Tampa Bay Rays (35 days until Opening Day)

Over the weekend, Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times explored the Evan Longoria situation and asked whether he is ready for to be on the Rays opening day roster.

“I worked hard in the offseason, and I really do feel I have a legit chance of breaking with the club,” Longoria said. “I’m not there yet, but I’m definitely ready.”

The Rays don’t know. Not yet anyway.

They expect him to be in the majors at some point this season and are confident that – eventually – he’s going to be really good.

Topkin is correct in saying that this is the biggest decision for the Rays this off-season. But where we get lost is when the Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon list what they are looking for from Longoria and the main reason that they are hesitant to name The Dirtbag the opening day third baseman.

Friedman and manager Joe Maddon say they’ll consider a series of factors beyond actual performance and results, everything from how Longoria carries himself and interacts in the clubhouse; his thought process at the plate and how he makes adjustments during, and between, at-bats; his preparation, work ethic and knowledge of the game; how he plays defense and does the “little” things. And they’ll try to gauge other things more subjective such as how he’d handle the frustrations of what would be his first extended slump as a pro.

This is not the first time that the team has stated their concern over the fact that Longoria has yet to experience a slump as a professional. Let’s gloss over the fact that Longoria actually did struggle a bit when he was first promoted to AAA Durham last year.

If this is the biggest concern the Rays have with Longoria, then they have no concerns. “He has never slumped” is not a reason to keep somebody in the minors. “He can’t handle curveballs” or “He smokes too much weed” are reasons to keep somebody in the minors. “He is too good” is not.

Don’t get us wrong. This is something to care about. You want to know that the player will be able to fight his way out of a slump. But it is asinine to think that this is the main reason to keep from promoting your best prospect. Longoria is too good of a hitter. He was born to hit a baseball. At some point he is going to slump. He will be fine.

Longoria: Read? Or Not? [St. Pete Times]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • Joe Maddon has made it clear: The right field/DH triangle is not going to be divided equally. Cliff Floyd will be the primary DH. And depending on his health, Maddon would prefer that Rocco Baldelli be the right fielder on most days. Whatever is left over will go to Jonny Gomes. [Tampa Tribune]

“They’re all tied together,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “First of all, we have to determine how many games Rocco can play out there. Rocco would be the dominant defensive player if you have the choice. Once you find out what Rocco can do, you go with Jon, defensively, for me. … Cliff, I really don’t want to get him out there too often. I think that would be unwise. He’s going to play some outfield, but the least we do of that, the better off he’s going to be and we’re going to be.

  • We are a little confused. First Joe Maddon stated that Brian Anderson “threw really well today…[he] may be a little ahead of what we thought”. But then Maddon followed up that comment by saying that Anderson “is on task according to what we set up”. Seems contradictory. If Anderson is healthy, and throwing well, he is a wildcard that could present the Rays with a pleasant problem in the bullpen. As of now, Trever Miller is the lefty specialist. JP Howell also has a very strong chance of making the bullpen as a long/middle reliever. It will be interesting to see how the team handles the situation if they deem Anderson major league-ready. [Herald-Tribune]
  • The Bradenton Herald takes a look at the unorthodox route taken by Fernando Perez in his quest to become a major league baseball player. [Bradenton Herald]
  • The Bradenton Herald thinks that Carl Crawford and the rest of the Rays should just ignore Delmon Young. We agree that Young is full of hot air and that it was inevitable that he would say something and that nothing further should be said. However, we are glad that Crawford said what he said and glad he said it in the manner in which he said it. When you are a franchise that gets zero respect in baseball circles, Crawford’s comments sent a message that no longer are the Rays going to all others to disrespect them. [Bradenton Herald]
  • David Chalk of Bugs & Cranks continues his preview of each team by comparing them to the Devil Rays. These are must-reads. [Bugs & Cranks]
  • Baseball Mastermind ranks the AL clubs. The Rays come in 9th, saying they are “here to stay” but with legitimate concerns about the bullpen. [Baseball Mastermind]
 
 

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