Friday, February 29, 2008

Rays win Spring Opener 7-6

Rays start off 2008 with a win in their spring opener behind Edwin Jacksons scorless 2 innings and Evan Longoria's RBI Double. Ben Zobrist went 2-3 and Andy Sonnanstine Pitched 1 perfect inning. Jake McGee and Jason Hammel weren't as effective. McGee have up 4 runs without retiring a batter and Hammel gave up 2 runs in 2 innings with 2 walks. Bullpen candidate Grant Balfour also pitched 1 scoreless inning. Sarasota's own James Houser picks up the W and Chris Mason gets the save. Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria were the only two players to see time at 3rd. However, Willy Aybar and Eric Hinske did split DH duties, and Joel Guzman played some 1B.

Here's the best box score I could put together, but it ain't pretty

Tampa Bay Rays: Chad Orvella RHP #54

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is P Chad Orvella.

Chad Orvella
RHP #54
HT:5'11 WT:195

The Dish:Once thought of as the future closer of the Rays, Chad Orvella is just looking to stay with the organization. Selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 13th Rd of the 2003 draft from N.C. State, Orvella was on the fast track to the Major Leagues from the start. After the draft, Orvella reported to Low A Hudson Valley and did not surrender an ER in 12.1 Innings of work. In 2004 Orvella blew through four classes of the Rays minor leagues starting at Class A Charleston and ending at AAA Durham. In 45 total games, Orvella had a 2.45 ERA, .075 WHIP and 12 saves. He started 2005 at AA Montgomery, but was called up the Majors after an impressive start (.36 ERA and 9 Saves). Orvella made his debut for the Rays on 5/31/05 and ended up pitching in 37 games for the Rays with good results. 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA and 1 save. In the spring of 2006 there was real optimism that Orvella would be the Rays closer, but after rough spring and even rougher start to the season Orvella was sent back to AAA Durham, where again he posted great numbers. The Rays recalled Orvella again in August 2006, but with the same results as earlier. He finished 2006 with a 1-5 record, 7.40 ERA in 22 Major League games. Orvella had a strong showing in the spring of 2007, but did not make the club initially. He was called up in May, but was sent down after 10 awful games going 0-2 with a 14.63 ERA. He spent the rest of the season at AAA and again posted good numbers in the minor leauges only. Right now his is the poster boy for pitching scared in the Major Leauges. His minor league numbers are staggering, only walking 45 batters in over 200 innings. However, his major league numbers are just as staggering for the wrong reasons. He's walked 53 batters in just over 80 innings and owns a career of 4-10 with a 5.79 and 1.87 WHIP.

2007 Numbers:(AAA Durham)42 Games, 3-3 with a 3.12 ERA and 20 Saves. (Rays)10 Games, 0-2 with a 14.63 ERA and 3.50 WHIP.

Role for '08: While there is still slim hope that Orvella can still be a servicable major league pitcher, his days of "future closer" are behind him. With the possiblity of Evan Longoria and others needing a 40 man spot before opening day, Orvella is a candidate for being designated for assignment and possibly catching on somewhere else. If he clears waivers and stays with the Rays, expect him to put up great numbers at AAA Durham, but little else.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Andrew Friedman speaks on Bonds and Pena; Olney on Kazmir

Finally, we get to here it from the horse's mouth. Over the past three days there have been all types of stories saying the Rays should sign Barry Bonds, the Rays shouldn't sign bonds, the Rays are interested in Bonds, and according to MLBTR, the Rays were never really interested in signing bonds. Leave it to the GodFather Peter Gammons to deliver the real deal. From Mr. Gammons blog today:

The Rays did discuss Barry Bonds nearly a month ago in personnel meetings. "If I didn't entertain ideas, be it a signing of a great hitter like Bonds or a trade, I should be fired," says general manager Andrew Friedman. "But that is past." Agent Jeff Borris is right: Bonds can still hit, and he's still a treasure to watch. But in this case, the Rays have to find out if Rocco Baldelli can hold up, and he's going to get a load of the DH at-bats. Also, a couple of the trades by Tampa this winter were to allow Joe Maddon to go from firefighter to manager.

What an excellent quote by Andrew and he is absolutely correct. His job as a GM is to explore every available option to make the team better. This doesn't mean he has to follow through on everything he explores, but if it's there and it can improve the team he should consider it. Friedman also talked about Carlos Pena as a franchinse person, not player:

"the great thing about Carlos Pena is that more than being a franchise player, he's a franchise person."

Not only that, but Carlos's mother cooks the best plantains you'll ever eat.

I also wanted to add this piece in here. Buster Olney speaks on the difference in opinions between Kazmir and the Rays on his recovery time.

Scott Kazmir wants to be on the mound on Opening Day, writes Marc Lancaster, but the Rays are taking a different approach in treating the pitcher's injury. I'd bet that what they are telling him is this: Don't worry about an arbitrary date in one year of your life, and let's focus on how to put you in the best possible position to make another 300 to 400 starts in your career.

I know Kaz wants to be out there, but hopefully he thinks long-term on this subject.

Tampa Bay Rays: Ben Zobrist IF #18

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is IF Ben Zobrist.

Ben Zobrist
IF #18
HT:6'3 WT:200

The Dish: Ben "Benzo" Zobrist was the Houston Astros 6th round pick in the 2004 draft. Zobrist was selected out of Dallas Baptist University after playing previously for Olivet Nazarene University. In his first year of profession baseball Zobrist hit .338/438/.463 for Low A Tri City. In 2005 Zobrist was the starting shortstop for Team USA in the World Cup. In the minors that same year, Zobrist continued to post excellent numbers this time at High A Salem His line for the season was .333/.475/.496. The year 2006 was a big jump for Benzo, he started out in AA Corpus Cristi and ended up in the Major League for the Tampa Bay Rays, who acquired him along with Mitch Talbot for Aubrey Huff. Zobrist only played 18 games for AAA Durham before making his big league debut for the Rays on 8/1/06. In all he played 52 games in the Majors in '06, but was unable to continue his solid hitting batting only .224 with a .260 OBP. Zobrist was the Rays 2007 Opening Day Shortstop, but that was the only good news for Zobrist in 2007. He was sent down to Durham after two games into the month of May. The reason being his awful March and April which saw Zobrist put up simply awful numbers hitting on .145/.213/.148. Zobrist would be recalled later on in the year after Ty Wigginton was traded and didn't do much better.

2007 Numbers: (AAA Durham) 61 Games, .279/.403/.455 with 7 home runs and 22 RBI. (Rays) 31 Games, .155/.184/.206 with 1 home run and 9 RBI.

Role for '08: Despite his dreadful 2007 season Benzo still has a shot to make the team this year out of Spring. His days as a starter are long gone, but his solid defensive has kept him in the running for an infield utility spot. The problem with Zobrist is he has yet to play another position besides shortstop in the Major Leagues. If he is going to beat out Willy Aybar or long shot Andy Cannizaro, he's going to have to show the ability to play second and third base as well as maybe some first.

Baseball Cube


The OPS Widget

The OPS Widget is here! Feel free to add it to your page.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays: Jae Kuk Ryu RHP #11

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is P Jae Kuk Ryu.

Jae Kuk Ryu
RHP #11
HT:6'3 WT:220

The Dish:At the age of 18, Jae Kuk Ryu was signed by the Cubs as a non drafted free agent out of South Korea in 2001. In 2003 Ryu went 6-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 11 starts for Class A Lansing. The following year the Cubs decided to move Ryu to the bullpen, and he reached AAA briefly at the age of 21. For 2005 the Cubs moved Ryu back to AA and back to the rotation. He enjoyed a nice season at AA going 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP for West Tennessee. Like 2005, 2006 was another solid season for Ryu. He made his big league debut on 5/14/06 and pitched made 10 appearances for the Cubs, with 1 start. The results were not favorable 0-1 with a 8.40 ERA. He was sent to AAA Iowa and was very solid going 8-8 with a 3.23 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 23 starts. Before spring training 2007, the Rays acquired Ryu in exchange for minor leaguers OF Andrew Lopez and RHP Greg Reinhard. Ryu made the Rays team out of Spring Training as a reliever, but was sent down on June 2nd. He was recalled on July 20th, only to be sent down again on July 30th. In AAA Durham Ryu was used as a starter for the remainder of the season going 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA.

2007 Numbers:(AAA Durham)5-4 4.04 ERA in 14 Starts,(Rays)1-2 7.33 ERA in 17 relief appearances with a 1.80 WHIP.

Role for 08:With the abundance of pitching wealth the Rays have it's hard to see Ryu actually making an impact for the Rays not only in '08, but ever. Depending on corresponding 40 man roster moves Ryu is a candidate to be Designated for Assignment and could slip through waivers. If that happens look for him to be a spot starter/long reliever for Durham.


Baseball Cube

88 wins for the Rays? PECOTA projection system says so.

I know columnists and bloggers have been hot for the Rays as a surprise team in 2008, but now it seems projection systems are joing in too. First, the CHONE system projected the Rays to win 89 games, now Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA is projecting a 22 win increase for the Rays. PECOTA has the Rays finishing with a 88-74 record in 2008. For those of you who don't believe in the magic of PECOTA just look for it's predictions for last year. It correctly prediction the downfall of the White Sox and Twins as well as the rise to the top for the Indians and Diamondbacks.

The article featured in Sports Illustraded written by BP's own Nate Silver compares the Rays to the 1994 Cleveland Indians, who finished the strike shortened season 66-47 after seven consecutive losing seasons. Silver compares sluggers Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez to BJ Upton and Carlos Pena. He also goes on to mention Evan Longoria's PECOTA projection of 25 Home runs.

Also worth mentioning is the improved defense the Rays plan to field. The Rays are showcasing a much better middle of the field with Aki at 2B, Bartlett at SS and a full season of BJ Upton in center.

Pedro Alvarez out at least 6 weeks with broken hand

Vandy All American Third basemen and Rays potential top pick in the 2008 draft Pedro Alvarez broke his hand in his first at-bat of the season. It is now being reported from the International Herald Tribune that Alvarez with be out at least six weeks with the injury. This creates a lot of intrigue now at the top of the Rays draft board. We will continue to monitor Alvarez's progress over the next few weeks.

Kazmir to rest, miss opening day start

This morning's St. Petersburg times offers good news and bad news for the Rays on Scott Kazmir. Good news is Kazmir doesn't have a serious elbow injury and will just take a few weeks to rest his elbow. The bad news is Kazmir will most likely miss his opening day start meaning James Shields will likely start his first opening day. Also, everything seems to be ok with top draft pick David Price who also skipped yesterday's game with some stiffness in his arm.

With Kaz out for at least two weeks, we will get an extended look at Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot, two candidates for the final rotation spots. If Kaz should have to start the season on the 15 day DL in order to get more time in extended ST, the Rays could just skip his first turn in the rotation without much shakeup in the normal rotation.

We received an update from the heater:

LHP Scott Kazmir has inflammation and a left elbow strain, but will be sidelined "weeks not months,'' executive VP Andrew Friedman said Wednesday. "Relatively speaking, it is good news,'' Friedman said. Friedman said the Rays would not put a specific timetable on Kazmir's return, but they expect him "at most" to miss only a few regular-season starts. The Times reported Wednesday that Kazmir is unlikely to make his expected opening day start and expected to miss about two weeks. "I expect it would be two weeks at least until he is throwing to a hitter,'' Friedman said.Friedman said an MRI and examination by Dr. Koco Eaton showed that "the nerves, the tendons, the ligaments, everything's intact.''

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays: Calvin Medlock RHP #56

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is P Calvin Medlock.

Calvin Medlock
RHP #56
HT:5'10 WT:195

The Dish:Medlock was the Reds 39th round pick in the 2002 draft out of North Central Texas College. He started his pro career as a reliever in 2003. In 2004 he was moved to a starting role, making 24 starts in 33 appearances. He was named Reds Minor League Pitcher of the year in 2005 going 6-3 with a 3.06 ERA in 17 startsfor class A Sarasota Reds. In 2006 he was promoted to class AA Chattanooga, where he was converted to a full time reliever. He had a good deal of success going a 7-2 record with a 2.97 ERA and two saves. In 2007 he again was a reliever at AA and continued to post impressive numbers. He was promoted to AAA Louisville after 29 games. The Rays aquired Medlock along with Brian Shackleford in exchange for Jorge"Where's The Mongolian Beef" Cantu on July 28, 2007. The Rays sent Medlock to AAA Durham to finish the 2007 season.

2007 Numbers:(AA Chattanooga,AAA Louisville & AAA Durham combined)
51 Games, Record 6-3, 3.40 ERA, 1.12 WHIP in 79.1 IP.

Jules Fantasy Impact: The best case scenario is he gets called up and becomes Heath Bell, posting a low WHIP to help your fantasy team. But don't hold your breath as so few middle relievers are ever picked up in fantasy.

Role for '08: Medlock will start the season at AAA Durham where he posted a 3.45 ERA in 9 games last year. Depending on his showing this spring and early on this season at Durham he could be one of the first candidates to receive a callup should a Rays reliever get hurt or be ineffective.


Baseball Reference


Kaz scratched from Instrasquad Start, goes for MRI on Left Elbow

Scott Kazmir was scheduled to start today in the first intrasquad game of the spring. However, Kazmir was a late scratch. We hope to have more on this situation as the news comes in. We are hoping it was just a precautionary measure and the team didn't want to force something that wasn't necessary. Here is a piece from the heater:

There's still no word on the official reason, but Kazmir had warmed up in the bullpen as usual prior to the game and sat in the dugout for the Team Feinsteins first round of batters. Kazmir apparently didn't feel right and walked to the clubhouse, as Reyes began to warm up.

UPDATE: Kazmir is headed for an MRI on his left elbow. They are thinking it could be a hyperextension, but you never want to hear your Ace pitcher is getting an MRI on his throwing elbow. Thanks to the heater for these quotes:

It was just a little scary because I never felt it before,'' Kazmir said. "But after I talked with (head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield) and everything and we did some of the strength tests I felt confident it would be all right. Just got to check it out to make sure.''

"It felt like it just jammed a little bit, kind of like a hyperextension. ... The thing is I don't feel anything now. If it was a torn ligament or something, you'd be hurting.''

We are hoping Kaz is right about the hyperextension. Just the fact that he said torn ligament makes me cringe a little.

David Price the Rays 2007 top pick also was scratched from his scheduled inning due to stiffness.

Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects of 2008 released.

Jim Callis and Baseball America released their top 100 prospect list today. Of course, like the other prospect lists the Rays were well represented with seven in the top 100. Here are the Rays on the list:

2. Evan Longoria
10. David Price
15. Jake McGee
17. Wade Davis
39. Reid Brignac
59. Desmond Jennings
99. Jeff Niemann

John Jason, Chris Mason, Ryan Royster and Jeremy Hellickson were listed on the "Best of the Rest" list.

A few things just jump out to me; Desmond Jennings at 59? and where in the world is Fernando Perez?

Video of Maddon speaking on Bonds

Guzman and Aybar to arrive soon

Evan Longoria's spot on the diamond just got a little more crowded. The St. Pete Times is reporting Joel Guzman has resolved his Visa issues and should workout with the team today. Also, Willy Aybar has cleared up his problems and should report Wednesday. Both are expected to challenge Longoria and long shot Eric Hinske for the 3B job.

The only player who has still not reported is RP Juan Salas who is losing ground by the day in the race for the final bullpen spot.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Maddon admits talk about Bonds

I'm not going to get into too much detail because we covered it in the post below, but Joe Maddon confirms internal discussion about Barry Bonds. From ESPN.com :

"Manager Joe Maddon said Monday he knew "little" about what was going on, but acknowledged some thought has been given to the career home-run leader.

"A minor discussion was thrown out there a little bit, and it's really not gone any further than that," Maddon said after Monday's workout at the team's spring training facility. "That's all it is right now."

Maddon shrugged off a question about how Bonds might fit in with the Rays if the team decided to pursue him and ultimately added him to the roster.

"It's hard to conjecture. ... I don't know this man. I only know what I read, and I'm very much open to meeting people and drawing my own conclusions about people. I don't necessarily believe everything that I read," Maddon said.

"For me to create conjecture of what it's going to be like, I really don't want to go there right now. ... So many things are going good right now. If I have to face those moments, I'll do it at the appropriate time. But for right now, it's really about nothing."

Tampa Bay Rays: John Jaso C #65

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is C John Jaso.

John Jaso
C #65
HT:6'2 WT:205

The Dish: John Jaso is a home grown Rays prospect who was taken by the in the 12th round of the 2003 draft out of Southwestern Community College. Jaso's career started out slowly, spending two years in Hudson Valley(Ray's Low A Team). However, Jaso broke out in 2005 as a member of the Southwest Michigan Rays(A) hitting .307 with 14 Home runs. In 2006 Jaso continued his climb through the minor leagues at High-A Visalia hitting .308 with 10 home runs. Things really started looking up for Jaso in 2007 at the AA level with the Montgomery Biscuits. Jaso had a great season hitting .316/.408/.484 with 12 home runs and 71 RBI. The .316 batting average was second best in the Southern League. Jaso was named a AA All Star at seasons end.

2007 Numbers:(AA Montgomery) .316/.408.484, 12 Home Runs, 71 RBI, 24 2B

Jules' Fantasy Impact: Jaso is a good pickup in deeper keeper leagues. Keep an eye on him for next season.

Role for '08: Again like Ruggiano, Talbot and Price its highly unlikely Jaso makes the team out of Spring. Joe Maddon ideally would like to have a veteran behind Dioner Navarro for the 2008 season. However, if Jaso can put up similar numbers from last year this year at AAA Durham he will force the Rays to take a look at him for next season. We asked Jim Callis if he thinks Jaso can be an everyday catcher for the Rays and here is his response, "I do. He's a sleeper who can really hit and play decent to solid defense. The big question is whether he can stay healthy, as he has been bothered by persistent shoulder problems in pro ball."

Baseball Cube


The Stat Pack

Bonds on Deck?

In today's edition of the St. Pete Times there's an article about the Rays possibly kicking around the idea of signing Barry Bonds. For now the talks have been only internal and there has not been a formal meeting between Rays Execs and Bonds's agent Jeff Bormis. However, the article did mention that Borris is in Tampa this week as is Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg. If Bonds is signed it would create a log-jam at RF/DH as one of the projected trio of Gomes/Floyd/Baldelli would most likely go elsewhere.

Even if this is just a juicy little rumor, at this point it's fun to speculate on what a Rays lineup would look like with Bonds. Here is a projection with Bonds.

2B Iwamura
LF Crawford
1B Pena
CF Upton
DH Bonds
RF Baldelli/Floyd/Gomes*
3B Longoria*
C Navarro
SS Bartlett

*We assume RF will consist of 2 of the 3 names mentioned. Also, until Joel Guzman and Willy Aybar show up we will have Evan penciled in for opening day.

Now we will just look at the lineup in terms of OPS+ with of 100 being an average player. Anything over 100 is considered above average and below 100 below average. All numbers are from 2007 with one projection for Evan Longoria. From the top:


*Evan Longoria's projected OPS+ based on a terribly complicated formula by taking the average OPS+ of two players he has been compared to: Alex Gordon and Ryan Braun.

That is one scary lineup. It may be a little left handed heavy with four out of the top five, but when those are your best players you have to play them. Rocco's 65 stands out in the middle of the lineup, but we, like everyone, are holding out hope that Rocco can play this year at the level he played at in 2006 when he came back to post a 122 OPS+.

Buster Olney touched on this topic today in his ESPN.com blog. He basically says that signing Bonds would make a whole lot of sense, for the right price. He gives us four reasons why this deal may happen.

"1. At this point, Bonds might be willing to play for far less than he played for last year, when he earned a base salary of about $17 million -- and he would be a natural attendance draw for the Rays.

2. Bonds's patience at the plate is something that the young and developing Rays' hitters could learn from over a long season.

3. In a new place, on a new team, and in a short-term situation, Bonds's allegedly stifling clubhouse presence (read between the lines in the quotes from the Giants' players last week) might not be any kind of problem at all.

4. Most importantly: A lineup with Bonds, who racked up a .480 on-base percentage last year, makes the Rays a better team."

He goes on to say that the Rays are "not going to win the AL East this year", but "are going to have a whole lot to say about who does win the division; you could argue that they might be the reason why only one team might make the playoffs out of the deep AL East."

The Rays can play spoiler for another year or two before they make their descent toward the playoffs.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays: Justin Ruggiano #10

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is OF Justin Ruggiano.

Justin Ruggiano
OF #10
HT:6'2 WT:205

The Dish: Ruggiano was drafted out of Texas A & M in the 25th round of the 2004 draft by the Los Angeles Dogders. He was acquired by the Rays as a player to be named later on June 27th, 2006 completing the trade that brought Dioner Navarro and Jae Seo to the Rays for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson. Ruggiano owns a .307 lifetime batting average in 417 minor league games. In 2005 Ruggiano hit .342 with a .950 OPS in 53 games at AA Jacksonville in the Dodgers organization. Once he was traded to the Rays, Ruggiano continued to put impressive numbers up at AA. He ended the 2006 season hitting .333 with a 1.050 OPS with 14 doubles and 4 home runs in the final 31 games for Southern League Champion Montgomery Biscuits. In 2007 it was more impressive numbers from Justin. He became the first Durham Bull to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases since Ron Gant. He led the Bulls in Hits, Runs, Doubles, Home Runs, Walks, Steals and RBI. He finished 6th in the International League with a .309 Average. The one glaring weakness in Ruggiano's game is his patience at the plate. He K'd 31% of the time compared to walking 6%. He was called up to the Major Leagues in September and made his debut on 9/19/07. In limited action he hit .214 with 3 RBI and continued his limited patience with 5 K's in 14 AB's.

2007 Numbers:(AAA Durham).309/.386/.502 with 20 Home Runs, 73 RBI and 26 steals.

Jules' Fantasy Impact: I'm a big Ruggiano fan. I was hoping he would get some ABs in RF, but that was before the Rays signed Cliff Floyd. He'll probably make the major league roster at some point this season as a 4th OF, but don't expect too much out of him in '08.

Role for '08:After the Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes trades it looked like Ruggiano might get a chance to see more AB's at the big league level. However, with the addition of Cliff Floyd it is almost certain Ruggiano will begin the 2008 season like the 2007 season at AAA. There is still a good chance Ruggiano will see plenty of action at the big league level due to the well documented history of injuries for both Rocco Baldelli and Cliff Floyd.

Fan Graphs

Baseball Cube


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays: Mitch Talbot RHP # 51

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is P Mitch Talbot.

Mitch Talbot
RHP #51
HT:6'2 WT:200

The Dish: Mitch Talbot was the second round pick(70th overall) of the Houston Astros in 2002. Due to signing issues Talbot didn't begin his pro career until 2003, but immediately impressed Astros executives and scouts. At the age of 19 Talbot's fastball was already touching out at 95 on the radar gun. In 2005 Baseball America rated his change up as the best in the Astros organization, very impressive for a 21 year old single A pitcher. By 2006 Mitch was on the fast track to the Majors pitching for AA Corpus Christi, when he was traded to the Rays along with SS Ben Zobrist for IF/OF Aubrey Huff. Talbot made an immediate impact in his new organization joining AA Montgomery. In the month after the trade Talbot was named Rays minor league pitcher of the month in Aug. 06 going 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA with 47 K's(A Southern League High). He helped the Biscuits to their first of back to back championships and was named the AA top playoff performer. Talbot's 2007 season was spent at the Rays highest minor league level, AAA Durham. In his first full season at Durham, Talbot lead the International League in wins. Though he struggled at times last year, it seems Talbot has matured and plans to figure in the Rays immediate plans.

2007 Numbers:(AAA Durham)Record 13-9, 161 IP, 4.53 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and only 59 BB's.

Role in '08: This spring Talbot was named by Joe Maddon as a candidate for one of the remaining two rotation spots. However, his chances of making the team are slim. Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine are the two leading candidates, and Talbot's Durham teammates Jeff Niemann and J.P Howell are also in the mix. Talbot would need a lights out spring and would need Jackson, Sonnanstine and Niemann to all struggle in order to make the team. It's more likely that Talbot will start the season again at Durham and be one of the first callups should a starting pitcher get injured or is ineffective.

Jule's Fantasy Impact: Mitch's value is minimal for this season. He's more of a player to watch for on the waiver wire. You probably get him for a $1 in the late rounds of auction leagues and hope for the best.

Tommy's Bottom Line: I think we will see Talbot at some point this season. If the Rotation stays healthy and all members pitch well Talbot most likely will be a September callup. However, most teams never have the luxury of an injury free rotation and with the questions surrounding Edwin Jackson effectiveness there is a real chance Talbot could be up sooner. I'll say we see Mitch sooner than later going 3-3 with a 4.87 ERA in 10 starts.

We caught Mitch chatting with Jeff Niemann at Practice


Baseball Reference

Friday, February 22, 2008

CC's Fiesty: Crawford tells Young to Shut Up and Play baseball

The weather is not the only thing thats heating up here. It seems that we have a war of words brewing between former teammates Delmon Young and Carl Crawford. Earlier this week Crawford was a little critical of Young and also former Rays OF Elijah Dukes. In an article ran by the St. Pete Times Crawford said:

"They're both just young players who've got some growing up and maturing to do," Crawford, 26, said. "I just don't think the maturing part would have happened over here. It might happen somewhere else, but at the pace they were going I don't think they would have matured over here because they had too much free range to do whatever they wanted to. ... It was just one of them things where they just needed to grow up a little bit.

"They could do whatever they wanted to do and they did whatever they wanted to do. Being loud, talking too much, saying whatever they wanted to whoever they wanted to say it to. There weren't no rules for those guys. Now they're going to somewhere where they have rules, so I don't know what's going to happen then."

"They'd been getting in trouble and they got rewarded for it every year," he said. "So you couldn't expect them to come here and think that they were going to do something different and they were going to be good all of a sudden. That doesn't happen. It can only get worse. They've been doing that since Day 1. It didn't surprise me at all."

The Times then ran follow up stories with both Dukes and Young. Dukes agreed with the comments saying "I was a real hard-headed guy," "It was at times hard for me to listen. I needed to be able to admit that I do things wrong and it's okay to do things wrong, but to make good after that." Delmon Young on the other hand did not:

"You always see people over there, when they're in uniform saying stuff, but as soon as they leave start talking bad about Tampa," Young, 22, told reporters in Fort Myers. "It is what it is, that's why I'm not too much worried about it.

"I was called out by Toby (Hall, former Rays catcher), called out by a couple of guys, but as soon as they left, they were talking bad about the organization. So you really can't take it for what you see there."

"If they're trying to blame us for the way they weren't winning, if it was us two, we weren't there from '98 to '06, so ... "

Crawford, the Rays Left Fielder and seemingly new clubhouse leader, shot back at Delmon Young this morning as told here in the heater:

"Nobody even mentioned the word losing, losing games. We know we've been a losing franchise. He just wanted to say something back like he's always running his mouth. That's what he does. He runs his mouth all the time. Nobody was blaming him for anything. For him to come back at me was a personal attack. I feel that if there is anything that he is unsure about, tell him I would be more than happy to say it in his face, or any kind of other way, that would make him understand."

"These are exactly the the kind of distractions we were talking about with the Rays, a young guy popping off at the mouth, talking too much,'' Crawford said. "He needs to just shut up and play baseball.''

The Rays Report from TBO.com added this from Crawford

"For him to say we want to wait until he leaves to say something—who is he? Nobody’s afraid of him. You know? We’ll say it to his face. I’ll be more than happy to say it to his face or any kind of other way that’ll make him understand what we mean."

“For him to say that like that, that really pissed me off, you know what I’m saying? It is what it is. I want to let him know that nobody’s saying nothing because he’s not here—I’ll tell him the exact same thing to his face, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to make the trip over here, too, so he’ll know.”

Woooo them's fighting words where I come from. I love the new attitude from Carl Crawford, the Rays finally have their leader.

Outs Per Swing is Stu Sternberg approved.

Rays Principal owner Stuart Sternberg chatted with Jake Larsen of Draysbay recently. The interview gave great insite to some of the behind the scene workings of the Rays Organizations. It also provided us with a look at what Sternberg is reading. When asked about which Rays blogs he frequents, to our surprise Mr. Sternberg mentioned Outs Per Swing among others:

JL: I know that you're often a viewer of Rays blogs. Outside of DRays Bay, what Rays blogs do you and have you read?

SS: This one, obviously, as well as the message boards on MLB.com (I am a bit dismayed about Bugshus negativity these past 6 months). Rays Index, Outs per swing and Raysbaseball.blogspot. Mostly I look to see the passion and a sense if we are getting our message out so our deepest followers understand the plan.

We are very honored to have Stu as one our readers.

Tampa Bay Ray: Kurt Birkins LHP #24

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is P Kurt Birkins.

Kurt Birkins
LHP #24
HT: 6'2 WT: 190

The Dish: Birkins was the Orioles 33rd Round Pick in the 2000 First Year Player Draft. Despite his low round selection Birkins was the first from the 2000 Orioles class to make the Major Leagues. Birkins started his pro career as a starter but settled into the bullpen as a left handed specialist. He made his major league debut on May 4, 2006 against the Texas Rangers. Birkins had a very good start to his rookie campaign posting a .086 ERA in his first 17 appearances. However, his ERA ballooned to 13.50 over his final 18 games before being shutdown with a left elbow injury. For the 2006 season Birkins finished a respectable 5-2 with a 4.95 ERA in 31 Innings. In those 31 Innings Birkins only walked 16 batters. The same can not be said about his 2007 season, where Birkins was largely ineffective. Birkins was briefly used as a starter going 0-1 with a 22.50 ERA, giving up 10 earned runs in just four innings. As a reliever he wasn't much better. In his 17 relief appearances he was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA. He was claimed off of waivers by the Rays on Oct. 29, 2007.

2007 Numbers:(Baltimore Orioles)19 appearances, 34.1 IP, Record 1-2, 8.13 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 57 ERA+

Role for '08 With the signing of Trever Miller it is unlikely Birkins has a shot a making the team out of Spring Training. He will likely settle in at Durham. The Birkins transaction reminds us a lot of the Scott Dohmann one last year and Dohmann was a pleasant surprise. If something should happen to Miller, Birkins may make an appearance in Tampa.

Jules's Fantasy Impact: Birkins has no value at all, not even in AL-only leagues. The only people that should be drafting Birkins are his family members.

Tommy's Bottom Line:I don't expect to see much of Birkins this year. Unless Miller gets hurt or is completely ineffective, Birkins will likely be Durham bound. Although I felt the same about the Scott Dohmann signing last year I don't think Birkins will have much success. He doesn't have the live fastball like Dohmann or much of any "stuff." If he gets to the Majors it will be brief; 0-0 with a 7.17 ERA in 7 games.

Here's a pic we took of Kurt talking with John Jaso.



Baseball Reference

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is David Price Liriano-Like?

New Rays SS Jason Bartlett is no stranger to stud left handed pitchers. He's played behind the best pitcher on the planet, Johan Santana, and also Francisco Lirano. Bartlett now plays behind Rays Ace Scott Kazmir and soon top pick David Price. David Price threw against Major League hitters for the first time today and reminded Bartlett of Liriano especially. From the St. Pete Times:

From what I've seen he throws like Liriano up there. Obviously he doesn't have the changeup Liriano has just yet and the kid's young, but they've probably got Liriano in the future,'' Bartlett said. "The guy has to work hard and he'll be up there for a long time.''

That's the first time I've seen Price and Lirano in the same conversation. I'll be looking more into this in the near future.

I love Joe Posnanski

I'm not sure if many of you know who Joe Posnanski is. If you don't, that's a shame. Joe's one of the best baseball writers around, it's just a shame he's in Kansas City. His his latest blog Joe goes over his crazy preseason predictions from last season, and gives us new ones for this year. Apparently we can add Joe to the Rays bandwagon. Joe's third "Crazy Preseason Prediction" is:

3. The Tampa Bay Rays will contend for a playoff spot into late August, early September.

He starts off by talking about how poorly the Blue Jays are put together, then goes into why he'd much rather be a Rays fan right now than a Jays fan. I'll post some highlights, but you can read the entire piece here.

"And then you throw in starter Matt Garza … I’m not as much in love with him as some people are, but there are those who see him as a dominant starter. Throw in Rocco Baldelli, who can’t stay healthy but is still only 26 and not so long ago people were saying he was better than Crawford. Throw in pitcher David Price, last year’s No. 1 pick who had the jaw-dropping slider and could be in the big leagues this year. I mean, heck, I don’t know, I just think there’s an awful lot to get excited about with this team."

"Baseball Weekly might be right about the Rays still being the worst team in baseball. As mentioned, I’m usually wrong. But if given the choice, I would MUCH rather be a Rays fan than a Jays fan right now. And I just think this team will get rolling, a little bit like the Brewers did. Of course, the Rays have that crazy Yankees-Red Sox division, which means they will probably have another dreadful September. But I’m on record. August 25th, there’s pennant fever in the I-4 Corridor. You heard it here first. And last."

Thanks Joe.

Tampa Bay Rays: David Price LHP #14

40 Rays in 40 Days

David Price
LHP #14
HT:6'6 WT:225

The Dish: Price was the #1 overall pick of the 2007 MLB amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. In his junior season at Vanderbilt University, Price went 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 133.1 innings. He won almost every college award imaginable including: Dick Howser Trophy Winner, SEC Pitcher of the Year, SEC Male Athlete of the Year, and Collegiate Baseball's Co-National Player of the Year. The Rays chose to shut down Price after the draft. Despite never throwing a professional pitch there were whispers Price could make the team out of Spring Training, but those talks are dead now.

2007 Numbers:(Vanderbilt) Record 11-1 133.1 IP, 2.63 ERA, 194K, 31BB, .199 BAA

Role for '08: Most likely to start the season at AA(Montgomery) and quickly work through the Rays system. Expect him to be in the big leagues by Sept. 1st.

Jules's Fantasy Impact: Price only has value in a keeper league. If you have an expendable late round pick it wouldn't be bad idea to take a flyer on Price. He may get a cup of coffee in September, but his real fantasy value will be in '08.

Tommy Bottom Line: Hard to predict what Price will do this year. There are many things that can factor in, such as how much innings the Rays will limit him to. If he does get a call up in September, I'll go 1-1 4.02 ERA in 3 Starts.

A Closer look at David Price

40 Rays in 40 Days

That's right, there are only 40 days until the season opener in Baltimore. We'd like to take these 40 days to get to know some of the Rays 40 man roster a little bit better. Each day until opening day we will profile a different Rays player. We will start by giving a little background on the player, a look at last year's numbers, what role they should play in '08, as well as some predictions for the '08 season. Of course if the Rays should make a move concerning the 40 man roster we will adjust to fit that in.

Look back later for our first 40 Rays in 40 Days profile.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Here's Jonny: Gomes & Pena arrive; still waiting on 3 more

The final two Rays regulars, Jonny Gomes and Carlos Pena, arrived to camp today for the team's first full workout according to The Heater. That means everybody that can be here is here. Joel Guzman, Willy Aybar & Juan Salas are still delayed due to visa issues. One would think that these players had to know there would be a possibility of visa issues and they would have maybe started the process earlier. All three players are playing key roles their respective roster battles. Aybar & Guzman could be the 3rd Base combination should the Rays choose not to go with Evan Longoria to start the season. Their other competition, Eric Hinske, has been in camp for days and could get a leg up on the competition especially with Maddon preaching accountability and trust in his opening address this morning.

As for Salas, the bullpen is really down to one remaining spot between himself, Scott Dohmann and Grant Balfour. Five spots are already taken with Reyes, Percival, Wheeler, Glover and Miller. The sixth spot will go to either Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel or Andy Sonnanstine. It is almost certain that Sonnanstine and Jackson will make the rotation so Hammel looks to be the long man in the pen. Being almost a week late to camp doesn't help Salas' case for the last spot. Another factor working against Salas is he is the only one of the three I mentioned earlier with an option to go back to the minor leagues, Balfour or Dohmann would have to clear waivers first.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Carl Crawford Arrives Optimistic, but not Kazmir-Like.

The gang's not quite all here yet, but they're getting close. Carl Crawford reported to Rays camp this morning leaving only Jonny Gomes, Carlos Pena, Elliot Johnson, Jon Weber, Willy Aybar, Joel Guzman and Juan Salas left to report. The last three are expected to have Visa problems and should arrive later on.

CC is reportedly in the best shape of his career and is poised to have a big season for a much improved Rays team. The biggest difference to Crawford is the atmosphere, as he was quoted by The St. Petersburg Times as saying:

"I just feel like it's going to be a little more peaceful this year, more at ease. I think it will be more at ease. Not so much crazy stuff. You just get the feeling it's about everybody wanting to come out and play good baseball this year. I'm done, you know I'm not really a drama person, so I'm kinda glad stuff just seems a little smoother right now.''

Crawford also added that he is excited for the new season and was surprised by the Delmon Young/Matt Garza deal, but thinks the deal is good for both teams. However, Crawford wouldn't go as far as Ace Scott Kazmir who last week said:"What's possible? Play in October, that's possible.'' Crawford offered a more realistic look at the '08 season, again from the St. Pete Times, Crawford said the team was "a long way from October" and should focus first on a .500 season. "This is probably the best team they've ever put together and we all know that and I think we want to go out and show people,'' he said.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Funny Rays Spring Training Pics from Yahoo

Entire Gallery:

Is Maddon peeing on Friedman Doggystyle?

Jae Kuk Ryu is thinking one of two things here. 1) I bet I can hit that bird from here or 2) This guy knows I can speak English right?

Brian Anderson is really, really hungry.


Apparently Troy Percival reads the Sunday paper. In case you missed it, the St. Petersburg Times ran an article on Sunday comparing the Rays trio to some other young trios of baseball's past: The A's trio of Hudson/Mulder/Zito, the Marlin's Beckett/Penny/Willis and the early 90's Braves trio of Glavine/Avery/Smoltz. Percival wanted to have a little fun with the Rays young guns, from The Heater:

Troy Percival continued to show his clubhouse leadership, and sense of humor, sporting a customized jersey. After kidding the pitchers over a Sunday Times article comparing Rays starters Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza to some of baseball's best young rotations, Percival wore a jersey that looked like this:


"I might wear it all spring,'' Percival said.

I like the Glavine and Smoltz comparison, but I hope the third member of the Rays trio fairs better than Steve Avery. Avery had four good years (1991-1994) and then became very average. He was out of baseball at the age of 29 before attempting a brief comeback with the Detroit Tigers in 2003 at age 33. Let's just hope they don't turn into the next Generation K.

Outs Per Swing Exclusive interview with R.J. Anderson

If you're a reader of our other blog, The Stat Pack , you may be have a little Deja-Vu feeling right now. For our first interview at Outs Per Swing, R.J. Anderson is our guest. You may remember R.J. as a our first interview at The Stat Pack. Mr. Anderson is the Sr. Editor of DRaysbay, and also a columnist at Beyond the Boxscore. He has also written a book about the tumultuous tenure of Chuck LaMar as General Manager of the Rays titled LaMar-Itis. Recently we spoke to R.J. about the Rays offseason, players to look out for during the spring and the Rays in general. Enjoy!

OPS: Now that the dust has settled on the offseason, it seems the Rays 25 man roster will come from the 56 guys in camp. Barring injury or big surprise, how would you rate the rays offseason A-F?

RJ: In all regards it's a Rays' A. The team added major league talent that will pay immediate dividends, minor league depth that will undoubtedly find time along the way, and introduced a new era in the best public relations manner possible.

OPS: Which moves stands out to you as the best move all around? Short term and long term.

RJ: Hard to say. Each move represents a different contribution to the future; dealing Delmon and Elijah show the team is concerned with the clubhouse environment, re-signing our own talent exhibits a willingness to reward “franchise” players in attitude and performance. Signing Troy and Cliff also show the team is moving towards having a “win now” mindset.

OPS: You mentioned Elijah and Delmon. While a lot of people were glad to see Dukes go, he has enormous potential and Delmon was one, if not the top, prospects in baseball. For next season only, which group has better numbers Dukes/Young or Baldelli/Floyd/Gomes?

RJ: Again that’s quite difficult to say; it’s possible that Dukes plays in the minors, or that Rocco and Floyd miss time due to injury. All things equal I’d assume the Rays trio would out hit the exiled two, but I’d say Dukes will outperform Delmon.

OPS: Ok let's shift gears a little. We are all excited for the start of spring training. What player(s) are you excited most to see play this spring?

RJ: My cousin Brian Anderson. Or that Evan guy.

OPS: Speaking of Eva's cousin Evan, if he hits .500 in spring and doesn't make the team people will cry free agency/arbitration clock stalling. How big of a factor do you think "clocks" will be in the final decision?

RJ: It'll have to play a role, I don't think the team should foolishly throw away an extra year for a month of an unknown. In a few years would you rather have one more of Evan in his prime or possibly a month of a .700 OPS - assuming he would struggle? Of course at the same time if we're in the race after a month despite poor third base play and we end up missing the playoffs by a handful of games while Evan goes nuts all year you'd have to expect a backlash.

OPS: Every year there seems to be a dark horse who makes the team. Jason Childers, Luiz Ordaz and even Gary Glover have come out of nowhere to make the team. Who do you see as a possible dark horse this year?

RJ: Well Brian Anderson's number is 17, which seems odd considering most non-roster invitees are given numbers in the 50's, but I'll go with Eric Hinske.

OPS: Last spring training question, Who do you having winning these battles; 2 relievers, 3rd basemen and reserve catcher?

RJ: Dohmann / Hammel, Hinske / Guzman, it doesn't matter - at least it shouldn't - but probably DiFelice

OPS: The Rays are a 2008 "it" pick of many. One projection, the CHONE, has them winning 89 games. Even more recently, Ace Scott Kazmir said the Playoffs are a possibility this year. I expect a much better team on the field this year, but are people getting a little ahead of themselves as far as predictions and projections for the 08 season? Shouldn't we be looking more realistically at 09?

RJ: Of course people are being a little too optimistic, but that's good, it means the general consensus is the team will improve. Playoffs aren't an impossible feat, but 2009 is probably more realistic.

OPS: Lets talk a little pitching, you recently posted a column about Jim Hickey and the success of his staffs. In the cases of James Shield's entire year and Edwin Jackson's 2nd half, would you said that's the work of Jim Hickey or just players maturing?

RJ: Unless Hickey controls the law of averages, I think it's more regression to the mean than any real substance. Although it does appear that Hickey has a way of instilling confidence in pitchers' and their arsenals.

OPS: The Twins were put in a difficult situation this offseason, trade their ace or let him walk after the season. Given the current market for starting pitching do you see the Rays in a similar position with Scott Kazmir? Or do you believe the Rays can work some serious magic?

RJ: Well, the good thing for the Rays is Johan signed a short extension to avoid free agency a couple of years ago, same with Dontrelle recently, Jeff Francis, ect., and with Kazmir talking playoffs he certainly doesn't sound like someone who wants to bolt right away. I could see him signing on for an extra year or two if the Rays start reaching meaningful games - call it blue magic.

OPS: Jonny Gomes is an OPS favorite. His last 2 seasons have been some what disappointing after his stellar rookie campaign. He's healthy and going to play almost everyday so I'm predicting .270/.380/.470. Is my Jonny F. Gomes bias showing?

RJ: Just a bit; it's hard for Gomes to sustain a high batting average because he's essentially a three true outcomes player. Last year he either hit a homerun, struck out, or walked in 45% of his plate appearances.

OPS: Moving from a player looking to prove people wrong in the majors to one in the minors. There are a few people who soured on Reid Brignac after a so-so '07 campaign. With the addition of Jason Bartlett what do you see in the future for Reid? Do you think a shift to RF is even a possibility?

RJ: The outfield sounds good, but he apparently made strides on defense. I'm not a Brignac guy, he screams Delmon at short to me. I see him as Khalil Greene in PETCO, but I'm also the same moron who thinks Sergio Pedroza is a poor man's Abreu / Brad Hawpe. He seems like trade bait if Bartlett works out.

OPS: Who do you think is the most over-rated Rays prospect? Brignac?

RJ: Hm. I'd probably get in trouble if I said elsewise. So yes.

OPS: Who is most under-rated in the Rays system?

RJ: Fernando Perez.

OPS: We know you've been working on the Rays season guide for DRB. What can we expect and when can we expect it?

RJ: Expect the best free guide around and it'll be available the morning of the first spring training game (2/29)

OPS: We like free. Aside from your gig with DRB you've been turning some heads with your contributions to BeyondTheBoxscore, even getting a mention in a recent Rob Neyer blog. How would you describe your experience at BTB and what are your future plans?

RJ: Less structured and more free flowing than DRB. At DRB I'm in seemingly constant contact and interaction with Jake and everyone else, at BTB Jeff Sackmann, Mike Pindelski, and myself are pretty much solo artists sharing the same studio but not the same canvas. As with DRB, BTB, and my future plans, at times I just want to walk away from DRB and focus on BTB. I love writing about the Rays, but there's so much to learn from just writing baseball in general that sometimes you get lost in a single team and it detracts from the overall scope of the game. I guess my future is writing baseball as a hobby, whether that be with a SBN site, publication, or on my own is the question along with how soon one of those things works out.

OPS: Ok a few get away questions. When will longoria play his first mlb game?
RJ: May 23rd

OPS: Who will lead the rays in W's and how many?

RJ: Shields, 16

OPS: Who will lead the rays in home runs and how many?

RJ: Pena, 36

OPS: And finally the Rays record in 08 will be?

RJ: Chone Smith isn't outdoing me; 90-72.

Thank to RJ sitting down with us. Be on the lookout for more from R.J. Anderson at DraysBay and Beyond the Boxscore.

ESPN's preview of the Rays

I'm not nearly as big of a fantasy buff as my counterpart Jules, but I did take some time out to read and break down ESPN's fantasy preview of the Rays and I was surprised by some of the things I read.

On Eduardo Morlan:

In the longer term, however, newly acquired Eduardo Morlan wears the closer-in-waiting mantle. The 21-year-old is one of the top relief prospects in the game and should be drafted in keeper leagues if he makes the team out of spring training. Otherwise, track his progress.

I think this is the first time I've seen ESPN mention Morlan as a closer-in-waiting. I can't wait to see what this guy can do.

On Eric Hinske:

Eric Hinske is a forgotten man after wasting away on the Boston bench the last two seasons, but the 2002 Rookie of the Year is only 30 years old and still has skills worthy of substantial playing time. His plate discipline, batting eye, and flyball rate are all on a three-year upswing, and his solid power is intact. Hinske even has decent speed. His only real skill deficiency is an inability to hit left-handers. He can play all over the diamond, too, and if a Cliff Floyd injury should leave him in a platoon with Gomes at designated hitter, there's big profit potential here considering his low price tag.

When the Rays signed Hinske I said this could turn out to be their best move of the offseason. With the recent success of Ty Wigginton and Carlos Pena, Why not Eric Hinske? A Hisnke/Gomes platoon wouldn't earn any gold gloves in the OF, but sure would smash a lot of home runs.

Stephania Bell on Rocco Baldelli:

Baldelli was plagued last season with not one but two bad hamstrings that kept him on the DL for months, eventually ending his season. Just as he seemed poised to return, he would aggravate one side or the other to the point in which he could no longer run. Unless you're a pitcher, you need to run in baseball. (One could argue National League pitchers do need to run, but the truth is everyone forgives them if they can't.) If you're an outfielder, you need to run on offense and on defense. The Devil Rays took all sorts of steps to solve the hamstring mystery, including retraining Baldelli's running style. There is reason to hope Baldelli will turn a corner with this situation and come back to put together a solid career. Unfortunately, however, based on his 2007 season, there isn't enough evidence to support the notion that he can endure the season without one of the two hamstrings failing. Hope from afar; let someone else take the gamble.

Rocco continues to be the wild card for the Rays. Basically the whole balance of the lineup is on Rocco's legs. If healthy, Rocco can be a .300/20 HR/100 RBI guy which would be a huge lift to any lineup.

Here are some of the not surprising storylines; CC will continue to be a fantasy stud and Evan Longoria is the prospect to watch for 2008. There is also a piece about how David Price could move through the Rays system as fast as Tim Lincecum did for the Giants.

The part of the article I wanted to take a closer look is the choice of Edwin Jackson as the Rays "Top Sleeper."

Edwin Jackson has thrown 272 major league innings that span parts of five different seasons, and to say that he hasn't experienced much success would be an understatement. His career ERA is a lofty 5.64 and his career WHIP is an ugly 1.72. With the exception of his 22-inning debut season back in 2003, Jackson has never even posted single-season numbers in those categories better than 5.45 and 1.67. There are, however, signs of progress. Jackson's primary issue has been poor control, but his walk ratio is on a three-year upswing. Jackson, a sixth-round pick in 2001, was rushed to the majors by the Dodgers, then continued his baptism by fire in the Tampa organization, traditionally one of the worst franchises in the majors at developing pitchers. His numbers have been artificially inflated by low strand rates for four years running, and last year he showed enough progress in his strikeout and walk rates to remain in the rotation for the entire year. Still only 24, Jackson and his live arm have a high ceiling as he slowly learns his craft. The breakout might not yet be imminent -- he's a sleeper only in deep or keeper leagues to start the 2008 season -- but it's coming.

Edwin Jackson is a jekyll and hyde case. Nobody can figure out if he's turning a corner or just had a strech of luck. He had the game of his life on August 11th against the Rangers, throwing a four hit shutout while striking out eight and walking only one. I remember watching that game and it seemed as if Edwin was getting stronger in the later innings, pumping 98 & 99 MPH fastballs in the 8th and 9th. Less than a month later the other Edwin Jackson showed up. In 3.1 innings against the Yankees Jackson gave up 7 runs(6ER) and 5 walks. Even though you never know what you get with E-Jax, he did make some strides post-All Star break. There was a significant difference between Jackson's first 16 starts and his final 15.

Click below for more

His ERA went down a full 2.75 runs and he his BAA was 38 points lower. He gave up less hits, runs, earned runs, and home runs. However, while his WHIP was a little less after the ASB his K/BB Ratio was actually worse. After watching Edwin these past two years you marvel at his stuff and then shake your head at the lack of control. So while you may see a big dip in ERA, the core problem of control remains if you look at the poor K/BB Ratio. There is another positive sign from Jackson. Like the article mentioned, his walk ratio is on a three-year upswing, so if he can harness some of that wildness he could take a big step foward this year. We'll see how working with the same pitching coach two years in a row also helps.

This is a make or break year for Edwin Jackson. He has the inside track on one of the two remaining rotation spots. But unlike last year or the year before there is a line of pitchers like Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot, later on this year David Price and possibly Wade Davis poised to take his spot. Another plus on Jackson's side is he's out of options. The Rays do not want to put Jackson on waivers because he'll be claimed immediately by another team who will take a shot on the once top prospect. If Jackson fails as a starter the Rays will almost certainly try him as a reliever again. The problem with that is Jackson is a notoriously slow starter. His ERA for pitches 1-15 is a whopping 11.76. However, it goes down after that; 15-30 is a 5.61 and 30-45 a 2.16 before jumping up again. It will be interesting to watch which Edwin Jackson shows up this year.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yahoo! Sports 2B Primer

As opposed to the 1B Primer posted last week on Yahoo! that had Pena ranked so low, which I talked about here, the 2B Primer shows a Ray some love. Andy Behrens ranks BJ Upton as the second best 2B for fantasy, behind the obvious number one Chase Utley. He has this to say about Upton:

"Now entering his sixth year of breathless hype, Upton finally has a great fantasy season to his credit. He delivered 24 HR and 22 steals in only 129 games in 2007 while hitting .300/.386/.508. Those rates weren't out of line with his career minor league production, but since you can't expect Upton to repeat last year's .399 BABIP, you shouldn't expect another .300 average. Of course, his value isn't really in his batting average. In 2005, Upton hit 36 doubles and 18 HR in Triple-A, and he stole 44 bases. Then he swiped 57 the following season, splitting time between Durham and Tampa Bay. He's still only 23, yet he has short-term 20/40 potential. Don't fret excessively about last season's 154 strikeouts. Upton is a selective hitter who sees a ton of pitches (4.06 P/PA in '07) and gets himself on base at an impressive rate (.391 minor league OBP).

Forecast: 540 AB, 95 R, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 35 SB, .281 AVG. "

This will be the last year that he can play 2B for fantasy purposes, so enjoy while you can.

Spring Training Day 2 Pictures

I was out at the Rays second day of spring practice and took some pictures again. Here's your second glimpse of how the boys in blue look this year. Click on the pictures to make them larger. I won't be able to go to any more practices for awhile. Having a real job kind of gets in the way sometimes. Enjoy.

This is the third ball I've seen Garza bobble or drop.

The present and future

"I know you can't grow facial hair yet, but here's some tips anyway"

Kaz hasn't shaved in like a month.

Just thought this old guy looked funny.

Orvella looks like a midget.

Chris Mason walking alone.

Neimann has to duck to get out of the dugout.

Shields and Garza were at each other's side all day.

Scott "The Enforcer" Cursi

Even General Managers need water.