30 Clubs in 30 Days: Tampa Bay Rays

Some positives from Justin Turner’s broken wrist, he won’t need surgery. It’s unknown when he will return but the term “weeks,” not “months” was used when talking about his return, which is a good sign. On a lesser front, Nationals star second baseman Daniel Murphy is expected to miss Opening Day as he’s still recovering from October knee surgery. Since joining the Nationals in 2016, Murphy has been on the best run of his career, including hitting .322 last season. Also, the Orioles signed Alex Cobb to their rotation, basically just leaving Greg Holland as the last remaining free agent of note. With that, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the Tampa Bay Rays.

854510432

2017 Results:

Record: 80-82, 13 games behind Boston Red Sox, 5 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Carlos Gomez, 1B CJ Cron, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Dan Runzler, SS Christian Arroyo, CF Denard Span,

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Steven Souza Jr, LF Corey Dickerson, SP Alex Cobb, 1B Lucas Duda, 1B Logan Morrison, SP Jake Odorizzi,

Best Offensive Player: CF Kevin Kiermaier

Best Pitcher: Chris Archer

Depth Chart:

C-Wilson Ramos, Jesus Sucre

1B-CJ Cron

2B-Brad Miller, Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle

3B-Matt Duffy

SS-Adeiny Hechavarria, Christian Arroyo

LF-Mallex Smith

CF-Kevin Kiermaier, Denard Span (DH)

RF-Carlos Gomez

SP-Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, Nate Eovaldi

Bullpen-Alex Colome (CP), Dan Jennings, Matt Andriese, Sergio Romo, Daniel Hudson, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Dan Runzler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Kevin Cash (4th season with Rays)

Hitting Coach-Chad Mottola

Pitching Coach-Kyle Snyder

1st Base Coach-Ozzie Timmons

3rd Base Coach-Matt Quatraro

Bench Coach-Charlie Montoyo

856050684

The Rays blew the everloving shit out of their lineup from last season. In 2017, the Rays as a team hit 228 home runs, 6th best in baseball. In the offseason, they lost each of their top 4 home runs hitters in Morrison, Souza, Dickerson, and the former face of their franchise Longoria. It’s going to be weird seeing a Rays team without Longoria manning the hot corner. It’ll be the first time since they dropped the “devil” out of their name before the 2008 season that he wasn’t the everyday third baseman. With all that subtraction, here’s how the Rays are slated to line up in 2018.

1. Carlos Gomez-RF

2. Kevin Kiermaier-CF

3. Brad Miller-2B

4. CJ Cron-1B

5. Wilson Ramos-C

6. Matt Duffy-3B

7. Mallex Smith-LF

8. Adeiny Hechavarria-SS

9. Denard Span-DH

Not great. There’s not a single bat in that lineup that puts fear in the heart of pitchers. Sure there’s some quality defense in that lineup, particularly in centerfield with Kevin Kiermaier, but at the plate there’s a lot to be desired. Kiermaier spent a lot of time on the DL last season but was still able to provide a lot of value to the Rays. He hit .276 last season with 15 home runs, 39 RBI, 16 stolen bags, and was worth 3.0 WAR. He’s better known for being arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the game and that’s where a lot of his value comes from but he’s also a pretty good hitter in his own right. I can’t toot his horn too much because he went to Purdue so I’m going to stop right there. Brad Miller has had a weird tenure in his two seasons with the Rays. His first season with the team saw him hitting 30 bombs after a previous career-high of 11. In 2017, he hit 9. Injuries played a big part in that but the dropoff is pretty enormous, especially when you consider how big a dip his rate stats took as well. In 2016, Miller hit .243 but also slugged a pretty good .482, resulting in a league average 2.0 WAR. That dropped significantly to a .201 average and .337 SLG, resulting in a -0.1 WAR, all of which are abysmal numbers. It’ll be interesting to see which Brad Miller we get this season, the one that was one of the biggest power-hitting middle infielders in the game? Or the one who can’t hit the broad side of what Jabba the Hut calls an ass?

855511934

The pitching situation is going to be interesting in Tampa. I always find that they seem to develop good pitching every year and this season is no different, as there are a lot of talented young arms in the rotation. But that’s where the intrigue lies. The Rays are going to experiment with a 4-man rotation as opposed to the traditional 5, which you may have noticed when I listed the Rays’ depth chart. You gotta wonder how that’s going to affect their preparation. However the oldest guy between Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Nate Eovaldi is Archer at 29 (wait, shit, seriously? Guy looks like he’s 19) so it’s not like they’re dealing with some old dogs who refuse to change their routine. But it’ll be interesting to see how this works out because like I said, this is a talented bunch. Archer is one of those guys who is a much better pitcher than his stats might indicate. Last season Archer had a 4.07 ERA but a 4.6 WAR (All Star-level) and a 3.40 FIP with the 5th best K/9 rate at 11.15. Apparently he’s just been the victim of bad luck. Blake Snell has shown some flashes of being an ace-level pitcher but so far he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Faria had a 3.43 ERA last season and may quietly be one of the better pitchers in the American League. I remember hearing one anecdote that said if you were to start a pitching staff with no names, based on just the eye test alone, Nate Eovaldi would probably be the #1 choice. I can’t really argue with that, since the guy’s fastball consistently touches 98 and he’s got a pretty good curveball to boot but for whatever reason, he just seems to get hit. He hasn’t pitched since 2016 thanks to Tommy John surgery but he appears to be ready to go in 2018.

848478086

The Rays bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. Alex Colome is the only real pitcher of note, being their closer, and he saved 47 games last season, the most in baseball by about 6 saves over Kenley Jansen, however his rate stats aren’t nearly as impressive as the Dodgers’ stopper. Colome had a 3.24 ERA and only struck out about 7 batters per 9. That’s by far the lowest number out of any closer in the top 10 in saves last season (next lowest is Fernando Rodney at 10.57). If he can’t bring that K/9 rate up, the Rays could be in trouble in the 9th inning. After him, Sergio Romo was quietly really good for Tampa last season, posting a 1.47 ERA in 25 appearances, which is really encouraging because he’s had a rough tenure since losing his closer’s job with the Giants so many years ago. Other than those guys, though, nobody in the Rays’ ‘pen is really worth talking about here.

Overall, I don’t think the Rays are going to be any good. They blew up their team in the offseason and I sincerely doubt they’re going to be any threat for a Wild Card spot, let alone the AL East. Yet they always find some way to play the role of pesky spoiler and I wouldn’t put it past them to be that team that costs another team a playoff berth. That just seems to be what the Rays do. But in all, I wouldn’t argue you too hard if you were to tell me the Rays are going to be the worst team in the American League in 2018.

Projected Record: 68-94, last in AL East

That’s going to do it for today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Texas Rangers, who may need to take a long look at whether or not to blow up the team and start a rebuild after toying with being a World Series threat the last couple years. Let me know what you think of the Rays’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

The Seahawks traded stud defensive end Michael Bennett and a 7th rounder to the Eagles for a 5th rounder and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Bennett’s 33 years old but he recorded 8.5 sacks last season which is typically around where he’s at year in and year out. The Eagles currently have an absolutely LOADED defensive front, as if they didn’t already, but that probably means somebody’s getting traded elsewhere, all signs are pointing to Vinny Curry. But I do think the Seahawks seem to have settled here. Bennett’s still a big name and I think he could’ve gotten them more than a 5th rounder and a receiver I’ve never heard of (though Adam Schefter reports that he runs a 4.3). However the Seahawks LOVE their late-round draft picks, hard to blame them since they’ve hit on them so often, but I still think they could’ve gotten as high as a third rounder for Bennett. Also, Richard Sherman is reportedly wishing teammates farewell. So are the Seahawks blowing it up?Anyways, let’s get to the Twins.

870374846

2017 Results:

Record: 85-77, 17 games behind Cleveland Indians, won 2nd Wild Card spot, lost Wild Card game to New York Yankees

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Logan Morrison, SS Erick Aybar, SP Anibal Sanchez, SP Jake Odorizzi, RP Addison Reed, RP Zach Duke, CP Fernando Rodney, SP Michael Pineda

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CP Glen Perkins, RP Matt Belisle, SP Bartolo Colon, RP Dillon Gee, RP Buddy Boshers, C Chris Gimenez, RP Adam Wilk,

Best Offensive Player: 2B Brian Dozier

Best Pitcher: Ervin Santana

Depth Chart:

C-Jason Castro, Mitch Garver

1B-Joe Mauer, Logan Morrison (DH), Kennys Vargas

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Miguel Sano

SS-Jorge Polanco, Eduardo Escobar

LF-Eddie Rosario, Robbie Grossman

CF-Byron Buxton

RF-Max Kepler

SP-Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes

Bullpen-Fernando Rodney (CP), Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Ryan Pressly

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Paul Molitor (4th season with Twins, 2017 AL Manager of the Year)

Hitting Coach-James Rowson

Pitching Coach-Garvin Alston

1st Base Coach-Jeff Smith

3rd Base Coach-Gene Glynn

Bench Coach-Derek Shelton

860328716

So I mentioned a couple of times that I wrote a paper for a column writing class where I previewed each team’s World Series chances. You may remember that as that time where I accurately predicted the Rockies would have a breakout season. Well in this paper, for the Twins, I wrote “LOL” and left it at that. I mean you can’t really blame me, they were coming off a season where they went 59-103 and they had done absolutely nothing in the offseason to make me think they wouldn’t repeat this futility. Well they made me look pretty stupid, didn’t they? The Twins went 85-77 last season and made the postseason as the second Wild Card team. It was really quite the turnaround. They had been fielding a team mainly of young upstarts and they all seemed to hit their stride at the same time in 2017. Hats off to AL Manager of the Year and MLB Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Here’s how they’re projected to line up.

1. Byron Buxton-CF

2. Joe Mauer-1B

3. Brian Dozier-2B

4. Miguel Sano-3B

5. Eddie Rosario-LF

6. Logan Morrison-DH

7. Max Kepler-RF

8. Jason Castro-C

9. Jorge Polanco-SS

That’s a pretty talented lineup but pretty much everybody in that lineup is going to have to prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke if they’re going to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Byron Buxton really caught on late in the season, which was huge for this Twins team. The former #1 overall prospect was dangerously close to being labeled a catastrophic bust before his bat finally started catching up to his defense and baserunning skills. Buxton hit .259 with 16 home runs, 29 stolen bases, and had a 3.5 WAR while winning a gold glove in centerfield. Miguel Sano was also a breakout star for the Twins as he was one of their most dangerous hitters, batting .264 with 28 home runs, though that number was limited due to injury. The biggest threat in this Twins lineup is Brian Dozier, though, who might be the strongest second baseman in the game even though he may not look the part at 5’11 200 pounds. He’s had 4 consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs, 2 consecutive of at least 30, and he hit 42 in 2016. Second basemen aren’t supposed to hit 42 home runs in a season. And it’s not like he’s some Dan Uggla-type player where he’s a big brute that somehow is playing second base. He’s a decent defender at the position. Despite his recent run of success, Dozier still doesn’t get the credit he deserves all the time and that may be due to the fact that pretty much all the best second basemen are in the American League right now, including reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano, and Dustin Pedroia.

857270226

The pitching for the Twins is the part that might have me nervous. There’s some solid names in this rotation, but they’re also guys that haven’t been great of late. Ervin Santana is their ace, but he just turned 35 years old and he’s currently on the shelf with a finger injury and likely won’t be ready for Opening Day. They did acquire Jake Odorizzi and Anibal Sanchez in the offseason, however Odorizzi battled injuries last season while Sanchez hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014. Jose Berrios is a guy to watch, though. He’s one of the most talented young pitchers in the game and it appears that the Twins are ready to put their trust in him to be the ace of the future for them. He finished 2017 with a 3.89 ERA but had a 2.41 ERA at home and over 5 on the road. If he can level that out a little bit, I think the Twins will have that ace that they’ve been missing since Johan Santana.

922975800

The Twins completely overhauled their bullpen in the offseason. They signed Fernando Rodney to take over their closers role. It seems like an offseason isn’t complete unless Rodney is signing with a new team to take over their closer position for one year. He’s usually either amazing or downright awful in that role. There’s never any in-between. Rodney turns 41 next week and he’s coming off a season where he was the Diamondbacks’ closer and carried a 4.23 ERA but a 3.03 FIP and had 39 saves while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings. He won’t ever top his dominant 2012 season with the Rays when he had an ERA of 0.60 and 48 saves, but he can clearly still sling it. If he falters, though, they have Addison Reed as an option, who does have closing experience with the White Sox and Diamondbacks, though he’s done his best work as the 8th inning guy for the Mets and briefly with the Red Sox last season. After those two guys there really isn’t a whole lot to speak of with the Twins’ bullpen.

Overall I think the Twins overachieved last season but they’re very fortunate given the situation with the AL Central right now. They get to play the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals more than any other team, which will pad their win total, but they also get the Indians, who are going to run away with the division. Realistically the Twins will have to vie for the second Wild Card spot again but I don’t think they’ll get it. The first Wild Card spot will likely go to either the Yankees or Red Sox, whomever doesn’t win the AL East, while the Angels have done a lot to improve their postseason chances in the offseason to the point where I think they’re a much more probable candidate than the Twins. I don’t think it’ll be a bad season in Minnesota, but they won’t return to the postseason.

Projected Record: 84-78, 2nd in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the New York Mets, who look to finally stay healthy and return to the playoffs after a miserable 2017 season. Let me know what you think of the Twins’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.