We are less than a week away from Opening Day. A day romanticized by fans, writers, announcers, analysts, and everyone else associated with The Grand Old Game. It’s also the day of dreams, hopes, and projections. It’s the day we look to the Rays front office and hope they made the right moves, beseech Lady Luck helps us, and pray the Injury Bug stays as far away as possible from our defense of the AL East crown.
But do you know everything there is to know about the team about to take the field this Friday night? If not, if you are still itching to read more about Rays before you dive into broadcasts and boxscores, there are two publications out there worth looking into.
RaysProspect 2011 Guide
From RaysProspects.com comes the RaysProspects 2011 Prospects Guide. Written and edited by Kevin Gengler, this free downloadable .pdf includes everything you would want to know about the best players of the Rays minor league system. It gives bios of each of the top 15 pitchers and hitters in the organization, from highly accomplished prospects like Desmond Jennings to new draftees like Josh Sale. It also has prospect previews of nearly every Rays minor leaguer and what to expect from each team, from the Bowling Green Hot Rods to the Durham Bulls.
As if that wasn’t enough, what I found most interesting was Gengler’s articles on pitching phenom Matt Moore, the prospects with the most tools, and his “Prospect Battle Royale”, a comparison of the Rays Top 10 Prospects Lists from 2006 to 2010. Which class was most successful, which had the most flops, and which has the most promise?
If you are a fan of the minor leagues or just want to take a peek at who might be making their way to the Trop in the near future, I definitely recommend downloading the RaysProspects 2011 Prospect Guide.
The Process Report 2011
Since 2008, R.J. Anderson has taken part in writing annual previews on the Rays. In 2008, he primarily authored the first DRaysBay preview. That preview, no longer available for download, featured a few articles by Anderson and others and player previews by the DRaysBay staff.
In 2009 and 2010, the DraysBay guys again put out season previews. The 2009 preview featured only a few articles, but was heavy on the player profiles, fantasy picks, and prospect projections. The 2010 preview was nearly double the size, with Anderson getting help from the rest of the DRaysBay crew as well as several well-known baseball research writers. Of course, being double in size, it is also exponentially heavier on the numbers and charts. But that’s their niche.
That brings us to 2011 and R.J. Anderson’s latest guide. Now with The Process Report website, the preview is in a much different format. It is geared for print, not just for online consumption. It is also no longer free. Anderson and crew are actually trying to see some profit out of their years of work, which from a writer’s perspective, is totally understandable.
The biggest difference however, between the old DRaysBay previews and the TPR 2011 preview is in the content. Gone are 95 percent of the numbers, charts, and graphs. Gone are fantasy guides. And gone are a lot of the acronyms and terminology that isolated the stats crowd from the hotdog and beer, wave the foam finger, and boo BJ Upton crowd.
This year’s preview is much more philosophical than its predecessors. It talks about “The Process” of building and maintaining a successful Tampa Bay-based baseball organization able to compete in the AL East. There are articles comparing Joe Madden with a character in a Kurt Vonnegut novel, another which compares Andrew Friedman to Hall of Fame executive Branch Rickey, an ode to Fernando Perez, and an article on the rebuilding of Manny Ramirez’s reputation. These are not stat heavy subjects by any means.
Although it is very good and an interesting read, The Process Report 2011 is not beyond critique. One writer drops an f-bomb and uses another four-letter word I wouldn’t say in front of my grandmother. I thought the article on Jim Hickey could have elaborated more on the duties of a pitching coach between games and mentioned Hickey’s assistants. And calling David Price a “solider of resiliency” I thought was pushing it a bit, especially when Matt Bush, Dirk Hayhurst, and to an extent BJ Upton call the same Spring Training clubhouse “home”. But that’s nitpicking.
With Opening Day fast approaching, if you haven’t already caught the baseball bug and still don’t know everything there is to know about the 2011 Rays, I suggest getting your hands on both the RaysProspects Guide 2011 and The Process Report 2011. Both are great reads and the result of a lot of hard work by fellow members of the Rays blogosphere.
(Disclaimer: Cork and I are both featured in RaysProspects 2011 forecasts and I received a complimentary copy and have corresponded frequently with the writers at The Process Report. I respect all of these writers’ knowledge of the Rays and hold them all in high regard.)