For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat. If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers. We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.
Tampa Bay Rays
90-72, third in the AL East
You know it's a tough division when 90 wins keeps you out of the playoffs. When Oakland made their final push, it knocked Texas into a wild-card slot and Tampa Bay home for the winter. The favorite "little team that could" couldn't in 2012, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
The 2013 landscape looks a little different in the AL West. Toronto has remade their team, while the traditional powers of New York and Boston seem vulnerable. Where does this small-market team with big-market results fit into this maelstrom? To find out, I asked the Playing Pepper questions to Yossi Feins. Yossi writes the blog The Rays Rant and is on Twitter @TheRaysRanter.
Stay tuned to find out about trade possibilities and the next big thing coming out of Tampa!
RR: I would grade the Rays' offseason somewhere in the B+ to A- range. They got the job done once again this offseason, putting together a team, that if healthy, will definitely compete. The James Shields blockbuster trade was a great deal for the Rays, bolstering both offensive and pitching talent in the farm. The only hole that they didn't fill in was the backup catcher role, which remains a weakness. Jose Molina is only projected to play around 90 games this season, so it is a pretty important role. Outside of that, though, there aren't any complaints from me.
C70: Obviously Fernando Rodney won't be THAT good again, but how good is he likely to be?
RR: Nobody's expecting Rodney to be as incredible as he was in 2012, but I do think he'll be one of the best closers in the game again this year. We saw his outstanding performance in the World Baseball Classic; it's clear he's still got terrific stuff. However, after posting a .220 BABIP last season, I don't see matching his astonishing 0.60 ERA again as a possibility.
C70: What are the chances that one of the Rays' young pitchers is moved during the season?
RR: During the season, it'll most likely only happen if the Rays are out of the race by late July. The offseason could be a different story, though. There's a pretty decent chance Tampa's ace gets dealt this offseason due to the Rays' inability to afford him in the future.
C70: What rookie will make the biggest impact in 2013?
RR: It was hard for me to choose between Chris Archer and Wil Myers to answer this question, but I think I'm going to have to go with Myers. Although the Rays' top prospect likely won't make his MLB until July, his bat will be a key piece to any success for the Rays in 2013. The Rays are going to need the offensive production from Myers, especially with B.J. Upton no longer on the team. Myers appears to be a Major League ready hitter who should be able to make a positive impact as early as this season.
C70: What will be the final record of the team and where will they wind up in the division?
RR: I'm predicting them winning the AL East with a 96-66 record. The AL East competition will be as tough as ever, but if they can stay healthy and continue to pitch as well as they did last season, they'll be one of the better teams in baseball.
C70: What one thing from your team are you most looking forward to watching?
RR: Like every season, I'm mainly looking forward to seeing how far the Rays can go in the postseason assuming that they make it there. I'm also very excited to see Wil Myers this year, as well as other top prospects in the organization (Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Tim Beckham, Jake Odorizzi). It's always fun to watch which prospect will have a huge breakout year down in the minors.
My thanks to Yossi for his thoughts on his team. It would seem like there's a real solid chance for Tampa Bay to break through and win the division, but no matter what, it'll be fun to watch!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball