Just two weeks away from the trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Rays have clearly emerged as contenders in the AL East, standing atop the Wild Card race and just 2.5 games out of first place in the division.
Like usual, GM Andrew Friedman and the Rays probably won’t make much noise at the deadline, but it is likely that we see at least one minor trade later this month.
Here’s my ranking for the organization’s top four best bargaining chips.
4. Ryan Roberts
Ryan Roberts is one of the most likely trade candidates for the Rays at the deadline. With the team healthy and the offense functioning well, Tampa Bay simply does not have a spot for him on the roster, which is why he’s currently playing in Triple-A.
If the Rays do try to make a move at the deadline, expect to see them shopping Roberts.
3. Enny Romero
One of the Rays’ top pitching prospects, Enny Romero was just selected to his second consecutive All-Star Futures Game earlier this week. The 22-year-old left-hander has exciting potential and has looked good this year with Class AA Montgomery.
With the emergence of Chris Archer, Alex Torres, Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi, could Romero be a possible trade candidate?
I don’t expect to see Friedman even attempt to trade him, but if he does decide to dig deep for prospects, this may be a good time to deal Romero with his stock pretty high.
2. Kelly Johnson
Could Kelly Johnson be a potential trade target for clubs seeking a bat and some depth? The 31-year-old is enjoying a strong comeback year in Tampa Bay, posting a .762 OPS with a 113 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) and a 1.8 WAR.
Since his contract is expiring at the end of the year, Andrew Friedman may listen to some offers for Johnson but I doubt he’ll pull the trigger. He’s a key part of a team that plans on competing in October, so I don’t think it would be the right choice to deal an important piece like Johnson.
1. Roberto Hernandez
Roberto Hernandez’s numbers this season in the back end of the Rays’ rotation aren’t too pretty: 5-10 with a 4.90 ERA and a 4.58 FIP. However, Hernandez has shown some flashes of his All-Star Fausto Carmona days, posting a career-high 3.36 K/BB rate.
With rookie Chris Archer appearing to be more than capable of pitching in the Rays’ rotation and Alex Cobb returning soon, the Rays may look into trading Hernandez, who will be a free agent after this season.
If the Rays decide to hang on to him, he might find himself with a role in the bullpen.
The second half of the 2013 regular season is underway. Five and a half games out of first place in the AL East and three games behind in the Wild Card race, the Tampa Bay Rays have plenty of work to do these next three months.
Without further delay, take a look at my five bold predictions for the second half of the season.
Good pitching will return to Tampa Bay
After posting historically good numbers in 2012, the Rays’ pitching staff was surprisingly mediocre in the first half of the season. Reigning Cy Young award-winner David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Roberto Hernandez and most of the bullpen struggled in the first half.
However, things appear to be turning in the right direction going into the second half. Jeremy Hellickson has been sharp in his last three starts, Matt Moore looks to have returned to his early-season form and the bullpen has been excellent as of late.
Also, David Price is returning to the rotation tonight and Alex Cobb—who led the rotation earlier this season—should return after the All-Star break.
Matt Moore will have excellent second half
It’s been a roller coaster ride of a season for Matt Moore so far. The phenom southpaw was outstanding in April and May, but had three straight bad starts in June before returning to form in his last three starts.
Moore’s fastball velocity has been down all year, but he’s done great work with his offspeed stuff and is still unhittable when he commands his pitches. He really looks poised for a huge second half.
The Rays will trade either Ryan Roberts or Roberto Hernandez before the deadline
As usual, I don’t expect GM Andrew Friedman and the Rays to make a lot of noise at the trade deadline later this month, but I do expect to see one small trade.
Ryan Roberts is definitely a possibility. With Wil Myers now in the majors, the Rays don’t really have a spot for Roberts on the roster, especially with the offense performing so well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him dealt for some relief pitching help.
Roberto Hernandez is another potential candidate. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the year, and there are a few teams in the league that could really use his services. With Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Alex Torres and Jake Odorizzi, the Rays could certainly afford to trade Hernandez.
Wil Myers will make big push for AL Rookie of the Year
With just 14 games played, it may be a little early for the “Wil Myers for Rookie of the Year” talks, but it’s something to keep an eye on in the second half.
Myers’ transition into the big leagues has been a pretty smooth one, as he’s swung the bat well posting a .345 wOBA. As of right now he’s not one of the top candidates, but I think he’ll prove in the following months why he was considered the top hitting prospect in baseball.
The Rays will clinch a playoff spot
Can the Rays return to the postseason in 2013? It won’t be easy with Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees in the same division, as well as the Athletics or Rangers as likely serious contenders for a Wild Card spot.
If the “Tampa Bay Rays pitching” returns—which I think it will—and the offensive remains productive, I believe this team will be playing in October.
It hasn’t been an ideal start to the year for the Tampa Bay Rays. With one quarter of the season already behind us, the Rays currently stand at an even 20-20.
The’ve really underachieved overall as a team, as things simply aren’t falling into place for them just yet.
With a strong offense and a struggling bullpen, it’s looked like 2009 all over again so far for Tampa Bay. They missed the playoffs and finished the season with just 84 wins that year, so Rays fans hope their team is not going down a similar path.
After the first 40 games of the 2013 season, here’s a graded evaluation of the Rays’ offense, starting rotation, bullpen and defense.
The Rays currently have the third best offense in Major League Baseball with a wRC+ of 108.
Evan Longoria and James Loney have both enjoyed red-hot starts to the season. Longoria has posted a .417 wOBA and Loney is leading the league in batting at .367.
Kelly Johnson and Sean Rodriguez have both been pleasant surprises. Johnson’s posted a 119 wRC+ and Rodriguez has looked like a much-improved hitter, putting up a .326 wOBA in 60 plate appearances.
Below’s a chart of every player’ wOBA compared to their preseason projections (Fangraphs’ ZIPS projections):
Overall Grade: A-
With statistically one of the league’s best offenses, I thought the Rays deserved a high grade here. The difference between an A- and an A+ for me was the first two weeks of the season where the offense was anemic. Since late April, however, the lineup has been scorching hot.
“Disappointing” is the best word to describe the Rays’ starting rotation at the first quarter mark. Tampa’s starters have posted a collective 4.05 ERA (16th in MLB) and a 4.22 FIP (18th in MLB).
Shockingly, the starting pitching struggles have stemmed from the rotation’s front two: David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. Price—who’s now on the 15-day DL—is 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA through nine starts and Hellickson is 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA through eight.
There has been two bright spots in the rotation, however, as youngsters Matt Moore and Alex Cobb have both shined. Moore is an impressive 7-0 with a 2.44 ERA and a 9.56 K/9, while Cobb is 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA and a rotation-leading WAR of 0.9.
Roberto Hernandez has been nothing more than decent in his first seven starts. He’s 2-4 with a 4.43 ERA, but he’s actually looked pretty encouraging. His career-high 8.65 K/9 rate, 3.43 SIERA and 3.45 xFIP are possibly signs of a comeback year for Hernandez.
Overall Grade: C-
What was expected to be one of the better bullpens in baseball as turned out to be somewhat of a disaster. Tampa’s ‘pen ranks fourth worst in the league in ERA (4.67) and sixth worst in FIP (4.04).
Closer Fernando Rodney has been suprisingly lousy so far, blowing three saves in 10 opportunities to go along with a 5.28 ERA and a pair of losses. Jake McGee (8.80 ERA), Kyle Farnsworth (6.52 ERA), Jamey Wright (4.24 ERA) and Brandon Gomes (5.40 ERA) have all struggled as well.
The Rays have held leads in 34 of their 40 games this season, and have blown countless leads late in games. The bullpen is simply going to have to improve if the Rays want a shot at competing in October.
Overall Grade: D
They have the best defensive corner-infield combo in the game with Evan Longoria and James Loney, Longoria, as usual, has been nothing short of amazing this season, leading the team with a 3.8 UZR as he continues to play like a Gold Glove caliber third baseman.
In the outfield, Desmond Jennings has done a fine job adjusting to centerfield, posting a 3.2 UZR. Sam Fuld and Matt Joyce haven’t done a very good job in the corners, but Fuld still covers plenty of ground and Kelly Johnson has bolstered the outfield defense a bit.
Johnson’s also played very well at second base thus far, owning a 0.8 UZR at the position.
At shortstop, Yunel Escobar has proven to be the defensive upgrade he was signed for. He gives the Rays the adequate-fielding everyday shortstop they haven’t had since Jason Bartlett in 2010.
As for the Rays’ catching tandem, both Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton have been below average in terms of throwing out runners and blocking pitching. It’s obviously a big minus for the overall defense, but it doesn’t erase the fact that Molina is the best framing catcher in the game.
Overall Grade: B
The Rays capped off spring training in Tropicana Field Saturday afternoon, tying the Tigers 3-3.
Matt Moore, who has struggled throughout the spring, had a much improved start in this game. He pitched four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, one walk and struck out five.
All of Tampa’s offense came from three solo home runs off the bats of Ryan Roberts, James Loney and Sean Rodriguez.
Five of the Rays’ seven relievers made appearances Saturday, each of them tossing one inning each. Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney all had scoreless outings. Jamey Wright allowed two runs on two hits and Jake McGee gave up a run on two hits.
The Rays finish Grapefruit League play with a 15-17-2 record. Their next game is Opening Day at the Trop versus the Baltimore Orioles, David Price will make the first pitch of the season at 3:10 ET.
Here’s a full boxscore of Saturday’s exhibition.
Rays News and Notes:
- Luke Scott has been placed on the DL, and is out for a minimum of 2-3 weeks with a strained right calf. The Rays will announce his replacement today, with Brandon Guyer possibly the favorite for the job.
- Buster Posey and Justin Verlander both inked huge contracts Saturday. Verlander’s record deal just reaffirms that the Rays won’t be able to afford David Price long term, Buster Olney tweets.
The Rays lost Wednesday by a score of 6-1 in Port Charlotte, but the main headline of the day was Jeff Niemann, who was excellent in his final Grapefruit League start.
The Tall Texan tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while walking none and striking out two.
The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation between Niemann and Roberto Hernandez is a very close one, and Joe Maddon’s decision may not come until Friday.
I think the right choice is to put Niemann in the rotation and Hernandez in the ‘pen, and I say that for a couple of reasons. Niemann has had the better spring statistically (2.92 ERA vs. 5.33 ERA) and Hernandez is better suited for the ‘pen, being a good groundball pitcher. Niemann has also proven that he’s a very effective starter when healthy, while Hernandez has been flat-out awful since 2008.
What do you guys think? :
Back to the ballgame, not much news other than Niemann’s outing.
Both Fernando Rodney—making his first appearance since the World Baseball Classic—and Jake McGee had themselves a scoreless inning each.
The only Rays run was scored off a Yunel Escobar RBI triple, which was one of Escobar’s two hits of the day (finished game 2-2). Ryan Roberts also had had two hits, including a double (finished game 2-4).
Evan Longoria walked twice in three plate appearances, flying out in his only at bat.
Here’s for a full boxscore.
The Rays improved their Grapefruit League record to 4-1 Tuesday afternoon, beating Houston 7-2 in six innings (rain).
Evan Longoria and David Price both made their spring training debuts. Longoria hit two singles in two plate appearances, with an RBI and a run scored.
Price pitched one inning, and didn’t allow a run on one hit and a walk. Fernando Rodney and Brandon Gomes also had a one scoreless inning each.
Prospect Alex Colome made an appearance in this ballgame, and didn’t have one of his sharper outings. He gave up a two-run homer in his one inning of work.
On the offensive side of things, Ryan Roberts and Leslie Anderson continued their hot starts to the spring. Roberts went 2-3 with a homer, 2 RBI and 3 runs scored. Anderson went 1-3, smacking a two-run triple.
Wil Myers continues to swing the bat well also, going 2-3 in this game.
Click here for a full boxscore.
With spring training now in full swing and the first games nearing, the Rays’ 2013 roster appears to be coming together.
Tampa Bay has made their share of roster moves and put their final touches on signings this month. Now all that remains are spring training battles that will take place next month before Opening Day.
If one thing’s for sure, skipper Joe Maddon will likely have some tough choices to make when deciding who makes the cut.
Without further delay, here’s my prediction of what the Rays’ Opening Day roster will look like.
C: Jose Molina
1B: James Loney
2B: Kelly Johnson
3B: Evan Longoria
SS: Yunel Escobar
LF: Matt Joyce
CF: Desmond Jennings
RF: Ben Zobrist
DH: Luke Scott
Barring any injuries, this will more than likely be the Rays’ starting nine for Opening Day. There aren’t really any battles for starting spots in the lineup.
The 2013 lineup will feature a few changes. James Loney will be replacing Carlos Pena at first, and recently-signed Kelly Johnson will take over second instead of Ben Zobrist who will start in right field. Also, the Rays will finally have an everyday shortstop with Yunel Escobar in lineup.
Another thing worth noting is key loss of B.J. Upton, who will be replaced in centerfield by Desmond Jennings.
C Jose Lobaton
INF Sean Rodriguez
UTIL Ryan Roberts
OF Sam Fuld
Ryan Roberts, Sean Rodriguez and Jose Lobaton making the roster seem to be sure locks for the Opening Day lineup, but it will be interesting to see who wins the battle for the backup outfielder spot.
Sam Fuld, prospect Brandon Guyer and veteran slugger Shelley Duncan will all vie for the job this spring.
I predict Fuld edges out Guyer and Duncan, and there are a couple reasons. He has the most experience with the Rays out of the three, and Maddon likes the plus speed and defense he brings to the team—two things Guyer and Duncan can’t offer.
1. LHP David Price
2. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
3. LHP Matt Moore
4. RHP Alex Cobb
5. RHP Jeff Niemann
Joe Maddon has already made it clear that David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb will all be in the rotation to start the season.
The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation will without a doubt be the fiercest spring training competition in Port Charlotte. Jeff Niemann, Roberto Hernandez, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi will all fight for the spot.
It’ll be a difficult decision for Maddon, and it’s really going to come down to spring training performance.
Closer: RHP Fernando Rodney
Set-Up Man: RHP Joel Peralta
Middle Relief: LHP Jake McGee
Middle Relief: RHP Kyle Farnsworth
Long/Middle Reliever: RHP Roberto Hernandez
Lefty Specialist: LHP Cesar Ramos
Groundball Specialist: RHP Jamey Wright
Besides for Jamey Wright, we can expect to see all the names above in the ‘pen for Opening Day.
With right-handers Josh Lueke and Brandon Gomes also looking for a spot on the roster, Wright will likely have to pitch pretty well this spring to make the cut.
Another notable name in my bullpen projection is Roberto Hernadez. The 32-year-old veteran, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, would serve as a long/middle reliever if he were to lose the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation.