Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Get these guys- The Pitchers

We are now getting out if the most boring part of the baseball season. In January, Major League teams start to fill their rosters up by signing players to minor league contracts. Here is some pitchers that the Rays should sign to bolster their minor league reserves and possibly on the major league squad.

Jeremy Cummings- There seem to be no spots for a new starting pitcher because the Rays have a few that they bring up, but it never hurts to have a veteran starter. He was really good at Durham last year and went the Beijing to play for the US baseball team which got the bronze. Cummings held opponents to a .228 batting average and only 2.3 BB/9 in 90 innings.

Ray King-A lefty specialist in the majors for 10 years, Ray King had moved around in the minors last year and pitched for three different organizations. King has held lefties to a .214 batting average in his major league career. King also hasn't lost his velocity over the past few seasons and averages about 89 mph. After losing Trever Miller the Rays only have J.P. Howell as the lone lefty in the pen, and Ray King can compete for the open spot. He wouldn't be that hard to miss anyway (see image) he already has the team name for his first name.

Mike Gosling-Another lefty specialist, Gosling held lefties to a .238 batting average the past four years in the minors. Gosling is not well established as King, being up and down the majors since 2004, but he does provide the Rays another pitcher to compete for the bullpen and possibly stay at Durham.

Kiko Calero-A righty this time, Kiko is similar to Dan Wheeler and gives up more flyballs than groundballs, but he does provide good middle relief.

Michael Tejera-The best out of the bunch, he has the best minor league numbers against lefties the past four years, allowing only a .178 to lefties. Not sure why he hasn't been called up since 2005, but he has a low strikeout rate and a high FIP, a 5.24 last in year Pawtucket. Tejera does have a good groundball rate and has an average fastball and two good off speed pitches.

These guys should be signed the a minor league with an invite to spring training. Their chance of making the club is slim, but are available in case of an injury if they stay in Durham and provide decent stuff.

Tomorrow, will look at catchers the Rays could sign to a minor league deal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rays bullpen has the slowest arm

Nothing going on much in Rays Land, only the official signing of reliever Joe Nelson. Just looking around FanGraphs, and I found an interesting stat. The Rays bullpen was the best in the Majors in opponents batting average and BABIP, but had the second slowest average fastball velocity in the Majors last year, at 90.1 mph (San Diego Padres had the lowest 89.9 mph and the White Sox had the highest at 92.5 mph). It took me a second, but half of our bullpen had guys who could barely touch 90 mph. Here is a chart of the Rays pitchers that pitched at least 19 innings last year and their average fastball velocity.

Pitcher Average Velocity
Grant Balfour 94.6
Gary Glover 92.4
Jason Hammel 92.4
Troy Percival 91.4
Dan Wheeler 88.9
Al Reyes 86.9
J.P. Howell 86.4
Trevor Miller 86.3
Chad Bradford 79.1

Wheeler, Howell, Miller, and Bradford all have a unique delivery that makes it more difficult because they also feature a good curve and a moving fastball. Having a bullpen with a mix of fast and slow pitchers benefits the entire bullpen because no two pitcher are the same, it doesn't allow the opposing team to get comfortable in the box.

The Rays starters are quite the opposite as they're second in the majors in highest average fastball velocity. Shields, Kazmir, Garza, and Jackson all threw in the nineties with the latter three pitching in the mid nineties.

Rays reveal possible sites for a new stadium in Pinellas County

The Rays revealed a 64 page report to the ABC baseball colation on seven possible for baseball stadium, all in Pinellas County. Aaron Sharockman has read the report and concludes the best site for a stadium is in 15 acres near the intersection of Ulmerton Road and Carillon Parkway. This is what the Rays believe is central in location to the greatest population and doesn't need additional infrastructure or parking. The stadium is also going to be a retractable roof and not an open air stadium. Here are two pictures showing the best possible site from the report in two views. The first is the area where I believe the 15 acres is located, which may be on the other side of Ulmerton, and the second is view of the entire greater Tampa Bay are and the three major sports venues.

From The Rays Party of America
From The Rays Party of America

It is more convenient drive for Hillsborough County residents and Northern Tampa Bay.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Going beyond the usual

It has been the same names that have been brought up when discussing power hitting free agents (or outfielders). Here is some players that might fit with the Rays.

Sammy Sosa: Out of baseball again last year, but he still wants to play in 2009, probably in the WBC. If he plays good, there will be some teams looking into signing him to major league deal for a million or two. This would more of insurance in case a team needs another outfielder. But it doesn't seem likely he will do well since he was out a whole year, and he will be over 40 years old.

Gabe Kapler: Another player to miss a year, although Kapler was still in baseball as a minor league manager in the Boston system. He had an impressive return, batting .301 and .838 OPS, playing in 96 games, mostly off the bench. Kapler is obviously not a starter, but he is a fifth outfielder and provides good defense at all three positions. He also hits lefties well and may be high on Maddon's list because Kapler may be a future manager.

Bernie Williams: Going with the guys who miss a year, Bernie missed two in a row. Never sure why he didn't want to play for a team other than the Yankees, he was still a decent outfielder at the time. Now he hasn't played in any league until a week ago in the Puerto Rico winter league. I don't think he has a chance to play in the Majors anymore, but he is an interesting name out there.

Jay Payton: A more reasonable name on the list. An underrated player, Payton can play all three outfield positions, has above average range and a decent arm. Not really a good hitter, but he doesn't strikeout much and can hit for extra bases. Not much of an upgrade, almost a righty Gabe Gross.

Richie Sexson: The best player on this list in terms of the ability to hit the long ball. His numbers have gone down in the past two seasons, having his lowest ISO of his career at .161. Can only play at first base defensively, he will only platoon if he were to join the Rays. The Rays can take a chance and sign a minor league contract with him and add depth at the Rays weakest organization position.

Rich Aurilia:The best of this bunch, Aurilia is more likely to produce any numbers next year. Aurilia can play all three infield positions pretty well. Kind of reminds me of Willy Aybar, except with a few more Ks. Aurilia does hit lefties better than righties and hit .316 as a pinch hitter. The only drawbacks is that Aurilia can only play the infield and has only played half a season in the AL in his career.

All of these players are merely suggestions, but most of these guys can be brought in through minor league contracts, which allows the Rays to keep these guys in the minors as backups in case of injury.

Hall of Fame Voting


This isn't necessarily on topic, (the topic isn't happening), but the Hall of Fame is the highest achievement a baseball player can get, next to a World Series ring. This is a list of of who I would vote for I had a ballot.

Player Why?
Rickey Henderson Best base runner ever, best on-base man ever
Andre Dawson Deserves entry
Bert Blyleven Underrated pitcher, great curveball
Tommy John Lots of wins, first to have his own surgery
Lee Smith Lots of saves
Jim Rice Deserves entry, got really close last time
Tim Raines the only guy to get close to Henderson

Rickey Henderson is going to get in definitely, and Jim Rice because he got so close last time. Dawson and Blyleven will get closer but probably not the 75% of the vote.

The Weekend Signings

If you were too busy watching football there were some notable signings in the Majors this weekend.

  • The notable signing in the Majors happened is former five-time Cy Young award winner Randy Johnson returning to his hometown team the San Francisco Giants. The Giants now have the most underrated rotation in the Majors. Johnson needs only five wins for 300 for his career, but he should be a lock for the Hall of Fame regardless. Johnson does have great career splits against lefties, so he could be used as a left-handed specialist if doesn't pan out as a starter.
  • Baltimore Orioles added former Ray Mark Hendrickson to their weak starting rotation. Pitching was the Orioles biggest weakness, but this is only a veteran filler and Hendrickson will only put up a ERA of around 5.
  • The Red Sox add another starter as well, getting Brad Penny and catcher Josh Bard. Brad Penny is sort of a risk, having a down year last season and several injuries. He is also pitching on an A.L. team for the first time, and there is risk in that too (see article). Josh Bard is a backup catcher, but the Red Sox have only three other catchers on the 40-man with only George Kottaras having 3 games of Major League experience, making Bard the current starter. The Red Sox are willing to get a starting catcher, although the free agent market is very thin right now in top tier catchers.

That's all for now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rays 25-Man Roster Projection

Just an update of the previous one with the addition of Joe Nelson. I also switched out Rocco Baldelli with Matt Joyce, as it doesn't seem likely the Rays re-sign Baldelli.

Rays Official 40-Man Roster.

Friday, December 26, 2008

MLB Network to launch Jan. 1

It seemed inevitable that Major League Baseball was going to add it's own channel eventually. I'm surprised it took this long to get one, although they have learned what to do/what not to do by seeing the other Major sports own channels. The best idea they got was to broadcast the MLB network in as many homes as possible. Taking a cue from the NFL Network, which only broadcasts on satellite and like two cable system, MLB allowed the cable companies to buy part ownership in the network so they can show to 50 million homes (except mine). But a baseball network is easier to watch because their isn't a limited amount of games to show and people can watch it every night in the season for recaps of games. The MLB network will become more popular when the season starts and eventually be broadcasted on every cable system with the possibility of showing playoff games in the future.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rays add Christmas Present: Joe Nelson

The Rays further upgraded their bullpen by adding veteran reliever Joe Nelson. Nelson had a really good year with the Marlins last season, posting an ERA of 2.00, 10 Ks per nine innings, and holding righties to a .189 batting average. The Rays front office know that there is question if Troy Percival can close next year, and that acquiring another good bullpen arm would lead to success similar to last season. Joe Nelson is considered by some as the best value for a reliever on this years free agent market. Nelson signed a one year contract for $1.3 million, and rejected an offer by the Marlins for 650K.

Joe Nelson's pitching delivery includes a high leg kick, similar to Troy Percival. He has an average fastball velocity at 89 mph and a changeup, which he pitches about 98% of the time making him a two-pitch pitcher. Reminds me of Dan Wheeler's stuff, below average fastball and mixes in some off-speed stuff. His high like kick probably gives him some deception, helping him hid his low velocity pitches. I think Nelson can have another good year like last year, but he needs to have good control of his fastball or he is going to get whacked around by the big boppers in the AL East.

Be back online Friday with a few posts over the weekend. Merry Christmas everyone!

Used Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference for statistics..

Rays Power Options- Adam Dunn

Continuing are look at the big bat free agents on the market with outfielder Adam Dunn.

Adam Dunn is a big dude, at 6'6'' and 240 lbs., he can hit one of the longest home runs in the Majors right now. Hittracker lists Dunn as the player with the longest average distance for home runs last season. A hitter who always takes a big cut at the ball, a swing or miss hitter. Dunn has five straight 40 homer seasons, five straight 100 walk seasons, and five straight 164 strikeout seasons. Here is a chart of his five past seasons.

Dunn does have a good eye, but when he swings, he usually swings for the fences. Against lefties, he isn't that good, but isn't to far off what he hits from right handers. The other side of the field, his defensive abilities aren't that great. He has switched from outfield to first base a few times in his career, an has perform below average at each position. He can play both left and right, and has career .969 fielding percentage when paying in the outfield.

A few reports say that Dunn wants a long term deal. I don't see the Rays wanting that type of hitter to play long term for them, especially if he is only a free agent. Dunn will get around the $13 million he got last season for whichever team he signs with.

His specialization is to hit the long ball, and could hit 40 HRs a year, a get close to .400 in on base percentage. But he will strikeout a lot, though his strikeout to walk ratio has improved slightly over past few years. Don't see the Rays going after him, he doesn't fit the mold of being a hitter to drive in runs with runners on, which the Rays struggled last year.

Up next Garrett Anderson.

Information gathered from FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Argh! Yanks snag Teixeira

Before today I, thought Mark Teixeira was going to sign with either the Orioles or the Nationals. Unfortunately, the Yankees grabbed him giving him $180 million for eight years. This isn't what I wanted to see happen, the Yankees have a really good power lineup for the next two seasons. Over a week ago, I predicted that Teixeira would sign with the Yankees and they would acquire Mike Cameron from the Brewers. But the Yankees don't really need another old outfielder, so they signed a guy to fill their biggest hole on the offense. Teixeira may have like the signings of Sabathia and Burnett, and knew the Yankees had a legitimate chance at their first World Series title in nine seasons. Here is an update on my projection of their 2009 lineup.

1. Johnny Damon DH/LF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Alex Rodriguez 3B
4. Mark Teixeira 1B
5. Xavier Nady RF
6. Jorge Posada C
7. Hideki Matsui LF/DH
8. Robinson Cano 2B
9. Nick Swisher CF

Rodriquez and Teixeira could both hit 40 HRs and everyone else an average of 20. Their only weakness is their speed, with only three legit base stealers. The 2009 Yankees will be one of the best teams on paper to ever play the game. The Rays, who couldn't beat a very weak Yankee team last year, will have their hands full, as well as the rest of the A.L. East.

Rays Power Options-Pat Burrell

Continuing are look at the big bat free agents on the market with leftfielder Pat Burrell.

The first pick overall in 1998 by the Philadelphia Phillies as a first baseman, eventually made a permanent move to leftfield after his rookie year. An average leftfielder, he does get a lot of assists, but has poor range and has made more errors than an average leftfielder should. He has also only professionally started in leftfield, which is currently occupied by Carl Crawford. Nothing exceptional hitting for contact, Burrell has a career .257 batting average and a .304 BABIP. Burrell does put out a consistent amount of doubles and homers, around 30 for each category a year. Although this may be because he hits many flyballs, which gives him a lower batting average. His plate discipline is also improving, increasing the amount of walks and decreasing the amount of strikeouts. Burrell has hit better against lefties than righties, which will improve the Rays lineup against lefties. The Rays may be confident to put him in rightfield on a consistent basis, although he will be a downgrade from anybody else on the roster. A another positive is that he is still young and improving his ability to walk and hit the long ball.

The Rays may not be able to afford him, in his last two seasons, Burrell made $13.25 million and $14.25 million. I think that is too high for a player who hits too many flyballs and doesn't get on base as much by base hits. But looking at the current market and economy, Burrell will get around the $10 million mark a year, maybe on a 2-3 year deal.

His production should stay consistent to years past and hit a line around .250/.380/.500. Burrell should get about the same amount of walks as the last two seasons, which will be above 100. Expect him to hit 30 HRs and 30 doubles. Burrell may be the best bet for a team because he has no risk due to age or injury. He is the most consistent free agent bat that the Rays are interested in.

Up next, Adam Dunn.

Information gathered from FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rays Power Options- Jason Giambi

Continuing are look at the Rays big bat free agent options this offseason with first baseman Jason Giambi.

The former MVP, Jason Giambi drafted in '92 by the Oakland Athletics, left Oakland to go to the big bucks and eventually making a career high of $23.4 million the last two seasons. At his peak, he averaged about 40 HR, over 100 walks, over .450 OBP, and about .600 slugging percentage. After several injuries, his production has gone down significantly, as well as his playing time at first base. Like Milton Bradley, he can walk a lot, but strikes out a lot as well. Another thing he can do is crowd the plate, leading the AL last year with 22 hit by pitches. He has great discipline as well and doesn't swing at many pitches out of the strikezone, although it has gone up over the past few years. Here is a chart of his recent O-Swing%.

Year O-Swing%
2005 10.2%
2006 12.9%
2007 18.1%
2008 19.2%

If the Rays sign do sign Giambi, the Rays would need to find another outfielder, as Giambi is a first baseman and the Rays already have Gold Glover there, Carlos Pena. Jason Giambi is at best an average defender at first, although his production at the plate is better when playing at first then DH-ing. He may not start in 150 games this year, and his production will not be as high as last year due to his age and his production is based on the long ball. Tropicana Field is a neutral park, and doesn't have the short porch in right like in Yankee stadium, so he has to hit for more doubles than the past few years or there will be significant drop off in his slugging percentage. If he can play 130, with most at DH, he can hit a line of .245/.370/.490. I don't think he will hit more doubles and his home runs will down: 20 doubles, 25 home runs, and a .60% BB/K. Can't see the Rays getting Giambi, a DH who can't play in the outfield which isn't what the Rays need right now. His price tag may be around the $10 million mark, but I think he can go down as much as $6 million for a one year contract. Giambi is talking with his former team Oakland, although the Blue Jays remain in interested.

Up next: Pat Burrell.

Information gathered from FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.

Rays power bat options

The Rays have several free agents on their radar this offseason, looking for a power bat to DH and be able to play in the outfield if necessary. The Rays front office have already talked with Milton Bradley and Jason Giambi, and have expressed interest recently about former Phillie Pat Burrell. Other free agents available Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, and Garret Anderson. I can see anyone of these willing to come to Rays, although most will have to take a considerable pay cut. I will go over each of these players and project their performance as a Ray and how to get them here.

Milton Bradley is very high with the Rays, a high on-base guy and low cost. Last season was is best, with a .321/.436/.563 line, and career highs in homers, RBIs, walks, runs, and batting average. Bradley is a switch hitter, and hits a little better against righties than lefties, so no need for consistent platooning. Although, he has a past of personality issues, injuries, and inconsistent production. He is kind of a risk player because of his injury history and how well he can mold with the clubhouse. Bradley made $5.25 million, highest for his career, and should expect to make a little more than that with the Rays. If he can play the whole season expect close to his performance last year, he can hit about a line of .300/.400/.550, 20 homers, and 30 doubles. He may not be able to start in the outfield on a consistent basis, but he play all three positions and be able to play about 20-50 starts in the outfield depending on his health. His performance would depend on his health and his role in the clubhouse. Milton Bradley may be the easiest to sign for the Rays, probably a contract of 2-3 years, and average of $5-6 million a season, and expect lots of incentives in that deal.

Up next, Jason Giambi.

Information gathered from FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.

Weekend Happenings

Going into the Holiday break, there is little news or transactions until the New Year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Defensive Improvement: The Outfield

The deplorable 2007 defense dragged in the outfield, which was an above average defense before. 2007 had in rightfield a tandem of Jonny Gomes and Delmon Young. Jonny Gomes was not a good fielder, had poor reads of the ball, and a declining outfield arm. Delmon Young was not really good with his glove, average range, but he had a cannon of an arm. Statistically, these guys were one of the worst in 2007. Elijah Dukes, who primarily played centerfield, had also a low UZR. All together, the Rays outfielders had -27.8 UZR for 2007, which was the fourth lowest in the Majors. The Rays front-office knew that a good defensive rightfielder was needed for their pitching staff to improve.

For the past six years now, the outfield has been led by 5-tool player Carl Crawford. The most underrated outfielder, Carl Crawford has led or been second of all leftfielders in UZR from 2003-2008, except in 2007 when his UZR dropped 10 points. The keys to his success is his range, which lets him cover area that over half of Major League left fielders would be out of their diving range. His quick feet allows him to get to hit balls quicker and counters his average arm by getting his throws much quicker to the infield. The rising star to his left was converted infielder B.J. Upton. He was moved there after there was an opening in center left by Elijah Dukes. His long stride, rocket arm, and handle of the glove made him a perfect fit in center. Although his UZR is about average, he is still relatively new to the outfield and has one of the best arms in the outfield. For rightfield, the Rays signed former Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske, who was suprisingly good in the outfield. But the player they needed for their defense was acquired in mid-April this year from the Brewers, Gabe Gross. Gross had great range, an above average arm which also accurate, and could play all three outfield positions. Other players brought up from the minors also performed well and made some big plays: Fernando Perez, Justin Ruggiano, and Ben Zobrist. 2008 was also the return of Rocco Baldelli, who now moved over into right from center. Overall, the Rays outfielders improved their UZR to first in the Majors.

Season Rays UZR Rays UZR Leader
2006 23.3 Carl Crawford 14.1
2007 -27.8 Carl Crawford 4.3
2008 45.2 Carl Crawford 21.5

The Rays will continue to focus on improving defense and bring in players who can do so. They acquired another outfielder this offseason who can play defense, Matt Joyce. The improved defenses of the outfield and infield have help their pitching staff, kept them into ball games, and led them to the World Series.

Information was gathered from FanGraphs.

Morning Market

Some fresh news this morning from the Rays and MLB:

Rays first baseman Dan Johnson had his rights sold to the Japanese League team Yokohama Bay Stars. He is most remembered as the guy who the game-tying ninth inning home run of Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon on Sept.9. The Yokohama Bay Stars had the worst record last season in the Nippon Professional League.

The Cincinnati Reds stepped up their efforts at free agent Rocco Baldelli. They may be the only serious team interested at Rocco right now.

The Angels resigned outfielder Juan Rivera to a three year $12.75 million dollar contract. Looks like Rivera will replace free agent Garret Anderson, which the Rays have interest in since he played under bench coach Joe Maddon when he was with the Angels.

The inaugural St.Petersburg Bowl will played at Tropicana Field with USF playing Memphis. Unfortuantly, they can't play outside in classic Florida winter weather, but it will be nice to see the Trop's finale for the year. The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 4 PM.

My article on the Rays outfield improvement will be posted later this afternoon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rays announce Minor League coaching staff

The Rays announced the staff of their minor league affiliates today for the 2009 season. I few guys have moved up which include a couple of former Rays players. Dave Myers, who coached in the Cleveland organization last year, has replaced Gary Gaetti as a coach of the triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls. Ozzie Timmons a former Major Leaguer who had a stint with the then Devil Rays, has moved up to Montgomery as their new hitting coach. He has risen quickly, and we may see him on a Major League coaching staff in the future. Another former "Devil" Ray Jared Sandberg, is now the manager of the Princeton Rays. Still very young, 30 years old,we may also see him rise up to a Major League coaching staff in the future.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Rays infield defense

A major goal of the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2007 season was upgrading the defense, mainly in the infield. The 2B was pretty solid with B.J. Upton the Opening Day starter and used 5 other players to start. At 3B, we were surprised with the range and quickness of the Japanese signing Akinori Iwamura. Then we were surprised and excited again for emergence of the big bat of Carlos Pena, who was pretty slick with the glove as well. The major hole was at most the important position, shortstop.

There were 5 different players that played at the shortstop position. Three of them were career minor leaguers: Brendan Harris, Josh Wilson, and Jorge Velandia. The other two were prospects, a former shortstop that now plays the corners of the infield and outfield Joel Guzman, and Ben Zobrist who main position was shortstop until last season. The main tool that these guys lacked was range and quick feet. The Rays front office knew that in order for this team to go anywhere, they need a shortstop that can play some solid defense.

During the past off season the Rays made a six player trade with the Minnesota Twins that brought in the best shortstop in Rays franchise history. Jason Bartlett was an excellent defensive shortstop at Minnesota, which has a pretty fast infield with the artificial turf, which was a perfect fit at the Trop. Bartlett will be the anchor for the defense that will help the pitchers and lead the Rays to the World Series. Carlos Pena came back and improved his already great defense to win a Gold Glove. Eager for his bat, Rays top prospect Evan Longoria brought it and came with a pleasant surprise and brought his slick glove and strong arm. This forced the Rays to move Akinori to second, which is probably his natural position. Quick at turning two and his quick feet was perfect at position that requires more range. This infield improved greatly from the 2007 season to the 2008 season. Using UZR, which is an ultimate zone rating that which is a combination of the errors and plays made in comparison with the rest of the league. The improvement can be seen from the past two seasons.

Position 2007 UZR 2008 UZR
1B -0.2 6.3
2B -7.4 4.3
3B -7.0 17.3
SS -11.9 -2.5

There were improvements in each range category, especially at third base, which replaced the stone feet of 2007 with guys willing to dive three feet to even make an attempt a play. The backups weren't to bad either, with Willy Aybar starting at every position at least twice and posted a positive UZR of at least 1.1 at each position.

This infield has to be one of the best defensive infields in the Majors, not only because of their range, but solid play. I will go over the outfield this weekend.

Rays Projected 2009 25-Man Roster

This will be my first 25-man roster projection for the 2009 season. This is based on if the season started tomorrow.

I will put a new one out every week or so, and it will change somewhat each time. Rays Official 40-Man Roster.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Link Day

Nothing really going on today and I'm studying for an exam so I'll just provide a bunch of links and a post tomorrow with my first roster predictions for the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays.

Baldelli has new Diagnosis

The Rocco Baldelli story just got better as the the diagnosis changed to the less severe condition called channelopathy. Baldelli original diagnosis earlier in spring training was a severe mitochondrial disorder that is related to muscular dystrophy. Channelopathy is treatable and less severe so Baldelli may get better but not close to his playing condition his first two years with the Rays. Baldelli was declined is 2009 option and is currently a free agent. The Rays are interested in bringing him back after they look at their need for a big bat. A good thing to re-signing Baldelli is that he still can hit for power and that is condition to play in the outfield should only get better in some degree. He would also be a cheaper option and maybe allow the Rays to sign another big name reliever.

Another post later on today. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Joyce Introduced by Rays

The Rays introduced their new outfielder Matt Joyce today. rays VP Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon praised him on his talent and work ethic. Born and raised in Tampa, he might be the only player to make the Majors as a Tampa Bay "Devil" Rays fan.

The Rays also talked to free agent pitcher Joe Nelson, who pitched well last year with the Florida Marlins and surprisingly didn't get re-signed.

Other news in the Majors:

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Rays best hitter, Willy Aybar?

This statement is not to be taken literally, nor I don't believe it since I'm programmed to conventional baseball thinking. A person can look at Willy's hitting stats and see he could be an average hitter in every aspect. But looking at some sabermetrics (new convention of baseball thinking), I can see that Willy Aybar may be the best hitter in terms of his ability to hit. His ability isn't to hit 30 HRs or hit .320, but just to make contact with the ball, which is what should be taught at the amateur level. Using Fan Graphs, I looked up his Plate Discipline and compared it with the rest of the Rays hitters. His O-Swing%, swings outside the strike zone, was 22.5% for 2008. Pretty good compared with the other Rays, which ranged from Upton's 15%(the Majors lowest) to Crawford's 31.5%, about average. His best stat is his ability to hit those outside pitches or O-Contact%, which was the Rays best at 75.3%. Compared to the next highest Dioner Navarro at 71.7%, to the slugger Pena at 48.7%. Just making contact using Contact% he posted 87.7%, second only Navarro. In addition, his strikeout rate is was only 13.6% of his at bats. Looking at these stats, he has to have the best plate discipline for a Ray, and his ability to hit Major League pitches is one of the best.

His playing ability has been praised by Joe Maddon as a hard worker. This guy is ballplayer, he has the talent, he can switch hit, tries his best every time he is on the field, and he is baseball smart. If a coach wants a young player to look up to a Major Leaguer for his playing ability, then they should pick Willy Aybar.

Aki to play for Japan in WBC

The Rays 2B Akinori Iwamura will play again for Japan in the second World Baseball Classic. Japan won the inaugural WBC in 2006, a team that beat Cuba to in the finals which was started by Red Sox's Daisuke Matsuzaka. Iwamura is the first Rays player to announce that they are playing in the WBC that is going to be played during spring training.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yankees Potential 2009 Lineup

After not making the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, the Yankees came into the off season willing to spend a lot on the best free agents available. After signing CC Sabathia to a record deal, a large contract to A.J. Burnett, and able to get either Ben Sheets or Derek Lowe, they are now going after free agents to improve their aging offense. The reports are that they are willing to sign Mark Teixeira or Manny Ramirez. If they do sign one, Mark Teixeira may be their best option not only because of his talent, but it will be taking him away from possibly going to the Red Sox. Here is a projected lineup if the Yanks get Teixeira and Mike Cameron:

1. Mike Cameron CF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Alex Rodriguez 3B
4. Mark Teixeira 1B
5. Xavier Nady RF
6. Jorge Posada C
7. Robinson Cano 2B
8. Hideki Matsui DH
9. Nick Swisher LF

The DH and LF spots could interchange between Matsui, Swisher, and Johnny Damon, but Jorge Posada may not be healthy again to catch a lot and be part of the DH carousal. But this is only if Mike Cameron signs, then Nick Swisher will Start in center. This a good problem for the Yanks, but not for the rest of the AL. The Yanks could also add a speedy backup to counter this aging and injury prone offense. Joey Gathright, Willy Taveras, or Jason Tyner can pinch run, swipe some bases, or come as a defensive replacement. This may be the best offense on paper, but don't forget they said that about the Detroit Tigers last season.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

End of Jonny Gomes (In Tampa Bay)

With the arbitration deadline last night at midnight, the Rays offered contracts to five players, but not to Jonny Gomes. Gomes is now a free agent, and it doesn't seem likely that the Rays will bring him back for the 2009 season. Here is list from of all the players that were non-tendered and are now free agents.

A few more big free agent signings yesterday:

  • The Yanks reach agreement with free agent starter A.J. Burnett. The Yankess may not be done with free agent starters, they are still looking to sign Derek Lowe or Ben Sheets. Even if they sign Lowe or Sheets, it seems likely that one of these starters may get injured and not showcase the best rotation on paper.
  • Outfielder Raul Ibanez signs with the Philles, replacing Pat Burrell as the new starting leftfielder. Draysbay makes a good point about this signing, which the contract is 3 years/30 million, and could effect the contracts of other big bat free agents, which is a priority of the Rays this off season.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Their actually "Red Socks" now

The Baltimore Orioles and now the Boston Red Sox have changed their logos and uniforms for the 2009 season. You would think they both changed right after the Rays completely revamped theirs last year and had great success. But these designs must be sent into MLB during the early part of the season to take effect the next year, so no stealing of ideas here. The articles for the Red Sox unveiling and the Orioles.

There seems to be a movement by Major League teams to wear retro unis during certain nights, which the Toronto Blue Jays did last season.

And if you think the Red Sox's change to the "hanging socks" logo is bad, be thankful they didn't go back to this.

The plan for the day

Yesterday was the last day of the winter meetings in Las Vegas and which provided for some interesting deals and large paydays for those going to New York this week. Today at midnight is the deadline to offer contracts to those that are unsigned arbitration-eligible players on the 40-man roster. If a team doesn't offer arbitration, then that player becomes a free agent. The Rays have six players that are arbitration-eligible: Willy Aybar, Jonny Gomes, Gabe Gross, Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett, and Grant Balfour. The players likely not to get arbitration is Jonny Gomes. The rest are all likely to be offered a contract.

Jonny had great rookie year finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2005. Then has played subpar over the last three season moving around the minors and sitting on the bench most of this past season on the big league club. A decent power hitter, he lacks consistency to become a great OF/DH or bench player. But has hit well in the past in stretches, actually can steal bases once in while, almost an average defender, and he has great clubhouse presence. Unfortunately, his time with the Rays seem to be numbered as the Rays traded for another young outfielder and are willing to bring in a big bat free agent to DH. But Jonny Gomes did provide lots memories on and off the field.        

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rule 5 Draft and a Hot Stove for dinner

Today was the Rule 5 draft and whoever was not protected could be selected from any team. Players drafted are mainly roster fillers, former top prospects, or guys that didn't make the big league team. The Rays had put only three pitchers this year on the 40-man roster to protect: Dale Thayer, Wade Davis, and Jeremy Hellickson. A top candidate eligible to be selected was closer Eduardo Morlan who was acquired through the Garza-Young trade last year. He was drafted with 16th pick by the Milwaukee Brewers which is good for them as they need bullpen help really badly. But what I'm hearing is that Morlan had some issues and lost some velocity on his fastball, which used to hit 98 mph.  

The Rays used their pick on a Chicago White Sox minor league pitcher Derek Rodriguez who converted to reliever for the 2008 season. As a former starter, he could play a role as a candidate for long relief, which was held by Jason Hammel for the Rays last season. He has impressive stuff, low nineties fastball and a slider, and throws variations of them by changing arm angles (Sonnanstine esque?). His stuff gets a lot strikeouts and confuses hitters by his changing arm angles, but I wonder how effective that is against Major League hitters. He needs to be smart and have control in order for him to be successful in the Major Leagues, like Andy Sonnanstine. Will wait and see this spring on how the competition is like in the bullpen.

Other news on the hot stove:

Nothing much other than the Joyce for Jackson trade for the Rays. There is a report that Jason Giambi wants to return to the Yankees and is willing to take a pay cut. And by judging the comments made, I don't think many fans actually want him back, even at a discount. Even if they take him back, their lineup looks intimidating but aging.

A big three team trade between the Mets, Mariners, and Indians that lands now set-up man JJ Putz to the New York Mets in a 12 player trade. The Mets now improve their weakest part from last season, which was just deplorable down the stretch. The back end of the bullpen now features three of the most dominate closers to play the game: Billy Wagner, K-Rod, and JJ Putz.

Last thing, I was mentioned on Rays Index today, a blog which I think is the best blog what anything Rays is going on.

Waechter to sign with the Royals

After I wrote a post for the Rays to sign Doug Waechter back on a minor league deal, I see this on The Heater:

Former Ray and pride of St. Petersburg RHP Doug Waechter is going to sign a one-year deal with the Royals, and should have a good shot for steady work in their bullpen. Waechter spent much of last season with the Marlins, going 4-2, 3.69 in 48 games.

I guess Waechter's performance last year earned him a major league contract and the Rays are in no need to sign any more middle relief at this time. He does deserve a chance to play in the big leagues and I wish him the best of luck.

Rays Trade Jackson to Tigers for Outfielder Matt Joyce

The Rays clear a spot in the rotation for David Price by trading starter Edwin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Matt Joyce (above). This is a swap of players with potential to be reliable starter in the majors. Edwin Jackson improved this past season and tied with James Shields for most wins by a starter last year. But with rising star David Price set to be a starter, there was a need to clear space by moving either Edwin or Sonnanstine to the bullpen or in a trade.  

Needing another outfielder with a big bat, Matt Joyce can provide 15-20 home runs and around .500 slugging percentage. He also can play the corners of the outfield and has above average defense. The concern is why the Rays got another left-handed hitter instead of a right-hander that can hit against lefties, which was a weak spot last year. But the Rays see his potential and like they have control of him for six years. He also has options and can be sent down if the Rays feel he needs more time in the minors.

Now the Rays have talked to another former Yankee Bobby Abreu. They have now talked to Abreu, Jason Giambi, Milton Bradley, and expressed interest in Rick Ankiel as a candidate for a big bat in the DH spot. Stay tuned.       

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Analyzing the Orioles moves

The first move of the off season was trading catcher Ramon Hernandez and cash to the Cinncinatti Reds for utility man Ryan Freel and two prospects. This move is great for the Orioles, moving an aging catcher for a decent utility man and two pitching prospects. Now the Orioles can prepare their top prospect Matt Wieters to start on the major league team sometime in 2009. Wieters is going to be the new face of the Orioles over the next several years as one of the best catchers in the Majors.

The Orioles today also agreed to a deal with defensive shortstop Cesar Izturis, pending a physical. This may be a short term solution at shortstop since Miguel Tejada was traded to the Astros.

The Orioles might make more moves this year, probably moving their army of pitchers for some position players, or signing position players. Their official 40-man roster only has 11 position players and no catchers. I can't see the Orioles contending for another 2-3 years. They have too many holes in depth and lack a set rotation or bullpen.

Yanks sign CC Sabathia

The biggest move this off season yet, the New York Yankees sign free agent left-handed starter, CC Sabathia, to at least six years and over $150 million dollar deal. The best free agent on the market this year, he pitched for the Cleveland Indians since 2001 until he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in July of this year. He was dominant in his stint with the Brewers going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts and helped lead them to the playoffs. This deal would surpass the highest paid contract that was set last year by the New York Mets signing Johan Santana.

The Yankees are trying to rebuild their rotation from a dismal year last season, battling injuries and poor performance. This is their biggest signing since Roger Clemens in 1999, which the Yankees went to win three straight World Series (one in 1998). Sabathia would be the number one starter follow by either Chien-Ming Wang, a resigned Andy Pettitte, or another free agent starter. If the Yankees can get all four of these guys and one of their young prospects, their rotation would be a force to reckon with in the AL east.

The Rays can count facing the best rotations in the Majors with Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays having top pitchers, young stars, and consistent four and five starters.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Orvella sent outright; Hot Stove News

Rays reliever Chad Orvella was sent outright to AAA Durham on Monday. This move frees up a space on the Rays 40-man roster, so there is two spots open on the major league roster. Orvella was on the 60-day disabled list the whole season with a shoulder injury. Orvella had a decent rookie year with the Rays in the majors posting a 3.60 ERA with one save and three wins. He then struggled to stay in the majors but had excellent numbers in his minor league career. Look for the Rays or another team to pick him up on a minor league contract.

Report by ESPN's Jayson Stark says the Rays are willing trade back former Ray Delmon Young from the Twins for either Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson. this trade would be probably be three team deal, which could include Colorado and their third baseman Garret Atkins going to Minnesota. I can't see the Rays trade for Delmon Young, he has a strikeout rate and had a conflict with manager Joe Maddon for not hustling. But Delmon Young does have a lot of upside as well. Originally drafted by the Rays as the number one overall pick in the 2003 MLB, he was projected by some to be one of best hitters in the majors, with power and contact, and he also has one of the strongest outfield arms in the majors. The Rays know what potential he has, he will fill the spot in right field and hits both lefties and righties well. If the Rays aren't willing to spend on a every day rightfielder or DH, then this could be a great deal because Delmon can provide consistent offense and average to above average defense. The Rays will also free up the starter surplus in the majors, by moving Sonny or Jackson.

The Rays officials had lunch yesterday with free agent outfielder Milton Bradley. Bradley had a .436 OBP and a .533 slugging percentage with the Texas Rangers last season. The only question to his playing ability is that how often he can play in the outfield; he only played 20 games in the outfield last season.

In other Major League news at the winter meetings, former Angel's closer Francisco Rodriguez, K-Rod, is close to signing with the New York Mets. The deal may set a new standard in top closer contracts this off-season and years to come.

Thanks to MLBTraderumors for the links and reports.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Minor League Baseball Top 50 Prospects announced their top 50 prospects for the 2009 season. As expected, the number one prospect is Rays pitcher David Price. He has number one starter stuff, and has very good mentality for facing major leaguers. At number #2, Baltimore Oriole's 1st round pick for 2007 draft, switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters. A steal in the 2007 draft, he tore up the Double-A and Single-A level this year, batting .355 with a total of 27 home runs and 1.053 OPS in both levels. And according to the video report, he has a great chance of starting opening day 2009 for the Orioles and the front-runner for Rookie of the Year. We should start seeing him playing against the Rays in the near future.

As for other Rays prospects listed were: #22 SS Tim Beckham, #31 RHP Wade Davis, and #39 RHP Jeremy Hellickson. More in-depth on these in my Top 11 prospects list.

No moves by the Rays or any of the top free agent class this year. We should expect to see some moves next week at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Percival has Successful surgery

Troy Percival has successful surgery on his back on Tuesday in California. If the rehabilitation goes well, Percival should be ready for Opening Day 2009.

In other Rays news, former Rays left hander reliever Trever Miller has signed two year $4 million dollar contract with the St.Louis Cardinals. This makes J.P. Howell the lone left-hander in the Rays bullpen. The Rays may look into signing a left-handed specialist as there are several on the free-agent market. 

The next Top 11 prospect post will come this weekend.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Percival set to have back surgery

The Rays closer for most of the 2008 season, Troy Percival, is set to have surgery today on his back, which was nagging him for most of the season. Percival is expected to be ready for opening day 2009 if the surgery and rehabilitation goes well. Signed to a 2 year $4 million dollar contract, Percival pitched in 50 games and posted 28 saves and only blown 4. He also had three stints on the D.L.

For the 2009 season, Troy Percival will be the closer if he is ready, but the Rays may consider signing another reliever if they don't believe he can close all year. There are also internal options for the closing position: Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, or Jeff Niemann.

Official Tampa Bay Rays article.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Greg Vaughn a Hall of Famer?

The official Rays website had an article about the 2009 Hall of Fame (HOF) voting and former Ray Greg Vaughn is on the ballot for the first time. Vaughn does deserve HOF consideration, but it seems impossible for him to get in due to the high standards. What comes to mind as a Rays fan is his role in the failed "Hit Show". But looking at his career numbers, Vaughn has had a respectable career as a typical power left fielder.
His career year was in 1998 as the starting left fielder for the National League champion San Diego Padres. Vaughn accomplished career highs in home runs, hits, RBIs, batting average, runs, OPS, and games played. In addition to being fourth NL MVP voting and winning a Silver Slugger, he helped lead the Padres to their second World Series appearance, hitting two home runs in the World Series. He had another great year in 1999 with the Cincinnati Reds and also finishing fourth again in the NL MVP vote. Now with two great seasons, Vaughn became a top free agent after the 1999 season, which the then Devil Rays took notice.
By hitting 95 home runs in two seasons, the Devil Rays signed him to a big contract giving him an average of 8 million in his three years as a D-Ray. But he performed more to his hitting days in Milwaukee, and eventually released before the 2003 season by the D-Rays. Vaughn ended his career with the Colorado in July of 2003 with career numbers of 355 homeruns and a .249 batting average.
Statistically, Greg Vaughn may not ever get in the HOF, but he does deserve some consideration has a proven MLB home run hitter.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Top Prospects #11- Matt Moore

First, the reason I'm starting at number eleven is that the number one prospect is David Price. So this list is the top ten (2-11) with respect to David Price, who is still technically a prospect and possibly the front runner for the 2009 AL rookie of the year.

When I first looked at Baseball America's top ten for the Rays organization, I first noticed how high Matt Moore was ranked. I only knew that he was a recent high draft pick by the Rays but not a top prospect. Moore is a left-handed pitcher drafted as the Rays 2007 eighth round pick out of high school from New Mexico. Started his first year in pro ball in the Rays rookie level team Princeton Rays at the age of 18 pitching only 20.1 innings. For his 2nd year of pro ball he started again at the rookie level. This time he was able to start 12 games and perform very well sporting a 1.66 ERA and an opponents batting average of .154 in 54.1 innings. His strikeout to walk ratio improved to 4.05 and had a WHIP of .90. This shows me he can get a lot of swing and misses.

At his size, 6'2'' and 205 lbs, he has a good frame to throw in the low nineties consistently, which is above-average for a left-hander starter. I then look up his scouting report and a few things came to mind. A left handed starter with an above average fastball, topping at 94 mph, and a tight breaking curveball. He also has a changeup but it is still developing. When looking at this, the pitchers that I think of are Jon Lester, John Danks, and Cliff Lee. They all throw very similar stuff, have good velocity and control of the fastball, and have about the same frame. Moore showed great improvement in control from his first to second year, although that was two straight years of rookie ball.

The 2009 year may be Matt Moore's most important year because he will have to start adjusting to better hitters in order to progress through the minors. He has excellent stuff for a left-hander and may have reminded Baseball America as a future Cliff Lee. But he is still four years away from a shot at the major league club.

Monday, November 24, 2008

2009 Top Rays Prospects

Baseball America gave their top ten prospects for 2009, and ranked the Rays much different then what I expected. At number one is an obvious choice (David Price if it isn't), but rest is where it gets mixed up. I am not sure what was the points for ranking, but it was not how developed a player was. Although this is a "prospect" list, one can argue that Jeremy Hellickson should be in the top five. He has proven his dominance at every level in the minors. The point I am getting to is that I will make my own list in the near future.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Slow News Week

No major free agent signings this week in the American League. Only major transaction in the AL is a questionable Royals trade for Coco Crisp in exchange for setup man Ramon Ramirez. Good trade for the Red Sox acquiring another bullpen arm and trading away their outfield surplus.
Only Rays player personnel news is the addition of pitching prospects Wade Davis, Jacob McGee, and Dale Thayer protecting them from the Rule V draft. Dale Thayer is a proven right-handed minor league reliever that may factor into the 2009 bullpen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welcome to the Rays Party!

Welcome to my new site, which is my first crack at a Rays only blog. If you thought that this was where the Rays had to infamous post-game celebrations, you have come to the wrong place. This is a party in terms of a group that is devoted to the policies of the Tampa Bay Rays. Although the off season is slow in terms of major Rays news, I will start posting very soon so please come back soon.