Ben Zobrist Day
The Process Versus 2013
James Shields Day
The Rays have promoted outfielder Wil Myers to the majors, according to a team release. Infielder Ryan Roberts has been demoted to Durham in a corresponding move.
Myers was acquired in last winter’s James Shields trade. The 22-year-old corner outfielder’s power potential is his calling card. He creates the pop using a formula consisting of a large frame, strong hands, and strong wrists. In addition to the impressive raw strength Myers employs a mature approach at the plate, though there have been knocks against him in this area before, including accusations of passiveness—and, most recently Andrew Friedman’s suggestion that sequencing caused his early-season stumbles. Myers is going to strike out, but his power potential and on-base ability could be enough for him to become a middle-of-the-order staple. Add in seeming improvements in the nuanced aspects of defense, and Myers should be a more well-rounded player now than when the Rays acquired.
It’s important to keep in mind Myers’ age when dreaming up expected production. Since the last round of expansion, in 1998, 11 22-year-old players have accumulated 300 or more plate appearances in a season while playing with an American League East team. Those players were Brett Lawrie, Travis Snider, Evan Longoria, Adam Jones, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton, Nick Markakis, Robinson Cano, Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, and Felipe Lopez. They put together a median line of .273/.323/.448. The league-average right fielder is hitting .270/.334/.443 this season; meaning, were Myers to replicate that line—and, to be fair, he may outperform it—he would be close to an average hitter for his position (though park factors would push him upward).
Waiting until mid-June to promote Myers became a point of consternation within and outside of the fan base, but it’s hard to take too much issue with it. The Rays have successfully evaded the Super Two window, which, like it or not, is a point of emphasis given the budget restraints at play. At the same time the team has remained competitive and offensively sound—they entered Sunday with the majors’ fifth-best offense, per OPS+—without their top hitting prospect in the fold. There’s also Joe Maddon’s pet theory about young players feeling less pressure when recalled midseason, as opposed to being on the opening day roster. (Whether that’s hot air or a valid hypothesis is up for debate, but Maddon doesn’t typically toss theories like that out without some thought behind them.) Add in that the Rays retained control over the rest of their roster in the process, and it’s a decent situation to be in.
Luke Scott entered Saturday’s contest hitting .175/.214/.250 in the month of June. The lack of production and loud footsteps of Wil Myers, had some wondering if the 34-year-old’s time was running out in Tampa Bay. Naturally, Joe Maddon penciled him in third in the lineup against the Royals, and gave his primary designated hitter the start in left field; something that had not happened since July of 2011.
Scott is an emotional player. This can cause his feelings to bleed over onto the field in physical form. If you recall, Scott ended an 0-43 slump last summer with a home run. As he made contact with the pitch, he turned and lowered his head in frustration believing he had made another out. Similar displays of frustration have been common over the last few weeks.
Perhaps in an effort to get Scott—a noted over-thinker at times—to “try easier” Maddon gave him added responsibilities. In theory, this would leave the player with less time to focus on the negative. Aside from the mental mechanics, Scott also showed some physical adjustments against Kansas City.
Luke Scott is no stranger to slumps. Last season he went through an 0-41 stint, during which he credited his religion with preventing him from a complete decline. Scott broke that slump with a home run on July 6, and then hit .296/.347/.546 the rest of the season.
Scott is again mired in a slump: He entered play today seven-for-his-last-57 with a .123/.190/.175 slash line to show for his efforts.
Earlier today Andrew Friedman was interviewed by ESPN’s Buster Olney on the Baseball Today podcast (jump to 24 minute mark). Friedman and Olney addressed several topics on the show and here are a few quotes from that interview.
By now it’s no secret the Rays might encourage pitchers to use their changeup against same-handed batters. After all, the three right-handed starters with the highest rate of changeups thrown against right-handed batters since 2011 are Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and James Shields. Roberto Hernandez has upped his usage of changeups versus righties this season. Even Alex Torres, in his brief stay in the majors this season, has shown a willingness to throw his changeup against lefties. Perhaps it’s not an organizational thing, but it feels closer to that than a total coincidence.
Which is why it’s not too surprising to learn Juan Carlos Oviedo likes to throw his changeup against righties. Among right-handed relievers since 2011 Oviedo ranks 12th in changeup usage rate. Fernando Rodney ranks third, and Joel Peralta would rank fifth if his splitter were classified as a changeup. Former Rays like Joaquin Benoit and Shawn Camp also rank in the 90th percentile or better.
The changeup is often used against opposite-handed batters, and there’s even stigma associated with throwing an inside changeup. Oviedo is willing to eschew both truisms. Add in the natural deception offered by his arm speed and he’s taken advantage of an inefficiency of sorts, just as other Rays pitchers have in recent years. Although Oviedo may not pitch for the club until next season, rest assured that he’ll fit in when he does.
Stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info
The Rays have recalled Jake Odorizzi from Triple-A after placing Alex Cobb on the bereavement list, according to the official team site’s transaction log.
It should not surprise anyone to see a fresh arm in the Rays bullpen following Monday night’s 14-inning game, however, this was not the expected move. That would’ve been placing Kyle Farnsworth, who left Monday’s game with right arm soreness, on the disabled list. Instead the Rays promoted Durham’s probable starter to serve as a long reliever. Cobb, meanwhile, is dealing with a death in the family.
The Rays could still place Farnsworth on the disabled list in the coming days. Presumably Josh Lueke or Jeff Beliveau would then head to Tampa Bay, though a vacant spot on the 40-man roster gives the team flexibility to add a non-roster place like Kirby Yates if they so desired.