Legends On Deck

How They Were Built: 2015 Tampa Bay Rays

Starting Pitchers

Alex Cobb – Drafted in the fourth round in the 2006 draft by the Rays.  Cobb is entering his fifth season in the major leagues.  His workload has increased over the last two seasons and will certainly rise again as he becomes the teams #1.  Cobb made 27 starts in 2014 and went 10-9 with an ERA of 2.87.  He pitched a career high 166.1 innings and recorded 149 strikeouts.  The Rays and Cobb avoided arbitration in January by signing a one-year $4 million contract, which is quite a bit more than the $500k he made in 2014.

Drew Smyly – Acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers in 2014.  Smyly was one of the key pieces in a trade that sent David Price to Detroit last season.  He appeared in seven games with the Rays and went 3-1 with an ERA of 1.70 which includes a complete game shutout.  He had an 8.3 K/9 with the Rays and will be the lone left-handed pitcher in the rotation.  The 25-year Smyly agreed on a one-year deal with the Rays for $2.65 million to avoid arbitration.  There is a lot of pressure on Smyly but if continues what he did in the brief time in Tampa last year things will be just fine.

Chris Archer – Acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs in 2011.  Archer is entering his fourth year in the major leagues.  He made 32 starts last season with Tampa and went 10-9 with an ERA of 3.33.  He has the ability to strikeout batters but would benefit by keeping the walks down.  He finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2013 and should continue the upward trend as long as he makes his starts and stays healthy.

Jake Odorizzi – Acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Royals in 2012.  One of the things that the Rays have done year in and year out is acquire good young pitchers.  Odorizzi made 31 starts last season and compiled a record of 11-13 with an ERA over four in his first full season in the major leagues.  He finished eighth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2014 and has a very good 9.3 K/9.  He does give up quite a few hits and it prone to giving up the long ball, but at 24-years old, he is still learning the game.  Ordorizzi is eligible for arbitration and the time of this article his status is unknown.

Alex Colome – Signed as an amateur free agent by the Rays in 2007.  Colome is essentially thrown into this rotation due to the injury of Matt Moore.  He appeared in five games and started three of them, going 2-0 with an ERA of 2.66.  The Rays didn’t have a very large sample size last season, but they will have that chance as we will get more starts until/if Moore returns.

Matt Moore (DL) – Drafted in the eighth round of the 2007 by the Rays.  Moore unfortunately was one of the many pitchers last season to undergo Tommy John Surgery.  Moore had his in April and is said to be throwing off a mound soon and perhaps if no setbacks could return by June.  Moore was selected to the All-Star team in 2013 and finished ninth in the Cy Young voting.  He went 17-4 with an ERA of 3.29 in 27 starts.  The Rays signed him to a five-year $14 million contract extension in 2011 which has club options from 2017 to 2019.  If the rehab goes well and the others continue what they started in 2014, the Rays could have a real nice rotation.

Bullpen

Kevin Jepsen (CL) – Acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels in December of 2014.  Jepsen had a great 2014 campaign and could be in line of the closer role in Tampa.  He doesn’t have a ton of experience closing out games, but if he has a year similar to last they will be in good position.  Jepsen appeared in a career-high 74 games and finished with an ERA of 2.63 which was also a career best.  He recorded a 10.3 K/9 last season and had a WHIP a little over one.  The Rays and Jepsen avoided arbitration by agreeing on a one-year $3.025 million contract.

Grant Balfour – Signed a two-year $12 million free agent contract with Tampa in 2014.  This is the second time Balfour has been a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Before the 2014 season, Balfour last appeared with the Rays in 2010.  He has closer experience and recorded 38 saves with the Oakland Athletics in 2013 and made his only All-Star team that season as well.  The 37-year old can still get the job done and may also be given save opportunities depending on what the team decides to do.

Ernesto Frieri – Signed a one-year $800K free agent contract with the Rays in 2015. Here is another pitcher in the bullpen that has closer experience that struggled in 2014.  He recorded 37 saves as a member of the Angels in 2013, but last season was a disaster.  He was traded last season to the Pirates for another struggling reliever, but was later released.  The Rays could have struck gold if he can return to form, otherwise look for him to be moved again at some point during the season.

Brad Boxberger – Acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres in January of 2014.  Boxberger appeared in 63 games last season with Tampa and was real good.  He had a 5-2 record with an ERA of 2.37 in 64.2 innings of work.  The number that stands out the most to me is his 14.5 K/9 that he registered last season.  Boxberger is a nice option out of the pen and could find himself in the mix towards the end of the game.

Jeff Beliveau – Purchased from the Texas Rangers in 2013.  Beliveau at the moment is the only left-handed option out of the Rays bullpen.  The 28-year old appeared in 30 games last season and had an ERA of 2.63.

Starting Lineup

Rene Rivera (C) – Acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres in December 2014.  Rivera was brought in to take over the catching duties for the Rays in 2015.  He is entering his seventh year in the major leagues despite missing several in between.  He played in 103 games with the Padres last season which is a career high.

James Loney (1B) – Signed a three-year $21 million free agent contract with Tampa in 2014.  Loney had a real nice season in 2014 with the Rays.  His power numbers were down and his batting average dipped a little, but he did finish the season with more hits while batting .290.  Loney in my opinion is the oft forgotten about player who was highly touted who winded up having a decent career.  He is entering his 10th season and has played for two other teams in his career, the Dodgers and the Red Sox.

Nick Franklin (2B) – Acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners in July of 2014.  Rated previously in the Top 100 prospects, Franklin was a key player in the deal that sent David Price to Detroit last season.  He made it into 11 games with the Rays but did have some struggles batting just .206.  He played in 103 games in 2013 and struggled so hopefully with more time under his belt he can turn in to what scouts and writers thought he could.

Evan Longoria (3B) – Drafted in the first round of the 2006 amateur draft by the Rays.  The heart and soul of the organization.  His offense has declined a little over the last several years but he is still a gamer.  The Rays signed him to a six-year $17.5 million contract in what feels like hours after his debut.  He has since signed an extension keeping him under team control until 2023.  There isn’t much that can be said here that baseball fans don’t already know.  Hopefully if all goes well he can win a ring with the team that drafted him.

Asdrubal Cabrera (SS) – Signed a one-year $7.5 million free agent deal in 2015.  Cabrera’s signing ultimately led to the departure of Ben Zobrist.  Cabrera is good defensively and can scrap together some hits.  His statistics have dipped slightly from his two consecutive All-Star selections (2011, 2012), but will fit in nicely in Tampa.  He can get on base and has also displayed some pop in his bat when he hit a career-high 25 home runs in 2011.  The Rays won’t be counting on the same offensive output, but it should be nice to know that the ability is there.

Steven Souza (LF) – Acquired in a trade with the Washington Nationals in December 2014.  Souza is another player the Rays are counting on in 2015 that has limited big league experience.  Last year with the Nats, Souza appeared in 21 games and bat .130 with two home runs.  He tore it up in Triple-A Syracuse and obviously the hope is that it translates over to his big league game but it remains to be seen.  In 96 games in Triple-A he hit .350/.432/.590/1.022, which would put him on an entirely different level.

Desmond Jennings (CF) – Drafted in the 10th round of the 2006 amateur draft by the Rays.  Jennings is a decent lead-off hitter that is a nice mix of speed and defense.  In a day when the running game isn’t what it used to be, Jennings has 66 stolen bases over the last three seasons.  His batting average isn’t the greatest but he does have the ability to get on base.  He is entering his sixth season in the major leagues and signed a one-year $3.1 million contract this offseason to avoid arbitration with the Rays.

Keven Kiermaier (RF) – Drafted in the 31st round of the 2010 amateur draft by the Rays.  Kiermaier appeared in 108 games in 2014 after appearing in just one in 2013.  He finished the season with a batting average of .263 with 87 hits in 331 at-bats.  He is able to play every outfield position but should be slotted into the right field job when the season begins.

John Jaso (DH) – Acquired in a trade with the Oakland A’s in January 2015.  Jaso was originally drafted by the Rays back in 2003 and made his major league debut with the team in 2008.  He spent the next several seasons with the organization before being traded to Seattle back in 2011.  This is his second stint with the team and is a nice left-handed option in the DH position, and could spend sometime behind the plate.  He can hit and can get on base which plays right into the game plan the Rays will try to execute.

Projected Bench

Logan Forsythe – Acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres in January of 2014.  Forsythe can play any position in the infield and can be used more as a defensive replacement as opposed to his bat.  His offensive productivity has taken a dive over the last two seasons, but could be a decent option off the bench.

David DeJesus – Acquired in a traded with the Washington Nationals in April of 2013.  It is hard to believe that DeJesus is entering his 13th year in the major leagues.  He can get on base and gives the Rays an additional left-handed option at the plate and can play center field and left field.  He has played in about half of the games over the last several years and will most likely be the same in 2015.  DeJesus signed a two-year $10.5 million contract with a 2016 club option.

Brandon Guyer – Acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs in 2011.  Guyer is another outfielder that can play anywhere out there.  He appeared in 97 games last season with Tampa and hit .266 with a .334 on base percentage.

Curt Casali – Acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers at the Rule 5 Draft in 2013.  Casali could be the third catcher on the roster when the season begins.  He made his major league debut last season and hit .167 in 30 games.  Depending on what they decide with Jaso as far as how many games he is going to catch, Casali could play in about the same amount in 2015.

John Ginder

Site Co-Founder/Senior Editor and Co-Host at Legends on Deck® The Podcast
In the past John has been a part of such successful sites as MetsMerizedOnline and MetsMinors.net.John was born and raised in upstate New York and has a love of all sports but mainly baseball. He has grown used to heartache with his teams as he roots for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres too.John has a loving and understanding wife and is the the proud father of two amazing boys.He also loves heavy metal music.

You can also reach out to John at jginder@legendsondeck.com