Posted on: December 8, 2011 8:43 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.
No team has had as much success drafting and developing its players like the Tampa Bay Rays. The one-time laughingstock of MLB is a model franchise to even the biggest spenders. The Rays have had big name leave, but keep replacing them with younger, seemingly better players. A year ago, the Rays lost Carl Crawford because they could no longer afford him. By the end of the season, Crawford and the Red Sox were sitting at home while the Rays were in the playoffs -- again. The reason is because they grown enough crops on the farm to have a successful harvest nearly every fall.
1. Carl Crawford, LF
2. Desmond Jennings, RF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Josh Hamilton, DH
5. B.J. Upton, CF
6. Aubrey Huff, 1B
7. Reid Brignac, 2B
8. John Jaso, C
9. Elliot Johnson, SS
1. David Price
2. James Shields
3. Jeremy Hellickson
4. Wade Davis
5. Jeff Niemann
Closer - Dan Wheeler
Set up - Matt Moore, Andy Sonnanstine, Alex Cobb, Jake McGee, Jason Hammel, Jose Veras
Notable Bench Players
The Rays have a couple of decent bats off the bench in Delmon Young, Matt Diaz, Jonny Gomes and Jorge Cantu.
Crawford and Hamilton to go along with Longoria, Upton and Jennings? That helps, that's for sure. The rotation is exactly the same -- and that's a good thing. You've also got Moore sitting there. The starters are an embarrassment of riches. It's one of the main reasons the Rays can still compete in the AL East with a smaller payroll.
The bottom half of the lineup isn't great -- especially with Johnson at short. But there's enough help at the top of the lineup to make up for the bottom. The bench isn't deep defensively, but it's the American League so you don't need quite as much as you do in the National League. The bullpen isn't full of experienced relievers, but there are some quality arms that can switch from starting to relieving.
Comparison to real 2011
The same pitching staff plus Crawford and Hamilton make up for losing some of its Frankenstein bullpen and Johnny Damon. I put Hamilton at DH to try to save some wear and tear on his body, he can still play in the field every once in a while and give Jennings a day off and have someone like Young DH. Or Young can play in the outfield. The bullpen might be the most interesting question, but I think the offense and the starting pitching are enough to improve, if slightly, on the team's 91-71 finish.
Next: Philadelphia Phillies
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Tags: AL East, Alex Cobe, Andy Sonnanstine, Aubrey Huff, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Dan Wheeler, David Price, Delmon Young, Desmond Jennings, Elliot Johnson, Evan Longoria, Homegrown, Jake McGee, James Shields, Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann, Jeremy Hellickson, John Jaso, Johnny Damon, Jonny Gomes, Jorge Cantu, Jose Veras, Josh Hamilton, Matt Diaz, Matt Moore, Rays, Reid Brignac, Wade Davis
Posted on: March 29, 2011 10:42 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
It's less than 48 hours until the 2011 Major League Baseball season kicks off, do you know who your closer is?
Joe Maddon doesn't.
"Well, there isn't one," the Rays manager told Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune, "and I'm not going to declare one, because I think if you are not absolutely certain, then you shouldn't do that, because you're only setting yourself up for problems later on."
Maddon said he was happy with his rebuilt bullpen with just one holdover from last season, Andy Sonnanstine. He'll be joined by Jake McGee, a September call-up a year ago, along with Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Juan Cruz, Cesar Cabral and Adam Russell. The team will also add J.P. Howell in May.
It appears Farnsworth is as close as the team will have to a conventional closer, but Maddon may not save his closer for the ninth inning and obvious save situations.
"What I've learned over the last couple of years is that it's really about the leverage of the moment," Maddon said. "Why permit the game to get away in the seventh or eighth inning and have no chance to win it in the ninth and then you're using somebody entirely different anyway. I'm going to do my best to parcel out the work nightly and match them up as well as we can, try not to abuse anyone by warming them up and not putting them in the game."
Just the use of the word "leverage," Maddon is going to get a lot more fans in the sabermetric world. In hypothetical baseball, the prevailing theory is that a closer isn't needed, but no team has really tested that since the 2003 Red Sox, and that was abandoned during the season. Maddon doesn't have much of a choice, there's no lights-out closer sitting in the Rays' pen -- there may not even been a dimmer switch -- but he's got to try something. It will at least be something interesting to watch as the season goes along.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: March 18, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 5:08 pm
By Evan Brunell
Joe Maddon appears set on moving forward with a closer-by-committee approach this season.
The Rays have been forced to overhaul their entire bullpen and currently project to have just Andy Sonnanstine as a returning member of the 2010 bullpen with any appreciable time. Tampa will also have J.P. Howell, who missed the entire 2010 season due to injury along with Mike Ekstrom, a Padres castoff who chipped in 16 innings. The last holdover is prospect Jake McGee (pictured), who received a cup of coffee in September.
External imports include Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos. None of the names, internal or external, have any extensive relieving history outside of Howell and Farnsworth. But even these two are question marks when it comes to closing games. That set up an opportunity to go closer by committee, and that's certainly right up manager Joe Maddon's alley, who loves to turn conventional baseball on its ear if it means grabbing an advantage -- an extra two percent advantage, if you will.
The history of closer by committees is not kind, with the 2003 Red Sox as the latest cautionary tale. However, would naming a closer when there isn't an obvious candidate to even those close to the action be any better than opting to go with the best reliever for the situation, period?
"It's just going to be the leverage of the moment, how we get to the ninth inning, who's been used already to make sure that we had a lead going into the ninth inning," Maddon said. "I'm liking the way this is looking right now. I think we're going to have several candidates to get the last out. I don't just want to say, 'You're going to get the last out every night,' but on any given night, I think we have the ability to potentially move that last out or last two outs around, based on left-handed or right-handed hitters."
Although Maddon plans to begin the season with this arrangement, he's not looking to make it permanent -- at least for now. Maddon expects to keep his options open, which is a smart move when the closer of the future may already be in the bullpen in McGee, who is set to begin his rookie season.
"I think he'll be ready to do that at some point in his career," Maddon said of the lefty eventually emerging as closer. "I just don't know exactly when I'm going to be comfortable with that.
"Jake's got a high-end arm. My biggest concern, is he ready emotionally to handle that, and if it does not go well, how's he going to react?"
It's dangerous to read too much into that quote, but it's rather interesting that Maddon is concerned about McGee's emotional state. Nefali Feliz saved 40 games last season as a rookie and the Braves have two rookies battling for the closer's spot this spring. Is it just normal concern about thrusting McGee into the closer's role immediately or is there something more here?
Posted on: March 2, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 4:44 pm
By Evan Brunell
CBSSports.com's Top 100 prospect list is out, casting light on players that will eventually become household names. But until that happens, these prospects need to tap into their potential and prove they can hack it at the big league level.
Below is a list of top prospects that could make an impact on the majors in 2011. Before getting into the list, "impact" is defined as those who are projected to break camp with the team and play an important role with the club. Others, such as Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Brandon Belt, all will have an impact once the hit the majors -- but that's likely to come in the summer months, and are listed at the end of the article.
No. 3. Domonic Brown, PHI
Brown is battling for the starting right field job and although Ben Francisco is proving to be a stiffer challenger than thought, Brown will still get ample opportunites in the majors. There's some thought he could return to Triple-A, but he has nothing left to prove at that level and progression will only come with playing time in the bigs. Philly may have to swallow hard and deal with the growing pains, but the payoff will eventually be huge.
No. 6. Jeremy Hellickson, TB
Hellickson could step in and replace Matt Garza without batting an eye, as the youngster is fully prepared to pitch in the cauldron that is the AL East. Hellickson will turn 24 on April 8, but already has 36 1/3 innings of major league experience under his belt. He walked just eight (plus two intentional) plus whiffing 33, which is an impressive debut but only underscores just how ready he is for prime time.
No. 9. Aroldis Chapman, CIN
Chapman won't be closing in Cincinnati, but will put pressure on Francisco Cordero as the setup man. We all saw what Chapman could do last season and he should continue to baffle hitters. The Reds considered making him a starter but opted to keep him in the bullpen which may unfortunately preclude a move to the rotation. It is difficult for teams justify moving young players that succeed in the 'pen back to the rotation.
No. 16. Kyle Drabek, TOR
Of all the names on this list, Drabek has the most tenuous hold on a roster spot but the team seems excited about his potential and wouldn't rule out a run at 200 innings. He shouldn't have too much trouble cracking the rotation and even if he starts in Triple-A, it won't be for long. One can't project Drabek to replace the man he was traded for (Roy Halladay), but he should eventually anchor the rotation.
No. 19. Freddie Freeman, ATL
As mentioned in the Top 100 list, Freeman lacks the ceiling of other first baseman such as No. 18's Brandon Belt, but is ready for the majors now and is locked in at first base. He figures to have a couple All-Star appearances in his future but not much beyond that. He should settle in as a valuable first baseman over his first six years, largely thanks to being under team control.
No. 29. Mike Minor, ATL
Minor doesn't have the ceiling of other top pitching prospects (similar to Freeman and first base), but he's also ready for the majors and was noticeably effective in the majors last season before he tired and lost velocity at the end of the season. If Minor can withstand the rigors of a full 162-game season, he should be an excellent No. 4-5 starter for the Braves, with the potential of more.
No. 33. Chris Sale, CHW
Sale is similar to Chapman in that he could start, but the White Sox have opted to keep Sale in the bullpen. He could vulture a few saves, but Matt Thornton is still expected to be the closer. That opens the door for Sale to play an important role in the late innings. He may be asked to switch to the rotation for 2012.
No. 66. Matt Dominguez, FLA
Dominguez can't quite hit, but boy, he can sure pick it. Already compared to Mike Lowell at the tender age of 21, Dominguez is expected to open the year at third for the Marlins. It appears Florida understands Dominguez will be a non-factor on offense and is willing to take that risk. But why start the service clock of an impact player when he could use more seasoning? Dominguez will never be a great hitter, but an extra year in the minors could go a long way. Read more from Scott Miller.
No. 71. J.P. Arencibia, TOR
Arencibia had quite an introduction to Toronto, but quickly faded after inconsistent playing time. Now finally handed to the keys to the starting job, there appears to be no question that Arencibia can hit. Catching, however, is another matter. The Jays have a couple other catchers in the system that could supplant Arencibia before long, which would shift the 25-year-old to first base or DH.
No. 85. Craig Kimbrel, ATL
Kimbrel is the favorite to open the year as closer, although he may share time with Jonny Venters. Kimbrel posted a ridiculous strikeout rate last year and could quickly rise up the ranks of top closers. Carlos Marmol has proven that walking a ton of batters is OK as a closer as long as you strike out players, bit still, Kimbrel could stand to improve in that area.
No. 86. Danny Espinosa, WAS
A converted second baseman, Espinosa will start alongside Ian Desmond for the Nationals. He showed intriguing power in his 112-plate appearance look in 2010, but probably showed more power than he will produce over a longer season. The bright side? His .214 batting average was an anomaly. The jury is still out on just how good he can be at the major-league level and it appears likely he will eventually settle in as the top infield option off the bench, although he'll get every chance to prove he can be more.
No. 95. Jake McGee, TB
McGee has to be considered the odds-on favorite to emerge as long-term closer of Tampa, but will start off setting up whoever wins the gig -- likely Kyle Farnsworth (cringe). McGee has excellent stuff and could have played well in the rotation, but the Rays moved him given his injury and durability issues. He's just as good a bet as Chapman, Sale and Kimbrel on this list to have a nice, long career as closer.
ON THE BUBBLE:
Tags: AL Central, AL East, Aroldis Chapman, Blue Jays, Braves, Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Danny Espinosa, Domonic Brown, Freddie Freeman, J.P. Arencibia, Jake McGee, Jeremy Hellickson, Kyle Drabek, Marlins, Matt Dominguez, Mike Minor, Nationals, NL Central, NL East, NL East, Phillies, Rays, Rays, Reds, White Sox
Posted on: February 7, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2011 5:21 pm
Could the closer by committee be making a comeback?
Everyone remembers the last time a team attempted a closer by committee, to the scorn of many fans and pundits. And indeed, the attempt failed miserably by Boston back in 2003, necessitating a trade for the Diamondbacks' Byung-Hyun Kim (pictured) in May.
The problem back then was that the personnel wasn't right for Boston and the public tide of opinion was against having a closer by committee even as Boston's true intention was to deploy a closer, just as a relief ace instead. After all, don't you want your best relief pitcher pitching in the most important part of the game if it's earlier than the ninth? Jonathan Papelbon can make a bigger difference getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth than nailing down three outs in the ninth on a three-run lead.
Indeed, Boston would later sign Keith Foulke to close and deploy him as a relief ace in the 2004 run to the World Series. The Red Sox also developed Daniel Bard, who functioned as a relief ace in 2010. Skipper Terry Francona has talked often about how he loves having Bard to deploy where the team needs, not where the label of closer dictates.
But since Boston's aborted 2003 effort, closers by committees have existed only in lieu of a closer that has gotten injured.
But the concept may come roaring back in 2011, as two teams appear to be readying for a closer by committee.
The Rays have had to completely revamp their bullpen, and one byproduct of this is no clear-cut closer. Kyle Farnsworth is probably the pitcher with the best shot at emerging as closer given his longevity and pedigree. But even his closer's record is spotty as he has just 27 career saves (the most on the Rays, with J.P. Howell second at 20). Farnsworth, however, has only one save since 2006. Howell or rookie lefty Jake McGee seem likely to emerge as long-term closer, but for now, Tampa doesn't have much of a choice.
"We have some really good candidates," skipper Joe Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. "Some good arms, some guys I don't really know that well that we've got to check out and see what they're capable of doing."
But even Maddon -- the king of innovation these days in baseball, sounded skeptical of the closer-by-committee approach.
"I have to prepare myself mentally for that because it's really different," Maddon said. "To have the one guy at the end of the game allows you to do certain things to get to the ninth innings whereas when you don't, there's different things you have to consider all the time. So it's quite a mental exercise."
Another team following in Tampa's footsteps are the Braves, who may split closer duties between Craig Kimbrel and Johnny Venters, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. New manager Fredi Gonzalez pointed to the Mike Gonzalez/Rafael Soriano arrangement the Braves went through in 2009 as an example for Kimbrel and Venters.
However, while both duos share a similar handedness split (Gonzalez and Venters as lefties, Soriano and Kimbrel righties), the 2009 comparison leaves out one important distinction: the Gonzalez/Soriano tandem was over by the All-Star Break. In the first half, Gonzalez nailed down nine saves, Soriano 12. But after the first half, Gonzalez got just one save while Soriano would go on to notch 15. Granted, the same thing could happen again in Atlanta if a clear-cut closer emerges for Gonzalez.
Closers are increasingly being marginalized as teams are no longer willing to pay exorbitant amounts in free agency. Even Rafael Soriano got less than he was hoping for, and despite his massive three-year, $36 million commitment, is no more outrageous than Joaquin Benoit's three-year, $18.5 million deal. Along with the pullback in closer salaries is coming increased understanding of the volatility of closers. Perhaps one day, relief aces will supplant closers. Until then, however, each closer-by-committee situation figures to be hotly monitored and debated. How Atlanta and Tampa approach and fare in this regard will impact the future of bullpen philosophy, just like teams re-entrenched themselves with closers after Boston's failed gambit.
-- Evan Brunell
Posted on: September 13, 2010 8:40 pm
The Rays are adding to their arsenal by calling up Jake McGee for Tuesday's game, as the St. Petersburg Times ' Joe Smith reports .
McGee missed the second half of the 2008 season and first half of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery but has been working his way back ever since. In 2010, McGee made 19 starts for Double-A, posting a 3.57 ERA in 88 1/3 innings. He whiffed 10.2 batter per nine and walked 3.4, prompting a callup to Triple-A.
However, the lefty moved to the bullpen upon the call-up, with Tampa eyeing a role down the stretch and into the playoffs for the 23-year-old. He did everything possible at Triple-A to show that he could be a lockdown weapon for Tampa, punching out 27 in 17 1/3 innings. He gave up just one run and limited batters to three walks and nine hits. All in all, a dominant showing.
McGee will give Tampa's just its second lefty behind Randy Choate. Unless he completely blows up, McGee will almost certainly find himself on the postseason roster and could be the AL's answer to Aroldis Chapman.
-- Evan Brunell
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