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2013 MLB Preview: Predicting the Tampa Bay Rays Batting Order

The weather is starting to warm up (in the wrong parts of the country), and people are starting to book their vacation trips to Arizona and Florida. Every baseball fan is starting to come out of hibernation and are ready for Spring Training to get started.

We’re going to see lots of speculating at who this year’s World Series champions will be and whom the the front-runners for all the major awards are.

Before one can talk about any of those things, we need to first know the teams that we are dealing with. 

Everyone knows that Joe Maddon loves to tinker with his lineups as much as any manager in the Majors, and chances are that the obvious lineup choices may not be the ones that he decides to choose. However, we’re going to try to get into the mind of the skipper as best as we can.

Will we see Wil Myers and Hak-Ju Lee carrying the load for the Rays this season? Read on to find out.

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2013 Tampa Bay Rays: Signing Michael Bourn Makes Sense for Team and Outfielder

Pitchers and catchers are slated to report to their spring training camps starting on February 11, yet top free agent Michael Bourn has yet to find a home.

Agent Scott Boras has said all offseason that he is looking for a contract in the neighborhood of five years and $75 million for the All-Star center fielder. Teams that may have been interested in Bourn, such as the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies, have already filled their open positions through other free-agent signings or the trade market.

The market for Michael Bourn has appeared to dwindle, and the likelihood that he will obtain the contract that Scott Boras is said to be looking for is becoming less and less with each passing day.

The Tampa Bay Rays look to be going into the 2013 season with some combination of Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer manning the outfield. With the inevitable call-up of uber-prospect Wil Myers to take a corner outfield spot, Tampa Bay does not seem like an ideal landing spot for the speedy 30-year-old outfielder.

However, if you look at the economics in play, a one-year deal for Michael Bourn might be a smart move for both sides,

Currently the Rays hold the 23rd and 30th picks in the 2013 draft. By signing Bourn, the Rays would have to give up their 23rd pick as compensation, which really should not scare the club off.

It is already a forgone conclusion that Wil Myers will not be called up to The Show until early May, as the Rays love to control the free agency clock on all of their young players.



To sign Bourn, the Rays would have to theoretically give the center fielder a contract between $12 and $13 million for a one-year deal. As it stands right now, the Rays have a payroll just over $51 million, about $12 million less than what they started last season with. Therefore, the addition of Bourn would let Tampa stand pat with where they were last season.

Not only that, but the Rays would also not have to worry about committing long term to a player on the wrong side of 30 that relies on his speed as his biggest asset.

By signing Bourn, the Rays could start the season with an outfield of Desmond Jennings in left, Michael Bourn in center and Ben Zobrist in right field. This will allow Kelly Johnson to be the full-time second baseman, and Matt Joyce will be able to slide into the DH spot at the start of the year.

Once Myers is called up in early May, the Rays would be able to shift Zobrist to second base and move Myers into right field, then Kelly Johnson and Matt Joyce can platoon at the DH spot. By doing this, the Rays would be able to not only give themselves a strong defensive lineup, but they would also be able to utilize matchups in true Joe Maddon fashion.

While this seems all fine and dandy on the Rays’ end, what incentive would Bourn have to play in St. Pete?



The most obvious answer would be that Bourn would have a job. If we end up in spring training with the center fielder still out of work, his leverage will be reduced to almost zero.

Secondly, Bourn will be able to play in a style of offense that tailors to his strengths. It is no secret that Joe Maddon loves to play small ball and let his players race around the base paths. By having players such as Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist hitting behind him, he’ll have a good chance of racking up some stolen bases and scoring a large amount of runs.

Since there does not appear to be a multi-year market out there for Bourn at the moment, a one-year deal with Tampa would give him a chance to build on his value with a speed-oriented offense for the 2014 off-season in hopes of securing the type of contract that he could not obtain this year.

Depending on how the season unfolds for Tampa Bay, the Rays could go in a couple of different directions should they sign Bourn.

One option for Tampa would be to flip the center fielder to a contending team to help stockpile their strong farm system should they find themselves outside of the playoff hunt at the deadline.

If Tampa finds themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt, then they could hold on to Michael Bourn and extend him a qualifying offer at the end of the season with the near guarantee that he will not accept. Chances are good that Bourn would qualify for draft pick compensation and the Rays would be able to recoup the draft pick that they would give up in 2013 to sign him.

With the start of the season just over the horizon, this is a solution that both parties should strongly consider.

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Tampa Bay Rays To Sign First Round Pick Justin O’Conner Later Today

Justin O’Conner, the 18-year-old catcher out of Cowan High School in Indiana, agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Rays early today.

O’Conner, the 31st pick of the draft, was committed to play for the University of Arkansas next year. Instead, he will forego that and report to Port Charlotte to play for the Rays’ single-A ball club.

The details of the contract are unknown right now, but as a frame of reference, the Chicago Cubs signed outfielder Brett Jackson to a deal worth $972,000 last year.

O’Conner played both shortstop and catcher in high school, but he projects to be a catcher for the Rays, who are looking to stockpile some catching depth in their farm system.

O’Conner’s strengths and weaknesses from an scouting report done earlier this year:

Strengths: A lot of tools, including big-time raw power and a plus arm that some teams would rather see on the mound.

Weaknesses: If you take him as a catcher, he’ll be very raw from there, without a ton of experience. If you want him to pitch, he’s more of a thrower than a pitcher.

Details of the contract will given as soon as they are available.

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Just the Truth: Evan Longoria is the Best Third Baseman in the American League

Evan Longoria was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 3rd pick of the 2006 amateur player draft out of Cal-State Long Beach. Rays fans knew as soon as they heard about this kid that he was going to be great.

After spending two years in the minor leagues, Longoria hit a combined .301/.386/.534 with 44 home runs and 144 RBI, all before his 22nd birthday.

Knowing what they had on their hands, with a team that they felt confident with, Andrew Friedman knew that he had to call up Longoria if the team was going to contend.

Within one week of being called up, the Rays locked Longoria up to the longest contract in team history with a nine year $44 million deal. 

Clearly the Rays had a lot of confidence in Longoria, as they were not afraid to make this large of a commitment to a player with less than 30 career at-bats . So far, Longoria has already outperformed the contract that he signed.

You may be asking how a player that has played fewer than 400 career games could be considered the best player at his position in the American League; especially with Alex Rodriguez still playing. The answer, however, is fairly simple:


Longoria plays some of the best defensive third base in all of major league baseball. Whether it’s ranging far to his right and making a leaping throw across the diamond, or charging a bunt, bare-handing it, and making the out at first, the kid can really do it all. 

In his second season, Longoria brought home what many people believe to be his first of many Gold Gloves over his career.

Longoria has already made eight errors this year, his RF/G is at 2.77, which is still above the league average of 2.72. So, while he has made a number of errors, he still gets to more balls than a lot of third basemen in Major League Baseball would get to.


No one is going to mistake Evan Longoria for Chone Figgins, Scott Podsednik, or Carl Crawford, but this kid has some real sneaky speed.

Over his career, Longoria has been successful on 92.8% of his steal attempts (26/28), including ten stolen bases this year.

Right now, Evan is on pace for about 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases. If he is able to maintain this pace, he will be the first third baseman in the American League to complete this feat since Tommy Harper did it for the Milwaukee Brewers back in 1970.

Overall Batting

This is the one spot of Longoria’s game that I feel is only going to get better over the next few years, which is saying a lot because he had a line of .281/33/114 last year.

Longoria’s batting eye has been getting better each year that he has been in professional baseball, because of that he is starting to see which pitches that he can drive, which pitches to lay off, and he is starting to learn when to push the ball instead of always trying to pull it.

Do I think that Longoria is ever going to hit 45 home runs? No, probably not. But, it is certainly not out of reach for him to one day put up .330/39/130, especially if the Rays can keep him surrounded with the talent that they have.


Why did I say that Evan Longoria is just the best third baseman in the American League and not all of baseball? Well, at this point in their careers, I would have to give the edge to Ryan Zimmerman for the best player in baseball. If Longoria reaches the peaks that I set out for him in the next few years, that may sway my opinion. 

However, Evan Longoria is the best third baseman in the American League, right now.

Who do you feel deserves this honor right now? Does Alex Rodriguez still hold this, or is there someone else that I may be forgetting?

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Stephen Strasburg Debut: The Top Five Pitching Debuts of All-Time

Tonight, Stephen Strasburg took the mound for the first time against the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of a sold-out crowd at Nationals Stadium.

He pitched a great game, but was it one of the all-time best debuts?

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