Recently, ESPN unveiled their list of the top 500 players in baseball, according to their rankings. The rankings were compiled by a panel of ESPN writers, analysts and contributors to determine the rankings based off how they feel those players would perform in 2013. Of those 500 players, the Rays had 17 different players represented, including five in the top 100. David Price and Evan Longoria were ranked 10th and 15th, respectively.
Several players had interesting rankings. Two other Rays players, Jose Molina and Chris Archer, just missed the cut. Archer was a victim of the Rays rotation depth and his lack of major league experience, but it is possible that he cracks the list next season should he take over as the fifth starter at some point this year. Molina was considered due to his value defensively, as well as his ability to handle a pitching staff. A classic case of providing more value than what appears in a box score, his pitch framing abilities are well known, possibly making the Rays pitching staff even better.
Despite his struggles in 2012, Luke Scott was ranked 475th by the ESPN panel. Projected by ESPN to have a .252 batting average with 16 home runs and 51 RBI, those numbers would be much better than his production over the past two seasons. However, Scott’s injury problems have already resurfaced, as he finds himself on the disabled list with a calf injury. If he is able to remain healthy, and he can approach those projections, it would certainly help the Rays middle of the lineup as Scott would provide a bit of power that is sorely needed.
Speaking of potential sources of power, Wil Myers ranked 291st. Although he has yet to receive a major league at bat, Myers’ potential is considered enough where he was ranked ahead of players such as Michael Young. The projections for 2013 are actually similar to what is projected for Luke Scott, as ESPN is anticipating Myers to produce a .262 batting average with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in roughly the same number of at bats. However, given Myers’ potential, and the possibility that he will be slotting directly behind Longoria once he is brought to Tampa, Myers could end up being a very important part of the Rays lineup this season.
Usually, set up men do not receive a lot of publicity and their expectations are tempered, yet Jake McGee ranked 206th on this list, ahead of closers Chris Perez and John Axford, amongst others. However, should Fernando Rodney falter, McGee may be the player that gets the first look at closing. Rodney, meanwhile, ranked 86th after not making the list prior to 2012. Although he would be hard pressed to replicate his historic 2012 season, Rodney is expected to put together 2-3 record with a 2.53ERA and 38 saves. While that is not close to the dominance he had displayed last season, those numbers would keep him in the upper echelon of closers.
Perhaps the most important piece on the Rays, Longoria is considered the 15th best player in baseball according to ESPN, and ranks only behind Miguel Cabrera at third base. Projected to have a .294 batting average to go along with 34 home runs and 109RBIs, his value to the Rays offense cannot be overstated. His power bat in the lineup gives the Rays a completely different dimension on offense, while his Gold Glove caliber defense helps solidify the Rays infield. If he can stay healthy, Longoria may be a big part of the Rays hopes of contention this season.
David Price came in ranked tenth overall, and fourth amongst pitchers. Fresh off his Cy Young award season, the experts at ESPN expect him to continue to be one of the elite pitchers of the game, with a 19-7, 3.17 ERA and 213 strikeouts projected for 2013. A true ace, Price has already stated that he feels he can be even better than he was last year. While his projected totals are still solid, if he improves upon his 2012 totals, he may end up as the top pitcher heading into 2014.
There seems to be a lot of optimism surrounding the Rays as they head into the 2013 season. Hopefully, they will be able to perform up to expectations, and be playing deep into October.