For those that follow the minor league system, it always fun to project the Rays lineup 2-3 years down the road. Baseball America does just this with the release of their Top 10 Rays prospects list. And while projecting a lineup 2-3 years into the future is akin to guessing how many times BJ Upton will be picked off first base, BA’s list raises a few eyebrows…
A few thoughts on the lineup projection…
- This is proof of how weak the Rays system is at the catcher position. Does anybody think the Rays are counting on Kelly Shoppach to be the everyday catcher in 2012?
- Carlos Pena is a free agent at the end of the year, but we would not be surprised to see Pena give the Rays a “thanks for saving my career” discount and sign an extension.
- There are very good reasons to believe that 2009 was not a fluke for Jason Bartlett. But he will be two years on the wrong side of 30 in 2012 and it is reasonable to think his offensive and defensive skills will have started to decline. Barty will also be a free agent following the 2011 season and due a large raise.
- Most of us would love to see Carl Crawford play his entire career in a Rays uniform. But it just doesn’t seem realistic. A free agent at the end of the year, CC is more likely to be in a new uniform in 2011, if not sooner.
- Desmond Jennings and BJ Upton is an interesting scenario. Upton might have a slight edge in range which means the Rays would want him in center. But he also has a strong edge in arm, which the Rays would love to have in right field. But should the Rays also consider that Upton has finally found a comfortable position after being bounced around the field like a Pinata?
- Zobrist will be 31 in 2011. And while he is not as good defensively as some metrics suggested in 2009, it is difficult to think that Ben Zobrist will have regressed so much by 2011 that he will be the most-days DH. A more likely scenario would have Reid Brignac take over at shortstop for a departed Jason Bartlett and Zobrist at second base.
- The top 4 starting pitchers seem safe. But we are surprised to see Jeff Niemann over Wade Davis in the rotation. Davis has shown that he can stay healthy and be a workhorse. Meanwhile there are still questions about Niemann’s stamina. Joe Maddon gave Niemann extra rest in 15 of his 30 starts. Opponents’ OPS was over 100 points lower when he was on 5 days rest (.666) as opposed to the normal 4 (.768). We’d say if one was headed to the bullpen, it is more likely to be Niemann.
- Notables left out: Jake McGee (closer?), Tim Beckham (he will either be in the picture by 2012 or he will be a bust), Matt Moore (double-A in 2010 suggests he is on pace to be a factor in 2012)