myers to arrive with this team in May and become an instant star in CF but until then you will likely see utility player Desmond Jennings at this position with not much effect hopefully pushing the team to bring this guy up faster.
RF Ben Zobrist (Age:31)
(8th Season, 8th with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Rays): 157 Games 151 Hits .270 Average 20 HR 74 RBI 97 Walks .377 OBP 14 Stolen Bases
Ben Zobrist is what I call a superutility guy and he has been the best at playing almost anywhere his whole career. As much as I hate the amount of utility guys on this team Zobrist deserves huge credit as he has basically been the 2nd best hitter here with Longoria over the past few seasons. Zobrist gives you just about everything you could ask for hits, good average, great fielding at almost every position, some power, and just gets on base with almost 100 walks an incredible stat. Zobrist deserves a spot on this team and has been so effective especially last year, the Rays need to hope he can be an all around great guy once again especially to hold off as they wait for Myers to arrive.
DH Luke Scott vs RHP/Ryan Roberts vs LHP
Luke Scott is a very unlikable player but probably the best option here vs RHP, I love the addition of Ryan Roberts here though with much better power production I would like to see the Rays maybe even use him full time at DH this season either way the Rays won’t get a ton out of this position this season
C Jose Lobatonn, 1B Shelly Duncan, IF Sean Rodriguez, OF Matt Joyce, OF Desmond Jennings
The lineup for years has held this team from the World Series in 08 and the playoffs the last few season but this may be the season the Rays can breakthrough on the offensive side. Basically throughout you have mediocre hitters like Escobar and Johnson who can add some decent contribution to the team. The real 2 questions here that decide how far the Rays can go this season is can Longoria have a big return and I think there’s no question that he can especially after his giant performance towards the end of the season and there is no question he is a clutch key player here in Tampa. The 2nd and bigger question is can somebody finally step up as a 2nd star in this lineup? Zobrist has proved to be a nice complement to Longoria but is far from a star and so it all lays to how big Myers can be in his first MLB season. I expect Myers to be gigantic when he arrives and finally become the 2nd star here. While I love this team as a whole this season this lineup will need to finally put up some big runs in a more competitive season.
David Price (Age:27)
(6th Season, 6th with Rays) (2012 AL CY YOUNG WINNER)
(2012 Stats(Rays):31 Starts 211 IP 2.56 ERA (20-5) 205 Strikeouts 1.10 WHIP
Jeremy Hellickson (Age:25)
(4th Season, 4th with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Rays):31 Starts 177 IP 3.10 ERA (10-11) 124 Strikeouts 1.25 WHIP
Matt Moore (Age:23)
(3rd Season, 3rd with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Rays):31 Starts 177 IP 3.81 ERA (11-11) 175 Strikeouts 1.35 WHIP
Alex Cobb (Age:25)
(3rd Season, 3rd with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Rays):23 Starts 136 IP 4.03 ERA (11-9) 106 Strikeouts 1.25 WHIP
Jeff Niemann (Age:29)
(6th Season, 6th with Rays)
(2012 Stats(Rays):8 Starts 38 IP 3.08 ERA (2-3) 34 Strikeouts 1.11 WHIP
There is no rotation that has more potential to be completely lockdown and dominate for years than the Rays and I just love the group of homegrown incredible young talent that the Rays have here. It all starts with David Price who is just unbelievable there’s no words to describe how amazing his stuff is just look at his stats from last season, he goes into this year the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher in the MLB easily. With an incredible anchor to the rotation like Price it’s stunning how much young talent they have behind him also but without their clear #2 starter James Shields who was shipped out for Myers, they will need to find a clear number 2 for this rotation. Hellickson seems like the choice an innings eater who pitched a lot last season but was very inconsistent at times. Behind that you have two incredible young talents in Moore who I think is going to be great and Cobb. This rotation has the potential to do amazing things and could once again be the best rotation in baseball but that necessary loss of Shields does kind of concern me. While there may be some young mistakes I love the healthy, big arms this rotation has and they have a clear pitching advantage over all the other AL East teams.
Closer Fernando Rodney (Delivery Man of the Year)
RHP Joel Peralta, LHP Jake McGee, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, RHP Robert Hernandez, LHP Cesar Romos, RHP Jamey Wright
How you can basically sum up this bullpen is some decent veterans headlined by Rodney who had an incredible breakout performance last year and won the award given for the best Closer in the league as he shut down some key games with his outstanding heat. Behind Rodney you have some other solid veterans who can give some good relief such as Peralta, who has proven to be a valuable bullpen asset along with Farnsworth who used to close for this team and can be very effective in a setup role. Besides that this bullpen is pretty decent and should be able to get this Rays team through the year pretty effective it’s not to the level of the Oriole’s bullpen but I love the guy they are sending out closing again.
1B Carlos Pena (Astros)
IF Jeff Keppinger (White Sox)
OF Ben Francisco (Indians)
OF BJ Upton (Braves)
P JP Howell (Dodgers)
The Rays actually did lose some good players this offseason and even though a few have been Rays icons the past few years none of them should come back to hurt them very much. Pena for years was an incredible force in the Ray’s lineup especially back in 08 but once he left and returned once again he was never really as effective as he once was, it was a no brainer to move on from him. The one loss that you maybe can question is BJ Upton who for the past few years has shown signs of brilliance along with terrible showings of immaturity but the Rays felt they did not want to pay him. In the end I don’t think the loss will hurt them very much especially with Myers coming in but they could feel his loss early on this season.
The Rays year after year are right there with the Yankees to win the division but too often is the inefficiency of their lineup which leaves them back a step even with their incredible rotation. The lineup should be average once again with Longoria hopefully back to full healthy form he should once again be a monster especially in Tropicana Field but along with him nothing is certain in that lineup. The additions of Escobar and Johnson in the middle infield could work out as nice minor moves but the real question is how the outfield can respond to Upton leaving. Hopefully Fuld can return to the level he was playing at 2 years ago and take back his spot in LF and that the Rays stubborn determination to keep Myers away from free agency longer won’t delay his arrival too long. The best case scenario is that Myers arrives mid April and has a Mike Trout like year to complement Longoria and the Rays lineup starts to finally become a force that can match up with other AL East teams. The rotation and bullpen should once again be a dominate force over the others and Price is just so amazing that there should be no trouble there at all. In the end I think the Rays are still a small step back from their full potential and I just don’t see them clicking all the way just yet they should be big contenders once again but just barely miss the playoffs behind the Yankees and Orioles.
Final Prediction, 3rd in AL East (No Playoffs)
– Bobby Manning