Rays Top-30 Prospects*

*If I’m wrong you can feel justified asking for your money back as I’ve seen few of these guys. I try to stay away from other people’s lists to avoid bias so this one probably will seem a little out of left field compared to the rest of the Rays blogosphere. Age is for the upcoming season and level is a guess at where they will spend the majority of their season. As always, #flameon

Honorable Mentions

36: Andrew Toles, 23, AA, CF

Legit athlete needs to channel energy into the game. Bat is a question mark, but has wheels and a glove. High volatility, but I didn’t want to leave him off #CYA

35: Burch Smith, 25, AAA, RHRP

Still a starter, but all signs point to a future in the pen where his deception will help and his stuff will play up. He looks like a busted prospect that will be going under the knife soon. Maybe that will help get him back to what he was a few years ago when he had some shine.

34: Nolan Gannon, 22, A-, RHSP

Remains a starter until he shows he can’t handle the load. Gannon is coming off a quietly nice season in Hudson Valley, albeit, at a park that slightly favors pitchers overall and very much so when it comes to limiting dingers. Keep an eye on him, but I don’t see a huge ceiling.

33: Tyler Goeddel, 22, AA, 3B

Position is pretty barren in the system which makes some sense with the big guy atop the pile in Tampa Bay. Goeddel is projectable, but needs to make strides across the board to turn those tools into skills. Someone handing him a sandwich could only help.

32: Johnny Field, 23, A+, CF 

Gamer. Gritmonster. Hustle. Loyalty. Respect. Field is a classic “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight” guy which is really easy for most fans to pull for. Speed is good, not great. Bat to ball skills are good, not great. Probably not a CF, but if he can stay on the position he’ll have a chance to climb lists.

31: C.J. Riefenhauser, 25, AAA, LHRP

Riefer is this high simply because I think he’s going to have an impact in the Show this year. He’s a lefty one out guy, but every single team has a need for that. While I don’t think he’s the best iteration in the system (Beliveau, Montgomery?) I think Mr. Charles has a really high floor and is ready to contribute.

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Estimating Rays Farm Rotations

This will be kind of a quick hitter. More of a sharing of findings than any sort of bold claim of fact. I’m currently putting together my top-30 prospect list which I alluded to in yesterday’s piece looking at the positional player side of things. To go about looking at pitchers I first wanted to get a good idea of how guys performed last year relative to their league. Luckily, Minor League Central makes this relatively easy.

I pretty much followed what I did in July when I similarly wanted to get a snapshot of the livestock situation. Basically, we establish league averages and then compare are players to that. For this instance I’m using MLC’s “Siera” calculation and then adjusting up or down based on the players age compared to the average of the league. Finally, I account for usage because a really good player for 5 innings isn’t as hot as a guy that puts up 150. In the following tables I call this “Score”.

The next step was to group guys by where I think they will play this year and whether or not I think that guy will be a starter or a reliever. Note that I’m merely listing all of the guys that pitched at least 10 innings last year (sorry Guerrieri) so I also won’t be including guys that were acquired over the offseason. That also means that I’m including guys that might not be with the club anymore though I did remove everyone that I know has been traded or released. This is meant to be a quick comparison so let’s not get too uptight about it. Let’s start with Low-A.

Hudson Valley Renegades

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Some of These Things Are Not Like the Others & Positional Depth Charts

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Fallen Foe Furthers Rays Agenda

No injury is good new whether it happens to one of your own or one of them. Nobody wants to see a guy get hurt, but after sending swingman J.A. Happ to Seattle for Saunders you have to think the Jays are now down a piece that they were hoping to rely upon.

It’s not difficult to see why the Jays wanted to bring in Saunders. He’s coming off of a season in which he was 26% better than average with the stick while proving over his career to be a very good defender in RF that can cover short stretches in CF. Where he really shines is against righties, but he’s not some huge split Joyce clone that will kill your will to live against lefties. He’s a nice player, but it’s also not difficult to see why the Mariners were happy to move on from the player as his injury list is as long as a Josh Hamilton bar tab.

Euphemistic people that try to make you feel better when your dog dies or you get dumped by some huge slut try to tell you that when a door closes you should open the window. Well, the Rays just happen to have a guy that screams “break glass in emergency.” David DeJesus is coming off of a season where he was around 20% better with the stick than his peers. He can play around average in the corner, better in LF to hide his arm, and can fill in at CF in a pinch without sending you running for the hills. He hits righties. He does not hit lefties. He makes an interesting replicant for Michael Saunders and is on a contract that pays him around what he’s worth. It’s almost too obvious.

The Rays have quietly been trying to do their best to capitalize on this useful, yet redundant, asset. In the Rays outfield DeJesus is probably the fifth best defender. That relegates him to DH duty where the Rays already have John Jaso who looks like a tremendous fit for the role. The downside with Jaso is that he used to catch. Now he doesn’t catch. Too many shots to the head will make anyone punchy so that time is over for him. Fortunately, the Jays have a guy that is very similar to DeJesus.

The Jays brought Dioner Navarro in last year to be their catcher. He hit well enough for the position at just a touch behind league average, but was pretty miserable defensively. He had a pretty lousy year framing the ball and continued to slide throwing out would be base pilferers. He’s ok blocking, but not good, let alone great. He’s the kind of guy that you don’t want to rely on to be your main catcher 100+ games a year. So the Jays signed all-world defender and sometime hitter Russell Martin to catch a ton and they’re still going to have Josh Thole as a battery option due to R.A. Dickey’s presence. Navarro hasn’t been this squeezed since trying to get through the door this past Thanksgiving.

That does not mean that he is without merit. As a backup that gets into 60 or so games you can probably swallow hard and put up with the defensive downgrade. I mean Curt Casali caught a ton of games last year and because he didn’t show much the Rays are now in the position where they need a guy. Probably short term with what’s in the pipeline, but that’s a story for another day. The other thing he gives you is the ability to sit Jaso against lefties with Navarro taking those DH appearances.

For a switch hitter Navarro has shown a pretty large split throughout his career. He’s been around 7% better than the league against lefties, but around 22% worse against righties. Being able to pair him with a guy like Jaso could lead to the best DH output for the Rays since the days of Jose or Jonny or Johnny. You’re talking around 200 PA or so and you can probably get him another 200-250 in the games that he starts so for Navarro in the last year of a two-year contract he should see more opportunity to get that next deal. More than he would have in Toronto, at least, where he is clamoring to be sent packing.

So we have a pretty obvious chance at a need-for-need swap where both teams get a guy that fits better than the one they would be casting aside. So once we’ve identified where wants and needs intersect then we hand it over to the lawyers whom tell us that DeJesus is on either a 2/$10M or a 1/$6.5M. Reasonable in either case and it matches up nicely with one year, $5M deal that Navarro is set to receive. The money is a wash, essentially. The playing time is there. The only question is if the Rays will get greedy and ask for a complementary piece, because in their world when you pull over to help someone change a tire you’re well within your right to send them a bill.

Hopefully the Rays move quickly before the Jays decide to go get total substitute David Murphy from the Indians or say screw the lefty need and throw peanuts at Carlos Quentin. The supply of guys in the doghouse exceeds the demand. I just hope the Rays realize that, because this is their last good chance to get a guy that fits nearly perfectly.

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Calculating xwOBA for 2014 Starters and Relievers Using PA Outcomes

Earlier today I unveiled something that I’ve been working on. The basic premise is that we can look at the ratios for how pitchers ended plate appearances and then use league wOBA rates to come up with an estimated wOBA for each team’s pitching. Basically we’re regressing actual production rates to league averages and just focusing on how often pitchers fall into each outcome bucket, relative to their peers.

Of course if we’re going to do this for teams the next logical step is to look at players where variance and small sample size could really use a good kick in the ass from regression. The population for this will be all pitchers with at least 10 IP last year. Let’s take a look at that:

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Fun With Rate Stats

Something FUN! to look at is how each team goes about ending plate appearances from their perch on the mound. There are only six outcomes to virtually all plate appearances which broke down something like this in 2014:

Category/Starters/Relievers

GB%: 32.8%/31.3%

OFFB%: 22.9%/21.3%

K%: 19.4%/22.2%

LD%: 15.4%/14.2%

BB%: 7.1%/8.6%

IFFB%: 2.4%/2.4%

As you can imagine, each of these outcomes has a different level of preferability attached. Strikeouts are great! And so are infield fly balls! Line drives are not so great :( We can apply the league average Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) coefficients to each of these outcomes to derive an idea how a teams expected wOBA looks like based on their outcome approach. Those weights look something like this:

GB: .220

FB: .335

LD: .684

BB: .689

K/IFFB: .000

Multiply the rates by the weights and you get something like a .303 wOBA for starters and .297 for relievers. These smell pretty right and give us a good idea of how a staff or pen profiles based on their ability to get strikeouts and walk and how the trajectories of balls in play that they yield. We can do this for starters in 2014 and get something like this:

Note that we do not need to park adjust these because we’re using the league average weights and just applying that to the different rates that each team allowed. We can also do this for relievers:

Wow the Rays come out very strong on both sides of the coin here as they’re led by impressive strikeout rates and when they do allow balls in play they’re limiting line drives and grounders in favor of fly balls and pop ups. The really cool think about this is that it allows us to see how the results change as we tweak the inputs. If the Rays want to go away from what they’re doing towards a more groundball oriented attack we can pull the data around to get that idea.

Anyways, just a quick hitter that exemplifies what we can do with the data that exists out there. Note that you’ll need to adjust your ball in play rates to account for walks and strikeouts as balls in play are a subset of all plate appearances. Or you could just e-mail me for the workbook and then you can just copy and paste the formulas into whatever data you’d like to look at.

Pretty impressive stuff for the Rays last year and goes to show that while their pitchers are pretty good, they’re also following a plan out there that has been crafted by some bright minds and undoubtedly features little tweaks here and there.

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