1 Tampa Bay Rays

April 01, 2013

Enemy Lines

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE RAYS

This team is deceiving as hell. Outside of Evan Longoria, you say, where are the stars? But all the Rays have a good approach at the plate, and they find ways to score runs.... Yunel Escobar gives them something they haven't had: an offensive and defensive shortstop.... With Ryan Roberts and Kelly Johnson at second, they've improved their power in the middle of the infield.... James Loney's not looking so good. His bat looks tardy, and he doesn't have the power you're looking for at first base. They can always move Ben Zobrist there.... I think Desmond Jennings will be better off in centerfield than left. He's the wild card for this team. He could be a 50-steal guy, but he needs to get on more.... I love Longoria. But they have to protect him. Even as clutch a hitter as Zobrist is, he does strike out a lot. The weakness of their club might be not having enough coverage for Longoria.... I don't think they'll miss James Shields much, provided Matt Moore improves. In the second half he developed his changeup, and his breaking ball is pretty good. Command's the key.... Alex Cobb is quietly outstanding. He can locate and change speeds, has a strikeout curveball and a plus changeup with sink. He and Jeremy Hellickson pitch a lot alike.... I think they're pointing Roberto Hernandez toward the bullpen, where he could be another successful reclamation project. Jim Hickey is a very good pitching coach. He finds a way to clean these guys up.

The Lineup

2013 Projected Statistics

MANAGER JOE MADDON

Eighth season with the Rays

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ROTATION W ERA WHIP K/9
LH DAVID PRICE 18 2.93 1.13 8.7
RH JEREMY HELLICKSON 12 3.29 1.26 6.4
LH MATT MOORE 12 3.37 1.27 9.7
RH ALEX COBB 10 3.59 1.28 7.7
RH JEFF NIEMANN 7 3.94 1.21 7.2
BULLPEN SV ERA WHIP K/9
RH FERNANDO RODNEY 41 1.92 1.07 8.3
RH JOEL PERALTA 1 3.23 0.95 10.0

NEW ACQUISITION

LINEUPS AND STAT PROJECTIONS BY ROTOWIRE.COM

The K Meter

Percentage of 2012 plate appearances that ended with a strikeout, and major league rank

BY HITTERS | 21.7% | 27TH

BY PITCHERS | 23.1% | 1ST

Best Case

The staff again performs at historic levels, and is boosted by new offensive sources—say, Myers—to make a Series run.

Worst Case

The pitching is there, but the lineup drags the Rays down to a middle-of-the pack finish in a still-tough division.

Ben Reiter has more on the Rays at SI.com/mlb

Modest Proposal

Tampa Bay will have 22-year-old outfielder Wil Myers—acquired from Kansas City for James Shields in December—start the season at Triple A, in large part to delay his service-time clock so he reaches free agency a year later. This is a mistake. The Rays are cofavorites to win the AL East, and to maximize their upside they have to put their best team on the field on April 2 rather than worry about the 2019 season. An everyday lineup that includes first baseman James Loney, DH Luke Scott, centerfielder Desmond Jennings and catcher Jose Molina needs all the offense it can get. Myers hit 37 homers and slugged .600 at Double and Triple A last year; he'd bring needed power to a team that was 11th in the American League in runs scored and 11th in slugging in 2012, when it fell short of the postseason. Whether it means benching Scott or Loney or Kelly Johnson—√ºberversatile Ben Zobrist can slide over to second base—Myers has to be in the middle of the lineup 150 times for the Rays to beat out the Blue Jays.

PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (ESCOBAR)Yunel Escobar PHOTOCLIFF WELCH/ICON SMI (MYERS) PHOTOJ. MERIC/GETTY IMAGES (LONGORIA)Just Enough to Get By The Rays lack power threats beyond Longoria, but thanks to the league's best staff, they won't have to win many slugfests.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)