Most teams set a goal of being at least average at every position and above average at a few positions. A .781 OPS might not be great at first base, but in center field, the Rays are ahead of the curve.
So let’s take a look at how the Rays performed at the plate by position and look at how each position compares to the rest of the AL…
The key column to focus on is “Diff.” That is the difference between the OPS by the Rays at that position and the American League average for that position. The Rays had four positions that were below average in 2011, including DH, first base, catcher, and shortstop.
SHORTSTOP AND CATCHER:
It is not breaking news that the Rays struggled at shortstop and catcher in 2011, but this gives us a better idea of just how bad they were. And for a team that prides itself on being “strong up the middle,” this is a huge disappointment.
Of course, where the Rays have failed is in player development at these two positions. For all the great prospects the Rays have produced, Reid Brignac and John Jaso have been huge disappointment. And once again, we enter the off-season with the Rays looking for answers.
First base is a bit trickier. Despite his a strong season by Casey Kotchman, the Rays were still well-below average. Of course, this does not include Kotchman’s defensive abilities. But first base is not a premium defensive position, and teams expect more offense out of the position. The problem however is that offensive first basemen tend to be overpriced in free agency.
Johnny Damon is a nice guy to have on the team. He seems to be one of those veteran personalities that young players can lean on. But he is also a below-average hitter at this point in his career. And it is not like the Rays to spend a lot of money on a guy for below-average production If Damon is going to come back in 2012, it will have to be a highly reduced salary.