Tampa Bay Rays (14 days until pitchers and catchers report)
Baseball Prospectus profiles James Shields. Take five minutes to read this and you will know more about James the Greater than you thought possible.

Two things stood out to us: 1) Shields scouting report from Baseball America’s list of the Rays’ top 30 prospects of 2002 (Shields was #27). This was after his first professional season as a 16th round draft pick. He would not show up on the list again until 2006.

Shields has good command of his fastball, which was clocked as high as 91 mph last summer. He also has a plus curveball that features sharp, late-breaking action, making it particularly troublesome for right-handers. Shields has impressive determination and excellent endurance…His changeup is no better than average, but the Rays believe that once he makes it more consistent, he could move rapidly. Shields made the most of his opportunities last year.

As pointed out in the piece, Shields’ change-up has come a long ways in seven years, as it was almost an after-thought early in his career. The profile continues to evaluate each of his minor league seasons and concludes by looking at how Shields used each of his four pitches in 2007, which is an excellent look at how a pitcher can attack righties and lefties differently.

As is typical of most right-handed pitchers, he uses his traditional breaking pitches much more frequently against righties by utilizing his slider (19 percent) and his curve (12 percent) at the expense of his changeup (26 percent). He’ll start off most right-handers with either a fastball (55 percent) or a slider (27 percent) and then if he gets ahead, he does a good job of mixing up his pitches. If he falls behind it’ll primarily be fastballs until he evens the count and can begin to work in the other pitches again.

His changeup has more tailing than downward action, moving over 8.5 inches on average (relative to a reference pitch thrown without spin) and he threw it over 43 percent of the time against lefties and a quarter of the time against righties. Although he doesn’t get a lot of called strikes on it, it is where he gets 60 percent of his swinging strikes and a fair percentage of his foul balls. As his out pitch, against right-handers he’ll pull it out a majority (60 percent) of the time on 0-2, 1-2, and 2-2 counts.

If you’re a left-handed hitter, 90 percnt of the pitches you’ll see from Shields are the riding fastball or changeup. He’ll usually start lefties with the fastball (64 percent) but employ the changeup 60 percent of the time when he’s ahead or even in the count. One would think having to choose from just two pitches would make things easier on the hitters but that proves difficult, as lefties hit worse (.243/.278/.393) on the season than right-handers (.250/.289/.428) because of his ability to changes speeds and locate both pitches very effectively. The other two pitches are just for show, as over 50% of the few sliders and curves he threw to lefties ended up in the dirt for balls.

The profile concludes by stating that Shields should not see a let-down in 2008 and will likely be better with an improved defense behind him.

Player Profile: James Shields [Baseball Prospectus]


  • The Philadelphia Daily News speculates that the Rays may be one of five teams interested in acquiring third baseman Wes Helms. The signing of Pedro Feliz by the Phillies makes Helms expendable. Still, there is little chance the Rays would be involved after the recent trade that brought in Willy Aybar. And the Daily-News’ assertion that the Rays front office is considering keeping Evan Longoria in the minors for the entire 2008 campaign is dubious at best. [Philadelphia Daily News]
  • Armchair GM has the first power rankings of 2008 out. The Rays come in at a somewhat respectable #22, eight spots ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. There is a lot of hope this year for the Rays, and third base is strong possibility. But if the Rays do not finish ahead of the O’s in the AL East, heads will roll. [Armchair GM]
  • It has been well-documented that the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays had one of the worst bullpens in the history of baseball. Now 28.5% of the Rays 2007 opening day bullpen will be backing up newly acquired Johan Santana for the Mets in 2008. After acquiring Brian Stokes earlier this off-season from the Rays, the Mets have now claimed Ruddy Lugo off of waivers from Oakland. This is typical Mets. They distract their fans with shiny objects and hope they don’t notice that the front office just plugged one hole with a diamond, and yet there are still several other holes. This team is destined to be just good enough to break the fans’ collective hearts…again. [MetsBlog]
  • The St. Pete Chamber of Commerce will form a 35-member task force to investigate the impact of the Tampa Bay Rays proposed stadium. The task for will be made up of local business and community leaders. The task force will help decide if the Chamber of Commerce will ultimately support or oppose the new stadium. [St. Pete Times]
  • Bill Chastain continues his preview series of each of the Rays “positions”. The latest installment is “starting rotation”. [DevilRays.com]
  • 365 Days of Dough, Rays and Me also takes a stab at the Rays 2008 starting rotation. [365 Days of Dough, Rays and Me]
  • DRays Bay interviews Marc Normandin. [DRays Bay]
  • The Diamond Cutter takes a look at the Rays top 5 prospects. [The Diamond Cutter]


  1. Robert Rittner says:

    I doubt that either Stokes or Lugo will be in the Mets' bullpen come opening day.

    The scouting report on McGee supports your claim made a while ago that Jake's fastball is in the low 90s, although he does call it a plus pitch.

    I would quarrel with some of the power ratings which do not really compare anyway, so how do we even know what they mean. In other words, given what he said about the Rays, they could be listed in the top 5 with the same comments for all concerned, and there would be no way to infer that the rating was wrong.

  2. Marc says:

    Thanks for mentioning my blog: 365 Days of Dough, Rays, and Me.

    The 2008 Starting Rotation is a critical topic when discussing their potential in the upcoming Regular Season.


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