Showing posts with label Tampa Bay Rays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tampa Bay Rays. Show all posts

Friday, November 07, 2014

Return of the Hot Stove Junkie!

Way back in the olden days of this blog when I was with I used to write a regular column called "The Hot Stove Junkie", it was essentially just a recap of news during the off-season and the potential fantasy impact (if any). It probably seems obvious at this point but I'm bringing it back to this blog as a regular feature as I knock the dust off this thing and get things cranked again. So let's get to it.

The Dodgers are Loading Up

The Los Angeles Dodgers are building a fantastic collection of front office talent.Farhan Zaidi from the Oakland Athletics is the new GM. Josh Brynes has been brought on as the new Vice President of Baseball Operations and will oversee the scouting and player development efforts. The one move I wish they had made was taking the opportunity to add Joe Maddon as the field manager. I grew up a Don Mattingly fan and he is a decent leadership guy, but he makes a lot of cringe-worthy in-game decisions. Hell, I'd take Maddon over just about any manager in the game at this point.

Great Profile on Farhan Zaidi, the Dodgers new General Manager

One of the things I expect to see from the Dodgers over the winter is a final solution to their outfield logjam. It worked out fine last season but the Dodgers need to start making room for younger players such as Joc Pederson. I think if Hanley Ramirez comes back (which I sincerely doubt) he will have to move to third base. Then they move Dee Gordon back to shortstop and create a spot for Alex Guerrero at second base (though he could be interested in a trade to the Florida Marlins, lol). Corey Seager will be up to play short or third before we know it so clearing a spot by not re-signing the declining Ramirez is a good idea. Of course the Dodgers are rumored to have looked into acquiring Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, which would allow them to keep Gordon at second and use Guerrero as a utility player at multiple positions. Friedman is a fan of a strong bench and usually avoids carrying weak players just to fill spots. But more than anything I expect the Dodgers to

Minor League Players that may Impact the Dodgers 2015 Major League Roster

The Tampa Bay Rays Look to the Future

With Joe Maddon's defection to the Chicago Cubs and Friedman leaving to the Dodgers the Rays have no choice but to consider where they go from here. The 2014 season was supposed to be their season. They had their highest payroll ever and a loaded roster with the best manager in the game at the helm. But they flopped. A disappointing season that just seems to get worse and worse with each passing week. The rumors of the Rays bolting to Montreal are in full swing. I would not blame them if they did move. Though I guess they may soon be in a position to earn a lot more from their television contract, but with empty stands you have to question how much of a difference it would make.

The Rays Managerial Search Continues...

The Rays just traded bullpen lefty Cesar Ramos to the Angels for a struggling prospect in transition, Mark Sappington. This is exactly the type of move the Rays have excelled at making in the past - turning expensive parts into cheaper and younger long-term alternatives.

Ben Zobrist is relatively cheap compared to his production but the Rays could also be trading him and/or Yunel Escobar. It would essentially be a minor re-building of the team but that may not be the worst move at this point. So may teams seem to be searching for middle infielders that they could reap a huge haul of useful parts. Nick Franklin would then get an opportunity to play everyday at second or shortstop. I still think he will ultimately hit and hit well. 

From the L.A. Times:
03+Sappington, a fifth-round pick out of Rockhurst (Mo.) University in 2012, struggled as a starter at double-A Arkansas and Class-A Inland Empire this season, going 2-11 with a 7.05 ERA, 69 walks and 65 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings.

But he thrived after moving to the bullpen in early July, finding better command of his fastball, which sits in the 96-mph range, and the sharpness of his slider.

Sappington was 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA and a .207 opponents' batting average in 25 games as a reliever. He struck out 49 and walked 10 in 32 innings. By the end of the season, he was closing for Inland Empire.
The Houston Astros Trade two prospects for Hank Conger

Conger is a decent bat at catcher who is also an excellent receiver behind the plate. He will back up Jason Castro for now at least but the Astros have four major league catchers now and that is almost certain to lead to a trade of one of the others. The Astros have had tons of interest in Castro and they could probably get a killing from a team that can't afford or loses out in the Russell Martin sweepstakes.

The Astros added to their depth at catcher on Wednesday by acquiring switch-hitter Hank Conger from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-hander Nick Tropeano and Minor League catcher Carlos Perez

Perez, 24, spent the 2014 season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he hit .259 with 16 doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs in 88 games with the RedHawks. Tropeano, 24, made his Major League debut with Houston this season, starting four games for the Astros in September. A fifth-round pick in the 2011 Draft, Tropeano went 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) at Triple-A in 2014.

The Los Angeles Angels are Making Moves

The Angels have already gotten to work re-building their bullpen and beefing up the farm system reserves with their two trades this week for lefty reliever Cesar Ramos and nearly ready prospects in right-handed starter Nick Tropeano and catcher Carlos Perez. These moves make a lot of sense to me. The bullpen definitely needs re-enforcements and the minor leagues are awfully thin on major league ready players.

The Angels get what they need without adding to the payroll.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 Sleepers - A First Baseman for the Rays

For Yankee fans, we are pretty far into the off-season. We're used to out team striking quickly and grabbing the best guys available. Or at the very least we're exhausted by rumors that we're going to get this guy or that guy. Instead the Yankees are patiently waiting out the market and could go into the 2012 season with pretty much the same team they played with in 2011. For fans of the Yankees this is unusual. For fans of the Tampa Bay Rays this is par for the course.

The Rays having one of the smaller payroll budgets in the game, rarely jump early on free agents. They exercise patience and wait until potential bargains develop. This year they might be interested in an outfielder, a designated hitter, middle infielder and first baseman. They could very well re-sign Carlos Pena. But for now they wait and have inexperienced names penciled in at the top of the depth chart at several positions. The most interesting one in my opinion is Russ Canzler.

Canzler is interesting for several reasons. I like that he fits the developing trend of allowing older minor leaguers - sometimes barely considered prospects - to have a chance to make major league rosters. A lot of organizations will dismiss a certain player because he doesn't fit their perception of what a player at his position should look like. We've seen it a hundred times, look at short, slight players like Billy Wagner and Pedro Martinez, who were not always appreciated for their skills as prospects. Canzler does not have an odd body type, he's six feet and two inches tall and weighs over 200 pounds, so he looks like a DH or first baseman. The problem with this guys is that despite being a pretty good hitter, he doesn't hit like the prototypical first baseman.

Some numbers:

2006 Cubs (A-) 7.10% 22.50% 0.264 0.319 0.543 0.279 0.291 0.382 137
2007 Cubs (A) 7.00% 17.50% 0.270 0.321 0.376 0.107 0.316 0.318 97
2008 Cubs (A+) 7.50% 19.40% 0.273 0.327 0.463 0.190 0.31 0.356 120
2009 Cubs (A+) 6.50% 22.20% 0.270 0.315 0.430 0.160 0.333 0.345 116
2009 Cubs (AA) 11.60% 15.40% 0.258 0.346 0.399 0.142 0.289 0.337 105
2010 Cubs (AA) 11.20% 23.10% 0.287 0.372 0.566 0.279 0.332 0.412 151
2011 Rays (AAA) 12.20% 23.50% 0.314 0.401 0.530 0.215 0.396 0.410 157
2011 Rays 20.00% 20.00% 0.333 0.400 0.333 0.000 0.333 0.316 101

You can see that Canzler has a history of hitting for decent batting averages (much better than decent the last two seasons) with solid power numbers. Looking at these numbers for a still relatively young first baseman, you would probably give him a shot on your fantasy team and as a Rays fan you'd probably be pretty happy to have a .275/.350/.500 line from your rookie first baseman. But that enthusiasm dies off a bit when you learn he has not hit more than 21 homers at any level or in any season. But should it?

For fantasy owners, you might not want him as your primary first baseman, but with third base a weakness in MLB at the moment and first base not quite as deep as it once was, Canzler would be an excellent corner on a lot of teams, especially in AL-Only Leagues. For the Rays it seems like a slam dunk cinch, they would risk almost nothing and he might fill a need for them inexpensively. How long have the Rays been looking for a long-term solution at first base? So if they fail to move one of they pitchers or prospects for a first baseman (they're rumored t be looking at Anthony Rizzo of the Padres) they could decide to give Canzler a try. It just might be to the benefit of fantasy owners.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Tampa Bay Rays Fantasy Report

Photo from fOTOGLIF
The Tampa Bay Rays are like many fantasy owners, they want everyone on their team to come at a bargain price. It is not a bad idea. However, a major league roster with this strategy will find they struggle to compete in a division like the American League East. Considering the massive store of talent collected on Tampa Bay’s major league roster and within their minor league system, you would be right to believe they have the talent necessary to acquire any player that might be available. However, the Rays prefer a spread the risk approach. They make small trades and signings for undervalued veterans and cost-controlled prospects. It is a solid approach to team building that emulated by other small market franchises hoping to influence their divisions. The only question is if this approach weakens or strengthens their ability to grow from a small market franchise into a medium or larger one. The Milwaukee Brewers are living proof that it can be done.

The 2009 season was a disappointing one for the Rays, mostly due to disappointing performances by key personnel. Scott Kazmir clearly had one of those disappointing seasons. Before the Rays sent him to the Los Angeles Angels (a deal that reduced the payroll and brought in even more prospects), Kazmir pitched 111 innings in 20 starts that resulted in a 8-7 record with a 5.92 ERA, and 1.541 WHIP. B.J. Upton was expected to start slowly due to his recovery from shoulder surgery but few would have anticipated the season long absence of power and production. Free agent acquisition Pat Burrell batted just .221/.315/.367 with just 14 homeruns in 476 plate appearances. Dioner Navarro failed to build on his lucky but still promising 2008 season. In fact, Navarro had the worst season of his career with a 52 OPS+ in 410 plate appearances, but this may have been due to an injured ulnar ligament in his left elbow. Akinori Iwamura missed most of the season due to injury but that may have been a blessing in disguise. The Rays were happy to trade Iwamura after the season knowing they had Ben Zobrist to fill his position.

However, it was not all bad news. The studly Evan Longoria is a Tampa Bay Ray. The aforementioned Ben Zobrist had an MVP quality season that by some measures ranked him as the best hitter in the American League in 2009. Shortstop Jason Bartlett had a career season with a slash of .320/.389/.490 with 14 homeruns and 30 stolen bases. Carl Crawford returned to first round form by slashing .305/.364/.452 with 15 homeruns and 60 stolen bases. The pitching staff is loaded with talent with more in the pipeline. James Shields, Matt Garza, and Jeff Niemann were all above average starters in 2009 with two extremely high quality former prospects, David Price and Wade Davis, expected to fill out the rotation in 2010. The Rays may face an uphill battle in the American League East but with a loaded minor league system and a roster full of high-end young players, there is a lot to be optimistic about.

Fantasy Focus

Ben Zobrist, 2B
If you were paying attention, you saw that Ben Zobrist stepped up his performance beginning in 2008. His spectacular 2009 season was just proof that the improvements he made were not just the result of a small sample size. He has always demonstrated the ability to draw walks and make solid contact. He has shown improving power the last four years but especially in the 2008 season. Zobrist gives a considerable amount of credit for his improvement to private hitting coach Jaime Cevallos, known as the swing mechanic. Here is a quote from an interview that Cevallos gave Tommy Rancel of D’Rays Bay in April of 2009.
I asked if a team gave Zobrist 500 at-bats in a season how many home runs he'd hit. Cevallos didn't hesitate, "30 plus."
We all know what happened after that. Coincidence? Probably. Clearly, the training that Zobrist was receiving had a result and it was the result intended.

Zobrist’s 2009 slash of .297/.405/.543 with 28 doubles, 7 triples, 27 homeruns, and 17 stolen bases may seem impossible for Zobrist to duplicate but I do not think they are. Obviously, Zobrist had an otherworldly first half, and a merely great second half. Nevertheless, even if we double his second half numbers (an interesting but not predictive practice) Zobrist would have a line of .298/.395/.490 with 26 doubles, six triples, 20 homeruns, and 12 stolen bases in just 510 at-bats. Hitting high in the batting order and likely to play every day at second base, almost guarantees that Zobrist will receive closer to 600 at-bats.

But besides the positive trending in his stats there is also his superb plate discipline. He swings at pitches outside the strike zone just 20.2 percent of the time in his career – far below the major league average. He has a career walk rate of 11 percent and has exceeded that mark the last two seasons. He has strong linedrive rates (an indication of strong BABIPs), and a 17.45 HR/FB percentage the last two seasons. There is very little not to like.

Zobrist needs a repeat to convince most fantasy owners that he can maintain a high rate of production. The fan predictions on are solid but far short of his 2009 marks. This may indicate that his auction price could stay in a reasonable range. He will qualify at 2B and OF in most leagues and even shortstop in some leagues. He should be a solid value pick in most leagues in the third or fourth rounds and could provide first round value.

Jason Bartlett, SS
There is little question that Jason Bartlett had a career season in 2009. The question to answer is how much of that stellar performance we can expect to see in 2010. Bartlett’s .368 BABIP is significantly higher than his career .330 BABIP. His 2009 8.7 percent HR/FB is more than double his career average. His 26 percent linedrive rate is high, his career average is 21.8 percent. His isolated power increased to .170 when his career mark is just .107 including the 2009 season. These are all stats I expect to see closer to his career rates in 2010. However, Bartlett showed some increased skills not to be ignored. His plate discipline was very good. He swung at just 20.9 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. Bartlett’s walk rate increased (along with his K-rate, but he still makes excellent contact).

Many Rays fans on the better fan sites seem to believe that Bartlett’s improvements were almost entirely fluke but I do not believe that is the case. I have also heard that the Rays would rather move Bartlett than prospect Reid Brignac. I can see the logic in the idea but I doubt the Rays are trying to move either at this point. The 2009 season may always be the best in Jason Bartlett’s career but I expect another good one in 2010.

David Price, RHP
After a reign as the best pitching prospect in the minors, many fantasy owners believed that Price would come to the majors and immediately dominate the competition. That was a mistake. Price struggled with his control at AAA Durham in both 2008 and 2009 in small samples. Therefore, it was not a complete surprise that those control problems followed him into the major leagues. However, as the season progressed Price saw his control improve. His strikeout rate fluctuated as he learned to harness his stuff. As the season ended (especially in August) Price was once again looking like a potentially great pitcher. His walk rate was falling and his groundball rate was increasing. His K9 was just 5.9 in the second half but I would not worry about it at this point. I expect a better season in 2010 for Price though not without a few more growing pains. In the end, it should be worth it.

Searching for Sleepers

Jacob McGee, RHP
If you take a brief glance at Jacob McGee’s Baseball-Reference page, you will ask why the Rays are not making room for him in their major league rotation. He will appear in the majors this season. McGee could even debut in the bullpen out of Spring Training. His ability to strike out batters and to induce groundballs indicates that he can be a potentially dominating closer. The Rays have no one else in their bullpen (without demoting someone that projects into their rotation) with the potential to dominate like McGee. The Rays have just acquired Rafael Soriano who may become their 2010 closer. But McGee qualifies as a sleeper candidate for this year and in the near future.

Best Team Blogs for the Tampa Bay Rays

Drays Bay -

Rays Index -

Rays Report -

Dock of the Rays -

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is Ben Zobrist For Real?

If you have Ben Zobrist on your fantasy team, chances are you are much happier than the guy who last owned him in your league. Zobrist hit his 12th homer in just 148 at-bats after looking like merely a very good bench player in the first 400 at-bats of his career. But now the patience that he displayed in the minors is present in his major league at-bats. He has turned a good percentage of his groundballs into line drives which has resulted in a better combination of average and slugging percentage that he has ever shown at any level. His HR/FB has shown significant growth the last two years. Maybe we should have seen it coming.

His BABIP is just .311 which is much higher than his MLB average but not even close to the level he showed in the minors. He has reduced his infield flies to almost nothing by making steady progress in that area the last four years. This is an indication (as if the obvious ones were not enough) that he is making outstanding contact with the ball. He simply isn't missing the sweet spot of the bat when he makes contact this year. I haven't done much study in that area but that looks like a skill to me and not luck.

So yes, I am calling Ben Zobrist the real deal. He looks more like Chase Utley than a utility guy. Now, if he could just touch some hot bat against B.J. Upton, just a little...

MLB New Arrivals

Check out ESPN's Ben Zobrist Splits...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hope for B.J. Upton Owners (and Ortiz...kinda)

I've received over a dozen e-mails from B.J. Upton owners this week. Everyone has the same question. When will Upton start to hit? Well, I obviously don't have those answers and no one possibly could. But the guys at have posted an article that just might provide Upton owners with a little hope for the future.

Tampa Bay Ray's Tickets as low as $5!

It's all based around Upton's BABIP on different types of batted balls. It does ignore Upton's reduced walk rate and elevated strikeout rate. His HR/FB is also even worse than it was last season. So there is a lot of reason to be pessimistic. That said I have complete faith that he will turn it all around this season.

You can make two arguments about Upton's lack of GB hits:

1. He's lost speed.

2. He's been unlucky.

You know which way this is going. Upton's Speed Score is above his career average and his fielding remains excellent. Either he's become the most mechanically sound baserunner within the span of a season or he's still pretty damn fast. Given that Upton's strategy for stealing bases is run on the first move and outrun the relay throw to second, I'm going to go with the latter.

I still think Upton is going to be a beast this season. I wouldn't pay full price but if an owner in your league is offering discounted Upton I would leap at the deal. If you're holding Upton, you've probably received a ton of low ball offers. Keep the faith and don't give in. There is still A LOT of the season left. Check out Upton's career statistics below, courtesy of

LABR: Big Papi has found a believer

ESPN Shop - Father's Day 09

2004 Devil Rays 8.60% 28.90% 0.324 0.409 0.151 5.3 0.339 0.323
2006 Devil Rays (AAA) 14.00% 22.40% 0.374 0.394 0.126 7.4 0.329 0.360
2006 Devil Rays 6.90% 22.90% 0.302 0.291 0.046 4.8 0.313 0.275
2007 Devil Rays (A+) 22.70% 11.80% 0.375 0.412 0.176 1.9 0.214 0.356
2007 Devil Rays (AAA) 0.00% 14.30% 0.429 0.857 0.429 0.1 0.400 0.562
2007 Devil Rays 12.10% 32.50% 0.386 0.508 0.209 4.9 0.399 0.387
2008 Rays 15.40% 25.20% 0.383 0.401 0.128 5.7 0.351 0.354
2008 Rays 7.00% 24.20% 0.333 0.652 0.364 8.7 0.279 0.425
2009 Rays (A+) 30.80% 22.20% 0.643 0.444 0.000 3.2 0.571 0.489
2009 Rays 11.80% 32.30% 0.297 0.290 0.086 7.4 0.290 0.282

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rays Revamp Pitching Staff w/ David Price

Mark Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune informs of the changes from his Rays Report Blog:

  • Scott Kazmir, a two-time All-Star who has been mauled in his last five starts, is headed to the DL with a strained right quad he says resulted from poor mechanics. No word on how long he’ll be sidelined, but considering they have to get the soreness out AND rebuild his mechanics, we’re definitely looking at longer than two weeks.
  • David Price, arguably the top prospect in the game, is expected to replace Kazmir in the rotation beginning Monday in Cleveland.
  • Troy Percival, age 39 and eighth on the all-time list with 358 career saves, is on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis and may be done for good. He flew home to California today and apparently was distraught after yesterday’s game.
Unless you can bench him, I would be hesitant to activate David Price right now. His walk rate has been elevated at triple-A and so has his HR/9. I love him long term but unless you have no choice (you'll lose him, you're desperate for any chance at good pitching) I would bench or avoid him for now.

The Tampa Bullpen has basically been in a committee mode for the last two years. I think Jason Isringhausen lead the committee as the most experienced closer option. Experience is something Joe Maddon seems to value in the bullpen. Isringhausen should be a fine temporary option if you need saves but I would not invest too heavily.