The Tampa Bay Rays have had their fair share of touted prospects in their nearly 15-year history.
Stars such as Scott Kazmir, Evan Longoria and David Price are Rays who lived up to their high expectations. The organization, however, has seen a handful of busts and underachieving prospects as well.
Without further delay, here’s a look back at the four Rays prospects who never lived up to the hype.
Drafted third overall in the 2001 MLB Draft right behind Joe Mauer and Mark Prior, Dewon Brazelton was expected to be the Devil Rays’ ace for years to come.
He never would find success at the big league level, though, struggling mightily throughout his brief five-year MLB career.
Brazelton posted a lifetime 8-25 record and a 6.38 ERA, pitching most of his innings with Tampa Bay.
B.J. Upton is obviously nothing near a prospect bust, but he has yet to live up to the very high expectations put upon him since the age of 17.
Over eight seasons with Tampa Bay, the now 28-year-old centerfielder was a productive player. He put up a .255/.336/.422 slash line with 118 home runs, 232 stolen bases and a 107 wRC+.
Upton will likely never live up to the hype of being a No. 2 overall draft pick and the No. 2 ranked prospect in all of baseball in 2004, but his tenure with the Rays wasn’t all that disappointing.
Delmon Young’s case is similar to B.J. Upton’s: He was a Devil Rays top prospect who simply never played as well as expected, and is now a somewhat productive big league outfielder.
One year after Upton was drafted second overall, Young was taken by Tampa Bay first overall. He was ranked in the top three of Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list four straight years (2004-2007), including being ranked the game’s No. 1 prospect in 2006.
The kid who was once expected to be an MVP caliber slugger has turned out to be a career 97-wRC+ and -0.3 WAR player.
General Manager Andrew Friedman really made the right move when he traded Young to Minnesota in a blockbuster deal before the 2008 season which included Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett, two guys who would help bring Tampa Bay its first pennant that year.
Rocco Baldelli was another top prospect who was a key part of the Devil Rays’ once bright outfield future.
Baldelli, a former sixth overall draft pick and No. 2 ranked prospect, didn’t disappoint at all to begin his career. He had a successful first two seasons, finishing third for Rookie of the Year in 2003 and quickly becoming a fan favorite in Tampa Bay.
It would only go downhill from there for Baldelli, however, as a rare muscle disease caused him numerous injuries and derailed his promising career.
Rocco, now retired, owns a career 98 wRC+.
The Rays added some infield depth Wednesday, signing 2B/3B Mike Fontenot to a minor league contract. The 32-year-old has posted a .265/.332/.401 line over his seven years in the league. He spent his 2012 season in the Phillies’ organization, where he posted a .299 wOBA in 105 Major League plate appearances.
Tampa also signed five other players to minor league deals during their busy Wednesday, including re-signing OF Rich Thompson. Thompson, 33, had just 22 PA’s with the Rays this year and served mostly as a pinch-runner. Here’s the link to the complete report on all the signings.
In much bigger free agent/hot stove news, B.J. Upton has made his anticipated decision, signing with the Atlanta Braves for a 5-year deal worth $75.25 million. The colossal contract was the largest free agent signing in Braves franchise history.
Rays News and Notes:
- The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot features two ex-Rays in 1B/DH Fred McGriff and closer Roberto Hernandez (first time on the ballot). Here’s a link to the full ballot, which features some big [and controversial] first-time names such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, etc.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times looks at the details of Evan Longoria’s new contract. Rather than making $6 million in 2013, Longo will make just $2 million. The remaining $4 million was converted into a signing bonus.
- The MLB players’ union also weighs in on the new extension (per Ken Rosenthal).
- DRaysBay.com looks at some potential Rays targets in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
As expected, B.J. Upton—as well as all eight other MLB eligibles—declined his $13.3 qualifying offer from the Rays Friday, officially making him a free agent. With B.J. Upton now surely not returning to Tampa Bay next season, there’s a lot of speculation of the Rays potentially making a serious run at younger brother Justin via trade.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Rays could potentially emerge as front-runners for Upton since the Texas Rangers continue to insist that they’re not willing to trade a shortstop (Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus) to the Diamondbacks in a trade for him. Rosenthal also suggests that the Rays could offer either Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields in addition to prospect Hak-Ju Lee if they were to deal for Upton.
More Rays News and Notes
- I personally like the idea of the Rays trading a pitcher and a prospect for a player at the caliber of Upton’s, but a recent article over at DRaysBay.com voices some legitimate concern over the 25-year-old star outfielder.
- Jim Hickey talks Rays starting rotation on WDAE.
- David Price continues his eventful fall, winning a PGA Pro-Am tournament (Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic) Friday. Below is his victory speech:
Entering the offseason, James Shields was expected to be the No. 1 trade rumor name of the Rays’ plethora of starting pitchers. Right now it doesn’t appear that way, however, as Jeremy Hellickson has drawn more interest than anybody else in the rotation so far (per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com). No team has yet to publicly announced that they’re pursuing Helly, but things could get interesting at the GM meeting this week.
As the MLB award season continues, more Rays players continue to take home hardware. David Price—who makes a strong case for the AL Cy Young Award (announced next week)—was chosen as the AL’s top pitcher by the players (Players Choice Awards) on Monday.
Also in award news, Jose Molina was named the Rays’ top defensive player by Wilson.
More Rays News and Notes:
- As expected, the Rays made their one-year qualifying offer ($13.3 million) to B.J. Upton last Friday.
- The Rays re-signed Joel Peralta for a two-year deal worth $6 million. The agreement includes a $2.5 million option for 2015.
- Bleacher Report looks at five potential teams that could trade for Hellickson.
- Minor League free agents have been announced. A handful of Rays players are featured on the list.
As the Fall Classic concludes and the 2012 baseball season comes to an end, it’s time to look forward into what the winter has in store for the Rays. Like last offseason, Andrew Friedman and the Rays will have some tough choices to make before players report to spring training.
First in line in Tampa’s offseason priorities is their club options, which must all be dealt with this week. Out of the four on the list, the only sure ‘yes’ is Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million). Next is Luke Scott, who hit just .229/.285/.439 with 14 homers and 55 RBI in 344 plate appearances this season. With that kind of production at DH and his lack of ability to stay healthy, the chances of the Rays bringing him back in 2013 for $6 million are very slim.
The Rays hold a $10.25 million on veteran James Shields, who will be one of the main storylines throughout the winter. If they decide not to pick up the option—which is very likely—than they’ll immediately look for suitable deals for a blockbuster trade. As much as the organization prides themselves on excellent starting pitching, they really could use some young offensive talent as well.
The toughest club option decision for the Rays will be Jose Molina. The 37-year-old catcher did a nice job with the pitching staff but didn’t produce well offensively (.284 wOBA through 274 PA’s). At $1.5 million, don’t be surprised to see the Rays exercise his option in order to bring his veteran presence back to the roster.
As for Tampa’s free agents this offseason, the list includes B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Ryan Roberts, Jeff Keppinger and J.P. Howell. It looks like the Rays will part ways with Upton after his many years of service, which means they’ll have one less outfielder in 2013. There is a question to as if the Rays will give Upton a qualifying offer (one year for $13.3 million), however, which would land them a compensatory draft pick if he declines. If the Rays do go ahead and extend a qualifying offer, chances are he’ll turn it down and hit the market in pursuit of a huge long-term team.
Carlos Pena—who hit an MLB-worst .197 with just 19 homers and 61 RBI—is another big name who will likely be missing from the lineup in 2013, meaning the Rays will likely shop the market again this winter for first basemen.
As for the rest of the FA’s, all have a pretty decent chance of returning next season. The Rays would love to bring back Jeff Keppinger after his suprisingly good 2012 season. Keppinger can play three different positions in the infield while serving as an excellent contact hitter who can get the job done at the plate. After hitting .325 last season in his 418 plate appearances, he should be able to earn more than the $1.5 million he made last year.
Ryan Roberts is another player that can provide some infield versatility as well as some power in his bat, and the Rays will probably work on re-signing him as well.
As for the bullpen, it will be interesting to see how they handle free agents Peralta, Farnsworth and Howell. I think it’s safe to say Howell will be back in the ‘pen next season after the fine comeback year he had, posting an ERA a tad over 3 in over 50 innings of work. As for Farnsworth and Peralta though, both are much more of a question mark at the age of 36.
The next offseason topic to talk about is how the Rays will adress their areas of need. The three main holes on the roster are at first base, catcher and DH. They’ll probably seek some help in the outfield, shortstop and in the bullpen as well.
Ben Zobrist made a smooth transition to shortstop towards the end of the year, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Rays decide to make him their starting shortstop next season or continue to search outside the organization. Either way, we can expect to see the Rays sign another middle infielder, such as a Jeff Keppinger or Ryan Roberts type player.
With James Shields and numerous talented pitching prospects, the Rays have the necessary pieces to make a trade that could fill up some of the gaps on the roster. 1B Ike Davis, SS Elvis Andrus, SS Yunel Escobar, C J.P. Arencibia, 1B Eric Hosmer and INF Jed Lowrie are all players who will probably be up for trade this winter.
There are a handful of FA options as well. James Loney seems to be a very realistic possibility at the moment. If the Red Sox decide not resign him—which is about a 50/50 chance—then he would definitely become an affordable option for the Rays at first base. 2B Skip Schumaker, INF Stephen Drew, 1B/DH Lance Berkman, OF Coco Crisp, RP Matt Capps, RP Ryan Madson and INF Maicer Izturis are other names to keep an eye on as well.
The 2012 season may not be one to remember for Tampa Bay Rays fans. Despite winning 90 games in baseball’s toughest division, they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Considering the high expectations put upon the Rays coming into spring training, many look back at the season as a disappointment.
One word that could used to describe the Rays in 2012 is ‘unlucky’. Not only did they have to play through injury after injury throughout the entire season, but they also saw the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland A’s both have shockingly great seasons in the same year`, ultimately costing them a spot in the postseason.
Even with all these obstacles, Tampa Bay still could have very possibly made the playoffs. They lost a handful of games that could have been one and had their fair share of awful offensive performances as well.
Let’s take a look back at the Rays’ season as a whole; evaluating what went wrong, what went right, and which players are worthy of team awards.
Just like it has been in the previous years, offense once again was the team’s biggest weakness in 2012. The numerous injuries were obviously a huge reason for the Rays’ lack of production, but even some names in the lineups—such as Carlos Pena, Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings—underproduced causing the Rays major problems scoring runs throughout the season.
Relative to expectations and projections for Tampa coming into the season, the Rays actually only slightly underproduced offensively. A thorough article done by Jason Hanselman at the TheRaysWay.com evaluates how well the Rays hit compared to preseason projections by looking at every players wOBA and wRAA. Below is a table:
What the Rays saw this year is just how shallow their offensive depth is in their organization. Unlike in previous years, they dealt with a large amount of injuries in their lineup and constantly had to call up replacements. As you can see from the numbers, those replacements couldn’t give the Rays any kind of boost that was needed and the injuries would prove to sting as badly as feared.
Runs: 18th (697) in MLB
Batting average: T-27th (.240)
wOBA: T-16th (.311)
RBI: 17th (665)
Walks: 1st (571)
Stolen Bases: T-5th (134), T-2nd in AL
Team Leaders (500+ PA’s):
BA: Ben Zobrist (.270)
wOBA: Ben Zobrist (.365)
RBI: B.J. Upton (78)
HR: B.J. Upton (28)
wRC+: Ben Zobrist (137)
SB: Desmond Jennings/B.J. Upton (31)
* Evan Longoria and Jeff Keppinger both had under 500 PA’s this season
The Rays pitching once again was every bit as good as advertised, and more in 2012. The staff’s ridiculously good season was one of the best in modern baseball history and the best in the majors this year. Tampa’s pitching (including bullpen) led all of baseball in ERA (3.19), FIP (3.51), opponents batting average (.228) and strikeouts (set the AL record team record with 1,383).
David Price – The Cy Young hopeful enjoyed his best season yet thus far in his impressive young career, winning 20 games while posting a 2.56 ERA through 211 innings at the top of the Rays’ rotation. Justin Verlander, who also had an outstanding year, is the only pitcher that stands in the way of some hardware for Price this November. Both make great cases for the award and it should be fun to watch who prevails in the voting. The Rays saw the flame-throwing southpaw continue to develop as an ace in 2012, maturing with his pitch selection as well as with his command. The future looks extremely bright for him.
James Shields – In what could be his last year with the Rays, Shields had himself another successful season with Tampa Bay. He again proved to be one of the most efficient and consistent starters in the league, posting a 15-10 record with a 3.52 ERA through 227.2 innings pitched. He also recorded the most strikeouts of anybody in the rotation (223) while walking the least batters out of the four starters with 150+ IP. Even with all the great pitching talent in the organization, the Rays will no doubt miss Shields next year if he doesn’t return.
Jeremy Hellickson – After taking home the AL Rookie of the Year award last year, Hellickson did a nice job avoiding a sophomore slump in 2012. He hit some rough patches during the season but overall had himself a fine year, posting a 3.10 ERA through 177 innings pitched.
Matt Moore – After a sensational first impression in the big leagues last year as a mid-season call-up at the young age of 22, the top prospect phenom experienced a bumpy roller coaster ride in 2012. As Moore has done in his past years in the minors, he struggled early in the season, posting an ERA in the high 4’s for the first two months and then struggling again late in the season posting an ERA north of 5 in the last month. As expected, fastball command was his biggest issue throughout the year. Overall it wasn’t a bad season at all though, and he’ll likely become a ace-type pitcher very soon with some minor adjustments.
Jeff Niemann – Unfortunately injuries absolutely ruined Niemann’s 2012 season, and it wasn’t the first time in his career either. As he started to heat up in the month of May, he was hit hard by Tampa’s injury plague, taking a hard liner to the leg sidelining the big right-hander for months. He wouldn’t even pitch as much as four innings after that, as a shoulder injury in his first start back in September ended his season for good. Niemann would end the year with a 3.08 ERA through eight starts (38 innings pitched).
Alex Cobb – Just as he did in 2011, Cobb was called up to replace the injured Niemann and did a fine job doing so. He would pitch as much as 136.1 innings by the end of year, posting an 11-9 record with a solid 4.03 ERA. We’ll likely see Cobb continue to contribute to the back end of the Rays’ rotation in the years to come.
Chris Archer – Another top prospect arm, Archer experiences his first taste in the big leagues in 2012. He made four starts for the Rays and posted a 3.80 ERA, showing off his high potential with some impressive major league caliber stuff.
The Rays’ top-notch rotation was followed up by a bullpen that was one of baseball’s best as well. The ‘pen posted an AL-best ERA of 2.88, a MLB-best FIP of 3.19, AL-best K/9 of 9.33 and an MLB-best opponent’s average of .205. Featured in Tampa’s bullpen was baseball’s best reliever: Fernando Rodney. The flamethrowing closer set the all-time MLB record among relief pitchers for ERA with a 0.60 mark while recording 48 saves out of 50 opportunities (although only one BS was his fault). The ‘pen was also strengthened by Wade Davis, who did a nice job in his transition from starter to long-reliever. Jake McGee is another name worth mentioning. The young fireballer displayed his sky-high potential by posting a 1.95 ERA with an 11.87 K/9 as a middle reliever.
- Jeff Keppinger – When signed by the Rays as somewhat of an extra infielder, nobody thought Keppinger would put the impressive offensive numbers that he did. The 32-year-old veteran hit .325 with a .352 wOBA and 128 wRC+ in 418 plate appearances.
- Fernando Rodney – Not only was Rodney the most pleasant surprise with the Rays this year, but he was also the most pleasant surprise in all of baseball. After struggling in the past couple of seasons with the Angels, Rodney revived himself in Tampa Bay in 2012, earning him the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award. His historical season also earned him a much-deserved Deliverman Award (acknowledging the league’s best reliever).
- Carlos Pena – Pena was brought back to Tampa Bay in order to give the Rays consistent run production in the middle of the lineup, but miserably failed to do so this season. The veteran first baseman hit .197 (an MLB low) while knocking in a career-low (for full seasons) RBI total 62 and a career-low home run total of 19.
- Luke Scott – Like Pena, Scott was acquired in the offseason for the same reasons except for DH duties. He too failed to put up the offensive numbers expected from him, posting a .229/.285/.439 line with just 55 RBI. Injuries were issue as well, and caused him to play just 96 games all season.
- Sean Rodriguez – Sadly, Rodriguez was the Rays’ best choice for the starting shortstop role at the beginning of the season, and he proved to be probably the worst overall in the league. Offensively he struggled mightily, ending the year with a wOBA of .269 and a wRC+ of 71. Defensively he wasn’t much better either, as he committed a team-high 11 errors.
Team MVP: Ben Zobrist
Best Pitcher: David Price
Best Offensive Player: Ben Zobrist
Here we are in late September, with six games left to go in the regular season. The Rays stand two games out of a playoff spot with a 86-70 record. Rays fans have seen their share of surprises (pleasant and disappointing) throughout the year, and will probably see more as the 2012 season winds down to another exciting finish. Let’s take a look at four biggest surprises season.
The Amount of Injuries
Every team deals with injuries, but not many have been hit by as many injuries as the Rays have this year. In recent years, the Rays are usually one of the less injury-plagued teams in the league, but that has not been the case at all in 2012. Everybody in the starting lineup besides Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist and Jose Molina has spent time on the DL this season, and 15 players from the 40-man roster have been placed on the DL at some point this season.
When the Rays signed Jeff Keppinger, they knew he was a good contact hitter, but they had no clue he was going put up a line as impressive as .332/.372/.443. He doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title, but he does own the highest batting average in the American League. Among Rays players, Keppinger is first in average, third in wOBA, third in wRC+ and fourth in WAR (among position players).
Carlos Pena and Luke Scott
The Rays acquired both Carlos Pena and Luke Scott in the offseason to give their lineup a much-needed boost. They weren’t expected to be one of the better slugging combos in baseball, but they were expected to produce better than they have this season. Neither Pena or Scott have hit for a wOBA of .315+, a wRC+ of over 100, 20 home runs or an average of over .230. The two have combined for just 115 RBI and a WAR of just 1.3.
Passiveness at Trade Deadline
The Rays are usually one of the more quiet teams during the trade deadline frenzy, but Andrew Friedman & Co. were extra passive this past July. Some big names—such as B.J. Upton and James Shields—were rumored to be on the market for the Rays. The Rays also turned many heads when they said they’d be open to trading any of their starters except Matt Moore. In the end they decided not to trade anyone [on the 40-man roster], and ended up making only one move: acquiring Ryan Roberts.