If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and try to project what they will do, and why. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans.

On the third day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, THREE Gold Glove Awards…

In 2008 Carlos Pena became the first player in franchise history to win a Gold Glove award. With a team that is now on baseball’s front burner and no fewer than seven players that are at, or near the top of defensive players at their position, we want those abilities to be recognized and for three Rays to win Gold Gloves in 2009.

DEFENSE IS THE RAYS’ “MONEYBALL”: Since the book “Moneyball” was released in 2003, the term “Moneyball player” has evolved to mean something different than originally intended. Today, the casual baseball fan refers to a “Moneyball player” as one with a high on-base percentage. The true meaning is something different.

At the time “Moneyball” was written, Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane had identified players that were undervalued by other teams. It just so happened that the metric used at the time was players with high OBPs. Fast-forward six years and everybody recognizes the importance of players that get on base and it is much harder to find a bargain in that market.

Still, the concept behind “Moneyball” is as strong as ever, and it is something Stuart Sternberg and Co. thrived at long before they took over the front office of the Tampa Bay Rays: Identify something that is undervalued by others. In this case, the Rays “Moneyball” trait is defense. The Rays recognized early on that a good defensive player can save runs in the same manner that a good offensive player can produce them.

And in this case, defense may be a better “Moneyball” statistic than even OBP since defense is less susceptible to small sample sizes. Failure is the norm for a hitter. A player with a great on-base percentage still “fails” at least 60% of the time and that includes a lot of variance over short stretches. On the other hand a good defensive player is much less likely to deviate from their norm over a short stretch.

THE RAYS TARGET GOOD DEFENDERS FOR THE ROSTER: A quick look at all the position players on the 25-man roster that were acquired since Sternberg and Co. took over, shows that in almost every case, the player is a plus-defender. That list includes Evan Longoria, Aki Iwamura, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Dioner Navarro, Willy Aybar and Gabe Gross. Even a couple of acquisitions that have not stuck with the big club, Joel Guzman (now a minor league free agent) and Justin Ruggiano are solid defensive players.

Even the Rays latest acquisition is a good defender. While nobody foresaw the acquisition of Matt Joyce from the Tigers for Edwin Jackson, the move should not have come as a surprise. Joyce fits perfectly into the mold established by the front office. He is young, cheap, above-average with the bat and very good defensively. Once Joyce becomes the Rays’ everyday right fielder, joining Carl Crawford and BJ Upton, the Rays will have the best defensive outfield in baseball, and one that can hold it’s own offensively.

IT IS TIME FOR THE RAYS TO BE RECOGNIZED AS BEST DEFENSIVE TEAM IN BASEBALL: We have seen a better recognition by baseball writers towards the importance of good defense and how that can help a team like the Rays to the World Series. And while the Gold Glove is a flawed award, it is often based on the perceptions of the baseball writing community. And those writers now have access to better evaluations of defensive ability.

With more eyes on the Rays in 2009 and the recognition of just how good they are defensively, it is time that the writers acknowledge that recognition with multiple Gold Glove awards. While Pena is a good choice to repeat at first base, Jason Bartlett, Aki Iwamura, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Dioner Navarro and BJ Upton may also deserve consideration.

In the 2009 edition of “The Bill James Handbook” Crawford won The Fielding Bible Award for left fielders and Pena, Longoria and Navarro all finished in the top 7 at their respective positions. Bartlett, who battled multiple injuries in 2008 should return to his 2007 form as one of the better defensive shortstops in baseball. And despite playing relatively new positions, Iwamura and Upton will start to be recognized for their work.

On the third day of Raysmas, all Rays fans want is THREE Gold Glove awards, and…
TWO months in triple-A for David Price
[Day 2]
ONE impact bat with a bow on top [Day 1]

 
 

12 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice article and thought. Just wanted to thank you for this website. I really enjoy checking in and reading all the Rays insights.

  2. Jerry Tucker says:

    I agree with your line of thinking 100% on this article, good article.

    However based on your article yesterday and the comments that were made, David Price needs to be in the Major Leagues. If I was David Price and you sent me to the minor leagues, I would be pissed. David Price is a super star, what you baseball people need to understand is that a 1, 2 or 3 draft pick should be in the major leagues if he is healthy. Look at Longoria.

    When a superstar comes out of college, he has been in the minor leagues(I’m talking only about superstars). Price was not healthy when we got him because Vanderbilt had burnt him out and he needed a rest. This garbage about having to clean toilets and ride the bus to be a major leaguer is out dated. The only reason these teams hold these guys back is so they can extend their free agency years and that is where the players develop a bad attitude, look at Delmon Young and BJ Upton, Rays pissed both these guys off. Bj may overcome it, but I think he still has a bitter attitude regarding the way he was handled. Handling the superstars is different than handling a 2nd round pick.

    And by the way Tim Beckman is not and was not a number one pick, the Rays were trying to save some money and it may end up costing them more than it would have cost them to pick the guys that had more experience and ability. Only time will tell, but it looks like I am right so far.

  3. Shirley Glenn says:

    Well said, Jerry Tucker!!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Jerry Tucker

    I almost completely disagree with everything you just said.

    First off, if Davis Price isnt ready, he isnt ready. Thats not for us to determine, thats up to the front office and our scouts. Just because someone succeeds in the bullpen does not mean immediate success as a starting pitcher. As a reliever, you can get buy with two pitches once or twice through the order. As a starter, you are sometimes going through the order three to four times and need to vary your looks, approach and pitches to get the same guy out three to four times.

    Right now he has a plus fastball and slider, but his change up is still a work in progress. As a starter, you need that third pitch, especially if its an offspeed pitch. As a starting pitcher in the minors, it was evident that he struggled more against advanced hitters in AAA. His IP per start went down, his K/9 fell below 9, and his walks increased. Even in his two major league starts, he struggled the deeper he went into a game.

    You have to ask yourself what is best for his development and ultimately our teams future. If he is held back in Durham, he would be able to work on his offspeed pitch under a low pressure environment, where he can get more personal attention from Xavier Hernandez (a great pitching coach) and gain more confidence.

    You cant compare guys like Young and Upton, who spent years in the minors, to Price. First off, with Upton, it was obvious that he was not ready when he was called up at the age of 19. It was a desperate losing team willing to try anything. He had yet to find a position that he was not a defensive liability and would have cost the Rays so many runs as a shortstop in the majors. It was his stubbornness to change positions that kept him in the minors. Young was a bad seed all along. He thought he was the next Barry Bonds and wanted to be the exception to every rule. Im glad him and his bad attitude are gone. If you were the GM, you probably would have fed his ego even more (cause he’s gonna be a superstar!).

    Price on the other hand, spent just 4 months in the minors, which even for college players is hardly anything. No superstars just jump to the majors, there are actually only a handful in the history of baseball who have. Superstar, first round pick, second round pick, whatever, they are all treated the same. The first round picks are picked early for a reason. Sometimes its ceiling, talent, projectability, signability, or how quickly they can make an impact in the majors.

    Your right in the Price was touted as a pitcher who should be in the majors very quickly because he was so polished, but its not like he has just dominated every level. While he put up good numbers in A and AA, his AAA numbers were pedestrian, even his Durham playoff starts. Just because you are projected to be a super star does not mean you are above anyone else. Oviously since you invested so much time and money into that player, you will do everything to ensure that they succeed. However, if rushing them to the majors will hinder their development, you will hold them back for the good of the player and franchise. How many times have we seen good Rays prospects rushed to the majors and then struggled because they didnt refine their control or didnt have an effective third pitch. By the time you get to the majors, you should be a finished project, not a work in progress.

    Lastly, I am insulted that you say that Beckham was not a number one pick. According to who? the Rays felt he was the best talent and had the highest ceiling available. Im glad they didnt deal with Alvarez and Boras. Did you see how long that crap went on? The fact is that there was no consensus number one pick this past year (like with Price). However, Beckham was still one of the top picks regardless of signability. Even a guy like Alvarez had issues besides signability, including a injury at the beginning of his senior year that effected his hitting, position flexability, and strike outs.

    Sometimes the best talent is a highschool player, and you wont always see immediate results with them and it may take them a few years to put up big numbers. Just like with Upton, Crawford, etc, their numbers didnt jump off the page after they are drafted, but that doesnt mean that the talent wasnt there. They were more raw and needed coaching. How does it look so far that you are right? Because an 18 year old didnt put up huge numbers in his first month of minor league baseball? Come on man. Thats just ignorant. Beckham projects to be a 5 tool shortstop that steals bases, plays great defense, and has above average pop. Imagine Upton if he stayed at shortstop, and thats Beckham.

    Let me end this by saying that I am in fact in favor of Price starting the year in the majors. However, if they do determine that he needs some more time in Durham with Hernandez to work on a few things, I would completely understand. There is a reason why they get paid to do what they do and we dont.

    - bossmanjunior333

  5. Robert Rittner says:

    Exactly right, Bossmanjunior 333. And I want to reiterate that Beckham was absolutely considered a legitimate #1 pick by every draft expert in 2008, and that had nothing to do with signability.

    There is also a big difference between calling a position player like Longoria to the majors and calling up a pitcher. And in any case, Longoria spent a full 2 seasons in the minors; Price has spent barely one.

    And the reason for keeping prospects in the minors has nothing to do with cleaning toilets or riding buses or otherwise “paying dues”. It has to do with development, and with the Rays particularly that is critical because they have invested a great deal in the teaching aspect of the minor league system since the new management took over. There is a clear program of development for each player rather than some random efforts, and there is a consistent pattern from the lowest rung to the top to mold players into the Rays’ system.

    Had Upton been raised within the system established by the new management, he might have achieved success much earlier, but they took over after he had already been misused by the old group, and it took them a while to figure out how best to utilize his talent.

  6. Jerry Tucker says:

    Price is ready to pitch in Major Leagues, he will not be the first pitcher to be successful with only 2 pitches. You guys must be on the Rays payroll, same line of thinking, send them down give them a bad attitude about the Rays, so when they get here the can’t wait to leave.

    As for Beckman, he may have been projected as a high first round choice last year, but take a look at where he is projected this year compared to others drafted below him, and of course we will continue this comparison until he flops or makes it. And by the way I think he will make it, but never be an All Star.

  7. James Lindsey says:

    “can’t wait to leave”

    Are you smokin crack? Last I checked almost every young player on the team has signed a long term deal. And lastyear they sent Longoria down, and 3 weeks later he signed like a 30 year deal for about $5.

    You talking about Delmon and Dukes? You really wish they were still here? Hahaha!

  8. Robert Rittner says:

    Ok. Here is Baseball America’s list of the top prospects in the AL:
    ___________________________________

    1. David Price, lhp, Rays
    What he showed us in the postseason was just the beginning.
    2. Matt Wieters, c, Orioles
    He could be Mark Teixeira—as a catcher.
    3. Brett Anderson, lhp, Athletics
    The best player Oakland got in the package for Dan Haren.
    4. Trevor Cahill, rhp, Athletics
    It will be fun to watch his friendly rivalry with Anderson.
    5. Neftali Feliz, rhp, Rangers
    Just one reason the Braves wish they could undo their Teixeira trade.
    6. Tim Beckham, ss, Rays
    Yet another multitalented star-in-the-making for Tampa Bay.
    7. Eric Hosmer, 1b, Royals
    He could be the best of all the special hitters K.C. has drafted recently.
    8. Lars Anderson, 1b, Red Sox
    Even if Boston signs Teixeira, it will find room for Anderson in 2010.
    9. Travis Snider, of, Blue Jays
    Of these 10 guys, he might make the biggest 2009 impact in the majors.
    10. Mike Moustakas, 3b, Royals
    In a few years, he and Hosmer could combine for 70 homers annually.
    ________________________________

    You should note that of the draftees in 2008, Beckham is the highest rated, and is #6 overall. The 5 in front of him were drafted in 2006 or 2007. They also seem to think he is a multitalented star in the making.

    Of the other players considered possible #1 choices in 2008, I do not see any even on the list let alone ahead of Beckham.

  9. Robert Rittner says:

    If that is not enough for you, here is Project Prospect’s list of top prospects as of July 21, 2008. You can see that Beckham is the highest rated prospect from the 2008 draft:

    http://www.projectprospect.com/article/2008/07/21/top-25-prospect-rankings

  10. Robert Rittner says:

    I am wrong. Hosmer is on the list from the 2008 class. He was drafted third and is listed one rank lower than Beckham by BA. That may be because of a position adjustment.

    As for continuing the comparisons, that is a futile exercise reeking of hindsight. You cannot evaluate a team’s decision based on information they could not have had at the time they made it. When the Rays chose Beckham, he was universally regarded as one of two or three legitimate #1 picks, and as far as judging the Rays’ decision, that is all that can be considered.

    To do otherwise would be like criticizing 29 teams for allowing Andy Sonnanstine to fall to the 13th round or for the Cubs to have picked Mark Prior with the second overall pick in 2001. Every scouting report asserts that Tim Beckham will be a good fielding shortstop with pop in his bat. Whether he fulfills that promise nobody can say with certainty, but unlike a pick such as Matt Bush by San Diego or Daniel Moskos by Pittsburgh, there can be no criticism of the TB pick in 2008.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well done Rittner on the Beckham front. Id love to see a responce to that.

    As for Price, I still stand by the fact that its very hard to be a successfull or dominant starting pitcher in the major leagues with only two plus pitches. Otherwise you see hitters sitting on those two pitches and you have nothing to keep them off balance. At this point, his change up is really just a show me pitch, something to throw over to keep in hitters minds.

    For example, when Kazmir lost his slider in the second half of this season, he was a change up/fastball pitcher. He was still able to get outs, but as you probably noticed, hitters were fouling off a ton of balls because they felt comfortable in the box. When your a hitter and only have to think about two pitches, you get very comfortable. You need that third or fourth pitch, not only to get outs, but to keep hitters off balance.

    As of this moment, Price does not have that. Thats why in both of his major league starts he struggled the third time through the order. In his first time through, 0.00 ERA, second time 2.15 ERA, third time 10.80 ERA. While that third time through only reflects 2.2 IP, its still telling of how hitters get more comfortable against him the more times they see him. If you remember, his start in Baltimore, he had a tough time throwing strikes and getting batters out in the 5th innings. Even in his minor league starts, he had a tough time going deep. A lefty with only 2 plus pitches and trouble going deep into games? Well that would be another Scott Kazmir.

    - bossmanjunior333

  12. Joe D. says:

    I went to Vero and saw Price pitch in his last start there, and he was good, but he wasn’t dominate, he put up good numbers that game, but guys were able to foul of pitches and get hits and I was surprised when I heard that Price was promoted after that game. I also saw Price in person in his Pro debut against the Yanks in spring, and then in Game 7 of the ALCS, and he’s a different kind of pitcher in that relief type role then he is as a starter.

    As far as Beckham, I was able to go to the MLB draft this year, and in just walking around, I met and talk to 2 scouts. One from the Braves and he compared Beckham to BJ Upton, and the other scout was from the Angels and he felt that Beckham would become more like Barry Larkin. Two very different opinions, but they both felt that he would remain a short stop. I think that anyone in Baseball would spend a #1 pick for a guy that could become a Barry Larkin or a BJ Upton. Also, Tim Beckham’s Rookie ball #’s are comparable (if not better than) those of Derek Jeter. Not too bad of company, and keep in mind that his #’s improved as his season progressed. Yet another thing to consider, Beckham signed almost right away, the time he spent in Pro Ball was really bonus time when you consider that most first round picks don’t play until much later or the next season like David Price the year before.

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