2014 Predictions: Tampa Bay Rays

What is the impact of Evan Longoria on the 2014 Rays?
This is a tricky question to answer, as he is the most important player on the team and he makes this team run smoothly. That being said, he has had some injury and consistency issues in the past and it is very possible that those same issues will plague him during the 2014 season. The positive things about Longoria abound: he fields a tough position very well, he hits for power, he balances the lineup, and he walks a good amount for a power hitter. Yet there are still some questions with the young star. First off is the strikeout rate, which has consistently been in the 20% range, except for the 2011 season. This is interesting to look at because the 2011 season, Longoria had outliers in the positive rate for walk rate and for strikeout rate, yet his patient approach lead to a career low in batting average, most attributed to his ridiculously low BABIP.

This season should be a year for Longoria to really break out and that should bode very well for the Rays. Longoria needs to focus on getting the ball in play, though, because that 2011 season was very fluky and should be looked at as an outlier. As Longoria focuses on stretching out the count and shortening his swing when the count is in the pitcher’s favor, his numbers will get even better. For the 2014 season, an average in the mid-280s with 35-40 home runs and elite defense will make Longoria an MVP candidate.

Is Wil Myers going to turn into a megastar for the Rays?
The 2013 AL Rookie of the Year was everything that the Rays could have expected from a first year player, other than the sometimes suspect defense (see ALDS vs. Red Sox). Considering that, Myers has big expectations for the 2014 season and beyond. When you look at Myers, there is a lot of reason to see a very good player and a few reasons to see just a solid starter. First off, there is the fact that he has jumped around position wise in his time in professional baseball. His days as a catcher and third baseman are behind him, but there was still reason to question his ability to play defense leading to him jumping around. He does have a strong arm, but some of the angles he takes to the ball can be a bit off and that leads to some issues.

Secondly, he strikes out too much. This is an issue for most young hitters so it would be unfair to characterize this as an issue that just plagues Myers, but it is something to look at as he progresses throughout his career. There is a bit of a hitch in his swing, so the strike out issues may not be something that go away. Although I do not see Wil Myers becoming megastar for the Rays, I do see him as a solid contributor, someone that will have upper 20 home run power, play a sufficient right field, and make a couple of All-Star games along the way.

How are the Rays going to manage Matt Moore and Chris Archer?
This question needs to taken in two different ways. First off: are either Chris Archer or Matt Moore that big in the grand scheme of the Rays’ plan and if so which one and how much? In watching Chris Archer, I see stardom in his pitches, his focus, and his delivery. There are certain players that have that IT and Archer has it; his only questions are if he will be able to focus his aggression and emotion on the mound and if he can keep his walk rate near his 2013 MLB level. He needs to focus more on his offspeed pitches, particularly his cutter, and he will be fine.

The analysis of Matt Moore opens up the second question: what can they get from these players? For Archer, they will be getting a decade of advanced pitching. There is no such thing as a sure thing, but looking at Archer, one can see that the moment does not scare him. As for Moore, he will be the next target of a big time trade, either with David Price being traded or Price not being traded. I do not have a huge issue with Moore other than the walk issues, but I feel that there are other teams that may value Moore more (see the pun there!) than he actually should be valued. There are a lot of parallels between Moore and Myers, sadly in a bad way, and I feel like the Rays moreso than any other team in baseball will optimize the value of Moore.

What will be the impact of the next wave of young talent for the Rays?
The Rays are a very solid team that has turned into a superb team by good drafting and developing of players. At this point, though, the well is a bit dry. When you look at the ten prospects below, there are a couple good players that the Rays have in the MiLB, maybe a starter or two, but not that true impact player like the Rays have been rolling off. Going from Longoria to Price to Moore to Myers to Romero/Lee is quite the drop off and the Rays will remedy that accordingly. There will be more than one team that will overspend on David Price and the Rays will make sure to get top flight young talent for him. A team like the Rockies or Phillies, that may be fringe playoff teams, might overspend greatly on Price and fix the Rays minor league issues.

That being said, Hak Ju-Lee should be the shortstop of the future for the Rays and should be a 30 steal player with average hitting and fielding and Taylor Guerreri and Nick Ciuffo are very interesting because they are so young and talented. When you have those three players as middle of the road prospects for the Rays after the big Price trade yields them a big name (see: Eddie Butler from the Rockies or Maikel Franco from the Phillies or a huge package from the Rangers), the Rays will yet again have a top five farm system.

Why are the Rays going to win 89 games?
The Joe Maddon Rays always find a way to be in the conversation to win the division or make the playoffs. He has changed the entire culture of the organization and made it one of the best run teams in the league. Those are the exact same two sentences from the 2013 preview and I do not plan on changing those sentences until Maddon retires. It is nearly unprecedented in the history of baseball that a manager and executive have changed the fortunes of a franchise in the ways that Friedman and Maddon have. The only thing that is missing for the Rays is a World Series title and I have a feeling that there will be a championship in the Rays future soon, as they only get better. All the team does is reload and utilize the players that they have to their maximum utility. Talent wise, this may be the best Rays team ever, so it is not crazy to think that this team could be closer to 95 than 90 wins.

5 You Know:
1. David Price
2. Evan Longoria
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Matt Moore
5. Wil Myers

5 You Will Know:
1. Enny Romero
2. Hak Ju-Lee
3. Alex Colome
4. Jake Odorizzi
5. Kevin Kiermaier

5 You Should Remember:
1. Taylor Guerrieri
2. Andrew Toles
3. Ryan Brett
4. Nick Ciuffo
5. Richie Shaffer

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10 years ago

Informative. I like the article on Longoria the most. I think the writer should limit his articles to one topic and expand on it.