Featuring Colin Hecht & Trevor Utley
Featuring Colin Hecht & Trevor Utley
By Trevor Utley
Since yesterday's technological mishap, I've become incredibly paranoid about writing this piece again. In fact, this is being typed in a word document and also being transferred onto a NotePad. The computer NotePad not pen and paper, yet some of you know my affinity for writing every inane detail down. To avoid the near psychological break I underwent yesterday, I am just going to combine all five articles into little blurbs and be done with it. Opening Day's already come and gone so you already know who's down what and where with the four teams left. I've already been proven way off base with some of my other 26 previews. Without further adieu, or catastrophic mental meltdown, the top four of 30 Teams In Under 30 Days as well as our picks for the 2015 MLB awards, pennants, and World Series champions.
#4- Los Angeles Dodgers: My beloved boys in blue are the class of the NL West. They'll win the division going away and showed yesterday that they have a pretty damn resilient team even with that pesky Matt Kemp going all ghost of Christmas past on them. I swear to you I had Jimmy Rollins listed as an All-Star before that three run home run gave me a chub in the middle of my weeping. In the end, how far the Dodgers will advance will depend on whether or not old #22 can stop being #2 come postseason.
LAST YEAR'S RANKING: #3 (DOWN 1)
PREDICTED RECORD: 94-68
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Clayton Kershaw (starting pitcher), Zack Greinke (starting pitcher), Adrian Gonzalez (first baseman), Jimmy Rollins (shortstop), Yasiel Puig (outfielder)
#3- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: They may have lost on Opening Day, but it was to King Felix so don't read too much into it. The Angels flipped the switch in the middle of last year and I think it will have a carry-over effect into 2015. Mike Trout will probably finish Top 3 on the AL MVP ballot for the next ten years barring a contraction of Ebola or a fling with a Kardashian. Garrett Richards will be even better than last year when he recovers from surgery. It is World Series or bust this year. Scroll down to see if I busted them or not.
LAST YEAR'S RANKING: #9 (UP 6)
PREDICTED RECORD: 95-77
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Mike Trout (outfielder), Garrett Richards (starting pitcher), Albert Pujols (first baseman), Huston Street (relief pitcher)
#2- Baltimore Orioles: We all slept on the Orioles last year and all ended up looking like fools. If I am going to look like a fool, I'd rather it be because I overrated a team rather than underestimating them. The Orioles have already started their baseball bashing ways and none of yesterday's three homers even came from Chris Davis or Adam Jones. There is a good chance when you drafted your fantasy baseball team, you bypassed every Oriole outside of the aforementioned duo or Manny Machado. The Orioles will be living the real life fantasy though as they cruise to the division title once again.
LAST YEAR'S RANKING: #19 (UP 17)
PREDICTED RECORD: 95-77
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Adam Jones (outfielder), Travis Snider (outfielder), Zach Britton (relief pitcher)
#1- Washington Nationals: By process of elimination you knew this was going to be Washington. Everybody picked Washington. Why should my dumb ass be any different? They have an All-Star team for a starting rotation. They have a dynamic lineup. They also trotted out Dan Uggla as their Opening Day second baseman. The Giants had Dan Uggla on their team last season. The Nationals are winning the World Series.
LAST YEAR'S RANKING: #6 (UP 5)
PREDICTED RECORD: 98-64
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Max Scherzer & Stephen Strasburg & Jordan ZImmermann & Doug Fister (starting pitchers), Bryce Harper (outfielder), Ian Desmond (shortstop)
2015 BLEEDING YOUR COLORS AWARD WINNERS AND PENNANT SELECTIONS
Thanks to all that came along for another journey through the 30 Major League teams in under 30 days time. Special thanks to Josh Souza, Colin Hecht (even though he picked an ineligible ROY in Mookie Betts), Matt Sieczkiewicz, Andrew daSilva, and Andrew Sanford (who picked Joe Kelly for all he could) for making picks. Give those fine gentlemen a follow on Twitter. Check back throughout the 2015 Major League Baseball season for more from me, and hopefully others, here on Bleeding Your Colors. PLAY BALL!
Image Credits: All team logos (sportslogos.net); Trout, Kelly, Hernandez, Kershaw, Cueto, Puig, Stanton, McCutchen, Kluber, Soler, Bryant, Lindor, Betts, Sanchez, Harper, Scherzer (espn.com); Souza Jr. (statliners.com); Rodon (southsideshowdown.com); Francona (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com); Gibbons (jaysjournal.com); McClendon (seattlepi.com); Maddon (thebiglead.com); Williams (pixshark.com)
By Trevor Utley
The fans of the Tampa Bay Rays haven't had a season like last year in quite some time. Since they excised the Devil from their moniker after the 2007 season, the Rays hadn't been an under .500 club. They won 90+ games five times and had become perennial contenders in the difficult American League East. However, their past three trips to the playoffs have ended in the Division series and it seemed the organization was ready to hit the reset button and try to rebuild again the team that had arisen from the ashes seven years earlier. They shipped out David Price at the trading deadline to Detroit as well 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers to San Diego and team leader Ben Zobrist to Oakland this winter, all for peanuts. Long time manager Joe Maddon left for Chicago and team architect Andrew Friedman bolted for the money laden Dodgers. Time will tell if new GM Matt Silverman's early wheeling and dealing will produce results commensurate to his predecessor's. As for 2015 though, the Rays are going to struggle to both score as well as put butts in the seats.
I can't stress this enough: The Rays are really going to struggle to score runs in 2015. If you look at their lineup from 1 to 9, you are hard pressed to find anyone not named Evan Longoria that may break double digits in home runs. The "crown jewel" from the Wil Myers trade is new catcher Rene Rivera. Yes, they traded the 24 year oldMyers and the main cog that came back from San Diego was out of the league for FIVE YEARS. You shouldn't be netting anybody of value for somebody with a stint on the Camden Riversharks on their resume. Former Ray John Jaso, the main piece in the Zobrist deal, may spell Rivera some but will primarily DH. James Loney will once again man first base. The lefty has always been a consistent hitter, hovering around .300 without striking out an egregious number of times. Nevertheless, he is on the wrong side of thirty and I feel his power numbers will just continue to dwindle. With the departure of Zobrist, second base is a toss-up between two players that both should probably be battling over the last bench spot than a starting position. Logan Forsythe and Nick Franklin have shown over the past several years that they are not Major League caliber players. Franklin is just 24 but he fell out of favor in Seattle so precipitously that he couldn't even get pinch running duties. Forsythe is 28 but had the same thing happen to him in San Diego two years ago. Both may end up making way eventually for a man whose been a bit of a forgotten figure himself, 2008 #1 pick Tim Beckham. Shortstop isn't looking much brighter. Asdrubal Cabrera comes in on a one year deal to add another veteran presence. He doesn't add much else as both his defense and offense have eroded since his All-Star days in Cleveland. It is hard to believe he is only 29 because seeing Cabrera on the diamond gives you the impression that he is much older than that. Third base will probably be Evan Longoria's until he retires. He has been the brick in the foundation of the Rays organization that has stood firm as the rest of Tampa's stars have blown away in Tampa's penny pinching hurricane. Longoria is locked up through 2022 at least and has been the lineup's only consistent source of power and run production during his tenure. I know the last time Tampa blew it up they ended up building a team that made a remarkable run to the World Series. It is just disappointing that they are going to waste a half decade of a potentially great player to do that again. Longoria will get his dingers but his peripheral numbers will suffer once again with the pieces surrounding him.
The outfield is just as unpalatable. Desmond Jennings has five tool talent but is all too often susceptible to brain vacations which make fans and managers go gray rapidly. His speed is being sapped by injuries and his power and average are dwindling because of poor plate discipline. Jennings may not get to see another arbitration hearing in Tampa if he keeps this up. In right field, there is yet another new face in Steven Souza Jr. The main get from Washington in the Myers trade, Souza did very little in his month with the Nationals in 2014. The Rays liked what he did enough the past two years in the Minors though to give him a shot out of Spring Training. If he can stop swinging at everything, he may actually be a bottom of the order asset. From what I've read, scouts are loving themselves some of Rays' centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. A throwback hustle guy who is comfortable in all three outfield spots is a good hand to have. I just personally believe that having the everyday gig under the Trop catwalks may be too much for him to handle. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of reinforcements coming from within to help the lineup either. All of Tampa's top prospects are at least a year, probably more, away from entering the fold.
If you look at the potential of this pitching staff, the lack of offense shouldn't worry you as much. Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and Drew Smyly all have impressive pitching arsenals and have shown that they can handle the toughest opposition the American League can offer. Nevertheless, Cobb has dealt with freak injuries more than the other two but time off is time off regardless of how you end up on the disabled list. Fully entrenched as the team's ace, Cobb must prove he can pitch every fifth day for an entire season. Archer nearly pitched 200 innings last year but was hit own worst enemy most nights. His record could have been much better than 10-9 if he didn't take himself out of games with walks in droves. His 72 free passes last year were the sixth worst mark in the American League. Smyly was Tampa's immediate return in the David Price deal and was more impressive than the departed ace in his time in Tampa. Some say that a full season with a guaranteed rotation spot will only help to improve a pitcher like Smyly, who has faced uncertainty and a constant shuffle between starting and relieving his entire career. I am intrigued to see if he can handle the pressure of being a top of the rotation guy, even more so if he has to be bumped up if Archer or Cobb go down. Jake Odorizzi in the four slot is something American League teams need to worry about. He took some lumps in 2014 but he struck out more than a man an inning and started towards the end of the season to mix his pitches better and better. Having Odorizzi and former All-Star Matt Moore, who should return from Tommy John surgery as early as May, at the back of the rotation gives Tampa one of the deepest rotations in the American League. They will need all five at their absolute best to compete.
The bullpen is fairly solid as well. Grant Balfour is temporarily reinstated as the team's closer. That is only the case currently because the man he lost the job to last year, southpaw Jake McGee, is trying to regain full fitness while battling an elbow injury. When McGee returns, the back end of Tampa's pen is strong. Outside of the hard throwing left hander, the duties of the eighth inning will be handled by Brad Boxberger. Boxberger showed promise in two seasons in San Diego. He took it to a whole different level in 2014, striking out 104 in just 64 2/3 innings with a great fastball/changeup combination. Jeff Beliveau (from PROVIDENCE, RI!) stamped himself as the other trusted left hander in the late innings. He doesn't blow people away like his teammates, but he is real tough on left handers and hammers the strike zone. Former Angels Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri provide depth and much needed contingency plans if injuries occur.
Tampa's pitching is too good to have them ranked this low. If you look at that lineup however, they shouldn't be ranked this high. It is the job of rookie manager Kevin Cash to try to balance out his team's overwhelming strengths versus their severely glaring weaknesses. Joe Maddon's shoes are big ones to fill. If Cash can somehow pull out even a Wild Card bid with this impotent offense, he should win American League Manager of the Year without challenge. Either way, there is going to be a whole lot of zeroes on the Tampa Bay scoreboard this season, for both the Rays and their opponents.
LAST YEAR'S RANKING: #12 (DOWN 10)
PREDICTED RECORD: 76-86
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Evan Longoria (third baseman), Chris Archer (starting pitcher), Brad Boxberger (relief pitcher)
Trevor Utley is just glad that the Dodgers trade for David Price wasn't accepted. It was a whole lot more than Tampa actually got.
Image Credit: Rays logo (sportslogos.net)
Featuring Trevor Utley, Lou Kessler, and Al deCiutiis
By Trevor Utley
The MLB Trade Deadline came and went at 4 PM yesterday and while waiver based deals can still be worked out in August, the last major deals for first place teams and the clubs chasing them have come and gone. Only time will tell if these deals bear fruit for the teams that made them, but in the interim let us review the deals of today and yesterday and hash out the winners and losers of baseball's most hectic afternoon.
Firstly, let us set aside the deals that don't really need to be graded out. These are the transactions that don't have much bearing on pennant races or involve lower caliber pieces. These trades include:
This could be a reclamation project for a player Cubs' GM Theo Epstein knows very well. Look what the North Siders did with Jake Arrieta so far this season.
Denorfia becomes part of a Mariners' outfield desperate for a spark. San Diego doesn't get much back in the two prospects, even though Almonte was the Opening Day centerfielder for the M's, but the Padres can be happy to part ways with Denorfia's over $2 million salary for what amounted to a platoon guy against lefties only.
The Braves got better with Bonifacio who, while quite fragile, can play all over the field outside of being part of the battery and Russell who absolutely dominates left handed hitters. Caratini was a second round pick a year ago who is still transitioning from the infield to catching but has a bat that could pay dividends.
The A's outfield is beat up right now and will make use of a player like Fuld whom they actually waived earlier this season. He will get some decent run right now with Cespedes gone and Coco Crisp ailing but when the main cogs come back he'll be a fourth or fifth outfielder. Milone regressed from last year but should still be a part of the Twins' rotation going forward.
Miller is a free agent this offseason and Boston didn't want to let him walk for free. The left hander was traded in the division but netted the defending World Series champions a prized piece of the Orioles' farm system. 21 year old southpaw Rodriguez hasn't been exactly setting the world on fire at Double-A Bowie but was ranked as Baltimore's #3 prospect in 2013.
If you listened to our podcast we addressed Milwaukee's glaring hole, their bullpen, and even had Haniger involved in a deal for an arm. Milwaukee brass seemed to have a different plan in acquiring Gerardo Parra and inserting him into a crowded outfield. Haniger and Banda aren't world beaters. This was a weird trade for both sides as neither team really got better.
There is a big batch of young talent being swapped in this one. The Marlins got the major league ready talent from Houston while Houston will have to wait a while on their haul. Cosart should slot in behind Jose Fernandez in Miami's rotation for the future while Hernandez is playing beyond expectations currently. A whole lot of maybes going to the Lone Star State.
With those minor deals out of the way let us delve into the ones that will have varying impacts on who makes the postseason in both leagues. From two aces being dealt to some head scratchers from the Bronx Bombers, this was easily one of the more active and interesting trade deadlines in recent memory.
ATHLETICS GET JON LESTER, JONNY GOMES, & CASH
RED SOX GET YOENIS CESPEDES & A COMPETITIVE BALANCE DRAFT PICK
The A's, which seemed to be many a reporter's mystery team in the Jon Lester sweepstakes, swooped in seemingly at the last minute for the highly coveted lefty. The move improves Oakland's greatest strength and widens the gap between them and the Angels in the AL West. Jonny Gomes takes his talents to the Bay Area as well and should get a good amount of bats against left handers, he is currently second in the league in average against southpaws, in a banged up A's outfield.
The Red Sox, the busiest team on Deadline Day, gets back a player in Cespedes that has a swing tailored for Fenway Park and an arm that could throw a laser to the plate even from the fabled triangle in Boston's centerfield. Boston may be in a similar situation to the Lester one next year with Cespedes though. A free agent at the end of 2015, the Cuban could ask away if the Red Sox don't improve.
The argument for this trade on Boston's end is that they get a big bat in the two time former HR Derby Champion and a chance to chase Lester this offseason since it is almost a foregone conclusion that the small market A's will not pay the sticker price on Lester. If they end up whiffing on him and then Cespedes walks away next fall, this deal will be frowned upon by Red Sox Nation. If they rebound (not even necessarily resigning Lester in the process) and convince Cespedes to stay, the Red Sox made the best out of a bad situation. For Oakland, they show they are all in this year and it is World Series or bust. Lester paired with recent acquisitions Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel as well as Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, and Sonny Gray make a team nobody wants to face come October. They may just not all be in Oakland green and yellow in 2015. But trust me that Oakland will just find new shiny toys to play with.
OAKLAND GRADE: A+
BOSTON GRADE: B
TIGERS GET DAVID PRICE
RAYS GET DREW SMYLY, WILLY ADAMES, & NICK FRANKLIN
MARINERS GET AUSTIN JACKSON
After all the trades that Tampa were rumored to have turned down for their ace, it seems they panicked in trading him to the Tigers. Detroit gets a left hander to put between Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in their rotation and frankly didn't give up that much to do so. They kept young infielder Nick Castellanos in town and the only pitcher they lost in the deal was Drew Smyly who has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen with no real consistency. It keeps Detroit on pace with Oakland for the top seed in the American League Playoffs and keeps their rotation strong if Scherzer departs in free agency.
Seattle acted as a third wheel in this deal and came out smelling like roses. Jackson is still only 27 and improves a Seattle outfield devoid of offensive and defensive talent. They gave up Nick Franklin who though he was seen by some as one of the Mariners of tomorrow, only hit .128 for the M's thus far in 2014.
Tampa Bay was not in the situation with Price that Boston was in with Lester. They had another year to go with their all-world left hander and instead of holding onto him for a run at the second AL Wild Card dealt him and got the proverbial pu-pu platter return. Smyly will be in the rotation for the remainder of 2014 but his role will probably end up being the same back and forth one it was in Motown. Adames is one of the more highly touted prospects in Detroit's weak hitting minor league system but he is only 18 and is light years away. It will be interesting to see if the struggling Franklin gets a chance to play everyday at the Trop.
The Rays have shown they didn't even want to pay the potential arbitration figure for Price in 2015. A team that has flying high lately has just been shot out of the sky. The team with the most to give got the least in return. I am still trying to wrap my head around this deal on Tampa's end. Detroit solidifies themselves as an American League power and Seattle gets a competent outfielder for seemingly nothing. If I write any more about this trade my brain is going to explode.
DETROIT GRADE: A-
SEATTLE GRADE: A+
TAMPA BAY GRADE: F
CARDINALS GET JOHN LACKEY & COREY LITTRELL
RED SOX GET ALLEN CRAIG & JOE KELLY
Boston is making no bones about blowing up their team. It seemed everbody outside of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz were on the block. After Jon Lester, John Lackey was the second domino to fall. The right hander had rebuilt his image in Boston after injuries and the "Chicken and Beer" nonsense faded, making him one of their most coveted assets. His $500,000 salary for next year doesn't hurt either.
St. Louis has been chasing Milwaukee for the Central Division crown for the majority of 2014 and the acquisition of Lackey (along with Justin Masterson that we'll get to next) restocks the pitching shelves that were getting pretty bare for the Cards. Lackey will probably sit in the third starter role behind Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, a daunting opponent for the third game of any potential postseason series. Corey Littrell is basically a throw in for this deal and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last time I ever write his name again.
Boston doesn't necessarily get taken to the cleaners on this deal though. Allen Craig is only a couple seasons removed from being one of the most feared late game hitters in all of baseball. He was more than clutch in St. Louis' World Series triumph in 2011. If he can return from his injuries, which Boston will surely allow him too, they may have gotten themselves another late inning hero to pair with Big Papi. In Joe Kelly they get a pitcher who can start or relieve, and though he won't wow you with his numbers eats innings and gets outs.
While Tampa seemed to force their own hand with the Price trade, Boston so far has made teams work hard for their arms instead of the inverse. This trade helps both teams now and in 2015 and both GMs should give themselves a good old Barry Horowitz pat on the back for making it.
ST. LOUIS GRADE: B
BOSTON GRADE: A-
CARDINALS GET JUSTIN MASTERSON
INDIANS GET JAMES RAMSEY
This trade was consummated yesterday but it is still significant in St. Louis' charge to the Central Division title. They know all to well that you can never have too much starting pitching heading into the postseason, especially in the National League. In acquiring Masterson, they've added depth to a battle tested rotation whilst not giving up a high level prospect in doing so.
The Cardinals will go as far as their starting pitching will take them. Each of their runs to the World Series in the past decade have been on the backbone of their staff. The former Cleveland right hander may not be in the rotation come the postseason but has experience coming out of the pen from early years in Boston which is valuable to St. Louis.
James Ramsey, a 24 year old outfielder who has spent his season at AA for Springfield, is a prospect who may be in Cleveland by the end of this season or Opening Day 2015. He has hit .300 for St. Louis' second tier team and has shown decent pop the past two seasons. It isn't a haul for the Tribe but it isn't a complete swing and miss.
After a run to the Wild Card game last year, Cleveland went backwards. They did right by their Opening Day starter and got a player in Ramsey that will be able to contribute sooner rather than a normal prospect in one of these types of trades would. St. Louis has a completely right handed rotation but one that is very flexible and experienced in postseason play.
ST. LOUIS GRADE: A-
CLEVELAND GRADE: B
NATIONALS GET ASDRUBAL CABRERA
INDIANS GET ZACH WALTERS
I thought the Nationals would address the hole in their lineup left by Ryan Zimmerman's absence but thought it would be a third baseman instead of another shortstop. They did just that though as they shipped out promising middle infielder Zach Walters for Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera. He will get a trial by fire at second base for the first place Nationals with Ian Desmond entrenched at short.
Washington is loaded with pitching so if they were going to make a move it was definitely going to be for a bat. Adrian Beltre and Martin Prado (who eventually landed in New York) were discussed but they eventually settled for the former All-Star Cabrera. Cabrera will be asked to man second base for Washington, a position he hasn't played since 2009. The former Indian will most likely leave in free agency but he'll provide some steadiness in the infield until Zimmerman returns from his latest ailment.
The Indians are just waiting for Francisco Lindor to be ready. The uber talented shortstop down on the farm for Cleveland isn't there yet and Walters could plug the gap between Cabrera's exit and Lindor's arrival. He played in 32 games for Washington this year but only garnered 39 at-bats in those appearances. He will probably never hit for average but has 20+ home run potential at either shortstop or second base which is enticing.
When two teams help each other on a deal you can't knock it. Cabrera gets to chase the postseason for a second straight year while Walters is a stopgap to Lindor or a much cheaper option if Jason Kipnis slips further after signing his new contract.
WASHINGTON GRADE: B+
CLEVELAND GRADE: B-
NEW YORK GETS STEPHEN DREW & MARTIN PRADO
ARIZONA GETS PETER O'BRIEN
BOSTON GETS KELLY JOHNSON
This one was actually two separate trades but I combined them for the sake of time. Drew and Johnson swapped colors in the first non-waiver deal between the Red Sox and Yankees since Mike Stanley was dealt for Tony Armas Jr. Martin Prado comes over from Arizona for Peter O'Brien, a power hitting catcher who had spent his entire 2014 at AA.
From just a personnel standpoint, neither of these two trades make much sense for the Yankees. Drew is going to play out of position at second base for the Bombers after Brian Roberts was designated for assignment. Prado has more positional flexibility but seems to be of no more use to the Yankees than a $11 million a year utility guy. Don't get me wrong, they gave up nothing of immediate value to acquire these two but they were two deals that just seem to have been made for making a deal's sake.
In Boston, Xander Bogaerts now shuffles back to shortstop a move that may exacerbate his fielding woes. The young Aruban started off 2014 at short but then moved to third with Will Middlebrooks' injury and the resigning of Drew. Bogaerts going back to shortstop leaves third base for Brock Holt, which is his natural position. Johnson can play both in the infield and outfield and will surely get plenty of AB's spelling various Sox hitters down the stretch. Arizona gets out from under a big contract in Prado for a guy in O'Brien who could potentially replace Miguel Montero if Arizona chooses to rid themselves of his big deal.
Overall, the Yankees got two expensive players with no real place to put them. Though like I said before they didn't lose out on a top prospect or high level Major Leaguer to do so, but if they were going to address anything at the deadline it should have been pitching.
NEW YORK GRADE: C-
ARIZONA GRADE: C
BOSTON GRADE: B-
Trevor Utley is sad the Dodgers whiffed in their pursuit of both available aces but LA kinda has some good arms already so he thinks he'll live.
Image Credits: Let's Make A Deal (2guystalkingmetsbaseball.com); Lester, Gomes, Cespedes, Price, Lackey, Craig, Kelly, Masterson, Cabrera (espn.com); Adames, Ramsey, Walters, O'Brien (milb.com); Smyly, Franklin, Jackson, Drew, Prado, Johnson (mlb.com)
By Trevor Utley
It is still amazing how they do it. After a decade of futility, the Tampa Bay Rays have been a model of brilliance since their loss in the 2008 World Series. Including 2008, they've won 90 games in five of the past six seasons. They have been able to maintain this level of performance with marvelous pitching. Expect more of the same in 2014, but not enough to make their fourth postseason in five years. David Price leads the way in which could very well be his last season at the Trop as the Rays' financial constraints will make it hard to keep the talented ace. Alex Cobb took a nasty liner off his head in 2013 but still put together a masterful campaign. Outside of lightning (or another liner) striking twice, there is no reason to think the right hander can't do it again. Matt Moore had a team high 17 wins last season. The southpaw may not get to 17 again (sorry if that reminded you of the Matthew Perry movie) but his 3.29 ERA is easily replicable. Chris Archer and Jeremy Hellickson round out the rotation. Archer finished with a 3.22 ERA in his first full year in Tampa. Former AL Rookie of the Year Hellickson had a rough year in 2013 (5.17 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) but somehow squeezed out 12 wins. The Rays can flat out pitch. The bullpen is the same deal. They have been finding the magic touch with every one they bring in lately. From Kyle Farnsworth to Fernando Rodney, the Rays have been very daft at constructing bullpens lately. Heath Bell and Grant Balfour are competing to be the next name on that list. Bridging the gap will once again be left in the capable hands of Jake McGee from the left side and Joel Peralta from the right. But now for the segment you've all been waiting for...THIS TEAM CAN'T HIT! Evan Longoria was the only Ray to break the 20 home run and 80 RBI threshold last year. Their response to this ineptitude? Nothing. Their one offseason offensive acquisition was a December trade for catcher Ryan Hanigan, who hit a robust .198 in 2013. They could continue to skate by without making alterations but I think that will eventually catch up to them. Let me rephrase that. It HAS caught up to them. The Rays lack of hitting will be their undoing in 2014 and while the pitching will still keep them in the hunt, it won't be good enough for a postseason berth or a fifth consecutive 90 win season.
PREDICTED RECORD: 89-73
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Evan Longoria, third baseman; David Price, starting pitcher; Alex Cobb, starting pitcher; Grant Balfour, relief pitcher
Image Credit: Rays logo (sportslogos.net)