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2012 Rays Preview: Rays 2012: Encore to an Improbable Run

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.


The Encore to an Improbable Run

The Rays made one of the most improbable end-season runs to sneak into the playoffs as the Wild Card. Literally minutes after Boston lost in Baltimore on the season's final day to set up a movie-ending scenario, Evan Longoria roped a homer down the left field line to send the Rays to the postseason. Lost in the Longoria homer was that Dan Johnson saved the game in the bottom of the ninth with a clutch home run with two outs and a 2-2 count. Unfortunately the Rays couldn't get past the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, losing the series 3-1. This season the Rays return with arguably their strongest lineup and best chance of winning their first World Series. The rotation should be one of the best and the offense will be capable of putting up runs on the board on a nightly basis. There's rightfully a lot of optimism in Tampa right now.

Offseason Moves:

Signed Carlos Pena to a one-year deal.

Pena reportedly turned down more money for a chance to come back and play for the Rays. He'll provide the Rays with solid defense and although his batting average is well below league-average he'll provide a solid OBP. Look for him to flirt with 30 home runs and hit in the heart of the Rays' lineup.

Signed Luke Scott to a one-year deal.

After the signing of Pena, Scott will likely see the majority of his at-bats at DH. Coming off of shoulder surgery he was given a clean bill of health by the Rays and should provide some pop in the middle of the lineup. Scott has had success in Baltimore filling the DH spot so there's no reason to think he'll be the 2010 version of Pat Burrell.

Signed Fernando Rodney to a one-year deal.

Rodney came relatively cheap at $1.75 million and could carve out a seventh inning role. It's unlikely he'll factor into the closer's role but the Rays have a good history of maximizing the potential out of their relievers. If Rodney can keep his stuff under control, his ground ball tendencies should play nicely to the Rays stellar defense.

Signed Jeff Keppinger to a one-year deal.

Keppinger will be used as a utility player who can also come off the bench in late innings and bat against left-handed pitching. His defense is average at best but he's versatile enough to play any position in the field.

Signed Matt Moore to a five-year deal worth $14 million.

With all the club options and extras, the overall value of the contract could be worth $39.5 million. The Rays were likely wise to do this. While pitcher's are tough to predict what will happen with them health-wise, they don't come any better in the pedigree department as Moore. He dominated at Triple-A and with the Rays, winning the only game against Texas in the postseason. The deal should mean he starts the season towards the back of the rotation although the Tampa brass has stated he could start in the minors. That's an unlikely scenario unless something goes terribly wrong in the spring.

Traded Russ Canzler to the Indians, lost Justin Ruggiano to free agency after he refused assignment to Triple-A, non-tendered Dan Johnson, Juan Cruz and Andy Sonnanstine.

Canzler didn't figure into the Rays plans after they signed Carlos Pena and while he's shown some power in the minors it comes with a lot of strikeouts. Justin Ruggiano will have a better chance at playing time after signing with Houston and the Rays finally gave up on Andy Sonnanstine. Dan Johnson will always hold a special place in the hearts of Rays' fans given his clutch hitting over the years. Juan Cruz was a replaceable piece in the bullpen.

Acquired Burke Badenhop via trade from the Marlins.

Badenhop is a sinkerball pitcher who will induce a lot of ground balls. Look for Badenhop to work himself into some type of middle relief role out of the bullpen.

Projected Lineup/Rotation

Lineup (vs. RH and LH)

Desmond Jennings Desmond Jennings
Ben Zobrist Ben Zobrist
Evan Longoria Evan Longoria
Carlos Pena Carlos Pena
Luke Scott Luke Scott
Matt Joyce Matt Joyce
BJ Upton BJ Upton
Reid Brignac Sean Rodriguez
Jose Lobaton Jose Molina

The lineup has more power than the Rays are used to after adding Carlos Pena and Luke Scott. Desmond Jennings will look to build on a successful rookie campaign and provide a stolen base threat at the top of the order. The heart of the lineup will provide the ability to hit the long ball and protect Evan Longoria. Matt Joyce will look to build on his first season as a starter and could be in line for more playing time if he figures out how to hit lefties. The enigma that is B.J. Upton will provide solid defense and brings an intriguing blend of speed and power that comes with a poor batting average. The bottom two spots in the order won't be relied heavily on for production but Sean Rodriguez trumps Reid Brignac as the player with the higher offensive upside. Newcomer Jose Molina will be expected to handle the pitching staff and provide a good defensive option behind the plate.

Rotation

1. James Shields
2. David Price
3. Jeremy Hellickson
4. Matt Moore
5. Wade Davis/Jeff Niemann/Alex Cobb

The first four spots in the rotation are probably set sans a meltdown or injury in the spring. Matt Moore likely has a spot locked up after signing an Evan Longoria-type contract back in December. The Rays will likely deal either Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann, perhaps if another team gets hit by the injury bug or has an ineffective spot in their rotation. Top to bottom this is one of the best rotations in all of baseball and gives the Rays a chance to compete with big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East.

CL: Kyle Farnsworth

Farnsworth turned in one of his best seasons finishing with a 2.18 ERA and .988 WHIP. He had some arm issues late in the season but is expected to be fine once pitchers and catchers show up to camp. One of the keys to his success is that Farnsworth has turned into more of a ground ball pitcher, playing into one of the Rays' strengths: defense. If he falters or has more arm issues Joel Peralta would be next in line to close. As it stands now, Peralta will handle eighth inning duties, a job he excelled at last season.

Notes of Importance, Fantasy or Otherwise:

1. Who gets the majority of starts at shortstop?

Chances are both Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez will split time there with Brignac being the better defensive option while Rodriguez is the better offensive option. For fantasy purposes Sean Rodriguez is an interesting player to keep tabs on considering his floor with 400 plate appearances is around a 10/10 season. Rodriguez also has a lot of versatility and is likely eligible at second, shortstop and third base in most leagues. Brignac's .448 OPS last season shows the limited ceiling for his potential. It's possible that if both players slump the Rays could call up Tim Beckum at some point during the season.

2. Who gets the final spot in the rotation?

Whoever ends up with the spot should have fantasy relevance considering how good all three pitchers Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb have looked at times. Niemann lost his arbitration case (not a shocker considering the Rays history) and ended up with a one-year deal for $2.75 million. As good as the Evan Longoria deal is looking now, Davis' deal isn't looking as good. If the Rays can find a trade partner for either and address their needs, look for either pitcher to wearing a different uniform at some point this season.

3. What's the deal with B.J. Upton?

Upton has long been the subject of trade rumors, the question is will the Rays ever pull the trigger? He provides the team with excellent defense and is a virtual lock to finish with around 20 homers and 40 stolen bases. Those stats come at the expense of a batting average that's been south of .250 the last three seasons. If he was ever to improve the average, he'd provide top-25 value for a player that usually is taken in the middle rounds.

Strengths: Excellent rotation top to bottom, a solid defensive unit, a good minor league system and an upgrade in the power department.

Weaknesses: Questionable offensive production from the shortstop and catcher positions, relief pitching outside of Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth.

Rising: Desmond Jennings This will likely be the last season you can pick Jennings up in the middle rounds and get excellent value out of him. He'll likely cost much higher next season if he's able to build on what he did in 2011. Jennings tailed off towards the end of last season but should find himself batting leadoff on Opening Day. He finally displayed some power last season, finishing with 22 home runs between Triple-A and the Rays. Known for his speed, he should approach 40 stolen bases as well. A 59:31 K:BB ratio shows he wasn't overmatched at the plate and he has excellent range patrolling left field. He has the potential to be B.J. Upton but with a better batting average.

Falling: Wade Davis A once promising prospect, some of the shine has faded for Davis' potential. He finished his 2011 campaign with a paltry 5.14 K/9IP and isn't going to be handed a spot in the rotation. He's typically a slow starter and that may land him in the bullpen in a long relief role. Davis has a manageable contract and a move out of the AL East could be what he needs to right the ship. There's still upside here but last season was definitely a step in the wrong direction.

Sleeper: Brandon Guyer With all due respect to Sam Fuld, the bench player with the best upside this season is definitely Guyer. At 26 he's not an elite prospect but has displayed a nice blend of speed and power in the minors. His one walk in 43 plate appearances with Tampa last season tells you about his patience at the plate, an area he should improve in. If one of the regulars gets hurt or slumps, Guyer could find his way to four or five starts a week. Keep in mind he could start the season in Durham to play every day but he'll be a player to keep tabs on.

Supersleeper: Jose Lobaton The trade of John Jaso to the Mariners should give Lobaton the opportunity to platoon with Jose Molina. While Lobaton isn't as good defensively as Molina, he's show solid upside in the minors hitting eight home runs in only 184 at-bats for Durham last season. In the minors he's been extremely patient, consistently posting a walk rate higher than 10 percent. If he shows he can handle the pitching staff and can hold his own with the bat, he could end up with more playing time than Molina.

Roster

Here's a rundown of players not mentioned above:

Evan Longoria - Longoria might have been the biggest part of what was arguably the most dramatic final day of the regular season after hitting a walk-off home run to give the Rays the wild card in the American League. Longoria's overall numbers from last season, other than his career-low .244 batting average, were similar to his last three seasons. However, there are reasons to be very bullish on him going forward. He missed time back in April due to an oblique injury which not only led to a slow start but led to 87 fewer plate from the previous season. Longoria's strikeout rate dropped for the third straight season while his walk rate increased by three percent. This improved plate discipline didn't cost him any power as he homered once in every 18.5 plate appearances -- the best mark of his career. His production improved as the season went on, culminating in some gaudy stats over the season's final two months. Longoria finished those two months with 17 home runs, 46 RBI and a 37:37 K:BB ratio over 203 at-bats. His .244 batting average can be explained as being unlucky when considering his .239 BABIP was a career-low by 70 points. The only disappointment for fantasy owners was the stolen-base total which was down from 15 in 2010 to only three in 2011. One of the better fielding third baseman in the game, look for Longoria to be one of the first at the position off the board when your fantasy draft rolls around.

Ben Zobrist - Zobrist put together a stellar 2011 campaign for fantasy owners, finishing one stolen base from a 20-20 season. The 20 home runs proved that the 27 he hit in 2009 were not an anomaly and he's now stolen between 17-24 bags the last three seasons showing some consistency. One of the red flags that comes up when looking at last season's stats was his plate discipline as his strikeout rate increased almost three percent while his walk rate dropped almost three percent. The trade-off for those stats was he hit for more power; his 46 doubles were 18 more than each of the previous two seasons. Zobrist will likely resume his spot near the top of the lineup in the batting order and is penciled in to be the everyday second baseman although he likely has outfield eligibility as well from the 2011 season. Once the top tier second basemen are off the board, snag "Zorilla" who can contribute across the board in fantasy leagues.

Carlos Pena - Pena's .225/.357/.462 looks pedestrian for a first baseman, especially coming off a disastrous 2010. But if you take out an abysmal April during which he played through a thumb injury and managed just one double, nine singles and zero homers in 63 at-bats, his line is .235/.367/.504 - above average, especially when you consider his plus glove. Pena strikes out a ton, so he's almost certainly going to hurt your average, and he's going to sit a lot against lefties whom he simply could not hit last year. Still, in the right park and lineup, he could be an excellent cheap source of power.

Luke Scott - Scott, as so often happens for players in their 30s, suffered a devastating combination of decline and injuries in 2011. Scott's batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage were his lowest since an 89-plate appearance stint in 2005. With Scott entering his age-34 season this year and coming back from surgery in late August to repair a SLAP tear and posterior tear in his shoulder, it may be another down year for the designated hitter. Still, he could find regular at bats at first base or DH after signing with Tampa Bay and has always hit home runs when healthy.

B.J. Upton - Upton put together a very similar season to 2010 in 2011, suggesting further that he is what he is: a low batting average player who will hit around 20 home runs and steal around 40 bases. His batting average improved six points, his OBP eight points and his slugging percentage by five, closely resembling 2010. Figure those numbers in with a similar strikeout and walk rates and you have a player who has not declined but also has not developed as expected. While the small sample size caveat applies here, Upton did hit five home runs, steal nine bases and have a 23:17 K:BB ratio in 87 at-bats while hitting out of the second spot in the lineup. He remains one of the better fielders in the game and will likely remain a player whose name is constantly mired in trade rumors since the Rays have another center field option in Desmond Jennings. Depending on who the Rays sign or trade for, expect Upton to bat around sixth in the order and patrol center field on Opening Day.

Matt Joyce - Joyce rewarded fantasy owners who took a chance on him, finishing the season with 19 home runs and 13 stolen bases. After a strong start in April (.884 OPS) and May (1.229 OPS), he cooled off in June (.528 OPS) and July (.653) before rebounding over the last two months. The fluctuation of OPS is directly correlated with his BABIP showing that the roller coaster between Joyce being lucky and unlucky. He's more of a player who can hit for power than a speed guy but should again get a handful of swipes given the Rays' philosophy to run more than most teams. At 27, Joyce is entering his prime and if he shows improvement against left-handed pitching (.217 BA last season) he could be in line for at extra 100 plate appearances, adding to his value. The Rays have him penciled in as their everyday right fielder with Ben Zobrist likely to receive the bulk of his playing time at second base.

Jose Molina - Molina was a serviceable backup for the Jays but the team decided to look elsewhere for J.P. Arencibia's backup so Molina inked a one-year deal with the Rays. His glovework and ability to handle a pitching staff is what is keeping him in the majors as evidenced by his career .241/.286/.344 batting line. He doesn't offer enough power upside and his batting average figures to hurt you so it's hard to justify even a $1 bid on draft day.

Jose Lobaton - With the trade of John Jaso to the Mariners, Lobaton finds himself ready to compete for playing time with Jose Molina behind the plate for the Rays. While Molina is the better defender, Lobaton possesses more upside with the bat despite the lack of experience in the high minors. Lobaton did put together a nice body of work in limited time at Triple-A Durham with eight home runs and a .293 average in only 194 at-bats. One aspect of Lobaton's game that will endear him to the Rays is his patience at the plate; he's posted a walk rate of over 10 percent throughout the minors including a 16.5 percent mark at Durham last season. At 27, there's only so much upside to expect out of Lobaton but there is some sleeper potential in deeper leagues being a switch-hitter matched with a right-handed batter in a platoon.

Sean Rodriguez - Despite something of a disappointing season, Rodriguez will head into spring training vying for the starting shortstop job provided the Rays don't address the position through free agency or trade. While many thought Rodriguez could rise to the challenge of being an everyday player, he mainly found time filling in at the middle infield spots and at third while Evan Longoria was out. If there is a silver lining to his season, he improved his plate discipline by dropping his strikeout rate by 5.7 percent while increasing his walk rate by 3.1 percent. Even though he struggled in the stolen-base department going 11-for-18 (61 percent), he has a nice combination of speed and power (eight home runs in 374 at-bats). This makes him an intriguing option in deeper leagues if he wins the starting gig and continues to develop an improved approach at the plate.

Reid Brignac - Brignac was handed the starting shortstop role out of spring training but his failure to produce at the plate relegated him to the bench as the season went on. For the season he only managed one home run and a .193 batting average over 249 at-bats, walking in fewer than four percent of his plate appearances. While he's arguably the best defensive shortstop on the Rays' roster, being a liability at the plate will likely put him in an uphill battle to beat out Sean Rodriguez for the starting spot provided the Rays don't address the position via trade or free agency.

Sam Fuld - Fuld was one of the better "feel-good" stories in baseball after he burst onto the scene with stolen bases and acrobatic catches. Unfortunately, Fuld was not able to maintain consistent production at the plate and was relegated to being the fourth outfielder. He ended up batting .240 for the season and chipped in 20 stolen bases, making him a viable fantasy option at times. With the Rays outfield likely set with Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce, Fuld will likely reprise his role as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement. Keep an eye on the Rays' outfield as he could be a decent source of steals should he find regular playing time as a result of injury or lack of production from a starter.

James Shields - It's safe to say that 2011 will likely go down as the greatest season in Shields' career. The righty put together career-best numbers across the board, while his 11 complete games were the most in baseball by three games (over Roy Halladay) and his four shutouts tied him for second behind Cliff Lee. Shields has developed an excellent pick-off move to first base finishing with a league-high 12 pick-offs and allowing few stolen bases. Shields was supported by a career-low .258 BABIP, a stark contrast from his .341 mark in 2010 suggesting instead of being unlucky, perhaps a little luck was on his side. A little luck, that is, and some adjustments to his pitch selection. Shields got away from his low-90s fastball, throwing it 10 percent less often and relying more on two of his secondary pitches - his change-up and curveball. The use of these pitches in combination with with his pickoff move led to a career-high 79.6 percent strand rate. Shields' cured his gopheritis allowing eight fewer home runs from the previous season despite throwing an extra 46 innings. This was supported by raising his groundball rate by five percent while lowering his flyball rate by three percent. His spectacular season made picking up his 2012 option an obvious move and he should toe the mound as the Rays' ace come Opening Day. Keep in mind while he's not going to fall off a cliff, expecting him to replicate his 2011 season is likely wishful thinking.

David Price - Many will point at the loss of seven wins (19 to 12) and the modest raise in ERA (2.72 to 3.49) and think Price had a down season after an outstanding 2010. The truth is overall he improved in many areas when looking past some of the obvious stats. He improved his K/9IP rate slightly while walking almost one fewer batter per 9IP. As far as his skill set he has a lethal, bat-breaking fastball that routinely works in the mid-90s. The fastball is so good he throws it over 70 percent of the time and even when batters know it's coming, they often miss. Price's next best pitch is his slider which has a ton of knee-buckling action and he has a curve and a change-up he can throw in as well. Hope on draft day other owners look at his win and ERA stats and prepare to snag Price once the elite starting pitchers are off the board.

Jeremy Hellickson - Hellickson turned in a solid rookie season as the Rays' No. 5 starter and was rewarded with the American League Rookie of the Year award. He finished the season with a 2.95 ERA, a 1.153 WHIP, and a 13-10 record. Hellickson doesn't have overpowering stuff but uses solid command to locate his low-90s fastball and also throws a plus-changeup and curve. While the ERA and WHIP were excellent, there were a few minor red flags to his award-winning season. His .223 BABIP suggests he was somewhat lucky and his 5.57 K/9IP and 3.43 BB/9IP aren't numbers you usually see coincide with a 2.95 ERA. This isn't to say he's not an extremely talented pitcher; just realize a sub-3.00 ERA likely isn't in the cards again. Look for him to open the season toward the end of the rotation for the Rays.

Matt Moore - Moore started the season at Double-A Montgomery where he dominated the Southern League, including the first no-hitter in the league since Tommy Hanson's. Moore was even better after his July promotion to Triple-A Durham where he sported a 1.37 ERA over nine starts (52.2 innings) with a 79:18 K:BB rate. Moore received his first major league start against the Yankees in the Bronx in September and tossed five scoreless innings, striking out 11 for his first win. Moore went on to pitch Game 1 of the ALDS and threw seven shutout innings in Arlington against the Rangers as the Rays won 9-0. The big question heading into this season is where Moore fits in the Rays' plans. Conventional wisdom would say he'd have a spot in the rotation, even if the Rays go with a six-man rotation. A trade of one of the returning five starters would help clear up this picture and a spot in the rotation would likely make him the front-runner for ROY in the American League. He signed a five-year, $15 million contract in December, so the Rays may have already tipped their hand he'll be in the starting rotation in April. Don't be afraid to be aggressive in drafting the him, the sky is the limit.

Wade Davis - Many expected Davis to take another step in the right direction developmentally and instead he did just the opposite. He finished the season with a 11-10 record which was kind of lucky considering his 4.45 ERA and 1.375 WHIP. A loss of one mph off his fastball may be partially to blame for the decrease in his strikeout rate which dropped to 5.14 K/9IP after a 6.05 K/9IP mark in 2010. Besides his fastball, Davis has a decent curveball as well as a slider and changeup in his arsenal of pitches. The problem for Davis is that he simply isn't missing many bats. His 5.9 percent swinging strike rate is well below league-average although his K/9IP rate was at its highest mark over the final two months of the season. There will be plenty of competition for the rotation in the spring; Davis will need a good showing if he's going to claim a spot as the No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

Jeff Niemann - Niemann had a roller coaster of a season, mired by bouts of being hittable with times of dominance. For the second straight season the 6-foot-9 giant dealt with injuries as a balky back kept him sidelined for most of May and part of June. When he returned he was dominant, finishing July with a 1.06 ERA over five starts (34.0 innings). Niemann was stellar in August as well (3.35 ERA in 37.2 innings) until a couple of starts against Texas and a one-inning start against Toronto in September left him off the ALDS roster. With the glut of starting pitching the Rays have stockpiled, the pressure will be on Niemann to produce from the start or his spot in the rotation could be in jeopardy. He'll also have to prove he can stay healthy, something he hasn't been able to do in either of the last two seasons. Don't be surprised to hear his name in the rumor mill considering he's one of the Rays pitchers who has a lower ceiling. A move to the National League would greatly increase his fantasy value.

Alex Cobb - Cobb mowed down Triple-A hitters to the tune of a 1.87 ERA with a 1.143 WHIP before getting a promotion to the big club. He made his first start for the Rays on May 1 giving up four runs in 4.1 innings but was optioned back to Durham immediately after the game. Cobb came up for good on May 31 and was part of a six-man rotation until he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a blockage near his rib cage. The injury is not expected to be an issue, and he should be ready to go once pitchers and catchers report for camp. Cobb features a fastball in the low-90s, a solid curve and an above-average changeup that has some splitting action to it. While with the Rays he held his own with a 3.42 ERA over nine starts, demonstrating he's ready for the big show. His ERA was aided by a 54 percent groundball rate, which helped mask a drop in his strikeout rate, albeit a small sample size with the Rays. Cobb is expected to compete for a spot in the rotation, though the Rays return all of their starters and have Matt Moore vying for a spot as well. If Cobb lands in the back of the Tampa rotation, he'd make for an interesting sleeper pick considering his success last year with the Rays and his minor league track record.

Kyle Farnsworth - Farnsworth turned an outstanding season in his first year as a Ray, collecting 25 saves as the team's primary closer. The Rays rewarded him by picking up his option for 2012, a no-brainer move after he posted a 2.18 ERA and 0.988 WHIP. The key to Farnsworth's success was his improved control; while his strikeout rate declined some he posted a career-best 1.87 BB/9IP with a 50.4 percent groundball ratio. Farnsworth dealt with a balky elbow towards the end of the season but nothing was found to be structurally wrong and he should be fine for the start of camp. Look for him to again assume closing duties and keep in mind that 25 saves may be the floor, provided he can stay healthy for the full season.

Joel Peralta - Peralta became something of a 2011 version of Joaquin Benoit, assuming the role of the setup guy for Kyle Farnsworth. Peralta finished the season with a sparkling 2.93 ERA with 19 holds and six saves. Peralta looked comfortable in the closer's role down the stretch when Farnsworth was a little banged up, giving the Rays another option in the ninth inning, if needed. There's no reason to think Peralta can't replicate his 2011 season while resuming setup duties, giving him fantasy value for those in leagues that count holds.

J.P. Howell - Howell struggled in his first season back from shoulder surgery, finishing the season with a 6.16 ERA and 1.565 a WHIP. The big problem for Howell was his lack of control as evidenced by his 5.28 BB/9IP mark. The good news is he made it through the season without any setbacks with his shoulder and he should be able to work toward becoming the pitcher he once was being another year removed from surgery. While he logged only 30.2 innings, he was hit hard by right-handed batters, issuing four home runs in only 13.1 innings. However, in the past he's had equal success between left-handed and right-handed batters so that issue should improve. Look for him to work his way into the middle relief picture with Joel Peralta now setting up Kyle Farnsworth.

Jacob McGee - McGee headed into 2011 as a possible darkhorse for the closer's role but early season struggles not only kept him out of that picture it led to a demotion to Triple-A Durham. There he struggled during May before righting the ship in June and earning a recall in mid-July. While he pitched better after the recall (25:9 K:BB ratio over 21 innings) he continued to have problems as a flyball pitcher (48.8 percent) and ended up giving up four home runs during that stretch. Not surprisingly, McGee had some pretty drastic splits in the majors, owning a 9.35 K/9IP and holding right-handed batters to a .510 OPS while left-handed batters had a 1.143 OPS and had a 6.75 BB/9IP mark. While there is still room for growth with the youngster, a role as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen looks to be the likely scenario to start out the season.

Brandon Gomes - Gomes was acquired by the Rays in the Jason Bartlett deal and spent most of the season with the Rays after dominating at Triple-A Durham to start the season. In the minors he struck out 40 batters in only 25.1 innings, leading to a 1.07 ERA. He proved to be effective with the Rays, striking out just under a batter per inning and finishing with a 2.92 ERA. Gomes has a fastball in the low-90s and also throws a slider to keep hitters guessing. One area he'll need to improve is his ability to get out left-handed hitters after he had a 5.17 ERA vs. lefties while only a 1.54 ERA vs. righties. Barring a complete meltdown in the spring he should claim one of the bullpen spots as a middle reliever.

Cesar Ramos - A piece from San Diego in the Jason Bartlett deal, Ramos filled in adequately in a middle relief role for the Rays. He throws a low-90s fastball as well as a change-up, curve and slider. His 31:25 K:BB ratio and 1.397 WHIP show he doesn't have a lot of upside, but he did have a decent 49 percent groundball rate. He'll likely reprise his role as a middle reliever for the team.