With spring training just around the corner, Tampa Bay questions still swirl regarding lineup and acquisitions, not to mention who will be pushed off the 40-man roster. On top of that, will they give closer Fernando Rodney an extension? Sounds like a lot going on. Not to worry. These issues are the norm at this time of year. In fact, even with questions looming, this is a time to be positive about where the team is going – and that goes for most clubs.
The lineup is always a work in progress, especially with Joe Maddon and the Rays, but Yunel Escobar the team has a guy who can be a true number-two type hitter. The recent acquisition of Kelly Johnson points to Ben Zobrist moving to the outfield for good, at least on paper. Tampa Bay has a number of options up the middle now with Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, Ryan Roberts, and Elliot Johnson competing with newcomers Escobar and Johnson for roster spots, much less playing time. Maddon loves lineup flexibility, and he seems to have it this season, especially regarding the infield.
Of course, nothing is perfect. The Rays could be looking for a right-handed bat in the form of a DH/1B type. And with all those names up the middle, one of them might provide a trade opportunity. The biggest question might be how long Wil Myers will remain in the minor leagues? Wherever you look, he’s in the Top 5 Minor League Prospects. The Rays tend to be conservative with bringing players up to The Show, but they also have good results. It’s obvious that Myers has great potential. Tampa Bay will have him in the lineup when they feel it’s in his and the team’s best interest. I’m not a gambler, so I won’t hazard a guess as to when that will be, but I do know that he will fill out the lineup nicely.
I don’t know exactly what to make of the Wins Above Replacement (W.A.R.) statistic used by those who use sabermetrics. I do know, however, how much Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria mean to the Rays. And where do they rank in W.A.R. from 2009-12? According to this article from CNNSI.com, Zobrist ranks 4th and Longoria 6th. Which goes to my point that had Longoria been healthy last season, Tampa Bay could have been in position for a big ring. That being said, injuries are a part of the game. It should be interesting how a healthy Longoria teams up with Zobrist to lead the Rays this season. I’m going with the positive, and believe Tampa Bay is going to cause trouble for many clubs, and compete strongly for a post-season spot.