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Rays Prognostications

Devil Rays, prospects, philosophy, baseball and boos.

Updated: 2015-09-16T11:47:53.075-04:00


Fixing Drippy Dawg


Well, it didn't take long for the Rays to prove me right that naming Dewon Brazelton the opening day starter for the Rays was a mistake. Outside of his performances in college, it's getting harder and harder to see why exactly he was considered much of a prospect to begin with. He's been sent down to Durham (where he hasn't bothered to show up yet, landing him on the suspended list), and that's a start to getting him back on track, but there are a few suggestions that I think might help maximize his value in the future.

1. Stop "coaching" him: Drippy had a pretty funky delivery coming out of college, but that delivery has been tinkered with so many times by now that he nary looks like the same pitcher. Instead of having him try new things to improve his stuff, let him just be himself and find his own way. Once upon a time he was pretty decent, y'know, and his problems began when you started screwing around with his arm and his head. He seems to take criticism pretty personally, so maybe if he doesn't try to learn anything new from people who keep telling him what he already has isn't good enough, he can get his head back on straight and just focus on doing what used to come naturally.

2. Stop starting him: Drippy isn't built to be a starter in the long term. His statistics bear this out as well. He's just a much better pitcher in his first four innings, but after that he usually seems to hit a wall and his performance goes way downhill. He could be very useful as a long reliever, but after about 4 innings, he's sweated so much that it looks like they need to bring an IV out to him on the mound. That obviously can't be any good for him. If less work means that he's more effective, then so be it.

3. Stop toying with him: Stick him in AAA and leave him there for the rest of the season. Yes, this is his last option year, but it can't be great for his head to go to the majors, then to AAA, then back to the California league, then back to the majors, then back to Durham, then back to the majors, then being named opening day starter. Instead of shifting him around all the time, why not let him settle down for a long period of time. Let him know right now that he's not going back to the bigs this season, and that he'll have no pressure to perform in AAA. This sends the message that he can work on what he needs to work on internally. So far it seems to be working pretty well for the Beej, let's see if it can also work for the Braz.

Vince Naimoli, Moneyball owner


Well, surprise surprise, of all teams, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have been named the second most profitable team in all of baseball. A few years back, when Michael Lewis wrote his wildly popular baseball book "Moneyball," I think a lot of people missed the point, but Vince seems to be right on target with this one. People interpreted this as a book on being how to win games by using the underused statistics to evaluate players in a manner to see whether they might be undervalued. These people got it all wrong, but Vince gets it. The book is really about going against the grain and using business acumen within baseball where others have not in order to get ahead. Sure, the tagline to the book is "The Art of Winning an Unfair Game," but considering how the entire book is about cost-effectiveness, maybe that "game" is making money and the "art" is figuring out how to manipulate the system to your advantage. Well, by managing to cut cost-effectiveness out of the equation entirely, Naimoli has become the ultimate 'Moneyball' owner: This year, the Devil Rays' payroll amounts to a whopping $28,981,000, good for last in the MLB. The official report from the Rays has this amount really at $37,975,000, but that's counting deferred payments from earlier seasons which were also counted in that year, so you can't relaly double-count that, right? That would kind of be cheating the system, right? However, even giving credit to minor league signings and the draft, I'm pretty sure that the Rays are dead last, no matter how they spin the nuimbers.One other thing - no Florida state income tax. Taxes aren't included in payroll numbers, and the employer pays half of all income taxes. All of these other "small market" teams have to pay state income taxes, and a few even have to pay local income taxes. For Vince, between paying no local income tax, depreciation on the team itself, and all of the book losses, the team operates like a gigantic tax shelter for him, personally saving him a lot of money that we'll never even know about. This year, the Rays receive about $30M in revenue sharing funds. On top of that, they receive an additional $5 million from the league's XM sattelite redio deal, not to mention another approximately $5M from the team's own sattelite radio deal and whatever percentage of concessions the Rays are entitled to. Also, after the luxury tax was announced yesterday, that should be good for about another million and a half. The Rays have one of the better sweetheart deals in the league when it comes to the stadium. Yeah, the fruit dome looks and feels low rent, but that's partly because it quite literally is low rent, with the team paying the city of St. Petersburg very little, so long as people actually attend the games (which, well, they haven't been so much). Yup, the Rays HAVE to be profitable because expenditures are generally lower than the amount the team is receiving without even accounting for any additional income from gate receipts, licensing deals, advertising revenue, etcetera. Now THAT'S Moneyball.Stu Sternberg is no dummy. He's the former managing director of Goldman Sachs, so he made his fortune finding sound investments for himself and for others. We all keep hoping that Vince will finally step down and hand Sternberg the reigns, but the incentive is for him to wait as long as possible to do this. As the majority owner, he's guaranteed a good revenue stream for as long as Naimoli continues to be the ultimate cheapskate. Not only that, but since he owns the majority of the team, once Naimoli finally does step down, he'll get the benefit of the increase in value in the team by gained goodwill, which amount may very well go up the more sick of Naimoli the Tampa Bay fans get,On a related note, is organizing a fan walkout at a future Rays game. I wish them the best of luck and would be there is colors if I lived in Tampa...[...]

Remind me not to say that again...


Back in 2001, Bill James revised and re-released his Historical Baseball Abstract, a piece of bathroom reading of historical proportions. I was flipping back through it the other day and noticed something funny - from year to year, he has little segments entitled "remind me again not to say that...", little gaffes that people have said from time to time when they spoke just a little too soon. The real irony here is that this abstract is full of these little nuggets itself. A quick few:

"One of a Kind: Jeff Montgomery (only four-pitch relief ace in major league history)"

Well, since then we've seen Eric Gagne and John Smoltz, a couple of pretty decent 4-pitch closers themselves. Of course, you can't ENTIRELY take away credit for Smoltz - he has 5 or 6 pitches...

"Last of his Kind: Brian Kingman (the last 20-game loser)"

With larger rotations, pitchers getting yanked more quickly, and guys getting sent to the minors more readily, it was perfectly reasonable to expect that there would never again be a 20-game loser, but then along came the 2003 Tigers, where a fairly unique set of circumstances (team in full rebuilding mode, not much in the minors, developing young pitchers in the majors rather than the minors) led to this feat happening once again, with Mike Maroth losing a nice 21 games. I guess he's not REALLY a 20-game loser, but I think he meant to imply that nobody would again lose 20 games or more...

Of course, there are many other gaffes, some of which he admitted in the afterwords of later versions (i.e. ranking Biggio as the number 5 2B of all time, and Jeff Bagwell as the number 4 1B of all time), but it's just amusing that someone who picked on some people for speaking too soon, ended up speaking too soon while trying to say too much...

Phelps - reversion to BP coverboy?


I know it's really early to start discussing anything like this, but shortly after including how horrible Phelps is against righties in a previous post, he puts together two games where he goes 3-6 with a double against righties (including 2003 Cy Young winner Roy Halliday), but 0-2 with a K against a mediocre lefty (Gustavo Chacin). In any case, please note the pattern here in his yearly righty/lefty splits:

2004: .600/.976
2003: .800/.876
2002: .955/.793

Little weird, dontcha think? Maybe Phelps finally made some adjustments this offseason which allowed him to hit both righties and lefties. From the looks of it, after his rookie year, he made an adjustment to hit lefties better which hurt him against righties, and whatever further adjustments he made in 2004 skewed him even further. If you put what he did against lefties in 2004 together with what he did against righties in 2002, you've got one heck of a hitter. If he can revert to earlier form, when he could actually hit righties, then maybe this team's offense won't look as depressing against righties as I initially thought, especially once Huff heats up...

Moves for the sake of making moves...


There were two moves today, and to be honest, there's much ado about nothing. As I discussed elsewhere, I think the Sosa for Green move basically boils down to saving a few hundred K, which is probably fine. No big improvement, but nothing to get pissed off about either. Whether or not people like it, Sosa was probably going to be released at the end of the weak either way, and when you're in that position, you ain't gonna get a whole lot for what you're offering (just ask the Rockies...)The move I haven't discussed yet is the signing of Mike Restovich. I will go into this in more detail in the near future (I promise), but this was about as close to a useless of a move as you can make without actually doing harm to the team. A few points:He can't hit righties. I think the Rays organization is missing the point here or something. We're not looking for a right handed power bat; we're looking for a bat who can hit off of righties. I realize 113 at-bats is a small sample, but when the gap is this wide it's pretty much conclusive: 1.008 OPS against lefties, .590 OPS against righties last season, .912 OPS against lefties and .733 against righties for his career. Thus, he doesn't fill that need; all we did was add yet another guy who can mash lefties and is helpless against righties, meaning we can platoon him with, ummmm, I guess Aubrey Huff....except that there's no need to platoon Aubrey Huff. Once Rocco comes back, the problem will be compounded because he can't back up in center, and he can't platoon with Phelps at DH.He's tapped out of potential. Once upon a time, Restovich was considered to be a good prospect. This has primarily to do with hitting really well in the low minors, and one decent season in Edmonton, in a home park with an altitude about the same of that as Coors. Other than that, there's nothing in his minor league record to show that he might actually be a major league quality hitter. Sure, he could have an .800 OPS, which is an improvement over Singleton as a whole, but that's his absolute ceiling until he can learn to hit them righties.Look at who he's blocking. Jonny Gomes is about to turn into the Rays' very own version of Michael Restovich. This could also take at-bats away from Phelps, who despite his ineptitude against righties, is STILL a better hitter against righties than Restovich. And imagine this: even if he's taking at-bats away from Alex S. Gonzalez, he's STILL a better hitter against righties than Restovich (not to mention much more defensively valuable).Here's a quick chart of what our day-to-day lineup might look like this year, and why I think that every manager with half a brain will try their darndest to start as many righties as possible against the Rays:OPS vs. righties:Crawford - .787Lugo - .730Huff - .863Lee - .841Cantu - .744Sanchez - .691Hall -.631Phelps/Perez -.600 /.607Gonzalez - .635Now let's see that same thing against lefties:Crawford - .764Lugo - .744Huff - .831Phelps/Perez - .976/1.014Restovich - 1.008Cantu - .945Lee - .746Green - .863Hall - .771As you can see, we might be able to kill lefties, when we face them, but we just blow against righties. By the way, whenever Rocco comes back, he doesn't help out either....even he runs a .709/.931 lefty righty split....[...]

Sincerest apologies...


....for my hiatus lately. Work has been kicking my butt lately, and unfortunately, that's all I get a paycheck for. Things should slow down a little in time for the regular season, so I'll go back to ranting and raving sometime around then. In the meantime, I just thought I'd say that I have the same feelings on the Alex Sanchez signing as the rest of the Rays' bloggers, and that I think a trade for Termel Sledge or Eric Valent wouldn't be a bad idea, as long as we don't give up too much in the process. We really do need that platoon lefty bat for the long run, and each of those guys has a ways to go before arbitration, so even if they don't pan out, they're cheap.

Implications of Roster Moves


Earlier today, Joey Gathright, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella, Brian Sweeney, BJ Upton, Chris Seddon, Joselo Diaz and Delmon Young were all sent to the minors (and Mark Guthrie was released). Here's a few potential implications of these moves:This clears up the muddled outfield situation a little bit and makes Chris Singleton the clear frontrunner for the 4th OF job to start the season. I refuse to believe that the team is even still considering Tom Goodwin for the spot, and I'll just chalk it up to professional courtesy that they don't want to release him while he's injured. Dee Brown is the only other competition for that spot remaining. He's notorious for being about 50 times better in Spring Training than he is the rest of the year (he led the majors in home runs in 2003 Spring Training), and while the team might hold out hope that this is the year when he finally blossoms (having a Mayim Bialik moment here, but what ever happened to Six?), I think that the mirage of being a good hitter will disappear once he isn't getting most of his at bats against AA scrubs finishing out the late innings of games. While Singleton never lived up to his expected potential, it seems like the year off may have helped him get his stuff together, and at the bare minimum, he's a positive clubhouse influence. The infield situation now officially scares me. Yes, Upton needs to spend more time in AAA if he's going to play shortstop full time. However, with Alomar ailing, a little voice in the back of my head was hoping that he'd at least start the season with Upton playing third and Alex Gonzalez playing utility infielder. Instead, if Alomar doesn't get healthy before the start of the regular season, the only backup middle infield options are Shane Halter, who's only slightly less pathetic than Tom Goodwin, and Luis Ordaz, a player who could only manage a .666 OPS in hitter happy Durham last year and who has a whopping career .525 OPS in over 400 at bats. I can survive with Halter, who's only a little worse than Geoff B(l)um was last year, but needing to give a roster spot to any player who's worse than Geoff B(l)um was last year is pretty sad.The pitching situation is still a bit murkier. With Chuck Lamar going public that he wants to pull a trade on a reliever, the team didn't send any pitchers down who had that realistic of a shot of making the team right now. However, I still think that we'll be seeing Brian Sweeney in the near future, and Chad Orvella and Chris Seddon are each a big part of the franchise's future. The release of Guthrie means that Seay doesn't have to worry about having an identical pitcher going against him for a roster spot, but that was probably the least of his problems, considering that with three viable lefty relievers, either he or Miller is probably the person they're trying hardest to trade. In a nutshell, there are still too many major league calibre pitchers in camp, but not enough good major league calibre pitchers, especially in the starter category. As a side note, naming Drippy the opening day starter pretty much dooms him to be gone by the end of the year. I normally don't believe in this type of freak stat (every Rays opening day starter has been gone or seriously injured by the next season), but I also had an inkling that Drippy would be traded before he was named opening day starter, simply because he'll never live up to potential here. Maybe someone will trade for him on the cheap and make him the premier long reliever he was born to be.As for the players assigned, no huge surprises there, possibly the biggest being that Diaz wasn't assigned to high-A instead of AA, where he gave up wayyy too many walks. The speculation officially ends with Delmon heading to Montgomery, meaning the speculation begins as to whether Bankston, Pridie and crew will be starting there as well. It won't make a difference with this cast of characters[...]

Roster fight profile: Chris Singleton


Just the fact that Singleton is a centerfielder by trade gives him an edge for winning that 4th outfielder roster spot. Unfortunately, nobody seems to want to win it except Delmon Young, who's probably still a ways away from making the big club despite his amazing Spring Training performance. The rundown: Singleton strained his groin , Tom Goodwin strained his as well, figuring that anything food enough for Singleton was good enough for him, Brian Buchanon and Damon Hollins got cut, Marty Cordova retired, and Dee Brown and Jonny Gomes are both batting at sub-Mendoza levels in limited playing time. Other than that, Gathright seems to be playing like Gathright in his limited time, and Delmon "I've never played above low-A" Young is looking like a worldbeater, batting over .400 and slugging over .600. (Yet another aside - the fact that BBs aren't posted for spring training stats is infinitely annoying - if Gomes or Gathright have been walking like crazy, that would need to go into the equation as well...) Anyway, while there are still officially 4 guys who could back up at CF in camp, it looks like it's a battle between Singleton and Gathright, and I wouldn't be shocked if both stay with the organization and end up playing for the big club at some point this season.

Singleton is one of the players in camp who actually has a good major league sample to base projections off of. At 32 years old this season, it's doubtful that he'd do anything better than his best year in the majors, which was a .300/.328/.490 line, and even that was a huge outlier from the rest of his career, where he's more like a .260/.300/.400 kind of guy, or in other words, servicable but nothing too special. In each of his last three major league seasons, he had clearly gotten worse, to the point where Oakland declined his relatively inexpensive option after 2003. He signed onto the Pirates in 2004, but was given his unconditional release after failing a physical (a pesky vertigo problem which seems to have popped up with him from time to time), after which he apparently disappeared off the face of the planet. However, Singleton did play well in limited time over spring training, and considering how the entirety of MLB considers him to be damaged enough goods that nobody would even sign him to a minor league contract last season, he probably wouldn't be opposed to being assigned to Durham if Gathright makes the opening day roster as the 4th outfielder. Here's to hoping that Singleton has made a full recovery from his problems - I'm not sure I want our fourth outfielder to be in the same condition as someone who the Pirates decided wasn't good enough to back up Tike Redman...

Fun facts about Singleton:
  • The last full-time position player developed within the Giants system (although Dusty Mohr look about to break that one...), but was with the White Sox by the time he actually broke in...
  • In the minor leagues, he actually hit 16 more triples than home runs
  • Most successful MLB player to have played at University of Nevada (although Lyle Overbay should be passing him there in the mear future...)
  • Was a two-sport star at Nevada, also playing wide receiver (43 catches, 893 yards in his junior year)
  • He and his wife are both associate pastors with a ministry in Atlanta, and is an ordained minister
  • Hit for the cycle, July 6, 1999
  • 6th in rookie of the year voting in 1999

Roster fight profile: Jonny Gomes


If the major league season were in the fall, Gomes would already be an all-star for the Rays. Last years leaderboard maven in the Arizona Fall League (Top 5 in RBI, runs scored, slugging, home runs and OBP) and this year's winter league player of the year has fallen off of the prospect radars to some extent while not really doing anything to warrant this other thannot improving what are perceived as his weak spots. What are his weanesses? Well, he's considered by many to be a "three true outcomes" type of player - he walks, strikes out and hits home runs. Of course, that isn't entirely true. Besides 26 home runs, he also hit 27 doubles in AAA Durham last season, although that also means that he had fewer singles than extra base hits. Of course, there's some guy named Barry out west who's done the same thing, and you don't see too many people complaining about his performance. The real concern for most people is that he strikes out in about a third of his at-bats, so while he does walk quite a bit, his K/BB ratio is still worse than 2.5:1. Also, he's never hit for a high average while playing mostly in hitters' parks, leading some to believe he might be a Tony Batista type hitter in the majors. This is a little strange considering his fall league performances, since he usually starts the season with a good batting average, then tends to go into a slump around mid-august, dropping his BA to a level that's a wee bit on the low side. However, he did play center field in JC and in the low minors, and he does have a fair amount of speed and a decent arm for a guy his size, so if the coaching staff is willing to help him out with his outfield routes, he could serve as a Jeromy Burnitz-esque center fielder in a pinch.As a home grown kid coming off a monster performance in Mexico (22 HR, 54 RBI, over a .300/.400/.700 line), I was kind of hoping that he could carpe rosterspotem, but with the injury to Rocco, the team needs a backup centerfielder and it looks like it is not to be (especially considering that Lou isn't getting him any at-bats in Spring Training so far). However, once Rocco comes back, if there is an injury to either of the corner outfielders or if Travis Lee or Alex Gonzalez goes down (moving Huff back to third), he could be one of the first guys to get a shot.Now for more fun facts:Had a small heart attack on Christmas Eve, 2002 (but recovered nicely). The doctors ordered him to do no more than light cardio workouts before next spring, but he still did well enough in the spring to earn a promotion to AA.Back at home, used to use the family barn as a batting cage along with his brother, fellow Rays prospect Joey GomesBJ Upton has said that Gomes was the teammate of his that he'd pay to see playHas been an all-star at Bakersfield and Durham and was MVP of the Appalachian League and the Carribbean Winter LeaguesWas once seen driving down the wrong side of the median on Jackie Robinson Blvd. in DurhamDoubled off of David "ate Goliath" Wells in his first MLB at-bat.There probably isn't a player in the Rays organization who people's opinions of vary so greatly. He's been ranked as high as the top-50 in two different reputable prospect rankings, yet often isn't included in the organization's top-10 in other rankings.Supposedly, his steals numbers dropped this past season not because he's lost any speed, but because Bill Evers (Durham's manager) didn't want to risk a Gomes leg injury on a stolen base that wasn't necessary by a cleanup hitter.One of Gomes' minor league cards was trading at about $140 after his California League performance.[...]

Roster fight profile: Brian Sweeney


While we're in this early portion of spring training, I figured I'll run profiles of some of the guys who are fighting for roster spots with the Rays and who, if they don't make the squad the first time out, we can expect to see later in the season. Some of the guys will be pretty familiar, but I might be able to dig up a nugget or two you don't know about. My guess is that Sweeney falls into the second category. The 40-man roster is too jammed for Sweeney to have a good chance of making the opening day roster, but with an injury or two, he could be one of the first guys to get the callup if he performs anything like he did last year...

Brian Sweeney - SRHP

Sweeney was an undrafted free agent signed by the Mariners out of Mercy College in 1996. In the Seattle organization for 7 seasons, he took a little while to come into his own, but his control was always consistently good. Early in his career, however, high hits against rates killed him, keeping him on a yo-yo back and forth between AA and AAA for four years. However, he has picked things up over the past four years, with a K/BB rate of about 4/1 over that time period. I've already spoken about his recent exploits in a past post, so I'll just link you there.

A few fun facts:
  • His first (and only) career MLB win was against Randy Johnson in the game where he reached 4,000 Ks.
  • He looks like a good friendly face guy. Here's a little story about him heading off to an elementary schoo to speak about life in athletics.
  • He's a longtime veteran of the Venezuela Winter Leagues.
  • The only 4-year player out of Mercy College to make the big leagues (Garvin Alston, who played a few games for the Rockies, played there for one season).
  • Went from Seattle to San Diego as part of the Jeff Cirillo / Wiki Gonzalez trade.
  • One of the few current major leaguers to have played in the now defunct independent Heartland League.
  • Has been an all-star in both the California League and the PCL, and came in 3rd place for Pitcher of the Year in the PCL last season.
  • Played outfield in his days off from pitching while at Mercy.

Time for Oxy...


...and no, that's not Oxycontin for you Rush Limbaugh lovers out there, nor is it an oxymoron, like Alex S. Gonzalez playing 3rd base, but rather it's time to start predicting some potential breakouts for this season. There are usually one or two a year for each team, so I'll try running down the most likely candidates:Josh PhelpsThe former BP coverboy got a big boost of confidence (no, not from Enzyte, though he does swing a big bat) last season while being used in a platoon role with the Indians for the last portion of the season. That was the first time in his big league career when his numbers even approached his minor league stats. Still, if he has a .900 OPS here and 30 home runs, some people might call it a breakout, but I might call it a comeback. People were really down on him in Toronto, despite the fact that he averaged higher than an .800 OPS there. He lost some confidence, and it showed in his stats, getting worse the longer he stayed in Toronto. Lou might not be the best coach in the world to get the most out of Phelps, but any change of scenery is probably a positive thing for him. Also, he's hitting magic year 27, a time when a lot of these guys have their breakout years. Even if he 'only' does what he did last year, he's a major upgrade over what we previously had at the DH, but with the change in scenery and a healthy wrist, a season somewhere in between his 2002 (309/362/562) and 2003 (268/358/470) seasons wouldn't surprise me in the least. Compared to 2004, it's a breakout, but it's really just getting healthy and regressing to the mean.Toby HallOK, so this is probably the third year in the row where I've predicted that Toby might have a breakout year, which he's been backpedaling each time rather than progressing. Let me tell you why I'm right this time and was wrong the other times. First, as a general tenet, the easiest way to pick out breakout players is to see who is in their contract year and can pick up a big deal. One odd thing about the Rays next season is that they don't have a single player who's young and in a contract year, except for Lugo and Baez, both of whom the team has fairly reasonable options with. Hall, however, needs to treat this year like it is a contract year. He has to know that, approaching his second year of arbitration, this is the end of the line for him in Tampa or as a starter if he doesn't start to pick things up. He'll just be too expensive otherwise, considering his production. Second, and this ties into the first, for the first time since Mike DeFelice, the Rays have a legitimate backup catcher who can push the starter and that the team has the rights to in future years. Granted, Cash isn't exactly a worldbeater, but with his supposed defensive advantage over Hall and some power, the difference between the two wouldn't be great enough to warrant the $2+ million difference in price tag, especially if Hall doesn't put up or shut up. Third, at 29, Hall should be hitting his prime (although, then again, he should have been hitting his prime last year too). Finally, he just hit too well in the minors to be this crappy in the majors. Yes, Durham is a hitters' park, but that shouldn't account for why his K/BB rate has gotten worse every year. I guess it's unlikely, but here's to hoping...Jorge SosaSosa's stuff has steadily improved each year, and as a result, his strikeout rate skyrocketed this past year. His control, however has been lagging behind. Still, he's shown some flashes of brilliance, and entering the prime years of his career and feeling snubbed over not getting the pay raise he wanted probably gives him some good motivation. His K/BB ratio improved every month last year, so while his ERA didn't improve much, his pitching did. He's still learning how to pitch, but h[...]

My 25-man: before the S/T games


In response to a question up on the main Devil Rays board, here's what my 25-man roster would look like, as of today:If I could choose anyone, without current roster constraints (but still worrying about salary, arbitration clocks, etc.) - 1B - Travis Lee2B - Jorge CantuSS - Julio Lugo3B - Aubrey HuffRF - Danny BautistaCF - Carl CrawfordLF - Jonny GomesC - Toby HallDH - Josh PhelpsBench - Tim Laker (pre-injury; now, I'd say Cash), Alex Gonzalez, Earl Snyder, Joey GathrightSP - Hideo Nomo, Mark Hendrickson, Rob Bell, Jorge Sosa, Brian SweeneyRP - Danys Baez, Travis Harper, Lance Carter, Jesus Colome, Bobby Seay, Casey Fossum, Dewon BrazeltonDL - Rocco Baldelli, Denny Neagle, Angel GarciaExplanations for some of the roster choices:Scott Kazmir, BJ Upton, Chad Orvella, Seth McClung and Doug Waechter can all be sent to the minors, have more that they can learn there, and are all promising enough that I wouldn't want to toll their arbitration clock (and have one less year of them when they're actually good) just so they can learn on the job. The 3 or 4 extra wins from having these guys up at this point just isn't worth the 20 or 30 extra wins from that extra year during their primes 4 to 6 years from now.Roberto Alomar - It was a tough call whether I'd rather have him or Gonzalez acting as backup middle infielder, but I think I'd rather have Gonzalez. He's a better defensive player, and if Alomar plays like he did for the White Sox last year, a better offensive player as well.Eduardo Perez - After signing Josh Phelps, who's almost identical only 10 years younger and with potential, I see no reason to keep him on the roster.Trever Miller - He's a tough guy to leave off, but for everything he's good at, there's someone who does it better. Casey Fossum is a better situational lefty if you're just looking to get one left-handed batter out. Bobby Seay is a better full inning pitcher, when you want to act as a bridge. Travis Harper is a better fireman, getting out of sticky situations with runners in scoring position. Thus, Miller was the guy to go.Jonny Gomes - Moving Huff back to third and taking Gonzalez out of the starting lineup is just too big of an offensive difference not to happen. Any of Gomes, Buchanon or Hollins could fill in left field well, but I went with Gomes because he's home grown. He maybe needs more time in the minors as well, but I'm not as worried about tolling his arb clock because I doubt he'll ever cut down on the strikeouts and thus might not end up being a great long-term option. Still, after winning Winter Leagues player of the year, he kind of deserves a shot, and is a huge offensive upgrade over Gonzalez and probably is even an upgrade over Bautista (and possibly Cruz Jr.). Earl Snyder - He did very well in AAA last year (82 extra base hits) and can play both 1st and 3rd adequately. Also, he appears to be one of the few players who hits righties better than lefties, so he could platoon with Phelps or one of the other guys if they struggle against righties. As I've said elsewhere, I think he could be a Geoff Jenkins type hitter.Brian Sweeney - Never walks batters and was the AAA Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year last year. He looks like a steady innings eater who rarely makes mistakes, which is better than most of the other starters competing for spots.Brazelton - He seems to wear out at the end of seasons and his velocity has been down lately. I think a conversion to long relief might help solve both of those problems and make him an immensely more valuable pitcher to have around.Gathright - No, he's not ready yet, but who else is going to back up in center? Sub-.600 OPS players Goodwin, Brown or Singleton? Puh-lease! Also, I'm not as worried about his arb clock. With things lookin[...]

Brick's Top 100 Prospects - The Top 50


1. Felix Hernandez - (18/RHP/Sea) - I really can't say much here that hasn't been said a thousand times before. His pitches are all excellent, his performance has been excellent, his makeup is excellent, and there even isn't a question about his real age. It even looks like Seattle is coddling his arm to the point that he won't pull a Rafael Soriano. The only black mark against Felix is that he spent much of the season pitching for Inland Empire, a very serious pitchers' park in a hitters' league.2. Delmon Young - (19/RF/TB) - The thing that amazes me the most about Delmon is how quickly he learns. Every facet of his game improved dramatically over the course of his first season. His stats don't look as good as some other prospects', but that's in part due to his slow start and in part due to the lovely sea breeze in Charleston which has a tendency to knock balls down. Some say he often seems lackadaisical or aloof; if that was really the case, he wouldn't be picking things up as quickly as he is.3. Ian Stewart - (19/3B/Col) - I'm not sure how anyone can not love this kid. For the statheads, he put up an incredible line. For the scouts, he's a 3rd baseman with 5 above-average tools (most of which are way above average). Far me, he's also a quick learner with a good work ethic to boot. The only reason he's not ranked number 1 overall is because he played in Asheville, which quite the opposite of Charleston, tends to inflate power stats. In fact, it's one of the most batting favorable parks in the country, so don't be shocked to see a statistical dropoff once he advances a level. By the way, after Stewart, there's a pretty big dropoff down to number 4 that isn't reflected in these linear rankings. The top 3 are all bunched up pretty closely, then the next 3 are bunched up, then 7 through 15 are bunched up after that.4. Prince Fielder - (20/1B/Mil) - Fatty Fatty Fat Fat (as Gene Wilder might call him) got some game. Personally, I don't think the weight is a legitimate issue. He's a substandard defender, and no amount of weight gained or lost is going to change that. He is, however, a decent baserunner and has gobs of power. He also performed very well in a league that he was very young for.5. Joe Mauer - (21/C/Min) - I had to debate whether to even include Mauer on the list at all. In the end, rather than going with a system where I would include guys who might still be considered prospects but went over the rookie limits (i.e. David Wright, BJ Upton, etc), I'd go with one of minor leaguers only. After all of that, I just got lazy and decided to use the same standards that Baseball America uses. Oh pooh pooh. Anyway, Mauer did extremely well in his short time in the majors, then came down with knee problems, which is why he's down this far. Of course, if he didn't have those injuries, we wouldn't be calling him a prospect anyway. There's a chance he may move away from the plate, but even if he does, he should still be a player of well above-average productivity.6. Adam Miller - (20/RHP/Cle) - Here's the million dollar question - why is Adam Miller, a pitcher who looks so much like a righty version of Scott Kazmir (in his repertoire), so much higher than Kazmir, despite being at a lower level and basically echoing Kazmir's performance last year? The answer is his control. Yes, Miller needs to work on his change, and both his fastball and slider are excellent, but like real estate, power pitching is all about location location location. A walk and a half fewer per 9 innings will put you up here, 4 walks per 9 puts you right around 17. One thing about Miller - he could very well be one of those guys who gets killed for a while when he first hits the bigs; I'm not going to let that get in the way of liking[...]

The bottom 50


51. Kyle Davies - (21/RHP/Atl) - Right-handed version of Tiffany at a higher level. Some of his numbers may be a bit deceiving because Atlanta's low-level clubs are in strong pitching parks.52. Chuck Tiffany - (20/LHP/LA) - Good repertoire with lots of movement. I've rated him ahead of Broxton mostly because his secondary offerings are further along than Broxton's are, and partly because he pitched in a much tougher park (and league) on pitchers than Broxton did. He's ahead of Pinto because he's not nearly as wild as Pinto, although he could still stand to cut down his walks a hair.53. Ian Kinsler - (22/SS/Tex) - I've ranked him kind of high for a guy whose primary value is due to high batting average, but while he slowed down in the second half, he also improved his walk rate as his batting average dipped. He also has very good gap power for a middle infielder, although his future position is probably second or third rather than short.54. George Kottaras - (21/C/SD) - Yay, a catcher who whill probably be a catcher in the majors! I gave him a bit of a credit for this one, as I think my system tends to underrate catchers (who usually develop later) a bit. Still, I'm sticking with the story that there just aren't that many good catching prospects in the minors right now, and that most of the best ones around probably have no business catching. Has decent power for a catcher and OK plate skills, but the real standout is that he walks more than he whiffs.55. Ryan Church - (26/RF/Was) - Another guy who's up high because he has little left to prove and has probably already reached his ceiling as a slightly above average outfielder. For proof that Chuck Lamar actually isn't the dumbest GM in baseball, just look up to Washington where the GM signed a below average SS for $16 million, traded away his average shortstop who was making league minimum, received a good right fielder with major head problems and a $3.5 million salary and pushed this guy, who's almost as good and costs $3 million less (and is a hard worker rather than a headcase) to the bench. Church won't ever be as talented as Guillen, but he could be better than Guillen if he doesn't keep his head on straight.56. Jose Capellan - (24/RHP/Mil) - Capellan stands out because he gave up almost no home runs. Heck, he gave up almost no runs. His peripherals are OK too, striking out more than the average and probably walking a few more than he should. The real problem is that all he has is a fastball and an inconsistent change. That almost surely means he'll be converting to relief sometime in the near future, especially if Milwaukee wants their trade of Dan Kolb (which was brilliant in my opinion....of course, now that I said that, Kolb is going to turn into Dan Quisenberry) to pay immediate dividends.57. Javier Herrera - (19/CF/Oak) - Herrera has a lot of room for development but showed good game power and game speed at the lowest levels of the game. His selectivity at the plate could use some work, as could his routes, but there's a lot of potential to like, and unlike a lot of "five tool" players with potential, he's actually already translated a lot of these tools into gameday goodness.58. Brandon League - (22/RHP/Tor) - Brandon League compares very well to Kyle Farnsworth. The question is, which Kyle Farnsworth? Farnsworth with a 2.74 ERA and 11 Ks/9 in 2001, or Farnsworth with a 4.53 ERA in 2004? I'm betting closer to the latter. That, and League doesn't even strike out nearly as many guys as Farnsworth. Everyone's fallen in love with his 100 mph fastball, and he did well enough in AA, but I think I'm probably overrating him a bit by sticking him here - I felt bad for Toronto I guess. If he had better control or a bette[...]

A few tweaks


Going through things in my mind, I've decided that there are a few other things I can look at that I'm not looking at yet. Hopefully, I'm not getting too complex for my own good.- First, I'll have a credit or debit on performance based on Park Factors. Call it the Larry Walker rule - an all-star level hitter (8) in Coors can look like a perennial all-star (9), and a very good pitcher (7) can look only slightly avobe average (6); thus, based on BA's 2004 Park Factors, I'll give a credit or debit on performance of +1 or -1 if the park is more than 50 points off the norm (and possibly a +-2 in extreme cases, such as Albequerque, Inland Empire or Asheville). I know these park factors are off of last year and there's a lot better ways to analyze this, but I need to keep it simple enough that I can get this out before BA puts out their top-100. - Second, I needed to figure out the proper weighting. I'm not going to base rankings purely on my formula as I need to get a little of my own opinion in there and because I haven't tested my formula to see if it actually works properly, but there needed to be some weighting simply to create gaps between the players and to ensure that interactions are treated properly. Thus: A number will be calculated for age / level ratio, where a guy gets a zero if he's at a certain level at the average age, a positive number if he's young for the level and a negative number if he's old for the level. This one I'll have to do a bit more testing on to see what numbers are assigned to give the proper weighting, so I can't yet say what these numbers will be. UPDATE: I've assigned the following numbers for ages and levels. I wanted to do age to the nearest month, but that was just too time consuming, so it's done by year, as of April 1, 2005. Ages: 18/19 = +15; 20 = +12; 21 = +9; 22 = +6; 23/24 = +3; 25 and up = 0; Levels: R = -20; SS = -15; A- = -12; A+ = -9; AA = -6; AAA = -3; MLB = 0. Here, for the levels, I'm splitting it pro rata for guys who were in multiple levels (by AB / BF). I realize that I'll probably need to weight more heavily in favor of higher levels in the future, but keeping them even makes it easier to calculate when I have to calculate it by hand. During the season, I'll try working on some better formulas to come up with an approximation of the jumps, especially from A+ to AA.Ceiling and Potential of reaching ceiling will be multiplied by each other to come up with a number. This does a couple of things. First, it gives an edge to guys who are about the same level in both over guys who are skewed. For example, if a guy has all-star potential (8) and only one flag against him (8), he'll get a 64, whereas a guy with all-world potential (10) and lots of flags (6) will get a 60, despite both numbers adding up to 16. Production, on the other hand, should be linear. Instead, the production number will have the park factor credit or debit added to or subtracted from it, and then multiplied by a constant number. I'm wavering between whether this constant should be a 4 or a 5 (or somewhere in between), so I'll have to test this one out a bit as well to see where things come out. UPDATE: after fiddling a little bit, I've decided to use 4 as the multiplier. This favors projections a bit over performance, but is probably enough to pick out the guys who might be underranked because their tools aren't overwhelming. I plan on making whatever spreadsheet I create available after I've calculated everything, in case you want to scrutinize. Unlike certain baseball publications, I believe in some level of peer review. Besides, that makes it more fun to argue about afterwards... 2-22-05 addition - Just a bit more on guys I've e[...]

Coming up with a new system


There are a few ways in which one typically sees prospects graded. First and oldest is the 20-80 scouting scale, in which the players various tools are ranked from 20 (enough of a handicap to prevent the player from ever playing in the majors) to 80 (one of the greatest of all time in this tool). Also, in a lot of prospect handbooks and the like, you might see a grade, either on a 1-100 scale (i.e. Diamond Mind) or on a grade scale (i.e. John Sickels), where the best prospects are A's and anything below a C+ or a 75 probably won't make any impact in the majors. While the former is useful for opinions and depth of information and the latter is useful for its simplicity, I'm going to try ranking prospects in a different manner. The way I'm breaking down prospects is generally the way in which I think about it, so it might not be useful to everyone, but I think it provides more information about my opinion than a simple letter grade and it lets you evaluate where you would rank the players yourself if you have a different value set than I do. Since I don't have a network of scouts spanning the country and get most of my information off of other people's published accounts and off of statistics, I'm somewhat limited in the way in which I can grade people. Thus, I'm breaking things down 5 ways:Age. Several studies have cited age as the best correlation of anything to major league success. While this still doesn't have a huge correlation on its own, it is certainly useful in the evaluation; a 27 year-old who tears up AA probably won't be a great prospect simply because they'll have so few years where they can make a major league impact. Still, unlike some other rankers, I don't like to put too huge of a debit on age. Last year, for instance, if would have been completely reasonable to have Calvin Pickering ranked as a top-50 prospect despite his advanced age, yet nobody did so. However, when current production exceeds the potential production of other guys, the person with the current production should be higher even though they've already reached their ceiling.Level. I'll list what levels they played at last season. Of the other parts of the breakdown, the usefulness of at least three of them depend on what level the prospect is playing at.Current production. This is easily the most reliable thing I have to go by from my computer - numbers are numbers, and for the most part they're not subject to opinion. The numbers have biases, and I have my own biases, and occasionally they are based on opinion (i.e. sympathetic scoring, or when something that should be ruled a hit is ruled as an error, etc.), but for the most part they can be looked at and analyzed as you wish. I'll also try to provide a link to a page with the players' stats, if I'm not too lazy. I'll rank this from 0 - 10, 0 being out all of last season, 1 being poorest production, and 10 being studly production. Since this a ranking of prospects only, I'll set the median on all of my 1 - 10 rankings at 5, rather than at 7 or 8, or in other words a 2 means like that of a fringe major leaguer, 10 as a superstar, and so on and so forth. Anyone who doesn't fall into prospect range will just have a 1Ceiling. This one's probably the hardest for me to calculate myself, so to some extent I'll just have to trust what other people have said about a player. However, even that will run through my personal filter a bit, taking quotes from management and team scouts a little less seriously than those from independent scouts and other players (less to gain by falsely inflating or deflating a player's value), and sometimes ignoring things that sound like genera[...]

Slow but steady


I've decided to do a top-100 list, so my posting may be infrequent for a bit. I did have an interim post that I started to prepare, but the website ate it.

In the meantime, here's something completely asinine...

Like when the Rocc puts you in a headlock...

2005-02-15T12:53:14.100-05:00's sleeper time!While the Rays organization has quite a few well known prospects, there are plenty of guys who could be considered sleepers as well. My definition of a sleeped includes both guys who could have breakout seasons and guys who have already been performing at a high level but are underrated and might finally convince the skeptics that they're the real deal. Wes Bankston - 1B / RFOK, this is probably a dumb one to start with. He's already on just about every Rays top-10 list, so he can't be that much of a sleeper, right? The problem isn't that he's not known, but rather than he's rated well below a lot of guys throughout the minors with similar skill and tools sets who either have had lesser production or are older in relation to their league than Bankston is.Let me run a few stat lines, and you tell me who looks like they're the best prospect:OBP / ISOP / k to bb / age / levela) .390/.224/1.42/20/A-b) .358/.216/1.90/20/A- and A+c) .371/.171/1.57/21/A-d) .377/.180/1.73/21/A+I could probably come up with quite a few others, but here's a few. A is Bankston, B is Eric Duncan, C is Nick Markakis and D is Jeremy Hermedia; B through D are all likely top-50 prospects and the top prospect in their organization. A pretty good case could be made that Bankston is better than any of them. Yes, Duncan played in a pitcher's league, but Charleston was an extreme pitcher's park as well. The other two are right fielders, but consensus is that Bankston would be an above-average right fielder defensively and moved simply because he was blocked at that position. It seems to me that Bankston has had an unfair bias held against him because he repeated low-A, but that really isn't a problem because he was well below league average age in 2003 and continued to be below the league average age in 2004. He should be skipping high A and heading straight to AA in 2005, most likely putting him at the same level as these other guys. Also note that I'm not even including batting average here, but his batting average is higher than all of those guys except for Markakis as well.Brandon Mann - LHPThe first thing that jumps out to me about Mann is that his K/BB rate has improved each of the last three years, taking a significant jump last season while repeating in Hudson Valley. While this will be his fourth season in the organization, he is still relatively young and will turn 21 in late May. He's said to have good mechanics, a fastball that touches 90 and a sweeping 12-6 curveball. He's currently listed at 6-2, 160, but I wouldn't be surprised if he put on some weight this offseason, since that's about the age when a lot of guys start to fill out. Many have said he could add a few mph of velocity once he adds to his frame, and if that's the case, he should be very effective in conjunction with his new found control.Ryan Royster - RFThis guy's been my pet prospect since he was the only guy who got drafted in an early round by the Rays who I had never heard of in my life. At the time, I figured the Rays had to have overdrafted him, especially since he wasn't even listed as one of the likely draftees to come out of his state. Then I did some reading up on him, and his background is interesting enough that I decided to track him a bit. This is also a clear case of me occasionally being tools biased since I just see some immense potential, but not too many of the numbers back me up at this point, and while Michael Lewis would probably smack me for saying this, he seriously LOOKS like a prototypical right fielder. Some quick info on what I thought at the time of his drafting:Oregon State [...]

Bulls vs. Rays


Over the past couple weeks, I think I've seen at least three people say that they think the Durham Bulls could probably beat the Rays head to head at the beginning of this season. At this point, I disagree with this, but I'll test the hypothesis and see where we come out.The first problem to overcome is that the rosters aren't yet set. However, to give that argument the benefit of the doubt, I'll set out a few ground rules:1) People who are a lock for a spot with the Rays are on the Rays, and the most likely players to be on the Rays fill in the blank spots. Veterans get an edge over rookies, guys on the 40-man get an edge over guys not on the 40-man, guys without options get an edge over guys with options. Where there's some kind of tie, I'll say that the worst player of the group will make the team.2) Durham gets their choice of all of the best leftover scraps.3) I'll assume that nobody will ask for their release if they don't make the team. In addition, I'll assume that Matt Diaz clears waivers and makes it back to Durham, and that anyone else who is waived from the roster clears waivers.After this, potential rosters look like this:Rays:C: Toby Hall, Kevin CashIF: Eduardo Perez, Travis Lee, Robbie Alomar, Julio Lugo, Alex Gonzalez, Josh Phelps, Shane HalterOF: Aubrey Huff, Carl Crawford, Danny Bautista, Chris SingletonSP: Lurch Hendrickson, Rob Bell, Hideo Nomo, Casey Fossum, Jorge SosaRP: Trever Miller, Danys Baez, Angel Garcia, Lance Carter, Travis Harper, Jesus Colome, Krispy Kreme SeayBulls:C: Tim Laker, Pete LaforestIF: BJ Upton, Jorge Cantu, Steve Cox, Brandon Larson, Earl Snyder, Brent ButlerOF: Jonny Gomes, Matt Diaz, Joey Gathright, Damon Hollins, Marty CordovaSP: Scott Kazmir, Drippy Dawg Brazelton, Doug Waechter, Denny Neagle, Brian SweeneyRP: Chad Orvella, Seth McClung, Jon Switzer, Jarod Matthews, Mark Guthrie, Joe Biemel, Franklin NunezPlease keep in mind, since I'm trying to give the AAA guys the benefit of the doubt and disprove the hypothesis, I'll underestimate the major league guys where there's more than one situation I can use, and I'll overestimate the minor leaguers metrics. Unfortunately, some of the minor leaguers I'll just have to go on my gut with, since the easiest metric for me to use (RC) can't really be calculated well for guys on their way up (yes, I realize people do it, but they're usually not very right; instead, I'll try to find a guy already in the majors who is similar and use their score). All RCA stats taken from The Hardball Times (see sidebar). I know it's not super of these days, I'll set up some spreadsheets to actually keep track of this stuff and figure out WARP+ or something, but I actually have a job. If someone wants to pay off my loans to do this stuff.... (hint hint). Initial numbers will be adjusted, and I'll explain my adjustments in parenthesis.The CatchersToby Hall = 43Kevin Cash = 8 (had 11 last year in 197 PA; cut that down a little for a backup role)Tim Laker = 36 (had 9 last year in 128 PA, so this is extrapolated to 500 PA)Pete Laforest = 10 (Humberto Cota used as comp, plus more PAs, presuming that he plays like he did in 2003 rather than 2004)RC advantage = Rays. In addition, the Rays have an overall defensive advantage. Hall is better in almost every defensive aspect of his game than Laker, and while I'm not sold on Cash's defense, it's much better than Laforest's negative defensive value.Advantage = RaysTotal: 51 - 46, RaysFirst BaseTravis Lee = 68 (Using Grady Sizemore as a comp and extrapolated to 500 PA; I'm presuming that he'll be somewhat similar to [...]

Part 3 of the NRIs - the Bellyitchers


First off, is there some kind of rule against posting three parts of a three part series within 5 hours of each other? I'm new to this....don't really have the blogger's etiquette down yet.Pitching is one of the other spots where one or two of the NRIs could end up winning a job. It will be tough for any relievers to get a spot since that's easily the deepest spot on the squad, but if a starter can stand out, there are plenty of guys with options left who could really use some more time in the minors.Hideo NomoThe most likely candidate to make the squad - he of the 84 mph fastball and the forkball. He reminds me a little of the pitcher from Major League 3: "You going to throw your slow stuff?" "I have something that isn't slow stuff?" Anyhow, despite losing a ton of velocity over the last few seasons (he couldn't hit 90 on the gun as a Brewer, and he couldn't break a pane of glass with the Red Sox), he managed to stay successful until his abyssimal season last year. However, the Rays have held out hope and have a pretty good situation - if he makes the squad, he could earn up to a million and a half; if he doesn't, they don't owe him a dime. This will all depend on whether his injuries have healed. Yes, he had shoulder problems last year, but as dumb as this sounds, I think the split fingernail on the index finger of his throwing hand was the real reason behind his ineffectiveness. He relies almost entirely on his forkball to confuse batters, but the only way to throw a good forkball is to put a ton of pressure on the ball while holding almost the entire ball between your index and middle fingers. Try doing this and see how much more pressure this puts on your fingernails than most other grips. Without that quasi-knuckler, he has to rely on his curveball, which is inconsistent at best and probably entirely ineffective with shoulder problems. He had 200 Ks in Boston throwing nothing but junk, and he's never had great control (as a result of that forkball, which wobbles like a knuckler at its best), so if he's healthy, I don't see why he can't be in the top half of the Rays' fairly weak rotation. That, and he could be somewhat of a boom for publicity in Japan, but let's leave that one for the money folks.Denny NeagleUnlike Nomo, he lost his effectiveness quite a while ago, and there were signs of decay before he called Coors Launchpad home. On the bright side, he'll enjoy the toothless hags on Nebraska Avenue; on the downside, I don't see him making it out of spring training. If Hernandez can get him to magically find his stuff again, he'll be a great pickup. While that's not likely, it's at least a low-risk move to see if he can find that magic again.Joe BeimelBelow average relief pitcher who somehow has hung around in the majors for 4 seasons without having a WHIP below 1.5. Walks way too many guys and doesn't strike out enough to probably stick in the majors again unless he can show something somewhere else. I guess that can happen if you're born left-handedGeraldo GarciaStrictly average home grown guy. The Rays own his rights for another season or two without having to put him on the roster, and he's already in Durham, so he may be useful in the future. His ERA is a little better than his pitching.Mark GuthrieLongtime loogy vet coming out of retirement. Looks like a balloon of Krispy Kreme that's been deflated a bit, and while he is a very effective loogy, he made his career by missing bats. Back in 2003, he didn't do that, but still had an unusually low ERA for a guy with a 1.45 WHIP. Walks a fair number of g[...]

The rest of the position NRIs...


Paul HooverServicable backup Durham. Purely a glove to catch the pitchers in spring training.Tim LakerHere's my chance to vent - we trade Chad Gaudin, a guy who has competed well at an age well below his level for his entire career, for Kevin Cash, a 27 year old who showed a hair of power in the minors and is known for his defense (aka throwing arm...his defense actually isn't that good, but I need to save something to complain about for the regular season). A few days later, we sign Tim Laker to a minor league contract. Unless Kevin Cash is the catcher of the future (please God, say it ain't so!) I can't understand for the life of me why we would want Cash over Laker who is (a) just as cheap, (b) a better hitter, (c) a better defender, (d) handles a staff better and (e) is more experienced at the one position where experience actually matters quite a bit. Of course he's not a starter, but I'd much rather have Laker as my backup than Cash.Pierre-Luc Laforest for the treesThere seems to be two Pete Laforests:1) Pete in international competition2) Pete everywhere else.I keep hoping he'll be able to put everything together. He's been one of the better catchers in the world in international play over the last few years, but then he spends last season with some awfully paltry numbers. Still, in the best case scenario, he could end up like a Todd Hundley type player (not including that freak season when he hit almost 50 home runs). Still, he's just as old as Cash and relatively useless defensively (although it seems that he handles a staff well, based on Durham pitchers' numbers), so he really needs to pick things up with the bat if he hopes to ever play a full season in the majors.Dan MassiatteCrash Davis without the mouth, wisdom, humor, or Kevin Costner's looks. Servicable backup Montgomery.Luis OrdazSpent all of last year as the utilityman in Durham; I see no reason why we shouldn't be expecting the same this year. .525 career major league OPS, and only had a satanic .666 OPS is durham last season, so I doubt he would do much better than his career numbers with an extended stay in the majors.Shane HalterTalked about him last time, have the brochure. There's a reason we didn't resign Damian Rolls, so I'm really not sure why he's here...Earl SnyderHere's a guy who's fairly intriguing - one of those waiver wire pickups who I feel like that, if he's given a shot, could be this year's Cal Pickering. Yes, he's already 28 years old and he has a career .565 MLB OPS (in 59 at-bats). However, the age may be a good thing - he's about to hit his peak as a player, and it's not as if the Rays are probably looking to keep him around for more than a season anyway. His batting average isn't that high, and he doesn't walk a whole lot, but he did have 79 extra base hits in Pawtucket last year, while calling an extreme pitcher's park home. In a neutral field, in the majors, playing a full season, he could probably be a .260/.320/.500 hitter right now, which would automatically make him one of the best couple hitters on the team. Makes me really glad that we're paying all of that money to have a weak-hitting shortstop playing third. As a bonus, can also swing to first; as a negative, he's another right-handed hitter.Brandon LarsonA more experienced version of Snyder without as much pop and better defensively. Has a shot at making the team, but the more I look at the comps between him and Snyder, the more I'm pulling for Snyder. Not a great sign - his numbers declined pretty cons[...]

Not related to Zach Braff in any way whatsoever...


BRING OUT THE SCRUBS!!!!In every year of their existence, the Rays have been, well, not so great. To say the least. There are a few other consistencies lately - a cheap owner, a manager who prefers veteran "talent" to guys who have raked in the minors, and a lot of guys who look like they should be in AAAA, if such a league existed. All of this adds up to usually getting some pretty decent non-roster invitees. I guess the thinking must be, "Of COURSE I can win a spot on the Rays, even though most other teams won't touch me with a 10-foot pole".[Side note: Scott "Pullmyfinger" Radinsky used to be the lead singer of the band Ten Foot Pole - does that give him the all-time record for saves for a guy signed to Fat Wreck Chords?]In any case, here's a bit of a round up of the Devil Rays non-roster invitees, because you know what they say, if you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere....The Outfield:Here's one spot where there's some likelihood that a NRI will make the final cut due to the trade of Jose Cruise Jr. Obviously, Jonny Gomes and Joey Gathright aren't good enough to play in the majors (can you smell my sarcasm?), and certainly Matt Diaz should be dropped from the 40-man roster because he's much worse than the AA pitcher with a mid-relief ceiling coming off of major surgery. In any case, the envelope please...Dee BrownOnce a former top Royals prospect, he hasn't exactly panned out in the bigs. Actually, he's been a pure flop. The one advantage he has is that he could potentially back up in centerfield to cover for Crawford, and while the team doesn't need a backup centerfielder yet, they'll need one at some point before June and who knows if they'll be willing to call up Gathright. His sterling .615 OPS in the majors is about as bad as it gets, unless you're...Tom GoodwinOnce again, he can play center. And he's a wily veteran. Who had a .531 OPS. Who was never even close to league average as a hitter, even in his prime. When they were making this signing, they must have thought that his slugging percentage was his batting average or something. Because he's old and he's always sucked, he's probably a lock to make the team.Marty CordovaOK, it might be a stretch calling him an outfielder, but he's listed as one. He did have one good season back in 2001, but he's only played 35 innings in the outfield since 2003, and he didn't play at all last year. If he's healthy, he might be totally horrible. If not, at least he'll provide 'veteran presence' during spring training. Considering that we've already got 2 guys on the team who are essentially DHs who mash lefties and can't hit righties, he's definately on the squad. He'll probably jack 50 homers off that gimpy knee of his.Shane HalterHe's a pure utility man and much more of an infielder, but he has played some outfield and that's the more glaring need, especially since he can back up in center. Here's another guy in his mid-30's with a sub-.600 OPS, but he's versatile. He'll certainly be able to plug in the gaping hole of inefficiency that Geoff Bum and Bobby Fick left behind, so I've already penciled him into my lineup. Probably a leadoff guy.Damon HollinsJourneyman minor leaguer, so he doesn't fit into the veteran mold. Can't back up in center. Can hit a little better than most of the guys listed ahead of him. Has a very low walks to strikeouts ratio, but has shown some power. While he's probably legitimately better than any of the guys I've listed up to this point, he smells like the guy to keep rig[...]

The Inevitable....


Howdy y'all, and welcome to my Devil Rays and baseball in general blog. Lord knows I talk enough on all of the various Devil Rays message boards, so I guess starting one of these things would happen eventually. I'll try this out for a while, and hopefully I have some thoughtfulness to add here that I wouldn't just be posting on those various boards...