Archive for the ‘Minors’ Category

More Minors

Posted: April 9, 2011 in Minors

In addition to the Durham Bulls, there are a few players I will be following closely this year in minor league baseball:

AAA Colorado Spring Sky Sox : C Jordan Pacheco

AA Tulsa Drillers : C Wilan Rosario

AAA Syracuse Chiefs : 1B Chris Marrero

AAA Buffalo Bisons : OF Lucas Duda

AAA Louisville Bats : SS Zack Cozart

AAA Syracuse Chiefs : RP Cole Kimball

AA  Mobile Bay Bears : OF A.J. Pollock

AA Corpus Christi Hooks : OF J.D. Martinez

A St. Lucie Mets : SS Wilmer Flores

AAA Iowa Cubs: SP Jay Jackson


Bulls 2011 season begins

Posted: April 9, 2011 in Minors

The Durham Bulls look to have a good team in 2011 with the cast of usual suspects:

: 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

The Bulls managed to get by one heck of a starter in Julio Teheran for their first win, after losing the opener .

With the Manny retirement/suspension, Casey Kotchman is a major leaguer again.



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.

Rays future focus on 1st base

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Defense, Free Agent, Minors, Rays

Since Carlos Pena won’t be handling the throws that come aross the infield to first base in 2011, the Rays are going to have to find somehow to replace his production. By combining Manny Ramirez’s power, along with Casey Kotchman’s slick fielding you might have what Carlos Pena provided. This two headed monster certainly won’t have the presence as a leader in the clubhouse that we witnessed the past few years in Pena.

Let’s say this experiment fails, along with Dan Johnson showing us that he really is more of a backup.  Where do the Rays turn?

Is Leslie Anderson given the everyday job or do the Rays dig deeper in their organization for the next player in line?

For Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, he has a track record for making the great trades.  His trade for Miguel Cabrera is regarded as probably his best deal he has made for the Tigers.  In contrast, Dombrowski was initially questioned about trading away promising outfielder Matt Joyce to the Rays for Edwin Jackson:

A December trade, this was rejected by many fans and analysts at the time. Jackson had a lot of potential, but failed to harness it before having his best season in 2008: a 4.42 ERA year. Yet in Detroit, he put together an incredible half-season and was named a 2009 All Star. Joyce was a fan favorite and showed a lot of potential in Detroit, but did little with the Rays’ organization during his first season there.

It’s been a few years later since the Matt Joyce trade now, and Edwin Jackson has been traded away from the Tigers, and a couple of other teams too. Despite the Rays bringing on Super Manny , the left handed hitting Matt Joyce is in line to get a fine share of at bats this year. Matt Joyce  won’t be a starter on opening day, but has shown to be a huge power hitting threat against right handed pitching. His .524 SLG /.910 OPS last year against right handed pitching is impressive. Against left handed pitching, he struggled mightily but barely got enough of a sample size to really make an impact.

Is this the year Matt Joyce becomes a household name for even the casual Rays fans?  As I noted in an earlier post, I don’t see B.J. Upton with Rays for much longer. In Joyce, I am intrigued with his power potential and he is relatively cheap at this point in his career.  Give him a full year of at bats,and even a chance at hitting left handed pitching to see what he is capable of. The Rays bought out Evan Longoria even before he made his major league debut. With all the Rays talent that is now playing for other teams in 2011, it’s time to take a chance on someone who could be an important piece for the franchise , and wants to be here.

I make my annual trip to Tampa at the end of this month. I will get to catch the Rays in some game action when they visit Bradenton to play the Pirates for the second spring game of the year.

Here are some bullet points as we head into the 2011 season:

Q1: What will Joe Maddon try to accomplish this spring training ?

In Joe Maddon‘s first year without Carl Crawford in the everyday lineup, the main thing he will try to do is integrate veterans Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon with the existing group of young players. The clubhouse dynamic over the course of the season will be a work in progress, and Maddon will sure hopes these  veteran players can be counted on for leadership.

Q2: What is the most compelling spring training competition?

The biggest competition going into camp is for the job of closer. It would appear  Kyle Farnsworth has the edge for the position. However, Jake McGee and Adam Russell will battle to state their claim on the role since their is no clearcut favorite.

Q3: What is the most likely Opening Day lineup?

left field; Johnny Damon, right field; Ben Zobrist, third base: Evan Longoria designated hitter; Manny Ramirez, first base; Dan Johnson, center fielder; B.J. Upton, second base; Sean Rodriguez, catcher; John Jaso, shortstop; Reid Brignac.

The Rays Spring Training roster as we know today:


C Jsao Shoppach R. Chirnos Lobaton Ashley Albernaz Vogt
1B D. Johnson Kotchman L. Anderson R. Cranzler
2B S. Rodriguez E. Johnson Mayora

SS Brignac F. Lopez Olmedo

3B Longoria

LF J. Damon Jennings

CF B.J. Upton Fuld Guyer

RF Zobrist C. Carter Ruggiano

DH M. Ramirez Joyce

SP D. Price  

A. Leary R. Orta
SP J. Shields
C. Figueora J. Bayliss
SP Niemann
Richar De los Santos B. Baker
SP W. Davis

SP Hellickson
Dane De La Rosa

RP Farnsworth Eckstrom Torres

RP Russell B. Gomes Bush

RP Peralta Cabral

RP Delaney Archer R.J. Swindle

RP Sonnanstine Hayhurst

RP J. McGee Cruz

DL J.P. Howell Wade

Its good to be relevant

Posted: February 4, 2011 in AL East, Minors, Rays, Red Sox

It’s great when the  front-runner  in the A.L East has you in their rear view mirror:

The Rays were the little team that could for the past three years, stunning the country with a World Series appearance in 2008 and becoming a perennial playoff contender. Reality was supposed to return to the Gulf Coast this season, with the Rays back to being a small-market team that couldn’t keep up with the big boys.
Instead, the Rays have made some interesting moves in recent weeks. First, they added payroll and a pair of veterans with championship pedigrees with the addition of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.
The two former members of Boston’s beloved “Idiots” immediately make the Rays more fun to watch, even if they are a long way from their baseball prime.

I don’t know about you, but a healthy in shape Manny was the last thing  thought I’d see at the press conference. We have heard time and time before by the many Boston fans in our life that Manny can blow up a clubhouse with his antics. But, Ramirez is that good kind of crazy that I am looking forward to seeing in 2011. Especially, its a no lose situation.

Stacy Long of the Montgomery Advertiser has his version of the top prospect list:

In doing it, I decided that I knew way too little about last year’s high draft picks to make even a slightly educated guess. Catcher Justin O’Conner played in 48 games for the GCL Rays, but outfielder Josh Sale and outfielder Drew Vettleson signed so late that they’ll make their debuts this year.

I tried to incorporate the prospects that Tampa Bay picked up from the Cubs and Padres in trades, too. And, my annual disclaimer: I readily admit this is likely slanted toward the higher-level guys because those are the main ones that I’ve seen.

At #20 is Leslie Anderson the defector from Cuba who played some at Durham last season. His reviews from the Arizona Fall league were mixed, but check out his HR in the rising stars game.