Archive for Rays

What Could Brandon Nimmo Become?

Brandon Nimmo’s elite selectivity helps carry his offensive profile.
(Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

The Mets reportedly continue to look for infield help this winter with a view to improving their team for the 2018 campaign. According to Ken Rosenthal, three of the targets for New York are free agents — specifically, Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nunez, and Neil Walker. Pirates infielder Josh Harrison is a fourth. The cost of acquiring any of the first three is pretty straightforward: about $30-40 million, according to our crowdsourced estimates. As for Harrison, the issue of “cost” is more complicated.

According to Rosenthal, the Pirates want Brandon Nimmo in return for their versatile infielder. Superficially, that seems to make sense for the Mets. Nimmo is probably a fifth outfielder after Michael Conforto gets healthy. As for Harrison, he’d probably start. That’s a good trade-off for New York, right?

In one way, yes. But then there’s also that agonizing question every club is compelled to face when pondering the trade of a young player: what could he become? What’s his upside?

One way of answering that question with regard to Nimmo, specifically, is to focus on his process and look at other players who have a similar one. Nimmo is a player with a good eye, a nearly even batted-ball mix, and a certain degree of power. Also, his outfield defense looks decent. Let’s get exact about those facets of his game and look at other players with similar games.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tampa Bay’s Lost Window of Contention

Between 2008 and 2013, the only team to win more games than the Rays was the Yankees. Think about what that means. Over the span of six years, only the richest franchise in baseball could out-perform one of the poorest. The Rays ranked in second, with 550 wins, 14 fewer than the Yankees, but 12 more than the Phillies. The Rays made the playoffs on four occasions, once, of course, getting as far as the World Series. The Rays were a model organization. At least, the Rays were a model, provided you had an organization with comparatively limited resources. It was a minor miracle how much they were able to accomplish.

The recent years haven’t been so rosy. Which, in some ways, is hardly surprising — not only are success cycles cyclical by definition, but the Rays are also at a massive financial disadvantage, at a time when more and more front offices are beginning to think like they do. There’s a popular theory out there that it used to be way easier to build good baseball teams on the cheap. It’s probably true! So one could use the recent Rays as evidence that parity is beginning to slip away. Small-market teams might be increasingly screwed. It wasn’t long ago we saw the Rays trade away the face of the franchise. It’s possible Chris Archer could be next.

There’s no question the Rays aren’t what they were. There’s no question they’ve been on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. And yet, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s interesting to look at what the Rays have been, and at what they’ve almost been. By one measure, the Rays haven’t had that much of a dip.

Read the rest of this entry »


POLL: What Kind of Team Do You Want to Root For?

I noticed an underlying theme in both pieces I’ve written since coming back, along with many others written this offseason at FanGraphs. If you are a fan of a small- or medium-market team that will never spend to the luxury-tax line and thus always be at a disadvantage, do you want your team to try to always be .500 or better, or do you want them push all the chips in the middle for a smaller competitive window? In my stats vs. scouting article I referenced a progressive vs. traditional divide, which was broadly defined by design, but there are often noticeable differences in team-building strategies from the two overarching philosophies, which I will again illustrate broadly to show the two contrasting viewpoints.

The traditional clubs tend favor prospects with pedigree (bonus or draft position, mostly), with big tools/upside and the process of team-building is often to not push the chips into the middle (spending in free agency, trading prospects) until the core talents (best prospects and young MLB assets) have arrived in the big leagues and have established themselves. When that window opens, you do whatever you can afford to do within reason to make those 3-5 years the best you can and, in practice, it’s usually 2-3 years of a peak, often followed directly by a tear-down rebuild. The Royals appear to have just passed the peak stage of this plan, the Braves hope their core is established in 2019 and the Padres may be just behind the Braves (you could also argue the old-school Marlins have done this multiple times and are about to try again now).

On the progressive side, you have a more conservative, corporate approach where the club’s goal is to almost always have a 78-92 win team entering Spring Training, with a chance to make the playoffs every year, never with a bottom-ten ranked farm system, so they are flexible and can go where the breaks lead them. The valuation techniques emphasize the analytic more often, which can sometimes seem superior and sometimes seem foolish, depending on the execution. When a rare group of talent and a potential World Series contender emerges, the progressive team will push some chips in depending on how big the payroll is. The Rays have a bottom-five payroll and can only cash in some chips without mortgaging multiple future years, whereas the Indians and Astros are higher up the food chain and can do a little more when the time comes, and have done just that.

What we just saw in Pittsburgh (and may see soon in Tampa Bay) is what happens when a very low-payroll team sees a dip coming (controllable talent becoming uncontrolled soon) and doesn’t think there’s a World Series contender core, so they slide down toward the bottom end of that win range so that in a couple years they can have a sustainable core with a chance to slide near the top of it, rather than just tread water. Ideally, you can slash payroll in the down years, then reinvest it in the competing years (the Rays has done this in the past) to match the competitive cycle and not waste free-agent money on veterans in years when they are less needed. You could argue many teams are in this bucket, with varying payroll/margin for error: the D’Backs, Brewers, Phillies, A’s and Twins, along with the aforementioned Rays, Pirates, Indians and Astros.

Eleven clubs were over $175 million in payroll for the 2017 season (Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Giants, Nationals, Rangers, Orioles, Cubs, Angels), so let’s toss those teams out and ask fans of the other 19 clubs: if forced to pick one or the other, which of these overarching philosophies would you prefer to root for?


2018 ZiPS Projections – Tampa Bay Rays

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Tampa Bay Rays. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Most major-league clubs probably feature multiple players whom one could reasonably designate as the Face of the Franchise. Until recently, that was not the case with the Tampa Bay Rays. Basically ever since his debut in 2008, Evan Longoria has been synonymous with the club — due in no small part, one assumes, to the concurrence of his best years with the best years of the team. Traded to the Giants on December 20, he’s expected to produce roughly three wins for San Francisco.

How the club will attempt to replace those wins remains uncertain at the moment. Christian Arroyo (409 PA, 0.6 zWAR), Matt Duffy (444, 1.3), Daniel Robertson (406, 1.0), Ryan Schimpf (459, 0.5), and Joey Wendle (563, 1.0) are all candidates for the second- and third-base nexus in Tampa Bay, each flawed in his way. I’ve included Duffy, Robertson, and Wendle on the depth-chart image below simply because they receive the top projections from Dan Szymborski’s computer.

The author noted elsewhere recently that Byron Buxton recorded the highest WAR (3.5) of any player in 2017 who also produced a below-average batting line. By virtue of his 2015 season, however, Kevin Kiermaier (474, 3.3) has the top mark by that same criteria of any player since 1997. He’s projected to produce a precisely league-average batting line in 2018 while also saving 14 runs in center field.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sergio Romo on His Bowling-Ball… Slider

Late in the 2017 season, I approached Sergio Romo to ask about backup sliders. More specifically, I wanted to know if he’s ever thrown one intentionally. A handful of pitchers to whom I’ve spoken have experimented with doing so. It can be an effective pitch when well located; hitters recognize and react to a slider, only to have it break differently than a slider. As a result, they either jam themselves or are frozen.

Romo, of course, has one of the best sliders in the game. The 34-year-old right-hander has lived and died with the pitch for 10 big-league seasons, throwing his signature offering 52.4% of the time. Among relievers with at least 250 innings, only Carlos Marmol (55.5%) and Luke Gregerson (52.7%) have thrown a slider more frequently over that span.

What I anticipated being a short conversation on a narrow subject turned into wider-ranging, and often entertaining, meditation on his slider (with a look at Zach Britton’s sinker thrown in for good measure). It turns out that Romo’s backups are all accidental — the exact mechanics behind them remain a mystery to him — but he does know how to manipulate the ones that break. He’s also knowledgeable about his spin rate, thanks to his “player-profile thingy.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Brady Aiken’s Career Is Nearing a Crossroads

When I talked to Brady Aiken in August, he claimed that he wasn’t concerned with his radar gun readings, nor was he worried about ”trying to please people with velocity.” He was just trying to get outs any way he could, “regardless of whether (he was) throwing 100 or throwing 80.”

Two years after the Indians drafted him in the first round — and two years post Tommy John surgery — Aiken spent his summer pumping low-octane gas. A heater that touched 96 in high school was now hovering in the high 80s, and only occasionally inching north of 90. Other numbers were a concern as well. The 21-year-old southpaw had a 4.77 ERA and walked 101 batters in 132 innings for low-A Lake County.

Aiken was amiable yet defensive when addressing his performance and his velocity. With the caveat that “everyone wants to throw hard,” he allowed that he’s not where he once was. And while he’s not sure what to expect going forward, he sees positives in what is hopefully a temporary backslide.

“I’ve had to learn to become more of a pitcher, because I can’t just blow balls by guys anymore,” said Aiken. “At this level, you’re also not facing high school or college guys — this is their job, and you have to be better at your job than they are at theirs. If you can command the ball well at 90-92 you should be able to find holes in bats, and be able to get outs.” Read the rest of this entry »


Projecting the Prospects in the Evan Longoria Trade

The Giants have acquired Evan Longoria from the Rays in exchange for major leaguer Denard Span, plus prospects Christian Arroyo, Matt Krook, and Stephen Woods.

Below are the KATOH projections for the prospects received by Tampa Bay. WAR figures account for each player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings. In total, my KATOH system projects these prospects for a combined 2.4 WAR (2.2 by KATOH+) over their first six years in the majors.

*****

Christian Arroyo, IF (Profile)
KATOH: 1.5 WAR
KATOH+: 1.8 WAR

Arroyo missed a large chunk of 2017 due to multiple hand injuries and hit just .192/.244/.304 in 34 games with the Giants. Even without accounting for his small-sample big-league struggles, though, Arroyo’s track record doesn’t portend particularly great things. He hit a punchless .274/.316/.373 at Double-A in 2016 and his small-sample success at Triple-A last year was largely aided by his .427 BABIP. Arroyo’s youth and contact skills make him interesting, but he has very little power or speed and has already more or less moved off of shortstop.

Read the rest of this entry »


Giants Trade for Evan Longoria’s Mid-30s

I’m not sure a team has ever telegraphed its intent to make a splash more than the Giants. The Giants were one of the finalists for Shohei Ohtani. They were, of course, disappointed to not get him. They were also one of the finalists for Giancarlo Stanton, before Stanton invoked his no-trade clause. The Giants and Marlins had otherwise worked out an agreement. Turned down by their top two options, the Giants kept on exploring the market, looking to make an impact move. Such a move is now official. The Giants have made a big trade with the Rays.

Giants get

Rays get

Longoria used to have, for several years, more trade value than almost anyone else. It was almost impossible to imagine the Rays letting him go. But now the best player in Rays history is on the move, because, ultimately, the Rays have to act like the Rays have to act, and Longoria isn’t what he was when he was younger. Rays fans will get to remember his 20s. Giants fans will get to look ahead to his 30s. The Giants have gotten better for today, but the future of the club now looks even more challenging.

Read the rest of this entry »


Giants Find a Third Baseman in Evan Longoria

The Giants had a hole at third base. The Rays are cutting payroll and looking to the future, again. So today, they struck a deal.

Longoria has $86 million left over the remaining five years of his contract, so Span’s inclusion is a salary offset in order to help the team stay under the CBT threshold. The Rays are also sending an undisclosed amount of cash in the deal, so we’re exactly sure how much of that $86 million the Giants are picking up.

Longoria is still a nice player, projected for +3 WAR in 2018, but I do wonder if the Giants should have just signed Todd Frazier instead. For comparison, here are their numbers over the last three years.

Third Base Comparison
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Evan Longoria 2032 0.268 0.320 0.461 0.330 109 3.2 25.0 13.9 11.1
Todd Frazier 1920 0.233 0.317 0.466 0.334 110 -1.8 20.1 13.7 10.0

Both the crowd and I thought Frazier would sign for 3/$42M, or roughly half of what Longoria is still owed. Signing Frazier wouldn’t have cleared Span’s money off the books, of course, but they probably could have gotten a comparable player for a less significant financial commitment without surrendering with any real talent.

Of course, neither of the pitchers in this deal look like much, and Christian Arroyo has always struck me as wildly overrated, so I don’t think the Giants gave up tons of long-term value here. But given that they aren’t that close to contention, I’m not sure Longoria moves the needle enough to justify taking on this kind of money. Even with Longoria, the Giants still aren’t very good, and now they have even less money to spend to fix their dreadful outfield.


Sunday Notes: Baseball’s Only Female Play-by-Play Broadcaster Is a Rising Star

Kirsten Karbach grew up listening to Andy Freed and Dave Wills call Tampa Bay Rays games on the radio. Now she’s following in their footsteps. At age 27, Karbach is the voice of Philadelphia’s high-A affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers. She’s been with the Florida State League club since 2013.

According to Ben Gellman, Karbach got her job by “knocking our socks off” in an interview.

“When I was with the Threshers, my boss told me I could hire a No. 2 broadcaster to intern and help me out,” explained Gellman, who now does play-by-play for the Salem Red Sox. “He suggested a guy from the University of South Florida, whose tape was pretty good, but I’d heard a couple of innings of Kirsten on tape and was blown away by the quality of her call. I told my boss, ‘We have got to bring her in for an interview.’

“We brought her on board and she was a terrific partner, consistently pointing out nuances of the game and enhancing the broadcast. When she took over the lead job in 2014, I knew she’d do a fantastic job and I’m so happy to see her continued success in a corner of our industry that badly needs more women and people of color — and other people who aren’t straight, white males — to give us a diverse perspective that better reflects our fans.”

Karbach obviously feels the same way, and while she’s currently the only female play-by-play broadcaster in affiliated baseball she doesn’t expect that to be the case for much longer. Read the rest of this entry »


New Phillie Tommy Hunter Got Raysed

I get it — many relievers aren’t that exciting. There’s the highest tier, and then there’s all the rest, and it can be hard to tell which among the rest are really and truly good. This time of year, seemingly dozens of adequate relievers find new teams, and they always have their various upsides. They all seem okay, which means few of them stand out. No one pays close attention to the winter meetings to see who’ll get a new option for the seventh or eighth inning.

But, look. According to reports, Tommy Hunter is signing a two-year contract with the Phillies. Now, one notable thing is that the Phillies are not good. They’re not good, and yet they’re signing Hunter, to go with their signing of Pat Neshek. Might as well do something. Nobody wants a terrible bullpen. Hunter isn’t in the Kenley Jansen tier, and he’s not thought of as being close to Wade Davis. It’s very possible you didn’t even realize Hunter just appeared in 61 major-league games with the Rays. It was quiet. But Hunter brought his game up to a new level. As a reliever in 2017, Tommy Hunter was legitimately great.

This gets to the core of what I mean. Behold Hunter’s career year-by-year walk and strikeout rates.

Hunter has always thrown hard. His fastball rides in around 96, and, if you can believe it, he throws something resembling a cutter that averages 94. Hunter has never before been on the major-league disabled list with an arm injury. His arm has always been good, and this past season, Hunter best put it to use. Among relievers, he ranked in the 89th percentile in wOBA allowed, by names like Brad Hand and Raisel Iglesias. Even better, by Baseball Savant’s expected wOBA allowed, he ranked in the 97th percentile. Behind Roberto Osuna, and in front of Mike Minor. Hunter, you could say, broke out, and from the sounds of things, he went and got Raysed.

One thing the Rays did was have Hunter throw fewer and fewer four-seam fastballs.

Hunter leaned more often on his cutter, especially against lefties, and partially as a consequence, you can see a distinct change in Hunter’s overall pitch pattern. Below, on the left, you see where Hunter threw his pitches from 2014 through 2016. On the right, you have 2017.

Hunter stayed away against righties, and he stayed in against lefties. Armed with good command, Hunter was able to use his curveball off of that arm-side cutter, and lefties slugged just .261. Righties didn’t fare a whole lot better, so, when you combine everything, Hunter was a hard-throwing strikeout reliever who could retire opponents on both sides of the plate.

What Brandon Morrow had going for him, Hunter basically had, too, and Hunter is younger, with a better record of health. It’s a little strange, therefore, to see Hunter sign with a team unlikely to feature in the race, but then, every team wants late-inning stability, and obviously there’s the trade consideration down the road. It’s possible Hunter was met with some industry skepticism; teams might not have known whether Hunter could stay so successful as part of another, non-Rays organization. Now the Phillies will give him some dozens of innings, if everything goes well, and then if Hunter looks more or less the same, he’ll be in great July demand. Power pitchers who throw strikes in big situations are limited in number, and every team at the deadline wants a deeper bullpen.

There’s nothing unique here about the Phillies’ approach. Bad teams have long looked to flip relievers midseason. Hunter is the real story, looking like a potential shutdown setup guy a year after settling for a minor-league contract. All he needed was a handful of pointers from his handlers in Tampa Bay. The rest of it was all up to him.


Sunday Notes: Mike Fiers is a Tiger Who Trusts His Stuff

Mike Fiers signed a free-agent contract with the Detroit Tigers on Friday, which means he’ll be working with a new pitching coach. After spending the last two-plus seasons with Brent Strom in Houston, Fiers will now be under the watchful eye of Chris Bosio — himself a new Motown arrival.

Back in October, I happened to ask the 32-year-old right-hander about coaches who have made an impact. One was Rick Kranitz, who he had in Milwaukee for his first several seasons.

“When I got to the big leagues, Kranny told me to trust in my stuff,” related Fiers. “Even though I was a right-handed pitcher throwing 88-90 with a slow curveball, he instilled in my head that what I did worked for me. I didn’t have to try to be like somebody else. We had Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse — guys who’d had success in the big leagues — but what I needed to do was be myself, not try to steer myself into being a pitcher I wasn’t.”

What Fiers was — and for the most part still is — is a righty with a standard build, average-at-best velocity, and solid-but-unspectacular secondary offerings. Lacking plus stuff, he lasted until the 22nd round of the 2009 draft. Pitchers who share those characteristics are a dime a dozen, and most don’t make the majors.

I challenged Fiers with a difficult-to-answer question: Why have you succeeded, while the majority of pitchers with your profile never get off the farm? Read the rest of this entry »


Why the Diamondbacks Might Have Their Answer

There are two ways of looking at this. One, the offseason has been so slow that this is a full-length article devoted to a Diamondbacks trade for Brad Boxberger. Baseball needs to get going. Under ordinary circumstances, this might not get much attention at all. Two, thanks to the baseball offseason being so slow, this trade can get the attention it deserves. Every major-league trade is interesting, because every major-league player is talented. And Boxberger in particular could answer the Diamondbacks’ biggest problem.

Both angles have some truth to them. If things were moving faster, this might not be written as it is. But I’m still glad to be able to shed some light on what the Diamondbacks might be thinking. So: the trade!

Diamondbacks get:

  • Brad Boxberger

Rays get:

For the Rays, it’s a matter of cashing in a player running out of team control. You know how they operate. For the Diamondbacks, it’s about trying to upgrade on the cheap. As you don’t need to be told, there’s no such thing as a truly reliable reliever. Everyone comes with a certain amount of risk and unpredictability. Boxberger might be more unreliable than average. Still, the promise is legitimate.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Other Major Second-Half Turnaround

The Rays need stars. It’s all well and good to come up with a bunch of league-average plugins, but without stars, a team is stuck. A team is trapped, being okay without being good, and there’s a reason people are beginning to wonder whether the Rays should tear it all down. Without enough stars, what chance do they have of getting over the top? What chance do they have of keeping up with the Red Sox and Yankees? There’s a certain amount of appeal in pressing the reset button. And no one could blame the Rays, given the reality of their circumstances.

I’m not sure if the Rays will throw in the towel. They understand the process better than most, and they’re forever thinking about the longer-term, but conceding the present is never easy. It’s a major decision that asks an awful lot of the roster and the fan base. So maybe the Rays will blow it up, or maybe the Rays will tinker. Should they opt to keep trying, that could reflect organizational confidence in the development of Blake Snell.

Read the rest of this entry »


Which Teams Most Need the Next Win?

Not every team approaches the offseason looking to get better in the same way. That much is obvious: budget alone can dictate much of a club’s activity on the free-agent market. A little bit less obvious, though, is how the present quality of a team’s roster can affect the players they pursue. Teams that reside on a certain part of the win curve, for example, need that next win more than teams on other parts. That can inform a team’s decisions in the offseason.

Read the rest of this entry »


What Should the Rays Do?

The Tampa Bay Rays are a fascinating case study this offseason. They’re not bad, but it’s been a while since they were contenders. They haven’t finished with a winning record in any of the past four seasons, and as things stand right now, they aren’t projected as a 2018 playoff team either. Our depth charts currently peg them for having the 16th-best WAR in the majors, and the ninth-best in the American League. There isn’t a lot of separation between the Rays at 16th and the Diamondbacks at 10th, but by that same token, they’re not that far from the Orioles at 18th overall, either.

With some upgrades, the Rays could conceivably push a little closer to the top of the list and put themselves more firmly into the Wild Card mix. But as Craig noted on Friday, the Rays have already committed to a more expensive roster in 2018 than they did in 2017. As such, they may not have any money to spend in free agency. In fact, they may have to jettison some salaries. Who would they jettison, exactly? Let’s take a look:

Tampa Bay Rays, $5+ Million Salaries, 2018
Player 2018 Salary ($M) 2017 WAR Proj. 2018 WAR
Evan Longoria $13.6 2.5 3.0
Wilson Ramos $8.5 0.4 2.0
Jake Odorizzi $6.5 0.1 0.9
Corey Dickerson $6.4 2.6 1.1
Chris Archer $6.4 4.6 4.4
Kevin Kiermaier $5.6 3.0 3.8
Alex Colome $5.5 1.2 0.7
Adeiny Hechavarria $5.0 1.3 0.7
Highlighted = Projected arbitration salary from MLB Trade Rumors
Projected WAR via FanGraphs depth charts

So the Rays have eight players who are expected to make $5 million or more next season, either as part of their current contract or through arbitration (estimates of which have been provided by Matt Swartz). Brad Miller is projected to make $4.4 million in arbitration, which is also noteworthy.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Mike Rizzo and the Nats’ Analytical Wavelength

When I talked to Mike Rizzo in Orlando earlier this week, he told me the Washington Nationals have an eight-person analytics department that includes “three or four employees” who have been added in the last two years. The veteran GM also told me they have their own “Scouting Solutions, which (they) call The Pentagon.” In Rizzo’s opinion, his team has gone from behind the times to having “some of the best and brightest analytics people in all of baseball.”

A pair of uniformed-personnel changes further suggest an increased emphasis on analytics. Dave Martinez has replaced Dusty Baker as manager, and Tim Bogar has come on board as the first base coach. According to Rizzo, their saber-savviness played a role in their hirings.

“It was part of the process,” related Rizzo. “Davey is a 16-year major league veteran who can appeal to a clubhouse of major league players — there’s a respect factor there — and he’s also coming from two of the most-analytical organizations in baseball, in Tampa Bay and Chicago. He’s bringing that love of analytics and the implementation of those statistics with his thought process. Read the rest of this entry »


General Managers’ View: Who Flies Below the Radar?

Every Major League Baseball organization has players who fly below the radar. They add value — or are projected to do so in the future — yet are underappreciated, if not unnoticed, by the vast majority of fans. The same is true for coaches, and even some managers, particularly at the minor-league level. Other behind-the-scenes personnel, such as scouts, are largely invisible. Given their contributions, many of these people deserve more accolades than they get.

With that in mind, I asked a cross section of general managers and presidents of baseball operations if they could point to a person in their organization who stands out as being under the radar. With a nearly across-the-board caveat that it’s hard to name just one, all gave interesting answers.

———

Chaim Bloom, Tampa Bay Rays: “I’ll go with two guys who we feel strongly about that are actually no longer on the radar, because we just put them on our big-league staff. That would be Kyle Snyder and Ozzie Timmons. They were with us in Durham for a while and have played a huge role in the development of a lot of our young players. One of the reasons we’re excited about what’s coming was on display with that club. They won a Triple-A championship with a very young team.

Read the rest of this entry »


Let’s Not Forget About Alex Cobb

With just under two weeks to play in the regular season, much of the focus in media has turned to those teams participating in the postseason chase. We speculate on who’s going to get in, who’s best situated to advance in the postseason, etc., etc. By late September, though, the vast majority of actual major-league teams and players are already planning for next season.

And while the Rays have fallen out of the Wild Card picture, Rays pitcher Alex Cobb is positioning himself well for 2018.

After losing most of the previous two campaigns to injury and exhibiting something less than his previous form through the opening months of the current season, Cobb is saving his best for the second half. His surge is quite timely: he’s set to enter free agency this offseason, at a time when even reclamation arms can earn eight figures.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rays Prospect Mikey York on Pitchability (and the Ryan-Ventura Fight)

Mikey York was coming off Tommy John surgery when the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him out of the College of Southern Nevada in the fifth round of last year’s draft. It soon became clear that he wasn’t fully recovered. The Las Vegas native was shut down after allowing 16 runs in just 9.1 innings at Rookie-level ball.

This year was a different story. York didn’t take the mound until late June, but once he did, he was lights out. In 11 starts between short-season Hudson Valley and Low-A Bowling Green, the 21-year-old right-hander allowed just 36 hits in 61 innings. He walked 11 and fanned 53, and finished the campaign with a 0.89 ERA.

Along with a repaired ulnar collateral ligament, the promising youngster possesses big-league bloodlines. His father, Mike York, played 13 professional seasons and had stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians. Blessed with a feel for his craft and a bulldog mentality — Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux are role models — Mikey York aspires to follow in dad’s footsteps as a Tampa Bay Ray.

———

York on his repertoire and approach: “My biggest thing is that I like to command my fastball — throw it for strikes, get ahead early, work on the hitters. I like to get them off balance by mixing speeds, working inside and outside, changing eye levels. Most importantly, I let them put the ball in play.

Read the rest of this entry »