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Playing Pepper 2013: Tampa Bay Rays

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 2:30 PM
Filed Under: Playing Pepper | Tampa Bay Rays
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!

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C70: How would you grade the offseason?

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!

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2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
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Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
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Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
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2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
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Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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