The Rays defeated the Twins Sunday afternoon by a score of 7-2, improving their Grapefruit League record to 7-3.
David Price was on the hill for Tampa, and looked very sharp in his three scoreless innings allowing just one hit and striking out five without a walk (29 of his 41 pitches were strikes).
Three potential Opening Day relievers also made appearances in this game. Jamey Wright gave up a run in one inning, followed by Joel Peralta and Jake McGee who pitched one scoreless inning each.
The offensive got the job done as well, as the Rays compiled seven runs on 10 hits.
Some big hits in this game came from Kelly Johnson (two-run double) and from Chris Gimenez (two-run homer and sacrifice fly). Matt Joyce and James Loney also had an RBI hit each.
Evan Longoria was back in the lineup for this game, and hit a double in three at-bats. Wil Myers had a triple in two at-bats.
It wasn’t all positives Sunday, however, as DH Luke Scott caused some concern after exiting the game with a tight hamstring. He hopes to be back in “a couple of days”, but it definitely still worries Rays fans considering how injury-plagued Scott was in 2012. He missed a pretty good amount of time last season due to the same injury.
Here’s a complete boxscore of yesterday’s game.
The Rays extended their Grapefruit League winning streak to five Wednesday afternoon with a 8-2 victory over the Pirates in Bradenton.
Jeff Niemann and Jeremy Hellickson both made their spring debuts. Niemann pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, and Hellickson followed with a scoreless outing of his own—allowing three hits, no walks and striking out two through 1 2/3 innings pitched.
MLB Future Game southpaws Felipe Rivero and Enny Romero both made appearances in this game. Rivero allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings and Romero tossed one scoreless inning.
Offensive notables from yesterday include prospect Tim Beckham, Luke Scott and Jose Molina, who all had good games at the plate. Beckham went 2-2 with a double and a triple, Scott also went 2-2 with an RBI, and Molina went 2-3 with an RBI as well.
Here’s a full boxscore of the game.
Rays News and Notes:
- The Rays return to Port Charlotte to take on the Tigers today at 1:05. Lots to watch for today as Evan Longoria returns to the lineup, Luke Scott make his first start in the outfield since 2011, Matt Moore makes his spring training debut (in relief), and the ESPN Baseball Tonight bus stops by Rays camp. Here’s today’s lineup.
- MLBTradeRumors.com put together an offseason review of the Rays.
The Rays made some noise this week in what has been one quiet month in the offseason.
Andrew Friedman signed a quartet of free agents to minor league contracts on Tuesday, including right-handed relievers Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez), Jamey Wright and Juan Sandoval, as well as OF Shelley Duncan. He added to the FA shopping spree Thursday by re-signing veteran righty Kyle Farnsworth and left-handed DH Luke Scott.
Oviedo, 30, saved 92 games during his three seasons with the Marlins (2009-2011), where he posted a 3.86 ERA through 198.0 IP. Due to a suspension for identity fraud and an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, he didn’t pitch at all in the majors in 2012. Unfortunately for the Rays, Oviedo is going to miss most of this season as well to recover, which is why they added a 2014 option to his contract.
Shelley Duncan, the second biggest name in these signings, was a rather interesting pick-up. Back in a 2008 spring training game between Tampa Bay and the Yankees, Duncan started a bench-clearing brawl by purposely sliding hard into second baseman Akinori Iwamura. The 33-year-old right-handed power hitter will provide some depth in the corner outfield positions and might even end up at DH if the Rays fail to sign someone. Duncan is a .229/.306/.427 lifetime hitter who hit 11 homers and less than 50 RBI during each of his last three seasons with Cleveland, where he averaged 80 games per season. With that mediocre production and below-average defense, hopefully the Rays can find somebody better qualified in the next month to serve as the team’s DH.
Jamey Wright, a 38-year-old reliever with 17 years of MLB experience, could very possibly give Tampa’s ‘pen a nice boost. A very affordable option, Wright has proven to be one of the better groundball specialists in the league. Over the past three seasons with Seattle and Los Angeles, he’s posted a groundball percentage of 62.4%. That’s better than Burke Badenhop’s rate, who Wright could very likely replace in the bullpen.
Thirty-two year-old Juan Sandoval completes the trio of right-handed relievers acquired by the Rays Tuesday. Sandoval has never pitched in the big leagues, but he has spent the last two season in the Mexican League at the Triple-A level. One very intriguing fact about Sandoval is that he’s blind in one eye due to a pellet gun accident.
As for Kyle Farnsworth, well, Rays fans already know what kind of contributions he can give to the ‘pen. Farnsworth posted a 4.00 ERA with 8.3 K/9 through just 27 innings last year after missing most of the season due to an elbow injury. However, he had a career year as the team’s closer in 2011 when he went 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 25 saves.
Tampa Bay continued their busy Thursday by making another re-signing, but this one a bit more surprising. Lacking an adequate designated hitter, the Rays went out and signed Luke Scott despite declining his $6 million option in October and paying for his $1 million buyout. Scott had disappointing 2012 season with the Rays, batting just .229/.285/.439 with 14 homers and 55 RBI through just 96 games.
So, what does this flurry recent acquisitions mean for the current state of the Rays?
The bullpen now appears to be set with the additions of Farnsworth, Oviedo and Wright. The offensive depth just got better as well, as the Rays added both a right-handed and left-handed power bat in Shelley Duncan and Luke Scott.
Bats such as Travis Hafner, Juan Rivera, Carlos Lee, Jim Thome, Dan Johnson and Aubrey Huff are still available on the market, but the Rays are more than likely done with free agent signings this offseason as the roster seems to be set. Scott will probably end up as the starting DH as he was last year, and the Rays appear to be going with Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton as their two catchers to start the season.
It’s nice to see Friedman get the job done again this offseason by filling in all of the holes in the roster by the most affordable means possible. Rays fans should be confident that their team will have yet another successful bullpen in 2013, as Tampa once again displayed their ability to reconstruct what could potentially be one of baseball’s better ‘pens.
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.
It’s been an extremely disappointing week for the Tampa Bay Rays. After losing seven of their last eight in the midst of the AL playoff race, they now find themselves with their backs firmly against the wall and at the verge of elimination.
So, as the 2012 season continues to near a upsetting end, who’s to blame for this late season collapse?
The Rays’ September failures have been a team effort, but their are five players who have just been flat-out awful this month.
Matt Moore appeared to have hit his stride this season after struggling during the early part of the year, but unfortunately those struggles have comeback to haunt him here in September when the Rays least need it.
Moore has has made three starts this month and none of them have been good ones. He suffered the loss in all three, and compiled a 7.43 ERA.
His fastball velocity has been down lately, which is likely a big reason for the poor outings.
Jeff Keppinger has probably been the Rays’ most consistent hitter all season long. The .317/.361/.419 hitter has hit just .246 with a .220 wOBA and 0 extra-base hits in September.
He’s also seen his strikeout percentage rise to 8.5%.
The Rays depend on Matt Joyce to be one of the top bats in the middle of their lineup, and he has not lived up to that expectation recently.
In the last 30 days, Joyce has hit just .182/.289/.288 with just a single home run and eight RBI while posting a low wRC+ of 60. In those 76 plate appearances he’s hit just five extra-base hits—a huge reason why the Rays’ offense has been anemic as it is lately.
It’s been a disappointing season the whole way through for DH Luke Scott. Lately he’s been especially bad though, having his worst month since his franchise record 0-41 skid back in July.
Scott has hit .182/.200/.341 with just one HR and four RBI in his last 45 PA. Any team with a DH who’s putting up those kind of numbers probably isn’t going to have such a great offense, and that’s been the case for the Rays this year.
The wheels have seemingly fell off Joel Peralta here late in the the season. The Rays’ set-up man is 0-2 in with a 5.79 ERA in the last 30 days, putting a big dent in a Tampa Bay bullpen that has been strong all year long.