Thursday, March 29, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Tampa Bay Rays

2011 Record: 91-71

Key Additions: Jeff Keppinger, Josh Lueke, Jose Molina, Carlos Pena, Fernando Rodney, Luke Scott

Subtractions: Johnny Damon, John Jaso, Dan Johnson, Kelly Shoppach, Andy Sonnanstine

2012 Outlook: As it has been since the Rays became competitive in 2008, the Rays strength isn`t their hitting, but it is their pitching. Led by James Shields, the Rays have arguably the best rotation in the MLB, and they are only getting better. Behind Shields is David Price,2011 AL Rookie of the Year winner, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and Jeff Niemann. The #1 prospect in the MLB according too many, Moore, has amazing stuff, and will make Shields a number two starter come 2013, at least in my mind. The truly amazing part about the Rays staff isn't how good it is, and it's amazing, it's the depth that the rays posses. This spring, Niemann and Wade Davis competed for the #5 spot in the rotation. While Niemann won, it's ridiculous that Wade Davis, a pitcher who would be a 3/4 pitcher on most teams, was not able to make the rotation. The 1-4 guys on the Rays are as good as anybodies in the game, even the Angels. I would not be surprised if the Rays starting staff as a whole this year had an ERA under 3.00 in 2012, and that is just the beginning for this young and upcoming group.

After finishing in the middle of the pack of the MLB in 2011 in runs scored, with 707, the Rays decided that if they were going to want a chance at the World Series again, they would need a better offence. So, they went and brought back Carlos Pena after a 1-year deal with the Cubs. Pena, won't hit for average, but he gets on base (.352 career mark) and he crushes the ball (34.4 HR's a year since 2007). Pena will bat 4th in the Rays lineup, right behind All Star third baseman Evan Longoria in the three hole. Longoria, 26, hit 31 long balls in 2011, and he missed the first month of the season due to injury. He's got a nice sweet swing, and will benefit greatly with the acquisition of Pena. Except for Desmond Jennings in Center, the rest of the lineup is pretty average, which is the reason they struggle at times. My concern is Jose Molina. The former Blue Jay signed a 1 year deal with Tampa in the off-season, and has been given the starters role behind the dish. Molina has never been a starting worthy catcher, and at age 36, he is definitely not one now. If Jennings has a good sophomore campaign, and a 4th offensive star rises in this lineup, then the Rays will go far this October.

The Final Count: 93-69

The Rays have the potential to win 162 with their staff. Although that will not happen, 100 is in range of this club if the pitching lives up to the hype, and a 4th offensive contributor appears. 93 is realistic due to the lack of offense, and the young pitching staff.

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