There are two major factors that determine a team's success: acquiring talent and keeping that talent on the field. The Rays have decided largely not to compete in the same markets with their richer neighbors to the north, focusing instead on building through a farm system and making savvy below-market free agent signings to bolster a roster that may not have as many big names as some of their division rivals, but that packs the same punch. Once they've built their team, however, is when they really shine. The Rays keep talent on the field as well as any team in baseball, having missed the fewest days of any team in 2011 and being one of the five healthiest teams over the last half-decade. No training staff, no matter how exemplary they are, can prevent every injury, but Ron Porterfield and his staff have done a stellar job of limiting as many of them as they can. And when a player does get hurt, the Rays are aggressive and smart with their rehab and preventative work. Porterfield spoke at ASMI's annual Injuries In Baseball Course about the necessity of keeping athletes mentally healthy as they get back from a long-term layoff, which bodes well for the production of players like Luke Scott, who came to the team carrying an injury.
Health Keys: The Rays will need another stellar effort across the board from their training staff to keep pace with their noisy neighbors to the north. The young arms of Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson may need extra attention as the Rays are counting on both to shut down opposing offenses for a full season.
(HEAD TRAINER: Ron Porterfield; FIVE YEAR RANK: 4; 2011 RANK: 1)
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C Jose Molina|
1B Carlos Pena
2B Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
CF Desmond Jennings
SP David Price
SP James Shields
RP Fernando Rodney
CL Kyle Farnsworth
SS Sean Rodriguez |
Rodriguez's role expanded greatly after his move to the Rays, but the System still sees a player who went from 12 major league games in 2009 to 118 games in '10, then up to 131 last season. He still hasn't qualified for a batting title even with the extra playing time, which the System is reading as injury risk. Strictly from an injury standpoint, categorizing Rodriguez as an above-average risk seems overly cautious, but from a general playing time standpoint, the Yellow rating looks to be dead on.
RF Matt Joyce
Joyce's 141 games played in '11 were by far the most he'd played in the majors since his first call-up with the Tigers in '08, which is giving the System a bit of pause, as he has no track record of durability. He showed no ill-effects last year of the strained elbow that cost him nearly two months in '10 and shouldn't carry anything more than a normal risk into the '12 season.
CF BJ Upton
There was a period of time when Upton was criticized for what was perceived to be a lack of effort, yet most of this risk comes from the days he misses making effort plays, like the strained shoulder he sustained running into a wall at Target Field last year. He may not look like the type of player commonly associated with "effort injuries," but they?re the most likely culprit if he misses time in '12.
DH Luke Scott
No sooner had Scott returned to the Orioles lineup from a right knee contusion last year than he tore his labrum, an injury that ended his season. With pitchers, a labral tear almost always means at least a year lost, but not so for hitters, as the structure is under less stress. Still, it will be interesting to see how quickly Scott gets back to his full capacity. One thing is certain: He could hardly have picked a better place to sign as far as getting back on the field quickly.
SP Jeremy Hellickson
The reigning Rookie of the Year, Hellickson gave the Rays almost 190 innings of outstanding production, but it may have come at a cost. Hellickson bore a heavy load as the Rays made their playoff run and it could lead to fatigue injuries in the upcoming season. No one factor ever determines whether a player will get hurt or not, but Hellickson's workload will certainly be something to watch as the season hits July and August.
SP Wade Davis
Davis was one of the few Rays pitchers to miss time last year and the only one to have any arm trouble in-season. His forearm strain shouldn't play any role in his performance in '12, and whatever risk he has should be mitigated by the fact that he'll be asked to throw fewer innings than last year as the team's fifth starter.
SP Matt Moore |
The eighth round of most MLB drafts isn't devoid of talent, but the last eighth rounder to generate anywhere near as much hype as Moore -- taken in the eighth round of the 2007 draft -- was Dontrelle Willis, who was taken in the eighth round of the 2000 draft. Hype doesn't always translate into production, but the Rays hope Moore has a better career than Willis, even if it means settling for someone like Dizzy Trout. Any time a pitcher under 25 is expected to throw 150 innings or more, the System sees a high level of risk. This isn't a prophecy; Moore may well get through this season unscathed. The thing to watch for is fatigue. Pitchers tend to wear down in Year 1 and then break down in Year 2.
Dan Wade is a research assistant for Will Carroll and writes regularly at Fangraphs.