It’s been a rough start to the year for the Tampa Bay Rays. Anemic offense has been the theme of the first two weeks of the season, which shows in the Rays’ 5-9 last-place record.
But of course, it’s still very early, and anything can happen in the next 149 games. Life in the AL East is never easy, however, as the Rays have plenty obstacles to overcome in duration of the season if they want to be crowned division champs in October.
Without further adieu, here are the four biggest barriers for the Rays standing in the way of a division title.
The Rays have their work cut out for them this year, as they compete in what is maybe the toughest divisions in all of sports.
The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are all potential playoff teams in 2013. Each one of them is a definite threat to a division title, but the Rays have a good enough team to compete with all four of these talented clubs.
There are a few things we’ve learned about Tampa Bay’s competitors after the first two weeks of the season. If one thing’s for sure, the Yankees are no team to overlook. Despite having a huge chunk of their roster out with injury, the Yanks stand at a surprising 8-5, as they’ve been finding ways to win ballgames while on the mend.
Once they get the rest of their team back—which includes Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Michael Pineda—they should be very dangerous.
The Red Sox didn’t come into the season with high expectations at all, but have started off the season very strongly with a first-place 10-4 record. Boston’s rotation was supposed to be the team’s main weak spot, but has shockingly been outstanding thus far. Their rotation has been by far the best in the division and probably the best in the American League, posting a 2.30 ERA and a 3.45 FIP.
The Orioles have began to prove that their 2012 success was not a fluke. They’ve played solid baseball and appear to have a pretty well-rounded team. The O’s are a team to watch out for if Chris Davis continues to put up big-time numbers at the DH spot.
As for Blue Jays, it’s been a disappointing start for them. As bad as they look right now, they’re a team that can turn things around quickly with that star-studded roster. Jose Reyes’ ankle injury, however, will be a big blow for them until he returns after the All-Star break.
The Rays’ offense has been flat-out awful in the first two weeks of the regular season. With a wOBA of .277 and a wRC+ of 77, they are currently the worst hitting team in the American League.
Outside of Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Kelly Johnson, who’ve all had solid starts to the year, nobody in the lineup has given the Rays any kind of significant production offensively.
Lack of power is one of the main issues for Tampa Bay, as they’ve posted just a .113 ISO. Another major concern is the how much runners the Rays are stranding on base. They’ve had a very tough time getting the man in, hitting just .192 with RISP.
Although the offense is very worrying for Rays fans at the moment, there is an optimistic way of looking at it: It will more than likely only get better from here.
Designated hitter Luke Scott has been out with a calf injury since spring training and has yet to play this season. Once he gets back, the lineup will surely be more potent with Scott in and Sam Fuld out.
As the season progresses, the Rays will also get a boost from their minor league system. Wil Myers should be terrific addition later in the year, and Brandon Guyer could also contribute.
In 2012, the injury bug was the largest barrier that stood in the way of a third division title for the Rays. Evan Longoria’s hamstring tear highlighted a plethora of injuries suffered by a very banged-up ball club.
So far this season, the Rays have done a pretty good job avoiding the DL. Luke Scott is the only player who has missed any time at all this year due to injury.
For this team to function properly, the entire team is going to have to stay relatively healthy throughout the season. I don’t see the Rays winning the division as a possibility if they’re hit with injury issues again.
Tampa Bay has a handful of prospects who could be a key part of the team later this season.
Wil Myers, who is arguably baseball’s top hitting prospect, may be the Rays’ X-factor once he’s called up to the majors. He appears to be about ready for The Show, but it’s possible he won’t make his MLB debut until July due to financial reasons.
Whenever he is called up, his immediate impact will be crucial, especially with the lineup as weak as it is.
Outfielder Brandon Guyer and middle infielders Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham are other position player prospects who could all see big league action this year. All three have the potential to bolster both the Rays’ offensive and defensive depth down the stretch.
the Rays have probably more pitchers on the verge of breaking into the majors this season than they do hitters. Chris Archer—the organization’s top upper-level pitching prospect—looks to be ready to take over a spot in the rotation once the time comes. This time, he’ll likely stay there for good.
The development of these Triple-A prospects will definitely come to play in this year’s pennant race. They Rays might need as many minor league contributions as they can get in order to win the AL East.
The Rays lost their fifth straight Grapefruit Game Sunday afternoon in Tampa, falling to the Yankees 7-6 in 10 innings.
Jeremy Hellickson worked seven innings (95 pitches), allowing 4 runs on 8 hits while walking two and striking out just one batter. Although he was knocked around a bit, it was nice to see some good efficiency in this outing and him being able to get through seven innings.
It hasn’t been a good spring for Helly, who currently owns a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 IP, but it shouldn’t be too much of a concern, especially considering what an awful spring he had in 2012 (9.00 ERA in 20 IP).
Reliever Jamey Wright followed Hellickson with two innings. Wright gave up two runs—a two-run homer to Kevin Youkilis (his second of the day)—and also walked two.
The best performances at the plate came from Desmond Jennings (2-4, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI), Ben Zobrist (4-5, RBI) and Matt Joyce (2-4, RBI and SB).
Low-level minor league prospects Drew Vettleson and Jake Hager both made their Grapefruit League debuts in this game. Vettleson went 0-2, but Hager hit a game-tying RBI double in his only at bat, down to his last strike with two outs in the ninth.
Right-hander Josh Lueke came on for the Rays in the bottom of the tenth. The first batter he faced was Ronnier Mustelier, who belted a walk-off dinger to left field.
Here’s a full boxscore of Sunday’s game.
Rays News and Notes:
- The deadline for the Rays to decide whether or not to keep Jamey Wright on the 25-man roster or not is Tuesday. It looks like Joe Maddon will keep him, and Wright will be in the Tampa’s bullpen for Opening Day. The 38-year-old right-hander says he just needs a bit more time to get his sinker down. The sinkerball, of course, is the groundball specialist’s bread and butter.
- Sam Fuld (hamstring tightness) went 2-6 in a minor-league spring training game Sunday. Fuld said he felt “100 percent” and is ready to return. He should be rejoining the Rays in the Grapefruit League within the next few days.
- Also down in minor league camp, Wil Myers has been sidelined for a few days with a minor right wrist injury, said to be just soreness. Tim Beckham has also been experiencing wrist soreness, and is scheduled to return soon.
- The Yankees, who have a decent-sized portion of their team on the DL, are reportedly on the verge of acquiring Vernon Wells in a trade from the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rays were on the losing side of a 9-2 rout Saturday afternoon, dropping their eighth Grapefruit League game of the spring to the Red Sox.
Roberto Hernandez got the start, and obviously a crucial one for him as he battles Jeff Niemann for the fifth spot in the rotation. Hernandez allowed 2 [earned] runs on 6 hits, a walk and 5 strikeouts.
Relievers Jake McGee and Jamey Wright also made appearances in this game, both giving up a run in one inning each.
Not much to talk about offensively from this ballgame. Leslie Anderson, who’s now hitting .425, continued his red-hot spring with a 3-3 day.
Sean Rodriguez went 2-2, hitting a homer to provide Tampa with their two only runs.
Speaking of S-Rod, the Rays’ utility man was involved in what nearly led to a bench-clearing brawl. After being hit by a pitch by Alfredo Aceves and then being barked at, tempers flared. Here’s Rodriguez’s take on the incident.
Here’s a full boxscore of Saturday’s game.
Rays News and Notes:
- Wil Myers, Brandon Guyer, Tim Beckham, Robinson Chirinos, Hak-Ju Lee, Josh Lueke, Juan Sandoval, Wil Inman and J.D. Martin were all optioned back down to the minor leagues in the Rays’ latest rounds of cuts.
- Matt Moore was much improved in his start during the Rays’ 3-1 win over the Phillies Friday. Moore didn’t give up a single earned run on 3 hits, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts through 5 innings. Stephen Vogt gave the Rays the victory with a walk-off homer in the 10th inning.
- World Baseball Classic news: The United States were eliminated from the tournament by Puerto Rico Friday night after a heart-breaking 4-3 loss. Ben Zobrist went 0-2 in the game with an RBI walk, finishing the Classic 3-for-11. The Dominican Republic clinched the top seed Saturday afternoon with a 2-0 win over Puerto Rico, and Fernando Rodney picked up his fifth save of the tournament. Puerto Rico advances to face Japan in the semifinals while D.R. will square off against the Netherlands.
- After being rejected by both Chipper Jones and Derek Lee, the New York Yankees have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch.
- Before Friday’s game against Philadelphia, 65 members of the Rays organization shaved their head in an annual event to raise awareness and funds for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. The Phillies’ Michael Young also participated in the event.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports Sam Fuld (hamstring) won’t be returning for another 4-5 days.
The Rays improved their Grapefruit League record to 12-7 Thursday afternoon, defeating the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 4-3.
Jeff Niemann was pretty sharp in his outing, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks in his 4 1/3 innings of work.
His velocity was down (didn’t throw a single pitch over 88 MPH), but it was nothing to be concerned about. Both Joe Maddon and Niemann said after the game that he was just working on movement.
Juan Sandoval and Josh Lueke came on in relief following Niemann. Sandoval continued to struggle, allowing two runs (off a Matt Wieters) home run in 1 2/3 inning. Lueke, on the other hand, continued his excellent spring tossing two scoreless innings.
The Rays’ four runs were scored an Evan Longoria RBI double, a Luke Scott two-run homer and a Tim Beckham RBI single. Wil Myers also had a double Thursday in his only at bat.
On the injury front, Beckham (face) returned yesterday but Sam Fuld (hamstring) remains out. He could return in the next few days.
Here’s a complete boxscore of Thursday’s game.
Rays News and Notes:
- The Rays optioned down Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Torres to Triple-A Durham in their latest round of cuts Tuesday.
- David Price pitched five scoreless inning in a minor-league spring training game against the Orioles’ Class A squad Wednesday. He allowed just four singles while striking out six and walking none.
- Jeremy Hellickson also had a minor-league start this week, but it didn’t go nearly as well for him. He gave up two runs on four hits, four walks (and a HBP) and three strikeouts through 3 1/3 innings pitched. He pitched 70 pitches, just 41 of them strikes.
- Here’s Price on being named the Opening Day starter earlier this week.
- More David Price: could special K-9 seating when Price starts be a thing this year for the Rays?
- The United States lost 3-1 to the Dominican Republic Thursday night and are now on the brink of elimination. Fernando Rodney collected his fourth save (out of four opportunities) of the World Baseball Classic, continuing what has been a terrific tournament for him thus far. Ben Zobrist also appeared in this game, striking out in his only at bat.
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.
Baseball has returned, and spring training has officially started for the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte as players report to camp.
The Rays have a handful of exciting prospects and non-roster invitees who have plenty to prove this spring, and it should be interesting to see which surprise players will grab everyone’s attention.
Here are seven names to watch for in the next six weeks.
Ever since being drafted first overall by the Rays in 2008, Tim Beckham has been nothing less than a disappointment. The 23-year-old middle infielder was obviously drafted with sky high expectations, but has yet to break out in the minors during his four seasons in the organization.
Beckham will most likely be starting the season with Triple-A Durham, but is out on a mission this spring to prove that this is the year he’ll finally break into the big leagues.
Many thought that year would be 2012, but a 50-game suspension and injuries were huge setbacks in Beckham’s progress. Hopefully, spring training will serve as a clean sheet for Beckham to start over and turn things around in what has been an unfortunate young career.
The Rays acquired 23-year-old southpaw Mike Montgomery from the Royals in December’s blockbuster James Shields trade. Montgomery spent four seasons in Kansas City’s organization considered to be one of the teams top prospects, but has struggled the past two years at the Triple-A level posting a lopsided 8-17 record with a 5.46 ERA.
He probably won’t make an impact on the Rays in the near future, but he’s out to prove he’s not too far away from major league ready.
Although he has very good stuff and the tools to be an MLB starter, a career as a reliever seems more likely at the moment. If he pitches well enough in 2013, we could maybe even see him contribute to Tampa Bay’s bullpen this season.
Alex Colome is one sleeper prospect with very high upside who should be kept an eye on this season. The 24-year-old right-hander has gradually moved up the ranks over the past years in the Rays’ farm system and pitched his way into Triple-A last season.
Colome has impressive raw stuff that can blow away big league hitters, which should make him a sight to watch in Port Charlotte.
This could be the year he makes his MLB debut as he continues to develop as a pitcher. That being said, spring training will be a great opportunity for him to show off his potential to the Rays.
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi was one of four prospects acquired in the James Shields trade this offseason, adding yet another talented young starting pitcher to the Rays’ organization.
Odorizzi had somewhat of a breakout year in the minors in 2012, going 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA through 25 starts in both Double-A and Triple-A. He also got his first taste of the big leagues with the Royals, making two brief starts.
He’ll be battling for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring against teammates Jeff Niemann, Roberto Hernandez and possibly even Chris Archer. His odds of making the Opening Day rotation are not good at all, but if he shines bright enough he could maybe just sneak in there.
Even if we don’t see Odorizzi with the Rays early in the season, we can expect to see him contribute to the team sometime later in the year.
Wil Myers is the prospect to watch in Major League Baseball this spring. The 22-year-old phenom slugger was the prize acquisition in the James Shields trade, and is considered arguably the top hitting prospect in all of baseball.
Even if Myers plays well during spring training, his chances of making the Opening Day roster are very slim. There is one backup outfielder on the 25-man roster, and although Myers may be good enough for the spot, the Rays are not going to want their top prospect to start the year on the bench.
Whether he makes the roster or not, his powerful bat will be a ton of fun to watch in the coming weeks.
After missing almost the entire 2012 season with a shoulder injury, outfielder Brandon Guyer is returning to baseball this spring hoping for a fresh start.
Guyer has already had two very brief stints in the majors in the past two seasons, but has spent most of his time with Triple-A Durham where he has produced pretty well.
After missing such a significant amount of time, Guyer is no longer considered a top prospect in the organization like he was once. Spring training will be a great opportunity for him to prove that he’s an MLB-caliber player.
He’ll also be competing for the backup outfield spot on the Opening Day roster, but it’s probably going to take a standout performance this spring to accomplish that.
One of the Rays’ better position player prospects and shortstop prospects in all of baseball, Hak-Ju Lee is definitely a must-watch this spring in Port Charlotte.
His blazing speed and tremendous defensive upside will surely attract plenty of attention in the next few weeks.
Lee has played with both Class A+ Charlotte and Class AA Montgomery for the past two seasons after being acquired in the Matt Garza blockbuster trade. He still hasn’t had the breakout year in the minors that Rays fans have been anticipating, but nonetheless has made slow progress up the organizational ranks.
Lee will be eyeing a spot on Triple-A Durham’s Opening Day lineup, and a good spring training performance would obviously help his case.
As the 2012 regular season winds down to another exciting finish, a handful of Rays minor leaguers look forward to breaking into The Show in 2013. Besides for Matt Moore, no prospects have really made a significant impact on the Rays thus far this season. Hopefully it won’t be the same story next season, and a few names will be able to give the Rays a boost. Here are some farmhands to keep in eye on for 2013.
Despite a mediocre 2012 season thus far, Hak-Ju Lee is currently considered the Rays’ No. 1 prospect by many. The 21-year-old is expected to be the franchise’s future at shortstop, and 2013 could be the year he begins his anticipated big league journey. Lee has spent the entire season with Double-A Montgomery, and has hit .261/.336/.360 with 37 RBI and 37 stolen bases. The offensive stats are nothing to get too excited about and neither are his defensive numbers, as Lee has posted a .954 fielding percentage this year. He’s still young and has good potential, so nobody should be surprised to see him with the Rays next September.
Chris Archer—who’s considered the Rays’ top upper-level pitching prospect—has already made an impact with the club in 2012. The 23-year-old right-hander put up a 3.66 ERA in 25 starts with Durham this season and a 3.86 ERA in his two first major league starts. With James Shields likely not returning next year and Jeff Niemann’s health seemingly always in question, Archer will likely have a much more significant role in the starting rotation in 2013.
Alex Colome flashed his high potential as he progressed nicely through the Rays’ farm system in 2012. A recent shoulder injury has ended his season, but at this rate many still expect to see Colome as a late-season call-up next year. Colome combined for an 8-4 record and a 3.44 ERA through 17 starts (14 with Montgomery, 3 with Durham) in the minors this year.
It’s been another disappointing year for former No. 1 draft pick Tim Beckham. The 22-year-old middle infielder is still fairly young, however, and is gradually progressing in the Rays’ organization. A 50-game suspension for drug use really hurt his chances of making a big league push this season, but he there’s actually still a possibility he gets called up this month. Beckham will likely join the Rays at some point in 2013, obviously depending on how he plays with Durham. This year Beckham has posted a underachieving .256/.325/.361 line with 28 RBI and a .946 fielding percentage through 72 games.