The Rays JV Squad

The Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays are the three best teams in baseball. The AL East is a powerhouse division like we haven’t seen in a long, long time. When you look at their rosters, you see all-stars and MVP candidates abound. But the strength of those teams doesn’t just lie with their everyday regulars, but also in the depth that they have accumulated to safeguard themselves from injuries. The Red Sox and Yankees build up strong reserves by flexing their financial advantage, but the Rays have done it through numerous shrewd acquisitions and player development over the last few years.

In fact, I think there’s a case to be made that Tampa Bay’s junior varsity squad could hold their own against some full scale major league clubs. Take a look at this potential roster of guys who don’t have regular gigs with the Rays and their wOBA projections from CHONE.

Catcher: John Jaso, .323 wOBA
First Base: Chris Richard, .326 wOBA
Second Base: Adam Kennedy, .296 wOBA
Shortstop: Ray Olmedo, .301 wOBA
Third Base: Willy Aybar, .336 wOBA
Left Field: Ben Zobrist, .330 wOBA
Center Field: Fernando Perez, .312 wOBA
Right Field: Matt Joyce, .318 wOBA

Bench: Morgan Ensberg (.329 wOBA), Justin Ruggiano (.333 wOBA), Elliot Johnson (.286 wOBA), Chris Nowak (.319 wOBA), Michael Hernandez (.300 wOBA)

#1 Starter: Mitch Talbot, 4.57 FIP
#2 Starter: Jeff Niemann, 4.96 FIP
#3 Starter: Jason Hammel, 4.98 FIP
#4 Starter: Jeremy Cummings, 5.27 FIP
#5 Starter: Wade Davis, 5.28 FIP

Closer: Jason Isringhausen, 4.73 FIP
Setup: Jason Childers, 4.50 FIP
Setup: Jason Cromer, 4.65 FIP
Middle: Dewon Day, 4.62 FIP
Middle: Dale Thayer, 4.56 FIP
Loogy: Randy Choate, 4.27 FIP
Long: Jeremy Hellickson, 4.62 FIP

That’s a complete 25 man roster from the extra parts that the Rays don’t have jobs for.

Overall, the offense projects to about a .320 wOBA, assuming the manager was smart enough to run platoons with Richard/Ensberg and Joyce/Ruggiano and everyone stayed healthy – 8 major league teams finished with a wOBA of less than .320 in 2008.

The defense projects to league average or a little bit better – Perez, Joyce, and Kennedy are plus defenders, Aybar, Zobrist, and Olmedo are average-ish, while Jaso and Richard are below average.

The pitching projects to about a 4.8 FIP – there’s some useful arms there, but it obviously lacks a top notch talent, since it’s a collection of #5 starters and middle relievers.

Still, though, a .320 wOBA, average to above average defense, and a 4.8 FIP – we’re looking at a team that would score about 700 runs and give up about 825 runs. That’s a .415ish winning percentage, or about a 66 win team over a full season.

The collection of guys the Rays have in camp that they don’t have jobs for projects to be only marginally worse than the Royals and Astros.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

32 Responses to “The Rays JV Squad”

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  1. Matt B. says:

    No Brignac at SS?

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  2. don says:

    The Rays averaged 64.5 wins from 98-07.

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  3. JI says:


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  4. Vivaelpujols says:


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  5. KingKirkpatrick says:

    More unnecessary shots taken at the Royals, despite the fact that you can EASILY find ten teams worse than the Royals this year.

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    • JLP says:

      You Royals fans are bitter these days, aren’t you?

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      • joser says:

        And hyperbolic too. CHONE sees two teams as bad as the Royals, none worse. I think that’s a bit harsh, but I suspect JLP is relying on the BP’s projections which I think are a bit generous (and even those show just 8 teams worse, and 3 as bad).

        But now that TB isn’t short-hand for “worst in the AL” somebody has to take over that role. So I’d say shots like this at the Royals aren’t unnecessary so much as merely lazy. And, given their track record for the past few years, not entirely inaccurate. As soon as they show sustained improvement, the beatings will stop. The Pirates, meanwhile, are eternal.

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      • Thomas says:

        CHONE sees eight teams worse, actually, when you look at the power rankings.

        Stronger league + stronger division = Royals’ 72 > D-Backs’ 79

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  6. KingKirkpatrick says:

    Aren’t the Royals projected to be about a 75-78 win team?? How is that only “marginally” better than a 66 win team? 9-12 wins is a pretty big difference if you ask me.

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  7. Kevin says:

    Easily find ten teams worse than KC? Let’s see ‘em.

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    • KingKirkpatrick says:

      Easy. We’ll just look at PECOTA for now. We’re projected to win more games than the Mariners, Rangers, White Sox, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Astros and Marlins. Given the NL is a far inferior league right now, I think you can also include the Nationals, Reds, Rockies and Giants as teams that the Royals are realistically better than right now.

      That’s 12 teams that I would argue are probably worse than the Royals. The Royals have a solid 1-2 on top of the pitching staff and three pitchers who can produce solid innings. Their bullpen, particular the back-end, is as good as most in baseball. The offense is bad, but should improve a little bit as Gordon and Butler and others get well as far fewer PAs for the black holes like Tony Pena Jr., Ross Gload, and Joey Gathright. I’d peg the Royals as a 78-79 win team. They aren’t a great team, don’t get me wrong..but they are FARRRRRR from the bottom-feeders they used to by. They weren’t even in the bottom 10 of teams last year…and they’ve gotten better. It’s easy to see that there are ten teams worse than the Royals.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        CHONE has the Royals winning 72 games, tied for worst projected record in baseball with Houston and Texas.

        Your team is bad. I’m sorry that this offends you.

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  8. KingKirkpatrick says:

    PECOTA has us better than many teams. We aren’t even close to one of the worst teams in baseball. We weren’t last year and have gotten better. There’s no way to deny it.

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  9. KingKirkpatrick says:

    I’d love to see you deny it based on something other than “CHONE projects X”
    Please name what positions on the field that we have gotten worse in. Our oldest SP going into 2009 is 30 years old. All should improve other than Meche. Our bullpen is regarded as one of the best in the AL. At DH/1B, Butler should get better and Jacobs is a lot better than Gload. At 2B, Callaspo is probably a wash with Grudzielanek and Esteban German. At SS, a full year of Aviles is a lot better than TPJ. At 3B, Gordon will continue to get better, based on him finishing the year very strong. IN the OF, we improve our defense in LF and CF, while pushing Teahen out of the lineup. Offensively it’s a wash.

    How do we get worse?? Name me the ways.

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    • bucco says:

      1. KC had only 72 pythag wins last year.
      2. theoretically, every team gets better every year, at least looking at it the way you are.
      3. regression to the mean. aviles, grienke, soria and the bullpen you speak of all outperformed last year and will come back to earth.
      4. meche (30), dejesus (29), aviles (28), bannister (28), farnsworth (33), jacobs (28), coco (29), and guillen (33) are all old enough that it’s impossible to assume they will ever be any better than they are now.
      5. neither butler, gordon, nor teahen have shown anything so far to warrant assuming they will improve to a degree such that they could carry the rest of this crew anywhere near .500 this year.
      6. sticking with the post theme, at least they’d have the edge competing against the tampa jv. that’s got to count for something.

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  10. KingKirkpatrick says:

    I ain’t saying the Royals are making a run at the division, but I am saying that we’re a lot closer to a .500 team than the worst in baseball. We’ve steadily improved every single season and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue.

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  11. twinsfan says:

    Don’t you do enough defending of all things Royal on the Scout forum?

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    • KingKirkpatrick says:

      Not really. There has been plenty to criticize about the Royals offseason, but making a few bad signings does not equate to the team being one of the worst in baseball. The improvement of Gordon, Butler, Greinke, Hochevar, Davies, DeJesus, Callaspo and potentially others far outweighs giving too many dollars to Farnsworth and other bad contracts. If I was just some homer I’d be yelling about the Royals winning 88 games next year. I’m predicting 79, that’s far from unreasonable. Solid rotation, good bullpen, below average offense, average defense. Doesn’t sound like the worst team in baseball to me.

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  12. JH says:

    So for a question actually about this thread…isn’t Matt Joyce the front-runner for the starting RF job?

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  13. KingKirkpatrick says:

    If you don’t want to talk about the Royals, then why are so many shots taken at them? You brought up the Royals, not me. If the Royals are criticized, I’m going to talk about them. I won’t respond anymore in this thread, but we all know the Royals will be made fun of again for being the worst team ever despite the obvious facts…and I’ll be there again to actually bring some logic to the discussion.

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    • radiosurgery says:

      I’m 21 years old, and since I’ve started really paying attention to baseball, the Royals have sucked. If they aren’t the worst team in baseball, they’re still bottom feeders. You’re in some serious denial.

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      • KingKirkpatrick says:

        Yeah, I think the Royals might win 79 games. Boy am I in denial.

        All I was talking about is that the Royals weren’t that awful in 2008 and won’t be in 2009 either. Nobody is calling them a good team or saying they didn’t suck epicly (?) for a long time. Of course they did. That’s pretty much the entire point…they were so awful for so bad that everyone just equates Royals with being the worst team in the league, while in reality they’ve improved significantly over the past 2-3 years and are closer to a middle of the pack team overall instead of one of the bottom 3-4 teams like some people still seem to think. Look at the actual rosters and you’ll see the Royals are EASILY not one of the worst teams in the league….or you could just use your method of “I’m 21 and I think they suck, so that must be fact.”

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  14. Kevin says:

    It was a one-line reference to two bad teams. Seriously dude, get over yourself.

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  15. Nick Kapur says:

    I’m not going to say you guys ripped me off, but I did get to this first!

    That said, you guys did a better job of it than I did, so keep up the good work.

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  16. ian says:

    “The Red Sox and Yankees build up strong reserves by flexing their financial advantage, but the Rays have done it through numerous shrewd acquisitions and player development over the last few years.”

    Huh? Lets not mix words here, the Rays built up a stockpile talent by avoiding free agents and losing lots of games. Its the baseball equivalent of playing dead for a half decade.

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    • Kevin says:

      Well, we’re specifically talking about their reserves, so we can eliminate Scott Kazmir, Carlos Pena, Aki Iwamura, Jason Bartlett, Troy Percival, Grant Balfor, Dan Wheeler, and Dioner Navarro from the discussion, but even of the reserves listed, a fair number didn’t just come from the draft. Just off the top of my head, Kennedy, Joyce, Ensberg, Isringhausen, and Choate did not come from the Rays drafting. Furthermore, the only real blue-chipper on that list is Wade Davis. Pretty much everybody else on there was passed over at least once. After the first round or so, you can’t just say that the guys they got were because they drafted high. While the Rays certainly benefited in ’08 from being in a position to draft the likes of Upton and Longoria, it’s a fallacy to say their depth only exists because they sucked for so long.

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  17. Taylor H says:

    Nice work.

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  18. royalsfan says:

    KK is completely right. You would figure that the author would do enough homework on the MLB to understand that the royals are easily better than 10 teams at least, and probably better than half of the NL.

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