Know Your Enemy: Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays were 92-71 last year, good for second place in the AL East, 17.5 games better than the Blue Jays. Their Pythagorean record was 87-76, 9.5 games better than the Jays. They scored 4.29 runs/game, right about the league average, 4.33/ game, (slightly fewer than the Jays 4.40, but then they didn't play their home games in Rogers Center). They allowed 3.96 runs/game, 5th best in the AL(again, they play in the most pitcher friendly park in the division).

They had a fairly quiet offseason. Notable additions: catcher Ryan Hanigan, relievers Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, Juan Oviedo and infielders Logan Forsythe and Jayson Nix. Leaving the team are Jose Lobaton, Luke Scott, Sam Fuld, Fernando Rodney, Kelly Johnson, Roberto Hernandez, Jesse Crain and Delmon Young.

Catchers: Ryan Hanigan/Jose Molina

Last year Rays catchers hit .245/.310/.355. Free agent signing Hanigan might improve things, though he had a pretty rough year too, hitting .198/.306/.261, in 75 games, with the Reds. Ryan does have a great arm, he threw out 45% of base stealers, and he'll likely bounce back some on offense. Molina hit .233/.290/.304, last year, and he turns 39 this year, but then, he's good at framing pitches.

First Base: James Loney

Loney had a really good 2012 season, hitting .299/.348/.430, and a 2.7 WAR. He was helped along by a .326 BABIP. I can't can't imagine he'll be quite that good next year.

Second Base: Ben Zobrist

Good offense and defense, can play anywhere other than pitcher and catcher, takes walks, has some power. Wish we had him. 5.4 WAR last year and that was his second lowest score in the last 6 years.

Shortstop: Yunel Escobar

You all know enough about him. His first season with the Rays wasn't much of a success offensively, .256/.332/.366, but he had his best UZR/150 in his career, at 12.2. His first time above 5.0.

Third Base: Evan Longoria

He had another great season, 160 games, .269/.343/.498, 32 home runs, 6th in MVP voting.

Sean Rodriguez and Logan Forsythe should get utility jobs. Maybe our old friend Jayson Nix will win a job.

Left Field: David DeJesus

He hit .251/.327/.402, in 122 games, with 3 teams, Cubs, Nationals and Rays. 2.1 WAR. He's pretty consistent, so unless he suddenly gets old (he's 34 now).

Center Field: Desmond Jennings

Desmond hit .252/.334/.414, with 14 home runs, 20 stolen bases, a 3.2 WAR. He's pretty good, I'd rather have Colby but Desmond's pretty good.

Right Field: Wil Myers

Why couldn't we make a trade to get him? 23 years old, hit .293/.354/.478, with 13 home runs, in 88 games. Zips doesn't think he's going to take a step forward this year, figuring him to hit .263/.326/.437, with 23 home runsI think I'd take the over on most of those numbers.

DH: Matt Joyce

Not exactly the prototype DH, hit .235/.328/.419 with 18 home runs last year. He'll also be 4th outfielder. DH will be more a spot to give someone a day off.

Starting Pitchers:

David Price: The best pitcher, on the best rotation, in the AL East. Cy Young winner in 2013, 71-39 record in 147 career starts.

Alex Cobb: 11-3, 2.76 ERA, in 22 starts. 134 strikeouts, 45 walks in 143 innings. And he's just 26.

Matt Moore: Another one that had a great season, 17-4, 3.29 ERA. Too many walks, 76, but a lot of strikeouts 143, in 150 innings.

Chris Archer: Had a great rookie season, putting up a 3.22 ERA in 22 starts, 38 walks, 101 strikeouts in 128 innings.

Jake Odorizzi: He came over in the James Shields trade, along with Wil Myers and others. 3.94 ERA in 29 innings last year. I might rather have him than Shields already this year.

Jeremy Hellickson: Will start the season on the DL, won't be back until May. Then he can fill in for whoever isn't pulling his weight or someone that gets injured. 5.17 ERA in 174 innings last year.

Relievers:

Closer: Grant Balfour, he had 38 saves for the A's, last year. 72 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. Signed with the Orioles but failed their physical. And then signed with the Rays, and passed.

Others: Heath Bell, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, Juan Oviedo, Cesar Ramos, Josh Lueke.

Outlook

I really do think they are the best team in the division. Best starting staff, pretty good bullpen, and an offense that includes Wil Myers, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist is better than anyone gives them credit. Like any team, things have to go right. A couple of key injuries and they would fall back to the pack. They should move to Montreal. I mean, they would feel right at home, Montreal has a ugly dome stadium that no one would want to come to watch baseball in. They should be able to talk TSN and Bell into building them a better park.

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