We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2012 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2012 Rays Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Jason Collette from DRaysBay.
1) I have Evan Longoria as my preseason 2012 MVP pick. This is the year, friend. According to me. Live with me for a second (not literally) and give me your most optimistic line for Longoria.
Ignore the easy route and looking at his insanely low BABIP last year and look at the narrative. He strained his oblique in Game 2 of the season and missed 26 games because of it. He came back only to develop a nerve issue in his big toe on his right foot that did not allow him to properly get into baseballs like good hitters want to do. He didn’t get to 100% until somewhere around mid-June, right about the same time Matt Joyce cooled off from his rocket-fueled streak in May. Now, let’s get back to that BABIP. His plate appearance and batted ball results were nearly identical to what they were in 2010: K%, BB%, pitches per plate appearance, G/L/F splits, swing rates, etc. Yet, his BABIP fell 97 points and was only over .225 in three of the five months in which he played last season. What quietly flew under the radar during his monster close to the season was that he walked more than he struck out from August 1st throughout the rest of the season and did so without sacrificing any power as he had 26 extra base hits in just 244 plate appearances. .285 with 220 R+RBI, 40 HR, & 10 SB is not crazy to predict.
2) Desmond Jennings and I had a baby. It was under-reported that’s why you didn’t hear it. Okay, so I basically love all Rays (except Hellickson, we’ll get to him). You’re a fantasy guy yourself, so you know how much the fantasy community loves Desmond Jennings. Will we be disappointed or will he be a 2nd round pick in 2013?
I guess he took that maternity leave for most of September then. As awesome as he was in August, major league pitchers quickly found the holes in his swing in September and he proved time and time again he couldn’t lay off that high fastball and then got him making bad contact while protecting the plate after that. Dive into small sample size hell with me for a second and revisit the 17 games Jennings had after his 2 home run performance in Toronto. He hit .174/.278/.246 after that with just two extra base hits as pitchers gave him a steady diet of those high fastballs until he finally started laying off them toward the end of the season. Durability is always a concern with him as he has only had one blemish-free professional season. I’ve seen him go in the top 50 in some drafts but that’s a risky move – not because of the talent but because of the durability issues.
3) Jeremy Hellickson’s 2011 was a mess outside of ERA. This year his ERA catches up to his other peripherals. True, false or I shall explain.
False. The “norm” is different in Tampa Bay. Joe Maddon employs more defensive shifts than any other manager in baseball and it is no mistake that the Rays pitching staff has had the lowest team BABIP each of the past four seasons. Sure, Longoria and Zobrist are elite defenders, but Jason Bartlett was no gem during his run here and Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman aren’t terribly rangy side to side. Positioning is everything so a .223 BABIP against a team BABIP of .280 looks a bit better. Shields’ disastrous 2010 season is the only Rays’ starting pitcher to have a BABIP over .285 during that run as well. Hellickson is flyball heavy, but 25% of his flyballs in play never leave the infield as he induces a lot of bad contact. Also understand that his K/9 was problematic because he had John Jaso “catching” him often. Jaso is to catching what Rex Grossman is to quarterbacking. Hellickson had the lowest called strike three rate in baseball last season and thanks to the work of now Houston Astros front office guru Mike Fast, we know that Jose Molina is the best framing catcher in baseball. It is pretty easy to envision a caddy situation here as Hellickson is also susceptible to basestealers in that he isn’t quick to home plate. Molina’s framing and throwing were an early Christmas present for the young kid out of Iowa.
4) How many innings do we see from Matt Moore this year? Does he break camp with the team? I’ve already dropped my Matt Moore fantasy. Now yours please.
The Rays like to keep increases from season to season at 20%, but it’s with pitch counts, not innings pitched. As long as Moore isn’t turning in Scott Kazmir 2009 specials early in the season, I see no reason why he would be under any kind of restriction in September unless the team is not contending. Then again, after what happened in 2011, the Rays would probably need to be 14 games out for the front office to throw in the white flag. We are 20 days from pitchers and catchers reporting and the Rays still have six starting pitchers. Seven when you factor in the strong likelihood of Alex Cobb going to extended spring training and eight if you consider Alex Torres could pitch in the back end of most rotations in baseball right now. Putting Davis and/or Niemann in the bullpen does nothing to help their trade value, and the bullpen is already a bit crowded with guaranteed spots for Farnsworth, Peralta, Rodney, Howell, and likely McGee. Moore is already under contract so the typical model of the team sending him down past the Super Two deadline is out of the way and if the team did send him down, the fans (insert joke here) would boo louder than they boo a B.J. Upton strikeout looking. The run support should be there this year, much like Hellickson enjoyed last season so if he is up for the full season as a starter, 12+ wins, 180+ K’s is expected, not hoped for.
5) Do Tampa Bay Ray fans live in fear of the day that Andrew Friedman finds out that Jews aren’t supposed to live in Tampa until they collect Social Security?
There’s a rumor that Friedman has part ownership in the team which is why he has turned down lucrative jobs elsewhere. That tells us he is hoping to turn a profit when the team is eventually relocated to a more appreciative market so he can cash in his chips just in time to re-enter a recovering Wall Street market and make more millions to buy his own Island. As long as Gerry Hunsicker is still in the organization, the thought of Friedman leaving is easier to digest. Losing Dan Feinstein to Oakland was a tough talent bleed for the front office but adding former fantasy guru and now scout extraordinaire Jason Grey to the front office was a nice trade-off. Besides, with Jason Grey out of the way, maybe I can finally finish in the top 3 in AL Tout Wars.