In addition to the Durham Bulls, there are a few players I will be following closely this year in minor league baseball:
Starters: Alex Cobb, Richard De Los Santos, Edgar Gonzalez, Dirk Hayhurst, Alex Torres
Relievers: Chris Bootcheck, Dane De La Rosa, Rob Delaney, Brandon Gomes, R.J. Swindle, Cory Wade
Catchers: Robinson Chirinos, Jose Lobaton
Infielders: Russ Canzler, Casey Kotchman, J.J. Furmaniak, Omar Luna, Ray Olmedo
Outfielders: Leslie Anderson, Chris Carter, Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings, Justin Ruggiano
With the Manny retirement/suspension, Casey Kotchman is a major leaguer again.
One of the interesting things about spring training is the old statement that spring numbers do not matter. We are told to not use spring statistics as a measure of success in the regular season. I can partially buy into that statement. But, why is it that position battles are won or lost based on how each of the players perform in spring game action against lesser talent.
Sometimes the players who are competing are not locked in a competition that is an entirely equal playing field . For example, one player may be facing David Price in game action and does not get his hits off of him. Where as, another batter may face the guy who is a minor league pitcher and takes him deep. How can you compare performance between the two.
Additionally, with spring there is a small sample size. Thus, the correction factor that a batter makes over the course of the season does not come into play much in the spring. So, the guy who is hot right from the start may not be the best suited player for the position over the long season. In other words, the team who has a player who makes adjustemnts to get out of a cold streak might be better overall than the player who temporarily is experiencing success.
The astute General Manager will base his player evaluation only partially on spring data. They must also factor in if a player is dealing with an injury, or if the player is experimenting with something new that he would rarely try in regular season.
One study to take a look at is the the work of baseball statistician John Dewan who found that batters who post significantly better slugging percentages in spring training than their career slugging percentages perform better offensively in the upcoming regular season.
Nevertheless, do we make conclusions based on what we have seen from Andy Sonnanstine so far? What about spring numbers Sean Rodriguez put up last year?
After taking in some spring training action in the Tampa Bay area, I am finally back home. As far as the game we took in last Sunday in Bradenton, the Rays brought mainly back up players to face the Pirates. Casey Kotchman reminds of a Dave Magadan who in his day was a great contact hitter. Except with Kotchman, you also get great defensive play. I definitely see him securing a roster spot in 2011.
Rays Rev Radio Loboton Mania.
Closer watch on Tampa Bay
Rays hr index
Rays ownership could buy minority interest in Mets
Cork Gaines of Rays Index visited Mike Silva for his blog talk radio show NY Baseball Digest. This q&a segment titled Outside the Apple Tampa Bay Rays brought up a lot of hot topics about the ball club. Below is a representation of what was discussed. It is paraphrased and not word for word:
On the Rays player movement this off season:
Cork : we knew this would happen for a long time . There is still alot of talent here in Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price and others.
On Manny Ramirez and what if it does not work out:
Cork: hard to envision it could be any worse than the 9 million the Rays ate on Pat Burrell. It’s a no lose situation. Manny usually starts off good and its a 1 year deal, well worth 2 million.
On the Rays having to count on that Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to be good this year:
Cork: The Rays need them to score runs. Without these additions there was not a lot of threats in the lineup. Now the Rays can put Manny 4th or 5th, with Damon at the top of the lineup. It slots slots everyone better. Matt Joyce can be 7th hitter and it puts pressure off of him. It’s like getting a closer in the bullpen where it puts people in better places
On losing Pena:
Cork: Pena will be missed for his tremendous glove, and without the addition of Manny, the Rays would of really missed his presence in the lineup. Pena was what kept pitchers honest. Pena made the infield defense a whole lot better. The Rays will miss Pena in the clubhouse. The fans gravitated towards Pena. Now the Rays are going with Dan Johnson playing 1st base. Dan Johnson hits lefties well. May be playing everyday he could be productive. However Maddon likes platoons so he won’t be out there every day.
On Joe Maddon as the manager:
Cork : The expectations have been raised with Maddon as the manager, an old scool type of baseball man, he is a polarizing figure. The team has been productive with Maddon. Its either Friedman picking the right players or Maddon doing a good job with them. At times he over thinks things but overall he is a good manager.
On the Garza trade:
Cork: Rays said they wouldn’t do it unless they got blown away from an offer. Chris Archer, probably won’t see a whole lot of him this year, maybe next year. Chirnos was the key player in deal. As Jaso is not best defense catcher, but gets on base well and is a serviceable catcher. Chirnos was moved from the infield, Rays could move Shoppach and shave payroll.
On Hellickson and the pitching rotation:
Cork: Helickson might be skipped from time to time. Wade Davis and Niemmann are workhorse pitchers, Price is gonna be great, heavy load last year, maybe a tired arm. The key is James Shields, Rays need him to step up, get him back.
On the bullpen and is Farnsworth like putting kersosene on fire?
Cork: Farnsworth has been better the past few yrs. The bullpen is a hodge podge. J.P. Howell will start on the DL and could be back mid May or early June. Rays have 25 guys in camp which are relief pitchers. Rays need 1 or 2 to relief pitchers to step it up, but it won’t be lights out like last year. The bullpen will be ok, not great.
On Soriano in New York:
Cork: It will be intersting, for the most part ok, wonder if things turn sour, how will he react? He is the temperamental type, on edge and sometimes channels anger in wrong way. However, not looking forward to facing him.
On the Ken Rosenthal contraction/moving the team piece?
Cork: contracting with less people as part of the game and less sales opportunities is a silly idea. The Tampa market is untapped for baseball, sports fans haven’t latched on, and building centrally located. It is equivalent of Citi Field being located in the Hamptons. Since the Trop is surrounded by water to get to the games it usually ends up taking most people 1.5 hours to get to the game, its a problem. The Rays will never draw 3million on consistent basis. But, they don’t need to. They can be an in the middle attendance team. It’s a good sports area. Rays don’t have history. Most of the long time clubs all have a history that generatons of fans to build on. The Rays don’t have that. They are now experiencing a good run, 10 year from now it will be something look back on.
On Rays as a playoff team:
Cork: The early thoughts is that they can compete, still looking for bullpen help, Yankees will go out and get starting pitcher help. Rays are a 85-88 win team, break well they could win 92 games. If they get off to a bad start selling of pieces, then a 75 win team.
From MLB comes the dream job for a baseball fanatic:
“Your new full-time gig will be to literally follow baseball non-stop as you will be charged with watching every every single game of the 2011 season, blogging about your thoughts and opinions, and discussing the hottest topics in baseball.”
Who wants in? The only catch is you have to live in the New York area.
Mark Topkin tells us that David Price will start the spring training opener on Saturday. James Shields will pitch on Sunday:
This quote by Andrew Friedman is his spin of saying “what about us in 2011″.
“We did lose a lot, but my goodness, we’ve got a lot here, too.” “As much physical talent in this camp,” executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, “as we’ve ever had.”
Some might say its a dig on the previous group here in Rays land who are now playing for other teams. However, as I stated previously, the Rays home grown pitching is quite impressive and “the straw that stirs the drink” .
Some Tape Measure Blasts from around the web:
In Major League baseball, there is no salary cap, nor is there a minimum salary a team must spend on their payroll. The contract the owners give out is all guaranteed money. Now why do you think the big market teams are quite upset about having to pay the small market teams ?
Well, the big market teams spend to compete because they are expected to do so with the financial resources they have at their fingertips. However what is happening is the small market teams are going out to dinner on the big market teams tab, and buying the cheapest item on the menu, and writing off the most expensive item on the menu to get reimbursed with. The Yankees owner Hank Sterinbrenner is clearly livid over this practice:
Steinbrenner revealed the team contributed about $130 million between revenue sharing and luxury tax, the most of any team in the league and the most, according to Steinbrenner that the team has ever had to contribute. A few days ago, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino indicated the team contributed $86 million. This is obviously a sore subject for the Yankees and Red Sox.
Now, one of the biggest complaints of the Rays bumbling previous owner Vince Namoli is that he walked around with a fat wallet. It seems the Sternberg ownership walks around with the same type of wallets. But, The intent of the collective bargaining process was allowing for home grown players contracts from getting prohibitive before reaching free agency. The players were to take reasonable pay bumps in accordance of improved performance on the diamond. Instead, what we witnessed this off season from Rays was taking a moderate valued contract in Matt Garza and selling it for future dollars.
I can see why teams do not want to pay to help the other teams in general. We have seen this in the marketplace even where we want to pay for our own healthcare and not be subject to paying for your neighbors. It’s obvious the owners had already gone to the commissioner and slapped the Marlins on the wrist for not spending their revenue sharing dollars on payroll. The result was Dan Uggla spent one year extra in Florida before they deemed him too expensive.
It was a speed bump on the radar and eventually the big market teams will come in greater numbers and show they are serious. Selig can only stall them so long.
http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com/archives/2011/02/autograph_wristbands_to_cost_4.html : “Think about it, $ 40 could get you Evan Longoria, David Price, Rays Manager Joe Maddon, plus possibly get autographs from newly signed Rays players Manny Ramirez, Dirk Hayhurst and Johnny Damon. More than worth the one time expenditure.”
http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=172692 :”FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal will take any and all baseball questions from fans from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Ken is the senior baseball writer from FOXSports.com. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX.”