Evan Longoria
It’s always fun to generate and debate lists. We’ll continue with the All-2000 to Present Rays Lineup.
C – Toby Hall
1B – Carlos Pena
2B – Ben Zobrist
3B – Evan Longoria
SS – Julio Lugo
RF – Matt Joyce
LF – Carl Crawford
CF – Melvin Upton
DH – Aubrey Huff
SP – David Price
SP – James Shields
SP – Scott Kazmir
SP – Chris Archer
SP – Alex Cobb
Closer – Fernando Rodney
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees

Matt Joyce enters the week tied for second in the American League with a .351 batting average. He has hit .474 (9-19) in six May games after closing out April hitting .467 (7-15) in his final four games. That ten-game stretch raised his average from .286 to his current mark, which brings me to my title question. Is Matt Joyce for real?
Joyce had stints in the Majors in each of the past three seasons, never playing more than 92 games and never posting more than 242 at bats. In those stints he hit .252, .188, and .241. It’s not unusual for a hitter to take a stride in the season he turns 27, but his past production (or lack thereof) should not be ignored. Especially when you consider that this in not a hitter that tore up the minor leagues.
Joyce hit a modest .293 for Triple-A Durham last year. He hit .273 in 2009 for the Bulls and .270 in 2008 for Triple-A Toledo. In all, Joyce’s minor league average is .275. He combined for 32 home runs in 709 Triple-A at bats. With just two home runs in 97 at bats this year, he isn’t a likely candidate to suddenly develop into a power hitter.
Joyce swiped 14 bags in 2009 for Durham, but simply isn’t a stolen base threat. He has three on the year, and Tampa is aggressive with their baserunners, but I don’t see him picking up more than 8-10 SBs on the year.
He has 15 runs and 12 RBI, which puts him on pace for 71 runs and 57 RBI. Those numbers simply won’t cut it for fantasy teams.
All you really have is the average. We’ve already questioned the validity of his .351 mark, but here is more fuel for that fire. Joyce has a BABIP of .432 on the year. His 2010 mark was .273, though he’s been around .300 through his professional baseball career. When his BABIP come back to Earth, so does his batting average.
I have no qualms riding Joyce while he is hot, I do urge you to be cognizant of his shortcomings. If you get a solid offer for him, don’t hesitate to take it. If he starts to slide, don’t be afraid to jump off the train.
***Update ***
I am taking credit for motivating Matt Joyce to hit for power. Kidding aside. The dude has answered the question with an empathic yes. He is for real slugging five home runs with eleven runs and nine RBI in his past nine games. Regression in his average will come, but he has a shot to hit .300+ with 20 HRs and 80+ RBI.

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Tampa Bay outfielder is off to an unbelievable start. He’s hitting .366 with 11 runs, a home run, eight RBI, and nine stolen bases. The question is whether you should continue to ride his hot bat (and legs) or try to sell high on him?
My money is on holding. He has a stranglehold on the Rays’ leadoff spot. He’s hitting .369 out of that slot, including .360 leading off. While he hasn’t walked a lot (four times), he’s only struck out six times in 71 at bats. With his speed and ability to put the ball in play he should continue to hit for a good average. I don’t think he’s a .360+ hitter, but he had a solid .285 average in the minor leagues.
He also plays for one of the most aggressive teams in baseball. The stolen base total is legit, and if he can continue to get on base at a solid clip, he has a good chance of stealing 30+ bases.
I’d like to see a few more runs scored given his high average, but remember that Evan Longoria is on the shelf. When he returns that should bolster the Rays’ lineup that has struggled at times.
If you get an amazing offer for Fuld, I wouldn’t hesitate to move him. I’m just not sure he’s the type of player that can net even trade value. Other owners are probably skeptical that his success will come crashing down at any moment. With only 131 big league at bats and a .252 average heading into the season, the concerns are legitimate. There always seems to be players that everybody would like to have on their team, but aren’t willing to take the risk to trade for. I think Sam Fuld is one of those players.

Tampa Bay star third baseman Evan Longoria is expected to miss nearly a month because of a sore oblique muscle. He left Saturday night’s game because of the injury, that began bothering him during batting practice. Longoria has yet to pick up his first hit of 2011. If you’re looking for a short-term fix at third base, here are some possible options:

  • Willie Bloomquist, ARI: 4 for 10, run, three SBs
  • Edwin Encarnacion, TOR:  2 for 8, run, two RBI
  • Jack Hannahan, CLE:  4 for 9, three runs, HR, three RBI
  • Chase Headley, SD:  3 for 10, three runs, HR, four RBI
  • Brandon Inge, DET:  4 for 7, RBI
  • Maicer Izturis, LAA:  3 for 10, RBI, SB
  • Chipper Jones, ATL:  4 for 9, run, RBI
  • Jose Lopez, COL:  3 for 8, two runs, HR, two RBI
  • Brent Morel, NYM:  3 for 9, three runs, two RBI, SB
  • Placido Polanco:  3 for 8, three runs

Click here to enter the 2011 Fantasy Baseball Team Name Contest

Manny Ramirez brought his hair and wacky behavior to Tampa Bay. Did he bring his big bat along with him? That is the million dollar question.
Things did not end well for Manny in Los Angeles. That has become his new M.O. He played well enough when he played, hitting .311 with 32 runs, eight HRs, and 40 RBI in 66 games, but he was either hurt or a distraction most of the time. The Dodgers dealt him to the White Sox, but he did little to help their playoff push.
Manny hit just .261 with the White Sox. That’s not the worst of it though. He scored just six runs, hit just one home run, and had just two RBI in 24 games (69 ABs). That most definitely was not Manny being Manny. He failed to hit double-digit HRs for the first time since 1993. He has combined for just 28 HRs and 105 RBI the past two years.
Does that mean Manny is done? I wouldn’t go quite that far. I know he’ll turn 39 in May, but I believe there is still life in his bat. He won’t have to take his circus act to the field with Tampa Bay. He’ll be a full-time hitter. That should decrease the chance of nagging injuries. While I don’t expect him return to the 30 HR plateau, he could give you 20. He’s had success at Tropicana Field with a career average of .299 with 25 HR and 72 RBI in 77 games. Manny is a hitter, and while his bat speed may have dropped, if he can stay healthy, he can still contribute.
Plus, he’s not a big risk. His ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is  156. He’s worth a gamble in the 13th round. What’s your take? Is ManRam done or does he have another productive year left in him?

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Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Everybody fell in love with David Price during Tampa Bay’s improbably run to the World Series in 2008. He truly was nearly untouchable. The expectations were so high for Price heading into last year.

Then he didn’t earn a spot in the rotation to start the year. He struggled initially for Triple-A Durham. Eventually he got things sorted out and make his return to the Rays.

He started off slow posting a 3-3 record with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP in his first nine starts. He was able to turn things around after the All-Star Break earning a 7-4 record with a 4.27 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. His batting average against was the same (.241) both before and after the break.

He was just finding different ways to make outs after the break. He had a 9.6 K/9 ratio before the break and a 5.9 K/ratio after it. Even though he wasn’t ringing up a ton of strikeouts he was getting the job done. I think that will be invaluable in 2010. I do feel the strikeouts will come back, but it’s good for his confidence to know he doesn’t have to rely on the strikeout. 

I could see owning Price as a 4th or 5th fantasy starter.

Predicion:  13-8, 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 160 Ks

Past profiles:
Arizona Diamondbacks:  Brandon Webb
Atlanta Braves: Yunel Escobar
Baltimore Orioles:  Adam Jones
Boston Red Sox:  Clay Buchholz
Chicago Cubs:  Geovany Soto
Chicago White Sox:  Jake Peavy
Cincinnati Reds:  Joey Votto
Cleveland Indians:  Grady Sizemore
Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
Florida Marlins: Cameron Maybin
Houston Astros: Lance Berkman
Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Howie Kendrick
Los Angeles Dodgers: James Loney
Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Hart
Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan
New York Mets: Jason Bay
New York Yankees: Robinson Cano
Oakland A’s: Kevin Kouzmanoff
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
Pittsburgh Pirates: Octavio Dotel
San Diego Padres: Everth Cabrera
San Francisco Giants: Barry Zito
Seattle Mariners: Franklin Gutierrez
St. Louis Cardinals: Colby Rasmus

Here’s an early look at the AL East. Not ready for baseball? Check out Derek Jeter’s hottest girlfriends instead.

1.  Will Matt Wieters become an elite Catcher?
He came with a lot of fanfare and he delivered for the most part. He was at his best in August and September hitting .305 with 5 HRs and 27 RBIs. He struggled against Yankee pitching (.143, 0 HR, 0 RBI), but he chewed up the rest of the AL EAST (.368, 5 HRs, 22 RBIs). He’ll be more comfortable at the plate and with the pitching staff, which should lead to a productive 2010 season.

2.  Will Nick Markakis become a Superstar?
Markakis has been solid for the past three years averaging 99 runs, 45 doubles, 20 HRs, and 100 RBIs while hitting .299. For him to take the next step he’ll have to increase his HR total. At 26, with an emerging Wieters, Adam Jones, and newly acquired Garrett Atkins in the lineup, Markakis can do just that.

3.  Can Jeremy Hermida finally reach his potential?
With Jason Bay moving on to the Mets, Jeremy Hermida has an opportunity to hit in Boston’s vaunted lineup. He’ll have to hold off Mike Cameron or wait for J.D. Drew’s inevitable injury.

His power has been on decline the past few seasons.

2007 – 18 HR in 429 AB (23.8 AB/HR)
2008 – 17 in 502 (29.5 AB/HR)
2009 – 13 in 429 (33.0 AB/HR

His OPS has been .729 and .740 the past two years, which is not characteristic of the Red Sox style. Soon to be 26 though, he could come into age for the Red Sox this year.

The Red Sox are going to move Jacoby Ellsbury to LF and start Cameron in CF, which diminishes Hermida’s value.

4.  Which Big Papi will show up?

David Ortiz entered June with just 1 HR and 18 RBIs in 46 games. He had 27 HRs and 81 RBIs in the remaining 104 games. If Papi, whose age now matches his number, can hit at a high level again, the rest of the Red Sox lineup gets a big lift.

5.  What will the Yankees do in Left Field?
They have already went on record saying Matt Holliday isn’t the expensive answer to the question. There is a chance that Johnny Damon is brought back for another year. Brett Gardner could get the chance. He was decent in the first-half (.282, 36 runs, 18 SBs in 188 ABs). Personally I think he’s better suited as a spot starter/defensive replacement/pinch runner. Reed Johnson, Jerry Hairston, Jr. or even Xavier Nady could emerge as the eventual winners.

6.  Will B.J. Upton bounce back?
After his impressive postseason run, much was expected of B.J. last year. Other than his SB total (42) he was pretty much a disappointment. He only hit above .231 in one month last year. Even his SB production tailed off (31 in his first 81 games, 11 in his last 63). Assuming he is healthier in 2010 I don’t see any reason he can’t bounce back completely to at least his 2008 production. His rough 2009 season should make him a much better value in your upcoming draft.

7.  Was David Price more 2008 or 2009?

Price was electric upon being called up in 2008. He was openly upset about not starting the season in the bigs, and he struggled in the minors. When he finally did get the call, he struggled with a 4.70 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in his first nine starts. Though his strikeout rate dipped from 9.61 K/9 to 5.9 in his last 14 starts, he was a much more effective pitcher. He went 7-4 in those starts with a 4.27 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. His stuff is so electric that I feel the strikeouts will return. He should also be a nice value this coming season.

8.  Is Ben Zobrist for real?
Ben bounced around quite a bit for the Rays last year before injuries settled him in at Second Base. He responded with 27 HRs in 501 ABs (18.6 AB/HR). While it came out of nowhere considering he had 15 HRs in his previous three years, he did hit 12 in 198 ABs in 2008 (16.5 AB/HR). Even if he takes a dip from the 91 runs, 27 HRs, 91 RBIs, 17 SBs he had last year, he’ll still be a high-end Second Basemen. Though with the stability he earned himself, I don’t expect him to take that step back.

9.  Will Vernon Wells get dealt?
The Blue Jays are clearly playing for the future. Though they would love for somebody to take Vernon Wells’ hefty contract off their hands, the likelihood of that happening seems slim.

AL Central Burning Questions
AL West Burning Questions
- NL East Burning Questions
NL Central Burning Questions
NL West Burning Questions

Images courtesy of Icon SMI

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

There have been rumblings that the Rays may transition David Price to the bullpen, meaning that a spot may soon open up in the rotation.  For a team with tremendous young pitching depth, they likely shouldn’t miss a beat as Wade Davis, currently pitching in Triple-A, could seamlessly step in and fill the void.

Davis has been impressive, posting the following line this season:

10 Wins
145.2 Innings
3.34 ERA
1.29 WHIP
129 Strikeouts (7.97 K/9)
39 Walks (3.65 BB/9)
.292 BABIP

What’s not to like from those numbers?  Everything is right in line with his minor league career numbers:

  • K/9 – 8.8
  • BB/9 -  3.4
  • WHIP – 1.27
  • ERA – 3.28

Considering that he’s been able to duplicate those numbers against the highest level of minor league competition, there’s little reason to doubt that he could continue to be a solid pitcher in the major leagues.  In fact, in most organizations he’d already be a consistent force in a rotation, but this is Tampa Bay.

Prior to the season, the 23-year old right-hander was ranked as the Rays third best prospect (behind Price and Tim Beckham) by Baseball America.  In fact, he’s been a fixture among the team’s Top 10 for the past four years, since being selected in the third round in 2004.

Baseball America described his arsenal prior to the season by saying:

“Davis is one of the premier power pitching prospects in the game. His four-seam fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, and he can dial it up to 95-96 mph when needed. He throws his hard 11-to-5 curveball with plus control, and it’s filthy when he produces two-plane break. Davis also has a straight changeup and showed an improved cut fastball in Triple-A.”

His strength lays in his ability to get righties out, hitting just .213 against him with 4 HR this season.  He’s struggled against lefties this season (.254, 8 HR), a trend that has been there for his entire career (.273, 22 HR while righties have hit just .208 with 19 HR).

Considering he has faced 1,547 right-handed batters and 1,194 left-handed hitters, the fact that he’s allowed more home runs and nearly as many doubles (46 vs. 51) against lefties is quite disturbing.  He needs to figure out a way to get left-handers out if he wants to be successful moving forward.

Pitching in the AL East, he’s going to have to face batters like Mark Teixeira, David Ortiz & Victor Martinez, so that could become a problem, as if facing the Yankees and Red Sox was not bad enough.

For his career he’s benefited from a 45.8% groundball rate, though that number has plummeted to 36.9% in 2009.  It is something worth monitoring, because while it hasn’t hurt his HR/9 dramatically this season (0.71), at the major league level it could prove troublesome.

Overall he has the stuff to be a successful major league pitcher and clearly is worth monitoring in all formats.  Is he a pitcher that should be used every start?  Absolutely not, as he faces the potential to be blown up from time to time, if he even ends up in the rotation (though, he shouldn’t run into an innings cap having thrown 160.2 innings in ‘08).

He’s clearly worth stashing in keeper leagues immediately (if he’s available), while yearly league owners should consider him as a potential pitch-and-ditch option down the stretch.  He’ll have the potential to be brilliant, especially when facing a predominantly right-handed hitting, weaker line-up.  Outside of that, the potential is there for some gaudy numbers.

What do you think of Davis?  How good could he be?  Will he struggle this season?

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Prior to the season it was a foregone conclusion that David Price, unanimously considered one of the top two prospects in baseball, would be up and contributing to the Tampa Bay Rays by June.  The team was just going to send him down to the minor for a little more seasoning, despite already showcasing him on the grandest of stages.  What they have, however, is a pitcher struggling at Triple-A making it nearly impossible for the team to recall him right now. 

His 2009 line is as follows:

1 Wins
24.2 Innings
4.74 ERA
1.65 WHIP
21 Strikeouts (7.66 K/9)
16 Walks (5.84 BB/9)
.292 BABIP

The blame does not fall on bad luck, but lack of control.  He was a lights out pitcher as he moved up the Rays farm system last season, posting impressive K/BB ratios of 5.29 at Single-A, 3.44 at Double-A and 3.00 in the Majors.  It should be noted that during his 18 inning Triple-A stint, his K/9 was 8.50 and his BB/9 was 4.50, eerily similar to the numbers he’s posted this season.

Is he truly not ready to take the ball as a starting pitcher against top tier talent?  Remember, the majority of his success for the Rays came as a reliever.  Still, at 23-years old I find it hard to believe that he’s not suited to take the ball and get major league hitters out. 

Could it be that he simply was disappointed in not making the team immediately out of Spring Training?  To me, that would explain some early season struggles, but it is something that he had to have gotten over by now.  He can’t let something like that bother him for this long if he wants to be a successful major league pitcher.  Unfortunately, it is his last few starts that have been the worst, walking 12 batters over 11 innings of work in three starts.  There is simply no way to equate that type of control to success.

Baseball America recently said, “What’s wrong with David Price? Much of it appears to be command. He’s throwing in the low-90s and touching the mid-90s with his fastball, but he’s not throwing enough strikes and not throwing good enough strikes when he does get the ball over the plate.”  For me, that says it all. 

If he can string together two or three good starts, this will all quickly be forgotten.  He can get back on schedule to make an impact for the Rays and fantasy owners in the near future.  It starts tonight when he takes the ball against Louisville.  Let’s see if he can right the ship.

What does everyone else think?  Will he be able to turn it around quickly?  Are you at all concerned with his struggles?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Last night we got a brief taste of baseball action as Derek Lowe’s Sinker sunk the Phillies.  Today we get the full meal.  There have been a couple of postponed games.  Here’s a list of likely fantasy starters.  Be sure to adjust your lineups accordingly.
Boston Red Sox
1B – Kevin Youkilis
2B – Dustin Pedroia
OF – Jason Bay
OF – Jacoby Ellsbury
DH/Util – David Ortiz
SP – Josh Beckett
RP – Jonathan Papelbon
Tampa Bay Rays
C – Dioner Navarro
1B – Carlos Pena
3B – Evan Longoria
OF – Carl Crawford
OF/DH – Pat Burrell
SP – James Shields

Chicago White Sox
C – A.J. Pierzynski
1B – Paul Konerko
SS – Alexei Ramirez
OF – Carlos Quentin
OF – Jermaine Dye
DH/Util – Jim Thome
SP – Mark Buehrle
RP – Bobby Jenks

Kansas City Royals
3B – Alex Gordon
SS – Mike Aviles
OF – Coco Crisp
OF – David DeJesus
DH/Util – Billy Butler
SP – Gil Meche
RP – Joakim Soria

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